Chinese Almanac Master Chapter 1

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Eight days before the Spring Festival of 2027, Xiao Nanzhu, who had been a soldier for eight or nine years on the outside, finally ended his military career and returned to his hometown, Y City.

Although Y city was his hometown, in reality, his home was no longer here.
He had no parents, and his only family member had been his grandmother. That old lady had gone to the heavens in the same year he joined the army. Because he was short on money, Xiao Nanzhu, who was still serving in the army, could not afford a local property on his own after the demolition of the old city area.

Now that he has retired from the army, the army’s transfer fees given by the military are not much. Apart from a body full of strength, he doesn’t have any proficient skills. His comrades-in-arms had asked him about his future plans before his transfer. However, Xiao Nanzhu just laughed casually, then pa.s.sed on with just one sentence.

“Let nature take its course,” he said.

To him, Y city was just a short resting place after wandering for so many years, but regarding his future, Xiao Nanzhu, who is now reaching 30, hasn’t actually put much thought into it.

The first half of his life was all spent in this city. Before the old lady died and her house was demolished, he lived in a very old-fashioned alley during his childhood. The alley was not a broad one, but it connected more than twenty or thirty families. Most of them were old neighbors who had lived nearby for more than sixty years. These neighbors were familiar with each other, and most of them were engaged in similar livelihood.

(source: net, the alleys should look something like this)

Since Y City can also be known as a famous historical and cultural city tracing back from ancient times, most of the people found in these old alleys are either elders who are familiar with traditional folk customs, or antiques sellers who are able to discern paintings and calligraphy, or physiognomists who know skills of Mogu②, or mediums to be involved in Tiaodashen③, or as Chinese doctors who do acupuncture and prescribe Chinese medicine. In short, all kinds of old stuff that will be eradicated anytime now.

Someone such as Xiao Nanzhu’s grandmother is a person who picks auspicious days for people. Whenever a girl in the alley gets married, or whose home need to shangliangs④, they will need to find time for Xiao Nanzhu’s grandmother to pick a day to do these.

The old lady doesn’t go out usually; she depends on customers who wish to pick an auspicious day to earn some pocket money for her grandson’s nutrient supplements, and after such 3 or 4 generations pa.s.sed down, these younger generations who grew up here inevitably became friends. This time when Xiao Nanzhu returned from the army, the first person he informs is his childhood buddy whom he grew up with.

Speaking of this guy, Xiao Nanzhu has not seen him for about five or six years. The management in the army was strict; he didn’t have the chance to meet him even on off-days for family visits.

What remains in his memory today is only a few scenes of two twelve-year-old kids exploring the alleys, but to truly recall what happened, there are only a few messy and yellowish memory pieces of them living in that alley left.

“Xiao Nanzhu… Xiao Nanzhu! Those guys from Alley 3 are catching up!”

“Quick! Situ Zhang! Let’s go! Run!”

Thinking over it, the memory of these young years is also strangely precious to remember. So, with the thoughts of his hometown and his old friends in mind, Xiao Nanzhu reached home.

It was the Lunar New Year’s Eve the day he arrived at Y City. Advancing through the large surge of people returning home for reunion during year end, he came out of the railway station alone with his few bags of luggage. His eyes blurred from the cold.

During winter, the streets and alleys were covered by white. Pedestrians on the roads can be seen smiling as Spring Festival approaches. Most pa.s.sersby outside the station were rushing home with luggage, which made this man with tall stature with his face froze white by the cold, to be somewhat an intruder to his surroundings.

He bought a packet of Yuxi⑤ at the station’s entrance. As he was about to frown, bite the filter in his mouth and take a puff, he heard a loud call shouting from a distance.

“Xiao Nanzhu! Xiao Nanzhu! Come here! Hey! What are you doing standing there like an idiot?”

A tall man with a crew cut, wearing a hopelessly large black jacket and a pair of round sungla.s.ses grinning and his mouth wide as he was shouting. This, from a distance, seemed so weird that it couldn’t be put into words.

(so this guy in the poster should be Situ Zhang)

Xiao Nanzhu was in a daze, but the moment he raised his eyes and saw this guy, his heart skipped a beat. Realizing that this guy was really calling out for him and looks familiar too, Xiao Nanzhu walked down the steps with his luggage. Scanning the man from head to toe with a cigarette in his mouth, he laughed.

“Heh, let me ask you. It’s the Spring Festival and you’re dressed up like this, are you here to drive me home or to a funeral?”

This made the young man in sungla.s.ses pause. He took off his sungla.s.ses, squinted and spoke in a gloomy voice.

“What are you saying, baby! Aren’t these just my work clothes? I came to pick you up right after I got off work; have a conscience and be satisfied. Let me be your host today, let’s go for a drink and talk about how we’ve spent the past few years…”

So many years apart and the tone of this guy sounds as familiar as before. Xiao Nanzhu felt somewhat relieved; he smiled and hooked his arms around his buddy’s neck and gave him a firm, solid hug. Situ Zhang, dressed like a blind man, laughed and yelled as he was dragged forward and felt warm in his heart too. Half an hour later, they took a taxi to a local restaurant and settled down to talk about the past.

Meeting old friends is always about reminiscing about old events and relations. These two grew up together, and naturally, they talked in a very casual way.

Xiao Nanzhu was accustomed to being rough and blunt as a soldier in the past years serving in the military. He went ahead and ordered a few dishes and a bottle of wine, then leaned back on his chair and started smoking. Situ Zhang, who was nagging and asking him about everything, didn’t mind his casual behavior. He blew on his sungla.s.ses then wiped them clean with a cloth and asked.

“Have you resolved your personal issues, marriage-wise?”

“There’re only males inside, how do I solve it?”

“Then how about work?”

“Unemployed, what else could I be?”

Replying with a lazy att.i.tude, Xiao Nan squinted his eyes nonchalantly and flicked off the ashes on his fingertips. In fact, he was prepared to be long-term unemployed. After all, in society there’s huge compet.i.tion for employment; even young undergraduates might not necessarily get a job, more so for an old military rascal like him. Situ Zhang chuckled and put the round sungla.s.ses back on his nose. Xiao Nanzhu watched, and absentmindedly asked.

“Asking about me so much, what about you?”

The moment he asked, Situ Zhang’s smile faded slightly. Xiao Nanzhu and Situ Zhang looked at each other, lost for words, this d.a.m.ned sungla.s.ses only smiles quietly. Xiao Nanzhu leaned closer and inspected him for a few minutes, then deliberately lowered his voice and asked in a serious tone.

“Hey, you’ve been wearing a sungla.s.ses all day long. Could it be that you went for a double eyelid surgery..”


At that moment, Situ Zhang’s face was so amusing that Xiao Nanzhu let out a silent laugh before he pursed his lips and acted sincere.

“Xiao Nanzhu, you b.a.s.t.a.r.d.”

Situ Zhang furrowed his eyebrows and cursed for a bit, speechless about Xiao Nanzhu’s hobby of teasing him since childhood. He gulped down a mouthful of beer and began to speak, as if mumbling as Xiao Nanzhu smirked.

“I opened a blind ma.s.sage parlor. I’ll take you for a visit sometime later. It’s not one of those Dabaojian⑥, so don’t get the wrong idea. It’s a serious Qigong⑦ ma.s.sage treatment…”

In fact, even if Situ Zhang himself didn’t mention it, Xiao Nanzhu could guess what this fellow is doing now. After all, Situ Zhang’s family’s ancestral skill is well-known. In all kinds of professions, Qigong masters are always called swindlers, and their reputation is almost the same as those selling counterfeit medicines, and many years ago when they were neighbors, Situ Zhang’s parents were Qigong ma.s.sage specialists.

Every time when Xiao Nanzhu went to find Situ Zhang to play, he would see many older folks queueing for Master Situ. Master Situ is the father of Situ Zhang. It is said that every treatment by him will lengthen one’s life by 15 minutes.

What sounds like bulls.h.i.t obviously still managed to attract many believers, but it wasn’t a new business in that old alley at that point in time, so Xiao Nanzhu was indifferent about it. But he didn’t expect that Situ Zhang, being young as he is, would choose to succeed such a job that should have been washed out by the times. After all, in his impression, Situ Zhang was smart and had no reason to not find a way to make a living. Seeing the curious look on his face, Situ Zhang just smiled and poured a full gla.s.s of Hapi⑧ in front of him.

“Why? Didn’t expect that I would succeed my family business? My ancestral Qigong has been handed down to this generation since nearly 300 years, it can’t just end here. Besides, my blind ma.s.sage parlor business is great. If it weren’t for picking you up today, I would have dozens of customers queuing up for me.”


“You’ve been away too long. There’s still a lot you don’t know of. Still remember Aunt Liu who Tiaodashen lived with us in the alleys? Her eldest and second daughters attend dance academies, one of them learnt modern dancing and the other learnt folk dancing. Now both of them obtain epiphany easier than the others. And Uncle w.a.n.g, the astrologer, remember? His grandson w.a.n.g Xiaodong is a famous astrologer on Weibo⑨, he earns a lot more money than me… Oh, of course, there’s Li Xiangu who is a medium for ghosts, Zheng Shushu who can break rocks on his chest… ”

“What the, aren’t these too trendy!“

Xiao Nanzhu almost spurted out the beer in his mouth, he didn’t expect his old neighbors to have already found such bright futures. Looking at the incredulous face on him, Situ Zhang didn’t expect this fellow to believe right away either, he just winked at him with a grin.

“Now people love to say fortune-telling, Qigong and Chinese medicine is unscientific, but what exactly is unscientific? Isn’t that what science can’t explain? We talk about science too, being not superst.i.tion is another topic, but this relates to the inheritance of folklore. The ancestral inheritance of cultural heritage shouldn’t be abandoned, right? Speaking of your old lady, she was once a famous Huangli Shi. Even if you didn’t plan to succeed your family’s craft, it’s still better than to be idle when you’re back, right?..”

Xiao Nanzhu paused upon hearing this, he thought of his grandmother who had gone for about 5 years, some emotions flickered in his eyes. However, what Situ Zhang suggested was not helpful, his grandmother did not intend to pa.s.s the skill of reading Huangli on to him when she was alive. Now that she is gone, he naturally can’t learn by himself, let alone regard it as his career.

By thinking so, Xiao Nanzhu didn’t take it into consideration.

The night’s drink only ended at about ten o'clock, both of them came out of the small restaurant reeking of booze, their steps somewhat unstable. Xiao Nanzhu said let’s meet again to Situ Zhang and waved as he walked off. When he returned with his luggage to the rental house that he only came back to during his usual leaves, the old house which had been vacant for more than a year finally had its lights turned on this very night.

Old sofa, old wooden coffee table, old Huangli hanging on the wall.

All the things in this house were left by the old lady, Xiao Nanzhu had no time to clean them up after her death, and he’s reluctant to dispose of them. Now that he’s back, even though the whole house is filled with stale air, there were memories everywhere. Xiao Nanzhu woozily stepped into the room, felt about on the wall for a moment and turned on the lights, went to the kitchen to boil a kettle of water, then sat back in the living room.

From time to time, the sound of fireworks could be heard outside the windows. New year was coming, everything was bustling.

While waiting for the water to boil, Xiao Nanzhu leaned back on the old sofa, dazed. Noises of his upstairs neighbor moving tables and chairs could be heard faintly. The old clock hanging on the wall told him that the day would pa.s.s in half an hour. Xiao Nanzhu moved his eyes away and looked at the old Huangli beside it. Suddenly, he frowned in confusion.

A house that n.o.body lived in for a year, by any means, it shouldn’t have changed at all.

For an unknown reason, when Xiao Nanzhu fixed his gaze on the old Huangli hanging on the living room’s wall, he discovered that the date had been flipped to today’s.

“February 11, 2027, Wednesday…”

Xiao Nanzhu’s brain couldn’t work for a while. He recalled the last time he left home, and felt a strong oddness that he couldn’t quite put his finger on. The doubt lingering in his heart prompted him to get up and walk towards the wall.

As he carefully examined the old Huangli, Xiao Nanzhu found out that besides the words on the do-s and don’t-s, fortune of the day, Chinese zodiacs, there was also a child hugging a red carp, wearing a gorgeous scarlet jacket, with a nevus marked at the center of his eyebrows painted right in the middle of the Huangli.

(source: net, this is how a Huangli would look like, just a prettier version I happened to find)

“Sanhe⑩ tiger and dog, Jiuxing Siyuan(11), an auspicious day for everything … also known as Xiao…Nian?”

He mumbled the sentence of cla.s.sical Chinese written at the bottom of the Huangli. Xiao Nanzhu, full of doubts, suddenly felt that something unusual was about to happen.

This unexpected premonition made him frown unconsciously. In split seconds, he witnessed the child with red carp who was motionless on the Huangli suddenly open his eyes. He shook a full face of fishy-smelling water stains on Xiao Nanzhu, then he stared and shouted at him angrily.

“Baby’me only left with half an hour to finish work this year! Who was that mortal who had a pit in his head(12) and looked for me? Do y'all want the whole of next year to be rough ah? Ah! Ah!!! ”

Xiao Nanzhu: “…”

Did the H-Huang, Huangli just spoked?

Ah? Ah? Ah???

Xiaonian 小年:Lunar New Year’s Eve, it’s the second day before Chinese New Year, but some areas celebrate together Chuxi(Chinese New Year’s Eve, the day before Chinese New Year)
Mogu 摸骨:literally translates as ‘feeling the bones’, often seen in wuxia novels where some old masters would Mogu to tell if a person is physically gifted or not
Tiaodashen 跳大神:literally translates as ‘jumping/dancing G.o.ds’, which involves 2 people, one is the medium who invites the ‘G.o.d’(sometimes ghosts) onto him, and the other is the a.s.sistant. This ritual allows the living to talk to the dead or communicate with G.o.ds, but this is rarely seen nowadays and kept as ethnic art by minority groups
Shangliang 上梁:to place the most important beam in the roof during construction and also involve superst.i.tions in keeping the house’s peace and safety
Yuxi 玉溪:a brand name for cigarettes
Dabaojian 大保健:refers to the prost.i.tution under the cover of ma.s.sage, spa, and other services. In order to avoid being too direct in daily communication, it is often expressed in this obscure way.
Qigong 气功:Or simply qi. It is a traditional Chinese method of health care, health preservation, and disease elimination. Kungfu involves Qigong as well.
Hapi 哈啤:Ha Beer, a beer brand nameWeibo 微博:China’s equivalent of Twitter, a type of social media platformSanhe 三合:Cla.s.sic Chinese terminology, it basically means the compatibility between Chinese zodiacs, it’s a complicated study.
Jiuxing Siyuan 九星四缘:Not really sure, the search results are not providing much, but it has something to do with the study of Fengshui(风水) and ancient study of stars that are often seen in some other Xianxia novels.
To have pit in someone’s head 脑子有坑:An internet slang refers to people who have something wrong with their heads.

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Chinese Almanac Master Chapter 1 summary

You're reading Chinese Almanac Master. This manga has been translated by Updating. Author(s): 石头羊. Already has 309 views.

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