“Vast, vast sadness. Boundless, boundless loss. The song has ended. The moon has been snatched away.”
This extract from Louis Cha Leung-yung’s The Book and the Sword now carries significantly more weight following the death of the 94-year-old Chinese literary giant last month.
A condolence book for Cha, who wrote under the pen name Jin Yong, will be at the Heritage Museum in Sha Tin later this month for the public to pay their last respects.
We take a look at four of Cha’s most popular novels in the wuxia genre, and look at those celebrities who have portrayed these household names in the TV and film adaptations.
A Hero Born: Legends of the Condor Heroes – Huang Rong
Huang Rong (黃蓉) was the female protagonist in A Hero Born: Legends of the Condor Heroes, which was the first book of the Condor Trilogy.
Raised by her father on the Peach Blossom Island, Huang was charming, intelligent and highly witty.
As the apprentice of Hong Qigong (洪七公), the chief of the Beggars’ Sect and the Northern Beggar of the Five Greats, she was skilled with the “dog beating stick technique”, which was a superior martial art.
A Hero Born: Legends of the Condor Heroes was serialised in the Hong Kong Commercial Daily for two years from 1957 to 1959, and was first adapted into a TV series in 1976 by Commercial Television.
Although Michelle Yim (米雪) was the first actress who played the role of Huang in the TV drama, it was Barbara Yung (翁美玲) that captured the audience’s heart in the 1983 version aired by TVB.
With witty quality, Yung was appointed by Cha himself during casting in 1982.
The Return of the Condor Heroes – the little dragon Maiden
Fairy-like, elegant, skin white as snow but appearing cold and indifferent, always dressed in white flowing clothes. This was the classical appearance of Xiaolongnu (小龍女), literally “little dragon maiden”, the female protagonist in the second part of the Condor Trilogy – The Return of the Condor Heroes.
Abandoned as an infant, Xiaolongnu was raised by a master of the Ancient Tomb Sect. She lived inside a tomb and was taught all of the martial arts of the sect. She was famous for the skills of “jade maiden heart sutra” (玉女心經), “qinggong of the ancient Tomb Sect” (古墓派輕功) and “nine yin manual” (九陰真經).
The most iconic Xiaolongnu within the TV series of The Return of the Condor Heroes in Hong Kong was Idy Chan (陳玉蓮).
The drama was broadcast in 1983 and Chan co-stared alongside Andy Lau who played Yang Guo (楊過), the apprentice and also lover of Xiaolongnu.
With the stellar cast, the 50-episode drama struck a chord with viewers and became one of the highest rated series of that year.
The Smiling, Proud Wanderer – the invincible east
Dongfang Bubai (東方不敗), literally meaning “invincible east” was the villain in The Smiling, Proud Wanderer.
As the leader of the Sun Moon Holy Cult, he castrated himself to fulfil the prerequisite for learning the skills in a martial arts book known as the “sunflower manual” (葵花寶典).
Over the years, the androgynous role was either portrayed by an actor or actresses, with Brigitte Lin the most remarkable in the 1992 film Swordsman II and 1993 film The East is Red.
The Deer and the Cauldron – Trinket
Unlike Cha’s more conventional, valorous male protagonists, Wei Xiaobao (韋小寶) or Trinket in the picaresque and historical romance The Deer and the Cauldron, was an irreverent and comic anti-hero.
Trinket’s mother was a prostitute and he was raised in a brothel during the Qing dynasty.
He accidentally joined the Heaven and Earth Society, an anti-Qing organisation, and later bumbled his way to the imperial palace where he encountered Emperor Kangxi, with whom he developed a friendship. Trinket was also a womaniser who had seven wives.
In 1976, the first person who starred as Trinket in the TV adaptation by Commercial Television was an actress – Candy Wen (文雪兒).
After that, numerous celebrities have portrayed the role in the last three decades, such as Tony Leung Chiu-wai (梁朝偉) in 1984, Dicky Cheung Wai-kin (張衛健) in 2001 and Huang Xiaoming (黃曉明) in 2008.
Trinket was a role full of “mo lei tau” (無厘頭) – meaning nonsense – and according to Cha, the only actor who suited the role most was Stephen Chow (周星馳). Chow starred as Trinket twice in the films Royal Tramp and Royal Tramp II in 1992.