Jin Yong (1924–2018): Legend in Chinese Martial Arts Fiction and Modern Chinese Literary History

Today we mourn the passing of Jin Yong (Louis Cha) who was well loved for his wuxia novels, among his many other accomplishments.

Jin Yong

What made Jin Yong such a legend? As Ann Huss and Jianmei noted in The Jin Yong Phenomenon, “Jin Yong writes in what has been referred to by readers and critics as ‘the common language of Chinese around the world.’ [… and his]  writing has emerged as an interrogation of Chinese intellectuals’ project of modernity.”

In their seminal book, Huss and Liu argued that:

Most scholars of modern Chinese literature have studied Jin Yong’s novels within the boundaries of “martial art novels,” an approach which to a large degree has not only ignored the position of Jin Yong’s writing in the modern Chinese literary tradition, but also disregarded the impact of specific historical circumstances on the production of literary works. To remedy this weakness, our selection considers Jin Yong’s anti-Europeanized Chinese writings as works which efficiently rejuvenate long-neglected elements of the native literary tradition: huaben xiaoshuo, classical essay language, and the style of the Mandarin Duck and Butterfly School (Yuanyang hudie pai), all suppressed long ago by the New Literary Tradition. In addition to reclaiming the importance of Jin Yong’s language, our collection also engages Hong Kong, and the cultural and geopolitical space within which Jin Yong’s writings were produced from the 1950s through the 1970s. In this way, we go beyond the limits of literature, ushering the research of Jin Yong’s novels into the interdisciplinary world of political, social, cultural, and film studies.

They also add that:

the popularity of Jin Yong’s works offers us an opportunity to reconceptualize the relationship between high and popular culture, the canon and the uncanon, the modern and the traditional, the East and the West. A closer look at the wuxia project of this seasoned politician, businessman, and master of the literary jianghu will lead us toward a greater understanding of the complexity of the concepts of nation, globalization, and diaspora.

We are indebted to Jin Yong for what he has done for the Chinese literary world; his works will continue to, as Huss and Liu have noted, “lead us toward a greater understanding of the complexity of the concepts of nation, globalization, and diaspora.”

Jin Yong
The Jin Yong Phenomenon: Chinese Martial Arts Fiction and Modern Chinese Literary History, edited by Ann Huss and Jianmei Liu (Cambria Press, 2009)

This book is available in print and e-book editions.

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