Jianghu: A World of Martial Arts

*Written by fridaythe13th

The term "jianghu" actually means rivers and lakes. It is used to describe the pugilistic world of ancient China. It was a world where the law doesn't exist. The people of "jianghu" are those who tries to make a living, or survive, in this world. Chinese fiction have captured that image very well through books, movies and TV series. "Wuxia", the Chinese name given to martial art fiction, is about martial arts and the way people lived through the pugilistic world of ancient China.

The variety of people in "jianghu" is endless. Each has their occupation, their membership of a brotherhood, their martial art skills and their personalities. For example, the carefree Linghu Chong (State of Divinity) is the leader of the Heng Shan Sect, an order of nuns. There is no "the hero" or "the villain" in "jianghu", the people are just trying to make a living, survive and become the best martial artist in the world. Some do it with justice, others do it with evil practice.

No matter what personalities the main characters have, all heroes are courageous. The character of Qiao Feng (Demi Gods and Semi Devils) is not only a brave person, but he is also loyal and honest. Felix Wong portrayed the character almost to perfection from the character of the novel. Gu Long characters like Li Xunhuan (Dagger Lee) and Chu Liuxiang (Chu Liu Xiang) have a more gentleman-like personality, while Linghu Chong and Wei Xiaobao (Duke of Mount Deer) are more cunning and attitude. They, almost always, have a common thing. They are surrounded by more than one female character. For example, Duan Yu (Demi Gods and Semi Devils) was being chased around by three different women! Why didn't the main female characters get that advantage?

Many creators of fiction have their main female character as the most beautiful woman in their storylines. Different types of female characters are different in their own ways. There are some characters who are considered the lively type, usually likes to help people, they are sometimes nosy. They argue a fair bit and they usually make the reader, or audience, laugh. People like Ren Yingying (State of Divinity) and Huang Rong (The Condor Heroes) fit well in this type. Other heroines are really the smart, witty people who are cold and heartless on the outside and soft and caring on the inside. This people include Yang Yan (Dagger Lee) and Murong Jiu (Jue Dai Shuang Jiao).

Sometimes called the evil person, but the formal terminology is "antagonist". The Chinese saying goes: crows around the world are all bad. No matter how good they try to show on the outside, it doesn't change their evil hearts inside. Villains like Yue Buqun (State of Divinity) are not popular but is good at faking his evilness. These hypocrites are the best, or the wittiest, villains. Many villains that are too merciless and vicious, Zuo Lengchan (State of Divinity), and they get killed sooner than the patient, calculating ones. Almost 90% of the villains' martial art skills were better than that of the hero's. These included Dongfang Bubai (State of Divinity) and Oyang Feng (The Condor Heroes).

There are 18 weapons of martial arts. The main groups of these weapons are spear, sword, staff, hammer, axe, halberd and rings. The sword is the most written about weapon in fiction, excluding hands. Heroes like Linghu Chong, Yang Guo (The Return of Condor Heroes) and Yuan Nianzhu (Swordsman III) all carry the sword. Weapons like the staff and broadsword are specially used by particular people, the staffs are for Shaolin monks and the broadsword for the royal guards. Secret weapons are also very popular to creators. Li Xuanhuan carries flying dagger, while one of the female leads, Yang Yan, uses the morningstar as a weapon.

The type of skills associated with the weapons are very important. They allow each person to be unique and can be identified by the skill. For example, Qiao Feng is identified with his "Eighteen Palms of Dragon Down" and Dongfang Bubai's "Sunflower Sculptures", the fantasy martial arts of fiction, "shen gong". The skill of martial arts are also associated with the particular sects, like Shaolin's "Eighteen Arhat Fist" and Guild of Mendicant' s "Sunbin Cane".

Everyone who knows martial arts in the ancient times know the skill of "qinggong", or the skill of floating in air. Qing means light, so the word suggest the skill of being lighter than the earth's gravity and be able to walk silently and long distance. Their leaping skills are also great. Dagger Lee's actors shows off this skill often in the series. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon also demonstrates the skill effectively.

Because of the rapid growth of the Chinese population, the way of jianghu was either join a brotherhood or be a wanderer. A brotherhood, can also be sisterhood, uses a particular weapon, follows a particular religion, does a particular trade, or looks over a particular area. Escort places are involved in trade as well as what's happening in the world around them. The most common brotherhoods in groups are sects, cults, guilds, guardianships, fortresses and societies.

The most famous brotherhoods are not only seen in Jin Yong and other's works, but some of them did, or still do, exist. The Shaolin Temple, The League of Five Swords, Emei, Wudang, Kongtong and Qingcheng are the most famous sects that are considered righteous and renowned. The Sun and Moon Cult, later became the Faith of Enlightenment, the Faith of Divine Dragon, the Five Poison Cult and the Yin Yang Cult are the most famous cults or religious sects that are considered evil. The righteous and evil sects are often talked about in Jin Yong's novels, although some righteous portray evil and some evil are good. This is seen in State of Divinity and Heavenly Sword and Dragon Dagger.

The three main guilds are the Guild of Mendicants, the Guild of Salt Transport and the Red and Green Guild. Guardianships are places where escorts are hired for a fee, these include Central Guardianship and the Guardianship of Bliss and Blaze. Fortresses include Flying Swallow, Sword and No Weapons, and societies include the Heaven and Earth, Green Dragon and Red Flower. Many of these brotherhoods aren't real, but some, like Red and Green Guild, are. Red and Green Guild actually lord over the Shanghai and Nanjing area in the 1800's.

Way of Jianghu
It is true that "jianghu" is a place where the law doesn't exist. Each person has their own morals and rules that keeps them alive. The code of brotherhood is important in "jianghu" as chivalrous people would be loyal to their friends. People like Qiao Feng are those heroes who stick by the code of brotherhood. The five basics of the code are:
1. xia (chivalry)
2. hao (gallantry)
3. li (virtue)
4. yi (righteousness)
5. zhong (loyalty)

Send fridaythe13th a message
View all Opinions written by fridaythe13th
Write an Opinion
Discuss this Opinion Column at the forum
Go back to Opinion Columns listing

Buy Now

A Hero Born (Legend of the Condor Heroes)Jin Yong English Translation Book 1

A Bond Undone (Legend of the Condor Heroes)Jin Yong English Translation Book 2

Buy Locca Boba Tea Kit

Love bubble tea?DIY Boba Tea Set