Sword of the Yue Maiden by Jin Yong was first serialised in newspapers in 1970.
This short story was the last of Jin Yong’s works. 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 Kingdoms 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 Yuenü, which can be translated as the Lady of Yue or, more commonly, the Yue Maiden. She was bestowed the title of Yuenü by the King of Yue, who was impressed by her exposition on the art of the sword. 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. Yue defeated Wu at the Battle of Zuili (槜李之战) and King Helü of Wu was mortally wounded.His son, King Fuchai of Wu, defeated Yue three years later and King Goujian of Yue was captured. 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.
The two swordsmen turned the point of their blades downward. Their right palm holding the sword hilt, their left palm covered their right palm, then they bowed deeply to each other in a warrior’s salute.
Even before the two straightened, a sudden flash of white, then the sound of clanging. The two swordsmen each retreated one step. The audience gave out a soft cry.
The swordsman in blue cut three times. The liveried swordsman blocked each cut. The swordsman in blue shouted and slashed his sword from the upper left corner straight downward. The slash was powerful and fast. The liveried swordsman was too agile to be caught. A simple jump got him out of the way. His body bounced barely after his left feet touched the ground. He returned two slashes. The swordsman in blue stood still with a grim smile. He moved his sword lightly and blocked the attack.
The liveried swordsman suddenly began running around the swordsman in blue. He ran faster and faster. The swordsman in blue merely stared at the point of his enemy’s sword. He was ready to strike any time that point moved to attack. The liveried swordsman at first ran one way, then the other. The swordsman in blue started to feel a bit dizzy and said, “Are you fighting, or running for your life?” The liveried swordsman continued running. The swordsman in blue attempted to cut him down a few times, but his sword always fell short.
The swordsman in blue pulled his sword back to the side of his body and bowed his right leg slightly. The liveried swordsman thought he saw an opening and lounged at his left shoulder, the swordsman in blue was merely luring his enemy. His sword circled into a direct thrust at the liveried swordsman’s throat. The thrust was too fast to be avoided. The liveried swordsman was surprised. He threw his sword toward the heart of his enemy. The liveried swordsman hoped to force the swordsman to abort the thrust in order to save his own life.
Unexpectedly, the swordsman in blue didn’t attempt to defend himself. With a move of his arm, the point of his sword entered the liveried swordsman’s throat. Then the liveried swordsman’s thrown sword hit his chest with a loud clang and fell to the ground. The swordsman in blue laughed coldly and pulled his sword back. He was wearing a round plate of iron in front of his chest, just under the garment. That’s why the sword did him no harm. The liveried swordsman’s throat spurted blood and his body convulsed. The servants stepped in to remove the body and began to wipe up the blood on the ground.
The swordsman in blue sheathed his sword. He stepped forward and bowed toward the north of the hall where the king sat. The king wore a purple robe. He is of strange appearance. His neck was excessive long and his mouth was sharp as a bird’s beak. He smiled and said in a croaking voice, “The strong one has wonderful sword skill. Award him ten pounds of gold.” The swordsman in blue knelt down on his right knee and bowed, “Thank you for the award.” The king waved his left hand. An official on his right shouted, “Swordsmen of Wu and swordsmen of Yue,second contest!”
From the east end of the hall, another liveried swordsman walked out from his group. This man was tall of stature and held a great sword. The sword was nearly four feet in length. The blade was extremely thick and was obviously quite heavy. From the west of hall, another swordsman in blue walked out. He was of medium height. His face was criss-crossed by at least twelve or thirteen sword scars. The face seemed no longer human. He must have fought hundreds of battles with countless swordsmen. The two knelt to the king, then they saluted each other.
The swordsman in blue straightened his body and smiled. His face made the smile seemed ugly and cruel. The tall swordsman shivered. Then he sighed deeply and held his sword with both hands.
Suddenly the swordsman in blue howled madly like a wolf and thrust his sword. The tall swordsman cried, lifted his great sword and cut down toward his opponent’s head. The swordsman in blue dodged while his sword made a slash from left to right. The tall swordsman lifted the great sword and whirled, making the sounds of a great wind. The great weight of the sword didn’t slow him down in the slightest.
The two made thirty passes at each other. The swordsman in blue couldn’t oppose the weight of his opponent’s sword. He kept retreating. All the other liveried swordsman began to show hope on their faces as they anticipated their side to win at last.
Then the tall swordsman made a great cry like the sound of a thunderclap and made a horizontal cut with his great sword. The swordsman in blue couldn’t avoid it. He could only block it with his own sword with all his strength. Clang! The two swords met. The great sword broke and half of the blade flew away. The swordsman in blue wielded a far sharper sword. Then the swordsman in blue made a vertical cut which opened up the tall swordsman from throat to crotch. The tall swordsman howled and kept on howling as he felt to the ground. The swordsman in blue looked at his fallen opponent for a while before returning his sword to the sheath. Then he knelt toward the king. His face couldn’t disguise his joy of victory.
The official said, “The strong one’s sword skill is impressive. The award is ten pounds of gold.” The swordsman in blue bowed in thanks. There were only eight swordsmen in blue. Compared with fifty liveried swordsmen standing at the east side of the hall, they were badly outnumbered. The official said, “Swordsmen of Wu and swordsmen of Yue, the third contest.” Again, one swordsman from each walked to the centre of the hall. The sword of the swordsman in blue trembled and shone like bright silk. The official said, “Good sword!” The swordsman in blue thanked his praise. The official then said, “We have seen one-to-one contests twice. This time, two against two!”
Two more swordsmen entered the arena. The four again saluted the king first before saluting each other. Then the swords flashed as the combat began. This time, each of the two swordsmen on the same side must reinforce each other. After a few passes, a liveried swordsmen’s sword was cut into half by his enemy’s sword. This liveried swordsman was very courageous. He carried his broken and jumped toward his enemy. His opponent’s sword flashed and cut away his right arm together with his right shoulder. Then the sword impaled his heart. The other pair was still fighting. The victorious swordsman in blue watched for a while, then his sword moved. Again, the liveried swordsman’s sword was cut into half, leaving him wide open. His opponent’s sword entered his chest and exited from his back.
The king laughed and clapped, “Excellent swords! Excellent sword skills. Award them wine and gold. Let us see one contest of four against four!” Four swordsmen from each side began combat. The swordsmen from the east side had already lost three contests. These four fought desperately with all their skills. Even if they lost their lives, they meant to win at least one contest. Two swordsmen in blue concentrated on one liveried swordsman. The other two swordsmen in blue defended them against the other three liveried swordsmen. These swordsmen in blue only defended. Their skill of defence was impenetrable. They also made no attempt to attack, all they did was preventing the three from aiding their comrade. The other two swordsman in blue easily killed their lone opponent. Then they repeated their tactic again and killed another liveried swordsman.