So I’ve been struggling over whether to translate Hai Yan’s notes at the beginning of her chapters. Basically, she always writes little notes before and after the chapter, but they have so far only been funny little snippets of her life, and have not been related to LYB. Starting from this chapter, she sometimes writes some stuff about her characters or her story, often in response to readers’ comments and questions.
But obviously, translating these will also slow me down a little more in translating the actual story. SO. I decided I’m gonna pick and choose lol. I’ll translate what I think is relevant / useful, and leave out the stuff I think is not. Also, maybe I’ll paraphrase to make it go faster.
(But it’s honestly worth it because Hai Yan is a riot.)
Hai Yan’s Notes: (Paraphrased)
LOL someone apparently said this story “has shadows of Japanese manga”, and even though Hai Yan has never read Japanese manga, this comment makes her feel depressed and like a failure (she is a dramatic person)….
Someone thought Xia Dong should become a couple with “xiao Mei” (it’s frickin adorable that she calls MCS this so I’m going to translate it literally whenever she uses it), but there is no design or intention for this in the text.
In the previous passage about Gong Yu coming to visit xiao Mei where she leaves without seeing him, it is intended to show that Gong Yu has an unrequited crush on xiao Mei, that she is willing to risk a scolding just so she can see him on New Year’s day. But some readers apparently thought that Gong Yu really had something important to tell xiao Mei, and that it was foreshadowing that he would then miss something important because of this….
She goes on a bit about how it’s the author’s fault if the readers misinterpret the text, because it’s the writer’s responsibility to make the intentions of the characters / plot clear. So she will go back and reflect on her shortcomings etc. etc.
Then at the end she talks a bit about female leads / main characters. She says: “I don’t know what constitutes a ‘female lead’. If it is referring to the partner of the male lead, then that includes spoilers so I cannot answer. I still cannot say who the female lead is, nor can I guarantee that there will be a female lead. If the female lead refers to the female character who is equal to the male lead in page-time and importance to the plot, or is inferior to the male lead but obviously superior to other characters in these same aspects, then there is no female lead in this story, and why must there be this kind of female lead anyway?”
(It’s okay Hai Yan, )
Although the small alleys made for a less direct route compared to the main streets, in the end, the overall journey proved several times shorter. Striding along the moonlit paths of green-paved stone while the cacophony of human voices drifted over from a distance gave one the feeling of walking between lands of fire and ice. Spiral Market Street, when they finally arrived, was the picture of colourful luxury.
Yan Yujin enjoyed the pleasures of entertainment and was a regular guest at Miaoyin House, and the people he had brought with him were of no ordinary background, so as soon as the group entered the door, they were given an extremely warm welcome and escorted to their booked location by two pretty ladies in red robes.
The main performance hall of Miaoyin House was wide and spacious with high windows and a curved roof, making very good acoustic effects. By this time, the tables in the hall were almost full, but because there was a restriction on the number of guests, the hall was not crowded. Although many nobles of wealthy and powerful backgrounds had arrived a step too late and were not able to enter the hall, no one raised a fuss. This was partly because Miaoyin House had arranged entertainment in other halls, and partly because sons of noble houses were generally careful about their reputations, as very few of them were as lacking in class as He Wenxin, and so even if they were upset, they were not about to start a fight in an entertainment house and subject themselves to ridicule and gossip. Most of those who had managed to book places in advance were friends who frequented the entertainment houses together, and as Gong Yu had not appeared yet, everyone took the opportunity to walk around paying New Year’s greetings to one another, and even Mei Changsu, who was sitting quietly at his place, received quite a few “Greetings, Mister Su”, although he did not seem to recognize the well-wishers.
The frenzy went on for some time, and though Xiao Jingrui and Xie Bi both completed the appropriate social etiquettes and returned to their seats, Yan Yujin was still nowhere to be found, as it seemed as if he knew every single person in the hall, and so would not be returning to his place until the very last second.
“What is it, is Brother Su starting to regret coming out with us again?” Xie Bi asked with a smile, picking up the teapot to refill their cups.
Mei Changsu looked around and said with a sigh, “What music can be enjoyed in chaos like this?”
“That’s not true,” Xiao Jingrui was disagreeing with Brother Su for once. “Miss Gong Yu always captivates the entire hall with her beautiful music, so once she arrives, the disorder will turn into peace and quiet, don’t worry, Brother Su.”
As he spoke, two beats of a clapper suddenly sounded, and though the sound was not loud, it penetrated through the noisy chatter of the room, as if falling into place between the beats of a person’s heart, calming the soul and steadying the mind.
Mei Changsu raised an eyebrow, and when he turned to look, Yan Yujin had already flown back into his seat, his speed for once rivaling that of Fei Liu. Two long-haired children stepped out onto the stage set at the southern side of the hall and drew the red velvet curtain aside, revealing a zither and a stool, nothing more.
The audience’s gaze turned to the entrance at the left side of the stage, because that was where Gong Yu made her appearance those rare times she performed in the main performance hall. Sure enough, a moment later, a pink skirt appeared at the edge of the curtain, and an embroidered shoe with yellow pompoms hovered at the corner for a long moment before stepping forward, bringing the entire figure of its owner into the view of the audience.
“Aww……” A murmur of disappointment spread throughout the hall.
“Everyone here is a frequent guest and old friend of Miaoyin House, so try and give this mother a little face, will you?” The mother in charge of the household of Miaoyin House, Third Aunt Shen, waved her handkerchief and smiled. “Miss Gong Yu will be here in a few moments, you don’t need to look at me like that.”
Although Third Aunt Shen was middle-aged, she had aged well and was still quite attractive, and as she wandered through the hall joking and teasing, she left joyful laughter in her wake. Everyone was distracted by her entertaining, and when they turned their attention back to the stage, they realized that Miss Gong Yu was already sitting before the zither, having appeared without anyone’s notice.
As the leading lady of Miaoyin House, Gong Yu, who sold her art rather than her body, was undoubtedly the most exclusive lady on Spiral Market Street, and although she was not famous for her appearance, this was only because her musical talent was truly dazzling. In fact, Gong Yu was very beautiful, with her slender brows, her almond-shaped eyes, and her skin like snowy-jade, and she carried an air of concentration about her, without the slightest sign of weakness and frailty, so that even if she wore only a long robe of raw white silk, she gave off an appearance of an ethereal fairy of sorts.
Although she had never been named to the Langya Lists, no one could deny that Gong Yu was a beauty.
Seeing that everyone had noticed Gong Yu’s appearance, Third Aunt Shen quietly slipped off to one side and seated herself on a chair in the corridor, silently observing the situation in the hall.
In contrast to Third Aunt Shen’s teasing banter, Gong Yu did not say anything, only tuned her zither and smiled before raising a gentle hand to begin playing.
The first three songs were ancient melodies everyone was familiar with – The Three Passages of Yangguan, Wild Geese over Sand, and A Conversation between Fishermen. But it was because the songs were so familiar that they even more noticeably demonstrated the skill and art of the musician. And with a musician like Gong Yu, mistakes were virtually non-existent, and her music drifted gently into the hearts of all who listened, seeming to wash over their very souls as it painted vivid images of the stories woven into its tune.
When these three songs ended, one of the children brought her a lute. As the music went on to illustrate the bitterness and frustration of The Autumn Moon over Han Palace, and then the bright clear elegance of A Moonlit Night on the Spring River, everyone seemed half-dazed by the winding melodies, stunned into silence.
Yan Yujin, his mind still intoxicated by the beautiful music, gripped the jade hairpin in his hand tightly as he recited, “The spring river rises high as the sea, the bright moon waxes with the tide. Its light shines the length of the river, illuminating its waves for a thousand miles. The river winds around a fragrant island, its flowers bright as snow in the moonlight glow. The frost in the air is concealed in its beam, the white sand of the beach all but invisible. No dust mars the perfect river scene, in the clear glow of the lonely wheel in the sky. Who first looked up to admire the moon? When did the moon first shine upon man? Life passes by and generations come and go, but the riverside moon changes not with time. We know not for whom the riverside moon waits, we only see the ceaseless river flow¹.”
As he spoke, Gong Yu’s gaze passed over him lightly, and then one jade finger plucked at her bowstring, accompanying his poetry with song and his verses with music, and the two continued in such perfect harmony that it was as if they had practiced many times before. When the recitation was over and the music ended, the hall was quiet. Gong Yu raised her narrow eyebrows and called for wine, and one of the children immediately brought forward a gold bottle and a jade cup. She filled a cup and drank, then returned her hand to her lute, and suddenly, a sound like wind and thunder filled the room.
“Mister Shisan’s new composition, Wandering with Wine, please enjoy.”
Just this simple sentence, with no superfluous detail. When the music began, it invoked sounds of spears on glaciers, and though it was filled with unrestrained despair, the tone was not overpowering, now bringing to mind a wild drunkenness, now singing of great strength and lofty ambitions. All of these contrasting pictures were meticulously woven into the fabric of the ancient music, filling the dazed audience with a nameless passion, and many of them couldn’t help lifting their wine cups in a toast and then draining their contents.
When the song ended, Gong Yu rose slowly and curtsied, and after a moment of astonished silence, the hall broke out into rapturous applause.
“If we had only heard the last song this entire evening, I would still be perfectly satisfied.” Xiao Jingrui, who had unknowingly finished two cups of wine, now sighed. “This composition of Mister Shisan’s has such a wild melody, even men playing drums would find it difficult to express the power and strength of its music. Who could have guessed that Miss Gong Yu’s gentle fingers could hold such wind and thunder in their grasp? It makes me ashamed of myself.”
“Your musical tastes are fine indeed if you can have such an understanding of the piece.” Mei Changsu raised his cup to his lips and sipped lightly, then turned his gaze to Gong Yu on the stage, meeting her eyes momentarily.
Their gazes met only for a brief moment, but a faint blush was already spreading over Gong Yu’s cheeks, the light colour making her appear even more beautiful. She stood and curtsied again in response to the applause, and then slowly took a few steps forward and said lightly with a sweet smile, “Please, I ask for silence.”
The gentle words should have disappeared into the noise of the hall without much effect, but at the same moment, the clapper sounded again, seeming to penetrate straight into the hearts of everyone present, and the hall immediately settled into silence.
“Tonight is the Lantern Festival, and it is my honour and privilege to have such distinguished guests attend my Miaoyin House,” Gong Yu was smiling, her voice clear as a silver bell, and her audience leaned closer, listening attentively. “Gong Yu has devised a little game for everyone’s entertainment, I wonder if anyone would be interested?”
As soon as they heard that there were more activities in store, all of the guests were delighted and immediately began shouting, “Yes! Yes!”
“This game is called ‘Discerning the Instrument from its Sound’. As there are many of you, to avoid confusion, let each table form a team according to the current seating arrangement. I will play music behind the curtain, and you will discern the instrument from the nature of its sound. Gong Yu will have a grand prize for the team with the greatest number of correct answers.”
Everyone present had certain standards of musical taste and knowledge, so this would not be any difficult task, and they all called out their agreement. Gong Yu smiled again and disappeared, and the two children came forward to close the curtains. The hall slowly quieted, each person listening intently.
Afer a moment, the first sound carried out from behind the curtain. Because almost everyone present was a frequent guest of the establishment, playing an entire piece would make the game too simple, so she only played the first note.
After a moment of silence, someone stood up from a table near the eastern window and called out loudly, “Huqin²!”
A little girl ran over and presented him with a peony made of silk, and he sat down again delightedly.
The second sound was heard. Xiao Jingrui immediately waved his hand and said, smiling, “Hujia!”
The little girl rushed over and handed him a peony. Yan Yujin huffed and complained that his friend’s “mouth is too quick”, and Xie Bi laughed, shoving him as he scolded, “We’re on the same team!”
The third sound was heard. Yan Yujin shot to his feet, shouting, “Luguan!” And so they acquired another peony.
The fourth sound was heard. The son of the Imperial Uncle and a person from another table cried out, “Konghou” nearly simultaneously. The little girl looked back and forth between them, perplexed, and then probably decided that this table already had two flowers and chose to favour the underdog in handing out the next flower.
The fifth sound was heard. In the silence that followed, Mei Changsu said something quietly in Xie Bi’s ear, and Xie Bi immediately raised his hand and said, “Tongjiao!”
“What’s a tongjiao?” Yan Yujin asked, dumbfounded, looking at the peony in Xie Bi’s hand.
“It is often found in military fortresses on the borders, is used in ceremonial and military music, and is usually made from the horns of different animals. You young men from the capital seldom have the chance to encounter it.” Mei Changsu had just finished explaining when the sixth sound was heard. Because his table had been listening to him speak, they were distracted, and someone from the table beside them was already shouting, “Guxun!”
Afterwards, the hengdi, banggu, xiqin, tongse, shiqing, fangxiang, and paixiao were all played one by one. With Mei Changsu’s musical ability and Yan Yujin’s quick reflexes, this strong team naturally seized the victory.
At the end, the curtain fluttered lightly as a crisp sound carried out from its depths.
The hall was silent for a long moment, and a few people stood up, only to sit down again without speaking. Yan Yujin frowned in deep thought for a long time, and finally gave up and asked, “Brother Su, do you know what that was?”
Mei Changsu held back a smile and whispered two words in his ear. Yan Yujin’s eyes widened and he blurted out, “Wooden fish?!”
As soon as he spoke, the little girl ran over, and at the same moment, the curtain opened, and Gong Yu cast her gaze lightly around the hall, smiling when she saw the pile of peonies on their table.
“Grand prize! Grand prize!” Yan Yujin waved delightedly at Gong Yu. “What grand prize is Miss Gong Yu going to give us?”
Gong Yu’s eyes shone, a sweet smile on her powdered face as she said calmly, “Although Gong Yu is a performer, she seldom ventures to display her skills outside of Miaoyin House, but as a gift to the winners, if any of you are hosting a dinner or a banquet soon, Gong Yu will come and entertain for a day.”
Everyone gasped in wonder. Gong Yu was not an ordinary musician who answered to the summons of manors and residences, and with her proud nature, not even the sons of nobles or imperial families had ever been able to convince her to step out of Spiral Market Street, so an offer to play at a private banquet was completely unheard of, and everyone in the hall was both astonished and envious. Yan Yujin was smiling so widely his eyes had almost disappeared. “If Miss Gong Yu is willing to attend, I will arrange a banquet no matter what!”
Mei Changsu cocked his head slightly and lowered his voice to ask, “Is there a time limit to Miss Gong Yu’s promise? Must it be within these few days, or can it be delayed a bit, for example to April….”
His words immediately reminded Yan Yujin, who hurriedly asked, “That’s right, what about mid-April?”
Gong Yu smiled. “I will answer your summons anytime within this year.”
“Wonderful!” Yan Yujin thumped Xiao Jingrui on the back. “This is a gift worthy of your birthday banquet!”
Xiao Jingrui knew his good intention and so spoke no word of protest. He had always been allowed to do whatever he wished at his birthday banquet, and once, a friend had even carried in a beautiful lady wrapped in a fine gauze sack and had bumped into his father on the way, and his father had only shook his head and laughed. So a renowned musician like Gong Yu would be no problem indeed, and besides, Grand Princess Liyang loved music, but it was not proper for her to visit Miaoyin House herself, so this opportunity to have Gong Yu play for his mother was truly a rare stroke of fortune.
“Then it’s settled, April twelfth, Miss Gong Yu is invited to the imperial Ning residence.” Yan Yujin said decisively, clapping his hands together.
Xie Bi began teasing his older brother, pretending to be jealous that he always seemed to receive the best fruits of their labour, while other people came by to offer their congratulations. Yan Yujin was chatting animatedly with everyone around him, and even Gong Yu was smiling faintly as she fiddled with the hair falling around her face. In all the chaos, only Mei Changsu sat quietly with his eyes lowered, gazing at the wine in the jade cup before him. A moment later, he lifted the cup and upended it, swallowing down along with his wine the silent sigh that had risen to his lips.
¹Sigh, lol. This poem is ‘A Moonlit Night on the Spring River’ by Zhang Ruoxu (Tang Dynasty), which as you may notice, is the name of the fifth piece Gong Yu plays (the one she plays right before Yujin starts reciting). That piece is based on the original poem, of which Yan Yujin only recites about half. The excerpt of my translation with the original Chinese is below. (If you want to read the rest of it, there’s an English translation . My translation is also based on the one from the link. Thank goodness lol.)
A Moonlit Night on the Spring River by Zhang Ruoxu (Tang Dynasty)
The spring river rises high as the sea, the bright moon waxes with the tide.
Its light shines the length of the river, illuminating its waves for a thousand miles.
The river winds around a fragrant island, its flowers bright as snow in the moonlight glow.
The frost in the air is concealed in its beam, the white sand of the beach all but invisible.
No dust mars the perfect river scene, in the clear glow of the lonely wheel in the sky.
Who first looked up to admire the moon? When did the moon first shine upon man?
Life passes by and generations come and go, but the riverside moon changes not with time.
We know not for whom the riverside moon waits, we only see the ceaseless river flow.
(P.S. are you noticing a theme in Chinese poetry?? yeah we like the moon a lot.)
huqin – any two-stringed, bowed instrument (eg. erhu)
hujia – reed flute
luguan – reed pipe
konghou – an ancient plucked string instrument
tongjiao – a horn or bugle
guxun – an egg-shaped, holed wind instrument
hengdi – bamboo flute
banggu – clapper drum
xiqin – uhh I think it’s similar to a zither (guqin)
tongse – a plucked string instrument
shiqing – stone bell
fangxiang – no idea lol
paixiao – pan pipe
wooden fish – a wooden percussion instrument made from a wooden block, used by Buddhist priests to beat time in their chants
Omg, MCS and Gong Yu’s sneaky collaboration and the way they pulled this off is like ten times more impressive than the version in the drama!! And this chapter is so much more fun to read when you remember MCS and Gong Yu / Miaoyin House’s actual relationship……and you realize MCS is really just having a ball.
Also, Third Aunt Shen’s trolling is lol.
And I’m very mad at Yujin for reciting poetry. But on the other hand, GONG YU AND YUJIN <33333 I never shipped them before this BUT I DO NOW.
And so, the stage is set! All the pieces are in place! The pigeons have arrived and the musician has been invited! Now all we have to do is to sit back and wait……for twelve more chapters…….