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There once existed an honorable founder of this panguan school of cultivation. His reputation was illustrious, but nowadays nobody dared to mention him. Even if they did, all they said was, “He met a miserable end.”

Only Wen Shi still abided by the rules. Every day, he would pay respects to the founder’s ferocious, colorful portrait, but because of that he ended up summoning a sickly tenant.

The tenant stood in front of the portrait and asked, “Who drew this?”

Wen Shi: “Me.”

Don’t ask. If you do, you’ll just end up feeling touched.

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05/15/22 Tiny Salt Translations c65
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9 Reviews sorted by

tinysalt rated it
December 28, 2020
Status: c117
Translator here, leaving yet another probably biased review :^)

Panguan is a story about a love that outlasts a millennium. It’s the kind of story that you read and say, I wish I had someone who loves me like that, who will do everything they can possibly do to protect me and save me. Panguan is a story about grief and attachments and helping others move on, and maybe finding some solace if you need it yourself. Panguan has its serious moments, undoubtedly, but Mu Su Li always finds ways... more>> to weave in light touches of humor that prevent the story from getting too dark.

Panguan means judge of the underworld, but in this novel, panguan are the people who help undo ‘cages, ’ or lingering attachments that prevent people who have died from truly moving on.

The novel centers around the MC (who’s actually one of the ‘ancestors’ of panguan) in the modern day as he goes on numerous cage-breaking adventures with one of his great-nth-disciples and the ML (the founder of panguan). Eventually, we get to untangle the MC and ML’s honestly kind of heartbreaking past, and we learn that all is not as it seems in the panguan circle.

If you like pining, supernatural shenanigans, horror/mystery, mastery/disciple dynamics, secret identities, tsun MCs, indulgent/godly MLs, power couples, mutual self-sacrifice, and (kind of) modern cultivation, then I highly recommend Panguan. (It’s not that scary if you’re afraid of horror, I promise!)

As always, Mu Su Li’s writing is beyond excellent, and I hope I can convey even half of her prowess in my own translation :’) I’ll be putting my tl;dr summary below the spoiler cut for those who want a little more explanation on the plot (contains very minor spoilers, but everything is revealed in the first five chapters!).


The story follows Wen Shi - a 1000+ year old panguan specializing in puppetry who also happens to be missing his soul/some memories and is stuck in a cycle of rebirth for ~reasons~ - and his cowardly great-nth-disciple Xia Qiao as they help resolve ‘cages’ while looking for Wen Shi’s soul.

Somehow they end up summoning this ‘sickly tenant’ to their house named Xie Wen who has the most poisoned soul Wen Shi has ever seen. Xie Wen is all around just kind of weird and Bad News in modern panguan circles, but Wen Shi lets him tag along on their cage-breaking adventures bc Wen Shi doesn’t fit in either and he generally just doesn’t really care. Xie Wen is also not totally incompetent, which is a plus. (Xie Wen also may or may not be the founder of panguan named Chen Budao, who is 1000++ years old and was once Wen Shi’s omnipotent shizun who saved him when he was a kid.)

Eventually their pasts unravel and we get some delicious mmmm top-tier angst and pining. Also prepare to get spooked. (Cages feature: dolls, creepy smiling ladies, too realistic escape rooms, rain zombies/cult rituals, and more!)

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zintl rated it
April 5, 2021
Status: c117
This is one of those novels where everything that is set up pays off. Mechanisms like the cages give the author a way to progress the plot in a monster-of-the-week format, but Mu Su Li takes absolute advantage of the expectations that come with the trope to deliver a relationship that is slowly building and at the same time being slowly revealed. The way this novel engages with time produces a sustained undercurrent of longing that is thematically reflected in the unfinished business of the cages. The way the MC... more>> and ML slip in and out of time, away from each other and back together again, is also very tender, in both the painful and the gentle meanings of the word.

Mutual devotion - check
Teasing, adorable nicknames - check
Iconic declarations of identity and loyalty - check
Badass MC - check
Badass ML - check

The world-building pays. Off. And it goes off. The escalation works so well; the stakes are believable and the characters absolutely earn their ending. The rated-M chapter??? Hot. As. Hell.

The devotion is unbelievable and fierce as f*ck.

The writing in Chinese is stunning, and translator-laoshi is doing a beautiful, beautiful job!!!!!!!

Horror: 7/10 (while it engages in the conventions of the genre, it's not horror-horror, more psychological thriller?) <<less
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Alysx rated it
July 7, 2021
Status: Completed
"When old friends reunite in the mortal realm, yet are unaware of it." It's been a while since I've read such a great story. Ultimately this is a story of devotion and love spanning a thousand of years.

The world building is quite in-depth, the interactions among the characters are realistic and the storyline is engaging. I particularly liked how mini flashbacks are littered throughout the book, rather than having a huge flashback arc which disconnects from the present time. Also, the MC and ML's dynamics is wonderful (and cute!), the... more>> teasing between them made me chuckle out loud numerous times. I'll say that overall there's a sufficient dose of knives to make you feel the oomph while also retaining an abundance of humor to balance things out. While it is tagged as horror, personally it wasn't scary at all. It does contains many conventional tropes for a horror theme though. <<less
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janie rated it
May 11, 2021
Status: c19
Currently writing as the novel isn't finished translated, but I really enjoy reading this so far. I solemnly leave reviews because I get too lazy and also I don't know how much is too much for spoilers.

This is a refreshing plot of "ghost catching" though not really horror-y or scary. The interactions between the characters are too good! I adore our MC & ML, but Xiao Qiao is quite adorable too. I like that everyone in the novel serves a purpose so far. Nothing of a random introduction for the... more>> story to flow, not that I'm against it. Just most of the time, it tends not to be well-executed.

I originally thought that the story get kind of boring, but it was the complete opposite! The author did a great job giving information needed as the plot thickened.

I'm excited to read how their relationship grows and their past!

P.S. Translator does a really great job! &Lt;3 I personally like the pacing of the releases, keep me away from procrastinating. :) <<less
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periperi rated it
September 23, 2021
Status: Completed
5 stars

Has one of the best CP with plot I've read this year (with ANGST, oh the knifes). The translator wasn't kidding when they said the characters really will do anything for each other. When each thing was slowly revealed, it will really stab you in the heart.

This is a case based story in the beginning but everything is kind of linked except the second arc (but a bit is still linked) that very quickly goes to the big story in the 4th arc and to the grand ending where... more>> many things happened and I'm just really glad there's a big HEA because for a hot second I was sure there wasn't.

Because my goodness it didn't look like they were going to make it because of all the angst.


But apart from how much the main CP loves each other (from their actions), what really made the story great was the side characters and cast. From naive XQ to rebellious ZX, even the Zhang siblings were good cast. I actually thought ZX was an annoying bear child at the beginning but he quickly grew on me later on. And there were many plot twists later on as well. The flash backs with MC and ML's fellow shixiongs/tudi were nice as well (though I wished there was more).

Lastly, a shoutout to the audio drama! The link can be found on the translator page (and also the translation is superb, thank you!) and it is great. The VA is exceptionally good and ML's voice is just soo doting (mei da mei xiao) >.< the songs are great as well. So far it covers the first 3 arcs (and yes, beware of major spoilers in the trailer).

Overall, with a theme on grief and letting go, there's also a family found in here but going to admit it's a slight struggle to read in chinese so kudos to the translator! <<less
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rimirinrin rated it
February 15, 2022
Status: Completed
Completed reading the raws. It's satisfying for me.

I like how touching each arc is. I cried just 12 chapters in. I also enjoyed the length of the novel, not too long and draggy. Chen Bu Dao is the most gentle gong I've seen and it's a two way falling in love which is just heart warming. There's a lot of knives in between but you also get your sweetness in between. I really recommend this novel if you like cultivation mixed with modern world in supernatural setting!
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waiting for it to rain
waiting for it to rain rated it
October 22, 2021
Status: --
THIS NOVEL !! Its so so so so good, as expected of mu su li's novel! Im enjoying it a lot so far, the mix of humour and horror is really well done.
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saphire8626 rated it
March 27, 2022
Status: Completed
I was a fan of Mu Su Li since Global University Entrance Examination and Mou Mou. Unfortunately, her later few books are kind of hit-and-miss for me.

This book is about the protagonist, a panguan, a cultivation line that began a few thousand years ago and continues till today. Their duties are to resolve the last wishes and grievances of ghosts who don't want to move on so that the ghosts can leave in peace. These ghosts create 'cages' from their resentment and grievances that are like life-like delusions/fantasies/illusions that outsiders... more>> like panguan enter.

This book felt kind of scattered. The author says that she meant for this as a lighthearted romp, but her grandmother ended up in hospital so she had to take a long break, and it also meant that the second half took on a darker tone. So, the first third is very reminiscent of Global University Entrance Examination where it's kind of slow-paced and the protagonist solves locked-room murder mysteries (the 'cages').

The middle part is a lot of angst. The book delves into the events of the protgaonist's past, leading all the way back to when panguan was founded and it's really bittersweet that the protagonist, a panguan, is unable to let someone he loves leave and goes to crazy lengths to keep that person alive. This was a huge plot twist. I actually liked this part a lot because it was so sad 😭 and very poignant sometimes.

The last part is really disjointed (to me at least). There was the Zhang family head villain and large-scale battles and mysteries being unraveled, characters from the past popping up, but then the Zhang family head was killed off quite quickly, and the final 'villain' was to try to keep the love interest alive. And then the last few chapters were a bunch of really sweet fluff chapters that read more like extras?? I was quite confused by the changes in tone lol.

I liked the middle part the most because the biggest plot-twist that explained a lot of the mysteries was that the love interest was already dead and the protagonist couldn't let go. I felt for the protagonist. And I also love that the panguan often left a little something from the departed ghosts for the loved ones - a flower, a branch... As a farewell ritual, this is very poignant. <<less
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This person is dying
This person is dying
February 3, 2022
Status: c52
The main character Wen Shi is a bit too quiet for me to understand. He also doesn't have much opinion in his head. I sympathize more with the side characters. But his personality is consistent with his past. In fact he is quite a tragedic character. I hope Chen Budao, his teacher, can evoke more feeling from him in the future.

I really like Chen Budao. I also don't understand him much, but he's a bit like an ever magnanimous immortal, so it's feel normal to not understand him.

Anyway, I still... more>> feel attached to the story. It's really enjoyable. The plot is amazing and the writing is good as expected of Mu Su Li.

5 stars from me. <<less
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