Duan Yu

Duàn Yù (simplified: 段誉, traditional: 段譽) was one of the three male protagonists in Jin Yong’s Demi-Gods and Semi-Devils. He was a young, naive prince of the Dali Kingdom. He was often referred to as Duan Gongzi1公子 – Gōngzǐ refers to the son of an official, a noble or a wealthy man. or Prince Duan.

Born into the Dali Royal Family, he was well-versed in Confucianism and Buddhism classics. As an avid Buddhist, he had a disdain for fighting. He became sworn brothers with Xiao Feng and Xuzhu.

He learnt three legendary feats, the Spirit Blade of Six Meridians, Lingbo Footwork, and Beiming Power. On top of that, his uncle Duan Zhengming passed him the Duan family’s neigong mental skill Back to the Void. Despite his lack of martial arts training, he is still one of the top experts in the Jin Yong universe.

His grandson Duan Zhixing, also known as Master Yideng, who appeared in Legend of the Condor Heroes and Return of the Condor Heroes.

Biography

Duan Yu was born into the Dali Royal Family. He grew up in an environment free from worries and conflict. Yiyang Finger was a martial arts passed down through the generations in the Duan Clan. However, he refused to learn martial arts due to the influence of Buddhist teachings. His father and uncle tried to forced him to learn the martial art, so he ran away from home.

Mount Wuliang

Only nineteen and without any means to support himself, he went to look for a wealthy man Mawu De after hearing that the latter treated people very well. He then followed Mawu De to Mount Wuliang. Mawu De was an invited guest acting as the judge of Wuliang Sword School’s Duelling Contest. Duan Yu went along for the chance to see the famed scenery of Mount Wuliang. He met Zhong Ling at the Contest.

He was unexpectedly drawn into the jianghu. When the Shennong Guild made preparations to attack Wuliang Sword School, he went to Shennong Guild to try to persuade them to resolve the feud without any further bloodshed. However, Shennong Guild captured him and Zhong Ling. They poisoned him with Gut Severing Powder to force Zhong Ling to give them the antidote for the poison she inflicted on them. Duan Yu had seven days to go to the Valley of Ten Thousand Calamities to retrieve the antidote in exchange of his and Zhong Ling’s lives.

On his way down the mountain, he overheard the conversation of a pair of eloping Wuliang Sword School disciples. While trying to escape from them, he fell into the Mount Wuliang’s Treasure Vault. His encounter with a jade statue in the vault led him to discover a secret scroll containing two legendary martial arts, Beiming Power and Lingbo Footwork.

After exiting the vault, he met Mu Wanqing.

Personality & traits

Due to his determined nature, he would give his all when he decides to do something. This led his obsession with Buddhism and the Book of Changes since young. He was well-versed with the various classics and was very knowledgeable despite his youth.

He loved playing weiqi and spent countless hours studying the game. His curious nature and determination led to his parents giving him the nickname Foolish Boy. This also caused his devotion to the Immortal Lady, and subsequent infatuation with Wang Yuyan.

Duan Yu was kind-hearted by nature. Coupled with the influence of Buddhist teachings, he was compassionate and had a disdain for fighting and killing. He kept to his principle of not killing throughout his adventures in the jianghu.

As a royal prince, he enjoyed a good upbringing and education. He was gentle, well-mannered, honest and considerate. However, his foolishness often led to others mistaking him for a bookworm.

He was also a coward, often using his Lingbo Footwork to escape tricky situations to avoid a confrontation. However, after witnessing Xiao Feng’s courage, he gradually ditched his weaker side and let his chivalry shine.

Skills & abilities

When Duan Yu first appeared, he did not know any martial arts skills. Due to his obsession with Buddhism and the Book of Changes, so he had a disdain for bloodshed. Duan Yu’s father, Duan Zheng Chun, and his mother, Dao Baifeng, are both martial arts practitioners and wanted Duan Yu to learn the family’s Yiyang Finger. Duan Yu refused to learn any martial arts, but debated with his father on the topic countless times. Even after he learnt some martial arts by chance, he never broke his principle of not killing.

In order to rescue Zhong Ling, who was held hostage by Shennong Guild, he stumbled upon a cave in Mount Wuliang. He saw a jade statue that he called the Immortal Lady. After kowtowing a thousand times to the jade statue, Duan Yu accidentally found the secret scroll of Beiming Power. The end of the scroll contained the training techniques for Lingbo Footwork. Duan Yu learnt these martial arts. While he was fairly familiar with Lingbo Footwork, he did not finish Beiming Power.

At the Dali Tianlong Temple, when the monk Gou Mozhi from Tubo seized the Spirit Blade of Six Meridians manual, Duan Yu learnt the technique. Although he was unable to control his inner energy to fully utilise the Spirit Blade, it was one of his most feared martial arts. As he was only able to use the Spirit Blade in critical moments, Duan Yu later came up with a verse, “Well-trained fighters use sneak attacks, while the divine only use it when given no choice.”

Beiming Power

The Beiming Power was a martial art that focused on the accumulation of inner energy. It absorbed others’ inner energy for one’s own use.

The scroll stated, “The first principle of this martial art is to accumulate inner energy. Once rich in inner energy, all the martial arts in the world will be mine to use. Just like the northern ocean2北冥 – Běimíng refers to the great ocean in the north., boats big and small float upon it, fishes big and small live within it. Therefore, inner energy is first, while moves are last. Practice the following diagrams diligently.”

Duan Yu inadvertently absorbed the inner energy of many wulin experts. Thus, despite his age, he had an immense inner energy. He later absorbed the inner energy of several masters in succession. Due to a series of coincidences, he received Jiu Mozhi’s lifelong cultivation of inner energy, making his inner energy unmatched in history.

Lingbo Footwork

Lingbo Footwork was a martial arts of the Xiaoyao Order. The footwork movements were based on the sixty-four hexagrams from the Book of Changes to produce strange footsteps. It required the one to turn one’s body in midair, or leap forwards and backwards, or dart side to side in order to execute the moves in the scroll.

When defending against an opponent, one only had to move according to the sixty-four hexagrams without having to worry about the opponent’s presence. It was a kind of legendary martial arts with an unrestrained style that allowed the user to do whatever they wanted.

Spirit Blade of Six Meridians

The Spirit Blade of Six Meridians was a legendary treasure belonging to Dali Duan Clan’s Tianlong Temple. It converts strong inner energy into a formless spirit blade. Murong Bo regarded the martial art as one of the two unrivalled martial art gems alongside Shaolin Temple’s Yijin Jing.

Duan Yu used the Spirit Blade to defeat Murong Bo on Mount Shaoshi and again on Mantuo Mountain Manor. Having seen the martial art with his own eyes, he exclaimed that it lived up to its reputation as the number one swordplay in the world.

In the Third Edition, Murong Bo also mentioned that one could use six different inner energy from the fingers, combining them for an even more devastating effect.

Relationships

Duan Yu had several romantic interests.

Zhong Ling

Duan Yu met Zhong Ling at the Duelling Contest on Mount Wuliang. They were drawn into a life-threatening situation but managed to overcome the danger. She likes Duan Yu and he treats her as a sister.

In the Second Edition, when Duan Yu returned to Dali, she went with him. In the Third Edition, Duan Yu took Zhong Ling as concubine after he ascended the Dali throne.

Mu Wanqing

Right from when Mu Wanqing first appeared, she and Duan Yu were in a life-and-death situation. After their harrowing experience, she slowly falls for him and decided to to let Duan Yu be the first in the world to see her face. They vowed to marry each other, only to discover that they are half-siblings from the same father. The later find out that they were not siblings.

In the Second Edition, she went with Duan Yu to live in Dali when he returned home. In the Third Edition, Duan Yu also took Mu Wanqing as concubine after he ascended the Dali throne.

Wang Yuyan

Wang Yuyan was a splitting image of the Immortal Lady that Duan Yu saw in the Jade Cave. Although Duan Yu was infatuated with her, Wang Yuyan had a crush on her cousin Murong Fu.

Despite his unreciprocated love, Duan Yu was willing to do anything for Wang Yuyan’s happiness. He even offered to marry the Western Xia Princess so that Murong Fu could marry Wang Yuyan.

When her cousin did not bother to help when she was faced with death, she jumped into a well to kill herself out of grief. She encountered Duan Yu in the well and he proved that his love was true. Moved by his devotion, she accepted his affections.

In the Second Edition, Duan Yu married Wang Yuyan. However, there were major changes to their fates in the Third Edition. He realised that he was merely infatuated with her and married his other love interests instead, including Zhong Ling Mu Wanqing, and Princess Yinchuan’s handmaid Xiaolei.

Behind the scenes

Several actors have portrayed the role of Duan Yu in several adaptations of the series.

  • The Battle Wizard (1977) by Shaw Brothers studio – Danny Lee
  • Demi-Gods and Semi-Devils (1982 film) by New Century Film – Kent Tong
  • Demi-Gods and Semi-Devils (1982 TV series) by TVB – Kent Tong
  • Demi-Gods and Semi-Devils (1990) by CTV – Eddie Kwan
  • Demi-Gods and Semi-Devils (1997) by TVB – Benny Chan
  • Demi-Gods and Semi-Devils (2003) by Ciwen Film & TV Production – Jimmy Lin
  • The Demi-Gods and Semi-Devils (2013) by Zhejiang Huace Film & TV Production – Kim Ki-bum
  • New Demi-Gods and Semi-Devils (2019) by Tencent Video – Bai Shu
Duan Yu
NameDuan Yu
NicknameFoolish Boy
Posthumous nameXuanren Emperor of Dali
AffiliationImperial family of Dali Kingdom
Zhangmen of the Tiannan Duan Clan
ShifuNone
DiscipleThird Brother Yue
FamilyDuan Yanqing (Biological father)
Duan Zhengxuan (Adoptive father)
Dao Baifeng (Mother)
Duan Zhengming (Uncle)
Xiao Feng (Sworn brother and brother-in-law)
Xuzhu (Sworn brother)
Wang Yuyan (Wife and cousin)
Duan Zhixing (Grandson)
Martial arts
NeigongBeiming Power
QingongLingbo Footwork
FeatSpirit Blade of Six Meridians:
Shaoshang Blade
Zhongchong Blade
Shaochong Blade
Shangyang Blade
Guanchong Blade
Shaoze Blade
WeaponNone