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Home Chinese Literature Louis Cha (Jin Yong)
Louis Cha (Jin Yong)
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Louis Cha —Jinyong(金庸),or Kam-yung,or Kim Dung (Vietnamese), is one of the most influential Chinese-language novelists. He is widely regarded as the finest Chinese wuxia ("martial arts and chivalry") writer, and has a widespread, unchallenged, almost religious following in all Chinese-speaking areas, including mainland China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Southeast Asia. His works have even been translated into Korean, and he has many fans in South Korea as well.

A native of Haining county, Zhejiang province, mainland China, Cha was a founder of the popular Hong Kong newspaper Ming Pao in 1959. He has published fifteen novels (all in wuxia style), most of which first appeared on his newspaper. His style, which contains some European elements, is widely derived from the classic style.

Cha rewrote the Chinese wuxia genre by adding history and popular culture to a previously formulaic genre. His novels are marked by strong characterizations and plot, and are classified as the "new school (xīnpài) wuxia", as opposed to the fanciful "old school" (jiùpài).

Cha's Chinese martial arts novels have earned great popularity in Chinese-speaking areas. Most of his novels has been adapted into films, TV series and radio series so many times in Hong Kong, Taiwan, and mainland China that the comparison of these renditions is an independent obsession of the media and of fans. Important characters in his novels are very well-known to the public, and can be alluded to with the assumption that everyone knows who they are.

The study of Jin Yong's work has even spun off an individual area of study: Jinology. For many years, readers of his novels have been discussing, debating, and analyzing the fictional world of martial arts in his novels. Even famous scholars have written books on characters, martial arts, martial arts schools in Jin Yong's novels. One of Jin Yong's closest friends and famous Chinese novelist, Ni Kuang, has written a series of books analyzing the personalities of several characters in Jin Yong's canons.

Some of his novels used to be banned in the People's Republic of China as they were thought to be a mockery of Mao Zedong, others were banned in the Republic of China as they were thought to be in support of the Chinese Communist Party, and some were banned by both Chinese governments. With popularity soaring to cult-like status everywhere, none of these bans exist today.

Cha has also written many nonfiction work on the history of China. For his achievements, he has been made an honorary professor by Peking University (in Beijing) and Zhejiang University, as well as an honorary doctor by Hong Kong University and the University of British Columbia.

In addition to his career in writing, Cha served as Editor in Chief of Ming Pao for years. His editorials were well respected. In later years, he also got involved in Hong Kong politics. He was one of the writers who drafted the Hong Kong Basic Law (resign after the Tiananmen Square massacre).

Cha wrote a total of 15 tales, of which one ("Sword of the Yue Maiden") was a short story and the other 14 were novels of various length. In order of publication these are (alternate translation in parentheses):

Books and Swords: Gratitude and Revenge (书剑恩仇录)

Sword Stained with Royal Blood (碧血剑)

The Legend of the Condor Heroes (The Condor-Shooting Heroes) (射雕英雄传)

Flying Fox of Snowy Mountain (雪山飞狐)

The Return of the Condor Heroes (The Condor & The Lovers) ( 神雕侠侣 )

The Young Flying Fox (飞狐外传)

Swordswoman Riding West on White Horse (白马啸西风)

Blade-dance of the Two Lovers(鸳鸯刀)

The Heavenly Sword and the Dragon Saber (倚天屠龙记)

Requiem of Ling Sing (A Deadly Secret) (连城诀)

Demi-Gods and Semi-Devils (Eightfold Path of the Heavenly Dragon) (天龙八部)

Way of the Heroes (Ode to the Gallantry) (侠客行)

The Smiling, Proud Wanderer(笑傲江湖)

The Deer and the Cauldron (Duke of Mount Deer) (鹿鼎记)

"Sword of the Yue Maiden" (越女剑)

Of these, three novels (The Legend of the Condor Heroes, The Return of the Condor Heroes, and The Heavenly Sword and the Dragon Saber) make up a trilogy that should be read in that order; a number of the other works also link to this trilogy (Demi-Gods and Semi-Devils is somewhat of a precursor to the Condor series in that they share common characters and the events occur within the same timeframe). Flying Fox of Snowy Mountain and The Young Flying Fox are companion pieces. The more popular works that have been converted into TV series many more times than the others include the trilogy, The Smiling Proud Wanderer, Demi-Gods and Semi-Devils, and Deer and the Cauldron.

After he finished all his novels in early 70s, some titles were renamed. Interestingly, it was discovered that the first characters of all 14 titles can be joined together to form a couplet with 7 characters on each line: With flying snow covering the sky, one shoots the white deer. And smiling, one writes about the divine chivalrous one leaning against the crimson lovebird.(飞雪连天射白鹿,笑书神侠倚碧鸳。)

Cha himself has stated that he has never intended there to be any such couplet, or even intended there to be 14 books in the first place, despite his effort to revise the original titles of his books during 70s-80s; the couplet itself is also somewhat forced on the second line, showing that it was not originally planned. Nevertheless for Jinyong fans it is a handy mnemonic to remember all of his work.

Chinese nationalism is a strong theme in Jinyong's work. Throughout most of his books, Jinyong places a great amount of emphasis on Han Chinese self-determination and Han Chinese identity; many of his novels are set in time periods when China proper is occupied or under the threat of occupation by northern peoples such as Khitans, Jurchen, Mongols, or Manchus. Jinyong also has his protagonists participate in historical battles such as the siege of Xiangyang by Mongols. Jinyong also devotes a lot of attention to the regions and landscapes of China, especially the Jiangsu and Zhejiang provinces, which are the general vicinities of Jinyong's own hometown at Haining, Zhejiang.

On the other hand, Jinyong (somewhat paradoxically) expresses a fierce admiration for non-Han Chinese peoples like the Mongols and Manchus. In The Legend of the Condor Heroes, Jinyong extensively describes Genghis Khan and his sons, casting them as capable and intelligent leaders contrasted with the corrupt and ineffectively bureaucrats of the Khitan Jin Dynasty (1115-1234) or the Han Chinese Song Dynasty. Similarly, in The Deer and the Cauldron Jinyong portrays the Manchu Kangxi Emperor as a leader of compassion and ability, and even has him lament to his confidant (the protagonist Wei Xiaobao): "Why do people hate me for being a Manchu, even though I am far better than any Han Chinese emperor they've had?" In Demi-Gods and Semi-Devils, Jinyong also casts the Kingdom of Dali (in modern Yunnan) as an idyllic Shangri-La-like place untainted by the negative effects of hierarchical and ritualized civilization. (Europeans appearing in Jinyong's work, however, are not so positively described; part of the action in The Deer and the Cauldron takes place in Russia, which is portrayed very unflatteringly.)

Jinyong expresses a great amount of respect and approval for traditional Chinese, especially Confucianism|Confucian ideals, such as the proper relationship between empire and subject, father and son, elder brother and younger brother, and (particularly strongly, due to the wuxia nature of his novels), between master and disciple, and fellow disciples. This is particularly obvious in the ostracism experienced by his two main characters -- Yang Guo and Xiaolongnu|Xiao Long Nuu in The Return of the Condor Heroes. Jinyong also places a great amount of emphasis on traditional values such as face (social custom)|face and honour.

But similarly to the way he treats Chinese nationalism, Jinyong questions some of these Confucian ideals, starting with Yang Guo's romantic relationship with his martial arts master Xiao Long Nuu (which would be considered highly improper) in The Return of the Condor Heroes, and Xiao Feng's identity crisis and split loyalty between the Khitans and Han Chinese in Demi-Gods and Semi-Devils. Finally, Jinyong breaks all the rules down in his final work The Deer and the Cauldron, whose anti-hero protagonist, Wei Xiaobao, is a bastard brothel boy who is greedy, lazy, and utterly disdainful of traditional rules of propriety.

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