The Heaven Sword and Dragon Sabre is the third part of the Condor Trilogy.
The male protagonists of this trilogy are completely different in nature. Guo Jing was honest and straightforward. Yang Guo was affectionate and unruly.
However, Zhang Wuji’s personality was more complex and he was also weaker. He had less heroic qualities. He was magnanimous, benevolent, and chivalrous (His chivalry was actually the most important trait. As he had lived in the Ice Fire Island since young, he was unaware of the dangers in society and did not value his own interests. Hence, he would leap to the aid of others without regards of his own safety.) However, he inevitably had some flaws that, perhaps, made him more similar to ordinary people like us.
Yang Guo was definitely one to the initiative. Guo Jing dominated during pivotal moments, but required Huang Rong to spur him on for small matters. However, Zhang Wuji’s whole life had been influenced by others. He was bound by circumstances with no escape.
On the matters of the heart, Yang Guo was devoted to Xiaolongnü till death, and had no regard for societal norms. Guo Jing’s wavering between Huang Rong and Princess Huazheng purely stemmed from moral values. He did not hesitate when it came to love.
Zhang Wuji was always sloppy. Among Zhou Zhiruo, Zhao Min, Yin Li, Xiaozhao, it appeared that his love for Zhao Min was the deepest, and he said so to Zhou Zhiruo at the end of the novel as well. However, deep down in his heart, which girl did he love the most? I fear he had no idea himself. Even the author does not know whether this is true. Since his personality has already been written as such, everything that happened was determined by his character, and the author is unable to interfere.
Zhang Wuji only valued the good in others all his life, choosing to forgive (and even forget) their shortcomings. For someone like Zhang Wuji, no matter how great his martial arts abilities were, he is not cut out to be a good leader. Of course, he has no wish to take up the responsibility. Even if he reluctantly agreed to, he would undoubtedly fail in the end.
Three thousand years of political history in China has long since laid out the outcome clearly. The first criteria for a successful leaders in China was tolerance, including self-restraint, tolerance towards others, and ruthlessness when dealing with enemies. The second criteria was to be swift and decisive. The third criteria was a strong desire for authority. Zhang Wuji had none of this. Zhou Zhiruo and Zhao Min both had the leadership abilities, but a lady with such strong leadership talent were often not very adorable.
Personally, I love Xiaozhao the most. Regrettably, I could not let her be with Zhang Wuji. The thought of this often makes me melancholic.
Therefore, the love stories in this novel is not very beautiful, though this perhaps makes them more realistic.
Zhang Wuji is not a good leader, but he can be our good friend. In fact, this novel’s theme of love is not centred around that romance between man and woman, but the friendship between men. The brotherly love between the Seven Heroes of Wudang. The teacher and student love between Zhang Sanfeng and Zhang Cuishan. The deep father and son love between Xie Xun and Zhang Wuji.
However, the book was superficial in depicting Zhang Sanfeng’s grief upon witnessed Zhang Cuishan slitting his throat, and Xie Xun’s heartbreak when he heard about Zhang Wuji’s death. Reality is not like this.
Because back then I did not understand.
Zhang Wuji seemed to be lacking the bearing of a hero in his personality, but he displayed an abundance of chivalry. Chivalry is not to serve justice in pursuit of self interest (including for one’s own country, organisation, friends and relatives).
As the saying goes, “If you encounter injustice, draw your sword to help”. A chivalrous person has no regards (not for their own life, interests, or reputation), and does not accept any form of repayment in pursuit of justice. Zhao Kuangyin escorted Jingniang for a thousand miles, but persistently refused when the beautiful lady offered herself to him. He felt that if he accepted, his virtuous act would come with a price and would be considered a noble act of chivalry.
There is less of such concept of values in the western society. Westerners would often do as God (or the Church) orders. The Chinese perspective is to act according to their conscience, not in hope that they would have a better after life, nor is to avoid the sufferings in Hell.
The highest principle of wuxia novels is to preach the spirit of chivalry. Heroes often act for themselves. Chivalrous persons usually take action for others. Once there is a price attached, the sense of chivalry diminishes.
Zhang Wuji willingly took three palm strikes from Abbess Miejue, and fended off the six factions on Guangming Peak. He did these not for fame or a show of bravery. He just felt that it was something he had to do. Thus, he would definitely not vie with Zhu Yuanzhang to be the emperor.
The Heaven Sword and Dragon Sabre, being a novel with complex structure, had a complicated plot with many loopholes and flaws. Hence, the third edition was a major surgery. The biggest change is Zhang Wuji not deciding who he would marry in the end.
I have always believed that history is not predestined. The element of chance plays a big part, and it is the same in our lives. Zhang Wuji headed to Mongolia with Zhao Min in the end and did not return to the Central Plains. However, there could be a chance that Zhou Zhiruo went to search for him in Mongolia. Perhaps he went with Zhao Min to Persia to look for Xiaozhao. Maybe he had no choice to return to the Central Plains alone to handle the affairs of the Ming Cult. Or he could have met Yin Li in the Western Regions…
Worldly affairs are determined by people, and Zhang Wuji only remembered the good that others do to him. Hence, everyone is a good person. Everyone is very adorable…
Zhou Zhiruo told Zhang Wuji, “By all means, marry her, have children. Ten or eight years later, your heart will still only think of me and miss me.” Such feelings, little boys and girls would not understand. Hence I do not advocate thirteen, fourteen year old girls writing novels.
The chapter titles of this novel is modelled after forty lines of the Bailiangti seven syllable poem that has a single rhyme throughout. The tonal pattern of ancient poetry differs from that of regulated verse and cannot have a tune. I am not good at poetry, and ancient poetry is even harder to write. Take this as a poetry exercise. The difficult part is that it lacks the ancient feel.