Saturday, September 19, 2020

Niaowu Confidential Part 1 - Ma Jialing | Guest Post by Dave Matthews (SalsaShark)

Hello and welcome to Part I of Niaowu Confidential! Thanks again to Switch for the opportunity to post at Phantom River Stone!

If you missed my earlier series, 'Bailu Village Secrets', Part I is here.

Today I'd like to delve into a character that pretty much every player will be familiar with, but who makes her presence felt around town in some intriguing and non-obvious ways, Ma Jialing!

Jialing in her element

Yu Suzuki, in a production interview for Shenmue III, has stated that Jialing is one of his favorite NPCs in the game. At one point he mentions her as one of the 'Three Beauties of Niaowu' - a group of three women who each have a secret customer phone card somewhere in town!

Jialing's secret phone card

See here for Switch's excellent post translating the interview: 

The first thing new players are likely to notice upon entering Hotel Niaowu for the first time are the hair curlers. Jialing has a perpetual rainbow of large curlers twisting her dark hair; how that doesn't hurt like crazy after a few minutes I have no idea. Otherwise, Jialing dresses for comfort in slippers, a loose floral skirt, and a bright red cardigan. It's a very motherly vibe all in all, and that sense only increases when first confronted with her blunt, no-nonsense demeanor. Jialing feels like an homage to the popular 'badass landlady' character trope seen in old kung-fu movies (think 'Kung-Fu Hustle).

Source: IMDB

Phone Cards and Bills

The second thing players are likely to notice about Jialing is an obsession with selling phone cards for the hotel phone. Conversations with her rarely end without a pitch to buy at least one phone card, and at 5 yuan a pop it's no wonder. Perhaps this is why the hotel décor is more lavish than one might expect.

Pushy though she is on the phone card subject, it's nothing compared to room fees. Every morning, Jialing stops Ryo with an accusing glare and a demand to pay for his previous night's stay. Woe to Ryo if he doesn't have the cash on hand to cover it. Unlike at the Come Over Guest House in Shenmue II, Ryo cannot run up a tab, and there is no Joy around to pay for him should he 'forget' to pay it. Jialing will force Ryo to chop wood outside until he has enough to make the payment. is rough.

Frankly, though, it could be worse. Even if Ryo were able to skip out on his bill, Jialing has a long memory, and as in the case of the 'Catch the Skipper!' side quest, has no trouble sending Ryo out to locate skippers and settle matters by whatever means necessary.  

Gotta do what you gotta do...


Jialing is not without her softer side, of course. While she may shamelessly hock phone cards and doggedly go after room fees, that money does seem to go back into the hotel itself. The place is absolutely gorgeous, simultaneously exuding class and coziness, and the views out over the harbor are phenomenal.

Jialing is also meticulous when it comes to room hospitality. Ryo's room contains a bowl of free-to-take apples that is restocked every single day, sometimes even over night!

Rooms also come stocked with fliers for various attractions around town. When Ryo takes one of these it is replaced with a new and different flier the next day. Also present is a very charming little welcome message written by Jialing and stamped with her trademark lips. Amusingly this will always restock as well, and makes me think Jialing wants guests to always remember who it is that's making their stay so enjoyable...

A Mark around Town

Speaking of lips..

It looks like Jialing gets around Niaowu more than she lets on. Her iconic lip print can be found in a few unusual spots around town, and if you're inclined to think of these as more than just Easter eggs, some fun speculative opportunities arise.

As a fun little surprise for anyone who ventures to the third floor of Hotel Niaowu from the prize exchange (walk don't run across that bridge!), Jialing has left her mark on the back of the hotel sign:

What's this?! Jialing's welcome note is in one of the side buildings in the Red Snake compound!

Does a member of the gang have a bit  of a thing for the hotel owner, or is Jialing up to something a little seedy? (Also a fun note for any Kong Mei fans, there are some sequel movie posters from her action star heyday!)

Jialing's presence can be found in a few other places as well. She has a picture at the ferry terminal (apparently out browsing a bookstore):

Her name is also included (with some other NPCs including...Chai!?) among the various flower art prayer tags at the back of Hua Xiao Temple. Keeping thematically appropriate, the character she chose for her art is the character for beauty!

A head shot of Jialing is framed on the wall at 'Stonehead Haircuts':

She also has an add on the back of the 'Choubu Walker' magazine - a copy of which can be purchased at the Tomato Convenience Store:

A rough translation of the ad is as follows:

Top (in white): 'International Sightseeing Accommodation'

Top (in Gold): 'Hotel Niaowu'

Bottom of hotel photo (Gold): 'Niaowu Tourism Association Recommended Hotel'

Bottom (Gold): 'Our beautiful landlady will greet you with devoted hospitality.'

Bottom (Red): '1 minute walk from the port!'

Secret Meetings

One of  the more famous secrets involving Jialing can also be found outside on the third floor of Hotel Niaowu. If Ryo walks to the far end closest to the gate leading to some herbs, he can encounter one of two scenes.  

The first scene involves Hong Dejing giving Jialing a demo of his 'Brawlers Uppercut II' in that gated back area – customary pause for effect included. Jialing claps for him, though whether with genuine enthusiasm or just out of courtesy (pity) we can't be sure.

Maybe Dejing needs a new move...

The second scene takes place in the back area as well. This time Ryo spots Jialing practicing a dance routine with none other than Shi Weimin of the 'Stonehead Haircuts'! It appears that they are well practiced by the time Ryo comes around as they are remarkably well-synchronized! Coupled with the picture of Jialing hanging at the barbershop, one wonders if these two might be romantically involved? 


Also worth mentioning are Ryo's unusually strong reactions to each of these scenes.  He almost seems offended!

Mind your own business, Ryo!

That's it for this little dive into one of Niaowu's most interesting characters. If you have a fun Jialing fact or Easter egg that I missed, let me know in the comments! Stay tuned for next time where, as I did for Martial Hall in Bailu, I take a look at the rankings at Wu Shen Hall!

About the Author

Dave Matthews aka SalsaShark has been an avid Shenmue fan since he first bought the game on Dreamcast (incidentally the first console he ever bought with his own money) back in 2000. 

To this day he's still working out the right words to describe just how much the series has impacted his life and philosophy for the past two decades. A long time lurker on the Shenmue Dojo forums, he has recently started actually posting, so feel free drop in and say hi!  He currently lives in Chicago, IL USA with his girlfriend and two friendly cats.
Thank you to Dave for this fantastic new series on Niaowu, highlighting the details and humorous touches hidden in Shenmue III. I hadn't realized that the welcome message in Ryo's room at the hotel is restocked every day! Check out Dave's Bailu village series (Part One, Part Two and Part Three) for more secrets! -Switch
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  1. still looking forward to the wushen hall article :D