TGCF 1×5 Review: Daily Life at Chestnut Temple

Daily Life at Chestnut Shrine

“Daily Life at Chestnut Temple” was a beautifully faithful adaption of one of the best sequences in Tian Guan Ci Fu, but I’m still struggling with their translation choices.

The two most important things ‘Daily Life at Chestnut Temple’ does for us is introducing us to the life that Xie Lian is making for himself in the mortal realm, as well as giving a name to our mysterious youth in red.  Please meet San Lang, our red-clad youth that appeared to us at the end of the last episode ‘Ghost King Hua Cheng.’

San Lang Daily Life at Chestnut Shrine

San Lang is a polite teen who is incredibly knowledgeable about Gods and ghosts alike.  He teaches Xie Lian about Crimson Rain Sought Flower (occasionally translated to ‘Bloody Flower Knight’), including how he got his name, tidbits about his real appearance (he’s missing his right eye because he gouged it out in a moment of madness), and even reveals his weakness (his ashes).  Some of the things he reveals aren’t common knowledge, even among the gods, but he freely shares this information with Xie Lian.

On the way back to Chestnut Village, San Lang and Xie Lian encounter a band of angry ghosts who are determined to chase them down and bring them harm.  We get more badass Xie Lian here, which is always a delight, but we also get a hint that things with San Lang are not all that they appear to be.

With a single glance, San Lang frightens the entire group of ghosts away.  Xie Lian doesn’t see this moment, however, as San Lang is positioned behind him.  All he knows is that the ghosts are suddenly frightened and run away.  This scene is funny in the book, but the way Xie Lian asks ‘me?’ in the donghua is somehow even funnier.  The story really lends itself to animation really well and the entire team that brought it to us in this format should be commended.

Xie Lian is suspicious of San Lang, not just for this moment, but for his unusually detailed knowledge of all things spiritual. He decides to put him through a series of tests to gauge if he’s mortal.  Weaker ghosts wouldn’t be able to create convincing hand lines or detailed hair, but San Lang passes both of these tests.  This means he’s not a Fierce or Severe ghost, but it doesn’t rule out him being a Wrath or a Devastation ranked ghost.

The hair test also means that our San Lang now has an adorably sideways ponytail, adding to his youthful and playful demeanor.  The best part of this is that this crooked ponytail seems to be the primary image used in all the promotional material.  How friggin cute is that!  We are blessed.

Regardless of what San Lang actually is, Xie Lian accepts his help around Chestnut Temple.  The shrine is named after the nearby village, and, for once, I don’t really mind how they’ve chosen to translate it.  For some reason, fan translators chose to keep it as ‘Puji village’ or ‘Puji shrine.’  ‘Puji’ just means ‘chestnut,’ so it’s a fairly straightforward translation and I can’t really fault them for it.  I’m not sure why fan translators chose to keep the pinyin, so while I’ve grown used to saying ‘Puji Shrine,’ I’m fine adapting to ‘Chestnut Temple’ so we’re all on the same page.

But let’s take a moment to discuss one of the more frustrating translation issues we’ve had so far.  Trying to translate the word ‘gege’ into English was going to be a problem from the outset.  There is simply no English equivalent.  It’s a term of endearment to an older male that’s in a sort of brotherly position to you (but doesn’t have to be your actual brother).  San Lang chooses to call Xie Lian ‘gege’ during the episode, but the translators have frustratingly chosen several different ways to translate the phrase, none of which really convey the meaning.  They’ve chosen ‘brother,’ ‘bro,’ and Xie Lian’s given name ‘Lian.’

Let’s be honest, there wasn’t going to be a good way to translate this.  The only way they could have kept it accurate was to keep it as ‘gege,’ but then they’d have to explain to the audience what I explained above, which is hard to do with animation.  It’s easier to explain something like this in a novel or a manhua where you have room for translation notes, but not here.  So they had to do what they had to do.

But let’s move on.  What really matters here are the characters. And oh my god we get so many incredible character moments.

First of all, the author of the original books, Mo Xiang Tong Xiu, seems to include a lot of fanfiction tropes in her works. Of course, these might not be considered fanfiction tropes in China as fandom and mass media both have their own common tropes that are completely different to what we have here.  But for those of us in English-language fandom, it’s an absolute delight to have our favorite tropes pop up in a story like this.  This week we got There Was Only One Bed.

San Lang Daily Life at Chestnut Temple

There’s significantly less awkwardness for them, however, and they actually seem to take to sharing an intimate space surprisingly easily.  There’s a hint of sadness in San Lang’s eyes, though, but that has nothing to do with them sharing a bed space.  San Lang’s discomfort arises three times during the episode.  Twice he catches glimpses of markings on Xie Lian’s neck and ankle, which have yet to be explained in the donghua.  Another time he pulls out of Xie Lian’s touch without any explanation.    

Additionally, San Lang reveals himself to be quite an artist, painting a detailed and accurate depiction of the Crown Prince of Xian Le overnight.  And he’s also handy, springing into action to build a door for the shrine when Xie Lian makes note that all he has is a curtain and that would hardly protect him from harm.  Our San Lang is brilliant and talented and adorable

The episode concludes with a new mystery beginning to unfold.  The villagers, who now firmly believe in the Crown Prince of Xian Le as a worthy god to worship, bring a strange man to the temple who appears to be in distress.  The man collapses in front of them and then the credits roll.

This episode was fantastic and, as always, I am very much looking forward to next week.  One of my absolute favorite sequences from the book should be coming fairly soon, but with the quick pace of the story here I’m not sure if it’ll be next week or the week after.  Either way, when it happens you’ll know because my review will be filled with lots of screaming and crying.  Stay tuned!

Author: Angel Wilson

Angel is the admin of The Geekiary and a geek culture commentator. They earned a BA in Film & Digital Media from UC Santa Cruz. They have contributed to various podcasts and webcasts including An Englishman in San Diego, Free to Be Radio, and Genre TV for All. They’ve also written for Friends of Comic Con and is a 2019 Hugo Award winner for contributing fanfic on AO3. They identify as queer.

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3 thoughts on “TGCF 1×5 Review: Daily Life at Chestnut Temple

  1. I love how you catch the smallest details – like a momentary change in expression as well as how you observe nuances in this story like the natural comfort that Xie Lian and San Lang seem to share in each others’ company! really adds to the review 🙂

    1. Thank you! I love how much the donghua captured. They really understood the heart of the book and I’m so glad they included such incredible details.

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