Mo Dao Zu Shi

From Fanlore
Jump to: navigation, search
Name: The Grandmaster of Demonic Cultivation
The Founder of Diabolism
Mó Dào Zǔ Shī
Abbreviation(s): GDC, MDZS, FOD
Creator: Mo Xiang Tong Xiu
墨香铜臭 Mòxiāng Tóngxiù
Date(s): June 27, 2019 - August 20, 2019 (The Untamed Broadcast)'
Medium: Webnovel, Books, Manhua, Donghua, Live Action, Audio Drama
Country of Origin: China
External Links: Novel on JJWXC
Exiled Rebels Translation
Click here for related articles on Fanlore.

Mó Dào Zǔ Shī, translated as The Grandmaster of Demonic Cultivation, is a fandom based on a Chinese danmei novel that was adapted into multiple forms, including a live-action TV series, an audio drama, a donghua and manhua. The cnovel, audio drama, and the donghua are titled Mó Dào Zǔ Shī, but the live-action series goes by the name of "The Untamed."


The story opens with the news that the Yiling Patriarch — Wei Wuxian — is dead, a huge shock and relief to those who hear it. In his teenage years, Wei Wuxian was hailed as a hero, but he had fallen from grace and in the end his own adopted brother was the one to end his life in retribution for the evil he had done.

Thirteen years later, a young man named Mo Xuanyu, at the end of his tether due to abuse by his family, offers his body as a sacrifice to resurrect Wei Wuxian so the Yiling Patriarch can exact revenge on those who hurt him.

Once again alive and in a new body, Wei Wuxian is soon reunited with old friends-turned-enemies and finds that only one person — someone he thought still hated him — Lan Wangji.

Together they try and discover the mysteries around Wei Wuxian’s death and everything that has happened in the intervening years.

The novel contains 113 chapters with 13 extras.


This article or section needs expansion.


Mo Dao Zu Shi - "The Founder of Diabolism"

An animated version based on the novel. Season 1 ran July - October 2018, season 2 ran in August 2019, and season 3 started August 2021. Foregrounds the action and horror while minimizing romance. An official English translation is available on Tencent's Youtube channel, with a premiere date of Aug 27, 2019. The title is not translated. See also Wikipedia:Mo_Dao_Zu_Shi.

The Founder of Diabolism Q

July 31, 2020 - January 29, 2021. chibi animation series. These are short stories based loosely on the characters and events from the book. Episodes are about five minutes long. Tencent's youtube channel has an official English translation, with the title listed as "The Founder of Diabolism Q". The English subtitled episode 1 was posted Aug 2, 2020.


This is a webcomic adaptation of the story, closely following the events from the novel. Whilst less censored than some other adaptations, there are limitations on the depictions of outright romantic gestures. However, uncensored versions of certain panels have been shared by the original webcomic artist on Weibo. [[1]]

Audio Drama

This is an audio adaptation of the story, following the novel's events and timeline. This is widely considered the most accurate adaptation, as it features no censorship, with kiss scenes and other romantic moments openly included, albeit only in audio form. There are additional extra episodes, depicting small moments between characters that expand on the story, often based on information supplied by the original novel author. [[2]]

Audio Book

(Coming soon)

Live Action

This live-action C-Drama version of the novel includes lavish sets and costumes. It emphasizes the drama and some of the romance mixed with wirework action scenes and CG elements. This is the most censored version of the story, and the least accurate to the novel, but also the most widely known. However, in spite of necessary changes, the series is well-loved and still considered a heartfelt depiction of the characters and their world, and the romance of the original novel. See The Untamed. [[3]]


  • Wei Wuxian (魏无羡) / Wei Ying (魏婴) / Yiling Laozu (夷陵老祖): Main character and the Yiling Patriarch. He is brought up in the Yunmeng Jiang Sect after the death of his parents and meets Lan Wangji when he and his adopted brother, Jiang Cheng, are studying in the Cloud Recesses. Thirteen years later after he dies, he awakens in the body of Mo Xuanyu and reunites with Lan Wangji and they investigate a murder that is linked to the events of Wei Wuxian's death. In fandom, he may be referred to by the initials of his courtesy name, WWX.
  • Lan Wangji (蓝忘机) / Lan Zhan (蓝湛) / Hanguang-Jun (含光君): Love interest of Wei Wuxian and a famous cultivator of the Gusu Lan Sect. He is one of the only people left supporting Wei Wuxian during the latter's downfall during the events of thirteen years prior. Lan Zhan is able to recognise Wei Wuxian in Mo Xuanyu's body very quickly and immediately takes him to his home in the Cloud Recesses so they can plan their next move. In fandom, he may be referred to by the initials of his courtesy name, LWJ.


Popular ships include:

  • WangXian, the smushname for Lan Wangji and Wei Wuxian
  • Jiang Cheng/Lan Xichen, a crack ship that gained early popularity within the novel fandom
  • XiYao, Jin Guangyao (Meng Yao)/Lan Xichen, or its cousin;
  • 3Zun, the nickname for the threesome ship of Nie Mingjue, Lan Xichen and Jin Guangyao (Meng Yao)
  • Xiao Xingchen/Xue Yang, or other ships focusing on the Yi City trio
  • Jiang Yanli/Jin Zixuan, a common background ship due to being canon, but less popular as a focus due to the controversial treatment of Jiang Yanli by Jin Zixuan (or because it's a het ship).
  • SangCheng, Nie Huaisang/Jiang Cheng
  • Ships focusing on the Junior Trio/Quartet such as Lan Sizhui/Jin Ling, or Lan Jingyi/Lan Sizhui.
  • ChengXian, Jiang Cheng/Wei Wuxian. More popular in chinese fandom, in english fandom it has quite an amount of controversy surrounding it due to the adopted sibling relationship between the two.
  • YanQing, Jiang Yanli/Wen Qing is the most prominent femslash ship.

WangXian is by far the most popular ship, making up almost half of all MDZS/CQL works on AO3. Due to attitudes of some fans that the main canon pairing should not be broken up, other ships featuring Wei Wuxian and Lan Wangji are much less popular. As an example, as of June 2021 on AO3 there is no other top-10 relationship featuring Lan Wangji.

English-language Fandom

Growth of MDZS and The Untamed English-language fandom on AO3, 2018-2020
Growth of MDZS fandom (all languages) on AO3, 2018-2020
Proportion of MDZS fanworks in Chinese vs. other languages on AO3, 2018-2020

The English-language fandom started growing on AO3 around July 2018, the same month the donghua premiered. AO3 user rikke recalled that when they joined the fandom in late 2018, so little English fic had been posted that "there was no such thing as popular/unpopular, everyone just desperate to read anything that existed."[1] In 2019 The Untamed was released, and fans could stream it with English subtitles legally, so the fandom exploded.

MDZS was eligible for Yuletide in 2018, and six fics were written. In 2019 MDZS book fandom was no longer eligible, but The Untamed and the donghua were still eligible; 31 Untamed and 4 donghua fics were written for Yuletide 2019. For Yuletide 2020, the donghua and MDZS Q were still eligible[2], to the annoyance of Yuletide purists. 11 donghua and 3 MDZS Q fics were posted.

Fan Translations

enxiao had uploaded machine translations of the first few chapters between January and May 2017 (titled "The Founder of Diabolism"), but abandoned the project when Exiled Rebels Scanlations started translating it: "Feels like my kid ran off to live with cooler and richer parents.... They’re saying they’re aiming for an every other day release schedule and their translation quality seems to be pretty good or at least better than mine so it’s a win/win for everyone."[3] Exiled Rebels Scanlations' title was "The Grandmaster of Demonic Cultivation". They completed the main story in March 2019 and the extras in August 2019 (see the novelupdates page). Novelupdates links to two other fan translators who started their own versions in 2020, but other partial translations were also posted on tumblr. When publisher Seven Seas announced that an official English translation would be coming in December 2021, both fan translators linked from novelupdates stated that they would be discontinuing their projects. fanyiyi remarked:

Buying the official translation will not only mean that Mo Xiang Tong Xiu will be properly compensated for her hard work in writing Mo Dao Zu Shi, but also that English language publishing houses will become more aware of the demand for danmei and other Chinese novels beyond the limited selection that receive official translations at present. This will make it more likely that many other novels will receive official translations as well.[4]

As of August 2021 the only existing complete translation of Mo Dao Zu Shi into English is by Exiled Rebels Scanlations.

The Exiled Rebels or "EXR" translation has been criticized by some fans for being too literal and removing some of the nuance in the original Chinese, especially during sex scenes - for example, a line translated by @chiaki_himura as "wait a moment" and by froliczxc as "cool down for a minute" is translated by EXR as "stop for a bit." (This example comes from three--rings's meta "MDZS: Sex and Consent".)

EXR was also translating the manhua until January 2020, when they decided to stop translating and take down what they had posted so far because:

Recently we released a one-panel joke of the manhua and, as is with a fanbase that is way too large filled with readers who are entitled and can't take a joke, we got our entire three years worth of hard work scrutinized. Over a thousand people on Twitter claimed to 'fucking hate us' while badmouthing every translation we have ever done for GDC.[5]

However, other fans have been actively translating the manhua so there are still places to read it. (An official English translation also exists.)

Fans also translated the audio drama into English. Gaining access to it requires joining a discord server.

Archive of Our Own Canonical Tags

For a long time the canonical tags on AO3 included tone marks for all characters (for example, "Niè Huáisāng" instead of "Nie Huaisang"), causing difficulties for fans navigating the site by tag because diacritics are hard to type. In response to discourse on twitter in July 2020 over whether or not having/not having diacritics was or was not racist, the tag wrangler pumpkinpaix identified herself as an MDZS tag wrangler who had pushed for the tone marks to be used on MDZS tags and in some of the 36 other Chinese-language fandoms she tag wrangled. Fans who disagreed with including diacritics were particularly angered by pumpkinpaix's comment that the choice to include them was "partially motivated by spite" and that the tone marks were not "the most practical or the most correct." pumpkinpaix also said that it would be difficult to change all of the canonical tags as at the time of her twitter thread MDZS had "120 canonical character tags, 857 canonical freeforms and 1,051 canonical relationships" that would need to be changed, working out to about 120 per MDZS tag wrangler.[6]

In February 2021, tag wranglers began to switch canonical tags across several fandoms to versions without tone marks. One anon on fail_fandomanon said that "Judging by internal chatter, MXTX wranglers took a vote. The majority was against diacritics, that wrangler was outvoted, and that was that."[7] Other anonymous users in the thread expressed both joy, relief, and excitement; many said that searching for what they want on AO3 and tagging works would be easier. (See Hello everyone. i'm one of the ao3 tag wranglers for mdzs for more information.)

Several months later, fans noticed that the tone marks had reappeared. No word on what the official policy is yet.

Podfic Fandom

growth of podfic in the MDZS novel tag on AO3

After the release of The Untamed and the increase in English-language fanfiction available, fans started producing more podfics for fic based on all the MDZS canons. Although podfics make up only about 1.1% of the total MDZS fanworks on AO3[8], from a podficcer's perspective MDZS is one of the largest podfic fandoms of 2020. The AO3 podfic works page, when restricted to 2020, lists the MDZS novel and The Untamed as the second and third most popular fandoms.[9]

One topic of conversation in the fandom is how to pronounce characters' names. A few Chinese-speaking fans created pronunciation guides for MDZS podficcers:

Not knowing any Mandarin has been a source of angst for some would-be podficcers, out of a desire for perfectionism and/or fear of causing offense. Others have posted queries in various forums asking about whether the names should be pronounced in an Anglicized fashion or if strict adherence to Mandarin tones is required. In a dreamwidth meta post Lunatique wrote,

Just as one should approach creating ANY content of ANY culture that is not their own; Do it with conscientiousness and be willing to put in the work.

Here’s my not-quite 3 steps guide to doing that:

Step 0 . Approach the Challenge with a Mindset of Positivity and Openness

Step 1 . Do your homework

Step 2 . Do your best.[10]

A Behind the Pod podcast by non-native English speakers discussed pronunciation issues in Guardian and MDZS fandoms. One person pointed out that when the word you don't know how to pronounce is a character name, that has a bigger impact on the podfic than a random word. Reconciling Mandarin tones with the tonal "melody" of an English sentence can be difficult. They went on to agree that it was annoying when people didn't even try to pronounce words in their languages (French, German), but as long as people tried it was fine.[11]

Later in the podcast, yue_ix commented that a lot of native English speakers had internalized a double standard whereby they enjoyed English-language podfics by non-native English speakers, but thought they (the native English speakers) couldn't do podfics with Chinese words because they didn't know how to pronounce them. "For most native English speakers, they have never been confronted with not being able to say the words, right? This is the first time that they are experiencing it."[11]

Official English Translation

On August 5, 2021, the manga and novel publisher Seven Seas Entertainment announced that they had acquired the licenses for all three novels by Mo Xiang Tong Xiu: Tian Guan Ci Fu, Mo Dao Zu Shi, and Scum Villain's Self Saving System.

The official English translation was done by Suika and edited by Pengie, with cover art by Jin Fang and internal art by Marina Privalova.

Each novel will be separated into multiple volumes, with the first volumes becoming available on December 7, 2021. Pre-orders became available as the announcement was made on the company's Twitter.

Mo Dao Zu Shi will be separated into 5 volumes, with the release schedule being as follows:

Volume 1: December 7, 2021 (pre-order available as of the time this article was written)

Volume 2: March 2022

Volume 3: June 2022

Volume 4: September 2022

Volume 5: January 2023

Chinese-language Fandom

Chinese fandom follows a rule that according to MXTX's wishes, in fanfic the canon ship Wei Wuxian/Lan Wangji can't be broken up or "reversed" (Lan Wangji should always top). This rule was discussed in English fanspaces in early 2019: see fail_fandomanon and YSFYC_CRT on twitter, Archived version.


MXTX has referred to Wei Wuxian as Wifi, which is a homophone of his courtesy name, Wuxian.

Fanwork Examples

(More examples needed)


Fannish Guides & References




Fannish Resources

Fan Communities

Archives and Rec Lists


  1. ^ google doc linked from rikke's tweet: Aug 27, 2021 tweet by yilingss, Archived version (Accessed 28 August 2021.)
  2. ^ See the discussion about the donghua's eligibility here: Evidence Post 2020, Archived version, yuletide_admin thread started by nirejseki, 24 September 2020. (Accessed 12 September 2021.)
  3. ^ Announcement, Archived version, posted 28 May 2017. (Accessed 28 August 2021.)
  4. ^ Regarding the Announcement of the official MDZS English Translation, Archived version, posted by Fan Yiyi, 5 August 2021. (Accessed 28 August 2021.)
  5. ^ Grandmaster of Demonic Cultivation Manhua, Archived version, updated 24 January 2020. (Accessed 28 August 2021.)
  6. ^ pumpkinpaix, twitter thread that starts here(archive) and finishes here(archive).
  7. ^ Nonny, comment on FFA post 1490, 2021-02-18.
  8. ^ Based on a series of tag searches on 29 December 2020: podfic tag + MDZS novel tag + podfic tag + Untamed tag (excluding MDZS book tag) = 445 podfics / the totals of the combined MDZS novel tag + Untamed (minus MDZS novel) + the donghua (minus MDZS novel and Untamed) + MDZS Q (minus MDZS novel, Untamed, and donghua). There were no podfics tagged with only the donghua or the MDZS Q tag.
  9. ^ See the Sort & Filter sidebar (Accessed 29 December 2020)
  10. ^ lunatique. Thoughts about Podficcing in Cdrama fandoms, Archived version, posted to dreamwidth 9 August 2020.
  11. ^ a b Behind the Pod S2, Episode 2: English as a Foreign Language and Other Podficcer Problems, Archived version, posted 2020-08-09