Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Bu Bu Jing Xin Chapter 2 (Part 1 - 3)

步步惊心/ Bu Bu Jing Xin
Startling Surprises with Every Step
Written by Tong Hua
Chapter 2 (Parts 1-3)
Brought to you by the Magnolia Translation Team
Translated by Plushie

Chapter 2, parts 1-3 is released! Yay!~

I do highly recommend you all download the pdf rather than read it online. I find it easier to read and also it's easier to access the footnotes. :) Read online under the cut.

Download link:

Chapter 2 (Complete, w/ parts 1-7):

Characters Introduced So Far

(In Alphabetical Order)

Dong Yun: One of Ruolan’s maids.

Eighth-prince (Aisin-Gioro Yinsi): The eighth son of Emperor Kangxi. Also known as the Eighth Bei’le. Ruolan is his Ce’fujin (Second Wife).

Kangxi: Current Emperor of China.

Ninth-prince (Aisin-Gioro Yintang): The ninth son of Emperor Kangxi. Currently not given a peerage title. Seems to have a more taciturn personality. Nicknamed “the venomous snake” by Ruoxi.

Qiao Hui: One of Ruolan’s maids. Qiao Hui used to serve Ruolan even before Ruolan’s marriage. When Ruolan married, Qiaohui accompanied Ruolan to Eighth-prince’s household. Seems to be concerned for her mistress especially regarding Ruolan and Eighth’s relationship.

Ruolan, Maertai: Ruoxi’s older sister. The two are especially close as they are born from the same mother. She is also the Ce’fujin (Second Wife) of the Eighth-prince. Mild and gentle in nature, Ruolan likes to spend a better part of her days reciting Buddhist scriptures.

Ruoxi, Maertai (Zhang Xiao): Protagonist of the story. Originally a modern day, white collar professional named Zheng Xiao. Under certain unexplainable, supernatural occurrence, Zhang Xiao’s spirit travelled through time upon her death and took over a young Manchurian girl’s body. Now stuck in ancient times, Ruoxi must navigate through an entirely foreign environment armed only with the little historical knowledge she remembers.

Tenth-prince (Aisin-Gioro Yin’e): The tenth son of Emperor Kangxi. Currently not given a peerage title. Seems to have a more frivolous nature. Nicknamed “the blockhead” by Ruoxi.

Chapter 2 (Parts 1-3)

I am sitting under a tree not far from the lake, reading Song Dynasty poems. Yesterday, I had asked jie-jie for some Song poems to read because I used to love reading them and had memorized many by heart. By comparing the poems, ones have I have in front of me and the ones from my memory, I am able to learn many traditional Chinese characters[1].

Since I have “studied painstakingly by a cold window[2] for a good sixteen years, I consider myself to be a fairly knowledgeable, modern woman. Nevertheless, now that I’m in ancient times, I have turned into a semi-illiterate.

Just a few days ago, because the eunuch who has been responsible for the mail was unavailable, I volunteered to read a letter for jie-jie. However, as I was reading, I had actually understood only half of what was written. Even before I finished reciting the letter, after my numerous “something, somethings”, jie-jie started laughing while clutching her stomach on the couch[3].

“When you told me you wanted to recite the letter,” she laughs, “I had thought to myself, ‘haven’t thought that in the few years we haven’t seen each other, you would have made some progress in your studies.’ Well you’ve definitely made a little progress. You now know how to use ‘something’ as a replacement for a word you can’t read.”

She was laughing so hard that it took a long time to finish what she was saying. I could only stand stupidly on the spot, feeling embarrassed and a bit vexed. I told myself immediately, “No, this will not do. I must take off the hat of illiteracy. I am determined to be a knowledgeable and well educated woman!”

Reminiscing about everything up to this point, I couldn’t help but smile at myself deprecatingly. Thank goodness that I had fallen into this young mistress’ body and don’t have to worry about things such as food and clothing. Otherwise, for a person like me, who cannot “carry anything with my hands and lift anything with my shoulders”, I would probably starve to death.

Getting tried from all the reading, I begin to enjoy the scenery around me. Even then, I started to feel bored. Seeing a few ants in the grass from the corner of my eye, I suddenly remembered the times when I would dig at ant holes when I was a child. I randomly picked up a small tree branch and began to block the ants’ way, not letting them pass. If they managed to take two steps forward, I would poke them back. If they took another two steps; they would be poked back again.

Just as I was enjoying myself and secretly having fun, I hear the sound of breathing by my ears. I look towards my side and see the Tenth-prince crouched next to me, also looking at the ants. I give him a good stare before noticing a pair of boots next to him. Following the boots upwards, I was met with the Eighth-prince’s semi-smile. I quickly straightened myself to give my ceremonial greeting.

The Tenth-prince also stands and with a frivolous demeanour, he smiles at the Eighth-prince and jokingly says, “Look at this mischievous girl; I had thought she was some proper young lady, but looks like I thought too highly of her.”

I didn’t dare to retort in front of the Eighth-prince and only thought quietly, “Being thought of highly by you might not necessary be something to be proud of.”

Eighth-prince smilingly asks me, “Reading Song poems?”

Glancing at the book on the ground I reply, “Yes”.

Tenth-prince cuts in, “She’s looking at ants. She is only pretending to be reading for show.”

I glance sideways towards him, thinking, “Only seventeen, eighteen years old[4] but purposely acting all adult like in front of me”. I counter him, “Don’t you know the saying ‘one flower one world, one leaf one Bodhi[5]? I am looking at the ants but also not looking at the ants.”

As I suspected, the blockhead Tenth-prince becomes somewhat stupefied by my words. Not knowing how to respond, he could only look towards the Eighth-prince.

Eighth-prince smiles and nods, “Tenth, you need to be more studious!” He then asks me, “You read a lot of Buddhist scriptures?”

I quickly answer, “No, I just often listen to jie-jie reciting them.”

He smiles and then turns to stare at the lake. It was only after a while before he states, “she does recite them often.”

I pondered at his words for a moment, but seeing that he still carried a smile, I could not decipher what he had meant. I could only calmly answer, “She recites them hoping to have peace and calm in mind and disposition”

He did not respond, but only continued to stare at the lake’s surface, smiling.

Standing next to us, not knowing what to say and having probably lost interest with our conversation, Tenth-prince goes over to pick up the book on the ground asking, “You can read all of the characters in here?”

Seeing his provocative gaze, I really wanted to tell him, “Yes, I recognize them all”. Unfortunately, the truth is that I do not. Therefore, I could only respond, “I know them all! They know me, but I don’t know them. However, we are all in midst of getting more familiar with each other.”

He exploded into a fit of laughter after hearing my words. I did not know why, but every time I see Tenth-prince’s hooligan manners, I get a bit short-tempered; always saying the first thing that pops in my head, never thinking carefully before I speak.

Eighth-prince asks laughingly, “Then how do you go about to becoming more familiar with them?”

I casually reply, “I guess.”

Tenth-prince laughs, exclaiming, “That works too? Then we all don’t have to hire tutors anymore, just have to guess everything ourselves.”

Shaking his head, the Eighth-prince smiles, telling the Tenth-prince, “Let’s go!” and begins to walk away.

Tenth-prince throws the book back to me and chases after Eighth-prince. He only takes a few steps before turning around to ask, “We are going to the second residence for some horseback riding. You coming?”

Hearing his invitation, I was very intrigued. Ever since I got here, I have yet to go beyond the residence gates. With the intention of flattering him, I run up saying, “Can I go like this? How about my sister? What should I tell her?”

“For what reasons can you not go?” he says, “We’ll just have to find you a mild mannered old horse to ride. As long as you don’t go too fast, you should be fine. As for your sister, how is that any of my business?”

Seeing he is acting all high and mighty again, I wanted to quip right back. But then again, thinking that this is a rare opportunity to get out, I chose to live with it.

He isn’t walking particularly fast but I do have to jog slightly in order to keep up with him. Pretending to have just suddenly come up with a good idea, hoping he’ll take my bait, I say to him, “Whatever Eighth-Bei’le says jie-jie will be sure to listen.”

He takes a look at me and tells me, “Go and tell Eighth brother yourself then.”

I could almost hear the sound of my teeth grinding. Why is this Tenth-prince a master of “following the pole and climb it”[6]? Irritated, I say to him, “You are the one that is asking me to come. You have to take responsibility until the end. Or else I am not coming!”

He gives me a sideways glance with a “whatever” look on his face. Seeing this, I turn to leave. He quickly grabs my hand, stopping me. “Alright! Alright! I’ll go tell him. You happy now?”

Only then did I smile at him, and drop his hand to follow briskly behind him.

The Eight-prince looks a bit surprised to see that I had followed the Tenth-prince. The Tenth-prince did not wait for the Eighth-prince to speak and quickly injects, “Eighth brother. I saw her looking very bored being all cooped up in the residence, so I asked her to come horse riding with us.”

Eighth-prince gave a light smile saying, “If she wants to come, then let her come.”

When we get to the gate, the servants come forward to inform us, “The carriage is ready.”

The Eighth-prince did not say anything, but leads the way to get on the carriage. Tenth-prince also rushed forward and jumped on. A young servant got down on his hands and knees to be my foot stool. In modern times, with this carriage’s height, I would have been able to just use one hand to lift myself up. But now, wearing the constraining “rice dumpling clothes”, I really needed some help to get up onto the carriage. Staring at his back, seeing the servant is but a child, only around twelve to thirteen years old, I couldn’t bring myself to lift my foot to step on his back.

Tenth-prince yells from inside the carriage, “What are you dawdling for?”

It just so happens that the Eighth-prince was sitting on the opposite side of the carriage door and seems to see through my concern. Looking at me with a slightly surprised gaze, he stretched out his hand towards me. Relieved, I allowed the young servant to step aside, then holding on to Eighth-prince’s hand I climb onto the carriage.

Tenth-prince cries, “So bothersome!” but at the same time he shifts his body over, motioning me to sit beside him.

I lean on the window to look outside. There are shops lined neatly on both sides of the road, while many people are walking on the bustling street. Although there were a lot of people, wherever the carriage passed by, people would automatically make way for the carriage, so our pace wasn’t slowed. Noticing this, I let out a, “eh?” sound, but then suddenly realising the reason, I then shake my head.

Tenth-prince also sticks out his head to take a good look around. When he withdrew his head back in, he asks me puzzlingly, “What did you see?”

I stare blankly at him for a moment, before laughing. “What I saw I’m not telling you.” I then return to looking out the window.

He looks at me bitterly, and then tries to ignore me. But after a while he couldn’t hold back any longer. He asks again, “What were you saying ‘eh’ to?”

Ignoring him, I turn my head away from him, looking straight ahead. He gives me a couple of nudges and to that I finally reply, “I can tell you, but you have to give me some sort of compensation first.”

He exclaims, “I’m only asking what you saw that’s all. Just for that I have to give you something?”

“You can’t put it that way. The one who saw something interesting was me, so of course you have to provide some sort of payment in order to hear about it. Do you not pay money when you go listen to those storytellers?”

Lifting up the curtain, I turn away again to stare outside once more. After a while, I felt something being placed in my hands. I take a look; it was a bank note.

“You can tell me now right?” He asks.

I throw the note back at him. “hpmh!”.

“Then what do you want?”

I think to myself, “I’m only teasing you for fun. If you really ask me, I really don’t know what I want either.” Then I suddenly remembered the novel “The Heavenly Sword and the Dragon Sabre[7]”.

Grinning, I say to him, “I can’t think of anything right away either. How about this, you can just promise me a request in the future.” Looking at his gaping mouth, I continue, “It won’t be anything you can’t accomplish. Plus, what is so hard for a prince like you to agree to a small request from a little girl like me?”

He looks to be disinclined to the idea, but eventually he smiles. “Alright, I promise you!”

I clap my hands together and tell him merrily, “You better remember your promise. I have a witness here.”

Up until now, after getting on the carriage, the Eighth-prince had sat quietly with his eyes closed, resting. Hearing my words, he opens his eyes and looks at the Tenth-prince then at me. He smiles and says, “I’ll remember his promise, you can tell him now.”

“Ahem, ahem!” Clearing my throat, I explain, “I noticed that there are a lot of people on the streets but our carriage’s journey so far has been quite smooth. I could see that the pedestrians have already begun to make way for us long before our carriage has approached them. I was confused by this because our carriage does not have any markings that declare to people that this carriage belongs to the Eighth Bei’le. Therefore I let out a ‘eh?’ earlier.”

“Then why did you shake your head?”

“Well, I then thought to myself, people must recognize that such a carriage cannot belong to just anyone. Due to living right under the feet of the Heaven’s Son[8], these people must have experience in such things. Thus, even though they might not know who is sitting in the carriage, they know it will never be a bad idea to make way for it. As for why I shook my head, it is because I realise I had made myself to be the fox.

“Fox?” The Tenth-prince looks at me confusingly, and then turns to the Eighth-prince.

The Eighth-prince laughs explaining, “The fox borrows the tiger’s ferocity[9].”

In response, the Tenth-prince was about to laugh as well when he suddenly stopped himself. “That’s it? Just like that you managed to gain a promise from a Prince of the Great Qing?”

Noticing his vexed look, I couldn’t help myself but to lower my head and giggle. Looking up once more, I see that the Eighth-prince is also chuckling at the Tenth-prince. This time, however, I noticed his laughter is different from all the ones in the past. I stare at him thinking, “What is different?” Giving me a sidelong glance, his eyes is met with my inquisitive gaze. I had forgotten about hierarchal nature of this time period, so I did not think to avoid his gaze but kept studying him intently. We both just sat there quietly staring at each other. In the end, unable to stand his gaze any longer, I lowered my head. As I had suspected, he is no pushover. He is indeed someone who grew up manipulating his environment. I remember when I stared at the boys in my class; no one had dared to meet my glare head on.

Once we reached the second residence, the Tenth-prince immediately begins to help me with choosing a horse. “That won’t do. No. Too big…..No! Too young. Still unpredictable in personality…” His excessive complaints cause the stable hand to be at a loss while sweating profusely.

The Eighth-prince casually orders, “Go bring Exquisite out.”

Feeling immediate relief, the stableman wipes his forehead and goes to bring the horse out.

There is a small stable built right next to the main one. Only one horse is grazing leisurely inside it. The horse’s body is completely blue[10], with only a smudge of white in the middle of its forehead. It is a beautiful horse and though I don’t know how precious it is, just by seeing that it was allowed its own presidential suite alone, I know it must be fairly prized.

The Tenth-prince grins. “You are so lucky. Eighth brother is actually willing to let you ride Exquisite today.”

I was smiling too, but it was a forced one. I had thought it was going to be fun and interesting when we left the house, but now that I’m actually facing a real horse, my mind is filled with images of the horse’s hooves kicking my stomach. I cautiously walk towards Exquisite, stopping firmly about five steps in front of it.

The Tenth-prince anxiously yells, “You riding her or not?”

I am anxious too. I yell back, “You go ride your own horse. Why do you care about what I’m doing?” Refusing to leave, he is adamant to wait for me.

Having already gone around the field once and seeing that we are still loitering about right next to the stables, Eighth-prince turns his horse around and rides towards us. Observing that I am staring at the horse, he smiles. “Horses are meant for riding, not for staring.”

I laugh dryly. “I don’t know how to ride a horse.”

Eighth-prince stares at me, seemingly stunned. I am instantaneously shaken by his expression. Did this body’s previous owner know how to ride horses? Just as I was feeling distressed, trying to figure out a way to explain myself, his expression returns to its normal state. However, his gaze seems to be focused somewhere far away and he appears to be deeply immersed in a long drawn out thought.

Meanwhile, Tenth-prince is on his horse, holding his stomach and laughing loudly. “See how you were treating me with such a vaunting manner. Can’t believe you can’t even ride a horse. Are you even Manchurian? How did your father raise you?”

With a swelling red rising upon my face I do not respond. Angrily walking to one side, I think to myself bitterly, “I was never Manchurian to begin with, so not being able to ride is not a big deal!”

The Eighth-prince finally withdraws his distant gaze and calmly says, “It is alright if you can’t ride. If you just want to do it for fun, we’ll just let someone hold on to the reins and lead you around a few times”. With a lash of his whip, he gallops away at what seems to be the speed of lightning. In that moment, his slightly delicate, scholarly looking physique exudes a vigorousness and lack of restraint not matching his temperament.

The Tenth-prince dismounts and instructs the stableman to hold onto the horse. He then patiently helps me to get on Exquisite’s back. Perceiving his consideration and feeling fairly grateful for it, I start to thank him. Yet before I could, he mounts his horse, looks at Exquisite and sighs, “Pity. What a waste of a fine horse[11]! A Fine horse paired with a fool!”

I immediately swallow my thanks. Noticing that he is holding on to his reins, I swiftly lash my whip at his horse. His horse abruptly charges forward. Caught off guard, he lets out an uncontrollable yelp while wobbling in his saddle. I am not worried about him though. He is part of the clan of people who won the world on the back of horses. Such a mishap should not be a problem for him. Sure enough, he is on one hand, getting his horse under control, and with the other, he still has the capacity to throw curses back at me. Clutching my stomach, laughing, I give him a good funny face. That will show you to flaunt in front of me, you little squirt!

Hearing our screams, laugher and curses from afar, the Eighth-prince looks towards us, though his horse never once slowed down. I couldn’t see his expression clearly and only saw how the wind was blowing his robes up and down in the air.

After finishing with our horseback riding, I was in good spirits on our way back. Although I didn’t really do any real horseback riding, being able to spend some time outside, I now feel very comfortable from the inside and out. Along the way, Tenth-prince and I continued with our jokes and squabbles. The Eighth-prince on the other hand, seems to be tired. He kept his eyes closed the entire time while resting. Every now and then, the light from the setting sun should shine through the shifting curtains onto his face, causing his face to light up, kind of like how precious jade would radiate a sort of brilliance. One couldn’t help to feel exasperated when comparing him to other people. This Eighth-prince; if he wants the prestigious background, he’s got the prestigious background. If he wants the good looks, he’s got the good looks. It’s simply as if he’s got the best in life in everything.

Back at home, I excitedly went to tell jie-jie about today’s horseback riding. It was only after verifying from jie-jie that the real Ruoxi really doesn’t know how to ride horses, did a great load disappear from my mind.

Since the Eighth-prince had sent a servant to inform jie-jie about me leaving the residence, jie-jie didn’t say much about the matter, but she also did not look very happy. Since I thoroughly enjoyed myself, I felt that it was all worth it. Nevertheless, I couldn’t help feeling that jie-jie’s reaction is a bit strange. With two princes accompanying me, there should not be such a great concern for my well-being. She also did not seem to mind that I went out, but seems to have changed her mood only after I mentioned the words, “horseback riding”. Could it be that she feels it’s too crude for young girls to be riding horses? Or perhaps she was scared that I would get hurt?

[1] Starting around 1956, the Maoist Government decided to begin the project of simplifying Chinese characters in order to increase literacy. The process took many years but resulted in the simplified Chinese characters used widely in the Mainland today. Thus, Ruoxi is unable to read many of the characters being used in the 1700s. However, Traditional Chinese Characters are still in use today in both Hong Kong and Taiwan.

[2] Orig.寒窗苦. Originally from the phrase: 十年寒窗无人问,一举成名天下.After ten years' hard study noticed by none, fame spreads through the land in one day only once honours are won. It’s a Chinese saying to describe the life of a poor scholar and the hardships they have to endure. The cold window is meant to symbolize these hardships. It also most likely alludes to the second half of a famous idiom, 囊萤映雪, which tells of a poor scholar named Sun Kang (4th AD) who used to study in winter by the moonlight reflected from snow through his window because he had no money for oil.

[3]Just some random tidbit: Original word used here is which can mean a couch or a bed that is long and narrow. The couch Ruolan is sitting on is actually her bed. This is because the Chinese would use a like a couch when not used for sleeping.

[4] The ages of the princes when Ruoxi first arrives has always caused some confusion among readers. If we are to take the year given to us in chapter 1 (Kangxi’s 43rd reign year = 1704 AD) as a fact, then the 10th prince, being born in 1683, should actually be 21 years old and not 17. The 8th prince was also mentioned to be around 22-23 years old in the 1st chapter which supports that the year is 1704 because he is born in 1681. Therefore I can only conclude that it was either Tong Hua making an honest mistake or purposely making 10th younger so his innocent, bickering friendship with Ruoxi would seem more natural. For those who are curious, the ages of the princes at this point should be (from historical numbers): crown prince, 30/ 4th, 26/ 8th, 23/ 9th, 21/ 10th, 21/13th, 18/14th, 16.

[5] Orig. 一花一世界,一叶一菩. It’s a Buddhist saying and can be roughly translated as, “to see a world in a flower and find enlightenment/awakening in a single leaf of a tree”. There can be a lot of interpretations but they generally refer to the Buddhist concept of the oneness of all creations. To make it easier to understand I will refer you all to a couple of lines from William Blake’s poem, Auguries of Innocence, which has very similar concepts: “To see a world in a grain of sand; And a heaven in a wild flower; Hold infinity in the palm of your hand; And eternity in an hour.

[6] Orig. 顺竿子往上, “to follow the stick/pole and climb up”, used to describe someone who follows the situation, environment or other’s desires. Ruoxi here, was trying to get 10th to help her ask 8th so she doesn’t have to. She was trying to bait 10th to volunteer. Unfortunately, 10th didn’t take the bait or didn’t understand her true intention. He basically agrees with her statement (thereby following the pole) and tells her to ask 8th herself.

[7]Orig.倚天屠龙. A very popular wuxia novel written by Jin Yong. In the book, the female protagonist asks the male protagonist to promise her three wishes.

[8] Refers to them being in Beijing. Thus right next to the Forbidden City.

[9] Orig. 狐假虎 - A popular Chinese idiom. Can also be translated as, “the fox basking in the tiger’s reflected glory”. The idiom originates from the Warring States Period (475 – 221 BC), and is meant to describe a person who takes advantage of another’s influence and power to bully or frighten others. The story goes: To avoid getting eaten, a fox tells the tiger that he is the true ruler of all animals and all of them fear him. Not believing the fox, the tiger follows the fox around the forest to see the truth for himself. Seeing them coming, all the animals ran away. Not realising the animals were running away from him and not the fox, the tiger eventually believes the fox’s lie.

[10] Word used here is , which is cyan or could refer to a whole spectrum of colors between blue and green. I am assuming the ‘blue” here actually means bluish-black, or perhaps a bluish-grey.

[11]Orginally 大材小- to make little use of a great talent or to misuse good materials for minor purposes.


  1. Thank you so much for translating, I check this blog everyday and can't thank you enough for taking up this project

  2. You guys are amazing! Thanks for translating! :)

  3. Omg, in love with this novel right now. I can't wait to read more. Thank you guys so much for translating! I actually downloaded the novel a while back and I never got around to reading it because it takes me forever to read in Chinese(plus, I know enough Chinese to understand what's happening but I don't know every word) so reading the translated version is like heaven! Haha, though, I am now so attached that I started reading the one I have. I noticed there are some differences, like how RuoXi was sent back after falling in the bathroom instead of getting hit by a car, and there isn't a detailed version of the horseriding scene. Is the version I have tampered with or something? lol You mentioned that you had the Taiwan version, though besides those few differences in scenes, everything else is exactly the same. I wonder if it's possible if I could get the version you guys have though? Unless you guys have the actual book then I know it's impossible haha.

    Anyways, once again, thank you so much for translating! I enjoy it immensely!

  4. @MagneticDistress
    The version that you're reading is probably the first edition that Tong Hua wrote. We are translating from the edited (later) edition, of which there are a few differences and more scenes. You may access that edition online here: http://vip.book.sina.com.cn/book/catalog.php?book=80155
    but note that it is missing several chapters at the end.

  5. Sorry for getting back to you so late. Thank you for the giving me the link cutzie! ^_^ I think I'll just read the differences in the translated version you guys are doing haha. I'm gonna go read the next part now hehe