BAD RO­MANCE

The melo­dra­matic writ­ings of Qiong Yao have in­spired a whole slew of slushy satire如何像琼瑶剧主人公一样谈恋爱? (危险动作,请勿模仿)

The World of Chinese - - Zoetrope - BY SUN JIHUA (孙佳慧)

At some point, we’ve all come across some­one who seems to think life is a soap opera—and they’re the star: Ev­ery breakup, mi­nor set­back, and work spat calls for drama and de­spair.

For­tu­nately, there’s a handy to stop them from chew­ing the scenery too much. Next time your friend has an emo­tional out­burst, try ask­ing:

Why are you sud­denly so Qiong Yao? N@ z0nme t$r1n Qi5ng Y1o q@l1i le?你怎么突然琼瑶起来了?

Known as the “God­mother of Ro­mance,” Tai­wanese au­thor Qiong Yao (Chi­ung Yao) is not just one of the best­selling ro­mance writ­ers of all time; she’s also a cul­tural phe­nom­e­non. Born in 1938, Qiong Yao, whose real name is Chen Zhe, pub­lished her first novel at 25 and has pro­duced over 60 works since, most fa­mously Princess Pearl, the ba­sis of the hit 1998 TV se­ries. In 2018, the se­ries was re­broad­cast by Hu­nan TV and, even 20 years af­ter its pre­miere, once again be­came day­time TV’S top-rated show, as view­ers rel­ished the nos­tal­gia of Qiong Yao hall­marks— melo­dra­matic plots, love tri­an­gles, and most im­por­tantly, sappy di­a­logue.

The Bar­bara Cart­land of Asia’s per­sonal style is so fa­mil­iar that the au­thor’s pen­name, mean­ing “pre­cious jade,” has be­come a by­word for sen­ti­men­tal­ity. Thanks to mass me­dia, di­a­logue from Qiong Yao’s works have be­come widely spread and par­o­died on­line as “Qiong Yao-style lines.” Take the fol­low­ing scene from Princess Pearl, in which the lovers Fu Erkang and Xia Zi­wei share hon­eyed words:

Zi­wei: I'm beg­ging you, could you please stop be­ing so dash­ing? W6 qi%qiu n@, b%y3o zh-me shu3iq# h2o ma?我求求你,不要这么帅气好吗? Erkang: I'm beg­ging you too, could you please stop be­ing so sweet? W6 y0 qi%qiu n@, b%y3o zh-me w8n­r5u h2o ma?我也求求你,不要这么温柔好吗?

In most real-life ro­mance, over­hear­ing such a con­ver­sa­tion would make one’s flesh crawl; but be­tween friends, this ex­change can be sar­cas­ti­cally used to ex­press a false depth of grat­i­tude for some rou­tine fa­vor:

A: Here, I picked up your pack­age for you. N@ de ku3id#, w6 b`ng n@ l@ng le.你的快递,我帮你领了。 B: I'm beg­ging you, could you please stop be­ing so nice to me? W6 qi%qiu n@, b%y3o du# w6 zh-me h2o x!ng ma?我求求你,不要对我这么好行吗?

Of course, ro­mance is not only about sweet words. Even (or es­pe­cially) the clos­est cou­ples quar­rel oc­ca­sion­ally. When this hap­pens, take note of the clever way that Zi­wei deals with a jeal­ous out­burst from Erkang:

Z: You're over­re­act­ing! N@ h2o gu7f-n o!你好过分哦! Z [shyly]: But I like your over­re­ac­tion very much. D3n w6 h2o x@huan n@ de gu7f-n.但我好喜欢你的过分。

An­other mushy Qiong Yao hit is Ro­mance in the Rain, the 2001 TV adap­ta­tion of which starred the same prin­ci­pals as Princess Pearl. In one of its most well-known scenes, hero­ine Lu Yip­ing re­unites with the hero, He Shuhuan at the rail­way sta­tion when the lat­ter re­turns from war. Now, even if just meet­ing a friend for a movie, there’s no rea­son why you must stick with a con­ven­tional greet­ing—in­stead, like Yip­ing, why not shout from a dis­tance?

Shuhuan, don't come to me! Let me fly to you! Sh$hu1n, n@ b%y3o gu7l1i, r3ng w6 f8ib8n gu7q&!书桓,你不要过来,让我飞奔过去!

Be­sides dra­matic re­unions, Yip­ing and Shuhuan are known for their many ver­bal clashes in the course of their (prob­a­bly emo­tion­ally abu­sive) amour fou. When the two de­cide to point fin­gers at each other, they show no mercy:

S: You're heart­less, you're cruel, you're un­rea­son­able. N@ w%q!ng, n@ c1nk&, n@ w%l@ q^n3o.你无情,你残酷,你无理取闹。 Y: Are you not also heart­less, cruel, and un­rea­son­able? N3 n@ ji& b& w%q!ng? B& c1nk&? B& w%l@ q^n3o?那你就不无情?不残酷?不无理取闹? S: How am I heart­less? How am I cruel? How am I un­rea­son­able? W6 n2li w%q!ng? N2li c1nk&? N2li w%l@q^n3o?我哪里无情?哪里残酷?哪里无理取闹? Y: How aren't you heart­less? How aren't you cruel? How aren't you un­rea­son­able? N# n2li b& w%q!ng? N2li b& c1nk&? N2li b& w%l@ q^n3o?你哪里不无情?哪里不残酷?哪里不无理取闹?

OK, enough: The de­bate goes on for an­other half-page, but luck­ily, the ex­change is so iconic that, as long as you in­clude the three key phrases, most peo­ple will im­me­di­ately get the ref­er­ence:

A: I am sorry, but I have to take a rain check on our din­ner. Du#buq@, w6­men ch~f3n zh@n9ng g2iti`n le.对不起,我们吃饭只能改天了。 B: You are heart­less, you are cruel, you are un­rea­son­able. N@ w%q!ng, n@ c1nk&, n@ w%l@ q^n3o.你无情,你残酷,你无理取闹。

It seems that writ­ing quar­rels is Qiong Yao’s se­cret to in­flat­ing her page count. In Princess Pearl, Zi­wei and Erkang also have a long, repet­i­tive fight.

Z: She says you went to see the snow and the stars and the moon to­gether, and talked [about things] from po­etry to song to phi­los­o­phy. T` shu4 n@men y#q@ k3n xu0 k3n x~ngx­ing k3n yu­liang, c5ng sh~c! g8f& t1n d3o r9nsh8ng zh9xu9.她说你们一起看雪看星星看月亮,从诗词歌赋谈到人生哲学。 Z: But I've never seen the snow and the stars and the moon with you, nor talked from po­etry to song to phi­los­o­phy. W6 d4u m9iy6u h9 n@ y#q@ k3n xu0 k3n x~ngx­ing k3n yu-liang, c5ng sh~c! g8f& t1n d3o r9nsh8ng zh9xu9.我都没有和你一起看雪看星星看月亮,从诗词歌赋谈到人生哲学。 E: It's all my fault. I shouldn't have gone to see the snow and the stars and the moon with her, nor talk from po­etry to song to phi­los­o­phy. D4ush# w6 de cu7, w6 b&g`i h9 t` y#q@ k3n xu0 k3n x~ngx­ing k3n yu-liang, c5ng sh~c! g8f& t1n d3o r9nsh8ng zh9xu9.都是我的错,我不该和她一起看雪看星星看月亮,从诗词歌赋谈到人生哲学。

E: I prom­ise, from now on, I will only see the snow and the stars and the moon, and talk from po­etry to song to phi­los­o­phy with you. W6 d`ying n@ j~nh7u zh@ h9 n@ y#q@ k3n xu0 k3n x~ngx­ing k3n yu-liang, c5ng sh~c! g8f& t1n d3o r9nsh8ng zh9xu9. 我答应你今后只和你一起看雪看星星看月亮,从诗词歌赋谈到人生哲学。

Like life, love is full of ups and downs: Qiong Yao’s lovers in­evitably ex­pe­ri­ence var­i­ous vi­cis­si­tudes in life—ac­ci­dents, sep­a­ra­tion, and even death—yet al­ways man­age to in­ject their mis­for­tunes with pathos. In one episode of Princess Pearl, Zi­wei be­comes tem­po­rar­ily blind, and weeps to Erkang, who is him­self se­ri­ously in­jured and co­matose:

How can a shat­tered me save a shat­tered you? Y! g- p7su# de w6 y3o z0nme zh0ngji& y! g- p7su# de n@?一个破碎的我要怎么拯救一个破碎的你?

So next time some­one asks for a fa­vor but you are busy with your own is­sues, sim­ply re­ply:

“Sorry, but a shat­tered me can­not save a shat­tered you.” Du#buq@, d3n y! g- p7su# de w6 w%f2 zh0ngji& y! g- p7su# de n@ a.对不起,但一个破碎的我无法拯救一个破碎的你啊。

Yip­ing, on the other hand, is bet­ter at talk­ing than writ­ing. When her boyfriend Shuhuan re­turns to his home­town, she vents her to di­ary:

Day 1 af­ter Shuhuan left: Miss him. Sh$hu1n z6u de d# y~ ti`n, xi2ng t`.书桓走的第一天,想他。 Day 2 af­ter Shuhuan left: Miss him, miss him. Sh$hu1n z6u de d# -r ti`n, xi2ng t`, xi2ng t`.书桓走的第二天,想他,想他。 Day 3 af­ter Shuhuan left: Miss him, miss him, miss him. Sh$hu1n z6u de d# s`n ti`n, xi2ng t`, xi2ng t`, xi2ng t`.书桓走的第三天,想他,想他,想他。

And so forth: Qiong Yao’s hero­ine may not be good writer (al­beit, she is a fine math­e­mati­cian), but this tem­plate is pretty use­ful. Two years ago, when Kobe Bryant re­tired, one of his fans wrote on so­cial me­dia: “It’s day one af­ter Kobe left. Miss him.”

Though Qiong Yao’s suc­cess in ro­mance writ­ing is un­matched, her works are fre­quently crit­i­cized for pro­mot­ing the wrong values, with moral guardians even la­bel­ing some of her lines as lit­er­ary “poi­son.” In Fan­tasies Be­hind the Pearly Cur­tain, the hero­ine Zil­ing falls in love with her sis­ter Lüping’s fi­ancé Chu Lian, and they have an af­fair. Chu de­cides to come clean to Lüping, but be­fore he can do so, Lüping, a dancer, loses her leg in a car ac­ci­dent.

Chu then mar­ries Lüping out of guilt, and when she finds out the truth, Lüping takes re­venge on the whole fam­ily. At this point, Zil­ing’s hus­band Fei Yun­fan calls out Lüping in one of Qiong Yao’s most no­to­ri­ous lines:

You just lost a leg, but what about Zil­ing? She lost half her life! Not to men­tion the love she threw away for you. N@ zh@bugu7 sh# sh~q& le y# ti1o tu@. Z@l!ng ne? T` sh~q& le b3n ti1o m#ng! G-ng b%y3o shu4 t` w-i n@ g8sh0 di3o de 3iq!ng.你只不过是失去了一条腿。紫菱呢?她失去了半条命!更不要说她为你割舍掉的爱情。

This line is usu­ally quoted as ev­i­dence of Qiong Yao’s “in­cor­rect” views on love and life. In the show, Lüping be­comes speech­less in the face of such im­pas­sioned crit­i­cism. But per­haps, she should have just replied: “You are heart­less, you are cruel, you are un­rea­son­able!”

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