It was originally published in 1963, and has since spawned several movies and television serials in both Mainland China and Hong Kong. The title of the novel has been a challenge for translators for years. It is based on the eight races of non-human entities described in Buddhist cosmology. In Buddhism, even though these demi-gods are ranked higher than mortals, they are still bound to the samsara by their own passions and desires. It is said that Jinyong originally modelled each major character after one of the Races. As he wrote on, the complexity of the story made it impossible for such a simplistic mapping. Today, the topic of which character corresponds to which Race is still an interesting matter of discussion among fans and readers.
Xiao Feng or Qiao Feng is a representation of the Deva. He gives reader the impression of a heavenly being as he fits its description in any form, whether in appearance, build, character or martial arts. His status in the novel as the first main protagonist further enhances his position as the leader of the Devas, called ‘Di Shi Tian’ (帝释天). The Deva is no exception to death, regardless of how powerful it is, just like Xiao Feng, who died at an early age. His tragic end is different from that of the Deva but yet one of those which touched readers deeply. He has ‘luxuries’ in the form of his martial arts prowess and his status as a noble of the Kingdom of Liao, but no beautiful maidens to accompany him; he killed his love interest A Zhu by mistake in a tragedy caused by confusion, he did not like A Zi for her cruel and sadistic nature although she was desperately trying to win his heart and he took care of her only to fulfill a promise he made to A Zhu before her death.
Duan Yu represents the Naga. Of the eight Races, Deva and Naga are the most important ones, so Duan Yu being the second main protagonist, obviously represents the Naga. Duan Yu is born of noble blood and a future ruler of the Kingdom of Dali. The Chinese see their emperor as a dragon, while the ancient Indians too hold the dragon in high regard, which shows their respect for Duan Yu as a prince. The dragon king in Chinese mythology has an affinity for Buddhism since young, just like Duan Yu who has been largely influenced by Buddhism before his rise to prominence. Besides, the rulers of Dali have a tradition for taking the tonsure at Tian Long Monastery (天龙寺) or ‘heavenly dragon monastery’, which hints that Duan Yu represents the Naga of the eight races.
The Yaksha had been said to be represented by the third main protagonist, Xu Zhu. Xu Zhu, originating from Shaolin Monastery, found himself caught in between several feuds, which eventually led to him becoming a powerful martial artist despite going against his own will. He was also the leader of several unorthodox sects, yet managed to lead them from their ‘evil’ origins towards good, fitting the description of the Yaksha, which is the deity in charge of subduing devils and evil spirits, yet itself is a devil.
The Yaksha is also said to be collectively represented by the ‘Four Evils’. They have evil appearances, engage in all forms of evil doings, just like the common interpretation of the Yaksha as an evil being. However, each of these Four Evils has a good side behind them. Duan Yanqing was originally the crown prince of Dali, who lost his status and sought revenge on those who stole his rightful place as ruler. Eventually, he left for good after realising that Duan Yu was his real son and that his struggle to become ruler of Dali had ended with his son becoming the ruler unexpectedly. Ye Er Niang who was infamous for kidnapping babies and killing them after she had finished playing with them, became a changed person after she realized that Xu Zhu was her long-lost son. Nan Hai E Shen, the most comical of the Four Evils, had still some good in him compared to the other three. He was often seeking to make Duan Yu his disciple, but ended up with him being Duan’s disciple instead. He sacrificed himself to save Duan Yu eventually, whom he still regarded as his master. Yun Zhong He, a lecherous fiend, also once saved Wang Yuyan. The Four Evils were just like the Yaksha, hard to define whether it is good or evil.
Murong Fu is said to be a representation of the Asura due to its characteristics; it is often defeated by the Deva, it has a fiery temper, it is resentful and jealous, it wields great power, it has high capabilities yet longs for a chaotic world, it is suspicious by nature and often suspects that Buddha sides with the Devas. Murong Fu’s characteristics are very much similar; he is Xiao(Qiao) Feng’s arch-nemesis by being the ‘Southern Murong’ in ‘Northern Qiao Feng, Southern Murong’ (北乔峰南慕容), he is defeated by Xiao Feng, he is full of jealousy and contempt, he is the heir to the throne of the Kingdom of Yan, he is well-known for his trademark move ‘returning you with your own way’ (以彼之道, 还施彼身) by killing others with their own trademark martial arts techniques, he fears the world would not be chaotic enough for the time to restoring his kingdom, he is suspicious of his own followers who eventually died at his own hands. Also, he has the beautiful Wang Yuyan, his cousin, who tries vainly to win his heart, but he has no feelings for her, just like the Asura who has beautiful maidens but lusts for luxuries instead.
Another representation of the Asura is Wang Yuyan, as its female version. Wang Yuyan is naturally beautiful and spent her life in an isolated manor away from human society until she met Duan Yu. She was just like a ‘fairy sister’ to Duan Yu, who fell head over heels in love with her on first sight. However, she was only desperately trying to win the heart of her unfeeling cousin Murong Fu, until when she realized that Duan Yu was the one who truly loved her when he showed that he was willing to die for her. Together with Duan Yu, they seemed like a ‘heavenly couple’ in the novel.
Jiu Mozhi is said to represent the Garuda. He was the royal advisor of Tubo and an accomplished martial artist. He was at odds with the other monasteries such as Shaolin and Tian Long. Duan Yu, the Naga or dragon, is his prey, as Duan Yu holds the key to mastering the ‘’Liu Mai Shen Jian’ (六脉神剑). He seeks to ‘devour’ all kinds of martial arts(poison) and emerge as the most powerful martial artist. Eventually, he went into a state of having lost his mind after practicing the martial arts wrongly as he sought to master them quickly, and was on the verge of death. His suffering was as though like he was on fire. However, Jiu Mozhi was spared death unlike the Garuda as he managed to pass his inner energy(poison) to Duan Yu, henceforth losing his martial arts prowess. He finally became enlightened after his close encounter with death and repented from his past wrongdoings, becoming a ‘gigantic golden bird’ like Yue Fei.
Another representation of the Garuda is Murong Fu. Murong Fu was an unscrupulous and evil individual who used all means to restore his kingdom, ranging from killing his own followers to acknowledging the evil Duan Yanqing as his foster father. He had accumulated much ‘venom’ in him from his evil doings, but too was spared death like Jiu Mozhi, but was forever in suffering yet oblivious to it when he eventually became insane
The Kinnara is said to be represented by A Zi. A Zi was one of the two closest women to Xiao Feng, with the other being her sister A Zhu, so if Xiao Feng represents the Deva, then she is obviously the Kinnara. A Zi grew up in a harsh environment as being a member of the evil Xingsu Sect. She had frequent mood swings and had an unpredictable temperament. She was apparently human as she had two sides; a side of her showing her sadism, cruelty and cunning, while the other side showing her naïve and strong desire to win Xiao Feng’s heart. No one could ever understand her, even when she leapt off the cliff to her death clutching on to Xiao Feng’s dead body.
A Zhu is said to represent the Gandharva. If Xiao Feng is the Deva, then A Zhu is obviously the Gandharva, one of the Deva’s music deities, as she is one of two closest women to Xiao Feng, with the other being her sister A Zi. A Zhu is an expert in disguise, fitting the description of being ‘interchanging and unpredictable’, and was first introduced in the novel as being in disguise. Duan Yu had discovered that she was a woman in disguise due to the fragrant scent from her body.
Xu Zhu is said to represent the Mahoraga as he was just like a belly-gliding earthly serpent due to his status as an ordinary monk from Shaolin Monastery. However, he was also kind-hearted, honest and naïve by nature, which made him oblivious to all kinds of ‘earthly temptations’, thus allowing him to attain ‘enlightenment’ more easily by becoming a powerful martial artist. He managed to ‘salvage his past’ when he was reunited for the first and last time with his parents. He also became an ‘earthly serpent deity’ or earthly dragon of equal status as the Naga or heavenly dragon represented by Duan Yu, as he became the master of Lingjiu Palace (灵鹫宫) with several minor sects under his command and also the prince consort of the Kingdom of Western Xia when he married the princess.
A Zi is also said to be a representation of the Mahoraga. She was cruel, sadistic and cunning by nature, just like a venomous snake in human form.
|1||青衫磊落險峰行||A garment of green walks openheartedly among precarious peaks|
|2||玉壁月華明||A cliff of jade reflects the magnificence of the moon|
|3||馬疾香幽||A swift horse, a secluded fragrance|
|4||崖高人遠||A high precipice, a faraway man|
|5||微步轂紋生||A figure finely marked by delicate steps|
|6||誰家子弟誰家院||Which family does the child come from, whose courtyard is it?|
|7||無計悔多情||Without enumerating one's regrets, affection abounds|
|8||虎嘯龍吟||The tiger roars, the dragon bellows|
|9||換巢鸞鳳||The phoenix exchanges its nest with another fabulous bird|
|10||劍氣碧煙橫||Swords of energy intersect intensely in bluish smoke|
|11||向來癡||Infatuated all along|
|12||從此醉||Intoxicated from now on|
|13||水榭聽香 指點群豪戲||In the water pavilion, the beauty directs the play of extraordinary men|
|14||劇飲千杯男兒事||Drinking a thousand cups is the affair of men|
|15||杏子林中 商略平生義||In the forest of apricots, the righteousness of a lifetime is outlined|
|16||昔時因||The accords of the past|
|17||今日意||The intentions of the present|
|18||胡漢恩仇 須傾英雄淚||The gratitudes and grievances of the foreign man exhaust the tears of the hero|
|19||雖萬千人吾往矣||Though men in thousands upon ten thousands head for me|
|20||悄立雁門, 絕壁無餘字||Affection stands at the Gate of Wild Geese, without any other words on the precipice|
|21||千里茫茫若夢||A thousand li seem as indistinct as a dream|
|22||雙眸粲粲如星||A pair of eyes shine as bright as the stars|
|23||塞上牛羊空許約||An empty promise is made with the cows and goats of the northern lands|
|24||燭畔鬢雲有舊盟||An old alliance is found beside the candle and amidst the hair|
|25||莽蒼踏雪行||In the hazy mistiness, a journey is taken through the snow|
|26||赤手屠熊搏虎||To kill the bear and seize the tiger with one's bare hands|
|27||金戈蕩寇鏖兵||To sweep away bandits and battle armies with one's golden halberd|
|28||草木殘生顱鑄鐵||The grass and trees have a wretched existence, a skull is cast in iron|
|29||蟲豸凝寒掌作冰||The legless creature of legend has a coagulating chill, a palm brings forth ice|
|30||揮灑縛豪英||To be scattered and sprinkled that outstanding men be bound|
|31||輸贏成敗 又爭由人算||To win or to lose, success or failure, it's not something man can calculate|
|32||且自逍遙沒誰管||Loosening up a little, managed by no one|
|33||奈天昏地暗 鬥轉星移||Enduring the darkening sky and gloomy earth, the revolving constellations and shifting stars|
|34||風驟緊 縹緲峰頭雲亂||Sudden winds are gathering, clouds are rioting at the head of Fuzzy Peak|
|35||紅顏彈指老 刹那芳華||Rosy face claiming to be elderly, a transient state of fragrant beauty|
|36||夢裏真 真語真幻||A surreal dream, real conversation mixed with reality and hallucination|
|37||同一笑 到頭萬事俱空||With the same laughter, all things turned out empty in the end|
|38||糊塗醉 情長計短||Drunken stupidity, with much affection but little craft|
|39||解不了 名韁系嗔貪||Cannot loosen up, the frustration and greed that comes with fame|
|40||卻試問 幾時把癡心斷||But to try asking, when can a foolish heart break loose|
|41||燕雲十八飛騎 奔騰如虎風煙舉||Eighteen flying stallions from the Manchurian Steppes, dashing swiftly like a tiger, wind and smoke rising|
|42||老魔小丑 豈堪一擊 勝之不武||Old devil and little clown, how can they endure but a single blow, it's a win without the need to fight|
|43||王霸雄圖 血海深恨 盡歸塵土||The grandiose scheme to become an emperor, the deep hatred awash in a sea of blood, all turned into dust and earth|
|44||念枉求美眷 良緣安在||Foolishly seeking a lovely marriage, but where is the prime destiny?|
|45||枯井底 污泥處||At the bottom of a dried well, amongst filthy soil|
|46||酒罷問君三語||After some alcohol, kindly ask Sir three questions|
|47||為誰開 茶花滿路||For whom they blossomed, tea flowers covered the road|
|48||王孫落魄 怎生消得 楊枝玉露||The prince falls into hard times, how can he digest the willowy ambrosia of the bodhisattva|
|49||敝屣榮華 浮雲生死 此身何懼||Set aside all wealth and glory, these floating vapor of life and death, what can possibly scare this body and soul?|
|50||教單于折箭 六軍辟易 奮英雄怒||Teaching the Khan to break an arrow, the six armies retreated, the heroes angered|
Note: Ding Chunqiu ranks his disciples by skill rather than seniority. The disciples are allowed to fight each other to improve their rank. As the result, the ranking of Xing Su Sect's disciples changes over time. A Zi spends a brief few minutes as the eldest disciple with Xiao Feng's secret help.
In the early chapters of the novel, Duan Yu met a young girl called Zhong Ling, who grew in affection for him. Both of them ran into some trouble and Zhong Ling was captured and held hostage. In order to rescue her, Duan Yu ventures to Zhong Ling's home to seek help and he met Mu Wanqing. On the way to Zhong Ling's home, and before he met her parents and Mu Wanqing, Duan Yu had a strange encounter. He accidentally fell off a cliff and found his way into a cave. Inside the cave, he discovered a statue of a beautiful woman, whom he respectfully addressed as 'fairy sister'. He followed some instructions left on the statue and kowtowed a thousand times before the statue. Coincidentally, he discovered two martial arts manuals, the manuals for learning 'Ling Bo Wei Bu'(a style of qinggong) and 'Hua Gong Da Fa'(a skill used for sucking others' energy). These skills later proved useful in self-defence when Duan Yu was confronted by enemies.
Although Mu Wanqing mistreated him in the beginning due to the mentality that men are not be trusted imposed on her by her teacher, she fell in love with him and under the threat of Nan Hai E Shen who tried to violate her, the two were engaged. Although Duan Yu was attracted by her beauty, he did not love her or treat their relationship seriously. It was later revealed that both Zhong Ling and Mu Wanqing, as a result of Duan Yu's father's previous love affairs, were actually his half-sisters. The news devastated Mu Wanqing and she became extremely upset. Zhong Ling learnt about it much later and the news did not affect her as much due to her personality and young age.
Duan Yu became seriously ill after Mu Wanqing left due to problems with the energy flow in his body, and his uncle Duan Zhengming, the Emperor of Dali, brought him to Tianlong Monastery for treatment. At that time, Jiu Mozhi, the royal advisor of Tubo came to Tianlong Monastery to demand the martial arts manual for learning 'Liu Mai Shen Jian' under the pretext of paying a visit. The monk of Tianlong Monastery held off Jiu Mozhi in a martial arts duel, while Duan Yu was forced to memorise everything written in the manual at the same time. After Duan Yu had memorised all, the manual was burnt. Jiu Mozhi was furious about it but he kidnapped Duan Yu later after he discovered that Duan Yu had memorised everything written on the manual. Jiu Mozhi brought Duan Yu to the Central Plains, claiming that he would use Duan Yu as a sacrifice to his deceased friend Murong Bo, whom he had promised a long time ago to bring the 'Liu Mai Shen Jian' manual and burn it in front of the latter's tomb as an offering to his spirit.
It was there that Duan Yu met A Zhu and A Bi, servants of the Murong Family, who helped him escape from the clutches of Jiu Mozhi. Later, he went with them to the Mantuo Manor, where he chanced upon Wamg Yuyan, a beautiful young girl who resembled the statue he saw in the cave. He immediately fell madly in love with her, and sought every opportunity to be close to her. Unfortunately for him, Wang Yuyan was equally obsessed with her cousin Murong Fu. Later, Duan Yu left Wang Yuyan reluctantly and happened to meet Qiao Feng. Both of them had a drinking contest, to see who could drink the most wine before getting drunk. They were equally matched and neither was drunk after having drank numerous jugs of wine, although Duan Yu had actually cheated by using his inner energy and 'Liu Mai Shen Jian' skill to force the wine out of his body from his fingertips. They also had a racing contest to see whose qinggong was better, but were equally matched also. Eventually, both of them became sworn brothers and Duan Yu followed Qiao Feng to the Beggars' Sect meeting.
After the meeting where Qiao Feng's true ethnicity was revealed, a group of warriors from Western Xia used a kind of special drug to make everyone present unconscious after sniffing its scent, except for Qiao Feng who had left. Duan Yu, being immune to all kinds of poison after having swallowed the Zhu Ha, was unaffected and he seized Wang Yuyan, who was also present, and fled from the scene. They were pursued by the Western Xia warriors and they ran into a mysterious Western Xia warrior. This mysterious warrior was later revealed to be actually Murong Fu in disguise. Also, Duan Yu and A Zhu, disguised themselves as Murong Fu and Qiao Feng respectively to rescue the members of the Beggars' Sect held captive by the Western Xia warriors.
Duan Yu appeared again in the later chapters of the novel at Leigu Mountain where Xu Zhu’s storyline begins. He continued to follow Xu Zhu as Xu Zhu had strange encounters one after another. Both of them became sworn brothers after Xu Zhu inherited the position of the ruler of the Lingjiu Palace. Later, in the truth-revealing showdown at Shaolin Monastery, Duan Yu fought alongside Qiao Feng and Xu Zhu, whom he had became sworn brothers with, against the powerful antagonists You Tanzhi(aka Zhuang Juxian), Ding Chunqiu and Murong Fu.
Towards the end of the novel, Wang Yuyan realised that Duan Yu was the one who actually loved her, and that she had in fact wasted much of her time on being obsessed with her cousin Murong Fu, who had no feelings for her at all. As the plot continues, when Duan Yu's parents and all of Duan Zhengchun's concubines were captured and about to be killed by Murong Fu, Duan Yu learnt that Wang Yuyan was also a daughter of Duan Zhengchun, which meant that he was also her half-brother - devastating news for Duan Yu. However, with her dying breath, his mother (Dao Baifeng, told him that he was in fact not the biological son of Duan Zhengchun, but an offspring of the leader of the 'Four Evils', Duan Yanqing, due to a one-night stand. Both Dao Baifeng and Duan Zhengchun committed suicide eventually. Now that the truth had been revealed, the ladies whom Duan Yu had met in the novel were no longer his half-siblings, but rather as second cousins. According to Dali's tradition, he could now marry them.
In the end, Duan Yu became the Emperor of Dali after the death of the Duan Zhengchun and the abdication of Duan Zhengming, and made Wang Yuyan his empress. By the Third Edition, Duan Yu realised at the end, that he was in love with the statue and not Wang Yuyan. Wang Yuyan destroyed the statue to free him of his obsession and then returned to her cousin, Murong Fu. Duan Yu realized Mu Wanqing was the one who loved him the most, so he made her his Imperial Consort. He also married Zhong Ling and made her a Consort along with a maid given to him by the princess.
Eventually, he was elected chief and led the Beggars’ Sect well, leading it to greater heights and making achievements, which surpassed those of their predecessors. Subsequently, the deputy chief of the Beggars’ Sect, Ma Dayuan, was mysteriously murdered and had died under his own trademark martial arts technique. At first, everyone suspected that Murong Fu was the murderer, as Murong Fu was infamous for his ’returning you with your own way’. Qiao Feng went to Suzhou to investigate the murder, and met Duan Yu there. Initially, Qiao Feng mistook Duan Yu as Murong Fu, and decided to have a drinking contest with him. Both of them were equally matched as neither was drunk after having drank numerous jars of wine, and also in a race to see whose qinggong was better. Both of them became sworn brothers after that.
Later, Qiao Feng went to attend the Beggars’ Sect meeting in Xingzi Forest, with Duan Yu accompanying him. At the meeting, it seemed that everyone was rather against Qiao Feng and that the meeting was a plot against him. It seemed that something which would affect the Beggars’ Sect greatly was about to happen. Four of the elders were plotting to kill him and they eventually confessed. According to the rules of the sect, anyone within the sect who plots against the chief will be sentenced to death. Qiao Feng stopped the elders from committing suicide by willingly plunging the executing knives into his own body, shedding blood in order to spare the elders’ lives, on account that these elders had contributed greatly to the sect and were extremely loyal. According to the rules of the sect, anyone sentenced to death could be granted a special pardon from death if the chief is willing to shed his blood for him. It was eventually revealed that the elders had plotted against Qiao Feng because Qiao Feng was not a Han Chinese, but a Qidan. In those days, the Song Empire(predominantly Han Chinese) and the Liao Empire(ruled by the Qidan) were involved in several wars. Hence, the Han Chinese tend to harbour intense hatred and resentment towards the Qidan. Quan Guanqing, an evil individual within the sect, seized the opportunity to stir up anti-Qidan feelings within the sect and cause everyone to turn against Qiao Feng, and denounce Qiao Feng as a barbarian, saying that the position of chief would not be taken up by a Qidan. Also, Qiao Feng was blamed for the death of Ma Dayuan as Ma Dayuan was the only one who knew the secret of Qiao Feng’s heritage. Qiao Feng would not believe that he was a Qidan, but he abandoned the position of chief eventually and left to verify his heritage, stating that he would not return until he had confirmed that he was Qidan.
Later, those present in Xingzi Forest were taken into captive by a group of Western Xia warriors. Qiao Feng managed to rescue A Zhu and A Bi, who were also taken into captive. Unknown to him, A Zhu and Duan Yu had disguised themselves as Qiao Feng and Murong Fu respectively to rescue the captives. Thus, when Qiao Feng appeared at where the captives were held, he was surprised when the captives thanked him for rescuing them. Qiao Feng claimed that he did not rescue them and left. Later, he went home to find his parents but found them to be murdered. Later, he tried to sneak into Shaolin Monastery to look for his mentor, but his mentor had suffered a serious injury from an attack by an unknown attacker and was on the verge of dying. His mentor’s dying words surprised him and later some of the monks claimed that they saw that Qiao Feng was the attacker. Now, everyone saw Qiao Feng as a cold-blooded murderer who finally showed his true colours after discovering his own heritage. Coincidentally, he met A Zhu at Shaolin Monastery who was seriously wounded after attempting to steal the ‘Yi Jin Jing’ manual and saved her.
Later, Qiao Feng discovered that there was a ‘Heroes’ Meeting’ being held at Juxian Manor, in which all prominent characters in the martial arts world were invited to discuss a plan to deal with the new threat which had emerged; Qiao Feng. Qiao Feng went to the meeting without showing any sign of fear although the meeting was meant to be a discussion on how to get rid of him. In fact, Qiao Feng was there to look for Divine Doctor Xue, a famous doctor who could cure all kinds of illnesses and injuries, to request for him to cure A Zhu. The heroes present at the meeting confronted Qiao Feng with hostility, leaving Qiao Feng no choice but to severe all ties with his old friends and those who previously had dealings with him by drinking a toast with each of them to end their friendship. After that, a fierce fight ensued, in which Qiao Feng emerged victorious, defeating all who stood in his way and killing several heroes. Qiao Feng was surrounded by the heroes but was saved by a mysterious hooded man dressed in black.
The mysterious rescuer later left Qiao Feng and Qiao Feng set off to verify his heritage as a Qidan. He went to Yan Pass and finally verifed that he was a Qidan, when he saw the carvings on a rock left behind by his biological father before he committed suicide. He renamed himself Xiao Feng to reflect his heritage and also met A Zhu there, who had fully recovered and had escaped from Juxian Manor in disguise. Qiao Feng and A Zhu went to look for the witnesses who were present then at Xingzi Forest to testify that Qiao Feng was a Qidan. These witnesses were actually involved in a fight thirty years ago at Yan Pass. According to them, they had received news that a Qidan spy was planning to infiltrate into Song territory to steal martial arts manuals from Shaolin Temple and bring them back to Liao. Hence, they laid in ambush and attacked a Qidan family passing by. Later, they realised that they had been deceived and had wrongly caused the deaths of the Qidan couple. Full of remorse, they decided to raise the Qidan couple’s child as one of their own. That Qidan child was said to be the infant Qiao Feng. Strangely, these witnesses were found to have been mysteriously murdered every time Qiao Feng went to find them. Before their deaths, these witnesses were unwilling to reveal the identity of their leader, whom Qiao Feng considered to be the one responsible for the deaths of his parents and the prime suspect behind the mysterious murders. During the search for the leader, Qiao Feng and A Zhu gradually fell in love with each other.
Eventually, they traced all the clues to Ma Dayuan’s widow, Kang Min. A Zhu disguised herself as Bai Shijing to trick Kang Min into revealing the identity of the leader. Kang Min claimed that the leader was Duan Zhengchun. Qiao Feng then set off to find Duan Zhengchun and found him at Xiaojing Lake. Xiao Feng confronted Duan Zhengchun and dealt him with a fierce blow. Later, he was rather shocked when he discovered that the Duan Zhengchun he had confronted was actually A Zhu in disguise. A Zhu was in fact a daughter of Duan Zhengchun, and she did it in order to save her father. Qiao Feng regretted bitterly but was too late and A Zhu died. Feeling remorseful over the tragedy, he decided to watch over A Zhu's younger sister, A Zi as he had promised A Zhu before she died.
Qiao Feng was rather unhappy with A Zi as she was a very selfish, sadistic and annoying girl who always got into trouble and had to involve himself to resolve the disputes. However, Qiao Feng tried his best to look after A Zi and guide her towards goodness from evil. Qiao Feng brought A Zi to Changbai Mountain, far away from Song territory, to search for a cure after she was severely injured in a fight. There, he met the chieftain of the Nüzhen, Wanyan Aguda, and became fast friends with him. Qiao Feng and A Zi stayed with the Nüzhen for quite some time and A Zi gradually recovered. Once, Qiao Feng happened to meet the ruler of the Liao Empire, Yelü Hongji and they became sworn brothers. Qiao Feng and A Zi then left the Nüzhen to live with the Qidan, where Qiao Feng felt much more at home after being faced with hostility by the Han Chinese. Qiao Feng also helped Yelü Hongji put down a rebellion and was rewarded by being made a noble. Although Qiao Feng was now a powerful noble of the Liao Empire, he still treated his subordinates equally and did not abuse his power, thus earning the respect of the Qidan. A Zi, on the other hand, was made a princess. A Zi, being selfish and sadistic in nature, mistreated her surbordinates and instilled fear in the people. Once, A Zi happened to find some interest in You Tanzhi after he failed to assassinate Qiao Feng. You Tanzhi was later captured under A Zi’s orders and was used by A Zi for her sadistic purposes. You Tanzhi, however, succumbed to A Zi and willingly served her.
Eventually, Qiao Feng returned to Song to attend the meeting called by the Beggars’ Sect at Shaolin Monastery for the election of a leader for all martial artists. His appearance shocked everyone present as no news had been heard about him for a long time. There, Qiao Feng met his sworn brother Duan Yu again, who had became sworn brothers with Xu Zhu. Three of them renounced their oaths again and became sworn brothers. They fought alongside each other against powerful opponents like Ding Chunqiu, Murong Fu and You Tanzhi(now known as Zhuang Juxian). They defeated their opponents and the mysterious hooded man dressed in black who had rescued Qiao Feng from Juxian Manor appeared. It was there where all the truths behind the mysterious murders were brought to light. In fact, the mysterious hooded man in black was Qiao Feng’s biological father Xiao Yuanshan. Xiao Yuanshan had in fact survived after jumping off the cliff in despair after the death of his beloved wife in the ambush at Yan Pass thirty years ago. He was in hiding these years in the library of Shaolin Monastery, reading martial arts manuals and learning them, becoming a master of martial arts, while waiting patiently for the time to take revenge. He was in fact the one behind the mysterious murders for which Qiao Feng was wrongly accused of, as he admitted to having killed those in order to prevent his son from learning the truth until the time is ripe.
According to Xiao Yuanshan, the leader of the ambush group who attacked him and his family thirty years ago was the head abbot of Shaolin Monastery, Xuan Ci. The reason why those who were involved in the attack refused to disclose any details about the identity of their leader was that their leader was a reputable martial artist and could not afford to have his reputation to be tarnished. In revenge, Xiao Yuanshan had actually kidnapped the illegitimate son of Xuan Ci and Ye Er Niang and left the child in the garden of Shaolin, allowing the infant to be raised by Xuan Ci himself without knowledge that the infant was his own flesh and blood. The infant was Xu Zhu, and Xuan Ci was surprised to know that Xu Zhu was actually his illegitimate son without him knowing all these years as he oversaw the growth and development of Xu Zhu from an infant.
Together in hiding with Xiao Yuanshan in the library of Shaolin was another mysterious hooded man who too was secretly reading martial arts manuals there, later revealed to be Murong Bo, father of Murong Fu, whom everyone thought had been dead for some time. Xuan Ci confessed to having sinned by having broken the vow of celibacy when he fathered a child, as well as causing the death of Xiao Yuanshan’s wife. However, Xuan Ci also pointed out that he had been instigated to attack the couple at Yan Pass thirty years ago, after being provided with false information. According to him, Murong Bo had told him that the Qidan were intending to send a spy to infiltrate into Shaolin Monastery to steal martial arts manuals, causing Xiao Yuanshan and his family to be mistaken as the spies and attacked for no reason. Murong Bo’s purpose of providing the false information was to incite war between Song and Liao. After the truth was revealed, there was a fight in the library of Shaolin Temple, between the two vengeful parties; Xiao Yuanshan and Qiao(Xiao) Feng against Murong Bo, Murong Fu and Jiu Mozhi. This fight was eventually stopped by a mysterious Sweeper Monk whose martial arts abilities far surpassed those present. Xiao Yuanshan and Murong Bo eventually decided to forget their past hatred and disputes and became the disciples of the Sweeper Monk, who would guide them on the path of Buddhism.
After the truth had come to light and Qiao Feng’s name had been cleared, Qiao Feng spent some time with his sworn brothers before returning to Liao. Upon his return to Liao, he learnt that the Liao ruler was planning to launch an attack on Song, and wanted Qiao Feng to lead the army. Qiao Feng refused to lead the army as he still had feelings for the Han Chinese who raised him and nurtured him, and also not to break the vow he had made, which was to never kill a Han Chinese ever in his life. The Liao ruler was rather disappointed that Qiao Feng was unwilling to lead the army, but was afraid that Qiao Feng might try to stop him from attacking Song, thus he devised a scheme to immobilise Qiao Feng by sending him wine spiked with a drug, through the hands of an unsuspecting A Zi. Qiao Feng was later held captive in Liao but A Zi managed to escape back to Song. A Zi sought help from Song to rescue Qiao Feng and there was overwhelming response. A group of heroes who were impressed with Qiao Feng’s heroism decided to infiltrate into Liao and rescue Qiao Feng, which included his sworn brothers and members of various sects.
Qiao Feng was successfully rescued from the prison in Liao, but the heroes were pursued by Liao troops as they made their way back to Song. Qiao Feng intervened and charged his way into the heart of the troops’ formation, capturing the Liao ruler and holding him hostage. Qiao Feng was unwilling to kill the Liao ruler Yelü Hongji, whom he had been sworn brothers with, so he forced Yelü Hongji to make a vow never to attack Song ever in his life. The Liao ruler had no choice but to order his troops to retreat back to Liao. Qiao Feng eventually committed suicide, as only his death would prevent the war between Song and Liao from occurring．
Xu Zhu’s storyline only begins in the later chapters of the novel. He was first introduced as being a monk from Shaolin, described to having a kind-hearted and submissive nature. He believed strongly in following the Buddhist code and refused to break it even when faced with life-threatening situations. He followed his seniors and elders to Leigu Mountain to challenge to break a strange Weiqi formation on the invitation of Su Xinghe, master of the Long Ya(Deaf and mute) Sect, in which all the members of the sect were either deaf or mute or both. There, he accidentally broke the formation with a random move in order to prevent another from being driven into insanity, as the formation would cause rather strange effects on people, depending on their personality.
Upon having broken the formation, Su Xinghe brought Xu Zhu to see his master, Wu Ya Zi. Wu Ya Zi was the master of the Xiaoyao Sect. Wu Ya Zi was not very impressed when he saw Xu Zhu, because Xu Zhu did not meet his expectations as being good-looking and intelligent. Nevertheless, Wu Ya Zi could not go back on his word as he had once intended to make the one who managed to break the Weiqi formation set up by him his successor. Hence, Wu Ya Zi purged Xu Zhu’s body of the Shaolin martial arts Xu Zhu had previously learnt and passed on his internal energy, accumulated over 70 years to Xu Zhu. Although Xu Zhu was unwilling to become Wu Ya Zi’s disciple, he had no choice but to oblige in order to fulfill the latter’s dying wish. Wu Ya Zi entrusted Xu Zhu with the task of tracking down Ding Chunqiu, his former disciple who had betrayed him, and kill him. Although Xu Zhu had lost all his Shaolin martial arts, his inner energy was greatly enhanced, but not very useful without any martial arts to allow him to bring out his power.
Later, Xu Zhu encountered Tian Shan Tong Lao when he saved her from being killed by a group of her subordinates who were planning a rebellion. Tian Shan Tong Lao was the ruler of the Ling Jiu Palace, and oppressed those under her rule, which included several leaders of minor sects. She had used the ‘sheng si fu’ to brand those under her rule, such that they would suffer in agony annually if not given the antidote, which would decrease their pain of suffering for a year. Hence, those who rebelled against her would die a painful death. This incurred much hatred and resentment from those under her rule and they secretly planned a rebellion. This group had captured a young girl, presumably a servant of Tian Shan Tong Lao, from Ling Jiu Palace and had tried to force her to reveal the whereabouts of Tian Shan Tong Lao. As they were planning to kill her after failing to obtain any information from her, Xu Zhu dashed out, grabbed her and they escaped. Unknown to Xu Zhu, this young girl was in fact Tian Shan Tong Lao in her young form.
Besides facing rebellion from those under her rule, Tian Shan Tong Lao was also being targeted by her disciple sister Li Qiushui, who was the empress dowager of Western Xia. She had been cursed to remain eternally in a child-like form, and she needed to drink fresh blood and practice diligently for 96 days to regain her strength, which she loses every 30 years because of the curse. Xu Zhu was unwilling to see her die at the hands of her enemy, although he was totally opposed to some of the things she did. Hence, Xu Zhu decided to protect Tian Shan Tong Lao from Li Qiushui for the time being.
Eventually, Xu Zhu and Tian Shan Tong Lao hid themselves in an ice cellar in the imperial palace of Western Xia to avoid Li Qiushui’s constant attacks. Tian Shan Tong Lao had not regained her power yet and Xu Zhu was not experienced enough so they were no match for Li Qiushui. While in hiding, Tian Shan Tong Lao tried to force the reluctant Xu Zhu to learn all her martial arts. Xu Zhu refused to learn as he knew that after he learnt, Tian Shan Tong Lao would use him as to kill Li Qiushui. Xu Zhu followed the Buddhist code very strictly, abstaining from consuming meat and wine, as well as from having immoral thoughts. Tian Shan Tong Lao put in a lot of effort to force him to break the code and eventually Xu Zhu succumbed to temptation when Tian Shan Tong Lao made him sleep with a mysterious naked woman every night in the ice cellar. Throughout the duration of their stay in the ice cellar, Xu Zhu and the woman gradually fell in love with each other. Xu Zhu also willingly consumed meat and wine, and was considered to have sinned.
After Tian Shan Tong Lao had regained her powers and Xu Zhu had mastered all the martial arts taught to him by her, becoming a powerful martial artist now, she had her final showdown with Li Qiushui, which ended with both of them injuring each other severely and were on the verge of death. Before their deaths, it was revealed that both of them were Wu Ya Zi’s disciple sisters and were infatuated with Wu Ya Zi, but Wu Ya Zi had no feelings for either of them and loved another disciple sister instead. Hence, the two women realized their folly and were amused by the fact that they had actually fought each other for decades over the love for the same man, who turned out to have no feelings for either of them. They forgot their past disputes and died together. Before the death of Tian Shan Tong Lao, she appointed Xu Zhu as her successor to the throne of Ling Jiu Palace. Xu Zhu then went back to Ling Jiu Palace to put down the rebellion and appease his new angry subordinates by removing the ‘Sheng Si Fu’ from each of them. It was there where Xu Zhu and Duan Yu became sworn brothers.
Xu Zhu did not feel very comfortable living in Ling Jiu Palace despite being treated like an emperor by his servants and he missed the days when he was still a monk in Shaolin. Hence, he decided to return to Shaolin and become a monk again. Upon returning to Shaolin Monastery he met his master and told him everything he had been through, including the times when he actually broke the Buddhist code willingly. However, his servants had followed him in secret to protect him from being ill-treated by the monks. It was then when Jiu Mozhi came to Shaolin Monastery to challenge Shaolin. Xu Zhu accepted the challenge on behalf on Shaolin and defeated Jiu Mozhi, while his seniors were rather surprised with his sudden improvement in martial arts. Shortly after that, the great battle at Shaolin started when the Beggars’ Sect arrived, led by their new chief Zhuang Juxian, who was actually You Tanzhi, under the control of Quan Guanqing. There, all the heroes of the martial arts world were assembled. Xu Zhu, along with his sworn brothers Qiao Feng(who had returned from Liao) and Duan Yu, faced their powerful opponents Ding Chunqiu, Zhuang Juxian and Murong Fu. They won the battle and Ding Chunqiu was forced into submission when Xu Zhu implanted the ‘Sheng Si Fu’ into his body. Ding Chunqiu was fully subdued and he had no choice but to be imprisoned in Shaolin to reflect on his past evil doings, and would only be given the antidote if he repented.
Also, it was there where the truths behind the mysterious murders, for which Qiao Feng was accused of, were revealed. At the same time, Xu Zhu’s true parentage was also revealed. He was in fact the illegitimate child of the head abbot of Shaolin, Xuan Ci, and Ye Er Niang, one of the ‘Four Evils’. Xuan Ci was actually the leader of the ambush group which attacked Xiao Yuanshan and his family thirty years ago, and Xiao Yuanshan, who had survived after a suicide attempt, had plotted revenge while in hiding. Xu Zhu was kidnapped as an infant by Xiao Yuanshan and placed in the garden of Shaolin. The monks there found him and decided to raise him as one of their own, and Xuan Ci did not know that the infant was his own son. However, Ye Er Niang had recognised her son when he saw all the joss-stick burn marks on Xu Zhu’s back, which was done by her in memory of her illegitimate lover, who was a monk. Both Xu Zhu and his father were punished to be flogged in public as punishment for having broken the Buddhist code. Xuan Ci committed suicide after the punishment was complete and Ye Er Niang did the same. Xu Zhu was shocked by the sudden change of events and deeply grieved by the fact that his parents had died shortly after they were reunited as a family.
After that, Xu Zhu was no longer a member of Shaolin and took up his post as the leader of the Xiaoyao Sect and ruler of Ling Jiu Palace. Xu Zhu followed Duan Yu to Western Xia to take part in a contest to win the hand in marriage of the princess. There, it was revealed that the princess of Western Xia was actually the mysterious naked woman whom Xu Zhu slept with during his stay with Tian Shan Tong Lao in the ice cellar. They were happy to be reunited and were married, with Xu Zhu becoming the son-in-law of the king of Western Xia.
Xu Zhu and Duan Yu later participated in rescue mission to rescue their eldest sworn brother Qiao Feng, who had been imprisoned in Liao after refusing to lead the army to attack Song. However, they were pursued by Liao troops and the Liao ruler agreed to withdraw his troops after being held hostage and forced to make a vow never to attack Song again. Qiao Feng committed suicide as only his death would bring an end to the war between Song and Liao. The novel ended on a happy note for Xu Zhu’s storyline, with him living happily ever after with the princess he had married.
|Year||Production||Title of Adaptation (if different)||Notes||Trivia|
|1982||TVB (Hong Kong)||The main cast includes: Bryan Leung as Qiao Feng,|
Felix Wong as Xu Zhu,
Kent Tong as Duan Yu,
Patrick Tse as Duan Zhengchun,
Wong Han Sau as A Zhu/Zhong Ling,
Shek Sau as Murong Fu,
Idy Chan as Wang Yuyan,
Sharon Yeung as Mu Wanqing
|Idy Chan had played the female protagonists in several TV series adaptations of Louis Cha's wuxia novels, such as Xiao Long Nü and Huang Rong.|
|1996||TVB (Hong Kong)||The main cast includes: Felix Wong as Qiao Feng/Xiao Yuanshan,|
Benny Chan as Duan Yu,
Carman Lee as Wang Yuyan/Wang Yunluo
|Felix Wong played Xu Zhu in the 1982 adaptation.|
|2003||CCTV (Mainland China)||Heaven Dragon - the Eighth Episode||The main cast includes: Hu Jun as Qiao Feng/Xiao Yuanshan,|
Jimmy Lin as Duan Yu,
Gao Hu as Xu Zhu,
Xiu Qing as Murong Fu,
Crystal Liu as Wang Yuyan,
Liu Tao as A Zhu,
Chen Hao as A Zi,
Tong Chun Chong as Duan Zhengchun,
Shu Chang as Tian Shan Tong Lao,
Christy Chung as Kang Min,
Jiang Xin as Mu Wanqing (change to "firstname surname" format as above),
Ji Chunhua as Duan Yanqing (change to "firstname surname" format as above),
Ma Yuke as You Tanzhi (change to "firstname surname" format as above)
|Producer Zhang Jizhong had previously adapted The Legend of the Condor Heroes for CCTV to great acclaim and several of the cast were featured again in this series, such as Xiu Qing, who had played Ouyang Ke in Legend of the Condor Heroes. Tong Chun Chong's brother Kent Tong played Duan Yu in the 1982 adaptation.|
|Year||Production||Crew||Cast and notes|
|1977||Shaw Brothers (Hong Kong)||Pao Hsueh Li as director||Danny Lee as Duan Yu, Tian Ni as Mu Wanqing, Lin Chen-Chi as Zhong Ling|
|1982||Shaw Brothers (Hong Kong)||Tsui Siu Ming as director||The English title of the movie is 'Gang Master'|
|1982||Hong Kong||Xiao Sheng as director||Norman Chu as Qiao Feng, Kent Tong as Duan Yu, Felix Wong as Xu Zhu, Idy Chan as Wang Yuyan, Austin Wai as Murong Fu, Eddy Ko as Jiu Mozhi|
|1994||Hong Kong||Andy Chin as director||Brigitte Lin as Li Canghai/Li Qiushui, Gong Li as Tian Shan Tong Lao, Sharla Cheung as A Zi, Norman Chu as Ding Chunqiu, Frankie Lam as Xu Zhu|
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