Re­liev­ing Mar­tial Artists De­picted by Mas­ter Jin

Beijing (English) - - CONTENTS - Trans­lated by Li Li, Li Yi­nan, Pan Zhong­ming, Re­becca Lou, Zhu Jiant­ing Edited by David Ball, Justin Davis, Mary Frances Cap­piello

The fa­mous writer, critic and jour­nal­ist, Jin Yong (real name Louis Cha, 1924-2018) passed away in Hong Kong Sana­to­rium and Hos­pi­tal on Oc­to­ber 30, 2018 at the age of 94. His writ­ing cov­ered 2,000 years of his­tory from the Spring and Au­tumn Pe­riod (770–446 BC) to the reign of the Qian­long Em­peror (1735–1796) in the Qing Dy­nasty (1644–1911) and fea­tured im­pres­sive char­ac­ters, roller-coaster plots and com­plex his­tor­i­cal and cul­tural back­drops.

From the ini­tial pub­li­ca­tion of his maiden work The Book and the Sword in the New Evening Post news­pa­per in 1955 un­til the com­ple­tion of his last novel The Deer and the Caul­dron in 1972, Jin Yong cre­ated 15 ma­jor works. His writ­ing cov­ered 2,000 years of his­tory from the Spring and Au­tumn Pe­riod (770–446 BC) to the reign of the Qian­long Em­peror (1735–1796) in the Qing Dy­nasty (1644–1911) and fea­tured im­pres­sive char­ac­ters, roller-coaster plots and com­plex his­tor­i­cal and cul­tural back­drops. The elu­sive and ma­jes­tic jianghu (mar­tial arts world) he de­scribed in his leg­ends was a unique cre­ation which had a pro­found in­flu­ence on Chi­nese lit­er­a­ture.

Jin Yong’s works first ap­peared over 60 years ago and have since en­chanted hun­dreds of mil­lion of read­ers over sev­eral gen­er­a­tions. His pop­u­lar­ity has even led to peo­ple say­ing, “Wher­ever there are Chi­nese peo­ple, you’ll find Jin Yong’s nov­els” and his nick­name “Great Mar­tial Arts Hero Jin.”

The mas­ter has left this mor­tal coil and the world of mar­tial arts heroes, but he has also left be­hind many fond mem­o­ries.

Life is full of un­cer­tain­ties, but that does not mean it is sim­ply spec­u­la­tion. Many char­ac­ters in Jin Yong's nov­els face up­heavals, all of which stem from the choices they make: By a tav­ern in Zhangji­akou, Huang Rong's leisurely beck­on­ing to Guo Jing, un­ex­pect­edly leads her down the road to be­com­ing a great mar­tial arts hero­ine; in Xiangyang, Yang Guo's hes­i­ta­tion en­ables him to un­der­stand what be­ing a mar­tial artist truly means; and in­side the For­bid­den City, Wei Xiaobao's sud­den ac­tion saves the Kangxi Em­peror and the lives of many more. De­spite the say­ing “some things in this world are al­ways be­yond one's con­trol,” the de­ci­sive choices Jin's char­ac­ters made when things were dif­fi­cult, cre­ated a bril­liant and re­al­is­tic world in­hab­ited by mar­tial arts heroes.

An El­egy for the Hero of the Yan­men Pass

Xiao Feng yelled, “Your Majesty, I’m a Khi­tan sub­ject. But, to­day, you were cap­tured by my broth­ers and I be­came a crim­i­nal of the Khi­tans. How can I live in the world with­out a guilty con­science from now on?” Xiao then picked up a bro­ken ar­row and stabbed him­self in the chest.

—— Demi-gods and Semi-devils

Demi-gods and Semi-devils is the most fan­tas­ti­cal of all Jin's nov­els and among the 230plus char­ac­ters in this book, Xiao Feng can be con­sid­ered its great­est hero.

Xiao Feng, orig­i­nally named Qiao Feng, is the son of Khi­tan war­rior Xiao Yuan­shan. Af­ter dis­cov­er­ing his Khi­tan iden­tity, Xiao Feng vol­un­tar­ily re­signs from his po­si­tion as chief of the Beg­gars‘ Sect. A strange com­bi­na­tion of cir­cum­stances then leads to Xiao be­ing con­ferred the ti­tle of South­ern Court Gen­eral by the Em­peror of Liao, Ye­lyu Hongji. Later, how­ever, he is jailed by the em­peror when he re­fuses an or­der to in­vade the Song Empire. His broth­ers risk their lives and res­cue him, cap­tur­ing Ye­lyu Hongji and forc­ing him to with­draw his forces. Feel­ing re­morse, Xiao then kills him­self with a bro­ken ar­row.

The rea­son Xiao Feng com­mits sui­cide is sim­ple. The Song Empire con­sid­ers Xiao to be a great hero; but the Liao Empire saw him as a traitor. In the eyes of Duan Yu and Xuzhu, Xiao was loyal; but for Ye­lyu Hongji, he was re­bel­lious. So, Xiao Feng, the heroic and forth­right pro­tag­o­nist, sac­ri­fices his own life to prove his right­eous­ness and bring the war to an end. Ha­tred fo­cused on

THE CHOICES OF MAR­TIAL ARTISTS

the Yan­men Pass which had lasted for sev­eral gen­er­a­tions was brought to an end with a bro­ken ar­row. Per­haps, as far as Xiao was con­cerned, that day was wor­thy of the death of a hero.

A Beck­on­ing by the Tav­ern

Af­ter tak­ing a few steps, the young­ster turned back and saw Guo Jing still stand­ing in the street, look­ing at her fas­ci­nated with the horse’s reins in his hand. Hav­ing re­alised that Guo was re­luc­tant to leave, she beck­oned for him to ap­proach. Guo ran to her, and asked, “Do you need any­thing else?” The young­ster smiled, “I won­der if I can have your name.” “Oh, I for­got. My name is Guo Jing,” Guo smiled back. “I am Huang Rong,” the young­ster replied.

——The Leg­end of the Con­dor Heroes

Huang Rong is al­most cer­tainly one of the smartest char­ac­ters in Jin's nov­els. Huang Rong is the daugh­ter of “Old Evil” Huang Yaoshi, the mas­ter of Peach Blos­som Is­land and also the dis­ci­ple of Hong Qigong the chief of the Beg­gars' Sect. But how could such a bright girl fall in love with a sim­ple­ton like Guo Jing? And why did she sup­port him in try­ing to safe­guard the coun­try ir­re­spec­tive of the risks?

In the novel, the re­source­ful Huang Rong helps Guo a lot, but Guo's ex­is­tence was more sig­nif­i­cant to Huang. Huang has com­pli­cated emo­tional de­mands ow­ing to the facts that her mother passed away when she was young; her fa­ther, Huang Yaoshi, was an ec­cen­tric; and her ser­vants were all mutes. At a tav­ern in Zhangji­akou, she meets the sim­ple and hon­est Guo, who not only pays for their sump­tu­ous meal but also gifts her his valu­able fur coat and prized Ferghana horse. Guo was so dif­fer­ent from those Huang had met be­fore, that it was no won­der she “was so grate­ful that she couldn't con­trol her­self and sud­denly burst into tears.”

The mo­ment Huang beck­ons to Guo by the tav­ern is ex­tremely dra­matic. From that mo­ment on, Huang fully ac­cepts Guo and the two fi­nally tie the knot af­ter var­i­ous up­sand-downs. To­gether, the cou­ple fight to safe­guard the city of Xiangyang, even­tu­ally sac­ri­fic­ing them­selves for their coun­try and be­com­ing leg­ends.

Hes­i­ta­tion in Xiangyang City

(Yang Guo) sat up slightly, took out his dag­ger and con­sid­ered, “Af­ter killing him, I’ll stab Huang Rong. Then, I can go to the val­ley with my aunt to fetch the semi-elixir and we shall re­treat to the An­cient Tomb and en­joy a happy life to­gether. Who cares if the coun­try is ruled by the Song or the Mon­go­lians?”

——The Re­turn of the Con­dor Heroes

Yang Guo, one of the most unique char­ac­ters in Jin's nov­els, is the in­dis­putable pro­tag­o­nist of The Re­turn of the Con­dor Heroes. Yang spent his early life look­ing to take re­venge against the per­son who killed his fa­ther. How­ever, when he finds out Guo Jing and Huang Rong are in­volved in his fa­ther's death, Yang has al­ready been poi­soned. Only a semi-elixir can save his life but it would be at the price of tak­ing Guo and Huang's lives. Per­haps Yang is moved by Guo's speech about the spirit of great mar­tial arts heroes, or maybe he knows that the peo­ple of Xiangyang will be mas­sa­cred with­out Guo's pro­tec­tion. What­ever the rea­son, Yang hes­i­tates and re­frains from stab­bing Guo, fi­nally aban­don­ing his thoughts of vengeance.

Many read­ers be­lieve that the pa­ter­nal love Guo Jing shows Yang is the pref­ace to Yang's later growth into the “Con­dor Hero.” Wit­ness­ing Xiangyang city in the midst of col­lapse and the pa­tri­o­tism of Guo and Huang, Yang fi­nally chooses the right path. It is at this time that he un­der­stands what Huang meant by “giv­ing up one's life for right­eous­ness and dy­ing for a just cause” and Guo, who said: “a great mar­tial artist will fight for his coun­try and peo­ple.” Six­teen years later, af­ter Yang helps Guo de­feat the Mon­gol in­vaders, the two men en­ter Xiangyang hand-in-hand to the ap­plause of troops and cit­i­zens who are lin­ing the road. Yang re­calls the time when Guo led him to the Chongyang Palace on Zhong­nan Moun­tain to learn mar­tial arts 20 years ago, and thinks: “He has been hon­est to me and never changed. But I was wild, re­bel­lious and caused him great trou­bles. If I'd taken the wrong path, I'd never have been able to en­ter the city with him to­day.”

Sav­ing Lives at Bright Peak

Zhang Wuji was afraid and hes­i­tant to step for­ward in front of the mas­ters of the six ma­jor sects. How­ever, he hears Kongzhi’s or­der to slaugh­ter all the peo­ple of the evil sect and sees Zong Weixia step to­wards his grand­fa­ther. At this mo­ment Zhang im­me­di­ately rushes for­ward to stop Zong, say­ing, “Stop! Don’t you feel ashamed fight­ing such a se­ri­ously-in­jured man in front of all the heroes gath­ered here?”

——The Heav­enly Sword and Dragon Saber

Dur­ing the many years since the pub­li­ca­tion of The Heav­enly Sword and Dragon Saber, Zhang Wuji has been gen­er­ally recog­nised as the most pow­er­ful mar­tial artist in Jin's nov­els. But just what are pow­er­ful mar­tial art skills ca­pa­ble of? Well, at Bright Peak, this young­ster sin­gle-hand­edly de­feats the mas­ters of the Wu­dang, Shaolin, Emei, Kun­lun, Kong­tong and Mount Hua sects, be­comes leader of the Ming Sect and leads the peo­ple in re­sist­ing the Yuan troops.

De­spite his “halo” as the book's pro­tag­o­nist, Zhang is far from per­fect. Whilst he is pure, hon­est and kind-hearted, he is not a heroic fig­ure and had been pas­sive when faced by im­por­tant choices. In fact, it is not un­til his ma­ter­nal grand­fa­ther Yin Tianzheng is in­jured that he stands up to help the Ming Sect. In con­trast with great mar­tial artists in other nov­els, Zhang is much more like some­one we might en­counter in our daily lives. Even the author him­self did not deny this, say­ing: “A per­son like Zhang Wuji could never be­come a po­lit­i­cal leader, no mat­ter how pow­er­ful his mar­tial arts are. Zhang can­not be a good leader, but he can be a good friend.”

Wait­ing Alone in a Snowy Val­ley

Feather-like snowflakes started fall­ing again. Di Yun walked to­wards the cave where he once lived. Sud­denly, he saw a girl in the dis­tance stand­ing in front of the cave. It was Shui Sheng. With joy on her face, she ran to­wards him, yelling: “I’ve been ex­pect­ing you for such a long time. I just knew you’d come back.”

——A Deadly Se­cret

Shui Sheng, daugh­ter of the pres­ti­gious mar­tial art mas­ter Shui Dai, is one of the “Twin Sword Heroes” along­side her cousin Wang Xiaofeng. How­ever, af­ter par­tic­i­pat­ing in a cam­paign against evil to help the peo­ple, her life com­pletely changes.

If it was not for their ex­pe­ri­ences in the Snowy Val­ley, Di Yun and Shui Sheng never would have met. It is in the val­ley that the two first start to trust each other. Di pro­tects Shui from Grand­mas­ter Xuedao and Hua Tie­gan and when Shui is slan­dered by Wang Xiaofeng, Di risks his life to prove Shui's in­no­cence. Later, Shui re­alises that the evil­ness and dif­fi­cul­ties she con­fronted fol­low­ing their ad­ven­ture in the Snowy Val­ley were a side of life she had never be­fore imag­ined. As Di Yun was the only per­son who ever be­lieved in her and de­spite the vast­ness of the world, she de­cides to re­turn to the Snowy Val­ley and await the man who risked his life to save her. Know­ing in her heart that Di Yun has also been aban­doned by the world and can do lit­tle other than also re­turn to that place, she fi­nally sees the fa­mil­iar fig­ure and runs to­wards him.

“I've been ex­pect­ing you for such a long time. I just knew you'd come back.”

Love in a Snowy Land

Linghu Chong flew into a fury, “You in­sulted my fel­low ap­pren­tice: I will never par­don you.” Point­ing his sword at the man’s throat, Linghu ap­proached him and asked in a low voice, “What are the words writ­ten on the snow­men?” The vic­tim quiv­ered, “It said ‘Our love... will... never fade,... even if the... sea... dries... and rocks... crum­ble.’”

——The Smil­ing, Proud Wan­derer

Peo­ple of­ten say that Linghu Chong was the freest and most care­free of Jin's pro­tag­o­nists. With a sword and some wine, he wan­dered the jianghu with­out any care for po­si­tion, sects, gains, losses or even his life. But what then did Linghu care about? It was his fel­low ap­pren­tice, a girl by the name of Yue Ling­shan.

In Linghu's mind, no one could com­pare to Yue. Even af­ter be­ing mis­un­der­stood by Yue and hav­ing just de­clared his love to Ren Yingy­ing, Linghu still does not think twice when Yue needs res­cu­ing. Such ac­tions are de­ter­mined by Linghu's moral char­ac­ter. As a mar­tial artist, Linghu would im­me­di­ately rush to help any­one in need. It was pre­cisely be­cause of this that the lonely Ren Yingy­ing fell in love with Linghu and re­tired to lead a reclu­sive life with him.

How­ever, in Jin Yong's eyes, Linghu ty­ing the knot with Ren Yingy­ing can­not be con­sid­ered a “per­fect end­ing.” Deep down, Linghu was a “her­mit” who could not con­trol his feel­ings to­wards Yue Ling­shan. How­ever, when he and Ren fall in love and marry, “his free­dom was locked up again.” So, Jin Yong ex­plained that Linghu could per­haps only live an un­re­stricted life when fac­ing the un­re­quited love of Yilin.

Close Con­fi­dant in the For­bid­den City

Just as it hap­pened, Wei Xiaobao, shocked, quickly grabbed Kangxi and rolled be­neath the ta­ble with his back out­wards to pro­tect the em­peror. Af­ter sev­eral sounds of “crack, crack,” guards rushed over to Kangxi and Xiaobao and lifted them up. The Gui fam­ily col­lapsed in a pool of blood with seven or eight swords stick­ing out of their backs.

——The Deer and the Caul­dron

Wei Xiaobao, the son of a pros­ti­tute in the Lichun Brothel in Yangzhou, grows up among the com­mon­ers and has no great plans ex­cept liv­ing a good life. A se­ries of un­fore­seen cir­cum­stances and odd choices lead to Wei bum­bling his way to the po­si­tions of Duke of Lud­ing; Mas­ter of the Qingmu Lodge of the Heaven and Earth So­ci­ety; White Dragon Mar­shal of the Mys­tic Dragon Cult and Ab­bot of Qingliang Tem­ple on Mount Wu­tai. Wei even be­comes good friends with the young Kangxi Em­peror. When the Gui fam­ily at­tempts to as­sas­si­nate the em­peror, Wei's iden­tity as Mas­ter of the Qingmu Lodge of the Heaven and Earth So­ci­ety is dis­closed, putting him­self, his friends in the So­ci­ety and his men­tor Chen Jin­nan at enor­mous risk. How­ever, if Kangxi had been as­sas­si­nated, Wei could eas­ily es­cape any blame. But still he chose to save the em­peror.

It seems as if Wei Xiaobao's choice was not made af­ter deep con­sid­er­a­tion. He would of­ten deal with prob­lems based on what he per­son­ally stood to gain. But, “be­ing sin­cere” to his friends was one of Wei's few prin­ci­ples. Wei and Kangxi en­joyed an un­com­monly close friend­ship be­cause of their shared ex­pe­ri­ences. Kangxi con­sid­ered

Wei to be his only true friend in the strictly hi­er­ar­chi­cal For­bid­den City. Both men also knew the other's “bot­tom line” and so they nat­u­rally be­came con­fi­dants to each other. Should Wei have obeyed the Kangxi Em­peror's or­der to wipe out the Heaven and Earth So­ci­ety, the friend­ship be­tween the two men would have ended in tragedy.

Grat­i­tude and Re­venge by the Cliffs

Hu Fei held up his sword—a blade ca­pa­ble of slic­ing through the cliff with only one swipe. How­ever, at that mo­ment he re­called the prom­ise he had made to Miao Ruolan not to hurt her fa­ther. But, if he didn’t at­tack, Miao Ren­feng would com­plete the Crane Opens Its Wings move and surely kill him. Could he re­ally sac­ri­fice him­self to spare Miao Ren­feng’s life?

——Fly­ing Fox of Snowy Moun­tain

Of all of Jin Yong's mar­tial arts nov­els, Fly­ing Fox of Snowy Moun­tain is one of only a few that has an open end­ing. At the end of the novel, Hu Fei and Miao Ren­feng are locked in a fight to the death. Miao hunches his shoul­ders as he pre­pares to use his “Crane Opens Its Wings” skill, and Hu spots his op­por­tu­nity to de­feat him. How­ever, since Hu and Miao's daugh­ter were in love, Hu had to choose be­tween killing his sweet­heart's fa­ther or lay­ing down his own life. Hu was caught in a dilemma and had no idea what to do.

Hu Fei was the son of Hu Yi­dao who fights Miao Ren­feng in Cangzhou years ear­lier with the two be­com­ing close friends. But, Hu Yi­dao is ac­ci­den­tally killed when the vil­lain Tian Guinong smears poi­son on Miao's sword. When fac­ing such an op­po­nent, Hu Fei knew that it was Miao who led to him be­com­ing an or­phan. But Miao was re­spected as an un­con­quer­able mar­tial artist with Hu as his only com­pa­ra­ble ri­val, so why not have a fi­nal match be­tween both now? Feuds be­tween the Miao and Hu fam­i­lies had lasted for a cen­tury. How­ever, Miao had for­bid­den his daugh­ter from learn­ing any mar­tial arts, so could the re­venge not be re­solved this gen­er­a­tion? Hu Fei clearly did not want to sac­ri­fice him­self, nor did he want to in­jure Ruolan's fa­ther. Jin Yong leaves the con­clu­sion of whether Hu at­tacked or not up to his read­ers' imag­i­na­tion.

Even Jin Yong him­self could not “fore­cast” Hu Fei's choice. Years af­ter the novel's pub­li­ca­tion, nu­mer­ous peo­ple re­quested that the author create a proper end­ing to Fly­ing Fox of Snowy Moun­tain. Af­ter long con­sid­er­a­tion, Jin in­sisted on keep­ing the end as it was, say­ing: “Whether Hu Fei at­tacked or not is a choice for both Hu and the read­ers. Ev­ery­one can make their own choice de­pend­ing on their un­der­stand­ing of hu­man­ity and the world.”

The Beauty With­ered in the Mosque

Princess Fra­grance knelt down, with tears welling up in her eyes and ex­treme dis­tress in her heart. She had only one idea then, “How can I warn him? I would re­mind him to be cau­tious, even if it means I must die.”

——The Book and the Sword

Jin Yong spared no ef­forts in con­vey­ing Princess Fra­grance's beauty through both di­rect and in­di­rect de­scrip­tions. In his words, she is un­ri­valled for love­li­ness, naivety and pu­rity, and is deemed a sa­cred god­dess by the Hui peo­ple. Princess Fra­grance and Chen Jialuo trusted and had pledged to marry each other. But be­cause Em­peror Qian­long in­tends to steal the princess for him­self be­cause of her beauty, she com­mits sui­cide to warn her lover Chen.

Even though it was against her re­li­gion, Princess Fra­grance killed her­self to warn Chen “not to trust the Em­peror.” She sim­ply hoped to pro­tect Chen in this way. Un­for­tu­nately, her choice was the price of Chen's un­wise ac­tions. Lead­ing the Red Flower So­ci­ety or­gan­i­sa­tion which was fight­ing against the Qing Dy­nasty to re­store the Ming, Chen was naive, im­ma­ture and ex­ces­sively en­tan­gled by his per­sonal emo­tions, so he could never be a com­pe­tent states­man. He child­ishly be­lieved that Em­peror Qian­long would stand by his side. He not only tried to en­tice Qian­long with the po­si­tion of “Em­peror of all Han peo­ple” but also fawned on him with Princess Fra­grance, which in­evitably ended in a com­plete fail­ure. Many read­ers have ex­pressed the opin­ion that Chen Jialuo was not worth Princess Fra­grance's sui­cide. But, in fact, hav­ing a purely func­tional role in the nar­ra­tive, this is the only pos­si­ble choice Princess Fra­grance can make when faced with her love cri­sis.

The fa­mous writer, critic and jour­nal­ist, Jin Yong (real name Louis Cha, 1924-2018) passed away in Hong Kong Sana­to­rium and Hos­pi­tal on Oc­to­ber 30, 2018, at the age of 94.

Yang Guo

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