Wuxia Novelist: A Writer's Blog

Wuxia Novelist: A Writer's Blog looks at the broad range of issues encountered by me as a novelist working in the Chinese wuxia (heroic fiction) genre. I have, however, a very broad background and this blog will not narrowly focus on one genre of literature, rather I will consider books, movies, and ideas that relate to my life as a writer. For more information about my background please visit my author's website: www.thedragongateinn.com or www.facebook.com/WuxiaNovelist

Location: United States

Check out my author's website: www.thedragongateinn.com for everything you could ever want to know about me.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Why I Write

I enjoy corresponding with my readers and with those of you interested in the topics I cover in this blog and on my website. The other day, I received a very interesting e-mail from a reader who hopes to write wuxia novels – yeah! One more! In discussing these interests this reader asked me why I write and added remarks by Amy Tan, the great Chinese-American writer, about why she writes.

Basically, Ms. Tan says she writes, “because I have questions about life, not answers.” She goes on, “Writing to me is an act of faith, a hope that I will discover what I mean by truth. But I don’t know what that will be until I finish.”

I find her comments very interesting and would like to try my hand at understanding why I write.

When I was in college and graduate school, I wrote as part of the historical research process. No doubt, it is also a way of discovering the “truth.” But, as I’ve noted in previous blogs, I moved away from that type of writing into fiction. And I share with Amy Tan, and numerous other fiction writers, the belief, the faith that we can tell stories to both discover and state the “truth” as we find it. But such statements, for me, seem almost clichéd. So I tried looking deeper to see why I write, past my obvious love for the wuxia genre, for medieval China, for that whole geographical and cultural region.

No doubt like many writers, I write to discover myself. To dip into that magical zone where the writer seems to go trance-like and the words and images flow like a strong current through our minds – the so-called “automatic writing” or whatever – maybe the endorphins produced by exercising our writer muscles. No doubt, I am addicted to that. I’ve read some writers criticize such excess, such “lack of control” – probably because they’ve never experienced it!

But push as much as I might down into my psyche, what pushes back is a saying by the great Japanese Zen master, Eihei Dōgen (永平道元) (1200-1253 A.D.):

To study the Way is to study the self;
To study the self is to forget the self;
To forget the self is to be enlightened by the 10,000 things.

(sorry, I don’t know the translator)

In ancient Chinese, the “10,000 things” was “code” for the world (literally, “all the things in the world”). And the “Way” is, of course, the “Truth”, the “Path of Life.” So Dogen is advocating the study of life or “truth” through opening oneself - by forgetting the self - to all the things that make up the world, that make up life. Seems like great advice for a writer – and for everyone, in general.

I like to think that’s the basic reason I write. But I also have another reason.

One of my teachers in Taiwan told me that just writing to entertain or even for self-discovery is not enough. He said that to be a responsible writer, I should write to make the world a better place. I believe that by opening the culture of medieval China, specifically Tang dynasty China, to the world I might be able to offer alternate ways of understanding “the 10,000 things” and perhaps improve the human condition.

I have found much that is admirable and inspiring from medieval Chinese culture. Perhaps, others might likewise find some value in a glimpse of that long forgotten way of life. So it is interesting for me to take ideas and attitudes from that period of history and look at them under a contemporary lens – even though my stories might seem to be set in medieval China.

At the core of all our cultures is a common human nature. I believe we can all learn from each others experiences to better understand ourselves and eventually our common human condition. Storytelling is one way of sharing experiences that can function as a path to mutual understanding. And, as I’ve mentioned, in previous blogs, I think the globalization of storytelling is moving us in that direction.

I write to understand and to facilitate understanding among those who are curious.


The Innkeeper

Friday, February 8, 2008

Year of the RAT!

Xin Nien Kuai Le! Gong Xi Fa Cai!

Happy Year of the RAT!!! May it bring you peace and happiness!

On this turning of the New Year, The Dragon Gate Inn is the happy recipient of a My BackStory feature put up by the kind folks at Visual Thesaurus – check out, http://www.visualthesaurus.com/

Although you can’t see the whole article if you’re not a subscriber – and there are a LOT of subscribers - you can see it in its original location, M.J. Rose BackStory, Nov. 01, 2007 at, http://mjroseblog.typepad.com/backstory/2007/11/index.html

All of this attention has made our New Year’s Party very lively!

Best to all!


The Innkeeper

Friday, February 1, 2008

Rain Dragons at Noon

The rain dragons are back. They arrived at noon and made short order of the daylight. The “book” dragon, however, continues on the rise with the nice news that my novel, Dream of the Dragon Pool – A Daoist Quest, has now become a textbook at Pennsylvania State University.

Actually, two times over, since it’s now being used in two courses. Seems that after reading the novel, a couple of professors decided it might prove to be a more entertaining way of introducing their students to the study of traditional East Asian religion and philosophy. Naturally, fingers are crossed that this “experiment” works.

I also appreciated your correspondence regarding my remarks on Russell Crowe’s Ben Wade character in the movie 3:10 to Yuma.

And I greatly appreciate the remarks of a Chinese woman when she asked me to sign her son’s copy of my novel. Besides telling me how much he was enjoying it, she said something that deeply moved me. She said her son had been asking her about the Yangtze River, the story’s main location, and Li Bo, the great Chinese poet and main character of the novel.

An author takes great satisfaction in writing a good story and even more when the story can help others appreciate their fellow voyagers. To pay my respects to Li Bo for his inspiration in the writing of my novel, I thought it would be appropriate to offer a sampling of some of his poems. Although in my novel I translated all the poetry attributed to Li Bo, in this blog I will use the translations of others and give them credit for their skill.

I think this time – if you like this, I will put up more of Li Bo’s poetry – I will pick poems that “paint” a picture of the Dragon Gate Inn countryside.

Calling on a Taoist Priest in Tai-t’ien Mountain but Falling to See Him

A dog barks amid the sound of water;
Peach blossoms tinged by dew take on a deeper tone.
In the dense woods at times I see deer;
By the brook I hear no bells at noon.
Wild bamboos divide the blue haze;
Tumbling waterfalls hang from the green cliff.
No one can tell me where you are,
Saddened, I lean against the pines.

Listening to a Monk from Shu Playing the Lute

A monk from Shu, carrying a precious lute,
Comes down from the western peak of Omei Mountain.
I seem to hear the sound of pines from a thousand glens.
The flowing stream cleanses a traveler’s heart,
Its dying strains fade into the first bells of frost.
Dusk comes unnoticed over the green hills,
And autumn clouds begin to darken layer after layer.

(translator, Joseph J. Lee)

Sitting Along in Ching-t’ing Mountain

Flocks of birds fly high and vanish;
A single cloud, alone, calmly drifts on.
Never tired of looking at each other –
Only the Ching-t’ing Mountain and me.

(translator, Irving Y. Lo)


The Innkeeper