National Reading Movement

Jin Yong: The Master of Martial Arts Novels

We’ve been exposed to many genres in literature but how many of us have been exposed to wuxia(武侠)?

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Wuxia consists of two words. “Wu”(武) which stands for martial arts and “xia”(侠) which stands for chivalry. While wuxia may not be well-known in the West, it has inspired many young minds in Asia.

One wuxia author, in particular, has written works so memorable that countless adaptations ranging from TV series, movies, mangas, animes and even video games have been made.

Folks familiar to the genre will know that the author we’re talking about is none other than the man dubbed as one of the “Three Legs of the Tripod of Wuxia”, Jin Yong.

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Read on to find out what sets Jin Yong’s works apart from the rest!

 

 

Highly captivating despite the timeline

You may have heard of one of Jin Yong’s earliest work or even came across the comics before. Like this one below.

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射雕英雄传 (shè diāo yīng xióng zhuàn) or Legend of the Condor Heroes is one of Jin Yong’s first books. Published in 1957, it’s still widely popular with fans across the globe. In fact, a television series adaptation of the novel was aired early 2017 which won the 2nd Golden Guduo Media Awards, and Hong Kong directors have expressed their intention to remake the other two books in the Condor Heroes Trilogy!

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So what makes Legend of the Condor Heroes so widely loved?

At the core of the novel, it follows the protagonist’s entire journey from zero to hero. Doesn’t sound that bad, right? Wrong! It took him 30 long years to go from a talentless child with immense potential to one of the most respected forces in the martial arts world.

On top of that, Legend of the Condor Heroes is also steeped in strong patriotic ties and often addresses the political relations between the Jurchen Tribe and the rulers of the Song dynasty.

What’s astonishing is that Jin Yong managed to present all these in a captivating manner. At no point in time would you be thinking “When is the next epic battle?” or “When do I finally get to the good part?” as you’ll be too engrossed with the little protagonist struggling with multiple instructors or with the strategies the Jurchens employed to conquer the Song dynasty.

Ability to seamlessly switch between multiple protagonists

Jin Yong is able to capture the audience’s attention in every section of his books. But is his popularity because of his ability to captivate us even at seemingly boring phases?

In his next novel, 天龙八部 (tiān lóng bā bù) Demi-Gods and Semi-Devils, he took it a step further.

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Oh yes, way further… On top of creating epic martial art fight scenes and portraying heroism, Jin Yong seamlessly alternated the story between not just one, but three different protagonists’ perspectives! Oops, allow us to correct ourselves. It’s more accurate to say three different STORIES instead.

Jin Yong wrote each of these perspectives with so much depth and detail, it’s not surprising that any of them could form its own book. When we first read the novel, we were introduced to a wide range of different characters through the eyes of each individual protagonist. As the story progresses, we not only see each protagonists’ work on developing their relationships with the people around them but also their own personal development — a naive prince despising martial arts becoming one of the most formidable warriors of his time, and a fallen chief of the Beggar’s Sect who becomes a righteous leader.

If you’d like a book with more than one protagonist and yet not be confused by the constant rotations among them, 天龙八部 is the novel for you.

 

 

Not all about Martial Arts

You may be wondering if Jin Yong can only write about a hero who upholds strong morals and wields devastatingly strong martial arts abilities. But his longest work, 鹿鼎記 (lù dǐng ji) or The Deer and the Cauldron actually follows a hero that goes against the very definition of wuxia.

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While wuxia stands for martial arts and chivalry, the protagonist in this book showcases neither. Instead, he exudes wit and cunning.

Throughout the novel, our protagonist Wei Xiaobao stumbles upon unfavourable circumstances which he then lies, cheats or cons his way out. An example includes him getting kidnapped by one of his Emperor’s many enemies, the Mystic Dragon Cult. Instead of overwhelming the cult with martial talent, Xiaobao unintentionally becomes their Marshal when he flatters their leader. He then accidentally stirs up old wounds from within the cult, causing them to turn against themselves and inevitably destroying themselves…

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While it may seem like Xiaobao has no positive qualities, he is shown to be surprisingly loyal to the Kangxi Emperor, readily giving up his life for his Emperor despite his lack in martial abilities, which makes this our personal favourite Jin Yong’s work.

 

Whether you like a good old-fashioned story about going from zero to hero, an epic about martial arts or something light-hearted and witty, Jin Yong has it all and more that’ll captivate your hearts and inspire you.