Kung-fu meets fantasy: Who is Chinese author Jin Yong?

Monday, September 17, 2018 - 09:00

Jin Yong is the most widely read Chinese author alive. In his novels he creates worlds of battle and war, of chivalry and love, of magic and conquests.

Born in 1924, he started his career as a journalist and in 1959 he founded the Hong Kong newspaper Ming Pao. Around the same time he was working on his first novel, The Book and the Sword. It would become a key work in the wuxia genre of Chinese fiction, which combines traditional martial arts with adventure.

The complexity of Jin Yong’s kung-fu fantasy world is perhaps why A Hero Reborn has only recently been translated into English, almost 60 years after it was first serialised in the Hong Kong Commercial Daily

A Hero Reborn: the Work of Jin Yong

A Hero Reborn is the first book in The Condor Trilogy. Jin Yong’s trilogy is amongst his most famous works and was turned into the wildly successful television show The Legend of the Condor Heroes. Here’s the theme tune for the much loved 1980s version starring Felix Wong and Barbara Yung.

射鵰英雄傳 – 重溫《鐵血丹心》片頭

And here is a trailer for the 2017 revival.

《射雕英雄传》片尾曲MV The Legend of the Condor Heroes - Ending Music

As part of our China Changing Festival Talks Pass, we were thrilled to host a panel discussion all about the works of Jin Yong.

Ahead of the event we invited our panellists to tell us a bit about their experiences with Jin Yong’s work and what it means to them.

Paul Engles

Paul is the editor of the English translation of A Hero Reborn. He has been an editor at MacLehose Press since 2011 and was involved in the acquisition of the series by the press in 2013. He is currently editing the translation of the second book in the series, A Bond Undone, by Gigi Chang.

“My favourite work by Jin Yong is definitely The Condor Trilogy – which is a good thing as I will be working on it for another few years yet! My favourite character is Huang Rong, because she has an answer for everything and anything and is not overawed by anyone. For me, Jin Yong is a master storyteller who makes this time and place in history come alive like no other writer. China in the 13th century sounds like an amazing place – I wish I could travel up The Grand Canal from that time.”

Dee Lo

Dee Lo is a British-born Chinese DJ who grew up watching TVB’s adaptations of Jin Yong’s books.

“Jin Yong is a very talented writer. His stories are extremely enthralling. He has written so many stories that have captured the hearts of the Chinese people. He has had a great influence on Chinese culture and many of the character names and martial art styles are still referenced today. My favourite character is from The Legend of the Condor Heroes series, Huang Rong. She is smart, quick-witted and very talented. She also has a playful side.”

Amy Ng

Amy Ng is a playwright who views the work of Jin Yong as one of her many influences and points of inspiration. He was her portal to martial arts, Chinese history, Taoism, Buddhism, popular spirituality, Chinese metaphysics, mathematics, chess, music and the I-Ching.

“I first read Jin Yong when I was nine. I was already a great reader of English books – a consequence of growing up in a British colony (Hong Kong). But my father was desperate to get me reading Chinese novels, and forced me to read a chapter of Jin Yong’s Condors every evening. I was furious. I knew I would hate it – I was determined to hate it. But from the very first pages, I was gripped. By the time we came to the part about the pyramids of skulls (end of the first volume), I gave in and read the rest of the Condor books in a weekend.

“Jin Yong taught me about complexity of character. Most of his characters (especially the later novels) are flawed, struggle with enormous temptations, and are neither wholly evil nor wholly good. Identities and allegiances are fluid. Appearances conflict with reality.”


 

The Festival Talks Pass, just £20, includes a whole day of talks on Sun 7 Oct. Explore and discover a broad range of topics, from Jin Yong to Chinese sci-fi and from feminism to climate change.

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China Changing Festival, which took place in October 2018, featured four days of dance, theatre, music, talks, free and family events exploring contemporary Chinese art, culture and identity.

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