Relieving Martial Artists Depicted by Master Jin
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.