09. Moganshan

24 November 2018, 13:48

This is the story of Moganshan. Once, long ago and certainly before this place was ever spotted with the sounds of construction, horns, and villas, a man loved a woman. The man, Gan Jiang, one of China’s most skilled swordsmiths, was ordered by Helu, the king of Wu, to forge a pair of swords. He and his wife, Mo Ye, set to work on the swords but found that their furnace was not quite hot enough to melt the metal. Mo believed there was not enough qi—vital human energy, the air of life—in the furnace, so, depending on the storyteller, they either cut their hair and nails, casting them into the flames, or they cast themselves into the flames as a sacrifice to make the furnace burn hotter.

In the former telling, the couple eventually produces swords good enough for the king, except that it takes them three years instead of three months as the king had commanded. The two swords are named after the couple: Ganjiang and Moye, male and female. They keep Ganjiang and give Moye to the king. The king, already upset, learns of their treachery and moves to have Gan Jiang killed. Before he can do so, Gan hides the male sword and leaves a message about its location for his wife and unborn child. The child is born, raised, and told the truth about his father. He seeks vengeance, but the king is warned in a dream of his coming. The king places a bounty on Chi, Gan’s son, and an assassin finds him. Taking pity on poor Chi, the assassin suggests that he surrender his head for the king, along with the formerly lost Ganjiang. If he does so, the assassin will take up the bounty and avenge Chi’s father. He does.

The assassin brings the severed head and legendary male sword to the king, who is overjoyed at their coming. But Chi’s head just stares and stares, making the king quite uncomfortable. The head is boiled, and nothing changes; after 40 days, there is no sign of decay or breakdown. The assassin convinces the king to stare back, thinking the king’s power might cause it to decompose. The king bends over the cauldron, and the assassin makes his move, using Ganjiang to decapitate the king. His head falls into the water next to Chi’s, and the assassin resolves to remove his own head as well. Three heads in a pot, flesh melting now that the deed is done and vengeance complete, only skulls remain. The guards cannot recognize whose head belongs to whom and decide the three men should be honored as kings for their bravery and loyalty. They are buried in the “Tomb of Three Kings” at Yichun. The swords are lost, then reappear during the early Jin Dynasty. They, too, are buried, but at Yanping Ford.

Nearly two thousand years later, another man walks in the bamboo woods of Moganshan. He does not love a woman, nor does he know much about the making of swords. His knowledge of qi is limited to Danny Rand and his Iron Fist. But he has time, so he researches the story he only heard bits of on the way to the village of Moganshan. Feng, the teller, has it that the lovers committed suicide for the sake of the swords, and their souls are kept inside of the terribly beautiful weapons of old. He does not know which telling he likes better. The latter reminds him of Romeo & Juliet, except that these lovers died for a noble reason. The former is bloodier, more wasteful.

Peace out

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