One of my volunteer projects has been editing Chongqing Currents, which is the only English magazine in Chongqing and is sponsored by the local government. Following is an article from the magazine that’s relevant to my blog.
Book Review: The Missing Shangqing Temple
The Missing Shangqing Temple, acclaimed as the best adventure novel about a city in China, has shot to fame. “At first I just posted a thread with a lot more words than usual,” said Luo Yu, the author.
Where is Shangqing Temple was the title of the ititial thread that caused a cyber-frenzy in 2007. At first, Luo just wanted to tell, via the Web, a fictional treasure-hunting story based in Chongqing. Six months later, this adventure story was published under the title The Missing Shangqing Temple. In the same year, the rights for a TV adaptation of the novel were sold at the highest price of the year. It was reported that the film adaptation was sold to a Hong Kong-based film producer.
It also inspired some avid readers, like those of Umberto Eco, to follow a set of clues provided by the novel and seek out those mysterious places and secrets for themselves. And it struck a chord with those who live in Chongqing. Even for those who claim to know each inch of the old Chongqing, the novel actually contains too many secrets about this city. That’s how Chongqing has always been!
Shangqing Temple is the name of one of the central areas of Chongqing, located around the south end of Yu Ao bridge or the Jia Ling River bridge. No one knows whether there ever existed a temple there and why that place was called Shangqing Temple. That’s where the novel begins. A girl from Shanghai came to Chongqing, asked by her late father to look for Shangqing Temple. The plot thickens with the girl’s journey to seek the treasure, which ingeniously incorporates the well-known historical sites and stories of Chongqing, such as Hong Ya Cave, Lao Jun Cave, Jie Fangbei, Jin Gangtang, Hu Guang Hui Guan, and Yang Liu Street. Chongqing is a city of immigrants, and there are tons of stories behind all the immigrations that affected the history of the city. It is said that a huge mound of treasure is buried underground in Chongqing, but no one knows how much or where it is. The story is about finding the whereabouts of the treasures left by the Kuomintang before they retreated to Taiwan. The grandfather of the novel’s heroine was an intelligence officer of the Kuomintang and was involved in making arrangements for the treasures.
Actually, the real hero of the novel is Chongqing itself. The search for history is a process that leads back to the city’s spiritual home: those missing works of architecture, alleys, relics, events and secrets, some of them destined to remain unknown forever. According to Luo Yu, he wants to promote Chongqing through an intriguing story. But the novel is more than a treasure-hunting story. It is a story about a city.
Dialogue with the Author
“There are Still Many of Secrets in Chongqing”
Chongqing Currents: When did you start to think about writing this novel?
Luo Yu: The summer in 2007
Chongqing Currents: What inspired you to write it?
Luo Yu: I have been running a website for 8 years, failing to find a good business model. Chinese netizens have lost interest in reading online ads. I had to find a more appropriate and effective way to ensure our ad customers’ interests. I became familiar with how ads are inserted into movies, and I inserted ads into the online novel. I decided to choose Chongqing as the target to carry out my test, to promote its charm and culture through an online novel.
Chongqing Currents: There are many historical stories about Chongqing that are well presented in the novel. What role do they play in the novel?
Luo Yu: Historical stories are the core of the novel.
Chongqing Currents: The subject of the novel is undoubtedly the search. What do you think is the most important thing a city should seek in its history?
Luo Yu: I’m trying to inspire people to become more interested in their own history. If we have no city history class in school, we have to discover it by ourselves. There are still many of secrets in Chongqing.
Chongqing Currents: It looks like you are very familiar with and have a strong attachment to this city. Please tell us the relationship between you and Chongqing?
Luo Yu: I became familiar with this city while writing this novel. Chongqing is an immigrant city where culture has been heavily damaged. We have a responsibility to preserve our city’s culture in a better way.
Chongqing Currents: Is it your first novel? Are you writing some new novels?
Luo Yu: Yes, it is my first. I’m thinking of the next one when I’m finished with adaptations for TV, movie, animation and online game.
Chongqing Currents: What are the differences between online writing and traditional writing?
Luo Yu: Online writing is a happy thing. You could choose to continue or to restart it depending on readers’ reactions. There is no requirement that online works be full-fledged products. It is tolerable to have some unprepared things such as lack of information, poorly written sentences and illogical narrative structure. Moreover, traditional writing is solitary, and online writing is interactive. If you dislike loneliness, online writing is a good choice.