Title/Author: The Way Spring Arrives And Other Stories by Yu Chen and Regina Kanyu Wang
In a nutshell (Publisher): From an award-winning team of authors, editors, and translators comes a groundbreaking short story collection that explores the expanse of Chinese science fiction and fantasy.
In The Way Spring Arrives and Other Stories, you can dine at a restaurant at the end of the universe, cultivate to immortality in the high mountains, watch roses perform Shakespeare, or arrive at the island of the gods on the backs of giant fish to ensure that the world can bloom.
Written, edited, and translated by a female and nonbinary team, these stories have never before been published in English and represent both the richly complicated past and the vivid future of Chinese science fiction and fantasy.
Time travel to a winter’s day on the West Lake, explore the very boundaries of death itself, and meet old gods and new heroes in this stunning new collection.
Shamans, poets, weather gods, yao gui, time travelers, and more extraordinary characters – meet them all here, in these 17 short stories. How Spring Arrives And Other Stories have been written and translated from Chinese by a female and nonbinary team, and have never before been published in English. Like all other short stories collections, some stood out more than the rest. There were many which I truly enjoyed, but those that are at the top of my list are:
The Restaurant at the End of the Universe: Tai-Chi Mashed Taro 宇宙尽头的餐馆之太极芋泥 by Anna Wu (Translated by Carmen Yiling Yan 言一零): A time-traveling story that went back and forth from past to present, about a father and daughter who ran a restaurant named Traveler’s Guide to the Milky Way, that served Earth cuisine. It was just another day at work until the owner got a takeout order from Li Jia from Agency of Mysteries, a well-known organization famed throughout multiverses. It could fulfil any desire, but one would have to trade for it, and with every person what was traded differed.
Baby, I Love You 宝贝宝贝我爱你 by Zhao Haihong (Translated by Elizabeth Hanlon 韩恩立no r): Having the opportunity to create and improve on a game he was working on, on child-rearing, the game developer tried to persuade his wife to have a child so that his game was more realistic.
The Alchemist of Lantian 蓝田半人 by BaiFanRuShuang (Translated by Ru-Ping Chen 陈汝平): An alchemist destroyed an old lady’s porcelain jar which she was supposed to exchange it for money in the hopes of saving her child. Feeling guilty, the alchemist did was she thought was the right thing, but by doing so, she disturbed the order of this world.
The Way Spring Arrives 春天来临的方式 by Wan Nuonuo (Translated by Rebecca F. Kuang 匡灵秀): It’s about a world whose weather is controlled by the gods like Chisongzi god of rain, Zhurong god of fire (refer to picture below); and seasons are changed by moving the axis and the gears on earth with the help of giant fishes who were transformed from human beings eight thousand years ago. Beautiful world-building and a heartfelt story on love and life.
The Name of the Dragon 应龙 by Ling Chen (Translated by Yilin Wang 王艺霖): Yinglong, a majestic dragon, was sealed away in a painting on a vase by a dragon hunter and had been in a deep slumber for a long time but was now awakened and came to live when the vase found by two friends. A story of power, greed, trust and betrayal.
To Procure Jade 得玉 by Gu Shi (Translated by Yilin Wang 王艺霖): Everyone wanted Yu Spring, whether to drink from it or to procure its white jade, the spring promised eternal youth for women, and gold and silver for men. This was one of my favorites, a brilliant play on words. Loved the ending!
Dragonslaying 屠龙 by Shen Yingying 沈璎璎 (Translated by Emily Xueni Jin 金雪妮): Dragonslaying is a forbidden art passed down within the dragonslayers’ own family line and isn’t for the fainthearted, but Su Mian, a young female doctor, was intent on learning it and succeeded in persuading a retired captain to take her to a dragonslayer. What she witnessed the dragonslaying process shook her and what she learned shocked her and changed her entire perception of it.
New Year Painting, Ink and Color on Rice Paper, Zhaoqiao Village 年画 by Chen Qian 陈茜 (Translated by Emily Xueni Jin 金雪妮): After an artist restored a painting and posted it on her website, a woman desperately wanted to purchase it, no matter the cost. It was a painting of a faceless child with a single eye in their palm. The painting was believed to have saved lives, and the woman hoped it could help prolong her grandchild’s life. However, the painting was also known to be cursed as it takes back something in return.
The Portrait 画妖 by Chu Xidao 楚惜刀 (Translated by Gigi Chang 张菁): A master painter, Master Danhong, the greatest painter of Central Shu, was known for his ability to ‘seize the spirit and essence of anything’ he painted and ‘ensnare beholders with the powers he conjured’, and yet he couldn’t complete his final picture of his masterwork, A Hundred Beauties. His feelings got in the way of him trying to paint a portrait of Suxuan, a young maiden he had fallen hopelessly in love with.
The Woman Carrying a Corpse 背尸体的女人 by Chi Hui 迟卉 (Translated by Judith Huang 錫影): A woman carrying a corpse caught the attention of people she walked past. And when they asked her why she was carrying a corpse, she could never come up with an answer, until they came up with their own conclusion. The woman would agree with them, convinced that it was the answer, thus the answer changed every time she met someone new. To me, I think this story was about carrying a burden that should be long gone, and that the woman was just finding excuses to keep carrying it.
The Mountain and the Secret of Their Names 山和名字的秘密 by Wang Nuonuo 王诺诺 (Translated by Rebecca F. Kuang 匡灵秀): Satellites were launched, and rockets fell onto villagers’ homes. One of the villagers, Jiu Gou Yang, was a Badaixiong – a shaman who understood the secrets of the mountain and tell what disasters the mountain foresaw before they happened. He believed by respecting their ancestors and the mountain which had existed since ancient times, one will begin to understand their secrets. He told his protégé, also his grandson, that it was important for a badaixiong to know how to recite the name of their ancestors and poems praising the achievements of the ancestral rulers. His grandson didn’t realize its importance until later in life.
It’s hard not to love this collection, with its fantastic worldbuilding, immersive and captivating stories about fascinating otherworldly characters. This is one of those collections which one can pick it up, read it over, again and again, and still find something new to appreciate.
I also enjoyed and appreciated the essays that were included; they elevated my appreciation for the stories. The essays were mainly about the challenges of translating from Chinese to English, the consideration of translating genders of females and non-binary Chinese writers. I can only imagine the challenges that the translators faced when translating these absolutely beautiful, evocative stories. I mean, Chinese is already a very complex and complicated language itself. I sometimes find myself at complete lost trying to translate English to Mandarin and/or Cantonese when speaking to other native speakers or members in my family (it was all thanks to my grandmother that I’m able to speak and understand Cantonese and sometimes, having that, made translating to Mandarin a little easier, although it has its own set of challenges too). And there were other times, things were easier expressed in Cantonese than English, and I’d fumble when I have to translate it to English and/or Malay.
If you’re looking for more Chinese sci-fi to read, with myths and folklores mixed in, look no further. These magical, mythical, evocative collection will find a way into your heart.
Be warned though, there are many TWs in this collection.
Thank you NetGalley and tordotcom for a free eARC of this book in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are mine.
Have you read this book before? What did you think? If you haven’t, do you intend to? Let me know your thoughts!