Hong Kong wuxia legend Louis Cha ‘Jin Yong’ battled liver cancer and dementia in twilight years, friend says
- Fellow writer Chip Tsao recalls final moments in hospital with celebrated author and journalist
- Cha’s eyes ‘lit up’ as Tsao updated him on world events in their native Shanghainese
Legendary Hong Kong martial arts novelist Louis Cha Leung-yung had been suffering from liver cancer and dementia in his twilight years, friend and fellow writer Chip Tsao revealed on Tuesday night.
Cha, also known by his pen name Jin Yong, died at the Hong Kong Sanatorium and Hospital in Happy Valley with friends and family at his bedside that afternoon, aged 94.
The respected journalist, who co-founded the Ming Pao newspaper group, was a celebrated author whose novels in the wuxia genre – featuring chivalrous tales of kung fu masters in ancient China – made him a household name both at home and among the global Chinese diaspora.
He was arguably the world’s most popular Chinese novelist.
In a Facebook post on Tuesday night, Tsao said he had last spoken to Cha in hospital last week and updated him about world events in their native Shanghainese tongue.
“His eyes lit up bright, and he was holding my hand. I told him what the date was and what had been happening between China and the United States,” he wrote. “He listened with rapt attention, like an innocent child.”
Tsao said he visited again on Monday, but Cha was asleep. He had planned to return the following afternoon but did not make it in time.
Speaking on his nightly programme on Commercial Radio later that evening, Tsao said Cha’s contributions to the martial arts genre were unquestionable, and he had broken traditional moulds and stereotypes.
Tributes poured in from Hong Kong society and around the world following the news of Cha’s death.
Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor issued a statement while on a trip in Japan expressing her “deep sorrow” over Cha’s death and calling him “a learned man and an acclaimed writer”.
Wang Zhimin, director of Beijing’s Liasion Office in Hong Kong, said Cha was a patriot who loved Hong Kong, helped promote the development of the “one country, two systems” principle by which the city is governed, and made significant contributions to the promotion of Chinese culture.
The writer’s son, Andrew Cha, expressed thanks for the words of consolation given to the family and apologised for not being able to answer all phone calls and messages.
He posted a collage of his father’s photos on WeChat, accompanied by a couplet describing the literary great as being inclusive, open to all ideas and full of “chivalrous passion”.