As the box lid opened slowly, I could see that the space inside was only as big as the size of my little finger. There was a small copper fish inside, which I took out and examined. It looked very ordinary but the workmanship was quite exquisite, especially the fish’s eyebrows which were made to look like snakes. Surprised, I couldn’t help but wonder what was so valuable about this thing and why it had been placed in such a protected place.
At this time, Uncle Three suddenly dragged a gas cutter cylinder into the room but he was surprised to find that the box had already been opened. “How did you open it, how did you open it?” He asked.
When I told him about the number, he frowned and said, “Things are getting more and more confusing. It seems that this group of Americans aren’t simple grave robbers.” He picked up the copper fish, but then his expression suddenly changed and he said, “Isn’t this a snake-eyebrow copper fish?”
I could tell with just one glance that he seemed to know something so I hurriedly asked him what it was. He pulled something out of his breast pocket and handed it to me. When I looked at it, I found that it was also an exquisite copper fish. It was about the size of my little finger and its eyebrows were also shaped like two sea snakes. The workmanship was excellent, and every scale had been crafted very delicately. It must have come from the same source as the one in the box. But there was one small defect that the other one didn’t have—a lot of fine, white lime-like dirt was stuck in the grooves of the scales. I could tell what it was right away and asked, “Is this a marine treasure?”
I was surprised to see Uncle Three nod. Marine treasures were antiques that were picked up from the sea, usually blue-and-white porcelain wares. It was more convenient to find antiques in the sea than on land since many things lay exposed on top of the seabed. But there were too many microorganisms in the sea so most of the things salvaged from the ocean were covered in a whitish-gray dirt that was hard to wash off and which diminished their value.
I couldn’t help but feel confused because, in my memory, Uncle Three wasn’t interested in such low-value goods. “Have you ever robbed an undersea tomb?” I asked him.
Uncle Three nodded and said, “Only once, and I really regret it. If I hadn’t taken on that job at that time, I probably would’ve had a lot of children by now.”
I was a little familiar with Uncle Three’s past. He used to have a lover named Chen Wen-Jin who was considered an outstanding woman among women. I heard that they met while robbing a tomb. She was said to be such a gentle and quiet woman that no one would ever believe that she was from the northern school of grave robbers. Uncle Three had been with her for five years. She would search for dragon acupoints while he would search the surrounding soil for the tomb’s location. This teamwork earned them the nickname “The Condor Heroes” among those in the grave-robbing circle.(1)
Later, I heard that she suddenly disappeared. All I knew was that there had been an accident when they were robbing a tomb and she had gone missing. It wasn’t suitable for girls to do this kind of work and my family felt regretful that such a horrible thing had happened, but I was only a few years old at the time and didn’t understand much of what was going on. I only saw Uncle Three sitting like a piece of wood for a week, always with a sad and broken-hearted expression on his face, before he gradually returned to normal. I couldn’t remember clearly what had happened when I was a child but now that Uncle Three seemed like he wanted to talk about it, I knew that I couldn’t seem too eager even though I really wanted to know. “What happened at that time, was it in an undersea tomb?” I asked him.
Uncle Three sighed and said “She and I were both still young back then. Several of her classmates were part of an archaeological team and vaguely knew what I did for a living. I didn’t bother trying to hide it from them, either. Everyone was very close with each other. Later, they went to Xisha to do some archaeological work on a shipwreck and I followed along. But I didn’t expect,” he paused, as if he didn’t want to remember the incident, “I didn’t expect that the sunken thing would be so big.”
It must have happened more than ten years ago now. Uncle Three actually had little experience when it came to undersea tombs but he was head-over-heels in love at the time and ended up boasting about how skilled he was in front of Chen Wen-Jin. As a result, he was allowed to follow the archaeological team out to sea. They chartered a local fisherman’s boat and took two days to reach the western side of the Bowl Reef. This was one of the most dangerous sections of the ancient Maritime Silk Road so there were a lot of shipwrecks there. Uncle Three dove down to take a look and was stunned at the sight of all the broken blue-and-white porcelain lying on the seabed. The scale was absolutely breathtaking.
Chen Wen-Jin told him that these things had fallen from a sunken ship and were carried away by the ocean currents. In the past, fishermen would pull up four or five porcelain wares as soon as they dropped their nets into the water, but they thought that the porcelain belonged to the Dragon King of the sea so they usually threw it back.
Unfortunately, almost all of these things were broken and few could be found in good condition. Even if they were found, most of them had been parasitized by marine life, which made them difficult to clean. Chen Wen-Jin’s classmates looked at these things’ value from an archaeological perspective so they were all very excited. Uncle Three, on the other hand, felt upset just looking at them. He regretted the fact that he hadn’t been alive when the fucking ship sank but he didn’t seem to realize that the blue-and-white porcelain wouldn’t have been considered an antique at that time.
They dove underwater for two or three days and brought up numerous baskets of porcelain. Uncle Three was good at appraising porcelain and knew all about it like the back of his hand. He could pick up a single piece and talk about it for half a day. That was how he suddenly became the archaeological team’s unofficial leader. Since his surname was Wu and his first name was Sanxing, the younger ones in the group started calling him Brother Sanxing. Uncle Three was floating on cloud nine and really started to think of himself as their leader.
But on the fourth day, something happened. One of the archaeological team members went out on a kayak and didn’t return by dusk. The others immediately became anxious and hoisted the ship’s anchor up so that they could go and look for their missing team member. Later, they found the kayak stranded on a reef two kilometers away from Bowl Reef, but the person was nowhere to be found.
Not good, Uncle Three thought. Maybe they went into the water to explore but something happened to them. He hurriedly put on his diving equipment and searched the water all night. After groping around for half the night, he finally managed to find the person’s body. Their foot had gotten stuck in the coral reef and their body was already bloated from being in the water for so long. When Uncle Three and the others dragged the body up to the surface, Uncle Three saw that something was clutched in the corpse’s left hand. When he pried the fingers apart, he saw that the object was a snake-eyebrow copper fish.
Even though everyone was feeling very sad at the death of their friend, Uncle Three realized that there might be something under the water. Otherwise, this person wouldn’t have come here to salvage overnight.
Uncle Three guessed that this person saw something when they were towing (exploring by having a boat tow you around) during the day but they didn’t say anything to the others. This person probably wanted to go back and take a look at night when no one was around but something ended up happening. Of course, Uncle Three didn’t say what he was thinking because there was no point in mentioning it now that the person was dead. But the snake-eyebrow copper fish in his hand had to be a clue.
The next day, Uncle Three mentioned this matter to the other team members. Of course, what he said was something like this: “Comrade so-and-so worked overtime for the archaeology cause but had an unfortunate accident in the end. But based on the fruits of their labor, this comrade obviously found something on the seabed. They traded their own life for this snake-eyebrow copper fish so we can’t let them down.”
Everyone’s mood recovered a little after this motivating speech so they went back to the area where the accident occurred and started doing a grid-like search of the sea.
That was when they found something.
As it turned out, there were more than forty huge stone anchors (they were ancient ship anchors that differed from modern anchors) under the water nearby.(2) Not only were their shapes and sizes all the same, but they were also carved with an ancient text that was basically illegible. Uncle Three theorized that these forty stone anchors either came from forty ships that were all the same size, or they were all from the same ship. But after thinking about it, it was obvious how unlikely it was for forty ships to sink in one place at the same time. This meant that there must be a very large ship underneath the seabed. It was so big, in fact, that it took forty anchors to hold it in place.
Uncle Three was very familiar with history, so once he saw this, he was already prepared to make a very bold conjecture. When he finally surfaced, he turned to Chen Wen-Jin and said, “It looks like a shipwreck tomb is buried under the sea here.”
<Chapter 29><Table of Contents><Chapter 31>
(1) “The Return of the Condor Heroes”, also called “The Giant Eagle and Its Companion”, is a wuxia novel by Jin Yong (Louis Cha). It is the second part of the “Condor Trilogy”. The story revolves around the protagonist, Yang Guo, and his lover and martial arts master, Xiaolongnü, in their adventures in the jianghu (also called the wulin, the community of martial artists), where love between master and apprentice is seen as taboo. More info here.
(2) The stone anchors are just round stones probably with a hole in them. Fun fact, the character for these anchors is “碇” while the character for modern (metal) anchors is “锚”. Some random pics and info here.
Rejoice! I FINALLY got Tibetan Sea Flower updated. Just took me about 3 months and lots of whining (that ending still pisses me off lol). You know where the updated files are~~ Will I work on Sand Sea next? Uhhhh, maybe? Who knows?
13 thoughts on “Chapter 30 Snake-Eyebrow Copper Fish”
Hello, I’m a new reader. I found my way here after watching the donghua, I was captivated n finally find the novel. I love your translation, it’s amazing how well you explain every cultural n historical things. I’m not from China so tis new knowledge are precious to me.
I hope you’re well n take care of yourself, you’ve done really great job n I’m so thankful I can read your translation 🥰
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Oh ho, hello and welcome to the pit 🥰 I’m glad you’ve enjoyed it (and all the notes) so far! It’s a good thing you’ve started now so you can read the licensed version and fly through the whole series instead of waiting on my slow butt (I have a habit of leaving us on cliffhangers 😂).
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I am from China but I still rely on merebear’s detailed notes to understand the whole story😂 Traditional culture and historical things are too difficult for us too😂
Oh, Thank you so much.💕 I think your translation is already perfect and doesn’t need to be corrected. I don’t know why but you mentioned the Sea Sand and I missed Su Wan.😄
I’ll admit, I’m hard on myself 😂. Tibetan Sea Flower actually wasn’t too bad but there were some sentences that needed rewording and some typos (I hope I got them all 😅). Hopefully the second read-through is a little smoother for everyone 😊
Su Wan was probably one of the only good things that came out of Sand Sea. He’s just too precious for this world 🤭
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Exactly, Su Wan existence is priceless especially in the sea sand.😇
You are so kind; you go through the whole process to fix any possible mistake. Your translation is excellent and the translation notes are very helpful.💞 And the typos I noticed were only in my comments.😅
Suwan is Love! I wish I like Licu though…
Wish you find your inspiration and work on it… but after you finish with main story 🙏🙏🙏
So I just read official version of Angry sea in hopes you would have ended translating 😅😅😅 I don’t know why I must read so fast or is it that i rather read when I’m supposed to be working or doing other stuff. Blame it on NPSS.
I’m really excited about this book if official translation is good imagine yours! The feeling is totally different and good!
What do you think I am, some kind of machine? 😂 Considering I’m STILL doing overtime at work, you guys are lucky I’ve been able to keep this pace up 😂 But at least you have the licensed version so you don’t have to wait for me 😊
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Was going to read all of the Official version first but got it into my head to read each chapter together to see the differences. Thank goodness for you and your wonderful translating super powers. 👏
Quick observation, you put in that the Copper Fish was about the size of my little finger. The official has it as about the size of his thumb… are they about the same size?
The characters are “小拇指” which literally translate to “small/little thumb”. If you put that in google, pictures of the pinky finger pop up. I’d say the pinky and thumb don’t have a huge size difference but that can depend on the hand I guess. I also double checked with the Russian translation and they had “little finger” as well.
As you’ll find out with this book, the official version just kind of went rogue in a lot of places. Left chunks of text out, added stuff in, put dialogue when there wasn’t any, etc.
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Then I am content to just read chapter by chapter with your translations as a proper means of reference. Will lessen the confusion that is sure to come soon enough it seems like. 🙏🏼
The penultimate map is the Xisha Underwater Tomb. https://www.ithome.com/html/it/44066.htm