Novels: Start Reading 《最后一个阴阳师》The Last Yin Yang Master

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. Grab the whole thing

I’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. That action is what this word embodies, 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.






























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.

30 replies on “Novels: Start Reading 《最后一个阴阳师》The Last Yin Yang Master”

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!


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

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.

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!

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?

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.

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.

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.

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.

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 🙂

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 🙂

Great job, as always!
There is, however, one question about the translation. Why is the phrase 村长愿意一月掏出一千块的巨资 translated the way it is, with “thousand-dollar investment”, while his 1800RMB salary is said to be around 300 dollars? Is this an intended hyperbole to show that this sum is huge for such a small village (or to express the irony of the original text)?

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