The Legend of the Condor Heroes Afterword

Translation by Jenxi Seow.

The Legend of the Condor Heroes was serialised in the Hong Kong Commercial Daily between 1957 and 1959. I recall the care and encouragement Li Shawei-xiong,1兄 – xīong. Chinese honorific for an elder male friend or sibling. the editor of the Hong Kong Commercial Daily supplement, gave to this novel over a decade ago. However, he is 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 are straightforward. Guo Jing is sincere and reliable. Huang Rong is clever and quick-witted,2“Cunning” in the Second Edition. “Quick-witted” in the Third Edition. making it easy for readers to remember them. This is a feature of traditional Chinese novels and dramas, but it invariably lacks the complexity of the characters’ inner world. Perhaps due to the simple characters and lively plot, The Legend of the Condor Heroes is more popular.

There are Cantonese film adaptations early on3The phrase “early on” was added in the Third Edition, probably because it’s a long time since by then. and Teochew operas in Thailand, and multiple television series and films in Mainland China, Hong Kong, and Taiwan.4The Second Edition only mentioned a film being made in Hong Kong at the time of writing. The Third Edition was updated to address the other adaptations since then. The Second Edition contains a sentence about translations in Thai, Vietnamese, and Bahasa Indonesia was removed in the Third Edition. There have also been numerous books published under unauthorised used of my name, such as The Seven Heroes of Jiangnan and The Nine-Fingered Divine Beggar. However, I personally feel that some of my later novels seem to show some progress compared to 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. During this period, I mainly read Western plays and dramaturgy. Thus, some of the plot developments in the novel unconsciously adopted a dramatic style, especially the long segment about healing in the secret chamber at Niujia Village, which is entirely staged like a play in terms of scene and character movements. It was only after Liu Shaoming-xiong5刘绍铭 – Liú Shàomíng. Author. See Wikipedia (Chinese). pointed this out that I realised it. It was not intention during my writing. I only thought that such a method seemed unused in novels, without realising that it has been used countless times in plays.

During the revision,6He refers to the revision for the Second Edition. I made many changes. I removed some scenes from the First Edition that were not necessary for the story or character development, such as the little red bird, the battle of the frogs and toads, the violent acts of the Iron Palm Guild. I also eliminated the character Qin Nanqin, merging her with Mu Nianci. Some new plots were also added, 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 at Changling, and the process of Huang Chang compiling the Nine Yin Manual. Traditional Chinese novels originated from storytelling. Opening the novel with storytelling is a way to show that I remember the roots.

The chronicles of Genghis Khan were mainly sourced from a very strange book. This book’s original appearance is bizarre, surpassing the Nine Yin Manual. Its title Manghuolun Niucha Tuobichiyan7忙豁仑纽察脱必赤颜 – Mánghuòlún Niǔchá Tuōbìchìyán. contains nine Chinese characters. The entire book comprises twelve volumes, with ten main volumes and two supplementary volumes. The twelve volumes are filled with gibberish Chinese characters from the beginning to the end. You and I can recognise every characters, but we cannot understand a single sentence. It is truly an arcane text with words.8有字天书 – yǒuzì tiānshū. Tianshu literally means divine text or heavenly book, but is also used to describe illegible writing. Youzi means with words, as opposed to illegible writing that isn’t made up of any legible words.

Countless scholars from around the world have devoted their entire lives to studying and interpreting this book, publishing numerous academic papers, monographs, and phonetic transcriptions. A dictionary compiled specifically for this book has even been published, where the original meaning of every Chinese character in the strange text can be found. Any scholars researching the world history of the past 800 years must read this book.

It turns out this book was written in Mongolian using Chinese characters and was completed in July 1240. Manghuolun means Mongol, Niucha means secret, Tuobichiyan means complete records. Together, the nine Chinese characters mean The Secret History of the Mongols. The book was mostly likely written with Chinese phonetics because the Mongols did not have their own script at that time. It was the secret royal records of the Mongol Empire and was not meant to be shared outside the royal family. It was kept in the Yuan Dynasty imperial palace.

After the fall of the Yuan Dynasty, the Ming Dynasty Emperor obtained it. It was translated in the fifteenth year of the Hongwu Emperor’s9The Hongwu Emperor (21 October 1328–24 June 1398) Zhū Yuánzhāng (朱元璋), was the founding emperor of the Ming dynasty, reigning from 1368 to 1398. See Wikipedia. reign, converting the phonetic gibberish into meaningful Chinese text known as the The Secret History of the Yuan Dynasty. The translator is unknown, but it is very likely done by two foreigners serving in the Hanlin Academy10翰林 – Haǹlín. The Hanlin Academy was an academic and administrative institution founded in the eighth-century Tang China by Emperor Xuanzong in Chang’an. See Wikipedia. during the Ming Dynasty, the Academy’s shijiang11侍讲 – Shìjiǎng. Scholastic title during the Ming and Qing dyansties. Fourth rank literary official. Huoyuan Jie,12火原杰 – Huǒyuán Jié and xiuzhuan13修撰 – Xiùzhuān. Scholastic title during the Ming and Qing dyansties. Sixth rank literary official. Ma Yiyihei.14马懿亦黑 – Mǎ Yìyìhēi The gibberish text (Mongolian language in Chinese characters) and the readable version (Chinese translation) are both included in the Yongle Encyclopedia compiled during the reign of Chengzu of Ming,15明成祖 – Míng Chéngzǔ. Literally Chengzu of Ming. Chengzu is the temple name of Yongle Emperor. See Wikipedia. and thus it was preserved. There were many editions of this book during the Ming and Qing Dynasties, most of which omitted the original gibberish text.

The first line of The Secret History of the Mongols still bears the strange title of the original text: Manghuolun Niucha Tuobichiyan. Initially, scholars organising the history of the Yuan Dynasty such as Li Wentian16李文田 – Lǐ Wéntián. A famous Mongolian history research expert. See Wikipedia (Chinese). did not know what these nine strange characters meant, and assumed it was the author’s name. It is no wonder that Ouyang Feng could not understand the strange text in the Nine Yin Manual, such as “Hahuwenbenying, hutuke’er” and others.

Later, the gibberish text printed by Ye Dehui17叶德辉 – Yè Déhuī. A famous Qing Scholar. See Wikipedia (Chinese). circulated abroad, and garnered the enthusiastic attention of sinologists from various countries. Among them, the Frenchman Paul Pelliot, the German Erich Haenisch, the Soviet scholar B I Pankratov, and the Japanese scholar Naka Michiyo were the most dedicated to its study.

The edition of The Secret History of the Mongols I referred to was first restored to its original ancient Mongolian by Outer Mongolian scholar Tsendiin Damdinsüren, who converted the strange Chinese text into ancient Mongolian language (the original text used 13th-century Mongolian, which is different from modern Mongolian), and then translated it into modern Mongolian. Chinese Mongolian scholar Xie Zaishan18谢再善 – Xiè Zàishàn. translated this into modern Chinese.

The Secret History is the original source material. Several revised versions spread to the West, which then developed into many works. The most important among them is Altan Tobchi by Persian Guush Luvsandanzan. Before Western scholars had access to China’s The Secret History of the Mongols, all works on Mongol history were based on Altan Tobchi. The revised versions omitted many events, such as Yesügei abduction another man’s wife and the subsequent birth of Genghis Khan, Yesügei’s poisoning, Genghis Khan’s imprisonment by enemies, the abduction of Genghis Khan’s wife Börte and the birth of his eldest son Jochi, Genghis Khan killing his half-brother Behter with an arrow, and others. These were all considered to be somewhat disgraceful aspects of Genghis Khan’s history.

You naturally know where the inspiration for the strange text in the Nine Yin Manual came from.

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The Mongols ruled all of China for 89 years, and ruled northern China for over a century. However, due to their lack of a clear cultural identity, they did not leave a significant impact on the lives of the Chinese people. The Mongols rarely intermarried with the Han Chinese, and thus were not assimilated by them. According to Mr Li Sichun21李思纯 – Lǐ Sīchún. in The Study of Yuan History, the only discernible influence of the Mongolian language on the Chinese language that can be verified is the character dai.19歹 – dǎi It means bad, such as “bad people”, “bad things”, and “good or bad,” and was derived from Mongolian.

When writing a novel with a historical setting, it is impossible to research every word. The Southern Song Emperor, officials,20“Southern Song Emperor and officials” added in the Third Edition. Guo Xiaotian, Yang Tiexin, and others who never had contact with Mongols, so their dialogue should not contain the character dai. However, I did not avoid it deliberately. What I tried to to avoid were words that were too modern, such as sikao (思考 consider), dongji (动机 motive), wenti (问题 problem), yingxiang (影响 influence), mudi (目的 goal), guangfan (广泛 broad). I replaced suoyi (所以 therefore) with shiyi (是以 thus), putong (普通 ordinary) with xunchang (寻常 usual), sudu (速度 speed) with kuaiman (快慢 tempo), xianzai (现在 currently) with xianjin (现今 at present), xianxia (现下 right now), muxia (目下 at the moment), yanxia (眼下 before your very eyes), cike (此刻 this moment), fangjin (方今 now).

One of the illustrations22The Second Edition specified Fourth Volume, but this has been removed in the Third Edition. in this book (editor’s note: not in the mainland edition) is a painting of Buddha by the Dali Kingdom artist Zhang Shengwen.23张胜温 – Zhāng Shèngwēn. Painter from the Kingdom of Dali. See Wikipedia. It includes an inscription by Ming Dynasty Hanlin Academy scholar Song Lian,24宋濂 – Sòng Lián. Chinese historian and official of the Ming Dynasty. See Wikipedia. which states: “To the right is a scroll of a Brahma image by Dali Kingdom painter Zhang Shengwen. The inscription on the left of the scroll reads, ‘Painted by Imperial Order of the Lizhen Emperor’.25利贞皇帝 – Lìzhēn Huángdì. The first era name of Duan Zhixing from 1172 to 1175. See Wikipedia. Following this is a note by Shi Miaoguang26释妙光 – Shì Miàoguāng stating that it was painted on the eleventh day of the first month in the fifth year of Shengde’s28盛德 – Shèngdé. The second era name of Duan Zhixing from 1176 to 1180. See Wikipedia. reign, Gengzi27庚子 – Gēngzǐ. Geng is a Heavenly Stem. Zi is an Earthly Branch. Gengzi denotes a sexagenary year. See Wikipedia. year. The colouring and gilding are exceptionally exquisite, and the calligraphy is also commendable.

“The Dali region was originally the land of Han Dynasty’s Yeyu29楪榆 – Diéyú. Dieyu county of the Han Dynasty.and Tang Dynasty’s Nanzhao, and was inhabited by various barbarian tribes. Initially called Dameng,30大蒙 – Dàméng it was renamed Dali31大礼 – Dàlǐ. Not to be confused with the current name Dali 大理., and later changed to its current name by Duan Siping32段思平 – Duàn Sīpíng. A statesman who founded and became the First Emperor of the Kingdom of Dali in 937. during the Later Jin Dynasty. Weakened by the late Song Dynasty, the brothers Gao Xiang33高祥 – Gāo Xiáng and Gao He34高和 – Gāo Hé governed the Kingdom. Emperor Xianzong35元宪宗 – Yuán Xiánzong. Temple name of Möngke, the fourth khagan-emperor of the Mongol Empire. See Wikipedia. of Yuan Dynasty conquered and annexed the Kingdom. Gengzi year was the fourth year of the Jiaxi era37嘉熙 – Jiāxī. The era name of Emperor Lizong of Song. Era names were used for identifying and numbering years. See Wikipedia. of Song Emperor Lizong36宋理宗 – Sòng Lǐzōng. Emperor Lizong of Song (26 January 1205–16 November 1264) was the 14th emperor of the Song Dynasty and the fifth emperor of the Southern Song Dynasty. He reigned from 1224 to 1264. See Wikipedia. and Lizhen is a descendant of the Duan clan.”

The date Song Lian deduced is incorrect. Song Lian believed that the Gengzi year mentioned in the painting referred to the fourth year of Jiaxi under Song Emperor Lizong (1240 CE), but he was off by 60 years. It should be the seventh year of Chunxi38淳熙 – Chúnxī. It is the third era name of Emperor Xiaozong of Song from 1174 to 1189. See more on Wikipedia. era of Song Emperor Xiaozong’s reign (1180 CE). The reason for this error was that Song Lian didn’t not thoroughly researched the history of the Kingdom of Dali, and did not know that the fifth year of Shengde in the Dali Kingdom, which was a Gengzi year, was 1180, not the Gengzi year 60 years later.

Another piece of evidence is the inscription on the painting, which states it was created for Emperor Lizhen. Emperor Lizhen was Duan Zhixing, who had six era names39Duan Zhixing had six era names in the twenty-eight years of his reign: Lizhen (利貞; 1172–1175), Shengde (盛德; 1176–1180), Jiahui (嘉會; 1181–1184), Yuanheng (元亨; 1185–1196), Anding (安定; 1197–1200), and Hengshi (亨时; ?–?). during his rule: Lizhen, Shengde, Jiahui, Yuanheng, Anding, and Hengshi (according to Luo Zhenyu’s Revised Chronology. The Unofficial History of Nanzhao does not include the Hengshi era name). The Gengzi year Song Lian mentioned (the fourth year of Jiaxi under Song Emperor Lizong) was actually during the reign of Emperor Xiaoyi of Dali,40孝义帝 – Xiàoyì Dì. Emperor Xiaoyi. Temple name of Duan Xiangxing. Duan Xiangxing41段祥兴 – Duàn Xiángxìng. See Wikipedia (Chinese). (Duan Zhixing’s grandson), which was the second year of Daolong.42道隆 – Dàolóng. The era name of Emperor Xiaoyi. The Dali Kingdom was conquered by Kublai Khan of the Mongol Empire in 1253 (the first year of Baoyou43宝佑 – Bǎoyòu. The era name of Emperor Lizong. of Song Emperor Lizong’s reign), during the reign of Dali Emperor Duan Xingzhi.

This painting is currently housed in the National Palace Museum in Taipei. The museum’s publications describe it based on Song Lian’s research, and might need correction in the future.

Song Lian was a renowned scholar in the early Ming Dynasty. He was the tutor of Zhu Yuanzhang’s44朱元璋 – Zhū Yuánzhāng. The Hongwu Emperor (21 October 1328–24 June 1398) Zhu Yuanzhang was the founding emperor of the Ming dynasty, reigning from 1368 to 1398. See Wikipedia. crown prince, and was known as the foremost civil servants of the Ming Dynasty’s founding. However, the Ming scholars were careless with their research. Song Lian presided over the revision of History of Yuan under the Emperor’s orders, and completed the editing in just six months. When the Emperor received new materials the following year and ordered him to revise it, it was also hastily completed in six months. As a result, the History of Yuan is considered one of the poorest quality among China’s official histories.

In contrast, the History of Ming was compiled from the 17th year of Kangxi’s45康熙 – Kāngxī. The Kangxi Emperor (5 February 1654–20 December 1722) was the third Emperor of the Qing dynasty, and the second Qing emperor to rule over China proper. See Wikipedia. reign to the 4th year of Qianlong’s46乾隆 – Qiánlóng. The Qianlong Emperor (25 September 1711–7 February 1799) was the fifth Emperor of the Qing dynasty, and the fourth Qing emperor to rule over China proper, reigned from 1735 to 1796. See Wikipedia. reign. The whole process took 60 years and the difference in thoroughness is vast. It is no wonder that the late Qing Dynasty scholar Ke Shaomin47柯绍忞 – Kē Shàomín. Chinese historian. See Wikipedia. created the New History of Yuan as a replacement. The fact that Song Lian’s inscription on the painting missed the date by 60 years alone indicates numerous errors in the History of Yuan. Nevertheless, Song Lian was man of integrity and principles, refusing to flatter Zhu Yuanzhang and his personal conduct was very commendable.

December 1975

The following was added in the Third Edition.

This book underwent further revision from 2001 to 2002 to become the Third Edition, correcting many chronological errors. I also rewrote Huang Yaoshi’s relationship with his disciples. During the revision, I referred to the valuable opinions of netizens on Taiwanese website Jin Yong Tea House and many other readers. However, errors may still not be completely eliminated and I continue to welcome readers’ corrections and suggestions.

In the Third Edition, I replaced the section about Lü Wenhuan defending Xiangyang with Li Quan and Yang Miaozhen, the couple leading the loyalist army to guard Qingzhou. This is to align with the historical and geographical accuracy. I further developed the defence of Xiangyang in The Return of the Condor Heroes.

Mr Wang Rongwen, the head of this book’s Taiwanese publisher Taipei Yuanliu Publishing Company, and editors Ms Li Jiaying, Ms Zheng Xianglin, and Ms Zhao Zhenyi, corrected many errors related to dates, character ages, and the sequence of events, and others. Special thanks go to Ms Zheng Xianglin for her academic approach in compiling a chronological table. In the age table, she even calculated the ages of minor characters such as Hou Tonghai, Lu Guanying, and Cheng Yaojia.

June 2002