It's been a really, really long time since we talked about some formerly popular topics, among them is the martial arts level of Huang Shang. So, without further due, let's devote our attention to this matter.
Well, how good is he ?!
Well, I have my opinion about that, but what good is one person's opinion? Let's discuss it in detail.
To kick things off, here is some previously assembled information about Huang Shang. The first part was written by Laviathan.
During the reign of Emperor Huizong, all Taoist manuscripts throughout the Empire were gathered by royal edict. The number of texts consisted of 5481 scrolls, and Emperor Huizong ordered Huang Shang to supervise the printing of the compilation of the Taoist Canon, the Zhenghe wanshou daozang. Huang Shang therefore had to read the entire canon in order to check misprinted characters, and after a few years he completely understood the Taoist way of martial arts and became an accomplished fighter. The Taoist Canon was printed in the period of 1116-1117.
the Taoist Emperor Huizong ordered Huang Shang to destroy the heretic Ming Cult. The Song army was defeated by the Ming Cultists, and the enraged Huang Shang challenged the Ming Cult martial arts experts to duel. Huang Shang then killed several Guardian Lords and Ming Heralds.
However, many of those who were killed by Huang Shang were originally members of great martial arts clans and their relatives and friends went to Huang Shang for revenge. Greatly outnumbered, Huang Shang was wounded and fled. These martial artists then killed Huang Shang's entire family.
Huang Shang then hid himself in the mountains and analysed all the techniques of his opponents, in order to find ways to counter them. His enemies were great in number and all came from different fighting schools, so Huang Shang must develop a martial art to surpass all thse styles. After more than 40 years, Huang Shang finally reached a stage in which he could singlehandedly defeat all his enemies together, and he re-appeared out of seclusion. Yet, all of his enemies had passed away except for an old lady who was still a teenage girl when Huang Shang first met her. This old lady was very ill and dying, and Huang Shang realised that vengeance was futile. (In the Third Edition, Huang Shang cared for the old lady untill she passed away)
The Art of Nine Yin, therefore, was meant to defeat all the martial arts schools that Huang Shang had encountered.
In LOCH, the book of Nine Yin caused great chaos among the highest achievers of Martial Arts. Everyone wanted a piece of it: Even the great Wang Chongyang went for it (perhaps not out of greed, but still, he sought it). To be able to create a style that singlehandedly overcomes all of your enemies, and then to have it be the focus of everyone's attention in wulin generations later, is surely one of the most profound achievements in Jin Yong's universe. Let's analyze Huang Shang's achievements further:
1) Killing Ming Cult's lords 40 years ago - in HSDS, all 4 Ming Cult Guardian Lords have roughly equal martial arts level. Can Zhang Sanfeng or Zhang Wuji, 40 years before their peak, duel the lords PLUS other cult experts, and kill several of the lords? I highly, highly doubt it (we know Zhang Wuji wouldn't be able to, since he wouldn't be born yet!).
2) Creating an all-encompassing style - who else in the Jin Yong universe has CREATED a style FROM SCRATCH, which can overcome almost all other known styles in combat? Dugu Qiubai and Zhang Sanfeng may have achieved this honor, while Wang Chongyang couldn't even counter the style of the Ancient Tomb.
3) Center of attention - Huang Shang's creation was deeply treasured by future generations. It is a complete system with impressive healing methods. After Zhang Sanfeng created Taiji or Dugu Qiubai created his stuff, there wasn't known struggle or endless bloodshed to obtain them. In all of Jin Yong's universe, I can only think of YJJ, 6MSJ, and Sunflower Volumes as sought-after treasures. But I don't think any of these manuals were as sought-after as Nine Yin.
As a side note, there was an expert reader here who considered 9 Yin to be the greatest art ever. He noted: there is a possibility that Sweeper Monk can overcome 9 Yin...
All things considered, I see no evidence for Huang Shang not being one of the absolute cream of the crop in Jin Yong's canon.