Dotaland note: According to random rumors on both Chinese forums and Western social media, ZSMJ is set to make a return to the competitive scene in the near future. In light of these rumors, thought I’d translate a fun first-person story from a fan on the day they met ZSMJ …
My flight from Tianjin back to Changsha was a flight at 5 o’clock on the afternoon of the 30th. As I was seated on the plane awaiting takeoff, I looked up.
“Zhu si ma ji?” (ZSMJ is short for zhu si ma ji*)
I became a bit excited.
His seat was towards the back of the plane, I was towards the middle.
When the plane landed, I specifically waited a bit in the tunnel for him. He was wearing a gray t-shirt; he’s not very tall, but he stood very straight.
“Jian god (his given name plus ‘god’ as an affectionate term by fans for top players), are you by yourself?”
“Yeah,” he looked me up and down, and realized that I was the person who had recognized him earlier.
He laughed, like a big kid.
We chatted, and he asked about me, I told him I was a university student in Tianjin. He asked me if I was comfortable with life in Tianjin , and I said when I first got to Tianjin I couldn’t really understand the local dialect, and he laughed and said that, in truth there isn’t much to learn, you just need to hear more of it. I said to him, you are the first legend I’ve met, in person. He said, I appear in many places. Appear, haha :P.
We took the airport shuttle together, headed to the train station. On the shuttle, they were playing Yi Zhoulibo Show (a variety show) on the screens, he looked as if he enjoyed it greatly. He asked me if I wanted to sit inside or outside towards the aisle, I said it’s up to you, so he said he wanted to watch the show, so he’ll sit in the outside seat.
The airport shuttle was headed towards the Minhang Hotel next to the train station, how long it took I have forgotten. As we chatted, I asked him if he’d ever make a comeback, he laughed a bit, and said we’ll go with the flow and see. He has a very noticeable Hunan accent, and the feeling inside of me as I chatted with this idol of mine, as his words displayed an accent very close to my own, was an intriguing yet spirited feeling.
I asked him about his current situation with work and career, he answered that currently he’s in Jiangsu, I asked him what he’s doing so far away, his answer was that young people should go out and explore.
Watching the Yi Zhoulibo Show, I asked, “Jian god, do you like watching this?”
“Yeah, I liked it in the past, but after that I didn’t have much time anymore, so didn’t get to watch it much,” he said, “The stuff they talk about in this show, it’s all real talk, a lot of satire. I appreciate those who are willing to speak the truth and say things that others won’t say. Even though [show host] Zhou Libo has bad press such as beating his wife, but every person has negatives, and no one is all good, and it’s impossible to get everyone to like you.”
Later on, he said, “Truthfully, I don’t want to be a celebrity or a public figure, because it’s very tiring, there are always people watching you, saying bad things about you. I just want to be a normal person, go out and explore, play, see things.”
During the trip, he got a phone call, and I, I just sat to his side and watched him. He is such a normal person, normal to the point of an 8 minute Relic, normal to the point of a Divine Rapier comeback, normal to the point of having so many fans and supporters. And yet, right now he was sat right next to me, a strong countryside accent, talking on the phone.
His face, like many others, has a few traces of acne, the right side of his neck has a long scar on it. Short hair, southerners would call it a ‘ball head’, northerners call it ‘inch hair’. He’s not tall, in the south he’d be medium height, in the north he’d be considered short.
Such a normal person, on the streets no one knows of the legends he has written. Talking with him, it simply feels like I’m talking to an older brother; we can talk about anything, swear, and he’d open his mouth wide and laugh his simple and honest laugh. The feeling is sincere, like he’s really easy to get close to. No distance at all.
We chatted about Changsha, where he lived, where I lived. He said that he actually isn’t very familiar with Changsha in general, just with his own neighborhood, and he doesn’t typically come out much while in Changsha. I said the food in Tianjin is too salty, and it’s still southern food that’s best, fragrant and spicy. He said, you will only know salty food when you’ve been to Jiangsu, you look at a bowl of braised meat and think it must be very good, but once you remember how salty it is, you instantly lose your appetite… but nonetheless he had gotten used to it, anyway.
When the bus arrived at the hotel next to the train station, he got off first, and waited a bit for me. I said let’s get a photo together, and he said alright, let me get a passerby to help us take it.
Earlier on the trip I demanded he give me an autograph on my plane ticket: “Gong Jian, ZSMJ” … this is what I had wanted him to sign for me.
“Gong Jian, ZSMJ, Happy Mid Autumn Festival, 2012.9.30” … this is what he actually signed for me.
After we had gotten our photo together, I said, well, I guess you should go into the station to wait for your next bus home. The meaning being that this is goodbye. He said, yeah, and I shook his hand, and said: “Goodbye, add oil**.”
And then I watched as he slowly disappeared into the sea of people before me, and for a moment I felt that he truly was as ordinary and unremarkable as he described himself: a gray t-shirt, a pair of sneakers, jeans, a backpack, a crew cut, big round eyes, a mouthful of the countryside in his speech.
Right now it’s 2am on October 1, and this has taken me over an hour, and more than 1000 characters. I’ve been endlessly reminiscing and organizing my thoughts and words, wanting to highlight Jian god’s understated, ordinary, yet sincere and easy personality and share it with everyone. I wish everyone a happy Mid Autumn Festival, and a fun National Holiday.
At the last, I wish for Jian god, no matter where you are, whatever field you choose, there will always be many people quietly observing and supporting you.
Gong Jian, add oil**.
*Dotaland note on Zhu si ma ji: 蛛丝马迹, which is a saying in Chinese that roughly means ‘clues’ or ‘hints’ — ZSMJ’s is a play on that and uses 诸司马技, a reference to his days playing Zhensan, the Chinese Dota-like based on Three Kingdoms lore – thanks to a friendly user in comments
**Dotaland note on “add oil”: In a lot of contexts, when someone says “____ add oil”, it translates more to “GO ___”, such as in sporting events, they will say “Zhongguo jia you” AKA “China add oil”, which is the equivalent of “Go China”… But in an article like this, it isn’t “Go ZSMJ” as much as it is “I hope you continue to excel at whatever you choose to do in the future, ZSMJ, good luck”. So essentially, given a full understanding of the culture and contexts it is used in, “add oil” is a bit of many different well wishes, combining sentiments of “good luck”, “go for it”, “success”, “strength”, etc… which is why I translate it literally. Thanks to reddit user ydnawel for noting that I should clarify this a bit.