im kind of curious why you use the phrase "absolute stagnation" to describe jc's character arc - although it's true he never goes from solidly Heroic to Villainous (or vice versa) or has some dramatic blackening, there are i think solid changes over the course of the story (following the sunshot campaign, his sister's death, etc). do you just mean that he never has a single big shift, or have i misread that?
oh boy, and that’s my last ask for the day
The thing about a character arc is that the character has to undergo significant changes in response to these events, otherwise it’s just... a bunch of events happening, and the character... growing older. If you look at Shen Jiu as someone who blackened in response to the events around him, and you look at Mu Qing as someone who grew and changed for the better in response to the events around him (plus a thousand years, give or take), then the fact that Jiang Cheng does not change one significant iota is pretty hard to miss in the text.
Character arc isn’t Jiang Cheng becoming a sect leader after his sect is slaughtered. Character arc would be Jiang Cheng’s character (as in the mental and moral qualities distinctive to an individual) undergoing significant change as a result of his sect being slaughtered, and as a result of him becoming a sect leader. The basic premise is “The character begins as one sort of person and gradually transforms into a different sort of person.” Jiang Cheng who blamed Wei WuXian for Jiang FengMian’s “inattention,” then for the death of his parents, then for the death of his sister, is exactly the same Jiang Cheng who would torture potential practitioners of demonic cultivation because they “might” be Wei WuXian. “Arc” is often used to describe a sweeping change; it implies that he became something he wasn’t previously (not him getting older and having more power to do things he couldn’t do as a disciple, or had no cause to do back then) and literally none of that... happens in text.
The reason I don’t do JC meta any more is bc CQL JC has little to nothing to do with MDZS JC. Like a lot of other characters in CQL, JC is pretty inconsistent, and definitely not faithful to his canonic counterpart. His canonical counterpart has a place, and a meaning, in MDZS as a xianxia deconstruction novel.
This Jiang Cheng:
blames Wei WuXian for everything he’d blamed him for before Wei WuXian's death. He is exactly the same person he was then, with an addition of a Sect Leader seat, more rumors about him, more power, and probably some nicer robes idk. Like, substantive change leading from one personality trait to a diametrically opposite trait? Not a thing that happens with JC at literally any point.
From a literary (and psychological) perspective I’ve always found JC fascinating, because I think he is meant to be frustrating. His lack of development is intentional, and reads like nails on chalkboard. We want our characters to grow, to change, to learn to let go of their resentments, to do some introspection, to work on themselves. If we can’t have that, we want them to go in the other direction. We want them to be an easily-definable villain, or to at least fit into the mould of one. A lot of fanon JC is exactly that, one or the other with very little room in between. Humans hate things they can’t define, things they can’t easily identify as either right or wrong; that’s no great mystery.
JC didn’t blacken, and he didn’t become a better person. JC didn’t do anything except build himself a timeless little bunker of his festering resentments, and then decide to just huddle there until the end of time. And although I’m sure the water is nice and warm in that bunker, and that A LOT of real people would react in exactly the same way, when you pick up a xianxia novel to read for enjoyment, that’s not what you wanna see happen. So people tend to add things that are only canon in CQL, or their own headcanons that can hardly be supported by text, in order to alleviate that discomfort. Which is understandable, but not who JC is in MDZS.
If there is character development to be had for JC, it should be happening post-MDZS. The golden core reveal is exactly the type of event that would precipitate a major character change. But there is no hint that mxtx meant to even give us that. And I understand, completely, the frustration in that decision, especially if JC is someone’s favorite character. But a lot of fanon interpretations of him, in my opinion, have little bearing on canon JC, so honestly, I really have no interest in discussing him any further than this.
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A guide to commonly used honorifics in 魔道祖师/The Untamed
OK - so, I’ve actually seen some confusion floating around on specific honorifics commonly used in 魔道祖师 and I figured I will put a post up to address some of this - especially the situations when they get used. Hopefully it’ll be helpful for fic writers or whoever else out there that’s getting turned around by the various translations.
As with most of Chinese vernacular, there’s a TON of similar, but different situations in which it may be permissible to use certain titles/honorifics, so bear in mind this is not an exhaustive guide. Also, I don’t have a PhD in Chinese honorifics or anything, I’m just a Chinese person that watches/reads a fair amount of historical dramas. So if I missed anything/if there was anything that was kind of unclear in the novel or drama, feel free to let me know!
公子 / gongzi/ master
Let’s start with the hardest so I can get this out of the way. You will see this translated in a variety of different ways - master, young master, sir...and they are all correct! Congratulations, you’ve hit the jackpot - depending on the situation, gongzi can be a whole hodgepodge of things.
Master: The most commonly used version in MDZS. This is a separate meaning of master from some of the honorifics discussed below - it is specifically used to address either:
Your literal master if you are a servant in the household
A somebody from a distinguished household in a polite way
General honorific: Gongzi can also be used between strangers/acquaintances as a respectful term. Gongzi is, in some ways, an indicator of respect of the other person’s status. So oftentimes you’ll find two young masters from different sects referring to each other as gongzi politely, but you wouldn’t find two beggars on the street calling each other that. and it’s usually used to address someone younger or a similar age as you. If you‘re talking to someone who is clearly your senior, use 前辈 or 先生.
Because it has the connotation of youth and aristocracy associated with it, oftentimes innkeepers/sellers may use gongzi to address male customers (particularly youthful men) because it’s a bit more flattering. Kind of like how the modern day shopkeeper calls you ‘美女’ (beauty) or even ‘亲爱的’（my dear - IDK when this started becoming a thing but if you do any online shopping on Taobao you know what I’m talking about) in China. They don’t actually think you’re beautiful/feel affection for you, it’s just a way of addressing the customer to make you feel good about yourself HA. It’s nice to be called gongzi even if you’re not actually a noble.
There’s variants of this - 小公子/ xiaogongzi is typically young master, although I think some translations just directly use the young master for gongzi. It can also mean the younger master if there is an older sibling in question here (e.g. Wen Chao was referred to as 温小公子 as he was the younger son), although you can also use 二公子 （second master), as many do when referring to Lan Wangji. It sounds a little less juvenile.
This term is used for guys - I would say the female equivalent could be 千金/ qianjin or 小姐 /xiaojie.
宗主 / zongzhu/ sect leader
This can only refer to the sect leader - it is a title, and it is passed down. There is typically only one sect leader at any one time, and his eldest male heir will be the successive leader of the sect. I’m going to take this chance to clear up some misconceptions:
Unless Lan Xichen bears no male heirs before his death, Lan Wangji will not succeed him. Lan Sizhui, given that he is not a Lan by birth, will likely never be the Lan sect leader. Yes yes, we all know he’s the adoptive son, but adoptive means literally nothing in the progenical world of Chinese history. Plus, he’s not even the adoptive son of Lan Xichen, so he is a long, long way down from ever being sect leader unless he forms his own, which he would likely never because that’s kind of like betraying your family.
On that same topic, Nie Huaisang succeeded Nie Mingjue because Nie Mingjue died without an heir and Nie Huaisang was the closest blood relative.
For the Jin sect, the succession would have been Jin Guangshan -> Jin Zixuan -> Jin Ling. (y’all I wrote here that it was Jin Zixun first in line but I totally blanked that he was actually a cousin and NOT the son of JGS so ignore that LOL) Since Jin Zixuan died, it became Jin Guangyao - Jin Ling is next in line as he is of the next generation and too young at that time to rule. Honestly, if Jin Ling was older at the time of Jin Zixuan’s death and if this was a Chinese historical palace drama, there would probably be some serious internal political intrigue going on as Jin Guangyao’s claim over the seat would arguably be weaker than Jin Ling’s since he is illegitimate.
For the Jiang sect, Jiang Cheng is the heir even though Jiang Yanli is older because he is male. The question of who will inherit his seat (a very valid question given his luck with dating, although I am sure someone somewhere will eventually warm the prickly cockles of his heart) remains open. IMO there is a less than zero chance that Jin Ling succeeds him unless Jiang Cheng specifically demands for it, but he likely wouldn’t because he is all about decorum and also it would put Jin Ling in an incredibly difficult situation, which is the last thing he would want for his nephew. If he doesn’t end up producing heirs, the seat will likely go to whomever he names as successor, even if non-blood related - maybe the current head disciple.
With that said, although there were generally established rules for succession, actual Chinese history (like all of history) often played out very differently (e.g. Emperor Kangxi stripped crown prince Yinreng of his right to succeed and appointed Yinzhen (Yongzheng), who was the fourth surviving prince, as his successor) so really, even if you were to base sect succession off imperial succession traditions, you could still make the argument that anything goes as long as you have the right people in your corner. HA.
老祖/ laozu/ grandmaster/forefather
I mean, I think grandmaster is probably a fair translation of laozu, which, to be honest, is a harder honorific to translate. It’s definitely influenced by Taoism and not very common at all, but it’s likely derived from Hongjun Laozu (鸿钧老祖), who was a deity and teacher. It does NOT only stand for a senior teacher/master however, because 祖 itself has ancestral connotations, so I think I would personally translate this as forefather. IMO, it’s really only fair to use this on Wei Wuxian and/or originators of a certain branch of study in the MDZS universe - I would consider laozu as the term of respect afforded to people who were pioneers in their fields/sects.
In that sense, Lan Qiren is NOT the grandmaster of the Lan sect. He is an elder - a very respected elder that was basically interim sect leader, but in terms of official title, technically, Lan Xichen could pull rank on him, but he likely wouldn’t unless pressed to because he is also Lan Xichen’s elder.
前辈 / qianbei/ senior/elder
This is kind of an in-between term to politely refer to someone who is your senior, but with whom you really have no formal affiliation with. Unlike 先生, it’s also unisex. A related term is 长辈 /zhangbei, but that is used for people whom you have familial/closer ties with - like an uncle, or someone within your own sect.
师父/师尊/ shifu/shizun / master
Your teacher/master, but not in the servant-master context. Someone who mentors you for years - in the xianxia/wuxia culture, this is a pretty special term because most disciples will only ever belong to one sect and will only ever have one master, and everyone else is a qianbei. The disciple has to ‘拜师’ (to formally request this relationship) and the master also has to ‘收徒’ (to formally accept disciples). So a lot of people went to Yiling in an attempt to 拜师, but Wei Wuxian never did 收徒.
In the wuxia/xianxia context, shifu is technically unisex even though 父 in itself is a male-centric term, although female masters might be more commonly referred to by the gender-neutral shizun instead.
Now that I think about it, shifu doesn’t actually appear in MDZS. Lan Wangji calls Lan Qiren 叔父 /shufu, which is completely different. It means uncle (father’s younger brother, to be exact lol), since that is their relationship.
老头/ laotou/ old man
Wei Wuxian uses this to address Lan Qiren behind his back. It literally just means old man, haha. It’s informal but not a term you would use to refer to someone who is close to you/whom you like, but not exactly a term that is insulting or derogatory, although in Lan Qiren’s case, it is irreverent because it is ill-fitting for the relationship that Wei Wuxian and Lan Qiren have. Meant to be used on men, usually for women it would be 老婆婆/ laopopo (NOT THE SAME as 老婆/ laopo, which means wife. Welcome to the weird wonderful world of the Chinese language!)
师弟/哥/兄/姐/妹/ shi di/ge/xiong/jie/mei/ younger brother/ older brother/ another variant of older brother/ older sister/ younger sister
NOT TO BE USED FOR YOUR ACTUAL FAMILY. This is in the context of the sect only. Your fellow disciples, but with varying levels of seniority. Familial honorifics are a whole different thing.
In the context of the sect, who you call your shidi/ge etc. is usually NOT based on age - it is based on someone’s seniority within the sect. If you have been in the sect/under your master’s tutelage for longer, you are the senior, even if you are younger in age.
With that, I think the novel states that both Wei Wuxian and Jiang Cheng are similar in age, so it is actually incredibly hard to determine if the author deliberately went against this convention and Wei Wuxian calls Jiang Cheng shidi because he is genuinely younger than Wei Wuxian, or if it is simply because Wei Wuxian is the head disciple of the sect (and therefore, technically, everyone is his shidi). I actually think it might be the former because he refers to Jiang Yanli as shijie, although now that I think about it, it might be the latter...as a reflection of the level of admiration Wei Wuxian has for Jiang Yanli WOAH.
(Fun fact: there’s a scene in the novel in Yi city where Wei Wuxian was silently weirded out that Xiao Xingchen referred to him as ‘qianbei’ - because Xiao Xingchen is his mother’s shidi, which makes him Wei Wuxian’s senior, but then he quickly realizes it’s because he’s talking to Xue Yang and not Xiao Xingchen.)
先生 /xiansheng/ mister/sir/teacher
In present day, this is literally the most vanilla term you can use to politely address a guy. Can be a stranger, or an acquaintance you want to politely address. Usually older than you, although if you’re both similar in age and you’re not really familiar with each other, you might still use it just to err on the side of caution. In xianxia/ancient China, this is usually used more like ‘teacher/sir’ to address an elder. It’s more scholastic in its implication and less generic than qianbei.
In the Lan sect, by crowd definition, 先生 refers to Lan Qiren unless otherwise stated, which makes sense and shows the amount of respect he is afforded in the sect.
夫人 / furen/ wife/madam
A term of respect for typically older women, or can also be used to refer to one’s wife.
Lastly, let me just add that this is just something that’s meant to be helpful for people as they work through the series - at the end of the day, it’s all fictional/xianxia itself as a genre is fantasy so if you need to subvert any one of the generally held succession traditions or whatnot in order to make your fic work, go!!! Do it!!!
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