Primer: Nan Chan 101

Nan Chan borrows heavily on Buddhism concepts (and some Daoism concepts). I’m no expert on it, but I’ll try my best to cover some of the themes here for better understanding. Any mistakes are my own.


The Eight Sufferings
In the novel, these eight sufferings of life that everyone has to go through are defined as:
• birth
• old age
• sickness
• death
• parting (with loved ones)
• encounter (with hated ones)
• unfulfillment (of wishes and desires)
• inability to let go

Goal of Enlightenment
Buddhists believe that human life is a cycle of suffering and rebirth, and the aim is to achieve a state of enlightenment (nirvana) and break free of this cycle forever, i.e., being free of sufferings as well as the trappings of the secular world.

Trials and Tribulations
Trials and tribulations are part of the process towards enlightenment. Someone once asked me, Cang Ji and Jing Lin eventually ended up together, so doesn’t that mean they passed their tribulation? Actually no, love (as in ‘selfish love’ between two individuals; compassion for all living creatures is a different matter) is a tribulation both Jing Lin and Cang Ji had to go through. To pass this tribulation, they would have to transcend it, which they didn’t because we know what their choice is:

I do not ask for nirvana, but for you.

Nan chan

Significance of the Bell
The bell has many important meanings in Buddhism. It symbolizes Buddha’s voice and represents the sound of the Dharma in which Buddha teaches. It’s also often used as a call to prayer, a call for protection, a way to ward off evil spirits, etc. In the novel, it serves as an important guide leading Jing Lin through the eight sufferings and eventually, the “truth”.

coming soon in 2075. :V

Three Realms

TermAlt TermDescription
Heavenly RealmDivine RealmGods, deities, immortals
Mortal RealmHuman RealmMankind
NetherworldUnderworldWandering souls and spirits (ghosts), usually humans