Tag Archives: P.A. De Voe

The Long Ballad

MOVIES: historical, romance, drama

Another fine series for your enjoyment!

[ENG SUB] 长歌行 第1集 | The Long Ballad EP01—Starring: Dilraba Dilmurat (Changge), Leo Wu (Ashina Sun), Liu Yuning, Zhao Lusi (Leyan), Alen Fang, Daqian Yi, Xiyue Cao (Mimi), Wang Ruichang

2,988,886 views

Premiered Mar 31, 2021

Image from: https://mydramalist.com/photos/6klmO_4

YouTube link:

https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=%23Thelongballad

Captions in English & Chinese

Genre: historical, romance, drama

The story begins in 626 C.E. with the Tang Dynasty’s Xuanwu Gate incident in Chang’an city. The second prince, Li Shimin, successfully assassinated his older and younger brothers in a successful palace coup, becoming the crown prince. Shortly thereafter, Emperor Gaozu, who founded the Tang Dynasty, abdicated in favor of Li Shimin.

The story’s protagonist, Li Changge, the daughter of the assassinated crown prince and his consort, a tribal princess, escapes. In the process she meets Ashina Sun a secret service agent and adopted son of the ruler of a powerful Turkic tribe in the northern steppes.

With her family wiped out, Changge commits her life to revenging their deaths. She and Ashina Sun eventually team up as the drama moves through a series of events in Chang’an and the steppes—each with their own complicated set of political machinations.

Through it all Changge and Ashina Sun develop a relationship first built on respect for the others capabilities and brilliance. Eventually leading to more intimate emotions.

The main protagonists in this series are supported by a nicely developed set of secondary characters. The secondary characters have their own personalities and developing storyline. You’ll find yourself routing for, and being enamored, by them, as well as with Changge and Ashina Sun.

Vegetarian Baozis

FOOD: Making your own Chinese vegetarian, oil-free dishes

Baozis (steamed buns or dumplings) have been a popular food in China for hundreds of years. In the Mei-hua trilogy, it is Guei-lung’s favorite snack. In the trilogy, as is probably true today, the most popular baozis are meat filled. Usually stuffed with pork. However, it can also be vegetarian, as many who practice Buddhism or who have given up meat for various reasons would prefer.

Either way, baozis are not too difficult to make. The most difficult part probably is making the bun look elegant by closing the bun up with a series of pleats! You can see these pleats in the picture on the dumpling flour package below.

Here’s a recipe for a batch of vegetarian dumplings for you to try.

Dough:

I used a package of dumpling flour that I found at a local Asian market. I followed the directions for making the dough printed on the back of the package–except for omitting the oil recommended. This made 8 large buns.

If you don’t want to make your own dough, you can also buy a loaf of unbaked bread dough from your local grocery store. I’ve done this in the past, and it works just fine. Plus, it allows you to enjoy your own baozis if you’re short on time. There will be some differences in the final product, but not much.

Vegetarian filling:

660 grams finely chopped green veggies. I used bok choy

 60 grams finely chopped mushrooms.

I used rehydrated xianggu mushrooms. After rehydrating them, squeeze out all excess water or they will be too moist and make your buns sloppy.

   3 slices of ginger

   ½ tsp salt

1 ¼ tsp sugar

   1 Tbl soya sauce

   1 Tbl corn starch  

Prepare the filling:

Mix the salt, sugar, corn starch and soya sauce together in a small bowl.

Stir-fry the mushrooms and ginger for a few minutes in a non-stick pan, adding a Tablespoon of water as needed to keep the mushrooms from sticking.

Add the salt, sugar, corn starch and soya sauce mixture to the pan and blend.

Add the finely chopped green veggies and cook for several minutes. Until the greens wilt and are well mixed with the mushrooms.

Remove the 3 slices of ginger.

Put aside to cool.

Prepare the dough:

Roll your dough into a log shape and cut into 8 equal pieces. This will give you a large sized baozi. Shape each into a ball.

Flatten the balls into a disk shape 5-6 inches in diameter. The edges, which will be pulled up and together around the filling, should be thinner than the middle or the filling might break through the bottom.

Form the baozi:

Spoon a generous teaspoon of filling into the center of the disc. Pull the dough up over the filling and pinch together in pleat-like fashion completely enclosing the filling. Let the buns rest for 30 minutes.

To cook: Place the filled buns in a steamer (either seam side down or up). The buns may double in size, so leave a space between each one. Steam for 15 minutes. Remove the steamer from the heat and let it sit another 5 minutes before removing the lid.

To reheat leftover buns, microwave for 30 seconds or re-steam.

If you give this a try, let me know how it turned out for you.

Enjoy!

Cover Reveal for Judge Lu’s Case Files, Stories of Crime & Mystery in Imperial China

My collection of Ming Dynasty Judge Lu short stories is coming together and will be out April 4th. This is the cover for the book Judge Lu’s Case Files, Stories of Crime & Mystery in Imperial China—I hope you like it.

Judge Lu’s Case Files a collection of short stories

In traditional China, owls were considered a bad omen. The bird represented mystery and secrets–but also death. Owls appear on burial ceramics as far back as the Han Dynasty. They were thought to be capable of stealing a person’s soul and their arrival near a particular home forecasted an illness or death in the family. Such a harbinger of evil made the owl seem like the perfect symbol for Judge Lu, a magistrate in the early Ming Dynasty, in his quest for justice and his battle against crime.

I just found out that this collection, Judge Lu’s Case Files, Stories of Crime & Mystery in Imperial China,  is up for pre-order NOW. If you would like a copy of 12 short stories about the intrepid Judge Lu GET IT NOW AT Amazon and you’ll get a book the day it launches!

Decorating for Chinese New Year

First, in preparation for Chinese New Year and before doing any decorating, every house should be thoroughly cleaned. Besides getting the house in order for the holiday season, when sweeping and cleaning, all old things and bad luck are swept out along with the dirt. Now the house is ready for a new beginning and good luck to come in.

People also put up special decorations to celebrate the New Year. Here are some of the most common. And, as you’ll see, many of these make great projects for the family’s children so that they can participate in the New Year’s fun.

Two of these were discussed in the last blog post:

  1. Pasting up a red square with the word fu written on it. Fu means good fortune or happiness, something every family can use! This character can be pasted on the window or door either right side up or upside down. When it’s upside down it signifies that good fortune is pouring out and into the household.
  2. Pasting up window and door paper cuts. These are almost always in red, an auspicious color of good luck and joy. It also protects the house against evil or bad luck.
  3. Chinese red lanterns. Not only do they brighten up the night, they drive away bad luck—especially when hung in front of the door. The lanterns can often also be seen hung on trees and outside of buildings.

To learn how to make these lanterns go to: https://www.thepurplepumpkinblog.co.uk/how-to-make-paper-lanterns/

 

 

 

 

 

 

  1. Auspicious plants to have in the house.
    1. Blooming flowers with unopened buds. Fresh flowers symbolize wishes for a prosperous New Year. The flowers can be plum blossoms, orchids, peonies, chrysanthemums, and peach blossoms. Orchids suggest fertility and abundance, and it particularly good for the household wanting to grow its family. Peonies stand for prosperity. Yellow chrysanthemums represent wealth, prosperity, and longevity.
    2. The “lucky bamboo” (which is not actually bamboo, it’s the Dracaena sanderiana), symbolizing good luck and prosperity.

Photo from TNS, see more at: https://www.visaliatimesdelta.com/story/life/home-garden/2015/02/25/lucky-bamboo-fortuitous-plant-home/24024857/

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  1. Tangerine or kumquat plant with its fruits round, gold shape. It’s thought to an auspicious plant which produces lots of fruit, therefore, it symbolizes wealth and abundance.
  2. The jade plant because it attracts wealth and good fortune.

 

Do you see a theme here? Yes, indeed: good luck and prosperity. That means in health as well as economically. Happiness and joy are important, too. New Year is a time of optimism about the future. People avoid talking about anything negative or bad. This is not the time to discuss sickness and death. Positive thoughts and positive activities, such as family and friend get-togethers mark the entire 15 day celebration of the New Year.

If you would like to make some decorations for celebrating Chinese New Year there are some very good web sites with free information. A few you might try are:

https://homeschoolsuperfreak.com/chinese-new-year-for-kids/     extensive coverage of many things about Chinese New Year plus fun decorations with printables

https://holidappy.com/holidays/Easy-Printable-Craft-Projects-for-the-Year-of-the-Rat    free printable craft projects for Chinese New Year

https://www.china-family-adventure.com/chinese-new-year-crafts.html    excellent site for making Chinese New Year crafts

https://www.hellowonderful.co/post/8-CRAFTS-TO-RING-IN-THE-CHINESE-NEW-YEAR/     very nice DIY Chinese New Year crafts

https://www.redtedart.com/paper-mice-finger-puppets/     for easy, simple shaped mouse/rat finger puppets FREE

Other sites to consider for overall Chinese New Year coverage are:

https://homeschoolsuperfreak.com/chinese-new-year-for-kids/     extensive coverage of many things about Chinese New Year plus fun decorations with printables

https://www.chinahighlights.com/travelguide/special-report/chinese-new-year/paper-cutting.htm

GUO NIAN HAO! (guò nián hǎo) 过年好

Happy New Year!

 

Lantern image from http://davaocitybybattad.blogspot.com/2012/01/chinese-new-year-of-dragon.html.

WHAT’S IN A NAME?

PIC bamboo closeup 1 Feb 2017Names are more than arbitrary, random words used to identify individuals. The surnames can, and often do, indicate family relationships. The given names, although they can be arbitrary, also often indicate something about the parents’ wishes for and/or perceptions of their child.

In China today, 100 surnames dominate: making up 85% of the country’s total surnames. And remember, China has about 1.4 billion people. Compare this to the US where, according to the 2000 census, 151,00+ surnames make up only 3% of our population’s surnames! Think about how you feel when you meet someone with your same last name. There is a sense of connection. The same is true in China—although the connection may go back hundreds of years.

Traditionally and today, the Chinese put the family name (the surname) first and then the given name (personal name) second. So that, if a person is named Liu Xiao-lung à Liu is the family name and Xiao-lung is his personal name. In the United States, we would refer to this person as Xiao-lung Liu, putting the family name last. One way to figure this out, when you’re not sure, is to remember that in most cases the family name is one word. Often, although not always, the given name is two words—and usually NOT written with a – between the words, the way I have written Xiao-lung in this post.

What’s interesting about Chinese given names is that they often carry the hopes parents have for their children. The names are meaningful. Xiao-lung means Little Dragon and, therefore, symbolizes good fortune and success. Boy’s names are likely to reflect strength, good fortune, and whatever aspirations the parents have for him, for example, in intelligence or business success. For girls’ names, traditional parents may give their child a name which reflects a desire for her to be lovely in appearance or have a sweet, peaceful demeanor. For example, Xiang-lian would mean Fragrant Lotus Flower. This is changing for women today, however. I had a female friend whose given name was Xue-wen, Studies Literature (in the past, this was more of a boy’s name). And, indeed, she did have strong academic interests and abilities.

Therefore, as with names in the West, there are gender preferences. Xiang-lian is not a name a parent would give a boy, nor would Xiao-lung be given to a girl. No more than a typical American would name their girl child Stephen or the boy child Mary.

What about your name? What does it say about you and your family?

A trip back to Ancient China

Hidden takes you back to Ancient China

What was it like to live in 1380 China? What did people do? How did they travel, dress, or eat? Where did they live? Hidden, the first adventure/mystery novel in my Ancient China trilogy, takes you back and plops you down in the middle of this fascinating time.Cover Hidden front cover only March 2015

Hidden is the story of a young, bi-racial heroine who finds her world turned up-side-down when her father, a magistrate, is threatened by enemies who are trying to accuse him of treason. Treason was considered the worst of all crimes because it was an act against the Emperor himself. If found guilty, the punishment included death or—if you were lucky—banishment to the farthest corners of the empire and social ostracism for not only her father but for every member of his own and his extended family.

To protect Mei-hua, her father sends her away to live with a friend in Hangzhou City. On the way there, Mei-hua is captured and sold as an indentured servant to a wealthy family. She must hide her identity in order to avoid the authorities and her father’s enemies. Will she be able to free herself and find her father’s friend and safety?

This is a story of survival and discovering the meaning of family, friendship and loyalty set in the intriguing and dangerous world of Ancient China.

For the history buffs among you, there is an Author’s Note section at the end of Hidden with more information on the culture of Mei-hua’s Ancient China.

You can find Hidden by searching under PA De Voe on Amazon or going to http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=pa+de+voe.

I look forward to your comments.

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Qing Ming 清明 Festival, April 5th

I can hardly believe it’s April already. Tomorrow, April 5th, is Qing Ming, a special day for every family of Chinese descent. While Qing Ming literally means Clear and Bright in English, the day is also known as: All Souls Day, Grave Sweeping Day, Tomb Sweeping Day, and Chinese Memorial Day.

Qing Ming day copy

Honoring family ancestors

 

Qing Ming in San Francisco area 2 copy

Continuing the tradition in San Francisco

Qing Ming day is a special time when families show respect and honor to their ancestors by gathering together to tend their graves. The family takes special foods, tea, and other grave goods (such as spirit money) to offer the dead at their grave. This is done because, traditionally, the departed live in a world where they still have needs. They need money, food, items for comfortable living. Once everything is officially offered up to the ancestors, the family picnics at the grave site. As we know, sharing food is an important way to show solidarity, togetherness. Thus, Qing Ming does double duty by bringing the family together to honor the dead and to strengthen family ties among the living.

Note: Pictures from Pinterest:

Found on p21chong.files.wordpress.com and

Qingming in Colma, outside San Francisco. Found on dailyundertaker.com

Found on p21chong.files.wordpress.com

Qingming in Colma, outside San Francisco

Found on dailyundertaker.com

Pinned from: chinaodysseytours.com

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Rockets and Bombs

Ancient Chinese Bomb

Ancient Chinese Bomb

It may surprise people that, as noted in the previous post,  the Chinese invention of gunpowder (or really protogunpowder) is attributed to a monk. However, as with many inventions, there is an element of serendipity at play here. Monks, Taoist priests, and alchemists in general used the ingredients which make up gunpowder for other purposes, in particular, as medicines and elixirs of immortality. They were not looking for explosives; they were looking for ways of prolonging life. However, when these specialists mixed certain ingredients together, they sometimes got an entirely different result then intended!

The author of a 9th century text warned Taoists looking for an immortality elixir to be careful when mixing sulphur, arsenic sulphide, and saltpetre because it could badly burn them and even burn down their buildings! Needham (p 31) says this is the first reference to protogunpowder.

It does not take a big jump in thinking to move from accidental explosions to controlled explosions. And it makes sense that it would be among the monks, Taoist priests, and alchemists who would do this and not someone from the military.

Originally, these explosions weren’t harmful, just exciting and noisy. They were used to scare off ghosts and evil spirits and in celebrations. However, as so often happens with inventions, the relatively harmless rocket that had explosive materials in it was soon turned into a bomb as well.

 

Chinese fireworks: rockets and firecrackers

Chinese fireworks: rockets and firecrackers

From the 11th and into the 13th century Chinese bombs were like rockets—in that they weren’t really very destructive because the proportion of nitrate was low. As I mentioned above, Needham refers to these early forms as protogunpowder bombs. At most they would explode with a “whoosh,” much like the rockets they were based on—frightening, but not very destructive. However, as the percent of nitrate was increased the bombs became serious weapons which were able to blow up walls and city gates.

By the Ming Dynasty in the 14th century, such fragmentation bombs (as that shown at the top of this post) were filled with iron pellets and pieces of broken porcelain. This bomb was used in war and was designed to mutilate enemy soldiers (from Huo-long-jing, a Ming Dynasty text, part 1, chapter 2 from en.wikipedia.org).

What a long journey for these materials–to go from a hopeful immortality elixir to a source of mutilation and destruction!

References: Joseph Needham: Science in Traditional China & Clerks and Craftsmen in China and the West; Wikipedia

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Firecrackers 爆竹 bàozhú

illustration from Ming Dyn (1628 to 1643 edition of Jin Ping Mei) copy jpg characers for baozhu  bamboo in jpg 2 copy     bàozhú   firecracker

An illustration of a fireworks display from the 1628–1643 edition of the Ming Dynasty novel Jin Ping Mei

爆竹        bàozhú, baoh-zhru        firecracker [or literally exploding bamboo]

The history of marvelous Chinese inventions is fascinating. The invention of firecrackers is an example.

The word for firecracker in Chinese is bàozhú (exploding bamboo) and is derived from the original firecrackers used in ancient China, perhaps as far back as the Han Dynasty (206-220 BC). At that time, pieces of green bamboo were thrown into a fire and then the bamboo would burst apart with loud bangs. In other words, these original firecrackers were not the same as those developed later, no gunpowder was included.

Li Tian, a monk living near Liu Yang city, Hunan province, is credited with having invented the modern firecracker. According to mythology, Li Tian filled a piece of bamboo with gunpowder to frighten away a persistent ghost that had been bothering the Tang Dynasty (618-907 AD) emperor Li Shi-ming. The loud bang did the job. The ghost fled and the emperor once again had peace. In honor of this great invention (pyrotechnic fireworks), Chinese traditionally held a festival in Li Tian’s honor on April 18th.

By the end of the Northern Song Dynasty (960–1127 AD), firecrackers consisted of paper tubes stuffed with gunpowder. The tubes were tied together with rope, forming a long string of firecrackers, which could be set off in succession. This produced quite a display of noise and smoke.

Noise and smoke, both are considered important for protecting a household. Noise chases away ghosts and other evils, such as poisonous insects (see my January 5, 2014 blog on the 5 noxious animals also sometimes called the five evils) and sickness. Smoke cleanses the house and also gets rid of poisonous insects and dampness, which can cause illness. Therefore, for a couple of thousand years firecrackers have been synonymous with health and peace, which leads to a prosperous future for the family.

Sources for fireworks: Joseph Needham Clerks and Craftsmen in China and the West 1970 p. 89-90; http://kaleidoscope.cultural-china.com/en/10Kaleidoscope8486.html; www.kracklinkirks.com/fireworks%20history.htm;

Illustration: “Ming Dynasty Jin Ping Mei fireworks” by Unknown – Jin Ping Mei, from Science and Civilisation in China p. 140. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons – http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Ming_Dynasty_Jin_Ping_Mei_fireworks.jpg#mediaviewer/File:Ming_Dynasty_Jin_Ping_Mei_fireworks.jpg.

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Shén 神 Another choice for mysterious or mystery?

temple roofline in China 2009 July

 

 

 

 

Shén    Shen mysterious 2 in jpg

Last week I talked about the character mysterious / mystery that I am going to use in my Ming Dynasty trilogy covers. There are other characters with the definition of mystery or mysterious. Another one is shén. However, when the character shén is used it implies mystery in the sense of spiritual. One way for a non-native Chinese speaker to discover which character is best is to look up what other words use that particular character. This gives a good idea of the underlying connotation versus the character’s denotation.   For shén [using the on-line dictionary http://www.mdbg.net/chindict/] we do find the word mysterious/mystery with both   shén mì and it is defined asmysterious / mystery.” However, there are many other words which use shén and refer to the divine, to Daoism, mythology, mystical, gods, and the miraculous.

What does this imply? Well, if you are writing a mystery which centers on the supernatural and paranormal, perhaps you would want to use the character shén versus because it implies a particular kind of mystery or mysterious event. It subtly alters your readers to another layer of meaning and insight.

Xuán     Xuan mystery 2 in jpg

Another character which can mean mystery is xuán. When xuán is used as a part of a word, we find a predominance of words referring to philosophical and spiritual schools of thought—Daoism, Buddhism, Confucianism. Xuán is also used in word combinations that refer to something being abstruse, simply difficult to understand. So, again, we find that although xuán can be used to mean mystery, it has a different underlying connotation from both shén and .

When choosing a Chinese word we have so many choices because each character used in creating that particular word brings with it a strong intellectual and emotional component. So, while my Mei-hua trilogy has religious and folk traditions included, they are a part of the cultural background of the period, not the central component of the stories, therefore, the character I chose was .