Quick Review of Da Mo Yao/Ballad of Desert (novel) + Goodies to Share

I'll first make a confession about my biases. Before reading Ballad of the Desert novel, I got heavily influenced by the opinions of Sima Qian (a contemporary of Huo Qubing and author of the monumental Chinese history text Records of the Grand Historian) and some previous TV series I watched. Consequently, I formed quite a negative perception of the historical Huo Qubing.

When I heard Tang Ren was going to adapt this novel onscreen after the success of Bu Bu Jing Xin, I had a inkling of interest but nothing strong enough to motivate me to regularly follow their production news. Instead I attempted to read the novel last fall because I heard it was an entertaining read with a HAPPY ENDING. For some odd reasons, my first attempt to read Da Mo Yao didn't go too well. I was quite disappointed in Tong Hua's writing style because it didn't give me the poignant impact that Fei Wo Si Cun could achieve with her writing style. Though I shouldn't compare these two Chinese popular novelists, because they are very different in style and their storytelling ability. Fei Wo Si Cun's writing tends to delve into the innermost core of your emotions and her stories are more character-driven than plot-driven. In contrast, Tong Hua is a better epic storyteller and excels in weaving a web of intricate characters/plots against a rich historical backdrop. Anyway, I just managed to quickly skim through the two volumes of Da Mo Yao and eventually lost interest after figuring out how Huo Qubing and Jinyu got together and the ending. The writing somehow failed to sustain my interest and I didn't go back read the novel in details until months later when it was announced that Eddie Peng would take on the role of  Huo Qubing.

After I read the novel completely, I absolutely fell in love with the Huo Qubing character, but not so much the whole plot itself. I think Tong Hua was more ingenious in tackling the plot for Bu Bu Jin Xin than Da Mo Yao, but Da Mo Yao was still a very endearing little love story to read. I really enjoyed the read when I was patient enough to  let myself immerse into the story. What made a greater impact on me was not the novel itself but the afterword that Tong Hua wrote regarding the historical Huo Qubing and the existing history records on him. Her take on Huo Qubing and his "more controversial" actions (e.g. refusing to share food with his troops and ordering a soccer field to be constructed for his own personal pleasure at camp) recorded by Sima Qian was quite interesting. She definitely opens up  my eyes to a different view on this piece of history. I just love to read about opposing historical opinions and then formulate my own conclusions based on the more convincing arguments.

Huo Qubing:
Tong Hua retains much of the perceived historical traits or characteristics of Huo Qubing, but also rationalizes many of his famous flaws. It's very hard not to love this male protagonist for his utter devotion and patience toward Jin Yu. Not only is he handsome, he's also politically shrewd and intelligent. And he doesn't give a damn about what others think and does whatever he wants. Even the Emperor dotes on him and condones his unconventional ways.

Jin Yu:
I'm definitely more more of Jin Yu than Ruoxi in Bu Bu Jing Xin. I admire her headstrong personality and clear-mindedness. When she wants something, she does not hesitate to pursue it. Nor does she delve into her too much into her own unhappiness and not attempt to overcome her hardship. She can learn to forgive, forget, and not be overly Mary Sue-ish. But sometimes, I feel Jin Yu gets a little too insolent that I'm surprised she could still keep her head. 

Meng Jiu:
I'm usually not too fond of complicated love triangles or quadrangles or whatever angles, but I feel Tong Hua did a marvelous job in tastefully setting up the heart-wrenching love triangle between Meng Jiu, Huo Qubing, and Jin Yu. The love complication between these characters did not make me want to pull my hair out nor spit blood out of angry frustration. I felt extremely bad for Meng Jiu for his missed opportunity with Jin Yu, but I do not feel sorry for him. Hmm...That sounded sorta self-contradictory. LOL.

He brought the situation upon himself for not seizing the opportunity. His lack of confidence in himself and Jin Yu and his excessive worrying caused him his happiness. By the end, I just wish he can find a better girl to accompany him to old age. He is perhaps the most pitiful character in Da Mo Yao. I tend not to like pushy, conniving 2nd male lead, but Meng Jiu is the definitely a savior who gave Huo Qubing and Jin Yu the happy ending they wanted. Though Meng Jiu became a little too assertive in the 2nd volume of the novel, but I could empathize with him. 

Credit: Sina Weibo of 0gengxin

The following is a quick list of most anticipated scenes from the novel I hope to see onscreen. Hopefully, the writer(s) won't completely eliminate or changes too much of these scenes. If changes are really necessary, hopefully they will change for the better (i.e. Sealed with a Kiss).
  •  First meeting between Huo Qubing and Jin Yu in the Gobi Desert
  •  Huo Qubing and Jin Yu go star sighting in the palace and bump into the Emperor and Li Yan.
  • An uncharacteristically stony Huo Qubing standing under a Chinese Scholar-tree with full blossoming flowers and watching Jin Yu from distance as she enters the Shi Estate with Meng Jiu. I think this is the scene where Huo Qubing finally realizes that Jiuyu doesn't return his feelings and she has already given her heart to s Meng Jiu. When Jinyu turns her head to glance an immobile Huo Qubing, she also feels a jab of pain from Huo Qubing's lonely figure.
  • Huo Qubing bursts into the room while bathes and "kidnaps" a naked Jin Yu.
  • Ah Cheng catches Huo Qubing and Jin Yu, who's disguised as a man, in compromising position. Jinyu has to go through great lengths to come up with convincing lies to explain the misunderstanding to Ah Cheng.
  • Huo Qubing and Jin Yu's drunken one-night stand.
  • Meng Jiu's heart-pouring love confession to Jin Yu. She then bluntly tells Meng Jiu that her body already belongs to Huo Qubing and she has already promised herself to him.  When she learns the truth behind Meng Jiu's initial rejection of her love for him, she weeps uncontrollably. Huo Qubing then walks in to see Jin Yu crying in Meng Jiu's arms. Without saying much, he pulls them apart and carries Jin Yu away.
  • Huo Qubing roughly kisses Jin Yu out of fury.
  • At a royal court feast, Li Yan tries to hook up a Xiongnu dancing girl with Huo Qubing. Jin Yu, in her protest and retaliation, joins on the dancing competition to fend off and "protect" Huo Qubing from these dancing girls.Huo Qubing also joins in on the fun by teasing Jin Yu in her "love dance profession" and caressing her feet. 
  • Maids accidentally runs into a make-out session between Huo Qubing and Jin Yu. 
  • Meng Jiu reads Jin Yu's wrist pulse and discovers her pregnancy. Huo Qubing is overjoyed while a devastated Meng Jiu finally realizes the hopelessness of his love pursuit of Jin Yu.
  • A heavily pregnant Jin Yu gets call into the palace by Li Yan to participate in a court feast. She gets ostracizes by all the noblewomen of the court due to her scandalous behavior: pregnant out of wedlock.
If you're interested in reading this novel, you can find the whole novel translated into English on Ms. Koala's website.

If you can understand Mandarin Chinese but can't read the language, the Chinese audiobook of Da Mo Yao is also available for download: http://www.cxt8.com/static/chapter_1733/

Download Da Mo Yao Novel in Chinese (Text or PDF)

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