This is the preface that accompanies the second edition of Jin Yong’s novels.
As the books were published by Joint Publishing, this version of the novels is sometimes referred to as the Joint Publishing edition.
My love for reading begun from primary school. During the junior years, I read the Children’s Pictorial, Little Children, and Young Student. Later on, I read the Children’s Series that was rich in content and style. Then, I read various novels with vague comprehension. When I was in Year 5 and 6, I started reading new literary works. Until now, I still prefer classical literary works to modern or contemporary literature. This is due to my personality. Many of my friends only like recent works, and dislike classical literature.
Of course, modern knowledge can only be gleaned from contemporary works. During primary school, I benefited the most from and had the strongest memories of Mr Zou Taofen’s works that my father and brother bought. These included travel journals he wrote about places all over the world, such as Messages of the Wanderer and Memories of the Wanderer, and the weekly magazine Life Week (both new and old) that he was chief editor of. Thus, I was already deeply indebted to Mr Zou Taofen and Life Publishing during my childhood. Life Publishing was the major component in the formation of Joint Publishing.
Over a decade ago, I signed a contract with Hong Kong’s Joint Publishing in preparations for the publishing of my novels in mainland China, but nothing came to fruition due to certain circumstances. This time we planned again from the start for Joint Publishing to be the exclusive publisher of the novels in Simplified Chinese for mainland China. Besides being pleased with this, my heart is filled with warmth when I think back of the old times.
I wrote the set of thirty-six books, Collection of Works, between 1955-72, spanning a period of thirteen to fourteen years from start to end. The set of books included twelve novels, two novellas, one novelette, a critical biography of a historical figure, and several historical textual criticism pieces. The publishing process was very strange. Whether it was in Hong Kong, Taiwan, overseas regions, or mainland China, all sorts of copies and unofficial editions were published before the release of the authentic edition, which was verified and authorised by me.
Before the publication of this Joint Publishing edition, only the Baihua Literature And Art Publishing House was authorised by me to release The Book and the Sword in mainland China. They were meticulous in the printing process, and paid the royalties agreed upon in the contract. I paid income tax to comply with laws, and donated the balance to several literary institutions and funded weiqi activities. This was a pleasant experience. All others were unauthorised.
Then, there was the issue of not paying royalties. Many versions were crudely put together with tons of errors. Some borrowed the name Jin Yong to publish wuxia novels. I dare not claim credit for those that were well written. As for those filled with boring fights and obscene descriptions, they inevitably made my unhappy. There were also some publishers that reproduced the works of other Hong Kong or Taiwanese authors under my pen name. I received countless letters from readers to expose the fakes and to express their indignation. I believe once the Joint Publishing edition has gained widespread distribution, it would put a stop to all these immoral acts.
The message of wuxia novels is to know right from wrong, and to be moral and just. They should not go overboard.
Some versions of the copies even claimed that Gu Long, Ni Kuang and I jointly issued a couplet matching challenge with the line, “Ice is colder than iced water”. What a joke. Chinese couplets to adhere to set rules. The final character of the first line of a couplet usually has an oblique tone, so that the second line end with a level tone. However, the word bing has a rising tone, which is a level tone. We would not have come up with such a first line in a couplet match. Many readers from the mainland mailed in their answer to the couplet matching challenge. It was a waste of their time an effort.
To make it easy for readers to differentiate them, I used the first character of my fourteen novels and novellas to form a couplet: “Shooting white deer in the endless drifting snow; Smiling while writing about the divine and chivalrous who leaned on a beautiful lover.”
When I wrote my first novel, I had no idea whether I would write a second novel. When I wrote the second novel, I did not think about what theme the third novel would have, not to mention the book title. Hence, this couplet definitely cannot be considered elegant. “Drifting snow” cannot be matched with “smiling while writing” and “white” and “beautiful” both have oblique tones. However, if I were to issue a couplet matching challenge, there would be complete freedom over the choice of characters, so I would have chosen characters that were meaningful and followed to the rules.
Many readers wrote in with the same question: “Among your novels, which do you consider is the best? Which is your favourite?” I cannot answer this question. When I wrote these novels, I had a wish: “Do not repeat characters, plot, emotions, and even details that have been written before.” Limited by my abilities, this wish did not seem like it was achievable, but I always strived towards this direction.
Generally speaking, this fifteen novels are all different, each infused with my emotions, thoughts, and most importantly, emotions, that I had when I wrote them. I love the good characters in every novel. Their encounters make me feel happy or sad, sometimes very sorrowful. As for the writing technique, I improved in the later years. However, writing skills are not the most crucial. The important elements are the personality and emotions of the writer.
These novels have all been adapted into films and television series in Hong Kong and Taiwan, with some even having three or four different adaptations. Besides these, there were also plays, Beijing operas, Cantonese operas and other types of shows. Hence, the second question from readers: “Which film or television series adaptation do you consider the most successful? Which protagonists in the shows are the most accurate portrayal of the original character?”
The presentation of films and televisions is completely different from novels, so it is very difficult to make a comparison. Television series are longer and thus easier to develop the story, whereas films are greatly restricted. Moreover, reading a novel involves the process of visualising characters by both the author and the reader.
For people who read the same the same novel, the protagonists that appear in their minds might not be the same. This is because aside from the words in the books, readers draw from their personal experiences, personalities, emotions, and preferences. In your heart, you will meld the protagonist with your lover, and the lover of others is surely different from yours. However, film and television fix the appearances of the characters and leave the audience with no room for imagination.
Wuxia novels succeeded the long tradition of Chinese classical novels. The earliest wuxia novels in China were probably the brilliant literary works among Tang legends, such as The Legend of Qiu Ranke, Red String, Nieyinniang, and The Slave of Kunlun. These were followed by Water Margin, The Three Heroes and Five Gallants, Legend of the Heroic Sons and Daughters, and others. The more serious modern wuxia novels place greater emphasis on the themes of justice, integrity, self-sacrificing, eradicating the powerful and protecting the weak, national spirit, and traditional Chinese concept of ethics.
Readers do not need to excessively question and analyse the exaggerated descriptions of martial arts in the novels. Some things are impossible in reality, and are merely traditions of Chinese wuxia novels. Nieyinniang shrunk her body to sneak into another person’s guts, then she leapt out from his mouth. No one would believe this is real, yet the story of Nieyinniang has been enjoyed by people in the past millennium or so.
My early novels held a very strong sense of legitimacy of the Han people’s imperial dynasties. In the later years, the equality of all the races of the Chinese nation became the main theme. That was due to the progress in my perception of history. This was especially apparent in Demi-Gods and Semi-Devils, White Horse Neighing in the West Wind, and The Deer and the Cauldron. Wei Xiaobao’s father could have been a Han, Manchu, Mongol, Hui, or Tibetan. Even in my first novel The Book and the Sword, the protagonist Chen Jialuo eventually converted to Islam.
Good and bad people exist in every ethnicity, religion, or profession. There were bad emperors, and there were good ones. There were dreadful officials, and there were good officials that really cared for the people. The Han people, Manchu people, Khitan people, Tibetans in the novels… there were good and bad people. Among monks, priests, lamas, scholars, and warriors, there were also all sorts of personalities and moral values.
Some readers liked to divide people into two categories to differentiate the good from bad, and at the same time made deductions about a whole based on an individual. That is definitely not the author’s intention.
Historical events and characters need to be viewed based on the circumstances back then. There had been fierce battles along the borders between Song and Liao, Yuan and Ming, Ming and Qing, Han and other ethnics such as Khitan, Mongol, and Manchu. The Mongols and Manchu people used religion as a political tool. The novels depicted the views and mentalities of people back then, so they cannot be judged from the perspective of later generations or modern people.
My purpose in writing novels is to depict characters and write about the human emotions. The novels do not allude to anything. If there were any rebuke, it would be directed at the foul and dark nature of humanity. The popular ideologies in society are always changing, but humanity hardly changes.
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