By: Liu Hongtao
Jin Yong 金庸 is the penname of Zha Liangyong 查良鏞 (Louis Cha), a native of Haining County, Zhejiang Province. He majored in English and international Law in college. In 1959, he founded the newspaper Ming Bao in Hong Kong and served as its editor in chief and president for the next thirty-five years, until his retirement in April 1993. Jin Yong started publishing martial arts fiction in 1955. His debut novel Shujian Enchou Lu 书剑恩仇录 (The Book and the Sword) made him famous overnight. From then to 1969, he wrote a total of fifteen martial arts novels: Shediao Yingxiong Zhuan 射雕英雄传 (The Legend of the Condor Heroes), Shendiao Xialü 神雕侠侣 (The Return of the Condor Heroes), Xueshan Feihu 雪山飞狐 (Flying Fox of the Snowy Mountain), Yitian Tulong Ji 倚天屠龙记 (Heaven Sword and Dragon Sabre), Tianlong Babu 天龙八部 (Demi-gods and Semi-gods), Xiao’ao Jianghu 笑傲江湖 (The Proud Wanderer), and Luding Ji 鹿鼎记 (The Deer and the Cauldron), to name just a few. His works are widely known among Chinese at home and abroad. Over 100 million copies of his works have been sold worldwide and many of them have been adapted into films, television series, radio series, and plays. Some of his works have been translated into English, Japanese, Thai, Vietnamese, French, Malayan, Korean, and so on. For his achievements, he had received numerous honors, including visiting professorship and honorary doctorate at such world-class institutions at Cambridge University, Oxford University, Hong Kong University, Peking University, and Zhejiang University. He had also been awarded honorary titles by the UK, HK, and PRC governments.
Jin Yong’s martial arts fiction are all stories about jianghu 江湖 (literally “rivers and lakes”). The world of jianghu is dominated by sects, guilds, clans, and martial arts schools. Characters are mainly engaged in taking revenge, eliminating evil, furnishing armed escort, expanding or strengthening the influence of their organizations, resisting aggression, and so on. Due to the conflicts among clans, sects, and ethnic groups, jianghu is a troubled world and bloody fights break out constantly. Usually when the situation becomes intolerable, a chivalrous xiake 侠客 (“knight errant”) would emerge to punish the evil and promote the good. He would clean up the mess and restore order. A xiake needs to excel in martial arts, but it is his martial virtue and spiritual outlook that determine whether his action would be worthy and effective. Jin Yong’s fiction is often set in the troubled periods of Chinese history, the contentions in jianghu intermingling with the turmoil of the world. Through all the hardships and chaos, the xiake realizes himself as a hero who saves the world. These widely imaginary stories about jianghu are infused with the Confucian ideal of internal cultivation and external kinship, as well as the nationalist teleology from disorder to order and from separation to unification. Modern China has been an embattled nation that has lost much of its traditional culture and heritage. Jin Yong’s novels have been so successful precisely because they speak to the collective longing of the Chinese people to revitalize national culture and reunite the country. He borrowed from the modern western as well as the May Fourth literary traditions, and reformed the traditional martial arts genre to create a new genre that suits both refined and popular tastes, and that combines popular entertainment with serious reflections on society and life. Jin Yong wrote most of his works in the 1950s and 1960s, a tumultuous time in mainland China when writers were generally muted. Critics believe that Jin Yong helped to preserve a sense of artistic freedom and keep alive the Chinese cultural spirit.
Jin Yong passed away on October 30, 2018. This special section is a tribute to Jin Yong, the most celebrated martial arts novelist in the Chinese-speaking world.
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