The Legend of the Condor Heroes was serialised in the Hong Kong Commercial Daily between 1957 and 1959. I recall the editor of the Hong Kong Commercial Daily supplement Li Shawei’s love and encouragement for this novel over a decade ago. He’s no longer with us today, and I’m unable to personally hand him the first book of this Second Edition. The thought of his affable smile and slightly stuttering speech makes my heart ache.
The characters in The Legend of the Condor Heroes have simple personalities. Guo Jing is straightforward and generous. Huang Rong is quick-witted and cunning. They easily leave an impression on the readers. This is characteristic of traditional Chinese novels and dramas, but it invariably lacks the complex inner world of the characters. It is probably because of the simple characters and lively plot that makes the Legend of the Condor Heroes more popular.
There are adaptations in Cantonese movies and a Teochew opera drama in Thailand, and a TV series is currently being filmed in Hong Kong. It has been translated into Thai, Vietnamese, and Indonesian. There are also many books by others impersonating me, such as the Seven Heroes of Jiangnan and Nine-Fingered Divine Beggar.
But personally, I feel that my later novels are better than The Legend of the Condor Heroes.
When I wrote The Legend of the Condor Heroes, I was a screenwriter and director at Great Wall Movie Enterprises Ltd. During that time, I mainly read Western dramas and dramaturgical theories. Thus, some parts of the plot in the novel were unconsciously treated as dramatic action.
The part on the healing in the secret chamber at Niujia Village was completely managed as a stage production in terms of scene and characters. It was only after Liu Shaoming pointed this out that I realised it, but it wasn’t my intention when I wrote it. At that time, I only thought that such a method hasn’t been used in a novel, without realising that it’s been used by countless people in theatre.
I made many changes during the revision. I deleted some unnecessary storylines and characters, such as Little Red Bird, the battle of the frog and clam, the murder by Iron Palm Guild, and others. I removed Qin Nanqin and merged her role with Mu Nianci’s.
I also added some new plots, such as the storytelling by Zhang Shiwu in the opening, Qu Lingfeng stealing the painting, Huang Rong forcing people to carry a sedan chair to face the rain, and the process of Huang Chang writing the Nine Yin Manual. Traditional Chinese novels have roots in storytelling, using storytelling as the opening is a way to show that I remember the roots.
The deeds of Genghis Khan are mainly based on a very strange book. This book far surpasses the Nine Yin Manual in the weirdness of its appearance. Its title Manghuolun Niucha Tuobichiyan
It is actually written in Mongolian language using Han characters in July 1240. Manghuolun means Mongol. Niucha means secret. Tuobichiyan means complete records. The nine Han characters combine to mean The Secret History of Mongols. The book was mostly likely written with Han phonetics because the Mongolians did not have a written language then.
It was the secret ancient records of the Mongolian imperial family. It was strictly confidential and was kept in the Yuan Dynasty imperial palace. After the fall of the Yuan Dynasty, the Ming Dynasty Emperor seized it. It was translated in the 15th year during the reign of the Hongwu Emperor
The first line of The Secret History of the Mongols retains the strange title of the original book, Manghuolun Niucha Tuobichiyan. Initially, scholars organising the history of the Yuan Dynasty such as Li Wentian did not know what these nine strange characters meant, and mistakened it as the name of the original author. So, it’s no wonder that Ouyang Feng didn’t understand the weird text “Hahuwenbenying, hutuke’er” and others.
It was only later when the Strange Texts published by Ye Dehui spread overseas that sinologists from various countries started to study it enthusiastically. Among them, Frenchman Paul Pelliot, German Erich Haenisch, Soviet BI Pankratov, and Japanese Naka Michiyo contributed the most.
The edition of The Secret History of the Mongols I referred to is the one by Mongolian scholar Tsendiin Damdinsüren. He restored the strange Han text into ancient Mongolian language (the original book used 13th century Mongolian language, which is different from modern Mongolian language), before translating it into modern Mongolian. China’s Mongolian scholar Xie Zaishan then translated the text from Mongolian into modern Chinese.
The Secret History is the original material. Several revisions spread to the West and were developed into many books. The most important among them was the Altan Tobchi
Many deeds were removed from the revisions. Some examples are Yesügei snatching a man’s wife who bore Genghis Khan, Yesügei being poisoned, Genghis Khan being captured by the enemy, Genghis Khan’s wife Börte being captured by the enemy and later bore his eldest son Jochi, Genghis Khan killing his half-brother Behter with an arrow, and others. All told of disgraceful things about Genghis Khan.
Readers naturally know what inspired the strange text in the Nine Yin Manual.
The Mongols ruled the whole of China for 89 years, and ruled northern China for over a century. However, the lack of a clear cultural identity meant it left no significant impact on the Chinese way of life. Mongols rarely intermarried with the Han Chinese, so they weren’t assimilated by the Han Chinese either.
According to Li Sichun in Yuan History Studies, the word dai
What I tried to to avoid were words that were too modern, such as sikao (to think), dongji (motive), yingxiang (influence), mudi (goal), guangfan (broad) and the likes. I replaced suoyi (therefore) with shiyi (thus), putong (ordinary) with xunchang (usual), sudu (speed) with kuaiman (tempo), xianzai (now) with xianxia (at present), muxia (at the moment), yanxia (before your very eyes), chike (this moment), fangjin (today) and so on.
The illustration for the fourth volume (editor’s note: not in the maindland edition) is a painting of Buddha by painter Zhang Shengwen
“A scroll of the Brahma painting on the right by painter Zhang Shengwen of the Kingdom of Dali. Entitled on the left, ‘Painted for the Lizhen Emperor
The date is wrong. Song Lian believed that the Gengzi mentioned in the painting referred to the fourth year of Emperor Lizong of Song (1240), but he miscalculated by 60 years. It actually refers to the seventh year of Gengzi during the reign of Chunxi
There is another piece of evidence. The painting mentioned Lizhen Emperor, who was Master Yideng Duan Zhixing (I made up both the Dharma name and story of Master Yideng). His six era names were Lizhen, Shengde, Jiahui, Yuanheng, Anding, and Hengshi (according to The Revised Chronicles by Luo Zheyu. The Hengshi era name is not mentioned in the Nanzhao Unofficial History.) During the Gengzi year (the fourth year of Emperor Lizong of Song) Song Lian referred to, the Kingdom of Dali was ruled by Emperor Xiaoyi
The painting is now stored in the National Palace Museum in Taipei. The description published by the museum is based on Song Lian’s research, and might be corrected in the future.
Song Lian was a famous scholar in the early Ming Dynasty. He was the tutor of Zhu Yuanzhang’s
In comparison, the History of Ming
This translation is by Jenxi for WuxiaSociety and appeared first on WuxiaSociety.