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Reading Chen Qiufan's Waste Tide (荒潮, 陈楸帆): Part 1


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Background and intro


Chapter 2, a little shorter at 8,500 characters. Little bit of a rush today. 


1) At the school. Scott and Chen sit through dull speeches at a school. Pay attention to the photograph Chen looks at - the events surrounding the image are very important. We learn that Chen is, unsurprisingly, a member of the Chen clan, if somewhat estranged. Bit of Chen reminiscing about Silicon Isle. 


2) We meet 陈贤运, aka 陈董,who's the effective head of the Chen clan. There is a kind-of retired elder who's technically the boss, we'll meet him later. Chen (Kaizong) is, as far as I've read, the most interesting of the characters and it's quite fun watching him awkwardly reconnect with the clan. There's also discussion of the value of the clan system and why it's survived so long, in the context of the US company's offer. There's also a warning to be careful when on the 罗家地盘 and a promise of a visit to the 普度施孤大会


3) Bit of a flashback to a class discussion globalisation and some of Chen's thoughts on his cross-cultural status. 


4) 普度施孤大会 - ie, Ghost Festival, and initially compared to Halloween and later a carnival. I like the irony of the ghost money being banned as environmentally unfriendly, and there's some detail on how online banking has reached the spirit world. I also liked "历史是一个对事件去情绪化的过程". But you'd be forgiven for wondering if anything is going to happen...


5) A damsel in distress! Or maybe a bachelor in bother. Where have we seen someone matching this description before? Chen valiantly goes to her aid, gets himself into a potential pickle, and is rescued by 'Uncle' chen. Watch out for 刀仔, who we see more of than we might want to later on, and mention of the Luo clan boss (罗锦城, 罗老板) - why is he so keen to get this particular 垃圾人 back? Chen Kaizong persuades his uncle to shelter... 小米, who is a girl. The final heavily-drawn parallel with the US civil rights movement is a little unnecessary, I'd say. 


I was particularly slack on vocab with this chapter. 


蒙太奇 - montage

聚酰亚胺 - polyimide

丛林社会 - tribal society? Not sure. 

莱卡 - lycra, or Leica, but here lycra. 

三十的月娘,残咯 - totally didn't get this. 

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Not too many new words in this chapter, seemed like a much easier read than the preceding chapters. As a result I noted down some nice turns of phrase that I’d like to incorporate into my writing style, and have also included some queries in the places I didn’t fully understand. Overall, enjoying the pace starting to pick up.


Vocab notes:


个人履历 履历 is 'CV', but here can also mean 'biography' (also seems like it might be more popular in Guangdong as an alternative for 簡歷, which might explain the authors choice)

聚酰亚胺OLED薄膜 polyimide (heat-resistant) film oled (seems to relate to flexible screens)

肌肉电泳 muscular electrophoresis?

鼠曲粿 https://www.xiangha.com/techan/62566.html

目光所及之处 "as far as the eye can reach", a nice literary phrase I'd like to remember

盂兰盆节 another name for the Ghost Festival, see note above.

目莲救母 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mulian_Rescues_His_Mother

嘉年华 Carnival ("不,不是万圣节。更像嘉年华。" an excellent observation I thought)

契税 deed tax? Didn't get this, I'm presuming deeds are something bought for the dead on Ghost Festival

氤氲〈wr.〉 ①dense; thick (of smoke/mist) ②spirit of harmony (between heaven and earth) ③spirit of vigor/prosperity. (ABC def) Thought this was a very deft use of the word, as the author clearly intends to draw out all three of these definitions in his description.

肾结石 kidney stone

渐渐磨钝 slowly erased/faded away/rubbed out

涟漪 ripples

拓扑轮廓 (topographical) contours

诱发心悸 induce heart palpations

错综复杂 intricate, complex

攥成拳头 clench fists

肉搏 fight hand-to-hand, fist fight

视网膜投影 retina projection

瑟瑟 trembling (of people). I only knew the musical instrument meaning of this character, but now I've noted this I bet I'll see it everywhere

本地话说得半咸不淡 means there is something strange about his local 'accent' or the way he speaks

醒目仔    粤语词汇,醒目即聪明的意思。醒目仔,指的是聪明的年轻人

系统神学 systematic theology


Other notes and passing observations:


盂兰盆节 (from Wikipedia):



丛林社会 I was also fairly ignorant to the 'Law of the Jungle', and found this answer from Baidu to be a very enlightening and interesting read, recommended side reading for context for sure. Some useful side vocab:

              犬儒学派 Cynicism

              安提西尼 Antisthenes

              社会达尔文主义 Social Darwinism

              弱肉强食 law of the jungle, ("the weak are meat 'that' the strong will eat")



I really liked this passage - especially the fact that his grandmother returns to life for him just as is said of the festival...



is this a miswritten character? Perhaps its just my copy, or maybe I'm not getting the true nuance of the sentence, but surely this should read 月亮 rather than 月娘? Is it a l/n pronounciation being vocalised for the character speaking?


For those after a more vivid experience of the description of the decorations at the Ghost festival, here are some pics to give a rough idea for convenience sake:









On 3/30/2020 at 4:40 PM, roddy said:

The final heavily-drawn parallel with the US civil rights movement is a little unnecessary, I'd say. 


Couldn't agree more, felt really heavy handed after a really nice closing description of the festival scene.

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6 hours ago, Tomsima said:

Overall, enjoying the pace starting to pick up.

Glad you're still on board. I have Chapter 3 mostly written up in another browser tab - had to stop yesterday due to events. And then I'll hopefully get 4 up tomorrow. Massive kudos to the effort you're putting in here, by the way, you're putting me to shame. 


I had a line agreeing with you about 月亮, but then I found this潮人谓拜月为拜月娘,月属阴,叫太阴娘,民间管叫月娘. 

丛林社会 - law of the jungle makes more sense, thanks.

契税 would be stamp duty in the UK, I think. So when they're buying spirit-world property for their deceased loves ones... well, death and taxes. Such is my understanding, anyway.


There are some really nice lines in here, I'm quite enjoying reading it. I'm going to go and finish off Chapter 3 now. I'm not sure if I should keep reading ahead as I have been, or catch up with myself and then do the write-ups as I go. They'd be fresher in my mind, but there's a risk of hiatuses if I can't get to it for a period. Mind you, it's as likely I won't be able to get to it either way, I'm already a day behind...

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Going to post Chapter 3 in with Chapter 2...


Longest chapter in the book, at 12,000 plus characters. Might break this into two. And after a slight panic where I thought I'd lost all my notes, we begin with...


1) A dream sequence, which I'm rarely a fan of. Thankfully it's short, and you can probably do with noting that 小米 is having weird dreams. More on that later. But once she's awake we find out more about how she ended up on Silicon Isle - a "老乡" who persuaded her and her mother the move would be a good idea. We also learn what's behind Mimi's fashion choices - 铰 was a new character for me. There's also info on how the 垃圾人 sort through plastic, burning unidentified items so they can smell what it is, and how there are electronic alternatives that don't make economic sense. We also meet 文哥, also known as 李文, who's an important character. He's also a 老乡 of Mimi's, but not to be confused with the one who got her to Silicon Isle. Note his role as some kind of workers' representative and his meeting with clan bosses.


2) Starting at 一个多月前,他带来一件奇怪的玩意儿, about 2,600 characters in, we get to watch a scene we've already had a snapshot of. 文哥 has some odd helmet device he's playing with, and both Mimi and an as yet unidentified child out taking photos (remember the photo?) get somehow 'stung' by it. Mimi is worried (and we learn later this is when the odd dreams started), 文哥 unconcerned. Does 文哥 know what he's doing, or is he just playing around? Bear in mind this is all over a month ago.


3) Back closer to 'current time', we're with the Luo boss 罗锦城, as he has a witch 神婆 try to help his son, 罗子鑫, 鑫儿, who has fallen ill with a mysterious illness (I imagine there are doctors for the unmysterious illnesses). There's also a link back to the prologue with a mention of the “长富 ”号 - the Luo's have picked up the waste from that ship, but did the death of Thomas (and others?) somehow curse it? Then the witch spots a photo of Mimi and somehow recognises her as to blame - and some pieces fall into place. The boy 文哥 got 'stung' is the Luo boss's son, and now he thinks he needs Mimi for a ritual to cure him.


4) Mimi and Chen Kaizong develop a bit of a relationship after she is taken in by the Chen clan, which is slightly odd as we've recently learned she a 16-year-old waste sorter and he's a Boston Uni grad, but lets worry about that later. But when he fails to to turn up one day, she goes off to find 文哥 for some 金色昔日, to be explained later. This will put her back in Luo territory - and the Luo's are looking for her.


5) Back with the Luo's - the boss is concerned about the links between the Chens and the foreign company (ie, Chen Kaizong) and the fact they've given shelter to the girl he's after. Note mention of 鮀城, which I haven't been to yet, but it looks important later on. We also get background on his mistrust of foreigners, given his own experiences in Australia, and those of clan members. I liked 赌?还是毒?And mention of the Lin's being close to government (林主任 after all.) We also see Luo's not happy with 文哥 - the phrase used is 摆了一道 - to have been caught unawares, to have been got one over on?


6) Flashback to Mimi getting her induction membrane tattoo thing. At this point I'm finding Mimi a bit dull, but she does get more interesting later on. She also gets her first shot at augmented reality, with a program called 金色昔日 which seems to be a warm and fuzzy filter which makes everything seem wonderful. Where's mine? 前庭系统 is vestibular system - part of the inner ear. Later edit: Note the part about the HEMK Ekstase AR program and it's mysterious woman. This turns up again a lot later.


7) Flashback to 文哥's meeting with 罗锦城 and the other the clan bosses, brokered by 林主任. So the clan bosses want him done away with as he's been fomenting discontent among the workers, but he's worked out the extent to which they're cheating on their taxes and could expose them, so we have a kind of uneasy truce. So we get more of an idea of  文哥's position. 罗锦城 gets a phone call to say that 刀仔 has found Mimi, and there's a bit I'm unclear on here - 正好赶在林家 前面一步. Why are the Lins also looking for her? Do they know the Luos need her and want a kind of bargaining chip? But the Chen's don't realise that and are just helping her out on behalf of Chen Kaizong? 


Shorter chapters from now on. Phew. 


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Going to put Chapter 4 in here as well, given that it's basically me and Tomsima at the moment. Feel free to cheer us on. I suspect we'll end up with one topic for each of the books three parts. 


So, where was I...


1) Scott's hotel. He seems to be taking security measures perhaps beyond those of your average businessman, and is soon in an encrypted chat with some mysterious boss or other, where under his codename 长风沙 he tells 乙川弘文 that's he's found several candidates - what for? - and there's talk of a time-window. And then! A spy! An enjoyable chase, which does very little for Scott's health! A late-night meeting with Director Lin. Note mention of 'SBT' - this company gets a lot of mentions later, and you'll no doubt recall the first three letters of the serial code on the piece of kit Scott asked Lin to trace the provenance of. 

2) At 十年前,崔西三岁,南希七岁, note the ages don't make sense with those he gave at the banquet (or was it the cheap place? Can't remember.) Anyway, we get an explanation here, and a bit of poignancy to his "这照片有些年头了,一直没换过". I don't think it's very plot-relevant, except to give Scott a bit of humanising back-story. Here's the painting referenced.

3) Back with Mimi, on her way to find 文哥 - things do not go according to plan. The Luo thugs are on the look-out, a workmate accidentally gives her away, and....we get the second chase scene of the chapter, with Mimi throwing water bottles of the back of a three-wheeler in what is without doubt the most movie-ready scene of the book so far. 


盎格鲁-撒克逊 - Anglo-Saxon
乙川弘文 - The name of the Zen priest who married Steve Jobs, oddly enough. I mean, the Zen priest who officiated at Steve Job's wedding. Not that got married to Steve Jobs.
米莱斯笔下的奥菲利娅 - Millais' Ophelia

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Chapter 3:


This chapter felt like it just went on forever; not only was it a long chapter, but kind of came out of left-field for me after a relatively relaxing read in the first few chapters – so many terms I didn’t know and had to look up, pretty tiring stuff. I guess its all about setting up the later chapters, so hopefully a good investment. One thing I am really enjoying about the books style so far is its great cyperpunk vibes – the descriptions go from traditional culture filled with herbs, potions and rituals all the way to what I guess you might call ‘e-drugs’ and altered reality. It feels like I’m reading all the animes I used to love watching when I was younger (and still do now tbh – Cowboy Bebop, Akira, Nausicaa…!)


Regarding the 正好赶在林家 前面一步, I read it as perhaps relating to his paranoia? He mentions he doesn't know how the Chen clan has managed to 'capture' her, that they seem to know she is important to him, but doesn’t know how (of course, its just a coincidence....perhaps..?). This might just be an extension of that I guess.


Great write up too Roddy, really makes things a lot clearer being able to recap quickly in English before my sieve of a brain forgets the plot.


Here’s my vocab and some additional points+questions:


自由落体       free fall

洗漱       wash face and rinse out mouth

迂回曲折       circuitous

义无反顾       be duty bound not to turn back

铰    shear off (hair)

近乎虚脱       close to collapse

鼻翼翕张       nostrils furling and unfurling

蛆 maggot (“是嗓子眼里钻进了蛆般难受” what a great description!)

省吃俭用       live frugally

碾碎机    pulverizer (machine, tech specific to this story it seems)

五脏六腑       vital organs

横生事端       making trouble everywhere

鼓捣       tinker around with

严丝合缝 dovetail, fit together perfectly

枕骨       occipital bone

后脑勺    back of the head

浮光掠影       cursory, superficial

确凿       irrefutable (evidence) (“这无形无影又似乎确凿存在的东西”)

呢喃 murmering (can mean a few different sounds eg ‘twittering’, but here murmuring or muttering seems to make the most sense, “呢喃着不可辨认的符咒”)

茅根 cogongrass root (imperata cylindrica), different from bishops weed 魚腥草 Houttuynia Cordata. I say this, because they look exactly the same to me. Everyone in Hubei swears that 魚腥草 is some sort of miraculous panacea, everyones eating it all the time but I cant stand it!

仙草 Chinese Mesona (Platostoma palustre), to be distinguished from the dish counterpart the infamous Grass jelly

驱邪       exorcise spirits

病毒性脑膜炎 viral meningitis

脑脊液 cerebrospinal fluid

脑电图    electroencephalogram; (EEG)

通灵       possess supernatural powers

亵渎       blaspheme, profane

打趣 banter (make fun of someone, but they are okay with it)

果报       retribution

冥冥中    the netherworld

撒手锏    trump card

烫金       gilded

桐油       tung oil (used by the 巫者 sorceress, again look how organic she is, so many description of plants)

子夜       midnight

阴森       dark, ghastly (atmosphere)

摔掼       fling (将手中“油火”摔掼于墙)

白炽灯    incadescent lamp (bulb)

赤潮       red tide (algal bloom in sea)

芳心暗许:      “就是一位大家闺秀看中了一位男子,没表露出来,但是心里已经暗暗地将自己许给了他。多半是古代的女子才有的表现,不能大胆的说出爱,只能在憋心里。”

花季少女       young girl in her youth

情窦初开       reach puberty (emphasising begin to show interest in the opposite sex)

齐肩down to the shoulders (of hair)

齐腰 down to the waist (of hair)

天台 rooftop terrace (guangdong dialects)

防盗网 metal anti-theft cage on windows

打消(+念头)   give up on the idea (他打消了移居海外的念头)

老夫聊发少年狂 The opening line from a poem by 苏轼, its translation into modern Mandarin is “我姑且抒发一下少年人的狂傲之气” (see here)

番客       foreigner (usu. Chinese descent that has lived abroad)

八仙凳 a type of traditional Chinese stool. But why does the author write 八仙凳[里]? The full sentence is 因此当他看见堂兄孤身一人候在八仙凳里时,罗锦城知道,对方必定是有求于他。 Is this perhaps some dialectal saying?

摩挲       gently stroke (not to be confused with massage)

锒铛入狱       be thrown in prison

赎出 make bail (for his father)?

泥牛入海       gone forever

杳无音讯       to have never been heard of since

虾饺皇 shrimp-stuffed steamed jiaozi

触手       tentacle

调校       calibrate

未显影的底片 undeveloped photograph/negative

穹状耳罩       domed earmuffs, perhaps better translated as 'domed headphones'?

顳骨       temples

锥形       conical

碳纳米结构 carbon nanostructure

氩离子镀膜 argon ion beam coating (a search brings up similar phrases like this: https://www.gatan.com/products/sem-specimen-preparation/pecs-ii-system) But I’m guessing this is some high-tech stuff from the future, rather than technology that actually exists today)

嗓门       throat, in the phrase 直冲嗓门 "want to throw up"

泛起 ooze in the phrase 一股恶心无法遏制地泛起 "a feeling of uncontrollable disgust oozed up (within her)"

服务器群 server farm/cluster

露西的钻石 Lucy's Diamond (as in Lucy in the sky with diamonds 露西戴著鑽石在天空 这些太空毒窝叫做“露西的钻石”)

数码蘑菇 “digital mushrooms”

业障 karmic hindrance

转嫁       shift (burden)

无人接腔 no response from anyone

斜睨       cast a sidelong glance at

数字矩阵 (number) matrix

后生仔    youngster (colloquial hakka/canto)

外地仔    non-local

姿娘仔    pretty girl, another colloquial word from Teochew dialect (潮州话)

乘虚而入       advance when the opponent is off-guard

扯嘴 'fish hook' the mouth


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Glad you're enjoying it - I know what you mean about this chapter and he's definitely guilty of front-loading a lot of description and detail. From what I've read in reviews, there's way more action later on. It might have been preferable to spread those out more evenly though, and some bits - like the description of the ritual they're planning to save the Luo boss's son - could perhaps have been saved for when they actually carry it out. And if they never actually carry it out, perhaps we didn't need it. 



On "正好赶在林家" - you could be right, I guess we'll see. Although I read that as something 刀仔 tells him. I was going to say that Lin was on the scene when 刀仔 finds 小米, but actually it's Chen Kaizong and his uncle, isn't it. There's another Lin related oddity later on, which I'll mention when we get to it. Some notes on your vocab: 


碾碎机    pulverizer (machine, tech specific to this story it seems) -seem to be used for coffee grinders and the like, not sure about industrially, and if there are any useful differences with a 粉碎机 or 破碎机. 

八仙凳 - not sure about your query here, good spot. 

有求于 is in the ABC as 'have a favour to ask of sb', not sure how dialectical it is. 

赎出 make bail (for his father) - not quite bail. As I understood it his dad was in jail until fines were paid, rather than bail.


Right, I'm going to do a write-up for the next chapter, possibly two depending how the days go. I'm glad they're shorter from now on. I haven't actually read anything new in the book for a week or so, as I've been trying to catch up with myself. 

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Chapter 5: 


1) Chen Kaizong gets an invitation to meet the real Chen boss, as opposed to his uncle, who's the day-to-day handler of business. The older Chen seems to be telling him he's being watched, and warning him off in a particularly roundabout and obscure fashion, complete with a bamboo divination slip. I look forward to Tomsima's vocab list from this bit... Nice bit of casual contempt with "对,对,我总是不太习惯称呼他们的名字"


当陈贤运告诉他,陈氏族长,陈家真正意义上的头把交椅要见他时 confused the hell out of me. I read 陈家真正意义上的头把交椅要见他时 as 陈家真正意义上的头 - 把 - 交椅 - 要见他时 and was thinking to 把交椅 was to hand over some kind of invitation. This was wrong and 头把交椅 is one thing.


2) Scott meets up with the guy - an environmental activist, who isn't buying the promises of Scott's employers - who broke into his hotel room earlier, after he's caught by the authorities. There's a debate about globalisation. I found the 格雷迪 bit weird, didn't quite know what to make of it. Scott indicates he's no mild-mannered manager, threatening to do some damage to the young lad's face and later suggesting his entire identity is a sham. 林主任 gets described as a 丧家之犬 - stray dog, outcast - as he's caught halfway between government and the clans, despite a genuine wish to help the island. The activist tells Scott his boss will be in touch. 

3) A (flashback, I guess) to Chen Kaizong and Mimi hanging out. We meet the 死狗 that was mentioned without explanation earlier, and they set off on a boat-trip, the more relevant part of which comes in the next chapter. 

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Chapter 6


1) Continuing the boat ride from the previous chapter (a sceptic might ask if the author knows where to put chapter breaks), the two go ashore and lie around on a beach talking about their hopes and dreams while Chen Kaizong absolutely fails to have any thoughts about whether this is appropriate behaviour, given Mimi is 16. We'll assume he, too,  is young and naive, and I have to start warning you that much worse things are in Mimi's future anyway...

2) Flashback to his conversation with the Chen elder, and we're introduced to the idea of 潮占, a form of divination which involves throwing tied-up animals into the waves and seeing where the end up (?). But... only animals? “初生的牛羊犊、狗……大多数时候是。”老人含混地回答。He's a lot less 含混 later: 我们用人行占 You may also want to read up on a bit of history - Han Yu, and his exile to these parts.

3) Back on the romantic outing, Chen Kaizong and Mimi visit a graveyard - a potters field of sorts, where unnamed corpses washed up on the beach, and perhaps the odd murder victim, are buried. Do pay attention to one local landmark - a three-metre tall military battlemech covered in Daoist symbols. How did it get here - our old friend 文哥 is involved. 

4) So 文哥, as we know, likes tampering with tech. At some point, he's got hold of the battlemech (is that the right term?) and stuck an orphan, 阿荣, into it to do the piloting as he tries to get it running. Things do not go according to plan (阿荣's plan, at least, not sure what 文哥 was expecting) when the machine burns the lad alive. Despite a mad mechanized dash to the seaside, the kid-contraption collapses by the graveyard.  文哥 does not come out of this looking good, and I was kind of left wondering why Mimi's still risking his company. 

5) Back with the Luo's, who now have Mimi and want to know what she's up to with the foreigner Chen man. And we get confirmation they're keeping her for a ceremony to help the sick Luo boy. 

6) After the meeting with the Chen elder, Chen Kaizong runs to meet Mimi (remember when he stood her up, she went to find 文哥 and ended up captured. Takes a little work to keep the timeline straight, I find), traumatised by what he's been told about the 潮占. He recalls elder Chen (does he have a name,  I seem to have missed it) dropping the bombshell that 我也是个观潮人. He fails to meet Mimi, as we know, and wonders if his lengthy conversation was designed to keep him from seeing Mimi. Which doesn't quite make sense to me, as a) why would the Chens want to do that, unless they wanted her back with the Luos for some reason (an easier life?); and b) they didn't know her reaction to being stood-up would be to go and get herself caught.


That's the end of Part 1, and a bit less than 1/3 of the book done. I'll start a new topic for Part 2, which gets off to a very unpleasant start. 

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On 4/4/2020 at 4:29 PM, roddy said:



haha under rated comment! Didn't check to see if the name meant anything, thats pretty interesting


Chapter 4:


Lagging a bit behind, as I've been pretty busy in the last few days (think I've gone and done what many seem to have done and given myself too many extra tasks and targets in quarantine)


Just sat down for the enjoyable fourth chapter, although still feels fairly disjointed as if the authors still putting in that groundwork for the main story to come. Fairly comfortable read and nothing really to mention, so heres my word list:


稍纵即逝    fleeting, transitory

激光窃听    ‘laser microphone’ surveillance (pretty fascinating to find that this technology really exists, and in fact appears to have for quite some time)

蹒跚        limp, hobble

调虎离山    lure the enemy away from base

顺藤摸瓜    track someone/sth by following the trail of clues

追逐诱饵    take the bait

病毒电池    virus battery, also existing technology that has yet to be brought to market

洛可可式    rococo (style of painting, late baroque. I really need to rememorise all the Chinese translations of art era names, not knowing 巴洛克 when it came up in a live interpretation in front of all my classmates still haunts me to this day)

莫尔斯比港     Port Moresby (capital of Papua New Guinea)

蛇信子        snake tongue

满负荷        fully charged


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2 hours ago, Tomsima said:

not knowing 巴洛克 when it came up in a live interpretation in front of all my classmates still haunts me to this day

That comes up in, I think, first two of chapters of Part 2, so you can have a rematch. 

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  • 2 weeks later...

Just finished chapter 5. I read half of it last week, then got caught up in a small work project for a few days, then when I finally sat down to pick up where I left off I found events very difficult to follow, so the going has been pretty slow.


I have to agree with what you said in one of your earlier posts, Scott is not the most appealing of characters to follow the action with, and I found his section pretty non-starting in this chapter. I'm finding I'm only really interested in Mimi's story to be honest. Lots of religious imagery and ideas going around in this chapter, which is always interesting, I studied Religious Studies at undergrad and always find it interesting to see how different authors tackle 'spirituality', all the more so here in the organic vs techno world of Waste Tide. I liked the simile 一根刷着红白相间条纹的大烟囱立在边上,像是某种原始部落的生殖崇拜。(生殖崇拜 'fertility worship' appears to be better understood as 'phallic worship', here the chimney appearing like a primative phallic 'totem')


As for the 地藏庵六十甲子妈祖灵签, I thought it was pretty interesting the author preempts the contents of this divination slip in his description of the contents of the jars, "各种蛇类、蛇蜕及其生殖器" (蛇身意欲变成龙、只恐命内运未通, obvously some more symbolic meaning here, but perhaps the prolepsis serves as a pointer as to who is...or controls...the snakes/dragons?)

地藏 is the Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha in the Chinese form Dizang.

Here are some examples of what the slips look like:





几丁质外骨骼 chitin exoskeleton

砂浆 mortar

干瘪 shrivelled up (used of an old man's appearance)

褶皱 wrinkled (skin)

法令 nasolabial folds (smile wrinkes)

开宗明义 make one's purpose clear from the outset

书香门第 scholarly family

厝顶 roof, rooftop (閩南話)

乏人問津 Few people are interested in it.

救世主 saviour, redeemer

生于斯长于斯 “born and raised”

天衣无缝 flawless

好逸恶劳 love ease and hate work

心电感应 telepathy

忏悔 repent

不时之需 be prepared ‘for a rainy day’

些许 a few, a little

舢板 Samban (type of small boat)

艄公 boatsman, helmsman

识趣 know how to behave in a delicate situation

舵把 boat tiller

轻盈 slim and graceful

水族馆 aquarium

水螅 hydra

湍流 turbulence, undercurrent?

陡然 suddenly, abruptly

美其名曰 whitewash, gloss over

隐约 indistinct

引力畸变 gravitational distortion

皈依 convert to (a religion)

原教旨主义 fundamentalism

无神论 atheism

观潮亭 a ‘tide viewing’ platform (tingzi) by the sea

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On 4/9/2020 at 10:50 AM, roddy said:

a sceptic might ask if the author knows where to put chapter breaks


Call me a sceptic at this stage of the book then, the odd breaks in the story combined with the timeline jumps are making for a fairly disjointed storytelling experience imo. Feels like author is trying to be too clever really...


On 4/9/2020 at 10:50 AM, roddy said:

the kid-contraption


what a great translation haha love it


On 4/9/2020 at 10:50 AM, roddy said:

Takes a little work to keep the timeline straight, I find


Again, quite cathartic reading this, I was constantly having to remind myself where I was at what point in the timeline...


On 4/9/2020 at 10:50 AM, roddy said:

Chen Kaizong absolutely fails to have any thoughts about whether this is appropriate behaviour, given Mimi is 16


This part of the story has really had a bit of an alienating effect on Chen Kaizong and the author for me. I mean what is this sentence even doing here:


I just felt embarassed reading this to be honest, what is the point of these kind of descriptions exactly..?


All in all chapter 6 and the close to part 1 was I'm sad to say really disappointing for me. I mean, I really want to like the story, as there's some great ideas going on, and I get that Chen Qiufan is a highly rated author...but the descriptions just got so 'icky' (as in 油膩) in this chapter I just couldn't help but be slightly put off. Descriptions like 夜晚的海像头沉睡的黑色巨兽,呼吸声均匀有力,带着某种催眠的魔力 are interesting and effective if used sparingly, but there are just too many of them in this chapter its starting to make the writing feel 'gloopy' to me if that makes sense.


Obviously this is subjective, so maybe some will disagree with me...I just wanted to vent a bit I guess. Overall I'm still onboard and looking forward to what part 2 will bring.


Some vocab notes:


月牙 crescent moon, but can also refer to cuticles on fingernails

蛾眉月waxing crescent moon (由于形状如同眉毛,由此而得名)

洪鐘大呂 stentorian/sonorous voice

錯落有致 pleasingly asymmetrical

佛骨 relics of Buddha

稽考 ascertain; verify

筮竹 type of divination using bamboo slips

奄奄一息 on the verge of death

軀殼 body (as opposed to soul), physical form

花崗岩 granite, or hard (like granite)

鳧水 swim, float

神祇 gods; spirits

偏執狂 paranoia

锦衣玉食 live in luxury

卦象 the symbols of the bagua

乱葬岗 unmarked graves

瘆人 frightening, shiver-enducing

双手合十 putting hands together in prayer (十個手指)

逆向工程 reverse engineering

液压传动 hydraulic pressure

电感 inductance

八字步态 gait (presumably as it corresponds to the type of 八 shape the feet make when walking)

转悠 move from side to side, stroll

蛮力 brute animal strength

悉数 all, complete

前世孽债 sin from one’s past life that comes back to haunt you

硅酸盐 silicate

洛克希德·马丁 Lockheed Martin Corporation

误打误撞 accidently

尊 mw for statues 这尊神灵

喽罗 low level members of a gang

戛然而止 stop abruptly (of a sound)

私生子illegitimate love child

胴体Trunk of a carcass, torso

稗史 unofficial history, popular anecdotes collected to check on public opinion

汗流浃背stream with sweat; perspire all over


also Roddy, is there a way we can paste into 2/3 columns? That way when we're sharing vocab on the website with personalised notes others can easily separate what they want or need in the list easily.

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On 5/3/2020 at 12:50 AM, Tomsima said:

also Roddy, is there a way we can paste into 2/3 columns?

No, although if you separate your columns with a comma, that'd make it easy for anyone who wants to do that to come up with a .csv file. Have some other thoughts on your post, will be back later.

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