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Happy Year of the Sheep! Couple of days ago, I stumbled across the Book “The Last Yin Yang Master”, aka “The Last Onmyoji” (最后一个阴阳师), a supernatural ghost story available for free online. It’s incredibly rare to find full-length books that aren’t impossibly difficult to get through, but this one is phenomenal for learners. I’m gonna put part of the first chapter here, so you can dive on in. The rest can be grabbed on Zhuaji.com.

Learn to Read Chinese Characters: Beginner Chinese Books with English TranslationsI’ve recently sort of discovered that ghost stories and detective novels are where it’s at for practicing reading. The cliches in a Chinese murder mystery are exactly the same as they are anywhere: hard-boiled cop, confused rookie, seductive woman, shady business, and definitely a chase scene. It’s easier to follow a story when you have a semi-expectation of what’s supposed to happen. They get hard when people start talking about blood spatter and ballistics, but you can kind of get the gist. Ghost stories are the same way – a scene of normalcy is set, followed by some red-flag strangeness that everyone completely ignores because they don’t believe in the supernatural, followed by some myths and legends, or maybe a mysterious old man, or maybe a body goes missing, and then things really freaky. Again, the read gets hard when characters start talking about the mystic books of old, or funeral customs, so you should probably be reading this with the help of Pleco (which I do), but The Last Onmyoji is accessible enough that those parts shouldn’t totally derail you. Highly recommended.

This really is worth a go for readers at almost all levels. The read is late-intermediate, but using Pleco, late-stage beginners and early-intermediates will be able to understand large chunks of it, enough to motivate you to puzzle through the parts you don’t get, more so because this is being told in first-person. Remember, now, that the beginning of a book is usually the hardest as you try to get a sense of the story. Once the story gets rolling, it’s easier to flow with it. Advanced readers may just appreciate learning a bit of spooky vocab.

The segment that I”m translating here doesn’t have any ghostly bits in it, this is the first chapter to get you going on the story. It’s packed full of Chinese village culture, and some parts at the end that would be considered extremely un-PC in the west: a little anti-Japanese talk, and a little bit about buying women, the rarities of college education in the countryside: the realities of village life in China, even these days.

There’s a lot I could talk about in here, but I do like the word 投 tóu – This word had a ton of meanings. Imagine slipping a piece of paper into a suggestion box. Got it? That’s what this word embodies, that action, or anything related to a similar action of taking a flat object and dropping it into a slot, literally or figuratively. So it can mean to “vote”, as in an election, because you’re submitting a ballot. It can mean to “slide” an envelope into a letter box. In this case, it means to “submit” a resume while seeking a job offer. We don’t have a word for that concept in English, I think.

Enjoy!

Click to Listen

盘缠 – pán chán – Travel money
肺痨 – fèi láo – Tuberculosis
张罗 – zhāng luo – Gather together
屁股 – pì gu – Butt, behind, rump
浑浑噩噩 – hún hún è è – Muddleheaded


我叫林小凡,今年23岁。大学刚毕业。一个三流的大学四流的成绩,大学是在杭州读,毕业之后最开始在一家房地产公司做销售员,底薪一千八。因为业绩太差,公司没说辞退我,我自己就不好意思待了。

在杭州转了两个月,了不知道多少份儿简历,面试了多少次,都没有通过。盘缠花光之后,就回了老家。

我的老家是洛阳。洛阳的乡下,一个叫做十里铺儿的小村儿落。

之所以回来,是因为村儿里小学唯一的教师得了肺痨,病的已经非常严重,我作为村里走出来唯一的大学生,村长愿意一月掏出一千块的巨资来请我去代课。

所以我回来了。

在外面活的不如一条狗的我,在老家得到了极大的尊严。

在偏远的山村,大学生,还是一个极其厉害的存在,村民们在看到我父亲的时候,都会为他竖起大拇指,说:“老林家祖坟冒了青烟,竟然出了个大学生,以后你就走出了大山咯。”

每当这个时候,我父亲都会憨厚的笑一笑,抹去他脸上的汗水。

我回到村子之后,方圆几里的媒婆都争着抢着给我介绍对象,几乎踏破我家的门槛儿,这不是吹牛。你不在那个环境里,不知道大学生三个字的分量。

父亲也极力的给我张罗,在他们眼里,23岁,甚至已经过了结婚的年纪。跟我同龄的人,现在儿子已经可以光着屁股到处跑了。

为了不让他们操心,我也去一次次的应付相亲。

对,是应付。

大学,说白了就是一个区分性与理性的地方,虽然是山村出来的,可是我的相貌并不算丑,甚至可以说英俊。也谈过一个女朋友,我没钱,她也不是非常的富裕,可是就算这样,我们还在在一起了三年,我尽我所能的打零工,来做一个男朋友该做的。大三那年,我们分手。

那一天,我在我们学校的后山喝了一瓶2块钱的二锅头。醒来之后,不再悲伤,继续浑浑噩噩的过日子。

关于相貌这一点,我继承了我母亲。

一个不知道故乡在哪里的美貌女人。

她有痴呆症。

在几十年前,我父亲进城,用了三百块钱把她买了回来。

我父亲说,他那一天花了两元钱给母亲买了一身衣服,回来的时候母亲的美貌,让村里的人哈喇子都流到了地上。

可惜,她是个傻子。

如果不是傻子,我父亲也买不起。

后来有了我,母亲的痴傻一直都是那样,可是她的傻,并不是像街头的疯子一样,她非常安静。

不说话,不动。只是安静的坐着。

我就在这样的一个环境下长大,可是我并不想文艺的说,我有孤僻的性格,因为就算是这样,我还是有完整的童年。

我父亲非常的勤劳,他尽一个农民的极限,利用手中的农具,养活一个家。我没有什么怪他的地方。

没钱,这是命。

我爷爷,是一个退伍的老军人,他不识字,没有农民典型的精明,反倒是实诚的可怕。有人说他是gmd,有人说他是gcd,可是他自己都不知道自己到底是哪个党,他唯一知道的,就是他拿枪打日本鬼子,鬼子打跑之后,他就回到了家。

SHOW ENGLISH TRANSLATION »
My name is Lin Xiaofan, I’m 23 years old this year. I just graduated from college. A third-rate school with fourth-tier grades, my college was in Hangzhou, and after I graduated I first went to work as sales staff at a real estate agency with a salary of 1,800 [translator's note: this is a very low salary, about $300 USD / month]. My sales performance was poor, and the company never fired me, but I was so embarrassed that I left.

I wandered around Hangzhou for two months, submitted I don’t even know how many resumes, or went to how many interviews, but nothing came through. After I’d spent all my travel money, I went back to my home town.

My home town is Luoyang. In the Luoyang countryside falls a little village called Shilipu’er.

The reason I went home is because the village’s only teacher got tuberculosis, and he was very seriously ill, so as the village’s only person who’d ever gone off to college, the village chief dug up a thousand-dollar [translator's note: "1000 kuai" is "1000 Chinese Renminbi"] investment and asked me to substitute teach.

So I went home.

My life away from home wasn’t even as good as a dog’s, but I get plenty of respect in my home town.

In such a remote village, being a college graduate is still an extremely awesome thing to be, and every time the villagers see my father, they all give him a thumbs-up and say, “Your family’s ancestral grave is emitting green smoke, unexpectedly out popped a college student! You’ll be walking off this mountain after a while!” [translator's note: this is a compliment regarding the family's lineage.]

Of course at these times, my father would smile in a simple and honest way, wiping the sweat off his brow.

After I came back to the village, all the local matchmakers tried to set me up with someone, almost trampling down my door, no exaggeration. If you’ve never been in that [village] environment, you don’t know the power of those three words, “College Degree Holder”.

My dad also made a supreme effort to settle me, because in his eyes, at 23 years old I’d already passed marrying age. Everyone my age already had kids running around with their bare butts hanging out.

So as not to make him worry, I’d already coped with my first blind date.

Yes, it was definitely “coping”.

College, speaking frankly, was a place with completely different place with different rationales, but although I came from a farm village, I wasn’t considered ugly, you might even say I’m handsome. I had a girlfriend, but I had no money, and she wasn’t very rich either, but that’s just the way it was, we were together three years, and I used up all my part-time work money trying to do all the things a boyfriend is supposed to do. In the third year, we broke up.

On that day, on the hill behind our school, I drank a bottle of 2-dollar liquor. After I woke up, I wasn’t sad anymore, and I just continued muddle-headedly passing the days.

About my looks, those I inherited from my mother.

A good-looking woman from who-knows-where.

She had dementia.

A few decades ago, my father went to the city, and spent three hundred dollars to buy her and bring her home.

My dad said, that day he spent two bucks to buy mom some clothes, and when he returned, mom’s good looks made everyone in the village drool all over the ground.

Pity, she was an idiot.

If she hadn’t been an idiot, my dad could never have afforded her.

Then I came along, and mom’s dementia continued as before, but her brand of dementia wasn’t like a crazy street person’s, she was very quiet.

She didn’t speak, didn’t move. Just quietly sat there.

This is the environment I grew up in, but I don’t want to make it sound literary, I had an antisocial nature, but even so, I still had a full childhood.

My father is very industrious, he has a farmer’s strength, using the farm tools in his hands, he nurtured a household. I don’t have anything to blame him for.

No money, that’s just life.

My grandfather is a retired soldier, he’s illiterate, and he doesn’t have any of a villager’s typical shrewdness, on the contrary he’s terrifyingly honest. Some people said he was GMD [translator's note: GMD = guo min dang, the fascist party in the Chinese civil war, who lost], some people said he was GCD [GCD = gong chang dang, the communist party that won the war and remains in power today], but he doesn’t even know himself which “dang” [translator's note - this "dang" means "political party"] he was in, the only thing he knows is that he grabbed a gun and fought the Japanese devils [the Japanese invaded while the GMD and the GCD were fighting each other], and after the devils ran away, he went home.


19 comments to "Great book: The Last Yin Yang Master"

  1. Thank you so much for this! I’ve been trying to read a normal book, but it’s so demotivating to have to look up words in the dictionary all the time. Reading this in my phone using Pleco’s reader application is so much handier. On top of all the story is interesting, and not too difficult to follow! Thank you!

    /Carl

  2. I’ve just googled “Chinese short stories” and I fell into your place…So generous, you surf the web and search for valuable stuff…Not so easy, I must admit.
    Please feel free to comment on my blog and promote your website there !

    http://bymyselflearning.blogspot.fr

  3. Amazing website! I really enjoy reading these stories and learn Chinese at the same time. Thank you for your outstanding work!

  4. Will you post the remainder of the story btw?

    • Welp, I’m a little late replying to this one. But no, the rest of the story is a complete book. You can get it, however, on Baidu Yuedu.

  5. Great website! 我想开始一个翻译工作,可是我没有那么多的经历。你的网站已经帮助了我准备!

  6. This story is too long!

  7. Good practice, I’m quite surprised how much I understood! The only thing is, I don’t know why they didn’t write Guomindang and Gongchengdang in characters?

  8. Your site is great and you do a cool job. But if I can give some tips (I am a linguist): your translations are too intepretative and English-oriented. For studying it would be better to have something in between a literal and broken translation ad a proper one.

  9. English-oriented ? I don’t understand very well. I’m not a professional translator, the kind who perfectly masters both Chinese and English languages but I only want to mention that this Chinese text comes from a Chinese website…so it should be excellent Chinese…and I think it is.
    (?)

  10. I meant your translation is good but not fully useful for learners because it is too interpretative. It is difficult to match the exact words/expressions wth your English version.

    English-oriented term= typical mistake by most of the English native speakers. They do not look at grammar contents but more how a sentence will be properly said in English.

    And, in my opinion, it is not good for learning a foreign language because one will not ever understand a grammar patterns, word order, etc.

    • Yeah… I’m not a professional. Just doing this to do it. If you have better translations, by all means, do submit them in the Guest Post section, or write me an email with better translations and I’ll post them and credit you.

  11. This is longer than Star Treck with Japan being sandbag as an interesting twist LOL. “Ye ye na qiang ba Ri ben yang gui zi da pao ran hou, hui jia”. Poor Japan.

  12. An interesting Chinese story! Thanks!

  13. Reply Simo Taki says: June 8, 2016 at 4:41 pm

    Thank you so much for the translation, this article is my first step to start reading the whole book.

    Btw, I have a question regarding this sentence : “我自己就不好意思待了”.

    I guess “待了” rather means “to stay”, I don’t know where does it say that Lin XiaoFan left.

    Thank you.

    • Heya. Right. “Stay” is referring to what was said in the clause before. I originally translated this as:

      “My sales performance was poor, and the company never fired me, but I was so embarrassed that I left.”

      More accurately:

      “My sales performance was poor, and the company never fired me, but I was too embarrassed to stay.”

      Make more sense?

      • Thank you so much, yes it makes sense now .. If I were to read this without your translation, I’d be stuck there :)

  14. What an interesting story! It’s gotten me curious as to what follows. Thanks so much for this website, you’ve clearly put in a lot of effort into doing it up :)


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