Faithful to Buddha, Faithful to You — Introduction

Original Title: 不负如来不负卿 (Bù fù rúlái bu fù qīng)19300001305436131148040366911
Title Translation: Faithful to Buddha, Faithful to You* (see the end for notes)
Author: 小春 Xiao Chun
Genres: Chinese historical fiction, time travel, romance
Length: 2 volumes – 100 chapters
Publication year: 2007
Ratings: PG to 18+ depending on the chapter

Beyond the earthly realm were Buddha and the Dharma. In the earthly realm were feelings of love. Camel bells rang the song of the West, about a love story that journeyed along the Silk Road over a thousand years ago…

After a couple of failed experiments with the time machine, 21st century historian Ai Qing finally succeeds in her 3rd attempt. Unfortunately, she lands five hundred years later than the researchers desired and finds herself stranded in a desert during the Sixteen Kingdoms era. By chance or fate, she gets to meet the famous Buddhist translator monk Kumarajiva when he is thirteen. The two of them strike up a friendship, where she teaches him Chinese in return for his knowledge of Sanskrit and Tocharian.

The second time they meet, ten years have passed for him but only mere months for her. He is now a renowned monk and the head of a monastery. Ai Qing is a historian. She knows very well what is in store for him in the future: a life filled with achievements in Buddhism, not without obstacles, but nevertheless a great future to be had. And yet…as she watches the different sides of him unfold before her eyes, she discovers a mortal man full of warmth and emotions underneath the kasaya robes. In this battle of heart versus mind, who will emerge victorious? Standing between them isn’t just the distance of thousands of years, but also chaos and war, and his pious heart to Buddha.

“Ashamed that my feelings have dirtied the holy path,
I remained afraid of the alluring beauty after entering the mountain.
In this world, who can fulfill both
Faithful to Buddha, faithful to you.” *
– Tsangyang Gyatso, the 6th Dalai Lama

A reader’s introduction by ha_noi_buon (original in Vietnamese)

[First paragraph omitted]
The author is someone with an extensive knowledge and a profound outlook, so when you read the novel, it’s as if you are there with the characters and experiencing all their ups and downs. The connection is so deep that you get choked with emotions, your tears fall without you knowing, and your heart clenches tight in pain like never before, only to be basked in a golden sweetness of joy later on.

My advice for anyone interested in reading is to not pick it up. Not because it isn’t a great read, but because you need a strong heart to withstand the pain and the longing together with the characters.

If I were to compare the characters’ emotions to that of a desert, then the everyday emotions I have experience for more than 30 years are just specks of sand.

[T/N: ha_noi_buon then shared a poem, a more well-known one by Tsangyang Gyatso, which got me interested in the novel. The poem was written from a male perspective.]

To Meet, or Not to Meet
Whether you meet me or not
I remain here
Neither glad nor sad
Whether you miss me or not
Affection remains here
Neither coming nor going
Whether you love me or not
Love remains here
Neither waxed nor waned
Whether you accompany me or not
My hand remains in yours
Neither holding on nor letting go
Come into my arms
Or let me reside in your heart
Serenely in love
Silently in joy

The novel deals with delicate issues of religion, one of which is whether love and sex should or can exist along with piety to Buddhism. The author also takes some liberties with history. The events and figures remain the same, but her interpretation is more fluid. This might be uncomfortable for some, but if you can keep an open mind, I promise you will find how beautiful and profound this novel is.

About the author:
小春 Xiao Chun (this is a penname; I couldn’t find her real name in Chinese)
Xiao Chun graduated with a degree in English as a foreign language and later on obtained an MBA. She used to be a director of a business listed in the Top 500 Companies of China, and is currently a CEO of a foreign business with headquarters in Ningbo, China.

Life motto: read thousand books, travel thousand miles, hear thousand stories.
Her biggest dream in life is to travel to all corners of the world.
She has left a footprint in almost every country in Africa and Asia, in every famous landmark, forest, and mountain summit across the world.

I do not hold any copyright over this novel, that belongs to Xiao Chun. My English translation is based on the officially published Vietnamese translation by Lương Hiền. All I own is the English translation, which is purely voluntary and only meant to help promote the novel, not for commercial gain. Please DO NOT re-post my translation anywhere else but link it to this blog instead. If you want to re-translate, please ask my permission first.

Part I
Ch. 1-2 | Ch. 3 | Ch. 4 | Ch. 5 | Ch. 6 | Ch. 7-8
Ch. 9 | Ch. 10 | Ch. 11 | Ch. 12 | Ch. 13 | Ch. 14
Part II
Ch. 15-16 | Ch. 17 | Ch. 18 | Ch. 19 | Ch. 20
Ch. 21 | Ch. 22 | Ch. 23 | Ch. 24 | Ch. 25 | Ch. 26
Ch. 27 | Ch. 28 | Ch. 29 | Ch. 30 | Ch. 31
Ch. 32 | Ch. 33 | Ch. 34 |
Ch.35-37 (see end of Ch.34) | Ch.37-38
Part III
Ch. 39
| Ch. 40 | Ch. 41 | Ch. 42-43 |
Ch. 44 | Ch. 45 | Ch. 46 | Ch. 47 | Ch. 48 |
Ch. 49 | Ch. 50 | Ch. 51 | Ch. 52 | Ch. 53 |
Ch. 54 | Ch. 55 | Ch. 56 | Ch. 57 | Ch. 58 | Ch. 59 |
Part IV
Part V

Translation approach: See this separate post

Translation notes:
The English title is not an official one but one I borrowed from this blog post:

The title of this novel(s) came from the poem you saw in the last part of the summary. The poem is referenced in chapter 55 of volume 2. The author of the poem is not Xiao Chun but the 6th Dalai Lama of Tibet – Tsangyang Gyatso (I’ll cover him and other history tidbits in another post). Noted, this was only the last part of the full poem by the Dalai Lama.

Here is the original in Chinese:
曾虑多情损梵行, 入山又恐别倾城,
世间安得双全法, 不负如来不负

The translation in Vietnamese by Lương Hiền (translator of the official version):
Tự thẹn đa tình đoạn kiếp tu
Nhập thiền khôn xóa bóng hình xưa
Thế gian ai vẹn đôi đường cả
Không phụ Như Lai, không phụ nàng.

The English translation (originally from the blog post linked above, with slight modification):
Ashamed that my feelings have dirtied the holy path,
I remained afraid of the alluring beauty after entering the mountain.
In this world, who can fulfill both
Faithful to Buddha, faithful to you.

如来 and Viet equivalent Như Lai actually means Tathāgata, a Pali and Sanskrit word; Gautama Buddha (Siddhartha Gautama, founder of Buddhism) uses it when referring to himself in the Pāli Canon.
Source: Wiki
I could have used Tathāgata in the English title, but it would leave readers unfamiliar with Buddhism confused and lose the general meaning.

卿 is an old pronoun used to address a court official/consort by an emperor, or from husband to wife. A gender-neutral term in Chinese, merely reflects the difference in status.
Viet equivalent is actually “khanh”, but Lương Hiền the translator opted for “nàng”, which is gender-specific, used by a male to address his lover/wife (female), an archaic endearment term. It does seem more fitting in terms of meaning and context since the male lead is not an emperor.
I could have used the archaic “thee” for the English title, but it sounds a bit jarring with Buddha (East meets West kind of thing). Since Ai Qing taught Rajiva Chinese using modern terminology first, and they addressed each other rather familiarly like peers, I find the modern “you” fitting.

39 thoughts on “Faithful to Buddha, Faithful to You — Introduction

  1. thank you a new novel to marvel and explore..i will be with you till the end..i’m a non chinese/vietnamese speaker but love love chinese novels bow to you for bringing us this wonderful novel…

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah that’s is the general feeling I get from the novel too. But trust me, after you read it, you will actually think “why didn’t I read it earlier” lol. Thank you! I am indeed fired up from seeing all this support.


  2. I haven’t even read what you’ve translated yet, just this page, and I am just blown away by the amazingly well-written and poetic prose you have. You have a great talent for writing yourself, and I hope I can one day be as good as you!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you *hug* I am humbled by your words. Maybe because there’s lots of poetry involved I seem more poetic than usual. (*whisper* I usually hate poems actually, cannot understand or write them).


  3. Oh! You’re translating this novel! I’ve waited for a long time for someone to pick this novel up, since I’ve heard hamster praise this novel to the sky. I admit I’m very curious how the author will handle a love story with heavy undertones of Buddhism. Thanks.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m actually very glad to see there are many readers who have been intrigued by those novel way before. It makes my translation project much more worthwhile. I won’t give a spoiler, but I’ll just say this: Xiao Chun started this novel because she greatly admired Kumarajiva (and other famous monks in history) and his contributions in Buddhism, and wanted others to know about him. Since the novel is founded on such respect, you can have faith in her.


    • It is. You can check out my other post called Translator’s Ramblings: Part I to see why I fell in love with this novel. I hope you’ll enjoy reading this and that my translation will do it justice. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Hi, I love this book.
    I have a question :would they even get a chance to be in a( with sex) releationship? Or is there only longing for a lifetime?
    I hope you could answer☺


    • If you read my summary carefully again, you will kind of see the answer on the relationship aspect. As for whether there is sex, no comment since it’ll be a spoiler. Read at your own risk I guess? Sorry if I sound rude, I’m just not a fan of spoilers either as a writer or a reader.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I was at a retreat dinner recently where I spoke about this novel with an anthropologist and an engineer – and both of them seemed hooked on the story but on two completely different plot points. One the religious traditions and one, the sci-fi, time travel aspect. Just spreading the love out there!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I just want you to know Haru, is that you bring me joy and happiness every time you post a new chapter for Faithful to Buddha, Faithful to you and I can’t express how thankful I am to you. I really love this novel and you’re the only translator who’s doing this excellent piece despite the length of it. Good luck to you, Haru. Thank you for all your hard work.

    Liked by 2 people



  8. Hesitated to read this book at first but gave in at last. I have no regret. This is one of my favourites. Thank you for translating it. I resorted to listen to the audiobook while waiting for your translation.


  9. By principle, I don’t like people telling me whether a novel has HE or SE, because I like to find that out myself. Sure, I’d love to see my favourite characters getting their happy ending, but life is rarely a Disney movie, so things cannot always end the way we want them to. A mark of a great author is being able to write an ending that is satisfactory and fitting to the story, be it happy or tragic. I don’t mind shedding a bucket of tears over a work of fiction, provided that it wasn’t pure manipulation on the author’s part, because some tears are worth it–it means the author was able to move your heart at a visceral level, and that’s no easy feat.
    Short answer: I’m not telling. You have to decide it yourself, whether it’s worth it to jump into a novel knowing that it has equal potential to end happy or sad. Sometimes the ride itself is worth it, you know? 😉


  10. that poem to meet or not to meet… i thought i’ve read it somewhere and after searching a while.. i found… it composed to the song sung by mickey he and also became Gong (palace) ost…


  11. […] Ai Qing successfully time travels back to the past on her third attempt, and arrives in the Sixteen Kingdoms, a chaotic era where northern China came under the rule of several short-lived sovereign states founded by ethnic groups. She befriends teenage Buddhist monk Luo Chi, and the two often spend time together exchanging knowledge about each other’s language and culture. They fall in love, and are determined to be togeether despite the prevailing norms of society. An incomplete English translation of the novel can be found here. […]


  12. Hi! I am so glad to see that you are translating this. I had wanted to read the other translated version, also from Vietnamese to English, but that author had taken down his website and a lot of his completed translated novels. Although I can read Vietnamese, it’s way slower for me than reading English. It’s also very interesting to see how the Chinese to Vietnamese then to English works out, since Chinese to Vietnamese tends to still hold a lot of the poetic meanings. I want to wait until the novel finishes because I tend to binge read. I’m cheering you on to complete it!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I didn’t know someone else was also translating this novel from Viet to Eng! 😮
      I’m with you there on how Viet retains more of the Chinese meanings than Eng does. Alas, it’s why translating this beast of a novel is such a daunting challenge.
      Thank you for your kind words! I sure hope to finish this project one day!


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