Sword of the Yue Maiden

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3 min read

Sword of the Yue Maiden by Jin Yong was first serialised in 1970 the Hong Kong newspaper Ming Pao Evening Supplement.

Background

This short story was the last of Jin Yong’s works.

The story is set in the Spring and Autumn Period, making the historical setting the earliest among Jin Yong’s novels. It revolves around the Yue Maiden, who lived during the reign of King Goujian of Yue (496-465 BCE).

The novel was based on the legend of the Yue Maiden, and the war between the states of Wu and Yue during the Spring and Autumn Period.

The real name of the Yue Maiden is unknown. She is simply referred to as Yuenü1越女 – Yuènǚ. Literally the Yue woman., which can be translated as the Lady of Yue or, more commonly, the Yue Maiden. She impressed the King of Yue with her exposition on the art of the sword, and he bestowed upon her the title of Yuenü.

He decreed that his army adopt her style of swordsmanship and appointed her to train his army officers, who in turn instructed his army. Hers is the earliest known exposition on the art of the sword, and influenced Chinese martial arts for generations.

The war between Wu and Yue was the last major conflict during the Spring and Autumn Period. When King Helü of Wu2闔閭 – Hélǘ. King Helü is considered one of the Five Hegemons of the Spring and Autumn Period due to his military successes with the help of his famous commander Sun Tzu. received news of the death of King Yunchang of Yue, he launched an invasion of Yue but was mortally wounded during the Battle of Zuili 3槜李之战 – Zuìlǐ zhī zhàn. Zuili is modern day Jiaxing, Zhejiang. and died telling his son to avenge him.

His son, King Fuchai of Wu, defeated Yue three years later and captured King Goujian of Yue. Goujian served as Fuchai’s servant for three years before he was allowed to return home.

Upon his return to Yue, Goujian plotted his revenge against Fuchai. Goujian shunned riches and comfort, choosing to sleeping on firewood, ate food suited for peasants, and forced himself to taste bile. These were to be constant reminders of his humiliations when he served under the State of Wu.

The Chinese idiom 卧薪尝胆 (wòxīn chángdǎn) comes from Goujian’s story. It means to endure hardships and temper oneself in order to accomplish one’s goal.

Adaptation

In 1986, Hong Kong’s ATV produced a 20-episode television series Sword of the Yue Maiden.


Read translation

Sword of the Yue Maiden: Part 1

“After you.” The two swordsmen turned the point of their blades downward. Their right palm holding the sword hilt…

Notes

  • 1
    越女 – Yuènǚ. Literally the Yue woman.
  • 2
    闔閭 – Hélǘ. King Helü is considered one of the Five Hegemons of the Spring and Autumn Period due to his military successes with the help of his famous commander Sun Tzu.
  • 3
    槜李之战 – Zuìlǐ zhī zhàn. Zuili is modern day Jiaxing, Zhejiang.

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