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Book of the Whenever: October 2020: 异兽志


roddy
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Spoilers and nothing but spoilers!

 

1 悲伤兽

 

• 悲伤兽's smile is equivalent to human cry. They only smile when in great pain/distress. Once started it cannot be stopped and they'll smile to death.

 

• Male 悲伤兽 can mate with human female at full moon, but the human will die at their happiest moment, being devoured by the male beast, who will then take the human form and gradually become a female beast. That is how they maintain a balanced gender ratio for their species.


• The human consciousness takes time to digest. It is strongly hinted that when the painter 小左 first met the narrator, she didn't know she's already dead and was in the process of turning into her pet 乐云.

 

• 小左's boyfriend 何棋 didn't love her. He approached the painter only to be close with her model. So what is the ex boyfriend 傅医生's role in all this? Did she misremember who she had sex with that night?

 

* I read the surname 乐 as Le, though fully aware it's Yue in 管仲、乐毅. Yuè Yún is simply too similar to 岳云. (乐云、乐雨, are these names an allusion to 巫山云雨?) According to Baidu, Le families are of Mongolian descent, while all Han origins give us the Yue reading.

 

2 喜乐兽

 

• 喜乐兽 is genderless and has a very short (overnight) lifespan in its phoenix-like adult form. It can spend years, however, as a parasite in human body, preferably of a child, before it's fully grown. The host develops visible symptoms, such as barbs on the wrist, terrified look, as the beast eats away the host's body from inside.

 

• Once there's nothing left to eat, a fully fledged bird emerges, soon dies, a feather on its head detaches itself, finds a new host, thus begins a new cycle of eternal life.


• Apparently our specimen under discussion matured twice in the last 50 years. First as a nameless child who looked like 李春 but without the mole under her eye and had 7 barbs on her wrist instead of 6. It met 李春's father, then a journalist, who took a photo of the child, believing it's the true form of 喜乐兽. They lived together for a while, but when the journalist witnessed a horrifying metamorphosis and later realized his daughter had become the next host, he instructed his wife to kill their daughter. What happened is unclear, but his wife died, the beast, now in his daughter's form, disappeared. The rest is pretty easy to piece together. (李春 obviously fell in love with the journalist-turned-mayor. It took her 50 years to mature this time, reluctant to give up the body of the loved ones of her love. The old mayor seemed determined to kill the beast, at least while he was in office. But did he forgive her at the end of his life when he put an ad in the newspaper looking for her?)

 

3 舍身兽

 

* Not much to spoil since this is the weakest chapter so far.

 

• Eons ago 舍身兽 were gods who created humans. Greedy humans grew smarter and stronger, they conquered the world, banishing their gods to remote mountain tops (Olympus? 😂). It is said that female 舍身兽 colluded with humans to overthrow the males and established a matriarchal society, in which the males had their tongues cut in half at birth (like this 🐍) and were slaughtered arbitrarily. The population dwindled. Eventually 舍身兽 became an endangered species living in beast reserves and research facilities (like 🐼).


• In the lastest conspiracy the female beasts plot to get rid of the males so they could enjoy their long life as the only living 舍身兽 but they get played by humans and the species becomes extinct.

 

• The narrator's longtime friend and drinking buddy 小虫 is actually a male 舍身兽 (should have seen it coming, after all 虫 is but another word for animal 🐯) who escaped imprisonment 6 years ago, underwent surgery at the narrator's mentor's lab, has been living as human ever since, and at the end of the story is the last 舍身兽, being locked away in a lunatic asylum.

 

4 穷途兽

 

• 穷途兽 is a nomadic species who feeds on human despair. The more despair they consume, the longer their hair grows. They drive in trucks, wandering the land in search of places with most despair. When they leave a place, they leave it happy and free of despair.

 

• But humans can't live without despair (Agent Smith can swear to it). Without despair they live a healthy, happy life for sure - but they have nightmares during the night, because, unaccustomed to pure happiness, the brain feels something is missing; and when they're awake, they're in a constant state of euphoria and they lose their animal instinct for self preservation - they're happy to die. The reformed delinquent orphans, the critic who adopted the beast 钟越 and vowed to give up his vices, all died. If not for her mentor, the narrator would be dead too.

• On the other hand, too much despair in a city breeds riots. That's why no one dare kill a 穷途兽 - because when a beast dies, all the despair it has consumed will be released at once, enough to destroy a city. And this is the most chilling part: as they grow old, their hair gets longer and longer, eventually it becomes a cocoon, enveloping the beast, and the beast dies. 穷途兽 can live for hundreds of years. But whenever a beast dies, war breaks out, and countless cities are destroyed. Fortunately the beasts in 永安 (what a name) arrived not very long ago and none of them has died, yet.


* 穷途 means 路的尽头 or the end of the road (from idiom 穷途之哭, first attested in 唐・王勃《滕王閣序》:「孟嘗高潔,空懷報國之情;阮籍猖狂,豈效窮途之哭。」, ultimately based on 《晉書・卷四九・阮籍傳》:「時率意獨駕,不由征路,車跡所窮,輒慟哭而反。」)


* I like this story - neat, clever, full of symbolism, logically consistent, and deftly told.

 

5 荣华兽

 

• 荣华兽 are sentient trees to whom the meaning of life is 42 - sorry, wrong number! - is to one day become a piece of furniture that is perfect in every way, and that can last thousands of years in tranquility. But few are so lucky.


• They propagate by cuttings. The saplings are often diseased. Those diseased are left to grow into humanoid beasts to live out their lives praying for a better chance next replant while running a women's shelter and taking care of saplings and other plants.

• Apparently as furniture they're still sentient, as is evidenced by the tongue biting incident. Ouch! (The "chair" was jealous, believing 钟仁 abandoned her for another woman. Hence the mysterious smile when she finally met the other woman, who turned out to be her lookalike - they look alike because the narrator's mother was the one who took care of the sapling while taking refuge in the monastery after running away from home.)

 

* What this story is trying to tell us, I have no idea. Maybe it's just an elaborate way of saying "Life's a bitch until you die."

 

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Spoilers and nothing but spoilers! Part II

 

6 千里兽

 

* This chapter is rather vague and unconvincing. If the purpose of last chapter is to introduce the narrator's mother, then this chapter I guess is to draw attention to the unusual relationship between the narrator and her mentor and then kill him off in a freak accident. I'll try to summarize what we know for a fact and what we know by deduction.


* What Lu seems to have missed: 不是!江炭有些激动,我想救他【蔡冲】!我为了要救他【蔡冲】甚至设计杀了无辜的人【XXX】,我以为是他【XXX】的错,但他【XXX】死了,他【蔡冲】依然要死…… The author is playing with pronouns again!

• 千里兽 are born clairvoyant. But it goes downhill from there. By the time they reach adulthood the ability is gone, and they're able to live a short, increasingly ignorant, and happy life.

• But a hybrid doesn't lose the ability. The curse of knowing the future while unable to change anything stays with them.

• 江炭 is a hybrid: his mother is human, his deceased father a beast. He's in love with his boss 蔡冲 the archeologist, so much so he told him about the underground old family house of his father's, which led to the big discovery that made front-page news.

 

• Meanwhile the narrator's mentor, a renowned zoologist, was in contact with the archeologist before the news broke. Their common interest must be to track down the beasts believed to be alive and well somewhere far far away.

 

• 江炭 knew his boss would die if he set off to chase the beasts. He somehow blamed the zoologist and decided to lure him into some sort of unspecified death trap. But WHY he should think that by killing the zoologist he could save the archeologist, and HOW by telling the zoologist the person he cared most was in danger he could ensure his certain death, is beyond me.

 

• The narrator's mentor probably had heard of 江炭's superpower from 蔡冲. So when he was told his most cherished one was going to die and he could only save her if he did not tell her the truth, he decided to do what? He sent his student to ask her to buy cherry for him because 樱桃🍒 = 应逃💨. I am officially speechless.

 

7 痴心兽

 

* Shocking! (Nah, not really) The narrator's 姐姐 is not really her sister but rather her cousin or 表姐 (mother's sister's daughter). What's more, they're not related by blood - her mother was adopted (by 三姨's parents). So 路佳 is her 表外甥女 (first cousin once removed) not her 侄女 (niece). One-child policy's legacy?

 

* The 文言 passage at the end is *crucial* to understanding the story. This is especially true for this chapter. Most of you commenting on the demonstrations, the killing of innocent people at the airport are missing the real horror.

 

• 痴心兽 is a man-made species, created by the narrator's mentor some 20 years ago, with the narrator as its first specimen (so she is a beast after all). He made her in his lover's - that is, the narrator's mother's - image. He gave away the patent to the government, in exchange, he got to keep the child.

 

• The government has been using 痴心兽 as a means of mass manipulation and mind control (I'll spare you the gruesome, grotesque, bloodcurdling details). They are sold to the public as pets, but because of its exorbitant price, only the elites can afford it, as a result, only the elites are brainwashed.

 

• 钟亮's father 钟奎 (funny name, by the way) bought a female 痴心兽 10 years ago, and modeled the child on his secret lover 林宝 the movie star. 钟亮's mother got wind of the affair, forced his father to return the child beast after only one year, and anything related to the beast was thrown out the door. By shear luck, 钟奎 escaped brainwashing, and he's the only one who voted against the killing.

 

8 英年兽

 

• 英年兽 are descended from death row inmates. A mother on death row would rather kill her baby than let their offsprings be prisoners forever. So over the years it became part of their nature for parents and children to try and kill each other.

 

• On her deathbed the narrator's mother told her a story of how a male 英年兽 married a young human girl but eventually left her when a baby was born. The narrator thought she was the baby in the story, when in fact, it was a story her mentor told her mother when they were together, and he was the half-human half-beast baby. Anyway, the narrator's mother told her a story about her father before she died, and warned her not to tell anyone and never under any circumstances to go looking for 英年兽 - to protect the man she once loved, I think. (I'm not entirely sure whether her mother did explicitly tell her she's the baby - to hide the fact that she's a 痴心兽 grown not in a womb but in a lab - or it's all a big misunderstanding on the listener's part.)

 

• The narrator breaks her promises when she tries to retell the story for her newspaper. Still believing she's the baby and wanting to find out more, she interviews an very old beast, who happens to be the protagonist of the story, and who knows she's not the baby because it was a boy. So when she is attacked by a young beast, the old beast's foster son, who thinks she's the hybrid baby coming back to kill her father, the old beast steps in.

 

• Now the narrator knows as well as we do who her father is - her mentor the zoologist, and who his father is - the old beast. But did the old beast kill her mentor/father? I don't think so. The young beast tried to kill her because he knew the old one wouldn't. Plus given the zoologist's status and connections, the old beast would be long dead if he wanted him to, so there's no motive for the father to kill the son. Did the young beast kill her mentor/father? Definitely not. The clueless young one didn't know the baby was a boy and when he does he thinks his foster father is killed by this hybrid boy. So who did it? Or was it just a convenient car accident?

 

9 来归兽

 

* 喜砌砖块和打麻将 Very funny juxtaposition yet strangely appropriate for tomb raiders' descendants.

 

* There's a wordplay on the two meanings of 亡: 死亡 die; 逃亡 flee.

 

• 来归兽 are not beasts; they are humans. The fabled underground city of the dead is actually where pure-blood humans live. Their ancestors couldn't stand the stench of beasts, so they left and built a city of their own, leaving the beasts and hybrids behind. People living aboveground today all have beast blood in their veins.

 

• When occasionally there are human defectors who escape to the surface, they're hunted down, brought back, tortured, locked up, and trained to be bloodhounds known aboveground as 来归兽.

 

• 钟亮's biological mother is a human who fled the underground city while pregnant. The narrator's mentor helped her, hid the baby using the ancient amulet, and saw to it that 钟亮 the only human and "我" his daughter the only 痴心兽 can look after each other. The End.

 

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It's an interesting reading experience.  I just finished the first 2 chapters. 

 

It went relatively briskly (averaging 165cpm which is slightly below my average reading speed).  It didn't feel like a chore, because there's a ton of dialog.  Going through the descriptive parts though can feel like downshifting to first or second gear.  There's a lot of elegant phraseology used, which make for new vocab words.

 

I ended up reading the first chapter twice, and I'll end up re-reading the second chapter as well. 

 

So far the experience feels like like reading a detective story.  The pattern so far is there's going to be a macabre twist at the end, which will cast the story in a new light.  Before you know the twist though, you're given a ton of random facts about the beasts, and it's hard to tell what is important to note and what isn't. 

 

For me, it's only the second time you read through it, that you notice how the pieces fit together.  Actually, even twice may not be enough, I could easily read the first chapter a third time and pick up more clues about how the pieces fit together.

 

Before I check some of the spoilers / clues in this thread, I wanted to save down some thoughts / reactions / questions I had first.

 

1 悲伤兽

 

Spoiler
  • I'll give myself a slight pat on the back for guessing 小左 was a 悲伤兽, before the reveal.  Only because the story kept saying she liked ice-cream and never smiled. 
  • But I didn't guess the twist that she was the previous male 悲伤兽, 乐云.  I thought she just happened to be a female 悲伤兽 that kept her identity hidden, because a male 兽 can't marry a human and she was essentially married.
  • I wonder what the story implied about the state of the relationship between the 小左 and 乐云?  Did they love each other? Was one using the other, were they using each other? 
  • Was there some trigger of 乐云 eating 小左 and switching to 何棋? Was it triggered by the jealousy of 傅医生?  Was 何棋 the instigator, or 乐云?
  • What is the significance of the marriage rules? (other than to foreshadow that everyone but the narrator knows male 悲伤兽 are dangerous.  Even the child 悲伤兽 enjoying the ice-cream knows marrying the narrator = death.) 
  • What is the significance of the dosing regimen? (other than to cause the sister 乐雨 to die / setting the reveal at the end).  Both marriage rules / dosing regimen seem like some of social commentary that flew over my head.
  • Did 乐云 commit suicide at the end, or was it accidental death?
  • What is the significance of the 导师?  Why does he have a vat of beasts lying around?  He seems like he's a part of the Deep-兽-State.

 

So far I have no theory yet as to whether the beasts are purely fantasy or supposed to represent some type of real life person / social situation.

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I read up to end of chapter 5 so far. 

 

I've downshifted some more in speed, from 165 -> 150cpm.  But in doing so, I'm reading more carefully and understanding the text better.  I'm also looking up more vocab words.  This way, I find I don't have to re-read the chapter completely anymore to piece together the plot (although I still scroll back to re-read certain segments after the end).

 

General reactions through five chapter, with spoilers:

 

Spoiler
  • I'm leaning towards these stories are just supposed to be fantasy, not representing  real world archetypes. The author has good imagination and likes playing with the idea of a dangerous human and 兽 co-existance.
  • Her 兽 are superficially human like, allowing humans to fall in love with them.  But their latent 兽 essence expresses in strange ways, catching the humans and the 兽 in these horror story type scenarios.  People who love 兽 or want to treat them as "more human" seem to constantly under-estimate this.
  • And paradoxically, humans in her world are quite as violent as 兽.  Although they seem to publicly cherish the 兽 (kids cry over their mistreatment, there are official programs to preserve them), they also seem to be horribly cruel at times (willing to kill entire 兽族, medically dosing the 兽 involuntarily).  Despite co-existing for quite some time, the ordinary human society seem quite ignorant of true nature of the 兽, except for the Professor (and maybe the govt). 
  • The story humans might not be entirely mundane either since they seem to have spirits that rise from the undercity.  So they may be "magical" humans. 
  • As the story progresses, it seems like the story world is becoming more and more fantastical, apart from the 兽 aspect.  There's a general slow-reveal of how weird the story-world actually is. 
  • Although it's kind of cheating, I like it, as it allows the author to keep teasing and surprising the reader.  Every chapter has surprised so far, even after I started expecting surprises.
  • The professor does seem like he's part of some kind Big 兽 Conspiracy, and the author herself was also part of the program, but somehow quit.  Is the author herself is some kind of 兽? I wouldn't be surprised if there was an twist near the end along these lines.

 

Chapter 2 reactions/questions:

 

Spoiler
  • The woman in the picture is not 李春, because no mark under her eye.  But somehow looks just like 李春?  Is it because they're biologically related, or it is because they're both possessed by the 喜乐兽, or is it just coincidence?
  • Also chapter 2 reveals 兽 are not always human in form.

 

Chapter 3:

 

Spoiler
  • I didn't expect 小虫 to be a 兽 -- that caught me by surprise.
  • I didn't really understand the conspiracy aspect, as it seems to doom the female 舍身兽 as well.  I saw that was hinted, but I don't see how the females thought they could get away with only the males being targeted.  I saw it as more a story about a "Final Solution" based on a misinformation campaign -- the conspiracy part seems bolted on.
  • But it sorts of fit the theme of the 兽 being randomly dangerous or violent at times you don't expect. 舍身兽 maintained their matriarchy through violence and somehow that violent nature would end up being their undoing.  And humans end up being just as violent as 兽, something that the 兽 under-estimate.
  • Why did the author lead 钟亮 to 如如?  The news already said: "决定集体屠杀舍身兽,以绝后患", and the prof only said: "先杀雄兽"  The author must have known that was very dangerous for a female 舍身兽, eventually, even if she believed the prof (i.e. males first).

 

Chapter 4:

Spoiler
  • I didn't understand why humans can't live without despair, until I saw @Publius spoilers.  I thought the 穷途兽 was somehow drugging the author, like using drugs to overcome depression / or to escape life.
  • I couldn't figure out if 钟越 was well intentioned or meant the author harm.  Or was it just unintentional harm because of his 兽-ness?  Does the author foregive 钟越?
  • Was the 穷途兽's last name 钟 a coincidence?  The author's 师弟 is also surnamed 钟, as is his uncle.  Is the professor collecting a bunch of 兽 students, who want to live as humans?

 

Chapter 5:

Spoiler
  • Who made the mysterious phone call? (是他。他知道我没事,一定恨恨挂掉电话,诅咒我祖宗十八代。我笑)
  • Was it the professor? Why did the author make up with the professor at the end?
  • Why does so many 兽 look like the author (李春, 朱槐)?  Is it implied that the uncle liked the author because she reminded him of the 荣华兽 in the chair?
  • Why is the author's mom living in the 兽 monastery?  I really thought it would be revealed the author was a 兽 in this chapter.

 

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@phills to answer your questions concerning chapter 5:

 

Yes, it's the professor. She kind of has a special bond with him, 相爱相杀, if you like. She acts like a woman in love I think.


The reason the beast in the chair looks like her is because she looks strikingly like her mother (soon you'll find out why), and the beasts, when they're young trees, mimic the person closest to them, the person who takes care of them, in this case, her mother.

荣华兽 run a women's shelter in the monastery. Her mother ran away from her father, and with nowhere else to go, lived with them until she died.

P.S. This is essentially a series of horror mysteries disguised as romance and with an allegorical undertone. Sometimes retracing one's steps to find/examine clues seems inevitable. Don't beat yourself up. :D

 

EDIT: I have updated my spoilers based on your questions.

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Just finished chapter 6.  It was tough.  I had to go back to reading it twice again (first time, since chap 2). 

 

Unlike chapter 2, chap 6 the second time was even slower than the first time (126 cpm v 144cpm).  But I understood the chapter on the second read, I think.

 

Spoiler reaction:

 

Spoiler
  • It was only the second time reading through it that I understood the 江炭 somehow killed the professor, by telling him the author was in trouble.  But I don't understand how? 
  • It was a car accident. So just 江炭 didn't tell the professor he would be in an accident?  I thought he couldn't change fate anyways.
  • Or did 江炭 set up him to be in that car, because by telling him the author was in trouble, it causes the prof to ride in the car to see her?  That seems like a stronger than normal "Foresee the Future" super-power -- and allowing him to change the prof's fate.
  • @PubliusAs for buying the cherries, I figured it was because 江炭 warned the professor that you can't change fate if you told her directly.  So the professor was clever and tried to outwit fate by telling her indirectly.  "我 [江炭] 告诉他 [the professor],他的情人会死,但不能告诉那姑娘 [the author] 她会死,只有不被命运发现 [so "cherry"],才能改变它"  Unfortunately, she didn't understand.

 

The language in the last few paragraphs were extremely difficult to decipher to me (even more than previous chap endings).  Although thanks to @Lu's post about 弱冠 and 而立, I understand it bit better now.  Since I was going to try to translate it myself anyways, I thought I'd post it.  Appreciate any corrections / pointers!

 

Spoiler

千里兽知千里千年事,而世事如故,只能顺其道而行之,不足为外人道。其幼兽出,便知天下千里万古事,但兽不能言,亦不能行。至于长成,则渐忘却,未及弱冠,已与常人无异,过而立,则日渐痴呆,生活不便。再过十余二十年,兽无为而亡,故千里兽性达而痴,或云空有千里之名。

 

"1000 mile" beasts know myriad occurences across space & time. But as always in the way of the world, they can only let events happen as they're foretold, and cannot warn others beforehand.  When they're born, they know all, though they can yet neither talk nor act.  As they grow up, they slowly forget themselves.  Before their 20's, they live as normal, but past their 30's, they start losing their minds and find it difficult to function in normal life.  After another 10 or 20 years, they naturally pass away, due to having gone fully senile.  Thus (或云空?) they get named "1000 mile" beasts [or ironically they're no longer deserving of the "1000 mile" name?].

 

但千里兽终为名所累,故谎称亡族,匿居于地下十米处,修房屋,建庭院,目赭,能视物,腹鼓,能呼吸。逢众老兽亡,千里兽徙,俞远,今已至永安千里之外。

 

But the beasts tire of their nature, and so spread a rumor of the their tribe's demise.  They hid underground, built houses, courtyards, (目赭?), can see things, (belly drum?), can breathe.   When the old beasts die off, the tribe moves, as far as possible (俞远?) ; recently, they've come to the outskirts of 永安 city.  [this sentence looks weird to me; maybe too many typos from the OCR?]

 

曾有人兽杂交,产子似母,身短,除脚跺倒刺外,别无他异。但杂交兽知天命,纵年长而不忘,行尸走肉,尽见人事沧桑,茕茕孑立,终于自绝。

 

There have been human-beast unions, with the hybrid child taking after the mother.  Short in body, and other than barbed spikes in their feet (脚跺?), they resemble humans. Hybrid beasts know their fate, and don't forget as they grow old.  They go through life as a zombie -- seeing every upheaval of the world's timeline, they live as hermits, and die alone.

 

智乎千里兽,愚乎千里兽,众生莫辨。

 

Wise beasts or foolish beasts, they all invariably face this life (众生莫辨?).

 

万物历千劫,逝者如斯,白驹过隙。

 

Thousands of creatures are robbed hundreds of times.  All creatures live as such, ceaselessly rushing through time. (?)

 

但愿人长久,千里共蝉娟。

 

But hope lingers evermore, for the "1000 mile beasts" to share in life's beauty & grace. (?)

 

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On 11/22/2021 at 9:46 PM, phills said:

俞远

Typo. Should be 愈远, farther and farther.

On 11/22/2021 at 9:46 PM, phills said:

脚跺

Typo. Should be 脚踵, heel.

On 11/22/2021 at 9:46 PM, phills said:

众生莫辨

众生 means all living things (orig. < Buddhism).

莫辨 couldn't tell (the difference).

On 11/22/2021 at 9:46 PM, phills said:

千劫

Is also a Buddhism/Hinduism term, 1 kalpa (the life cycle of the universe) = 4.32 billion years.

On 11/22/2021 at 9:46 PM, phills said:

或云空有..之名

或 = some (people)

云 = say

空 = in vain, for nothing (EDIT: 'undeservingly' is the word) Cf. 有名无实 in name only.

On 11/22/2021 at 9:46 PM, phills said:

不足为外人道

Is an idiomic expression. Roughly, not worth mentioning. EDIT: You're right, here it is used in the sense 'let's keep it between ourselves'.

On 11/22/2021 at 9:46 PM, phills said:

为名所累

累 is 3rd tone, 拖累. Burdened by their name/reputation.

On 11/22/2021 at 9:46 PM, phills said:

目赭

(Their) Eyes are red.

On 11/22/2021 at 9:46 PM, phills said:

腹鼓

(Their) Belly bulges.

 

Overall, not bad. Not bad at all for someone without formal training in classical Chinese.

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Thanks, that helps a lot!  So

 

故千里兽性达而痴,或云空有千里之名 = due to having gone fully mad; ironically, being "1000 mile" beasts in name only.

 

但千里兽终为名所累.. = But the beasts, burdened by their reputation, spread a rumor of their tribe's demise...

 

... 目赭,能视物,腹鼓,能呼吸。... = [Underground]... their eyes red, can see objects, their bellies bulging, can respirate...


But

 

1. 智乎千里兽,愚乎千里兽,众生莫辨。 = Wise beasts, foolish beasts -- no one can can tell one from the other.  

 

Rather than wise or foolish -- they all face the same fate (aka their lives are the same)?

 

2. 万物历千劫,逝者如斯,白驹过隙。 = Thousands of creatures come and go over an universal cycle, going through their motions, as they hurtle through time. 

 

And has nothing to do with robbery or assault?

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1. Yep. Are they sages? Or are they fools? Nobody can tell.

2. Robbery, no; assault, maybe, if you mean the slings and arrows of life. I'm leaning towards reading 千劫 as mere hyperbole for 'very long time'. But 劫 does have a meaning 'calamity, disaster' as in 劫难.

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On 11/22/2021 at 11:59 PM, phills said:

故千里兽性达而痴,或云空有千里之名 = due to having gone fully mad; ironically, being "1000 mile" beasts in name only.

My try: Therefore, they're understanding but silly creatures. Some may say they do not live up to their name.

 

EDIT: Nah, not quite right.

Fuller in his An Introduction to Literary Chinese recognizes four and only four basic grammatical relationships: topic-comment, verb-object, coordination, subordination (modifier-modified). These apply to all levels: word, phrase, sentence.

Let's break down 千里兽性达而痴:

千里兽 topic | 性达而痴 comment

性 topic | 达而痴 comment

达 element 1 | 而 conjunction | 痴 element 2

性 is easy, 天性 nature.

达 is hard to define. Their 生性 being 旷达 is probably because they once knew all what life had in store for them but then they lost it. Is broad-minded the right word? Carefree? Easygoing?

痴 obviously refers to their diminishing mental faculties. But I feel stupid is too strong a word in English.

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On 11/23/2021 at 12:45 AM, Publius said:

Their 生性 being 旷达 is probably because they once knew all what life had in store for them but then they lost it.

 

Interesting.  I thought 达 just meant reach, like 达到, with 而 as a preposition.  I didn't think of 而 as a conjunction, with 达 as an adjective.  Previously, I didn't know the word 旷达 (I might guess it if I saw it, but I'd never think of it).  I also considered 故 as because (原故) rather than therefore. 

 

So [they died] because (原故) their nature (禀性) had reached (达) to a point of a change (而) to mad/crazy/senile () was my guess previously.  But now I see your reading. 

 

Maybe 而 doesn't work as a preposition there -- you can't 达而 to a state.  I'm thinking of 转而; most of the other 而 words are using it as a conjunction.

 

EDIT: Also misinterpreting as "because" rather than "therefore" has happened to me before.  That makes a big difference in logic, and can send you down a long confusing line of thought.

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Just finished chapter 7.  I thought I understood it (happy having just read through it once).  But reading through @Publius's notes, I clearly missed quite a bit of the story:

 

Spoiler
  • Even though I long suspected the author was a 兽, I missed the reveal. I thought the professor was cloning the author.  Because she was the prof's biological daughter with her mother, who ran away, so he then cloned another daughter.  The mom is wondering if she made a mistake running away, and so asked the author, 你会爱这样的男人吗.
  • Now I read publius' explanation, his read seems more elegant.

 

  • I can't say I fully understood the final 文言文 explanation, but I got enough of a gist that the 兽 was some kind of social control device, that worked by being eaten.  Even I recognized the passage was not your normal Chinese; the "其" was strong in the passage.  I was a bit confused by 主 and 王 though, maybe 主 are nobles?
  • But I didn't get that it was only controlling elites, and by luck 钟奎 escaped the brainwashing.  That's pretty clever on the author's part.

 

  • I also didn't quite understand whether the 兽 was supposed to make people crazy or compliant.  The final explanation bit seems to indicate compliance, but the earlier parts seem to indicate crazy.  Were the people marching in the streets stirred up by the 兽?
  • Also, how did the author's new 兽 die?  Was it part of the prof's 独一无二的 Digital Rights Management system (TM)?

 

Edit: Just finished chap 8.  Relatively straightforward, and my theory is still possible.  One question:

 

Spoiler
  • Who's phone call was it after grandpa died?  我接到陌生人 (who?) 的电话,电话中,青年男子声音硬咽,他说:"他 (Grandpa) 死了。一定是被他 (who?) 杀死了。" 
  • Is the caller just the other young 英年兽 who doesn't know the professor (the male "son") is already dead?  Is it possible prof is not dead?

 

Will finish chap 9 tomorrow.

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Just finished chap 9.  The 文言文 section was pretty tough again, but knowing publius' tip that 亡 means 逃亡 (flee) instead of dead, helps a bit.  I still have trouble with the last 2 sentences -- any tips?

 

Spoiler

人敏而智,自谓知宇宙千年天地万古事,不以物喜己悲,但作茧自缚,聪明反误,终至人心背离,亡者忧捕,捕者忧亡,惶惶不可终日。

 

Humans are sensitive & wise, the only beings who can understand the universe & its many ways.  Objects won't always make a person happy, but rather entangles.  Reflecting cleverly about one's regrets, the heart oft desires to leave the world behind.  Humans who flee worry about being arrested, those who do the arresting think about fleeing; all are anxious about their days to come.  [These clauses don't quite link up? I may be missing how the clauses are glued together]

 

乐乎,兽之为愚兽。哀哉,人之为智人。

 

It is the beasts' good fortune to be foolish.  It is humanity's tragedy to be wise.

 

Content reactions:

 

Spoiler
  • Looks like the author is a beast after all.  My theory didn't play out -- although she was in effect also the prof's & the mom's clone daughter.  I'm going back to read those few sentences in Chap 7 more closely.
  • I thought the book would have some further development about the underground spirits, plus I suspected the "humans" weren't fully human, so that the Chap 9 twist wasn't too surprising. 
  • But it catch me by surprise that ALL the humans are beasts, except 钟亮.  No wonder why he seemed like such a nice guy.  And there were "actual" humans, just underground.
  • Publius point that the only human was being set up with the prof's daughter was an interesting point.   I didn't realize that was the prof's motivation. 
  • Instead, I thought the prof had cloned himself into 钟亮, or was related to 钟亮.  The author dropped so many hints, but that was apparently a red herring.
  • What was the significance of the author being a 痴心兽 in particular (as opposed to other type of 兽)?  "你知道你为什么叫做痴心兽吗?"  那一刹,我知道了,痴心兽,我师抱我在手中,说"这是我的痴心兽。是我痴心不二的兽。"

 

Overall, the story was quite a ride!  Thanks for suggesting it.  @Publius's tips & guidance above were particularly helpful.  I wouldn't have gotten through the book without it.

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@phills on chapter 7:

 

主 = owner.  王 = ruler.

 

Craziness and loyalty aren't mutually exclusive.  Think fanatics.

 

People eating garlic and marching on the streets are simply doing what they've been told (by the government).


Read the advertisement 姐姐 repeats to 我 over the phone at the beginning.  Note the mention of canned food?  Now turn to 钟亮's final account of what happened to his 兽.


Your DRM hypothesis is really interesting.  Nobody has raised their 兽 to look like 我, a nobody, apparently.  And 我 is very special to 我师...

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