Monday, October 26, 2015

Ghosts of the Yellow River

南派三叔 (本名‘徐磊’) 的《黄河鬼棺》。

Totally got me at the title, summary and a scan of the chapters. Myths surrounding the Yellow River (黄河); an antique dealer and his companions foray into ancient watery tombs and the unknown, Chinese zombies and vampires (quite different from the way Underworld and Twilight tell it), monsters, bugs, superstitions, unexplained deaths, the raiding of ancient tombs, and of lost civilizations. The book promised to be a thriller. It didn't disappoint.

A major source of irrigation and sustaining life, the Yellow River originates in Qinghai, flowing through nine provinces and emptying into the Bo Sea (渤海) off Shandong. Ancient Chinese civilizations formed around the Yellow River basin. The book touches on the flooding of the Yellow River and the resulting deaths and tragedies through the centuries when modern dams didn't exist, including the river's shifting of course and changing elevation of river bed from the built-up of loess. As such, there're plenty of myths surrounding the river, its gods, deities, sea dragons, and of course, ghosts.

Protagonist antiques dealer Xu San Qing (许三庆), along with his sidekicks, his long-time friend- innkeeper  and budding antiquities dealer Lee Shao Ye (李少爷) and new acquaintance archeology student Wang Ruo Nan (王若男) were embroiled in the mystery of the stone coffin uncovered from the depths of Yellow River. Humans around them were killed and apparently there was a real ancient curse going around. They were asked to resolve the mystery and they agreed because they had also been cursed and were desperately wanting to undo it. There was a special bronze sword that could kill the monsters they met as the blade seemed to not have dulled even after a thousand years.

In the end, the big reveal was that civilization back then was more advanced than what it was today. And perhaps the ancient Chinese in those early dynasties so revered weren't actually human. the huge underground tombs hint at a way advanced calibre of construction and engineering knowledge the way the theories of how the pyramids were built, something beyond massive manual labor.

I wasn't disappointed by the story. The narration was all right. But the ending felt abrupt; as though the author didn't really consider how to end it. It ended in the most clichéd of ways. I knew how it would end the moment the final chapter began. Kinda like an X-File, but drawing on Chinese mythology, history and folk tales. Haizzzz.

“我是活着一直绑在这里,直到死亡......为了我华夏子民,我愿意永远在这阴暗的水牢......” 一个声音在我耳畔响起,似真似幻。

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