Heaven Official’s Blessing (Tiān Guān Cì Fú), abbreviated by fans as TGCF, will premiere on Bilibili on October 31st!
TGCF is a donghua (Chinese cartoon) that’s based on the popular book of the same name by author Mo Xiang Tong Xiu (墨香铜臭), often abbreviated as MXTX.
Wow, that’s a lot of abbreviations to throw at you at once! If you’re new to Chinese media, you’ll learn that these types of abbreviations are common among fans so I’ll be using them a lot to simplify. We tend to do this with character names too. If you choose to continue exploring the English language Chinese media fandom, you’ll get the hang of the shorthand we use.
If the abbreviation MXTX feels familiar, it might be because this particular author is also responsible for the story Mo Dao Zu Shi (MDZS), which I’ve already recommended thoroughly before and can’t stop talking about every time we recommend things on our Webcast. I’ve seriously fallen in love with her work and have been working through both her novels and the associated adaptions in all their formats.
So what exactly is it Tian Guan Ci Fu, specifically? Where can you experience TGCF and why should you give it a chance, even though you’ve perhaps never consumed this type of media before? Let me break it down for you, because I’d love it if you joined this fandom. The story is incredible and it’s worth your time. I promise.
Tiān Guān Cì Fú‘s Plot
“Eight hundred years ago, Xie Lian was the Crown Prince of the Xian Le kingdom; one who was beloved by his citizens and the darling of the world. Unsurprisingly, he ascended to the Heavens at a very young age. Now, eight hundred years later, Xie Lian ascends to the Heavens for the third time as the laughing stock of all three realms. On his first task as a god, he meets a mysterious demon who rules the ghosts and terrifies the Heavens……yet unbeknownst to Xie Lian, this demon king has been paying attention to him for a very, very long time.”
Honestly, I almost want to just leave you with that brief summary and trailer. The trailer is even more than I had, so you’re already off to a more informed start than I had, and I’ve fallen in love with the story pretty intensely.
But I also had the benefit of enjoying MDZS already and knew what type of content MXTX would deliver with her works. I’m going to assume, dear reader, that you might not have the same entry point as I did for this author and might need a little bit more to entice you to give it a try. So let me walk you through the characters and basic premise so you know why it’s worth the time and effort to enjoy this story.
Why You’ll Enjoy TGCF
This section will contain mild spoilers that will explain why you’ll likely be drawn to the story, but leave the overarching plot points out of it. If you want to go in completely blind, you should skip to the next section. But if you need to have a small taste of what this story is about to know if it’s worth your it, please read on.
The main character is Xie Lian, an 800-year-old scrap-collecting God who has risen to Heaven and fallen back to earth twice already when the main story begins. Now he’s ascended a yet third time, but he doesn’t quite mesh with the newer Gods who view him as a laughingstock of the Heavenly realm. When he enters their Communication Array (sort of a psychic channel among the Gods), things get awkward and his fellow Gods are less than kind towards him. To put it simply, it’s sort of awkward for him.
Xie Lian is one of the more interesting protagonists that you could have and I find myself relating to a lot of his insecurities and flaws. He’s not a perfect God – he’s already fallen back to earth twice after all – and he’s not even the most talented at every basic skill (he’s a terrible cook, for example). But he’s genuine and empathetic, and you can’t help but find him endearing despite his flaws (and, sometimes, maybe even because of them). He’s just a good person who is easy to experience the story through.
He’s a Martial God, however, so even though he comes off as a bit unassuming with his appearance. sporting loosely tied hair and a big straw hat, he’s a skilled martial artist and can handle his own in a fight. He’s often aided by his spiritual weapon, Ruoye, which is a magical sentient scarf that wraps around his body when not in use. When he has a moment to show off these skills, he really shines.
The other main character is the Ghost King Hua Cheng, a mysterious and powerful spirit who seems to elicit fear from the Heavenly Court. Though he’s a shape-shifter, he’s known for his silver wraith butterflies and fierce sentient scimitar E-Ming. He’s also known for the color red and blood rain, with his other name being Crimson Rain Sought Flower (Xuè Yǔ Tàn Huā).
Though the other Gods describe him as a creature to be feared and avoided, his first interactions with Xie Lian are anything but scary. In fact, he sparks Xie Lian’s curiosity more than anything.
As Xie Lian spent the majority of the past 800 years on earth collecting scraps and not really keeping in touch with Heaven, he’s a bit behind on who the new powerful magical beings are, he realizes he needs to study up on both Gods and ghosts alike. He’s clearly missed a lot over the years.
If you haven’t picked up on it already, this is a BL story, also known as ‘danmei’ in Chinese. It’s not as explicit as the MDZS novel, but it’s very much a romance story. And honestly, it’s one of the most intense romances I’ve ever read. If you dig that genre, I can’t recommend this story enough to you. It’s absolutely beautifully done.
Since the romance is between two men, I’m not entirely sure how clear they’ll make that in either the manhua (comic) or donghua (cartoon). More blatant depictions of romance in the MDZS donghua and manhua seemed subdued in those versions so far. They’re both still ongoing, however, so they could be a bit more clear in later parts of the story, so the somewhat tempered translation may not speak to the overall adaption.
Both the MDZS and TGCF novels are unambiguously romantic and that shines through the adaptions pretty clearly even with potential attempts to subdue that aspect of it. These characters clearly love each other and you can’t take that out of the core of either story.
In addition to being categorized in the danmei genre, TGCF is what’s known as a Xianxia story. This is basically a Chinese fantasy genre, featuring Gods, ghosts, demons, and magic based on things like Taoism and Buddhism. When you first jump into the genre there will be some things you’ll have to get used to – a lot of times characters fly around on swords, for example, or practice ‘cultivating’ magic. Once you latch onto the common threads of the genre, you’ll find that it’s an incredibly fun setting filled with possibilities.
Where can you experience TGCF’s Story?
Alright, so I’ve convinced you that this story is worth your time. Awesome! Now, how the heck do you experience this story? You have quite a few options.
There is no official English translation of the book right now, which is fairly unfortunate. There are several fan translations floating around fandom, but as these are dubious legality we will not be linking to them here. That said, once you poke around in the fandom a bit, they aren’t hard to find.
In addition to the fan translations, there is a legal way to purchase the raw version, which fans have outlined in this helpful document. Purchasing a story legally and using fan translations to help you understand them is a common way for people to consume untranslated stories while alleviating guilt about the dubious legality of the translations. It’s something to consider if you choose to go this route.
Clocking in at 244 main chapters and several extras, all totaling at over a million words (more than double the current A Song of Ice and Fire series at its current 5 book-length), it’s not something everyone would be interested in trying out as their entry point for the story. It’s quite a commitment and the length can be daunting.
That said, it was my entry point I’m an incredibly slow reader, usually taking a month flipping through each A Song of Ice and Fire series installment so far, which are a fraction of the length. I breezed through TGCF in about 3 weeks because it was so compelling and well crafted that I couldn’t put it down. It will grip you hard and you’ll find yourself staying up way later than you should just to see what happens next.
This is the most thorough way to enjoy the story, so if you’re up for something this long and can do it in a way that you’re comfortable with, I highly recommend this as a first way to experience TGCF.
The TGCF Donghua is what started this article off in the first place! The embedded trailer above was officially released just a few hours ago so the fandom is buzzing with excitement about it. We’d be super happy if you joined us!
The show will be premiering on Saturday, October 31st, 2020 on Bilibili in Chinese. You can subscribe to the Bilibili Youtube Channel for $5.99 a month to get same-day access as China. Yes, it’s another subscription, but you can do what I do and shut subscriptions off when you’re done watching whatever it is you signed up for. That’s how I consume pretty much everything I like in a legal and affordable way, so toss a coin to Bilibili and give this show a shot.
The English subtitles will likely take a little bit of time to go up, so if you haven’t read the book yet and don’t speak Mandarin, you may need to wait a few days after October 31st. With how popular this show is in the English language market, however, some speculate it may become a Simulcast in English at some point. The trailer has English subtitles, so they seem aware of the fandom at least. We’ll see. Fingers crossed it’s a short gap between the two!
Here’s yet another trailer for the show to give you a taste of what the Donghua will be like in case the one above didn’t quite do it for you.
The manhua is, unfortunately, only legally available in the original Chinese language version, much like the novel. That said, it has some of the most stunning art I’ve ever seen. The manhua is illustrated by an artist named STARember who is clearly a fan of the series, and includes such incredible details in their work. It’s worth scrolling through the original manhua itself even without being able to read it just to enjoy how drop-dead gorgeous each frame is.
If you want to enjoy this incredible piece of art, I’d recommend reading a fan translation of the book or watching the donhua first, just so you understand what you’re looking at. Once you know the plot, you can just sit back and absorb the artwork. We are incredibly blessed by this talent and it’s a joy every week to see new masterpieces get released for this story that I hold so dear.
Like the novel, there are fan translations out there as well, but those tend to be even more dubious than novel translations so I won’t be linking to them here. Likewise, they aren’t hard to find.
Alright! You’re ready to experience TGCF! Now what?
If you can’t read Mandarin and aren’t comfortable seeking out fan translations of the manhua or novel, then sit tight for a bit after October 31st for the English subtitles on Bilibili. But if you can read Mandarin or are willing to seek out the dubiously legal fan translations, I’d recommend picking one of them and jumping in before the donghua arrives.
The choice is yours how you would like to experience TGCF. Do what’s best for you. But whatever you choose, I hope you find this world as captivating as I do. It’s worth the time and effort to experience this story in whatever way you are able to do so.
Author: Angel Wilson
Angel is the admin of The Geekiary and a geek culture commentator. She earned a BA in Film & Digital Media from UC Santa Cruz. She’s contributed to various podcasts and webcasts including An Englishman in San Diego, Free to Be Radio, and Genre TV for All. She’s written for Friends of Comic Con and is a 2019 Hugo Award winner for contributing fanfic on AO3. She identifies as queer.
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