The Heaven Sword and the Dragon Saber

The Heaven Sword and Dragon Saber was first serialised by Jin Yong in newspapers from 6 July 1961 to 2 September 1963.

The book is the third of the Condor Trilogy. The story has undergone two revisions. The second edition was released in 1979 and and the third edition was published in 2005.

Some translations mistakenly translates the title as The Heavenly Sword and the Dragon Saber. The term “heavenly” implies that the sword is a divine weapon. The term yi tian means to rely or draw upon the might of Heaven. Hence, the accurate translation of the sword’s name is the Heaven-relying Sword. Its counterpart is the Dragon-slaying Saber. Dropping the compound modifier for both weapons improves brevity with little loss in meaning.

Title changes

The first edition of the book was literally The Heaven Sword and Dragon Saber. This was changed in the second edition. While the new title can still be translated as The Heaven Sword and Dragon Saber, the more literal translation would be Drawing on the Might of Heaven to Slay the Dragon. This alludes to how the people drew on the power of Heaven to defeat the dragon, a symbol of the Imperial authority. In other words it, the title hints at how the people overthrew the Emperor.

The beauty of the new title lies in how it literally means heaven-relying, dragon-slaying, a nod at the two artefacts that the story revolved around. This deeper double meaning highlights how the Chinese language can express so much with so few words, in this case four characters.

The Heaven-relying Sword and the Dragon-slaying Saber were said to be the key to the secret that would allow the wielder to rule the world. The story centres around the love between men: the brotherly love of the Seven Swordsman of Wudang, and the fatherly love between Zhang Sanfeng the teacher and Zhang Cuishan the disciple, and Xie Xun the godfather and Zhang Wuji the godson.