NINE SORROWS OF SEPARATION DIM LIFE AND DEATH
After sixteen years of bitter waiting, Yang Guo stands quietly atop of Heartbreak Hill. He now has grey hair. He looks around in the boundless twilight, but Xiaolongnü never shows up. Love and longing, as well as absolute despair, are in his heart at that time. He gets up suddenly and runs into the deep valley to look for her.
Sixteen years earlier, it was still thought of as Heartbreak Hill. Yang and his lover Xiaolongnü "slowly walked to the foot of the hill. When they looked back, the setting sun was just above the mountain top, the clouds were red with some purple, the blue sky and mist were lined with snow on the top of the mountain. They thought that they would not have much time in the world, and they got more nostalgic in the face of this beautiful scene." Xiaolongnü said: “I hope that there really will be an afterlife. I heard that there is a Mengpo on Huangquan Road. She will ask you to drink a bowl of soup to forget all kinds of things that have happened in this world. Guo'er, I will not drink this soup, I want to always remember your loving kindness forever.” Yang bursts into tears. He does not expect that sixteen years of separation will follow.
Yang grows from an uninhibited boy into a great martial artist in the wulin (another name for the martial arts world) while he is waiting. He leads a reclusive life on the coast of the East China Sea, practicing inner energy and swordplay skills, wandering the jianghu with the condors. He eliminates bullies and pursues justice, relying on Dugu Qiubai's swordplay methods and the “Melancholic Palms" technique that he develops himself. He becomes reputed as the "Condor Hero." When he reunites with Xiaolongnü at the bottom of Heartbreak Valley, the two rush to Xiangyang to meet Guo Jing and others to defend the city of Xiangyang from Mongol invaders. They halt the invasion for thirteen years. Yang Guo replaces his godfather Ouyang Feng during the third duel on the top of Mount Hua and becomes one of the "Five Greats of the Era.” He is given the nickname the "Western Eccentric" and is on par with Eastern Evil, Southern Monk, Northern Chivalry and Central Imp. The two become known as the “Condor Hero Couple” after sixteen years of waiting.
A Farewell without a Deadline
Xiaozhao is one of the most lovable women in The Heavenly Sword and Dragon Saber in the eyes of male readers. Although her appearance is only mentioned in a very few chapters, she is like a meteor, leaving an extremely beautiful impression in the hearts of Zhang Wuji and the book's readers. Xiaozhao is originally a Sacred Maiden of the Ming Sect. This holy identity causes her to lose the right to love. She never forgets a secret tunnel on Bright Peak, where the only piece of love in her life begins. Zhang Wuji gives the lonely, little girl the only warmth in her life outside of familial affection. She apparently disregards her identity and duties at the time. In a tavern in a big city, the cold light of the Heavenly Sword mirrors Xiaoxiao's flower-like smile. Zhang Wuji cuts the chains that shackle her ankles, and she finally regains her freedom. However, some chains are constant, such as ancestry and bloodline. These kinds of effects can make an unforgettable, romantic feeling fall into the abyss of tragedy.
When the Persian Ming Sect is about to take Xiaozhao away, she whimpers: "I am going to send you back to China, let's depart and say goodbye now. Xiaozhao, in Persia every day, will wish the master to be healthy and everything goes smoothly." It seems that she said those words to everyone, but they are, in fact, to Zhang Wuji who she loves deeply. After that, only the horn of the big ship that Xiaozhao took can be heard, and the two ships set sail together, drifting away gradually.
Abolishing Friendships with One Stroke
Before the battle of Juxianzhuang, people know about Northern Qiaofeng and Southern Murong, but do not know how strong they are. After the bloody battle, Qiao Feng becomes a great martial arts master. People remember him and his reputation.
Like the battle of Yanmen Pass fought by Xiao Yuanshan, Qiao Feng's father, Qiao Feng is forced to engage a group of martial artists from the Central Plains in a battle of one against hundreds. He is fearless, however. Qiao Feng kills many opponents single-handedly, providing a full demonstration of the wild wolf spirit of a Khitan. The battle is a slaughter. It is like wolves fighting a tiger.
In the face of good friends and acquaintances, Qiao proposes a drink, so that everyone can fight without scruples. This move highlights his chivalrous mind well. In the original text, Qiao Feng picks up a bowl of alcohol and says: "There are many heroes here, many of you are old friends of mine. Today, since you are suspicious of Qiao, let's drink and cut off our relations. Which friend wants to kill Qiao Feng? Come here and drink a bowl of alcohol first. The friendship will be written off. I am not worried about killing you, and you need not feel guilty about killing me either. All of the heroes will be the witnesses.”
It makes sense that Qiao Feng is recognised by readers as the top hero of all of the characters in Jin's novels. Qiao is not childish and does not display the weakness of Chen Jialuo or the indecisiveness of Zhang Wuji. His personality and martial arts ability are powerful and majestic. He is like Guo Jing in a way but more meticulous than Guo, who was a little slow-witted somehow. Linghu Chong is happy-go-lucky and more suited to living a casual life, while Yang Guo is an affectionate man by nature. People like Hu Fei, Di Yun and Yuan Chengzhi have various weaknesses in their characters and become dispirited under the illustrious martial prowess of Qiao. Only a great hero is worthy of a great tragedy.
Feelings That are Hard to Express in the Moment
Guo Xiang's parents and grandparents were famous martial artists when they were young. She is lively, cute, quick-witted and intelligent. Although Guo is a supporting character in The Return of the Condor Heroes, her brilliance overshadows many other characters. She is foolish about love also. Guo creates the Emei Sect when she is middle aged. It is hard to tell where her courage comes from, her unchangeable infatuation and the supreme enlightenment that she seems to have attained in some ways.
In the epilogue of The Return of the Condor Heroes, Guo dresses a wound on Zhang Junbao's forehead. He sees the tears welling up in Guo's eyes when he is about to open his mouth to express his gratitude. He does not know why she is crying. Yang then states: "We had a great time gathering on this beautiful evening. We shall chat over a cup of wine when we meet again. Let us part here.” He waves his sleeve, holds Xiaolongnü's hand and they walk down the mountain with a condor. From then on, the idea that "The condor hero couple had never shown their appearance in the jianghu" takes over. The moon is bright, a cool breeze stirs the leaves and the birds chirp cheerfully but Guo cannot hold back her tears, which fall to the ground.
At the age of forty, Guo finally achieves enlightenment and founds the Emei Sect. After experiencing the Mongol invasion and the ruin of her family and a bitter period of pursuit, Guo goes to dwell in the Emei Mountains, taking an oil lamp and getting old and lonely. Her separation becomes a permanent farewell. Yang is the main love of Guo Xiang's life.
But I Don’t Like…
White Horse Neighs in the Western Wind is a novelette with new intentions. It is said that it was written after Jin's unsuccessful pursuit of Xia Meng. It does not focus on descriptions of martial arts. Instead, it expresses the idea that people do not always pursue things that are precious and that grasping all potential happiness is rare.
The end of the novelette is very memorable. A lean horse comes plodding, the sun dips down in the west and a lovesick traveller is still at the end of the world, the light sorrows in the depths of one's heart cannot fade away. “The white horse took her back to the Central Plains step by step. The horse was old and could not walk fast. They finally return to the Central Plains though. In the south of the Yangtze River, there were willows, peach blossoms, swallows, goldfish... as well as handsome and brave young men... This beautiful girl was as stubborn as the Kazakh people: they were all very good, but I don't like them.”
There was nothing to dislike though. Perhaps, Li Wenxiu was just mad at herself. Li Wenxiu is reserved and subtle, unlike how Aman acts towards Supu, which is anxious and panicked sometimes and occasionally happy and delighted. The obvious expressions are easily detected by everyone.
The white horse gradually takes Wenxiu back to the Central Plains. She hopes the horse will not make it though, because she is getting farther away from her lover with every step. She finally arrives though, thousands of kilometres away. Wenxiu's heart is probably full of remorse. She met Supu and fell in love with him in their best years, but she gave up easily. Sometimes love can be rejected but not abandoned. Supu still persists at this point.
Keep Love Away
Hu Fei and Yuan Ziyi appreciate and admire each other when they meet. Yuan is a beautiful girl who is skilled at martial arts, charming and has a free and easy temperament. Hu is similar, so their relations feel natural. However, in the end, Yuan thinks "to separate like life and death is better, and there will not be long-term bitterness at least.” She goes with a Buddhist monk to Huijiang, taking some oil lamps, and is headed for a lonely life.
Yuan is pulled in different directions. She has a duty to her master and also her lover Hu Fei. There is no good way to satisfy both sides. If she breaks her oath to be together with Hu, it might not work out. After all, there is a flaw in her heart. If she follows her oath, she will disappoint Hu. It would not be easy either. The idea that "the prince and princess finally lived happily ever after" often only exists in fairytales and is not a part of the world of jianghu.
“Because of love, there will be worry, because of love, there will be fear. Keep love away, there will be no worry or fear close.” When Yuan reads this idea, only she knows whether she has achieved true inner peace at the moment. It is easy to talk about cutting off lingering affection with a sharp sword but hard to do. Love can be intriguing and unstoppable. It can start easily but is sometimes hard to achieve a good result. Yuan encounters love, but has to give up it. Readers cannot help feeling sorry for her.
High Time to Say Farewell
Great hero Guo Jing is established in the vast Mongolia Grassland. He is near his playmates from his childhood, teachers who taught him archery, good friends who are as close as brothers and sisters, and troops who are loyal to him. As a great martial artist of his time, he has broader duties and eventually leaves the grasslands. No one thinks it would have such an impact or be so sudden though.
The thirty-eighth and final chapter of The Legend of the Condor Heroes, which is known as “Secret Orders,” details Genghis Khan's intent to conquer the Song Empire and force Guo Jing to be the leader of the invasion. Guo and his mother did not want to betray their country for glory. Guo's mother Li Ping commits suicide when she learns about the situation. Guo fights thousands of Mongolian soldiers to protect his mother's body. He cuts a bloody path through the troops. An arrow eventually flies towards his chest. He catches it in his hand but finds that the arrowhead has already hit his chest. He looks up and sees that it was his archery master, Jebe. Guo buries his mother, and Jebe jumps down from his horse. He bows towards Li Ping's tomb four times and hands a quiver, iron bow and rifle to Guo. He then grabs his horses' reins and puts them in Guo's hand. “Go, I'm afraid that we can't meet again,” Jebe announces. The deep affection between master and apprentice are apparent at that life-anddeath moment. The behaviour of Guo's former subordinates is surprising. The text reads: "All the soldiers got down from their horses together, bowed to the ground and said, ‘we wish the general a good journey to the South.'” At this moment, the concept of parting in the book reaches a climax. In a whirl of dust, Tolui gallops forth. He is riding on Guo's little red horse.
He rides closer, dismounts and asks, “Do you hurt?” Tolui glances at Jebe and says, “Take this little red horse and leave quickly.” He puts a bag on the saddle and says: "This is 1,000 liang (5 kilograms) of gold. We will meet again someday." The two ride south side by side for more than 15 km. “It's high time for us to say farewell, please go back!” Guo instructs. Tolui says he will ride a little longer. After riding five km more, the two dismount and bid each other farewell with tears in their eyes.
Guo is now separated from his brothers, masters, lover and so on. The separation is depicted in a sad manner. Guo's great character as a hero and his unbreakable bond with the grassland is portrayed.
Taking Responsibility for One’s Behaviour
Mount Hua is the home of Linghu Chong not only in the physical sense but also in a spiritual sense. He is adopted and raised by his master and mistress and grew up on the mountain. His romantic feelings for Yue Lingshan develop here. His respectful master and mistress have a group of good friends. However, all good things must come to an end. Linghu Chong wanders in the jianghu with a casual and unrestrained nature. His respectful master is sophisticated with regard to political matters. Although Linghu Chong gets involved with political struggles on accident, it seems destined that they will be enemies eventually.
The conflicts between Yue Buqun and Linghu Chong gradually accumulate. Linghu Chong's expulsion is also premeditated. Yue Buqun not only raises Linghu Chong but also cultivates him with the expectation that Linghu Chong will be his successor. Linghu Chong kills members of the Qingcheng Sect during the retirement ceremony of Liu Zhengfeng of the (South) Mount Heng Sect, spends the night at the brothel, insults the Hengshan Sect and almost offends all of the wulin. Yue Buqun becomes a little disappointed with Linghu Chong. Later, Linghu Chong learns all of the Five Mountain Sword Sects Alliance swordplay techniques in a secluded area on Mount Hua. He also encounters Feng Qingyang, who teaches him the Nine Swords of Dugu techniques. Meanwhile, Yue Buqun begins to be dissatisfied with Linghu Chong. Linghu Chong uses his newly mastered skills to save his peers in the Mount Hua Sect from an attack by the Mount Song Sect, fighting with fifteen rivals and defeating them successfully. Yue Buqun finds that his apprentice's martial arts ability has surpassed him. The conflicts between them escalate. They come to a head when everyone congratulates Linghu Chong and ignores Yue Buqun. Linghu Chong is expelled due to his association with the evil sect.
Objectively, it is inevitable that he will be kicked out of the sect. This is the only
choice that Yue Buqun can make to protect himself in the political environment at that time. Jin Yong once stated that Linghu Chong was a natural hermit. His yearning for freedom is based on his nature. Linghu Chong is undoubtedly an unorthodox figure in the novel, and his expulsion is expected.
There are many things in the world that can be faked but not true affection. After Linghu Chong is expelled from the sect, Yue Lingshan risks being scolded by her parents and takes food and alcohol to him. Later, she steals his father's “Violet Mist Divine Skill” to cure Long Huchong's wound. Ning Zhongze also carefully applies medicine for him after he is injured. When Long Huchong sees his tough mistress bursting into tears, Linghu Chong says: "It is I who has done something wrong, and it can't be forgiven. I shall answer for what I have done and will never have the reputation of Mount Hua Sect damaged...” However, it is hard for him to turn back, since he knows nothing about politics. The momentum of the jianghu takes him to the forefront. Linghu Chong also takes the opportunity to become the new head of the Mount Heng Sect and is accompanied by Ren Yingying. They live happily ever after.
Whatever It Will be, I Give Up
Of the many leading characters in Jin Yong's martial arts novels, only Wei Xiaobao took chivalry beyond martial arts. Chivalry has been a theme in fiction related to the imperial court, jianghu and the fairer sex.
Wei is a unique outcast in the jianghu and has both good and evil characteristics. He has many shortcomings, being greedy for power, covetous and shameless. He also places a high value on friendship, displays filial piety to his mother and never feels ashamed of her being a prostitute. He also did his best to help his masters Chen Jinnan and Senior Nun Jiunan. He even makes himself an enemy of the imperial court. He takes risks for his wife several times. He is also most perfectly fulfilled both in love and duty to his brothers of the Heaven and Earth Society.
Wei had a friend who was not a brother but felt closer than a brother. That man was Emperor Kangxi. The two were best friends. The feeling was hard to describe in language. The emperor was the most lonely person in the world, so had no friends and no one he could trust. When the emperor meets Wei, he tries his best to conceal his identity to safeguard the friendship between the two. Later, when the emperor has to reveal his identity, he asks Wei to treat him as before. Wei is the only person to act in this way. Wei helps the emperor several times, such as when killing Aobai, recovering Taiwan and dispelling Wu Sangui, driving a Russian onslaught and rescuing the emperor at Wutai Mountain. The emperor thus thinks that Wei is a good friend and a good brother.
Emperor Kangxi is the ruler of the country, but Wei was sometimes a scoundrel with regard to love and righteousness. The contradiction between the two did not involve their interests but instead was related to major issues of principle. When Emperor Kangxi orders Wei to wipe out the Heaven and Earth Society that opposed the imperial court while the brothers of the society ask him to carry on the unfinished life's work of his master Chen Jinnan by becoming the chief of the society and continuing to oppose the government, Wei was faced with a dilemma regarding loyalty and integrity. He has to give up his official position and run away. The original text reads: “Wei Xiaobao said loudly, ‘The emperor forced me to wipe out the Heaven and Earth Society while the society forced me to oppose the emperor. I am stepping on two boats which cannot be fawned on both sides. One side needs to cut off my head and the other side needs to gouge out my eyes. How many heads and eyes can one have? One comes to cut off my head, the other comes to gouge out my eyes. What will I leave? I give up. Whatever it will be, I give up!”
Wei discards these roles and returns to his hometown under the premise of visiting his mother. He conceals his identity, finds a place to stay, and takes seven of his wives and his mother with him. Kangxi eventually asks people to look for Wei. Kangxi had even gone to the southern part of the country six times to look for Wei himself. However, there was no news about Wei. He seemed to disappear from the world. The wizard who enjoyed the life of officialdom and the jianghu became a hermit without a word of farewell.