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If you haven't, please read my Beginner's Guide to Wuxia for an overview of what Chinese Wuxia is.
A. Common Wuxia Terms and Phrases
- Anqi (暗器): The term translates as hidden or concealed weapons, and is commonly used to refer to projectiles. In Wuxia stories, there exists a wide variety of such projectiles too, from darts to daggers, to coins, needles, discs, etc. Some anqi could also be elaborately constructed. For example, a bejeweled box that releases a storm of needles on opening.
- Binqi (兵器): Weapon.
- Dizi (弟子): Disciple. In Chinese, the term could be used as a pronoun or a noun.
- Dianxue (点穴): Both Wuxia and actual Chinese martial arts integrate the study of acupuncture points into their techniques. Dianxue is correspondingly the art of striking such crucial areas of the human body. Executed precisely, dianxue can immobilize or weaken one’s opponent. Conversely, dianxue could also be used to heal, to contain the spread of poison, or to enhance one’s neigong.
- Jianghu (江湖): Another term for Wulin. This has a more solemn, jaded connotation.
- Lianwu (练武): The learning or practicing of Chinese martial arts. The term implies an unspoken mission of chivalry and upholding justice.
- Menpai (门派): A general Wuxia term referring to clans, factions, and sects. Note that in Chinese, the term is never used together with a name. For example, it is wrong to say “Shaolin menpai.”
- Miji (秘籍): Literally, secret manual. A recurrent trope in many Wuxia stories is the competition for manuals detailing exotic martial arts. Many heroes also gain formidable power after “accidentally” discovering such manuals.
- Mojiao (魔教): An accusatory term referring to heretic sects, evil gangs, etc. Note that such gangs seldom refer to themselves as mojiao. They tend to have actual names.
- Neigong (内功): Translated literally as internal prowess, neigong is the internal body energy all Wuxia characters seek to cultivate. It is also commonly called neili (内力) or neijia (内家). In all Wuxia stories, movies, and television series, characters with strong neigong are capable of incredible feats such as self-healing and the swift mastering of other techniques. Characters cultivating neigong are also typically shown in a seated, motionless position, with the emphasis being on invisible qi (气) manipulation. (Note: Real-life neijia Chinese martial arts emphasize connected, smooth actions. The focus is on the cultivation of the mind and spirit)
- Qinggong (轻功): Qinggong translates to lightness skill, and refers to skills meant for agility improvement. In Wuxia movies and television dramas, such skills are often exaggerated to endow users with superhuman leaps and temporary flight. Characters are also often shown easily scaling high cliffs through the use of superior qinggong.
- Shifu (师傅): Teacher or master.
- Waigong (外功): Also known as waijia (外家), waigong refers to martial arts that emphasize strength, agility, or physical hardiness. They are almost always explosive and aggressive in execution. 70s Hong Kong Wuxia movies are particularly fond of showcasing shirtless male protagonists in arduous rituals of waigong practice.
- Wulin (武林): The overall world of Chinese martial artists. It encompasses all clans and sects, unaffiliated individuals, and all interactions between these characters and factions. Also frequently interchangeable with jianghu (江湖). Note that the term differs from lulin (绿林), the latter term referring to brigands.
B. Common Wuxia Clans, Factions and Sects
In Chinese literature, particularly Wuxia stories, the suffixes of pai (派), men (门), bang (帮), jiao (教), hui (会), gong (宫), are all used to refer to sects.
There are subtle differences in meaning, though. Jiao implies some sort of religious affiliation. Bang translates to “gang” and implies a looser structure of organization. Gong means palace and is typically used to refer to factions based in a specific architecture.
Note: The following list is far from comprehensive. Listed here are famous sects, and those made famous by popular Wuxia works.
- Cihang Jingzhai (慈航静斋): A mystical faction that often appears in the novels of Hong Kong “modern” Wuxia writer, Huang Yi. The de facto leader of the righteous factions, Cihang Jingzhai consistently plays a heavy, albeit veiled hand, in restoring national peace and determining the rightful heirs to the Chinese empire.
- Diancang Pai (点苍派): Diancang Pai mostly appears in Gu Long and Liang Yushen Wuxia stories. Their disciples are usually portrayed as skilled swordsmen capable of superior qinggong.
- Emei Pai (峨嵋派): Emei Pai, named after the famous Buddhist peak in Sichuan, appears in many Wuxia movies and stories. It is always one of the orthodox sects and is typically associated with superior swordplay. In Jin Yong’s stories, Emei Pai is dominated by females and is loosely affiliated with Wudang Pai.
- Gaibang (丐帮): The Beggers’ Clan. Gaibang is prominently featured in many Wuxia novels and is often portrayed as having an unmatched network of information. They have both beggar and non-beggar followers too, the latter referred to as jinyi dizi (净衣弟子, clean-attire disciples). Often, leaders of Gaibang are among the most skilled in Wulin. Lastly, Gaibang is also frequently hailed as the largest organization in Wulin, and deeply respected because of this.
- Honghua Hui (红花会): The heroic underground movement in Jin Yong’s first novel, The Book and the Sword (书剑恩仇录). The movement was a gathering of powerful martial artists with the explicit aim of overthrowing the Qing Dynasty. The protagonist of The Book and the Sword, Chen Jialuo (陈家洛), also headed the movement.
- Huashan Pai (华山派): The actual Mount Hua is the “Western Peak” of the five holy Taoist mountains of China, and within Jin Yong’s stories, is respected as one of the strongest swordplay sect. As a testimony to the popularity of Jin Yong’s novels, many Chinese tourists to Mount Hua nowadays brave the dangerous trek uphill simply to visit locations associated with Jin Yong’s stories. One such popular location is the perilous Cliff of Penance (思过崖).
- Jinqian Bang (金钱帮): Translated as the “Money Gang,” this was an expansionist, powerful organization in Gu Long’s signature work, Duoqing Jianke Wuqing Jian (多情剑客无情剑). The gang was headed by the powerful and evil Shangguan Jinhong (上官金虹), the primary antagonist of that story.
- Kongdong Pai (空洞派): Named after one of the sacred Taoist mountain ranges of China, Kongdong Pai is usually one of the orthodox sects in Wuxia stories. In Jin Yong’s The Heaven Sword and Dragon Sabre (倚天屠龙记), it was one of the six main orthodox sects and respected for its superior fist techniques.
- Kunlun Pai (昆仑派): The actual Kunlun Mountain Range lies at the extreme western borders of China. Despite that, Kunlun Pai often appears as one of the main orthodox sects in many Wuxia stories. Like Emei and Wudang, they are respected for their superior swordplay techniques.
- Mangshan Pai (邙山派): Mangshan Pai prominently features in several Qing Dynasty stories by Liang Yusheng. It was established by Dubi Shenni (独臂神尼, the lone-arm nun), who was said to be the last surviving princess of the overthrown Ming Dynasty.
- Mingjiao (明教): In Jin Yong’s The Heaven Sword and Dragon Sabre (倚天屠龙记), Mingjiao was the primary antagonist faction in the first half of the saga. They were Zoroastrians, with top ranks populated by extremely powerful martial artists. In the second half of the saga, Mingjiao was revealed to be righteous, with the lofty aim of overthrowing the then occupying Mongolian Yuan Dynasty. Of note, the character for “Ming” is the same as that for the subsequent Ming Dynasty. The founding emperor of the Ming Dynasty also appeared in the saga as a branch leader of Mingjiao.
- Nangong Shijia (南宫世家): Nangong Shijia, or the Nangong Clan, occasionally appears in some Wuxia stories, movies, and TV series as a wealthy and powerful Wulin family. In Huang Ying’s Reincarnation (天蚕变) stories, they were infiltrated and utterly destroyed by the White Lotus Sect.
- Qingcheng Pai (青城派): Mount Qincheng is one of the holy Taoist mountains of China, located in the heart of Sichuan province. In Wuxia stories, it is usually portrayed as one of the orthodox sects, and famous for its swordplay and neigong techniques.
- Qinglong Hui (青龙会): Translated as the Green Dragon Association, this mysterious organization was mentioned in several Gu Long stories, most notably, the Seven Armaments series (七种武器). A ruthless organization, they were said to have successfully dominated all aspects of Wulin.
- Quanzhen Jiao (全真教): In real-life, Quanzhen is one of the main branches of Taoism. Under Jin Yong’s pen, though, its founder, Huang Chongyang (王重阳), became the top martial artist in Wulin. Quanzhen Jiao thus prominently features in two parts of Jin Yong’s Condor Trilogy. They were also heavily involved with the defense of the Song Dynasty against invading Mongolian forces.
- Riyue Shenjiao (日月神教): Riyue Shenjiao only appears in Jin Yong’s The Smiling, Proud Wanderer, and is the main antagonistic faction. Their cultish practices and expansionist nature earned them the infamy of a “demonic cult,” and the bulk of that saga involved their conflict with the rest of Wulin. Riyue Shenjiao was also famously headed by Ren Woxing (任我行) and Dongfang Bubai (东方不败), two of the most powerful characters to appear in Jin Yong’s stories. Lastly, Riyue Shenjiao was implied to be the remnants of Mingjiao. Riyue means sun and moon. When the Chinese characters for these words are combined, they form the character for Ming.
- Shaolin Pai (少林派): The most famous Wuxia sect of all and based on the actual Shaolin Temple in China’s Henan Province. In all Wuxia stories, Shaolin is acknowledged as the founding place of Chinese Martial Arts. Its disciples include both monks and non-ordained individuals too, the latter known as sujia dizi (俗家弟子).
- Tangmen (唐门): Also referred to as Chuannei Tangmen (川内唐门), the Tangs are a clan in Sichuan famous for their anqi making. In Gu Long stories, they are feared for their many deadly and unearthly anqi.
- Tiandi Hui (天地会): An insurgency movement that features prominently in Jin Yong’s final novel, The Duke of Mount Deer. Translated as the Society of Heaven and Earth, the actual historical Tiandi Hui is regarded as the predecessor of modern Chinese secret societies. For example, Hong Kong triads.
- Tianshan Pai (天山派): The actual Tianshan Range is located in the extreme northwest of China and is thus infrequently written about in Wuxia stories. Liang Yusheng, however, places Tianshan Pai as the leading sect of Wulin. Many of his most powerful characters hail from this sect, and are respected for their unmatched swordplay. In addition, Liang’s Tianshan Pai also possesses a legendary anqi called the Tianshan Shenmang (天山神芒). This projectile was made from a fruit unique to the Tianshan Range.
- Tianxia Hui (天下会): The primary antagonist faction in the new-age Hong Kong Wuxia comic series, Feng Yun. (风云, known as The Storm Riders in movie adaptations) While Feng Yun strictly isn’t Wuxia literature, it warrants a mention for its popularity and well-received movies.
- Wudang Pai (武当派): The most famous Taoist sect and usually portrayed as a counterpart / rival of Shaolin. Based on the real-life Mount Wudang in Hubei, China, Wudang disciples are often shown as superior in swordplay, neigong, and taiji (太极).
- Wuyue Jianpai (五岳剑派): Wuyue Jianpai is an association of five smaller sects in Jin Yong’s The Smiling, Proud Wanderer (笑傲江湖). Consisting of five sects named after the five holy Taoist mountains of China, the association was established to counter the dominance of Riyue Shenjiao. The internal conflict between these five sects formed the premise for the epic saga.
- Yihua Gong (移花宫): Yihua Gong is the primary antagonistic faction in Gu Long’s The Handsome Siblings (绝代双骄). It was headed by two sisters with phenomenal martial arts accomplishments, their deadliest skill being the ability to redirect any form of attack. Yihua literally means to switch/move a flower.
C. Most Commonly Used Historical Eras for Wuxia Stories
(This section is arranged chronologically)
- Tang Dynasty (唐朝, tang chao): The Tang Dynasty (AD 618–907) is universally regarded as one of the most prosperous periods in Imperial Chinese history. At its peak, Tang capital Chang’an was the largest and most organized city in the world. Despite this, few Wuxia sagas are set in the Tang Dynasty, the reason possibly being Wulin sects and clans are believed to have originated much later in history. Famous events during the Tang Dynasty include the ascension of Wu Zetain, the only female emperor of China, as well as the An Lushan uprising. The latter led to the prolonged decline of the dynasty.
- Song Dynasty (宋朝, song chao): While there were significant scientific and artistic advancements during the Song Dynasty (AD 960–1279), this was also a tumultuous period in Imperial Chinese history, with China constantly surrounded by hostile neighbors. In 1127, the Jurchens occupied Northern China, forcing the Song Dynasty to retreat and shift its capital southwards. A century and a half later in 1279, the remnants of the dynasty were also overrun and replaced by the Mongolian Yuan Dynasty. Wuxia stories set in this era thus often feature martial artists rising in arms against the northern invaders. The most famous works with this premise are the first two parts of Jin Yong’s Condor Trilogy (射雕三部曲), and Demi-Gods and Semi-Devils (天龙八部).
- Yuan Dynasty (元朝, yuan chao): The Yuan Dynasty (AD 1271–1368) was established by Kublai Khan after the successful invasion of China. It was in essence, a Khanate, and didn’t survive very long against Chinese resistance. Wuxia stories set in this period tend to focus on uprising efforts against the Mongolians. The most famous work with this background is undoubtedly Jin Yong’s The Heaven Sword and Dragon Sabre (倚天屠龙记).
- Ming Dynasty (明朝, ming chao): Historically, the Ming Dynasty (AD 1368–1644) was a period of exploration, global contact, and social development. China sailed the seas and made contact with numerous other civilizations. Most Wuxia sects, factions, and clans are also believed to have originated during this period. Stories happening in the later part of the Ming Dynasty additionally tend to reference actual woes suffered by the empire during those twilight years. These woes include increasingly hostile northern invaders, indifferent and terrible emperors, and the strange phenomenon of eunuchs dominating the imperial court. (Note: In Wuxia, eunuchs dominating imperial politics are often portrayed as capable of fantastic kung fu)
- Qing Dynasty (清朝, qing chao): Qing (AD 1644–1912) was the last dynasty of China, and was established after the invasion of China by the Manchus. Because of this, Wuxia stories in this period almost always involve some sort of uprising effort against the Manchurian government. Several of Liang Yusheng’s best-known works are set in this period, while Jin Yong’s first novel also revolves around a conspiracy to overthrow the Qing court. Notably, Wuxia stories seldom venture beyond the reign of the sixth Qing Emperor (Qianlong, reigned between AD 1735–1796). This is likely to preserve the medieval feel of the stories by staying away from the pre-modern age.
D. Famous Wuxia Characters
A selection of the most famous names in Wuxia stories, movies, and TV series. With an emphasis on characters from the “classic” Wuxia novels of the 1950s to the 1980s.
- Bu Jingyun (步惊云): One of the two protagonists of the popular Hong Kong Wuxia comic, Feng Yun (风云, titled as the Storm Riders in movie versions). Bu was a sullen youth taken in by the murderer of his father, and feared for his Cloud Sweeping Palm (排云掌, pai yun zhang). In the Hong Kong movie adaptation, he was portrayed by pop singer Aaron Kwok.
- Chen Jialuo (陈家洛): The title character of Jin Yong’s first novel, The Book and the Sword (书剑恩仇录). He headed the Honghua Hui, which strived to overthrow the Qing Dynasty. In the story, Chen was ultimately revealed as the half-brother of Qing Emperor Qianlong. He also attempted unsuccessfully to convince his half-sibling into restoring Han Chinese rule.
- Chu Liuxiang (楚留香): One of the most beloved characters of Taiwanese Wuxia writer Gu Long, Chu Liuxiang was a Chinese Robin hood, renowned for his qinggong and resourcefulness. Together with his band of loyal friends, he embarked on many thrilling adventures that saw him challenging the deadliest and the most feared in Wulin. In Hong Kong Wuxia TV series, Chu was also famous for his “flickering finger” technique (弹指神通). This snazzy move releases a deadly projectile from his palm with a simple finger flick.
- Fu Hongxue (傅红雪): A tragic sabre user who appeared in several Gu Long stories. Lame in one leg, epileptic, and trained by his mother to enact vengeance against Wulin, Fu was a fearsome killing machine that few could survive. His signature technique also epitomizes the terse writing style of Gu Long, a style that markedly avoids verbose descriptions of fights. In Fu Hongxue stories, hardly anyone survived one slash from him.
- Guo Jing (郭靖): One of the best-known heroes under Jin Yong’s pen, dim and stoic Guo Jing was born to Han Chinese parents but grew up among Mongolians. His righteous character eventually won him the admiration of several top martial artists, and later in the story, he was also shown to be a talented military strategist. Guo Jing featured heavily in the first two parts of Jin Yong’s Condor trilogy (射雕英雄传, 神雕侠侣); these sagas considered as must-reads in the Wuxia genre. His death also set the premise for the events in the final part of the trilogy.
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- Hua Wuque (花无缺): One of the two protagonists of Gu Long’s The Handsome Siblings (绝代双骄). Hua Wuque was separated from his twin brother at birth by the evil Yaoyue Gongzhu (邀月宫主), the latter having the intention of manipulating the two brothers into fighting to their deaths. His name translates as “flawless.”
- Huang Rong (黄蓉): Devoted wife of Guo Jing (see above) and the only daughter of a feared Wulin master. Intelligent and witty, Huang Rong was an interesting contrast to Guo Jing in the stories she appeared in. Like her husband, her death set the premise for the events in The Heaven Sword and Dragon Sabre (倚天屠龙记).
- Jin Shiyi (金世遗): One of Liang Yusheng’s most colorful male characters, Jin Shiyi accomplished what was thought to be impossible in Liang Yusheng’s Wuxia world – he successfully tamed the “evil” neigong he mastered, thus not only avoiding painful death but also reaching new heights of prowess. Of note, Jin Shiyi’s personality subtly paralleled this accomplishment. When young, he was cantankerous and antagonistic. As he matured, he became more worldly and dignified.
- Li Xunhuan (李寻欢): Li Xunhuan only appeared in person in one Gu Long story, but was made famous throughout the international Chinese community by a popular Hong Kong TV series adaptation in the 1970s. His signature technique was his flying daggers (小李飞刀). So it was written, Li never wasted a shot (例不虚发). There was no way at all to dodge his daggers, once they have left his hands.
- Long Jianfei (龙剑飞): The title character of the Rulai Shenzhang movies (如来神掌, usually translated as The Buddha’s Palm). While Rulai Shenzhang is not based on any novel, it is worth mentioning for it was one of the first Hong Kong movies to feature substantial visual effects. Till today, remakes of the movies tend to utilize heavy visual effects.
- Lü Siniang (吕四娘): The most famous of Liang Yusheng’s heroines, Lü Siniang is remembered for accomplishing the astonishing i.e. she assassinated Qing Emperor Yongzheng. Of note, this incredible “accomplishment” remains a popular myth in Chinese mass media up to today. Many romanticized dramas of the Qing period also continue to integrate this assassination into their storylines.
- Lu Xiaofeng (陆小凤): One of the most beloved heroes under Gu Long’s pen. Like Chu Liuxiang (see above), he was dashing, incredibly popular with women, and fond of intervening in Wulin crises. Lu’s defining feature was also his moustache, which earned him his nickname “four eyebrows.” Last but not least, he was feared for his Lingxi Finger (靈犀一指). This was a miraculous technique that could trap and immobilize any weapon between his fingers.
- Nian Nishang (练霓裳): Liang Yusheng’s Nian Nishang is better known as The Demoness with White Hair (白发魔女). A brigand, she fell in love with Zhuo Yihang (卓一航), a leading Wudang disciple, but the romance was impossible because of their backgrounds. Heartbroken after various tragedies and misunderstandings, Nian’s hair whitened overnight. She spent the latter part of her life as a feared recluse in the outer reaches of the Chinese empire.
- Nie Feng (聂风): One of the two protagonists of the popular Hong Kong Wuxia comic, Feng Yun (风云, titled as the Storm Riders in movie versions). Nie was a gregarious youth taken in by the murderer of his father, and renowned for his Wind Deity Kick (风神腿, feng shen tui). In the Hong Kong movie adaptation, he was portrayed by veteran actor Ekin Chen.
- Qiao Feng (乔峰): The eldest of the three protagonists of Jin Yong’s Demi-Gods and Semi-Devils (天龙八部). Qiao was a Khitan who grew up in Song Dynasty China, and before his ethnicity was exposed, he was respected for his leadership and martial arts prowess. Thereafter, he was ruthlessly persecuted and branded as a murderous barbarian. Through him, Jin Yong discussed the ambiguity of nationality and race. Some readers consider Qiao Feng to be Jin Yong’s most tragic character too.
- Wei Xiaobao (韦小宝): The title character of Jin Yong’s final novel, The Duke of Mount Deer (鹿鼎记). Among all Jin Yong’s protagonists, Wei Xiaobao stands out for never mastering any formidable kung fu. He was also uneducated, a rascal, and generally considered a lowlife. Despite these, he became heavily embroiled in politics involving the Qing Dynasty court. After threading a razor-thin path between Emperor Kangxi and insurgents for years, he vanished with his seven wives to live a life of luxury.
Xiang Shaolong (项少龙): The title character of Huang Yi’s time-traveling Wuxia epic, A Step Into the Past (寻秦记). Xiang was a 21st-century special force trooper who time traveled to Ancient China after an experiment. Utilizing knowledge from the modern era, he survived well in those times and even played a crucial role in the wars leading to the establishment of the Qin Dynasty. In the epic, it was written that real-life warlord Xiang Yu was his godson.
Xiao Longnü (小龙女): The teacher/master of Yang Guo (see below). In her story, Xiao Longnü was described as possessing an unearthly beauty. She was also stoic and formidable in skill, thus fulfilling the classic Chinese archetype of an otherworldly fairy.
Xiao Yuer (小鱼儿): One of the two protagonists in Gu Long’s The Handsome Siblings (绝代双骄). Xiao Yuer grew up in the notorious “Valley of Villains” and was skillful in all forms of skullduggery and trickery. He was also separated from his twin brother at birth by the vicious and vehement Yaoyue Gongzhu (邀月宫主), the latter having the intention of manipulating the two brothers into fighting to their deaths.
Yang Guo (杨过): Protagonist of Jin Yong’s Return of the Condor Heroes (神雕侠侣), and one of the author’s most enduring characters. Rebellious Yang Guo was the son of a Chinese traitor and after escaping from his enemies, grew up in the ancient tomb of a Wulin master. The bulk of his story involved his adventures in repelling the Mongolian invaders of the Song Dynasty, as well as his forbidden romance with his teacher, Xiao Longnü (see above).
Ye Kai (叶开): The disciple of Li Xun Huan (see above) and hero of two Gu Long Wuxia stories. Compared to his melancholic master, Ye Kai was cheerful and optimistic. He was also renowned for his superior qinggong.
Zhang Danfeng (张丹枫): The protagonist of Liang Yusheng’s The Wanderer Chronicles (萍踪侠影录), Zhang Danfeng was a master swordsman described by the author himself as his most satisfying creation. In many ways, Zhang does embody the ideals of a righteous Wulin master. He was loyal, patriotic, and compassionate. He was also supremely talented in his skills, ultimately creating his own set of techniques. Within the Wuxia genre, Zhang is acknowledged as the prototype for many Wuxia heroes in subsequent stories by Liang and other writers.
Zhang Wuji (张无忌): The protagonist and hero of Jin Yong’s Heaven Sword and Dragon Sabre (倚天屠龙记). Zhang was the only son of a forbidden Wulin union, and thus was heavily persecuted during childhood. As an adult, he then mastered astonishing kung fu and became the leader of an insurgency movement against the Yuan Dynasty. Unlike most Wuxia heroes, Zhang was often decisively indecisive in character. While he was a reasonable leader, he made many errors in his personal life, some of which resulted in lifelong repercussions.
E. Famous Wuxia Techniques and Cultivation Methods
- Binchuan Jianfa (冰川剑法): Translated as Glacier Swordplay, this technique appeared in several Liang Yusheng stories, and was one of the author’s more colorful creations. Mimicking the movement of glaciers, the swordplay emphasizes slowness of movement to conceal vast energies. It was occasionally paired with the Glacier Sword (冰魄寒光剑). The sword was an icy armament that enhanced the potency of the swordplay.
- Dabei Fu (大悲赋): Appearing in the latter part of Gu Long’s Moonlight Blade (天涯, 明月, 刀), this was said to be a collection of the most heinous martial arts known to Wulin. Gu Long, however, never did fully introduced all the techniques. Only two techniques were properly written about.
- Dagou Bang (打狗棒): In Jin Yong’s stories, Dagou Bang, or Dog Beating Staff, was a weapon, a technique, as well as a scepter. It was the symbol of authority for the leaders of the Beggers’ Clan and resembled a jade-like rod. The technique itself was also one of the two supreme techniques of the Clan. By ancestral laws, only the clan leader was permitted to learn the technique.
- Damo Jianfa (达摩剑法): The swordplay of Bodhidharma, said to be created by the legendary founder of Chinese martial arts himself. In the stories of Liang Yusheng, this technique was hailed as one of the three supreme sword techniques of Wulin, famed for its sophistication. It was also renowned for its emphasis on compassion, with strokes intended to incapacitate rather than to cripple.
- Daomo Zhongxin Dafa (道魔种心大法): In several stories by modern Wuxia writer Huang Yi, Daomo Zhongxin Dafa was one of ten demonic techniques known to Wulin. The potential for massive power aside, mastering the technique requires three persons. One of which would become the thrall of the practitioner, and dying at the end of the process.
- Duoming Shisan Jian (夺命十三剑): The Thirteen Deadly Swords. In Gu Long’s Wuxia mythos, this was the family heirloom of legendary swordsmaster Yan Shi San. Considered one of the most powerful sword techniques ever created, Yan eventually created a fourteenth and a fifteenth strokes. So that the deadly new strokes do not endanger posterity, Yan then committed suicide.
- Dugu Jiujian (独孤九剑): The nine sword strokes of Dugu. This was the supreme swordplay mastered by the protagonist of The Smiling, Proud Wanderer (笑傲江湖), with the name of each stroke begins with the Chinese character for “break.” Unlike conventional Chinese swordplay, each stroke was actually a countering method for a specific family of Chinese weapons.
- Jiayi Shengong (嫁衣神功): Considered by Gu Long fans to be the author’s strongest neigong technique, Jiayi Shengong was unparalleled in power and exceedingly difficult to master. A crucial step involves the destruction of one’s original neigong, with the words “jiayi” means dowry in Chinese. The name is, in turn, a metaphor for the process of surrendering one’s worth in exchange for a future greater.
- Jiuyang Shengong (九阳神功): In the earliest editions of Jin Yong’s stories, Jiuyang Shengong was the twin of Jiuyin Zhenjing (or Jiuyin Shengong), and both were created by the founder of Chinese martial arts, Bodhidharma. Later editions retconned Jiuyang Shengong to be a set of Buddhist neigong techniques. As a “pure” neigong method, mastering Jiuyang Shengong doesn’t make one a powerful fighter. However, the technique is highly useful for healing. It also vastly empowers the learning of other skills.
- Jiuyin Zhenjing (九阴真经): Jin Yong’s most famous martial arts compendium, which appeared in all three parts of his Condor Trilogy. Written by the vengeful Huang Shang (黄裳), the compendium contained Taoist neigong secrets and several sets of deadly kung fu techniques. Competition for the compendium was a major plotline of The Legend of the Condor Heroes (射雕英雄传).
- Kuihua Baodian (葵花宝典): Translated as the Sunflower Manual, this compendium of exotic martial arts secrets was written by an imperial eunuch. Because of this, male practitioners must first castrate themselves before commencing training. As befitting the “lifestyle” of a eunuch too, the compendium emphasizes on speed, the usage of feminine instruments such as sewing needles for weapons, and alchemy. Misinterpretation and competition for the compendium resulted in the events in Jin Yong’s The Smiling, Proud Wanderer (笑傲江湖).
- Liumai Shenjian (六脉神剑): In Jin Yong’s Demi-Gods and Semi-Devils (天龙八部), this was described as the supreme technique of the ruling Duan family of the Dali Kingdom. In contrast with Yi Yang Zhi (see below), which has only one stroke and is limited to dianxue, Liumai Shenjian has six complete sets of swordplay, each executed by the releasing of “sword aura” (无形剑气) from one’s fingers. Some Jin Yong fans consider this to be the deadliest technique penned by the author.
- Mingyu Gong (明玉功): The (internal) technique of the radiant jade. In Gu Long’s The Handsome Siblings (绝代双骄), this was the supreme cultivation technique of the feared Yihua Palace rulers. Not only was the technique capable of preserving youth, it also generates an “internal” whirlpool – one that’s capable of sucking away an opponent’s energy and body heat.
- Qiankun Danuoyi (乾坤大挪移): The pinnacle art of the Zoroastrian Mingjiao (see above section), this was famously mastered by Zhang Wuji in Heaven Sword and Dragon Sabre (倚天屠龙记). The name itself hints at the function of the technique. Nuoyi means to subtly move. In Wuxia movies and television dramas, Zhang Wuji is often shown effortlessly redirecting the attacks of his opponents.
- Rulai Shenzhang (如来神掌): Translated as The Buddha’s Palm, this was the supreme Wulin technique in a series of similarly named movies and television dramas. Rulai Shenzhang was never written as a novel, however, although it did draw inspiration from several. Depending on the movie or television version, there are at least nine stances, Wanfo Chaozhong (万佛朝中, The Congregation of Ten Thousand Buddhas) being the most famous final stance. (Note: In Stephen Chow’s homage to Wuxia, Kung Fu Hustle, Rulai Shenzhang was the technique used to defeat the final antagonist)
- Shizi Hou (狮子吼): The Lion’s Roar. A sonic technique that appeared in several Wuxia stories, it is usually described as the user releasing a deafening howl through skillful manipulation of neigong. In recent years, this was paid homage to in Stephen Chow’s Kung Fu Hustle.
- Tiancan Shengong (天蚕神功): A legendary technique in several Huang Ying (黄鹰) Wuxia stories, with the tales themselves based on two popular Hong Kong TV series in the early 80s. Tiancan Shengong, or the Heavenly Silkworm Technique, was the most powerful of all Wudang techniques. Other than imbuing great neigong, the final stage reincarnates the practitioner. It is particularly useful in saving the lives of the seriously wounded.
- Tianlong Bayin (天龙八音): One of the most unique Wuxia techniques ever written about, as well as the scourge of Wulin in Hong Kong writer Ni Kuang’s Deadful Melody (六指琴魔). The user devastates his enemies using the sound of a Chinese zither, either by manipulating their emotions or shattering them outright. In recent years, this was paid homage to in Stephen Chow’s Kung Fu Hustle.
- Tianmo Jieti Dafa (天魔解体大法): Translated roughly as the Demonic Dissection Skill, this suicidal technique appeared in several Liang Yusheng stories. Through self-destruction of blood veins, the user momentary amplifies his neigong, in hope for mutual death with his opponent.
- Tianshan Jianfa (天山剑法): Unlike other Wuxia writers, Liang Yusheng did not feature Shaolin or Wudang as the leading orthodox sect in Wulin. Instead, this role was fulfilled by Tianshan Pai. In Liang’s stories, the swordplay of Tianshan Pai was recognized as one of the three strongest of all orthodox styles, and consisted of several types of distinctively different styles. Examples of such styles included the lightning-fast Zhuifeng Jian (追风剑, wind chasing sword), and the slow and ponderous Daxumi Jianshi (大须弥剑式, Mount Meru swordplay).
- Tianwai Feixian (天外飞仙): Translated roughly as the Soaring Fairy/Deity, this technique only appeared in one Lu Xiaofeng (see above section) story. In short, it was an unstoppable sword thrust. Thanks to Wuxia movies and television dramas, Tianwai Feixian became the most beloved sword technique written by Gu Long. The lyrical name, which could also mean celestial meteorite, likely contributed to this popularity.
- Xianglong Shiba Zhang (降龙十八掌): Translated as the Dragon Subduing Palm, this was one of the two supreme techniques of the Beggers’ Clan in Jin Yong’s stories. Hailed as the most physically aggressive technique in Wulin, all eighteen strokes were named after phases from the I’Ching, with all names containing the Chinese character for dragon too. Two of Jin Yong’s most famous heroes, Guo Jing and Qiao Feng (see above section), were renowned for their mastery of this technique.
- Xiuluo Yinsha Gong (修罗阴煞功): The deadliest demonic neigong technique in several Liang Yusheng stories. Mastering it radically strengthens one’s Yin or negative energy. Liang was fond of describing victims as literally having their bloodstreams frozen solid.
- Xixing Dafa (吸星大法): In the Chinese language, Xixing could mean black hole or magnet. This diabolical technique appeared in Jin Yong’s The Smiling, Proud Wanderer, and was used by the megalomaniacal Ren Woxin to “absorb” the neigong of opponents. While this would theoretically make Ren Woxin unmatchable, the technique came with dire repercussions. Absorbed neigong, which vary in nature, would conflict within one’s body. Eventually, this leads to an agonizing death.
- Xuannü Jianfa (玄女剑法): The swordplay of the heavenly maiden. In the stories of Liang Yusheng, this technique was created by the lone-arm nun, and passed down to Lü Siniang. Hailed as one of the three supreme sword techniques of Wulin, Xuannü Jianfa emphasizes dexterity over strength, and is particularly suitable for females.
- Yi Yang Zhi (一阳指): The solar finger. This was the secret technique of the ruling Duan family of Dali. (Dail was an actual small kingdom during the Song Dynasty, situated in modern-day Yunnan) In Jin Yong’s stories, the technique was mostly described as a superior method of dianxue. Television and movie adaptations, however, tend to showcase it as a laser-shooting technique.
- Yihua Jieyü (移花接玉): Yihua Jieyü is a Chinese metaphor for devious or clandestine swapping. In Gu Long’s The Handsome Siblings (绝代双骄), it was the signature technique of the murderous Yaoyue Gongzhu (邀月宫主). Through blazing speed and immaculate precision, Yaoyue utilizes the Chinese martial arts concept of “borrowing strength” to divert attacks. The miraculous way she does this with then creates the illusion of magical swapping. thus giving rise to the lyrical name.
- Yijin Jing (易筋经): Yijin Jing is an actual set of Shaolin Qigong, believed to have originated from Bodhidharma. In Wuxia stories, it is typically portrayed as one of the strongest neigong techniques in Wulin; most famously, in Jin Yong’s Demi-Gods and Semi-Devils, and The Smiling, Proud Wanderer. In real-life, Yijin Jing is but one of many stretching techniques used by Shaolin monks for physical conditioning. The most popular version consists of twelve positions.
- Yunü Xinjing (玉女心经): This translates rather awkwardly as the exquisite virgin sutra. In Jin Yong’s Return of the Condor Heroes (神雕侠侣), it was the secret art of the Ancient Tomb sect and practiced by both Yang Guo and Xiao Longnü.
F. Legendary Weapons in Wuxia Stories
- Baoyu Lihua Zhen (暴雨梨花针): This legendary anqi, translated roughly as Tempest Pear Blossom Needles, appeared in several Gu Long Wuxia stories, most famously in Chu Liuxiang (see above section). Released from a small casket, the weapons spews forth a rain of needles at astonishing speed and force. Gu Long described it as the king of all anqi.
- Bawang Qiang (霸王枪): The Despot’s Spear, and one of Gu Long’s Seven Armaments (七种武器). In its eponymous story, this powerful weapon was used as a metaphor for bravery.
- Biyu Dao (碧玉刀): The Jade Dagger and one of Gu Long’s Seven Armaments (七种武器). A priceless artifact, the weapon was used as a metaphor for honesty.
- Changshen Jian (长生剑): The Sword of Longevity and the first of Gu Long’s Seven Armaments (七种武器). Wielded by the roaming swordsman Bai Yujing (白玉京), the sword generates a vortex of energy when imbued with neigong. Gu Long used it as a metaphor for the potency of optimism.
- Da Gou Bang (打狗棒): See above entry of similar name.
- Duoqing Huan (多情环): The Circlet of Lingering Emotions and one of Gu Long’s Seven Armaments (七种武器). The deadliness of this Circlet was that once it locks over another weapon, it never detaches. Gu Long used this nature of the Circlet as a metaphor for how the hunger for vengeance never leaves, once it is embraced.
- Gelu Dao (割鹿刀): Translated as the Deer Cutter, this was an exceptionally sharp dagger that appeared in two Gu Long Wuxia stories. In them, the dagger resonated with its eventual owner, Xiao Shiyilang (萧十一郎), thereafter imbuing him with great prowess.
- Kongque Ling (孔雀翎): The Peacock’s Plume and one of Gu Long’s Seven Armaments (七种武器). This legendary anqi releases such a dazzling glory upon execution, victims die while still mesmerized. In its eponymous story, it was revealed that the weapon was long lost after a duel, although descendants of the owning clan continued to benefit from fear of the weapon. The Peacock’s Plume was intended by Gu Long to be a metaphor for the power of trust and the power of myth.
- Libie Gou (离别钩): The Hook of Departure and the last of Gu Long’s Seven Armaments (七种武器). In its story, the hook was feared for its capability to force one’s “departure” from life. Gu Long intended this aspect to be a contrasting metaphor for the potency of reunions.
- Tianshan Shenmang (天山神芒): Tianshan Shenmang was both the anqi and the title of Ling Weifeng (凌未风), the founder of Tianshan Pai in Wuxia stories by Liang Yusheng. The projectiles were made from a plant unique to the Tianshan Mountain Range.
- Tulong Dao (屠龙刀): Jin Yong’s most famous legendary saber. Translated as Dragon Slayer, or Dragon Sabre, the weapon was not only unmatched in finesse, within it was one of two metallic tablets pinpointing a great treasure. Forged by heroes of the doomed Song Dynasty, the saber was meant to rally Wulin heroes into overthrowing the invading Yuan Dynasty (Mongolians). The dragon to be slain, thus, referred to the Mongolian Khan.
- Xiaoli Feidao (小李飞刀): See above entry under Li Xun Huan.
- Yitian Jian (倚天剑): Jin Yong’s most famous legendary sword. Translated as the Sword of Heaven’s Will, or Heaven Sword, it could break any other weapon, and within it was one of two metallic tablets leading to a great treasure. Forged by heroes of the doomed Song Dynasty, the sword was intended as a safeguard, i.e. assassination weapon, should the Yuan Dynasty be replaced by a Chinese tyrant. “Heaven’s Will” was thus a metaphor for the triumph of the common Chinese people over imperial tyranny.
- Youlong Jian (游龙剑): The superior sword of Liang Yusheng’s Tianshan Pai, and usually wielded by the current leader. Its name means dancing/swirling dragon.
- Zaiyun Jian (载云剑): The superior sword found by Jin Shiyi (see above section) on a barren island. One of three treasures left by a legendary evil master, the sword was described as superior to any other sword in Liang’s stories.
© 2016 Ced Yong