A New Novel

Here’s a scenario. The Earth is finally advanced enough to discover and arrive at a planet with an advanced civilization whose average IQ is 70, good enough to develop their own natural language but not quite enough to handle high school mathematics. What will you do? Are you going to conquer them? Probably not, because by then your robotics is advanced enough that you won’t need human slaves anymore. Are you going to kill them all? Probably not, because it gives you no reward. Most probably, you will build a base there and live in peace with them. They will not be smart enough to handle diplomatic relationships, so there will be no nation-to-nation relationships. So, why don’t aliens do that with the Earth? There are two possibilities, the first being that they are not able to do so yet and the second being that they don’t want to. Why not? Well, it is possible that they come to the Earth in a mobile parallel universe, where they are able to assemble all possible molecules from photons alone. Let there be light and the rest follows. They don’t need planets anymore. They are just looking for planets that may eventually harbor advanced civilizations able to compete with them. While humans currently may not be smart enough to compete with them, the next ruler of the Earth might. That explains the motif behind UFO phenomena.

The Milky Way is a galaxy almost as old as the universe. That should provide enough time for superintelligent life forms to arise. However, that doesn’t seem to represent the status quo. As a matter of fact, there should be no superintelligent life form at all within the Milky Way who could have conquered the entire galaxy. Why not? Extinction events, most probably caused by the periodic vertical fluctuations of all stars orbiting the Milky Way. In other words, all life forms in our galaxy are too young to survive their next extinction events. Any superintelligent life form must have come from outside of the Milky Way, from a far, far away galaxy where natural extinction events are less frequent. Within the Milky Way, most intelligent life forms are probably similar to humans in general intelligence, all of whom struggling to find their neighbors in the galaxy. They will mostly be mammals, but I will talk about that later.

A few hundred years from now, the following nations will probably still be dominant on the Earth: US, Russia, China, India and probably France. US will remain number one or at least number two for the next few centuries. India will become like China. With the exit of UK from EU, Germany will not be able to compete with a French-Italian liaison in Europe, unless it sides with US or Russia to work out some miracle. France will be the leader of Europe, seeking military and economic independence from US. As a result, both UK and Japan will form closer relationships with US, hence the Pacific Ocean and the Atlantic Ocean to be its two wings or theaters, a platform to ensure American global dominance for the next hundreds of years. India will dominate the Indian Ocean, while Russia and China will remain continent-based global powers, both seeking stronger ties with Europe and India to counter an American world.

That’s about it. I will introduce lots of Tang poetry and Song contractual lyrics in my new science fiction based on this setting. The world will be a lot more peaceful following the invention of gravitational weaponry, each warhead capable of destroying a planet completely. China will play the French game to promote its own cultural influence in the new world, positioning itself as the cultural center of the new order.

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Another Attempt At Rhythmic Mapping

Previously, I talked about a very simple one-to-one mapping between Chinese characters and English meters for the purpose of rendering Song contractual lyrics in English. While the most natural length for a poetic verse is a heptacharacter in Tang poetry, no particular length is the most natural in Song contractual lyrics. In fact, tetracharacters, once popular among poems in the Classic of Poetry, returned to Song contractual lyrics. Therefore, the most common lengths based on well-known historical records, a total of more than 30,000 Song contractual lyrics, are tricharacters, tetracharacters, pentacharacters, hexacharacters and heptacharacters, all other lengths being rare enough for a careful consideration. With this in mind, a different mapping scheme can be constructed as follows:

Chinese Verse Chinese Caesurae English Verse English Caesura
Monocharacter 1 Monosyllable 1/2
Dicharacter 2 Monometer 1
Tricharacter 3 Dimeter 2
Tetracharacter 2 + 2 Trimeter 3
Pentacharacter 2 + 3 Tetrameter 4
Hexacharacter 2 + 2 + 2 Pentameter 5
Heptacharacter 2 + 2 + 3 Hexameter 6
Octacharacter 2 + 2 + 2 + 2 Heptameter 7
Enneacharacter 2 + 2 + 2 + 3 Octameter 8
Decacharacter 2 + 2 + 2 + 2 + 2 Enneameter 5 + 4

Given that I have found enough Song contractual lyrical verses that break the recommended caesurae in Chinese, I have decided also to relax the recommendations on both sides. Trust me. Shorter is always better in poetry, in Chinese and English alike. An improvement to this mapping scheme is to force verse breaks, which are stronger than caesurae, for verses longer than heptacharacters. For example, we can have “恰似/一江春水向东流” rather than “恰似一江春水向东流”. Therefore, a shorter table can be constructed as follows:

Chinese Verse Chinese Caesurae English Verse English Caesura
Monocharacter 1 Monosyllable 1/2
Dicharacter 2 Monometer 1
Tricharacter 3 Dimeter 2
Tetracharacter 2 + 2 Trimeter 3
Pentacharacter 2 + 3 Tetrameter 4
Hexacharacter 2 + 2 + 2 Pentameter 5
Heptacharacter 2 + 2 + 3 Hexameter 6

Again, we will have only iambic meters in English, in case you have forgotten.

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Rhythmic Mapping For Song Contractual Lyrics

I talked about character-meter mapping in Tang poetry translations at this post (https://chineselyricpoetry.wordpress.com/2016/03/25/the-road-to-english/) as well as why it is much more difficult to translate Song contractual lyrics at this other post (https://chineselyricpoetry.wordpress.com/2016/04/24/song-contractual-lyrics/). Now, we want to consider character-meter mapping in Song contractual lyrics translations.

Basically, I still want English to be iambic only, due to ease of writing and sonority of rhyme. The following table sums up character-meter mapping in Song contractual lyrics translations.

Chinese Verse Chinese Caesurae English Verse English Caesura
Monocharacter 1 Monometer 1
Dicharacter 2 Dimeter 2
Tricharacter 3 Trimeter 3
Tetracharacter 2 + 2 Tetrameter 4
Pentacharacter 2 + 3 Pentameter 5
Hexacharacter 2 + 2 + 2 Hexameter 6
Heptacharacter 2 + 2 + 3 Heptameter 4 + 3
Octacharacter 2 + 2 + 2 + 2 Octameter 4 + 4
Enneacharacter 2 + 2 + 2 + 3 Enneameter 5 + 4
Decacharacter 2 + 2 + 2 + 2 + 2 Decameter 5 + 5

Firstly, note that while caesurae are strongly recommended in Chinese, they are only suggested in English. Secondly, in Tang poetry, a pentacharacter maps to a trimeter to feel as neat and clean while a heptacharacter maps to a pentameter to feel as natural and standard. Unfortunately, in Song contractual lyrics, every character has to map to a foot just so everything falls in the right place. Fortunately and interestingly, Song contractual lyrics mostly comprise of incompressible concise crafty verses (https://chineselyricpoetry.wordpress.com/2016/04/16/concise-crafty-words/), which are already clean and neat regardless of character counts, not to mention how handy those few extra syllables in English will come in handy. Thirdly, I haven’t seen a decacharacter in Song contractual lyrics in my whole life, so the last mapping gives you an idea about how I might want to map it to English, an extension of the preceding patterns.

Now, how about the naturalness of heptacharacters in Tang poetry? Is it lost in Song contractual lyrics? Well, how about this? Given that you are writing poetry instead of prose anyway, keep it neat and clean above all. Naturalness will naturally flow when you get the overall poetry integrity right. Keep in mind that there are at least 50,000 Tang poems and 30,000 Song contractual lyrics from well-known historical records alone. There will be enough exercises for those who want to practice poetry translation from Chinese to English.

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That Jurchen Girl

I am sorry that I must finish my joke about Xin, Qi-ji (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Xin_Qiji), with this one last post. For those of you who want to argue that he was permanently impotent, I can only say that you should turn your attention to Li, Bai (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Li_Bai), a life long drunkard who preferred wine to women and for whom freedom was above all. Xin published too many love poems in his life, just a little too inviting for matchmakers, while Li wrote almost none. Why try that hard to invite matchmaking and possibly suspicion of impotence if he was indeed impotent? Had he been truly impotent, he should have learned from Li to keep a low profile of his desire for love. I am not saying that my theory is perfect, but that for the sake of storytelling we can have a more interesting plot. For example, when Xin was too ill at 68 and about to pass away, he was yelling on his bed, “kill them, kill them!” That could have been his childhood memories resurfacing, his subconsciousness reemerging and his grandfather’s teaching still deeply rooted in him, though his hatred against the Jurchens was a lot weaker by then.

Let’s keep the chronological order of events to make it easier to explain the theory. He spent his first 10 years, that is, his 20’s, in Southern Song to promote his economic theories, seeking an economic revolution to prepare Southern Song for the restoration of Northern Song. Later, he spent most of his second 10 years, that is, his 30’s, on stopping riots. When he was 40, he founded a local army following the approval of the emperor, which served in both law enforcement and national defense. His local army soon gained renown in the north, by when his love story with that Jurchen girl could have been finished. In other words, his love story may have started at the age of 4 and stopped before 40. Otherwise, his girlfriend or maybe by then wife would have known that he had been killing her Jurchen people. Unfortunately, it wasn’t that simple.

Why must I insist that Xin’s hatred against the Jurchens was already a lot weaker when he turned 30? This is because after 10 years of rejections by Southern Song, he should have learned that the best way to restore Northern Song was to return to the north and start his own army independent of Southern Song. Yue, Fei (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yue_Fei), was also given such an offer from his soldiers, namely, to simply betray Southern Song and start his own empire, after he had received an order from the emperor to return to the south despite his smooth victory in the north. Yue, being a simple man, rejected his army’s offer and accepted the emperor’s order with his son to head south. Xin, however, wasn’t a simple man. Why did he have to waste another 10 years of his life in the south if not for a Jurchen lover in the north, not to mention his bitter hatred against his government growing stronger and stronger day after day?

When Xin was 41, a year after the founding of his local army, he was accused of corruption and lost his post in the government. Again, he had a choice of going back to the north to start his own empire, much like his northern patriotic friends. Instead, he chose to stay in the south working on his agrarian economic theories, hoping for his government’s adoption one day. Xin wasn’t too old for the battlefield at 41, because a year ago he was still fighting with his newly founded small local army, 2,000 swordsmen and 500 horsemen, the insurgent style. For the next 23 years, Xin was basically doing nothing except for writing some poetry. His love for his Jurchen wife must have been growing stronger and stronger day by day during those years. At 64, Xin was called to fight against the Jurchen army. Belated, he accepted his government’s offer immediately, as if to start a whole new life, still young enough for the battlefield. Let’s safely assume that Xin’s wife must have passed away at this point due to her anxiety about the rising tensions between Jurchens and Han Chinese, without any child left, just to keep it simple. You know the rest of Xin’s story, so I am not going to elaborate further.

What’s my theory then? Well, Xin didn’t really hate the Jurchens as much as we usually expect. He would be willing to meet them in a battle only if he were to fight for his government. Without an official order from his government, Xin would rather live in peace with them, hence to avoid struggles in his love life. Xin’s Jurchen lover was probably patriotic enough that he had to hide his career from her. So, we definitely can make her look very good in a movie. Picture perfect.

The Jurchens are the second largest ethnic group in China, whom Han Chinese almost don’t differentiate from themselves anymore due to very successful assimilation or, shall I say, massive interbreeding. For example, Emperor Xiaowen of Northern Wei encouraged massive interbreeding to promote unity within his kingdom. In fact, the reason why Han Chinese represent more than 90% of Chinese is that they keep on interbreeding with other minority groups, whose descendants will most probably be Han Chinese simply because Han represents the economic center of China. It is very difficult to study the origin of Han mostly because it is a super hybrid of the many ancient ethnic groups that already evaporated due to massive interbreeding following the unification by the Qin dynasty. The Communist Party of China brought extreme poverty to the Han Chinese people that lasted a few decades, which in turn caused many minority ethnic groups to seek independence from China. China, like Russia, cannot afford to be poor, or division will be inevitable. Again, the best way to achieve eternal unity is massive interbreeding, an old but proven formula, something that the Communist Party of China really should try in order to reverse the damage they have done to China. For example, the Mongolians blamed all their failures on China and praised Russia for their great support just because China was way too poor under the ruling of Mao. In any case, China is doing a lot better now, so I will try not to talk about this too often in this blog. Unity is a subtle and sensitive topic in China. While my version of Xin’s story is a promotion of such a value, you want to get all the details right in a movie to make it convincing and compelling.

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Xin’s Love Story Defended

This post is to conclude my previous two posts “Xin’s Love Story Explained” (https://chineselyricpoetry.wordpress.com/2016/05/31/xins-love-story-explained/) and “Xin’s Story Elaborated” (https://chineselyricpoetry.wordpress.com/2016/06/04/xins-story-elaborated/). To sum up, I have a theory that Xin, Qi-ji (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Xin_Qiji), had a Jurchen lover in the north to prevent him from starting an insurgent group of his own despite the intentional avoidance of him by Southern Song. Xin’s grandfather would not have been a reason enough for Xin to stay in the south, because he chose to betray Xin by not coming down with him in a simple scenario without a Jurchen girl. Xin needed a stronger reason to bear with Southern Song’s disregard of his requests to restore Northern Song. After all, all his hero friends were fighting in the north without the leadership and the support of Southern Song anyway. Why not join them given his disappointment with the Southern Song government? Xin was the best of the best among insurgent forces. Something was definitely not right.

The theory is perfect except for one single problem. We don’t really want to promote a love story with an enemy in a Chinese movie. So, I must arrange a Han Chinese girl for Xin in the south for his story to be acceptable on the silver screen. Now, this is technical. That Han girl must be good, but somehow it did not work for Xin. Otherwise, the story would not be consistent with the actual history. Plus, it must have been quite brief and secretive. Otherwise, it would have been documented. The Song government kept a very good record of nearly everything. It just can’t be that Xin actually tried to work out a serious relationship with a Han Chinese without any documentation. History is history. I don’t want a fiction involving a real person. When I say I want a true story, I mean I want a true story, period.

Two banal theories may easily come to you, which I am going to refute just here. Firstly, why couldn’t Xin be homosexual? Well, most ancient Chinese homosexual relationships were well documented. It wasn’t really that much a taboo as in the ancient West or the modern China. Plus, Xin was the best poet and warrior of his time. Matchmakers would have knocked his door every single day if he had not revealed his homosexual lover in his private circle. It was simply too much trouble to hide something that wasn’t too unacceptable among very close friends. Secondly, why couldn’t Xin suffer from permanent erectile difficulty? Well, he would have spoken to doctors and even good doctors, hence only to be documented. So, why didn’t he simply choose to be a monk to avoid suspicion? That would have been a perfect cover to prevent trouble. Obviously, he did not want to give up on love. He wanted to get married and have a family. It was just that, for whatever reason it was, love did not come his way. Having a love too deep in the past makes perfect sense. I may be wrong, but you will have come up with a better theory to beat me on this one.

Why not just marry that Jurchen girl? Well, you don’t really understand the meaning of patriotic love if you ask that question. Why not just break up with her? Well, you don’t really understand the meaning of romantic love if you ask that question. It’s complicated enough that we can have a good movie if we examine every angle carefully enough. Han Chinese people should be able to forgive Xin today because Jurchen people are already Chinese in the modern day China. We don’t really want to portray them as the typical crude and mindless bad guy to promote division. Both sides need to be interesting and likable in some way to show why we are one big family now and want to be together forever, though we were enemies to each other a thousand years ago.

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Birdy’s New Favorite

Birdy’s new official music video “Words” looks really cheap, so cheap that it’s totally unacceptable and unforgivable.

You can compare that to all her previous videos. There is a huge difference. So, what’s happening? Well, if you notice that Birdy has a new favorite band member that she takes everywhere with her, even in a studio so small that it can barely sit two people, you may begin to wonder. Here are the videos of the two happily ever after.

Birdy “Keeping Your Head Up” Live @ SiriusXM // The Pulse

Birdy Covers Justin Bieber’s “Sorry” Live @ SiriusXM // The Pulse

How touching! By the way, her new “assistant” looks really expensive, not to mention the possible raise Birdy may give herself just to match the salary of her new hire. That explains the budget cut on new music videos. Guess what? I am going to boycott Birdy from now on. I’ll think about it, because I love her so much that it is a difficult decision for me.

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A Stay At General’s Tent

宿府
by 杜甫 (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Du_Fu)

清秋幕府井梧寒
独宿江城蜡炬残
永夜角声悲自语
中庭月色好谁看
风尘荏苒音书绝
关塞萧条行路难
已忍伶俜十年事
强移栖息一枝安

my personal translation
A Stay At General’s Tent
by Du, Fu

A well tree tells frost by the tent in fall;
A candle speaks time in this town by me.
The trumpets sound all night as if to hum;
The moonlight shines all sky but who to see?
I meet no roads, and gateways empty show;
I get no mails, though turmoils endless be,
Through ten years with a face without a wash,
To one day with a branch upon a tree.

Is that all I get after ten years of suffering? That’s the question asked by Du, Fu, in his last couplet. I can’t really say his poems are great. He simply whined too much in his life through poetry, most works of which have been preserved to this day. In any case, he was well-known for his masterful techniques and not for his content, especially his consistent accomplishment of complete parallelism. His poetry revealed many of the social problems faced in his time, hence of great historical value. Many English writers and translators failed in their attempts to translate Du’s poetry due to its extensive parallelism. I hope my translations offer a ray of light to the English-speaking world.

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