The Deer Carving Sabre (Siu Sap Yat Long)


Reviewed by: sukting

May 30, 2008

Rating: three-point-five

Foreword
This serial is an adaptation of Gu Long’s novel. I normally have no patience to read his novels that involve too much talking. There is the one exception. I am amused that Jin Yong adores swords while Gu Long likes sabers. I guess that is why it makes his novels unique. I have watched the 3 versions – the other two being ‘Treasure raiders’ and ‘Xiao Shiyi Lang’. I will focus more attention on the 1979 version, as I like it more. The ending is not truthful to the novel, though. Please forgive me if I make mistakes as I have forgotten most parts of it and had to refer 70% of it from my cousin or the novel.

Story

Someone peeps into Fong Sei Niong when she is bathing and Fong blinds them with her silver needles. She tries to seek help from 2 friends, Ha Ping and Gong Sun Ling for a mission. She is dismayed that Ha has one arm less while Gong Sun loses both his legs. The culprit is Siu Sap Yap Long. She is angry that they can’t help her now. Suddenly Gong Sun turns pale because his coffin is stolen. The stupid man placed his martial arts manual in it. Sei Niong tries to run after the man to get it back for him. She finds him but he kills himself. When she returns, she discovers that Siu has stolen it back for Gong Sun.

She meets Siu and recalls the past. The first time she met him. He had tried hard to get to the top of the cliff. She can never forget his smile when she made it. She is 34 this year – 5 years older than him. Both have a bad reputation. Sei Niong has a fiery temper and ill-treats men while he is known as a villain for robbing or killing. Fong shows Siu her sword –‘blue jade’ given by Count Siu Yiu. The pair that goes with it is ‘Chi Ha’ but it is broken by the deer craving sabre.

She wants Siu to help her to get the saber. He rejects and she impulsively pretends as a prostitute to lure the 4 escorts who protect the weapon. However, she nearly gets raped by them. Siu saves her but she blames him for grabbing the sabre before going to her. Siu replies that this is the only way to let them loosen the grip on her. She looks proudly at the sabre but Siu says it is forged. Sure indeed, when she uses ‘blue jade’, the sabre breaks into two. Both go to Ji Nan. At first all men are attracted to her but later all flock to a carriage. Sei Niong is annoyed.

Why? All are curious to see how ‘golden needle Sum family’ produces a no. 1 ‘Mou Lam beauty’, Sum Bik Kuan. She is returning to her hometown. She is also ‘Mou Har mansion’ owner, Lien Sing Bi’s wife. They are married for 3 years. But the town only manages to see her thrice or twice over the years because she stays in seclude.

They meet Sei Niong’s admirer, Yeung Hoi Tai. Siu pretends to be Sei Niong’s cousin. Yeung is a top pugilist but Sei Niong declares that she will never marry him. She has been in love with Siu all along. Yeung tells them that the sabre maker has not decided who to give the sabre. That implies that all might fight for it. He has two conditions – one is that the sabre must be carried by the side forever and Siu must be killed. The sabre is now on its way to Sum’s residence.

Yeung doesn’t know that he is Siu. Siu asks him why he thinks he is a villain since he has not seen him and he doesn’t see him do nasty things before his own eyes. Yeung compares Siu and Lien. Lien is famous as the ‘intelligent child’ since 6. At 10, his sword skills reach the highest level. At 11, he is able to discuss with famous swordsmen and is unbeaten at 300 strokes. Even Japan knows his existence. As for Siu, he has never failed in any duel and no one knows about his history.

But Lien is righteous and caring so he is considered a swordsman. Siu is a thief with no kin or friends and when he is in trouble, no one will help him. Moreover, Lien has an able and virtous wife, Bik Kuan. Bik Kuan’s parents died in a duel and only her grandmother Tai Kuan is in charge of the household. All approach the Sum residence to look at the weapon. Yeung gets Sei Niong and Siu to go. Sei Niong disguises as a man and both use forged identities.

Her nephew helps to serve the guests and notices that Siu is highly skilled. By right, he should be famous and not an unknown. But he trusts him being Yeung’s friend and doesn’t probe further. Tai Kuan announces to the guests in delight that Bik Kuan is pregnant. Siu is attracted to Lien’s significant appearance and Lien finds Siu equally noticeable.

The three escorts lie to Tai Kuan that the weapon is stolen by Sei Niong and Siu. Yeung is shocked but still trusts Sei Niong. She is touched. Siu leaves a letter, telling her to marry Yeung since he is such a nice man.
Siu meets a dying man – the 4th escort in the forest. He reveals that the 3 escorts do not keep the sabre for themselves but are under the instructions of another man. He dies before revealing.

Siu meets someone who flies gracefully among flowers to reach the dead body. His ‘heng gong’ is superb and Siu can’t take his eyes off him. He is wearing a mask and has a sabre with him. Siu is attracted by the deer carving design. The man is Siu Gong Zi and he cuts off the head, praising the weapon for being sharp. He exclaims that his master is right. Only by cutting the head can ascertain a person’s death. Siu sighs – what kind of ruthless master can produce this kind of disciple?

The other 3 escorts come and the 4 decide to frame Siu for the murder. Siu nearly bursts in anger upon hearing their plan. Siu Gong Zi is so crafty. If this man continues living, the pugilistic world’s size will be reduced by half. Siu Gong Zi carves words on a tree to declare that Siu is the murderer. To prevent Siu from destroying the words on the bark, he slashes the whole bark and wants the 3 to send it to Sum mansion. This will attract the rest to see the dead body. Strangely, Siu is not angry but impressed.

Siu Gong Zi’s mission is to bring Bik Kuan and the sabre to his master. He tells the 3 that they will just have to tell Lien that they know where Siu is. He will then leave Sum and give chase. This man looks perfect but is always eager to meet a strong opponent. Siu goes to an inn and drinks with a 16 year old lad. He gets drunk. The lad looks innocent but he kills Bik Kuan’s servant by surprise when her carriage passes by. Bik Kuan steps out and all are stunned by her beauty.

The lad is also taken aback but there is also jealousy in his eyes. He gives a cute smile, saying that smart women aren’t clever since they are only capable of making themselves look presentable. Bik Kuan wants to have a duel with him and he suddenly kneels down for forgiveness. Suddenly he attacks her and Bik Kuan’s ankle is poisoned. Bik Kuan only manages to use her sleeve to brush Siu Gong Zi’s poison needles aside and still faints. All should not miss the following memorable scene of battling of skills and wits!

Siu pretends to be drunk and is awake again. He has known that the innkeeper is Siu Gong Zi’s man. An experienced one will be quick and accurate to pour the wine. But this man always spills wine out of the bowl – how can he manage a business then? That is why he has not drunk anything at all. He knows that Siu Gong Zi is waiting for Bik Kuan. He even recites the words that Siu Gong Zi writes on the tree bark and calls out his name. Siu has seen him although Siu Gong Zi has not met him. Siu Gong Zi is pale but he still smiles. He says that Siu has been poisoned by the egg he has eaten.

With wine, the poison spreads slower. He always likes to use slow poison so that he can enjoy seeing people dying slowly. Siu sighs and takes out an egg. He swallows it but it appears in his hand again! That means that he has not eaten it as well! Siu Gong Zi is angry and attacks Siu. Siu dodges all his blows and suddenly Siu Gong Zi’s 5 nails fly to his chest. No one discovers that he is wearing gloves.

Siu touches his chest and falls. Siu Gong Zi laughs and says that this is not the only trick he knows. Siu suddenly stands and opens the 5 iron nails. Siu Gong Zi’s shoes suddenl shoots fire at him. The tree catches fire but Siu is back on the ground. He manages to snatch the sabre and keeps it as his own.

Then Siu Gong Zi uses a sword but Siu uses his palm to grab it. Siu Gong Zi tries to escape using black smoke but Siu waits in front of him again. Siu Gong Zi’s face turns totally green as if he has seen a ghost. Siu laughs – he has not shown him all his tricks – how can he leave? Siu Gong Zi hugs him and Siu realizes that she is a woman! He is stunned and doesn’t push her away. She then sinks her nails into his skin. She laughs, saying that he will rot and die in 1 hour. This is her last trick!

Bik Kuan has a boring life all along. Lien gives in to her and treats her politely. There is little passion in him and he talks little. Is this happiness? She knows that he doesn’t belong completely to her. When he knows of Siu’s whereabouts, there is excitement in his eyes. This is even wilder than knowing that she is pregnant. She tells him to leave with a reluctant tone and heads for ‘Mou Ha’ residence alone.

She wakes up and sees Siu Gong Zi pulling her clothes. Bik Kuan has no strength to resist when ‘he’ touches her breasts and ‘her’ eyes burns with desire. Bik Kuan feels so humiliated that she faints. Siu Gong Zi is jealous that she has a better figure than her. Siu suddenly appears on the carriage top and looks down. Siu Gong Zi knows she is not his match and obeys him to place Bik Kuan under a tree. ( Siu doesn’t wish to do that to her since she is married.)

Siu Gong Zi carries her but suddenly throws Bik Kuan at him. She then uses poisonous darts to attack her. Siu has no choice but to carry her. Siu Gong Zi laughs and escapes, saying that he can learn to love her since both of them are at par in battling their wits. Bik Kuan wakes up and sees Siu. Her right leg is swollen. He looks at her and she gets angry to stagger out herself.

Siu is amused – Bik Kuan is well-known to be mild-tempered but she is showing her anger now! She doesn’t understand herself too. He gives her medicine and her tears drop into the bowl. She feels safe with him. She looks at him when he is sleeping. When he is awake, he is strong and is sarcastic. But when he is asleep, he is innocent like a child who has nowhere to say his grievances.

The next day, the swelling becomes worse. Siu wants Bik Kwan to remove her shoe and sock to wash her foot in a basin. She nearly screams at him – even Lien has not seen it. She wants him to look away but he stares at her – he wants to examine the poison. If she delays and it spreads, he will have to see other parts of her body then. She obeys and he gathers the herbs. Bik Kuan is confused – how can she wash her leg at ease in front of another man?

The poison has reached her knee. He places the herbs on her wound and tells her to bandage it herself. 2 of Lien’s friends – Lau and Peng come to fetch her home. Bik Kuan then realizes that she is on top of a hill – that implies that Siu has carried her up here and he doesn’t even engage a carriage. Siu spars with them – how do they know her whereabouts? But later he still lets her leave with them.

Bik Kuan is ashamed – he saves her but she feels too shameful to admit that he is her friend. Does she look down on him? Suddenly, she realizes that the ‘Gong Zi’ that they talk about is not her husband but Siu Gong Zi’! They have dark secrets with ‘him’ – Lau commits murders for riches while Pang is a rapist. She escapes and suddenly longs to see Siu again, even longing to marry him!

But she gets to meet Siu Gong Zi again. Siu Gong Zi brings Pang to see her. He has killed Lau and Siu Gong Zi says he can marry Bik Kuan as a reward. But the price he has to pay is to hide Bik Kuan forever from Lien. She suggests destroying her skills, lock her legs and the best way is to leave her naked so that she can never run away. Whoever offends Siu Gong Zi will have a terrible end.

This is a big torture to both of them. Bik Kuan is so shocked that she shows no response when Lau comes to take off her outer clothing. Siu suddenly comes to stand behind Siu Gong Zi. Laugh at this part – he repeats exactly every word to Pang – but this time the future bride is Siu Gong Zi!Bik Kuan then realizes that she is a woman. Siu Gong Zi doesn’t show resentment but even takes the initiative to hug Peng. But before Siu can stop, she scratches him with her nails and Pang dies. She flees and laughs haughtily – why doesn’t the bridegroom be Siu instead?

Bik Kuan is unconscious for 3 days. She struggles, cries and screams in her sleep. Siu never leaves her side. He pities her but he doesn’t show it when she is awake. She is pretty but humble, cleaver and not cunning, soft but also strong. She doesn’t tell her woes to anyone. This is the dream woman that he has been waiting for long but she is already married. Even if she is not, her rich status doesn’t allow her to be with a thief.

Bik Kuan is grateful to him for saving her again. Her family servant, Sum Yee comes, wanting to bring her home. Siu slaps him and drives him away. Bik Kuan gets furious – Sum Yee has been the family servant for 40 years – how can he be like the rest? Siu only agrees to send her home 5 days later. She is annoyed and gets drunk. She is adamant to return home and even bits his hand.

He walks away but can’t help feeling worried when she leaves with the waiter in a carriage. The waiter has tried to dissuade her but to no avail. He tells her her family is killed and her home burned. Bik Kuan sees the ruins. Siu doesn’t understand why he chooses to keep the truth from her. Since Sum residence is no longer there, how can he bring her home? Sum Yee must be Siu Gong Zi’sman. Siu doesn’t explain earlier because he is afraid that she will go mad after so many ordeals. Why doesn’t she trust him?

Bik Kuan sleeps in the carriage. In her dream, Siu laughs and cries at her. She hates him and slabs him in the chest. When she removes the knife, he becomes Lien! Blood floods over him and only Siu’s 2 eyes look at her pitifully. She wakes up in cold sweat. The waiter advises her not to come down but she insists. She has a big shock and sobs. Even the waiter trusts Siu and knows his kind intension. Why after so many rescues, she doesn’t believe him and scold him?

The waiter hears two men coming and shivers. Bik Kuan stops crying and her eyes turn daring and peaceful. The two turn out to be Lien’s reputable friends. Her slight smile freezes upon recalling that the other swordsmen she knows turn out to be despicable rats. What about these two then? They have tattered clothes and reveal that they have tried their best to save many people in vain from the fire. They only manage to save her 2 cousins who are seriously injured on a boat. Bik Kuan finds it suspicious but later she dismisses her doubts. She goes to see them and the 2 vow never to let Siu off. Siu comes on the boat.

One cousin claims that he is the culprit who kills Tai Kuan. Bik Kuan is shocked to know Siu’s identity. Without thinking, she takes Siu’s sabre and stabs his chest. (this reminds me of Zhou Zhi Ruo stabbing Zhang Wu Ji in HSDS too). He doesn’t hide and is wounded. Another cousin suddenly comes out of bed and attacks Siu with the other 3 people. Bik Kuan realizes that she has been tricked again! She protects him with her needles. Siu’s initial despair look vanishes and he kills the 4. With the sabre that Bik Kuan throws back at him. One even falls into the river.

Suddenly he reappears on the boat. But Siu detects that Siu Gong Zi is behind him. Siu Gong Zi admits that she is the mastermind of all the killings. Siu is framed all along. Bik Kuan collapses while Siu Gong Zi refuses to reveal her master’s identity. She wants Diu to pester her for the name. Siu has a deep wound and is under her control.

Bik Kuan doesn’t understand why Siu Gong Zi treats her so well later. She is jealous when Siu appears with Siu Gong Zi together. Siu Gong Zi sneers at her – Lien must have left her because she is not demure enough. She feeds Siu crabs and Bik Kuan detects that he is in pain. She removes her outer clothes and is alarmed to find his wound rotting. She blames Siu Gong Zi for feeding him wine and seafood to aggravate the wound. Siu Gong Zi laughs – she isn’t the culprit to stab him – why must she do that? Anyway, she has found the nicest food for him – he should be grateful to her.

They go to Siu’s home – a valley and suddenly Siu jumps down the cliff. Bik Kuan follows without thinking. Strangely, she doesn’t think of Lien when she does this. Siu Gong Zi still keeps her sweet smile when she sees this. Both fall into a mud pond. Bik Kuan finds her ankle wound healing and hopes the same will happen to Siu. She shouts for his name and hears his voice. She is very happy over it. She remembers how he tells her how a wolf recovers by coming here.

Bik Kuan knows that Lien can take care of himself even without her. She doesn’t feel much for the unborn baby. She turns around and meets his eyes. Since he is also here and knows the route to leave, she is alright too. His cool and stubborn eyes suddenly show joy and gratitude so she feels shy.

He tells her about his sad past of all his10 elder siblings being killed and he has to fend for himself in growing up. He brings her to his real home in the wilds. They have a peaceful time together. However, he confesses that he only comes to stay for 1-2 months in a year because he is adventurous by nature. Siu tells her to have a bath in a nearby lake while he will wait for her in the hut.

He never knows how much this sentence means to her. She has been waiting for her parents or Lien to return home all the time. For the former, she waited for their coffins so she is frightened to face another tragedy. This makes her happy – this is the first time Siu waits for her. Both decide to face reality after 2 months when her stomach grows bigger.

When both are out of the valley, Siu sells the fruit and vegetables to villagers to get their traveling expenses. Bik Kuan sees the real side of him – he only robs for others. When it is time to return to Lien, she becomes reluctant. She uses her hairpin that Lien gives her on her wedding day to buy wine to repay him.

Lien is with his 4 friends at the inn when she returns. He tries not to show his anxiety and concern over her mysterious disappearance. He doesn’t ask her to explain why she is missing. All his friends frame Siu for murders 3 days ago. Bik Kuan blurts out that she is with him all the time. Lien is curious to know the answer but he doesn’t say anything. He starts to feel that he doesn’t understand her now.

His friends are stunned. They say politely that they might have wronged him and ask her about Siu’s whereabouts, willing to clear the air with him. But when she walks out of the room, they start telling Lien their ploy to kill Siu. Bik Kuan overhears it, feels disgusted and runs away.

The waiter gives Siu back the hairpin upon seeing him so drunk and sad. He wonders how Bik Kuan will react upon seeing Siu behaving like this. He starts to pity the couple. The 4 come to attack Siu and he is seriously injured. Siu is upset that Bik Kuan betrays him but she arrives at this time. All are afraid of her golden needles. It is raining and her stern look looks spooky under the thunder flash. She brings Siu out.She sees Lien wet in the rain. He has followed her. But his eyes show no anger or hatred but still looks at her tenderly. Bik Kuan feels guilty. Her husband has always been conscious about his looks.

She has never seen him in despair before. He wants her to return with Siu so that he can take care of them. Bik Kuan is no longer the gullible and pampered person after these 2 months of torture. She says in anguish – if he really means it – he should have stopped his friends from coming to this inn earlier. She is adamant of not returning as she is not trusting him anymore. She disappears in the dark.

Lien is not concerned about her but more worried on how to preserve the family name and not let her bring disgrace to him. Lien is shocked to see her to be a changed woman. He doesn’t stop her because he is sure that she will return because she owes him too much. A friend who is with him tries to blackmail him with this dark secret and gets slashed in the throat. His other 4 friends in the inn suddenly chide themselves for being stupid to let Bik Kuan leave now. Can Lien forgive his wife for being a loose woman??? They have been blinded by the fact that she is Lien’s wife!

Bik Kuan brings Siu to a cave in the forest and refuses to leave him. Siu senses a strong love for him in her. She is no longer a soft person. Whatever harsh words he says will not work to drive her away. She also knows that Siu is aware that the real killers for the murders are Lien’s friends themselves. Bik Kuan also realizes their real motives for killing – money, power and women. So she is staying to protect him.

Siu is glad that the rain clears their tracks. Bik Kuan knows that the 4 don’t spar with her earlier because she is Mrs Lien and not because of her skills. She has no confidence of dealing with them individually too. But Siu assures her that he has more endurance for pain like a lion. Combining their skills, they are able to kill a person. He knows all will separate to look for them individually. No one wants to share the credit for killing him and doesn’t wish his dark secret to be revealed.

Bik Kuan sits outside the cave. She lies to the 1st killer that she has placed Siu’s corpse in the cave. The man is suspicious and presses her wrist to enter the cave with him. He stands behind her and pushes her into the cave, shouting Siu’s name to declare that he has her in his hands. He suddenly feels needles penetrating into his neck and back. Siu has used Bik Kuan’s poisonous needles to kill him. Bik Kuan is impressed that his skills are not inferior to hers.

Siu tells her to place the corpse outside the cave. Bik Kuan takes a small dagger from his boot and is amused. He doesn’t care about other matters but is so particular about knives and daggers. The weapons he has are sharp and designs are unique. To him, a good knife is like a flawless piece of jade. Siu pierces the dagger into the corpse’s throat, pretending to kill him from the front.

Bik Kuan sees two rows of trees from another direction and decudes the 2nd killer will hide there upon seeing the corpse. Siu wants her to use her hair to tie a swaying branch. She has to wait for the man to get into the woods. Then spring the branch using her hair to surprise him and hit him with her needles. Suddenly the second man appears and says that he has heard their conversation so this doesn’t work on him.

He attacks Siu. Siu falls down and his arm is injured by his sword. However, he uses his own arm to grab the sword. Siu deliberately does this so that he will not block Bik Kuan from hitting needles at the man. He hopes that she will make use of the chance. And sure she does it to hit the man from the back so that Siu can use his deer carving knife to stab into his chest!

The 3rd man sees the 2 dead men and is afraid to come over. Siu challenges him to come forward. Bik Kuan feels like crying. Does he know that he has no strength left and is helpless now? Is he mad to do this? But to her surprise, the man runs away instead. Siu is thankful that the 3rd man has not seen him sweating and his blood is washed away in the rain. He is just betting on his luck.

Bik Kuan suddenly holds his hands. She is in tears. They know that they may not have a chance to be together when the last man comes. She tells him that she never regrets her choice and will cherish their last moments. Siu tells her that the last man is a lust. She shakes her head – the man has such a fine reputation for being a gentleman. Siu laughs bitterly – the more elegant he looks, the more dangerous he is.

The last man finds Siu dead with the other 3. Only Bik Kuan is breathing slowly with her eyes closed. He is attracted by her beauty and pulls open her clothes. Suddenly his eyes become dead as a fish. Blood flows from his mouth as there is a dagger on his heart. Bik Kuan’s hand holds tightly on the dagger. She helps Siu up a mountain quickly although no one is pursing them.

She is sickened by the last man’s ‘gentleman’ fame. Siu says nothing to traumatize her. He is grateful to her. If not for her, she is unwilling to do it. Lien watches them from afar. He still thinks that she will return to him since Siu is dying. Both faint in the forest and Bik Kuan slips down the mountain. She loses her baby.

They come to a mansion and their wounds are recovering. They find small figurines and are fascinated on how real they are together with fake furniture and scenery – just like a real model of a house. Later they are astonished to find themselves as part of the figurines! They meet some pugilistic experts who have disappeared for years. The couple is shocked to know that they can’t find their way out and are trapped till now! Even though they manage to find a way out, they are brought back by the owner.

They get to know the owner. He is a very ugly man. He agrees to let them leave if they manage to find a weakness in the ‘figurine mansion’ design. Siu goes out to seek the weakness while Bik Kuan waits for him. He manages to see through the ploy. The figurines are just hidden in the next house. If they are real figurines, there should not be sunlight in the mansion. The owner has tricked all that they have shrunk in size upon discovering the same mansion design. They have fallen into despair that they do not detect it.

Bik Kuan is later shocked to know that the owner is the actual mastermind after her family’s killing. She refuses to leave with Siu and is even willing to seduce him to get close to him to kill him. However, her chances are ruined as Siu Gong Zi is the owner’s disciple. Siu manages to let her escape while he stays to deal with the owner. He recalls Fong’s words. Fong has never met Count Siu Yiu in person although he gives her the twin swords. He concludes that the person must be very ugly to face the world so he hides himself. The owner admits that he is indeed Count Siu Yiu. In the process, he manages to kill Siu Gong Zi and flees.

Siu and Bik Kuan are out of the mansion. Siu doesn’t know that she is vent to seek her revenge. On the way, they meet Sei Niong and Yeung who are about to get married. Sei Niong is so overjoyed to see him that she jumps down from the wedding sedan to chat with him. Yeung can’t tolerate her even removing the red scarf and chides her. However Sei Niong is so bad tempered that she decides not to marry him after all! She throws the scarf and runs away with the couple.

It is then now that she remembers to ask Bik Kuan’s name. She tries to clear the air but Bik Kuan pretends to be unable to forgive them and leaves. Fong is being ambushed on her way and is seriously injured. Many still think that she has the deer carving sabre. Yeung is willing to take care of her but she sneaks away from his home. She has not wanted to give him more trouble. She meets Bik Kuan again and both women decide to stay together. They know of each likeness for Siu but they become friends. One killer tracks Fong down and he kills her in the hut that they stay.

Bik Kuan is calm. She knows that this person is Lien. He is worked up when Bik Kuan still refuses to return to him all this time. Both spar and she thrusts her gold needles at him. But she dies when he slashes her in the throat. However, he weeps in grief as he really loves her very much.

Siu is very upset upon knowing the women’s deaths. He drinks in despair. Yeung later finds out that Lien is the culprit (I’m sorry but I can’t remember how he finds out.) Siu comes to seek revenge with the deer carving knife. This is a wonderful match although it is quite slow moving – just like the duel between Yip Gu Shing and Sai Moon Chui Shuet in ‘Luk Siu Fung’.

One handles a sword while another with a sabre. They fight 10 over minutes in the Lien mansion hall. Lien dies in the end – a very grand and unique way to die. Siu thrusts his sabre into the air and then holds Lien’s hands by the back. Then he carries him on his back. Lien is then killed by the sabre which ands right on his stomach. Siu is so overcome by hatred that he makes sure that Lien isn’t moving before throwing his dead body aside! He then wanders the world on his own again in loneliness.

Introduction on characters

1. Siu Sap Yat Long – Tse Yin(Tse Ting Feng’s father in real life)
No one knows his past and how he masters his skills. However, he seems to be connected to many theft cases and killings – which for most, he doesn’t commit them. As a carefree man, he doesn’t explain himself and that is why he becomes notorious in the end. In reality, he isn’t wicked – he is just cunning and wise. Many will be worn over by his cool mind in how to survive under the worst conditions. That is why Bik Kuan is still alive after so many setbacks. I really get angry with Bik Kuan for trusting others instead.

I have doubts on how Tse will act as this man is so beauty-conscious in real life. But he sends my jaw dropping as he appears very haggard here. Not clean shaven as in other clean cut roles, he looks every inch a wanderer. In tattered clothes and worn out black boots with a thick fringe, he is no longer the vain man we have known all along. With the deer carving sabre, he is okay as a wandering swordsman in appearance but his fighting scenes can be done better.

I must confess that I have never liked Tse Yin. His acting here is quite convincing although I dislike his grins. Knowing his style, his smiles contain a flirt element. He has adequate chemistry with See Kei or Suk Yee. The love scene is a big lure but his chemistry with Fu Shang is the best. Not as a couple but as enemies. I was so impressed by how the two battle wits and skills together. Despite my poor memory for other parts, I can remember their fighting scenes well. This shows that they have really done very well!

Wong Yat Wah – he looks too tired and haggard for the role. Our Dai Hup from the 80s has attained so much weight till he is nearly beyond recognition. And this role is supposed to be playful and humerous by nature but Yat Wah makes him too serious

Wu Qi Long – he is young, playful and impressionable. However, he lacks maturity in looks and seems to be a misfit into it. But his acting skills make up for the deficit.

2. Lien Shing Bik – Kwan Chong (veteran actor Kwan Hoi San’s son in real life)
Lien is a talented swordsman from young but he chooses to conceal all his feelings – even in front of his wife. He may look flawless but he has one weakness. That is to spar with Siu. That is why he wastes no chance to seek him out. Although he has never met Siu Gong Zhi then, she knows him so well! We can feel the depth of love for Bik Kuan. When she is missing, he gets worried. When she is back, he is relieved but refrains himself from touching her hair when she is back. He speaks to her in a soft tone – unlike the stern way that he presents in front of others.

Love turns to hatred when he discovers Bik Kuan’s infidelity. He hunts the couple down ruthlessly and shows no mercy to them. All his friends are not truthful to him and they only know how to make use of each other. All will not blame him although he can be detestable as he is a pathetic party.

You MUST watch Kwan! You will regret missing his fine performance. This serial shows why Kwan is a top choice for villain roles. Despite playing villains for so many times, he makes all the roles so different. I find him overshadowing Tse in here! He is thinner, younger and more skilful in fighting scenes than him.

I’ve seen him as Song Qing Shu in 78 HSDS, Fuk Tin Ching/ the prince in Luk Siu Fung and also Mou Fai in Chor Lau Heung. TV fanatics of the late 70s will remember all these roles fondly. It is not easy to hold equal ground against Cheng Siu Chau or Lau Chung Yan but he manages to do it. He is equally dashing and formidable in here. Dressing in white, he doesn’t lose out to Yuen Sang’s Sai Moon Chui Suet in looks or agility in ‘Luk Siu Fung’.

Unlike his other roles which are evil to the core from the start to the end, he shows kindness from the start. It is the existence of Siu (at par with martial arts skills) and his wife’s betrayal that turn him to be like this. This is very sad and I can’t bring myself to hate him when his life ends so miserably finally.

Kwok Yiu Ming causes so much damage. My whole imagination of this role is completely ruined. I don’t think he looks elegant and manly. He shows nothing about the wits that Lien should have here. His acting is close to a walking statue. What a pity of him to let go of this chance to do well in a meat role! The way he shows his love for Bik Kuan is shallow. I agree with SC, he looks sissy. But this is not entirely his fault as his face isn’t suitable for period dramas – getting him to be Siu’s younger brother is a big mistake too.

Yu Bo - he is so much better than Yiu Ming. He has the looks and the charisma to be a well brought up martial arts expert. He resembles TCS actor, Li Ming Shun in looks.

3. Yeung Hoi Tai – (unsure if he Wong Ying Choy/Har Yu/Ng Mun Tat???)
He is Sei Niong’s fiancé and is highly skilled after mastering martial arts from a monk. He is normally eloquent but he stutters in front of Sei Niong because he is shy. He is the young master of a bank but he doesn’t have the habit of bring much money with him. Sei Niong likes to dig fun at him. So she deliberately orders a lot of food to squeeze him dry. I really laugh when out of desperation, he sneaks out of the inn to borrow money from his friends to pay the bill!

He has full trust in Sei Niong – believing whatever she tells him. He doesn’t even suspect Siu’s identity as the others. All should have seen how pale he turns upon seeing them together for the first time but how relieved he looks when Siu says that Sei Niong is his ‘elder cousin’. His persistence helps to win her hand in marriage but unfortunately they still can’t be together when she dies.

Tsang Wai Kuen – he does it well but I will prefer him to be more shy when he sees Sei Niong. This version doesn’t seem that way. But due to the producer’s fault, he is dead due to his stupidity loyalty.

Wan Hong Jie – in this version, his personality stays but it is strange to place him as a young master of a ranch. The actor is not that good, though. He pins too much for Si Niang – can you believe that he even keeps her handkerchief or even goes after her whenever he sees her?

4. Count Siu Yiu

Ng Doi Yung – he is one of my favourite actors. His fine acting compensates for the horrible story. He is cunning, patient and wise in skills and the mind. He can predict all his foes’ steps. I wait for him to return from his death but he doesn’t! the producer should have made this role revive as he is so powerful.

Yu Zhen – he brings out the vicious side of the Count. Many find him a success in here.

5. Sum Bik Kuan – Lee See Kei (Aunt Sien in ‘A Kindred Spirit’)
I like her eyes – initially she is so frightened after so many mishaps. Later, she turns completely to be firm and her eyes are shining brightly with courage. She has the guts to look at them straight in the eye. And that reminds me of Siu Long Noi because she can be so unfeeling all of a sudden. I marvel at the change in her after she knows Siu. Who can expect her to defy Lien to be together with Siu? A rich woman becomes a village woman to stay in the wilds? That is totally unexpected!

Lee is so different from the strong Lok Bing in ’78 the book and the sword’. She is demure although she isn’t lavishing and persuasive like Wong Ming Kuen to be No. 1 beauty. She has given in her best as a weak to strong character. To my elder cousin, it is not a surprise to her as she has played the role the same way she has done for ‘70s the little flying dagger’. I have forgotten how she acts in it because the serial was shown when I was very young.

Heung Hoi Lan - My friend, Kate watched the serial in US immediately when it was out. She quickly emailed me after watching the 5 episodes, telling me that she compares her to a rock. She is too generous. To me, she resembles a granite valley. She is expressionless most of the time. Certainly not enough elegance to bring out the beauty that Bik Kuan has and the torture that she goes through although she is an ex-Miss Hong Kong beauty queen.

Chu Yan – She does her part fairly well but it seems that her version of Bik Kuan is weak all the way to the end that I simply dislike it. Making her look vulnerable and she looks like she doesn’t know martial arts that Siu must save her all the time. I still prefer the old version where Bik Kuan’s strong side is shown. There should be a transition so that all can see how she has changed for Siu.

6. Fung Sei Niong – Wong Suk Yee
She is so wacky and witty! She can make fun of men every now and then. I wonder why she doesn’t become a pair with Siu since they hit off so well. She is daring and is not afraid to admit what she likes and wants. However, she can be impulsive to fall into traps. She isn’t as capable as a thief as Siu who is more careful. However, her frankness helps her to know a lot of men who can help her out in her theft plans.

I have expected her to be with Yeung in the serial as in the novel. It is a pity to see her die in the end – due to the producer’s deliberate attempt to create tragedies. Wong plays the role well and I really like her.

Siu Mei Kei – She comes across equally strong but I feel the arrangement of her switching roles from a thief to a constable unbelievable. How can such an adventurous and ambitious person be willing to work for the court? Just a few more theft cases will make her richer by heaps and bounds. Making her so righteous doesn’t make sense – it doesn’t reflect her cunning and devilish ways to attain her goals.

Ma Ya Shu - she is okay. Moreover, she has an acceptable built that brings out the character’s strength and willfulness. But I think that she has made Sei Niong to look like a loose woman to flirt around.

7. Siu Gong Chi – Chan Fu Shang
This character is hopeless. Pretty but wicked – she comes up with plenty of devilish plans to cause distress, trouble or death to her enemies. She is so capable of knowing the reputable people’s dark secrets to blackmail them to be her lackeys. The surprises come to us one by one and seem unstoppable. Her disguise of a man makes all think that she is a ‘young master’ – that is why she is known as Siu Gong Zi because of her petite size. But her actions do not fit her cute face at all. Many are taken in by her innocent look and are attacked by surprise to get defeated.

Under training of a heartless master, Count Siu Yiu, she is ruthless like him. However, many will also be shocked to know that she is his mistress. No wonder she is so highly skilled too. Although she is very young, she is careful on not to leave tracks for her enemies. However, she meets a stronger match, Siu who upstages her and prevents all her plots from taking place.

Chan is perfect for the role to make it come alive. Completely flawless and evil! I give 5 stars for her acting. She looks completely innocent and pure on the outside but she is rotten to the core. Men will get attracted to the charms that she throws. You will be convinced why Bik Kuan is jealous upon seeing them together. Do laugh or shiver at her numerous attempts to frame or harm Siu to get backfired in the end. These scenes are highlights of the serial.

No wonder she gets the role of Ah Zi later – this serial is a warm up for her. Coincidentally, Tse and Chan are as father and daughter in ‘semi gods, demi devils’. There is another scene in there where both come to blows during their first meet. That scene is equally memorable.

Lo Mun Zhong – she is a singer but her excellent acting puts other young incapable acting artistes to shame. She immerses into the role well, making her look very ruthless. I must give her credit for it. If not, ‘treasure raiders’ will be another boring serial.

Li Qian – although she is an unknown, she is also expressive and young.

8. Sun Tai Kuan – Heung Yee

She is strong and brings up Bik Kuan after her son’s and daughter-in-law’s deaths. Since then, she takes care of the household and places high hopes on her only successor. She is a loving grandmother. But she is authoritative and dislikes her only granddaughter to be too weak. So she trains her to be more ruthless with the golden needles so that she will not show mercy to enemies. Although she knows that Bik Kuan marries a formidable husband, she still hopes that she can be independent on her own.

This actress is good and has the firm outlook. I can still remember how Yeung and other younger martial arts experts show her the due respect she deserves. They quarrel due to differences but when she is around, they stop their arguments and bow their heads in shame!

Zheng Yu Zhi – quite okay in her acting but the producer makes her to be an incompetent head of the household. Can you believe that she can lose to a small fry?

9. Fa Yu Yoke – Tam Siu Wan
A pitiful woman to be under Siu Yiu’s control. Tam is normally a vase in many dramas but she shows that she can act here.

10. Lien Shing King
Shing Bik’s younger sister who only appears in the China version. Not really good in here.

Actual ending in novel

Just to share with all fans. Count Siu Yiu in the novel is stunt in growth although he is very highly skilled. He feels very inferior over his looks so he is mysterious to all. Many think he must be fat and ugly so he doesn’t show himself.

I don’t really like the ending in the novel although Sei Niong is together with Yeung. It says that Siu challenges him to a duel and no one knows the outcome (but in part2 of the novel, we know Siu wins). Bik Kuan goes to watch the duel but never returns. Sei Niong and Yeung are together in the end.

Most favourite character
Bik Kuan, she turns from weak to strong. But I must state that the three characters do not fit the bill of being the Martial Arts No. 1 beauty as they are simply not pretty enough.

Most hated character
Shing Bik, a righteous man turns out to be a crook, how unexpected!

Song
It was sung by the late Roman Tam. It is found in his 16 song compilation album by Crown records released in 1993. Mr Koo Kar Fai wrote the music while Mr Peter Lai penned the lyrics. It is a very sad song and Roman is the best representative of the themesongs during the era.

The 2002 version was done by Wang Chieh. The title is ‘Find a place’. Not too as impressive as the former. Why? It is an adaptation of a Korean drama ‘Endless Love’! How can TVB be so lazy?!

The China version song’ turning point’ has Wu Qi Long as the singer. Not bad but lacks the punch. The ending theme is ‘hidden pain’ by him too. The subtheme song is by Chu Yan but she sounds too weak – just like how she acts as Bik Kuan in the serial.

Interesting facts

This serial first started as a movie. Dik Lung was Siu Sap Yat Long, Cheng Pei Pei was Fung Sei Niong, Jing Li as Sum Bik Kuan, Lau Wing(the actor as Emperor Qin) was Lien Shing Bik. It was said to be well received because of its star lit cast.

Gu Long has forgotten his job to talk about the sabre in the latter part of the novel but the producer remembers it! I have a feeling that someone replaces him to complete the novel again because the pace is so inconsistent. I am glad for once that the serial doesn’t follow the novel.

TVB is mad – it should have released ‘Siu Sap Yat Long’ on vcds first instead of ‘Treasure raiders’. In the end, I requested Gu Long’s website webmaster to scan pictures of the serial from ‘TVB 33rd anniversary year book’. That is because I have forgotten most of the names of the supporting cast and I deem it unfair if I don’t include or I happen to give the wrong names in my review. Many thanks to LT for his help!

Many are angry over recent versions of Siu to be a petty thief. He is supposed to be a person capable of handling greater and bigger deals.

Siu Mei Kei, Ng Doi Yung and Wong Yat Wah had worked in ‘Kim Mo Dok Gu Kau Pai’ before working on ‘Treasure Raiders’. They were overjoyed to work again. Ng joked why Wong didn’t switch roles with him to let him try out a righteous role this time?

Shiu Mei Kei and Tam Hiu Wan needed to film a bathing scene in Sai Kung. Both did not really enjoy it because the weather was cold.

Wu was injured in an explosion but he returned to work immediately after his discharge. Many admired his serious working attitude.

The Taiwanese version was shot in a hot place near a desert. Chu Yan and Ma Ya Shu decided not to wear their contact lenses unless fighting scenes were involved. When they were filming a scene, they could see an insect moving towards them but they could not make out what it was. It came as a shock to them after knowing from the filming crew that it was a cockroach! They were thankful that they were not aware of the truth. Otherwise they would not have the courage to carry on filming!

Conclusion

‘Treasure raiders’ doesn’t follow the novel and comes up with a nonsensical plot of Siu and Lien being brothers. Sei Niong becomes a constable is also highly questionable. This is unacceptable to me. Siu dies endlessly and survives repeatedly. Just a joke - if Wan Dai Hup in ‘Reincarnated’ knows about it, he will learn his skills from Siu instead of ‘Tien Can’ skill to save the trouble. Moreover, can the capable Count Siu Yiu be so stupid to jeopardize his own safety to get himself killed? My impression – this serial is a big letdown as the story is so badly written and the main cast doesn’t act well.

Xiao Shiyi Lang has Bik Kuan engaged to Lien – not married to him. It also focuses on Sei Niong’s love relationship with Yeung. The creation of Yeung’s father to be a villain here drags the pace. Yu Bo as Lien makes the character so hateful throughout so I don’t really fancy this version. The villains in this version are simply not evil enough.

Siu Sap Yat Long – I adore this old 70s version because the plot has a great development. Unlike ‘Ming Kiem Fung Lau’ which focuses on who the imposters are, the people here are real. But they are all wearing a mask to cover up all their misdeeds. So we have villains all over the place! You will get confused like Bik Kuan – can she trust the others after being approached by others and seeing the ugly side of them? All the reputable people turn out to be scums. It is unlucky for Siu to know their secrets. So they frame him to be the scapegoat for every single crime they commit.

Love, hatred, battles of wits, suspense and also fighting scenes – what you desire are all in it. Moreover, the veterans have the periodic faces that blend into the story. The right people are selected for the right roles.

Unlike other serials, the villains simply overshadow the good to stand out. I find myself longing for Lien, Count Siu Yiu and Siu Gong Zhi’s presence all the time – especially Lien. Kwan Chong is simply too good to capture my total attention. Kwan’s successors pale in comparison. He is captivating – from being proud and refined to becoming dejected and unfeeling. The transition is difficult to act but he did it!

If this serial is out on vcd, I will definitely watch it again. It is a true classic although it may not be as attractive as other Gu Long dramas.

Sukting’s Ratings :

On acting : ***1/2 (Scale of 5)

On story : *** 1/2(Scale of 5)


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