For a long time, I've been trying to peg down the approximate dates of prominent Gu Long stories such as LUK SIU FUNG and SENTIMENTAL SWORDSMAN, RUTHLESS SWORD without great success. Laviathan helped to identify an allusion to a 16th Century Japanese warlord named Hideyoshi in LUK SIU FUNG, and Tiger Wong opined that SS,RS probably occurred in a similar timeframe as the LUK SIU FUNG saga.
I think I might have stumbled upon an extra piece of information that might help pinpoint the time period of these two Gu Long classics: a simple tobacco smoking pipe.
Tobacco plants have grown wild in the Americas since prehistoric times, but were unknown in Eurasia until after Christopher Columbus' first voyage to the New World in C.E. 1492. It probably took several years after Columbus' voyage for Europeans to discover and become fond of tobacco, and several more years for the use of tobacco to spread (via Europe) to East Asia through trade. The means that tobacco smoking products and implements were unknown in China until sometime in the 1500s.
In LUK SIU FUNG, one of the heroes of San Sai smoked a pipe, and in SENTIMENTAL SWORDSMAN, RUTHLESS SWORD, Old Man Sheun the storyteller was also a pipe-smoker. The presence of the pipe in these stories confirms both Laviathan's and Tiger Wong's assessments about the approximate time periods of LUK SIU FUNG and SS, RS in the mid-1500s. SS,RS could not have happened too close to 1600 because stories such as BORDERTOWN WANDERER and ROUND MOON, CURVED SABRE took place decades after SS,RS, but both BW and RM,CS still take place in a Ming Dynasty setting, without the hint of an impending Manchurian threat. If LSF was indeed contemporary with SS,RS, then it must also have occurred during the mid-1500s.
So a tobacco-smoking pipe might be the clue that pinpoints the time period of two Gu Long novels.