Yang family warriors, pt. I (pt. II below)
At the Chinese bookstore, I picked up the 楊家將演義 (Chronicles of the Yang Family Warriors). It's a relatively short novel, written in the half 白話 (plain language) half 文言文 (literary language) of Three Kingdoms and Dream of the Red Chamber. Chronicles is a FAR lesser work--the characterization is poor, the background description is practically nonexistent, and every plot arc is wrapped up in five pages. As much as I delight in trash fiction, I wouldn't have wasted time on that mediocre novel if it weren't about my ancestors.
Yes, apparently I am related to the famous Yang family warriors of the Sung Dynasty. I have hazy memories of Dad's family burning incense and sacrificing a hog to them when I was in elementary school. Then again, Chinese/Taiwanese people love to claim famous historical figures as their ancestors. For all I know, every Yang family in the continent believes it's descended from the 楊家將.
It's amusing to discover that one's alleged ancestor was quite a Don Juan. In the Chronicles, Yang Wen Guan 楊文廣 is the Orlando Bloom of the Sung Dynasty. As the son of famous generals, he has a reputation for martial prowess. Yet, every character who is introduced to him remarks on how pretty his light skin and red lips are. Aiyah.
In one chapter, Yang Wen Guan is tasked with retrieving three stolen imperial treasures from a pair of female bandit chieftains. They know he is engaged to an imperial princess but still decide that he would make an excellent husband. The less beautiful of the two chieftains first shoots Yang Wen Guan off his horse and pressures him to marry her. When Wen Guan refuses, she ties him up in her bedroom and gets his right-hand man to be the matchmaker. "Why not?" Wen Guan asks himself, and they're quickly married. The NEXT DAY, the other chieftain shows up, throws a violent fit, and Wen Guan marries her, too. Wen Guan soon bids them farewell and promises to return.
On the way back to the capital, he runs into a third bandit family. Wen Guan defeats the father, but the smitten daughter engages him in an extended duel. Riding away from the battleground, she lures Wen Guan to a gorge, where his horse tosses him into the water. Wen Guan is quickly "forced" to marry her, and they tearily part days later. When Wen Guan FINALLY arrives back in the capital, the grateful emperor arranges his wedding with the princess. In the course of two chapters (about ten pages), Wen Guan marries four times, and three of his wives don't know about each other. Hilarity ensues.