Hong Kong martial arts novelist Louis Cha ‘Jin Yong’s’ 6 most popular wuxia characters

By Doris Wai

Generations have grown up with the late author's works, and many of his characters are well loved among enthusiasts of wuxia fiction

By Doris Wai |

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Stills from TV adaptations of late Louis Cha’s works.

Renowned Hong Kong martial arts novelist Louis Cha 'Jin Yong' passed away on Tuesday at the age of 94. Since the 1950s, generations of Hongkongers have grown up reading Louis Cha’s wuxia (literally “martial heroes” in Chinese) novels and watching film and television adaptations of his works. Many of his sword-wielding protagonists have since become cultural icons. Here are some of his best-known characters:

A shot from Legends of the Condor Heroes.
Photo: Nora Tam/SCMP

Guo Jing: Legends of the Condor Heroes

The first novel of the Condor trilogy follows the protagonist Guo Jing on his journey as he learns about his dark family history and trains with kung fu masters. Guo, a man of Han ethnicity who was born in Mongolia, is forced to pick a side between these two opposing armies during the Mongol invasion. The book was extremely well-received by enthusiasts of wuxia fiction and went on to be adapted into multiple films and TV drama series.

Chinese literary giant Louis Cha dies at 94

An exhibit featuring 1983’s adaption of The Return of the Condor Heroes.
Photo: Nora Tam/SCMP

Yang Guo and Xiaolongnü: The Return of the Condor Heroes

Said to be Cha’s most romantic work, the second novel in the Condor trilogy tells the story of a young man Yang Guo and Xiaolongnü (Little Dragon Maiden) – his martial arts teacher-turned-wife.

In this tale the star-crossed lovers had to overcome countless obstacles before finally reuniting with each other. The ill-fated couple was portrayed by famous actors and actresses, including a notable TV version in 1983 that featured Andy Lau as Guo and Chan Yuk-lin as the “Little Dragon Maiden”.

Award-winning actor, Tony Leung Chiu-wai.

Zhang Wuji: The Heaven Sword and Dragon Sabre

The protagonist in the last novel of the Condor trilogy is Zhang Wuji. He lost his parents at a young age and later becomes a cult leader, leading the other rebel forces to overthrow the Yuan dynasty. Famous Hong Kong actors who have played this character include Hong Kong actors Tony Leung Chiu-wai, Adam Cheng Siu-chow and Lawrence Ng Kai-wah.

Dive into the world of Louis Cha ‘Jin Yong’ with The Legend of the Condor Heroes

Leading actors Chow Yun-fat (left) and Jaime Chik Mei-chun played the main characters from 'The Smiling, Proud Wanderer.'

Linghu Chong: The Smiling, Proud Wanderer

Written in the 1960s, the book tells the story of different sects fighting for a mystical martial arts manual. Cha wrote in the afterword to this novel that he created the protagonist, Linghu Chong as his ideal hero. In the story, Linghu is a hermit who longs for freedom and to retire from the world of martial arts. Critically acclaimed actor Chow Yun-fat played Linghu in a 1984 TV adaptation of the book.

Legacy of Louis Cha ‘Jin Yong’ to live on through wuxia-inspired video games

Hong Kong’s best known comedian, Stephen Chow Sing-chi.

Wei Xiaobao:  The Deer and the Cauldron

Probably one of the most unusual of Louis Cha’s male protagonist is Wei Xiaobao. Unlike the lead characters from Cha’s other novels, Wei has no interest in becoming a kung fu master. Instead the cunning and witty young man fakes his identity as a eunuch, befriends the young emperor Kangxi and even marries seven wives.

The Deer and the Cauldron was adapted several times as a television drama. It was also the source material for two films – Royal Tramp and Royal Tramp II starring Hong Kong’s best known comedian, Stephen Chow Sing-chi as Wei.