Renowned Hong Kong martial arts novelist Louis Cha 'Jin Yong' passed away on Tuesday at the age of 94. Since the 1950s, generations of Hongkongers have grown up reading Louis Cha’s wuxia (literally “martial heroes” in Chinese) novels and watching film and television adaptations of his works. Many of his sword-wielding protagonists have since become cultural icons. Here are some of his best-known characters:
Guo Jing: Legends of the Condor Heroes
The first novel of the Condor trilogy follows the protagonist Guo Jing on his journey as he learns about his dark family history and trains with kung fu masters. Guo, a man of Han ethnicity who was born in Mongolia, is forced to pick a side between these two opposing armies during the Mongol invasion. The book was extremely well-received by enthusiasts of wuxia fiction and went on to be adapted into multiple films and TV drama series.
Yang Guo and Xiaolongnü: The Return of the Condor Heroes
Said to be Cha’s most romantic work, the second novel in the Condor trilogy tells the story of a young man Yang Guo and Xiaolongnü (Little Dragon Maiden) – his martial arts teacher-turned-wife.
In this tale the star-crossed lovers had to overcome countless obstacles before finally reuniting with each other. The ill-fated couple was portrayed by famous actors and actresses, including a notable TV version in 1983 that featured Andy Lau as Guo and Chan Yuk-lin as the “Little Dragon Maiden”.
Zhang Wuji: The Heaven Sword and Dragon Sabre
The protagonist in the last novel of the Condor trilogy is Zhang Wuji. He lost his parents at a young age and later becomes a cult leader, leading the other rebel forces to overthrow the Yuan dynasty. Famous Hong Kong actors who have played this character include Hong Kong actors Tony Leung Chiu-wai, Adam Cheng Siu-chow and Lawrence Ng Kai-wah.
Linghu Chong: The Smiling, Proud Wanderer
Written in the 1960s, the book tells the story of different sects fighting for a mystical martial arts manual. Cha wrote in the afterword to this novel that he created the protagonist, Linghu Chong as his ideal hero. In the story, Linghu is a hermit who longs for freedom and to retire from the world of martial arts. Critically acclaimed actor Chow Yun-fat played Linghu in a 1984 TV adaptation of the book.
Wei Xiaobao: The Deer and the Cauldron
Probably one of the most unusual of Louis Cha’s male protagonist is Wei Xiaobao. Unlike the lead characters from Cha’s other novels, Wei has no interest in becoming a kung fu master. Instead the cunning and witty young man fakes his identity as a eunuch, befriends the young emperor Kangxi and even marries seven wives.
The Deer and the Cauldron was adapted several times as a television drama. It was also the source material for two films – Royal Tramp and Royal Tramp II starring Hong Kong’s best known comedian, Stephen Chow Sing-chi as Wei.