NINE SOR­ROWS OF SEP­A­RA­TION DIM LIFE AND DEATH

Beijing (English) - - FEATURE -

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.

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