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Literature / Sha Po Lang (Novel)

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"The first person to dig ziliujin out of the ground could never have predicted that what they dug out was the beginning of a dog-eat-dog age. Our entire life was but an ugly confidence game of greed; this is something everyone knows, but that they could not bring to light.

From where did this con begin? Maybe from atop the first clean white canvas sails of a foreign ship that sailed across the ocean, or from beneath the great wing of a Giant Kite as it rose unsteadily into the skies — or from a time even before that: as the spreading ziliujin, like an ink stain upon the earth, turned the great plains of the wild north into a sea of flames.

Or maybe it was when We... when I met Gu Yun in a world all covered in ice and snow."
Chang Geng

Sha Po Lang (杀破狼) is a steampunk danmei novel written by Priest. It is published first on the Chinese web novel site JJWXC.

From the summary according to NovelUpdates: In the age of the Great Liang Dynasty, the lives of the people were made convenient with steam-powered machines that run on a fuel named ziliujin ("purple flowing gold").

Chang Geng, who lived in a small countryside village, shared a distant relationship with his mother while his stepfather was away most of the year round, and the only people he was close to were two little kids, the village teacher, and his yifu (adoptive father).

But his life was flipped upside down one day following the barbarian tribes’ invasion, and it turned out that his entire identity had been an illusion – not only was Chang Geng himself not the country boy he thought he was, but also his mother, his teacher, and even his beloved yifu...

The novel is 128 chapters long with 15 extra chapters. There's an ongoing English translation; the first chapter is translated by 2333Translations, with Northwest Flower Translations providing the translation for the following chapters.

The novel has been adapted into an audio drama, which consists of three seasons, and is available on MissEvan (Season 1 here, Season 2 here, Season 3 here). An Live-Action Adaptation was also greenlit in 2020, but the production was delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It will star Chen Zheyuan as Chang Geng and Tan Jianci as Gu Yun.

Not to be confused with the 2005 Hong Kong action movie featuring Donnie Yen.

Sha Po Lang provides examples of:

  • Age-Gap Romance: Chang Geng and Gu Yun are seven to eight years apart, and are the Official Couple.
  • Barbarian Tribe: They exist in the novel, and the first group of enemies encountered in the story is a group Northern Barbarian tribesmen.
  • Boys' Love Genre: Like many danmei novels, the main couple, Chang Geng and Gu Yun, are both boys.
  • Coming of Age Story: Part of the story focuses on Chang Geng's personal journey from teenagehood to adulthood, and the changes he would undergo during said journey.
  • "Do It Yourself" Theme Tune: The ending theme for the audio drama is sung by Zhang Jie, Gu Yun's voice actor.
  • Earn Your Happy Ending: It's a given in any of Priest's works; her stories always end happy, her characters only have to go through a lot first to get there. Sha Po Lang is no exception.
  • Hotter and Sexier: The author doesn't write sex scenes in her stories (primarily due to the Chinese censorship laws surrounding pornography, which many danmei writers have to deal with); at best, she only hints at them. The audio drama actually features a few scenes of the main couple getting physically intimate.
  • I Have Many Names: Many characters have a birth name and a courtesy name. In the case of those from the family, they also get a third name in the form of a regnal title.
  • King Incognito: Gu Yun and Shen Yi serve the royal family and are members of what's essentially the royal military, with the Gu Yun being the leader of said military and Shen Yi being his right-hand man. In the early chapters of the story, they posed as a teacher and sort-of-cripple, respectively, in Yanhui to watch over Chang Geng.
  • Kissing Cousins: Gu Yun is Chang Geng's adoptive rather than biological father, but Chang Geng is nevertheless torn by how his feelings for the former extend beyond simply platonic and filial. However, one of the novel's extra chapters reveal that their relationship is still consanguineous by virtue of the late emperor of Great Liang, as Chang Geng is the emperor's illegitimate son while Gu Yun was born from the union between the emperor's sister/daughter and the former patriarch of the Gu family — which would make Chang Geng and Gu Yun distant cousins.
  • Living Emotional Crutch: Chang Geng and Gu Yun become this to each other over the course of the story, admitting to themselves that they would rather die than live a long life without the other.
  • Lost in Translation: This is a given in Chinese-to-English translations, official or unofficial, but some nuances present in the original text suffer from this trope in the translations.
  • Official Couple: Chang Geng and Gu Yun, although their romance is a slowburn one.
  • Power Source: Ziliujin, which could be likened to crude oil in Real Life, is the main source of energy in the novel's Steampunk setting.
  • Sinister Minister: Downplayed; the Pope is not a depraved person, per se, but he is one of the main Big Bads of the novel and is one of the leading figures of the Western forces that seek to invade and conquer Great Liang.
  • Steampunk: The story is set in what's essentially an alternate version of Imperial China where war machinery has already been advanced due to the discovery of a Fictional Counterpart of fuel.
  • Stellar Name: Some of the characters' names are based on the constellations and stars. Chang Geng is the most notable example of this trope.
  • Vitriolic Best Buds: Gu Yun and Shen Yi have this dynamic.
  • War Is Hell: A recurring theme in the novel.