Mandarin Duck Blades

Mandarin Duck Blades by Jin Yong was first serialised in 1961 in the Hong Kong newspaper Ming Pao.

Like his other works, Jin Yong revised the novella twice into the Second Edition and Third Edition. It is the second shortest of his works at 37,000 Chinese characters long.

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Title translation

Unlike most of the other translations of novel titles, I agree with the literal translation Mandarin Duck Blades. The novella is also known as Blade-Dance of the Two Lovers. While this title better conveys the meaning of the original title, it is rather unwieldy and loses the cultural reference.

The novel’s title is a very clever and meaningful choice, deeply rooted in Chinese cultural symbolism. Mandarin ducks are celebrated symbols of love, fidelity, and marital bliss. These birds are believed to form lifelong pairings, making them a powerful metaphor for devoted couples in Chinese tradition. The significance of naming the blades after mandarin ducks carries several layers of meaning.


Just as mandarin ducks are always seen in pairs, the Mandarin Duck Blades are a set of two, implying that they are most effective or complete when used together. This mirrors the idea that the two swords, like the ducks, are inseparable and complement each other in their use and purpose. The Mandarin Duck Blades is also a reference to the two pairs of couples in the novels.

Harmony & balance

The concept of yin and yang is central to Chinese philosophy, symbolising the balance and harmony of opposites. The male (鸳 – yuān) and female (鸯 – yāng) mandarin ducks embody this balance, suggesting that the blades, too, represent the duality and equilibrium between forces. The couples in use the Couple’s Sabers technique that covers each other’s weaknesses to make the couple invincible in battle.

Cultural resonance

The use of such a culturally rich symbol for the name of the blades ensures that they resonate deeply with readers familiar with Chinese culture, who would immediately recognise the layers of meaning. This not only enriches the narrative but also ties the story more closely to its cultural roots.


Mandarin Duck Blades is set in the Qing Dynasty. The story revolves around a pair of precious Chinese daos known as the Mandarin Duck Blades that are highly coated by many in the jianghu because they are said to hold the secret to invincibility.

The Qing Emperor wanted the blades for himself and issued a secret edict to search for the treasure. The Qing officials managed to track down the blades and commissioned an escort agency to deliver them to the Emperor in the capital.


The story begins as the Mandarin Duck Blades are being securely transported to the Forbidden City, commissioned by provincial officials who, under the guise of protection, detain the family of the escort agency’s chief to ensure his compliance.

The journey of the blades is fraught with peril as various factions within the jianghu attempt to intercept the convoy. Through a twist of fate, the coveted blades fall into the hands of two couples: Yuan Guannan and Xiao Zhonghui, alongside Lin Yulong and Ren Feiyan. Their possession of the blades draws the ire of Zhuo Tianxiong, a formidable imperial guard disguised as a blind man, tasked with safeguarding the blades’ delivery. Zhuo’s relentless pursuit forces the couples into hiding within an ancient, crumbling temple.

In their sanctuary, amidst looming danger, Lin Yulong and Ren Feiyan impart the secret of the Couple’s Sabers technique to Yuan and Xiao. This saber movement, symbolizing the unity and complementarity of the couples, bestows them with unmatched prowess, allowing them to finally overcome Zhuo Tianxiong in a dramatic confrontation.

As a brief respite, Yuan Guannan is invited to a significant event – the 50th birthday celebration of Xiao Zhonghui’s father, Xiao Banhe, at their manor. The festivity, however, is short-lived. Zhuo Tianxiong, alongside his men and a contingent of soldiers, crashes the party with intentions to arrest Xiao Banhe, revealed to be a notorious rebel, and to seize the blades.

In the ensuing chaos, Yuan and Xiao’s fighting spirit wanes upon a shocking revelation: Yuan is actually the long-lost son of Madam Yuan, making him Xiao Zhonghui’s half-brother. This twist of fate leads them to a nearby cave for refuge, where Xiao Banhe unveils his true past as a rebel who had once saved the lives of his companions’ families, including Yuan’s.

The narrative takes another turn as the truth comes to light: Yuan Guannan and Xiao Zhonghui are not blood-related, allowing their love to flourish. Amid these revelations, Zhuo Tianxiong is humorously captured by the inept but lucky “Four Heroes of Taiyue,” leading to a retreat by the soldiers.

In the climax, Xiao Banhe reveals the true secret of the Mandarin Duck Blades – an inscription advocating mercy as the path to invincibility. This profound message underscores the novel’s thematic essence, weaving together the fates of its characters in a story that transcends the mere physicality of the blades to explore the depths of human courage, compassion, and the enduring power of love.


  • Yuan Guannan (袁冠南 – Yuán Guànnán)
  • Xiao Zhonghui (萧中慧 – Xiāo Zhōnghuì)
  • Lin Yulong (林玉龙 – Lín Yùlóng)
  • Ren Feiyan (任飞燕 – Rén Fēiyàn)
  • Xiao Banhe (萧半和 – Xiāo Bànhé)
  • Zhuo Tianxiong (卓天雄 – Zhuó Tiānxíong)
  • Zhou Weixin (周威信 – Zhōu Wēixìn)
  • Xiaoyaozi (逍遙子 – Xiāoyáozǐ) is the most senior of the Four Xias of Taiyue.1太岳四侠 – Tàiyuè Sì Xiá.
  • Chang Changfeng (常长风 – Cháng Chángfēng)
  • Hua Jianying (花剑影 – Huā Jiànyǐng)
  • Gai Yiming (盖一鸣 – Gài Yīmíng)


In 1961, Hong Kong’s Emei Film Company produced a two-part film Twin Swords in Cantonese.2Twin Swords Part 1 and Part 2 on the Hong Kong Movie DataBase. Lee Fa directed the film, and Lam Fung and Chow Chung starred as as Xiao Zhonghui and Yuan Guannan respectively.

In 1982, Hong Kong’s Shaw Brothers film company produced the film Lovers’ Blades.3*Lovers’ Blades* on IMDB. Lu Jungu directed the film, with screenplay by Ni Kuang. It starred Kara Wai as Xiao Zhonghui, Meng Yuan-Man as Yuan Guannan, Tak Yuen as Lin Yulong, Hsueh-Erh Wen as Ren Feiyan, and Lung-Wei Wang as Zhuo Tianxiong.


There is an old translation from 2010 on SPCNET. Jenxi is currently working on the in-house translation that comes with footnotes on cultural and historical points, as well as translator notes to help readers better understand the context and appreciation the nuances that stems from Chinese culture and traditions.

The WuxiaSociety translation is based on the Third Edition of the novella.

See the Mandarin Duck Blades translation index for more information.

Four burly men in battle gear stood shoulder to shoulder, blocking the road ahead! If these were bandits from the outlaws’ mountain stronghold…