The Swordsman

Reviewed by: sukting

February 15, 2009

Rating: two-point-five

How long
40 episodes Martial Arts


It is a translation of 古龙’s novels - 《流星蝴蝶剑》and《浣花洗剑》. It was considered the blockbuster that ATV came up with its whole stable of artistes. It was described by China netizens as an outstanding work combining special effects and the story into one. It brought out the chivalrous nature of the swordsmen that they want. How was the result?

Story/ Introduction on characters

1. Yan Bei Fei – Lau Chung Yan
He is from the so-called evil sect but he joins the righteous pugilists to defeat Liu Sheng Yi Jian in a duel. Yi Jian’s one stroke is enough to injure him seriously but he manages to win him. What’s more 20 years later? Gu Hong’s sentimental strokes learned from his father is almost at par. Bei Fei has learned the rule of being magnanimous instead of being ruthless or too sentimental. He goes into retreat as he knows Bai Chuan’s secret. His family is wiped out within one night after that. Chung Yan barely passes the test to act as Bei Fei. He makes the fatherly role convincing.

2. Yan Bai Yun/Gu Hong – Lau Chung Yan
Gu Hong is the sole survivor of the family tragedy. Bai Chuan brings Gu Hong away after killing his family. However, he sneaks away to be brought up by Xiao Yue. He receives the order to kill Bai Chuan and later realizes that he is Mou Chou’s father. It takes him some time to figure out the sword manual that Bei Fei leaves him.

He is about to get happily married to Mo Chou when she is killed. He is seriously injured by many pugilists too but insists of burying her personally. (That scene is a tragic one as he places her into the coffin with flowers.) The mastermind is Bai Chuan’s senior. He kills Jiang Nan and Yi Jian. After doing so, he throws away his sword and wanders the plains on his own.

I am clueless how Gu Hong falls for Xiao Lian and Mo Chou. Mo Chou is very wooden – maybe because he pities her. His love with Xiao Lian is equally undesirable – too fast – he should wait for 10 years, This is so unlike his parents whose love is so ever lasting. He has too much to think of and can’t let go of everything. This is so annoying – he lacks bravery and power in every aspect.

Chung Yan is too old to act as Gu Hong. Something is wrong with the design as wrinkles can’t be hidden. Bei Fei is every inch a swordsman and is firm in decision making but Gu Hong is one who falls for others easily when they are nice to him. Tin Jiu or Chi Keung will make a better choice. His character is bad – many grumble over it. He isn’t gallant nor courageous. He is like a glutinous cake, easily formed to different shapes when pressed. He is unlike the novel’s character to have good judgment.

3. Chu Xin Ru – Chung Jing Yee
She is Bei Fei’s wife who supports him in whatever he does. Equally intelligent and highly skilled, both made a compatible and loving couple. Unfortunately, both are perished together in Bai Chuan’s ambush. ATV doesn’t know how to promote Jing Yee in their dramas after she joins them. She is often given second fiddle roles. How can they arrange her role to disappear within 4 episodes?

Many love the part of Bei Fei with Xin Ru. They are together in life and also in the same tomb in death. It is really beautiful although their union is short. Credits must be given to Jing Yee to make her performance so memorable. Hiu Yee and Kung Yu pales so much in comparison.

4. Qin Bai Chuan – Chun Pui
He sneaks into Wu Dang as a thief. He then leaves it to form his own ‘7 star sect’ since the sect leader – his senior views him as a threat. He is one of the killers for the Yan family tragedy The rise of his glory is more intriguing than the novel’s character ‘Old Man’. He has two main purposes in life. One is to kill Yi Jian so that he can wash away his humiliating defeat in the duel with him. He wants to get back his reputation.

The second is to kill the last patch of pugilistic experts. Even if Wu Dang has lost all the worthy rivals, there are still powerful ones from other sects. If he wants to be rule the pugilistic world, they must not survive. So eliminating Yi Jian and Bei Fei is a must. So Bei Fei and his wife die innocently. He is pitiful to lose his children although he finally becomes the top pugilist. That is a high price to pay.

He has a final duel with Jiang Nan and dies in his hands. Chun Pui is the best person for the role – his wits, hunger for success and also his airs are in-born. No one can do it better than him.

5. Qin Mo Chou – Choi Hiu Yee
She is like Hu Die in ‘流星蝴蝶剑’. She is abandoned by her father, Bai Chuan since young. When she grows up, she is raped by Jiang Nan. Luckily, she meets Gu Hong to have some happy moments. But unfortunately, she and her son, Chu Yang are both killed by Yi Jian. I am unmoved when she dies. Hiu Yee is too wooden in acting. What a waste to get Chung Yan to partner with her.

6. Chu Jiang Nan – Yan Chi Keung
He is once Bai Chuan’s henchmen and plans to rebel against him. He is known as the devilish saber. He truly loves Mo Chou but forces himself upon her to get her. He will kill any man who tries to get close to her. Gu Hong becomes the innocent party to drag into the dispute of him dealing with Bai Chuan. He even instigates Yi Jian to come out of retreat to deal with Gu Hong. Jiang Nan learns the bitter process skill from him and injures him later when he doesn’t guard himself against him. He relies too much on the saber. His is Qi’s illegitimate son – so his beast nature is inherited from him.

Chi Keung had fans after this drama due to his hard work. He does quite well as the villain. But ATV was so unfair to him to pass him recycled clothes that Miu Kiu Wai has worn in ‘ Justice Bao - The Sword of Vengeance’. No wonder he turned to ATv after a few years. Was it that desperate those days?

7. Xin Xiao Yue – Mak King Ting
She is the mastermind of the whole killer clan. She takes care of Gu Hong and loves him. Unfortunately, he treats her as his family and not his lover. Thus, she attempts to break him and Mo Chou up. It is sad to see her jumping off the cliff. Her whole life is bitter – to bring up so many children as killers by being a prostitute. They are close as a family but they can never stay together anymore.

She is harmed by Yi Jian and Xiao Lian to be totally paralysed. We know that in a martial arts drama, the chance of leaping to death is normally very low. She is the most pitiful person to love the whole person, Gu Hong. I am puzzled why so many women love him – because he is the lead and must be loved without any reason? She gives up hatred for love in the end. Although she is not that stunningly pretty, she also delivers a shining performance as a woman trapped by love.

8. Liu Sheng Yi Jian – Tsui Siu Keung
He is a Japanese pugilist whose only interest is to spar with others. He comes from the desert to challenge Gu Hong. His obsession for duels brings harm to others and himself. If not for Xiao Lian’s love confession that she loves Gu Hong, he will not have ended the duel as a draw. Gu Hong manages to pierce 3 strokes into his body with his sword while Yi Jian returns him a sword stroke and a palm strike.

When has Siu Keung disappoint us? He never so far – only the script disappoints us. The inconsistency in this villain’s personality make me shake my head continuously.

9. Qin Mi – Yan Tin Jiu
He is Bai Chuan’s son who has neither the wits nor courage of his father as he is equally power hungry. He isn’t afraid of Wan Qi – Wan Qi has to bring Qi out to subdue him. A pity he dies in Jiang Nan’s hands too – all because of a woman. His performance is only lukewarm then as he was still new then.

10. Xiao Lian – Yeung Kung Yu
She is trained by Yi Jian to deceive Gu Hong. She pretends to be kind but she causes Mou Chou’s death. She finds herself falling for him later. Many will hate her to make Gu Hong so unfaithful. She kills herself out of regret as she causes Yi Jian’s defeat. It is good enough that she kills Duan Mu Qi but all will shake their heads over the development. Yi Jian seems to be a respectful figure from the start to earn Gu Hong’s respect. How does it turn out to be like this?!

Many have said that she resembles Yu On On. I agree so too – but acting wise, more is to be desired. I dislike her to get ‘the weak person to be attacked and needs a lot of protection’ stigma.

11. Wan Hei Qi – Ng Yin Wah
The only man that Qi can bring out to face others among his men. How much force has he applied using his black flag? But he appears too late and is finished off too fast by Jiang Nan. Cool is the word for him! Even as a villain, he becomes a prominent figure even though his role is small.

12. Duan Mu Qi – Ko Hung
He is the leader of Fei Peng castle. He is Bai Chuan’s rival who is equally resourceful. Both are at par and refuse to admit defeat to each other. He practises a powerful skill but is unconfident to face Bai Chuan. So his two loyal henchmen become his sacrifice to test Bai Chuan’s skills. Still, he dies in Bai Chuan’s hands as he is smarter.

Favourite character
Hei Qi – he is loyal to his master and battles with his foes with his wits and skills. Others should learn from him. Unfortunately, he dies young.

Most hated character
Gu Hong – never have I hated a lead role so much. He has done nothing presentable but this has not stopped 3 women for loving him. Love is blind indeed.

Interesting facts

Another version is TCS’s "The Great Conspiracy" shot in 1993. Another movie version is by Leung Chiu Wai and Yeung Chi Keng. I don’t like the movie so much as it is untruthful to the novel and Chi Keng looks more like a man although she is in women’s clothes.

‘The China neitzens compared some parts with ‘The Great Conspiracy’〈莲花争霸〉. Bai Yu Chuan gets the lotus manual while Jiang Nan gets the Japanese secret skill to return from the death. It is strange that both evil roles get more supporters than the main role, Shen Chong or Gu Hong. Many praised both versions for adapting their parts well.

The snow scenes were shot in Japan. Although the story sucks, I must say that the fighting scenes are beautifully shot with the experts swaying their swords in the snow or on the plains with the explosive effects.

The opening theme is<怕你看见我伤悲> - afraid to let you know that I’m upset. The ending theme is《余生恨更多》- more hatred in the remaining life. The ending theme is played when Gu Hong departs, not having any aim in life after that. Both songs are very sad.


The snow fighting scenes are fantastic. I am attracted by the first episode. Partly because Ma Yuk Shing was Ching Siu Dong’s disciple. The swords and the swordsmen did give many the feeling that they are combined into one. The duel between Gu Hong and Jiang Nan made all of us see the shadow of the swords in bright daylight. (Some might complain to be blinded by the sparks, though.)

Although the characters are striking, the story isn’t as luring as ‘The Great Conspiracy’. There are too many sentimental scenes are redundant dialogues/parts. However, I do enjoy the rivalry between the two sects. It shows how each person cheats in order to win. The part where Jiang Nan stages a rebellion to gain success is an eye-opener. But the actresses put me off with their dressing – they look as though they are wearing kimonos. They are slim but they look plump in them. Only Ching Yee is attractive looking.

It has an attractive start but terrible ending as the pace is too slow. I don’t understand why the producer wants to make it even slower than Gu Long’s pace. 40 episodes is too much for me to bear. The China netizens are too generous to make it a drama that they are fond of. No doubt this drama is not about heroes to talk about their chivalrous nature but what is there to look forward to if ALL of them are despicable?

The focus is on the ambitious Yi Jian and about how powerful hungry each person is to have all their dreams dashed in the end. All their fates are sealed with a sad finish. Being too stubborn brings them no where. But if a swordsman turns out to be like Gu Hong who is unaffected by Xiao Lian’s suicide and tells others that he has no hatred for others, will there still be hope in the pugilistic world? But some may argue that without Gu Hong/Yi Jian’s final duel, it will be any normal mou hap drama.

I don’t enjoy this drama as it has too many illogical parts and loopholes. Still, it is worth your time if you wish to watch a decent mou hap drama. ATV had a good cast of actors who are so highly skilled in martial arts then. They are so steady in their stances. Nowadays, you hardly see this in ATV or even TVB anymore. It is a pity that most of them either deflected to TVB now or to the movie world.

Sukting’s ratings :

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

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

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

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