Chapter 45 Traveling Notes

Speaking of monkeys getting revenge, I had also experienced this kind of thing before. In fact, monkeys were a kind of animal that could display all kinds of human qualities. If one attacked you and your counterattack didn’t make it aware of the danger and the gap between your levels, it would circle around you while looking at you with cold eyes. And as soon as you were distracted, it would rush right towards you to get its revenge.

I had fought with many animals when I was out traveling in the mountains, but I knew that monkeys and wild boars were the only type to seek revenge.

But we didn’t have time to worry about that right now. Fatty’s friend led us through the village and then showed us to the temple. It seemed that it had just rained heavily here, so there weren’t many people and we were able to enter the temple smoothly.

Not only was this temple much grander than the small one we just visited, but the Fei Kun Balu statue inside looked completely different from how Poker-Face looked. It seemed this evolution was the result of the long passage of time. In essence, only a few key temples in the south were the real Zhang family temples, and the other temples had all developed freely after the believers scattered.

But Fei Kun Balu’s way of subduing devils still utilized the Zhang family’s unique skill of wrapping their knees around their opponent’s head and breaking their neck. Apart from this action, all the other details of the statue seemed to take after the Buddhist arhat statues.(1) It seemed that… how should I put it? I tried to convince myself that this thing was the image of Poker-Face in those people’s minds in the past, but I really couldn’t make any sort of connection between the two.

The statue had been around for some time, and it was said that some people specially came here twenty years ago to refurbish it. We could also see a lot of Zhang family marks under the shrine, indicating that many Zhang family members used this temple as a place to contact their compatriots whenever they passed through. But the marks were very old, so it seemed like hardly any Zhangs had come here in recent years.

There were many other statues sitting next to the Fei Kun Balu statue, all of which were much smaller. There were also some statues of evil gods from overseas. It was clear to see that this temple’s main function was to save those poor people who got these evil god statues either from overseas or mountain caves. Although this kind of evil thing couldn’t be discarded anywhere, the people could at least leave it in this temple.

Fatty and I each took out a hundred-yuan banknote and stuffed them into Poker-Face’s pockets. “There’s no need for a middleman if you want to make a profit,”(2) Fatty said. Poker-Face didn’t seem to care since we especially liked quoting memes all the time.

Off to the side, the acolyte in charge of incense had a disgusted look on their face upon seeing our behavior, and wouldn’t even look us in the eye.

Although this was a big temple, it was still a village temple. We bypassed the shrine in the front hall and walked into the back hall, where there were all kinds of Fei Kun Balu murals. On the other side of the back hall’s spirit screen was a door. There was an old lady standing by the door with a fortune-telling plaque. Her eyes were so cloudy that it looked like she had lost her sight.

I examined the murals with great interest and found that they were all stories about subduing demons in the world. Although the old lady couldn’t see, she seemed to know where we were in the room and started telling us stories in the local dialect, just like a storyteller.

I silently used my cell phone to record her, because I couldn’t understand what she was saying at all. Even Fatty’s friend couldn’t understand the dialect spoken in this village.

The old lady put in a lot of effort when telling us the stories. It was said that she had been telling these stories here her whole life. Her mother had been saved by Fei Kun Balu when she was a child. She herself became blind shortly after birth and couldn’t do anything else. When the villagers asked her what she wanted to do, she made a vow to stay here and tell the story of her mother’s benefactor.

I was moved by the old lady’s situation, because at her age, there was no telling how many times she had told these stories, but now that we were here, she still talked like it was the first time she was telling them.

Fatty’s friend also secretly told us that the acolyte in charge of incense was greedy for money. Despite the fact that many of the incense sticks in this temple had been brought by the old lady, she just sat at the back door and told others’ fortunes.

As we politely looked at the murals, the old lady listened to our footsteps and accurately told the story of each mural. We couldn’t understand her and she couldn’t see us, but we still listened as if we could and she still spoke as if she could.

When we got to the back door, she had just finished telling the last story. Poker-Face directly went up to her and put the two hundred yuan we had stuffed into his pockets into the old lady’s hands.

The old lady didn’t say anything, but she held Poker-Face’s hand as tears flowed down from her cloudy eyes.

She held onto him for a long time, and I knew that she must have realized that the god in the stories she had told her whole life had really appeared here.

We didn’t dare stay any longer after that. The old lady stood by the back door and watched us leave.

As soon as we exited the back door, we saw that there was a path leading to the mountain behind the Fei Kun Balu temple. There were many red cloths on the mountain that people had hung up in order to have their wishes granted. It was apparently one of the local customs here.

Fatty was even angrier about the temple acolyte’s greed and asked Poker-Face to have the true god descend today and replace the acolyte. But in fact, even if Guan Yu(3) came down to earth, he couldn’t manage any Lord Guan temples because part of the temple property belonged to the village itself. I remembered that someone from the Zhang family managed the part of the temple belonging to the Zhang family, but I had no way of finding out where that person was.

Moreover, I could see that the old lady didn’t feel like she was being bullied. Outsiders like us shouldn’t casually show off the kinds of underworld methods we’d usually use.

We followed the path all the way up to the top of the mountain. In feng shui terms, this kind of mountain was known as a star peak, which was a very good mountain formation. Logically speaking, since the stars were clustered right above the mountain peak, there should be rich and powerful people buried here, but there were too many volcanoes in Hainan. Even a gentle star peak mountain like this had demon-subduing gods like Fei Kun Balu enshrined here. It could almost be regarded as conforming to the records described in the “Trembling Dragons Scripture”.(4)

Once we reached the top of the mountain, we looked down at the temple below. If the terrain was like a bird spreading its wings, then the temple was located right at the center, (5) with the majestic aura of the Azure Dragon in the east and the White Tiger in the west. There was an area in front of the mountain where people could worship and dance. This temple’s location must have been chosen by a feng shui master, and there was probably an ancient tomb carefully hidden beneath it. With both yin and yang in the same place and the Fei Kun Balu temple built on top, whatever was buried beneath the temple must be very fascinating.

The three of us easily saw through the whole thing at a glance. “We came up to see the mountain, but who would have thought this place would be full of demons,” Fatty said to me.

“The Luo star is positioned above the shuikou. It’s very beautiful,” I said to him.(6)

“With this mountain being a star peak, if you want to know what’s below, you’ll have to find people in the village who have copper coins in their bellies and whose family members haven’t lived past seventy for the past three generations,” Fatty said. “Although they’re short-lived, they must be extremely rich.”

Fatty’s friend was confused by this, but said, “Hey, how did you know that the monkeys here have belly buttons that look like copper coins, and that’s why they’re called Copper Coin Monkeys?”

<Chapter 44><Table of Contents><Chapter 46>

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TN Notes:

(1) In Buddhism, an arhat or arahant is one who has gained insight into the true nature of existence and has achieved Nirvana and liberated from the endless cycle of rebirth. They may be seen as the Buddhist equivalents of Christian saints, apostles, or early disciples and leaders of the faith.  

(2) It was a popular phrase/meme on the internet, but it was originally an advertising logo for a second-hand car trading service platform. Their whole schtick was that without the dealer (aka middleman), the seller could sell more and buyers could buy cheaper.

(3) Reminder, Guan Yu (-219) was a general of Shu and blood-brother of Liu Bei in “Romance of the Three Kingdoms”, a fearsome fighter famous for virtue and loyalty, and posthumously worshipped and identified with the guardian Bodhisattva Sangharama.

(4) The “Trembling Dragons Scripture” is one of Yang Yunsong’s famous works that focuses on the feng shui involving mountains. Yang Yunsong was a well-known feng shui master from the Tang Dynasty. Not finding much in English, so just went off this.

(5) Wasn’t finding a good translation for 开帐 (a feng shui term), so I just decided to describe what it would look like.

(6) More feng shui mumbo jumbo (I think). A shuikou is a place where water flows out of an area.

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2 thoughts on “Chapter 45 Traveling Notes

  1. Feng Shui stuff, sigh. I think I will never understand it!
    Thank you so much for the effort you put to translate this and all your helpful notes
    I like seeing this Poker Face temples. I love that part with the old story teller. So sweet

    Like

  2. “The Luo star is positioned above the shuikou.” Maybe it just refers to the type or arrangement of the tomb building that is located on top of the mountain. (A Specific structure in a special place.)

    Like

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