Fiction with Influence
Famous martial arts novelist louis Cha leung-yung’s passing leaves a growing legion of followers
there was an outpouring of grief across China on October 30 when fans of legendary wuxia (master of martial arts) novelist Jin Yong heard of his passing at age 94. “He has left Jianghu behind, but his wuxia masterpieces will live forever,” said one reader on social media, mirroring the sentiment of millions who mourned China’s bestselling martial arts and chivalry storywriter.
Jianghu literally means rivers and lakes, while metaphorically, it refers to the world of martial artists, of thugs and heroes, beyond the reach of the imperial government.
Jin Yong, the pen name of Louis Cha Leung-yung, was born in Haining in east China’s Zhejiang Province in 1924 and moved to Hong Kong in 1948 where he wrote the bulk of his novels.
Statistics from China’s online shopping giant Jd.com and online book retailer Dangdang.com show that orders of his novels spiked on the evening of Cha’s death, while many online and offline retailers reportedly ran out of stock, as people rushed to buy his complete works.
More than meets the eye
Wuxia as a branch of Chinese literature has been around for centuries, but has been mostly sidelined and looked down upon by the mainstream literature world.
“The strong reaction to Cha’s passing makes the whole Chinese society aware of the extensive influence of his wuxia novels. Meanwhile, China’s literature research circles have increasingly realized that they treat popular literature like wuxia unfairly,” said Long Qilin, Professor of literature at Guangzhou University.
In 1995, a Jin Yong wuxia research course was established at Peking University and since 2007, one of the novels, Fox Volant of the Snowy Mountain, has been included in middle school Chinese language textbooks nationwide.
Jin Yong stories have gripped generations from all walks of life since 1955 when he published his first book in serialized form in Ming Pao, a leading newspaper in Hong Kong, which he co-founded.
A still from the 1995 TV drama Return of Condor Heroes with Yang Guo and Xiao Longnu as the hero and heroine