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Thread: Are an extraordinary number of wuxia characters literate?

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    Moderator Ken Cheng's Avatar
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    Default Are an extraordinary number of wuxia characters literate?

    Before the invention of the printing press, literacy was a rare skill. Indeed, until the 20th Century, more people around the world were illiterate than literate.

    Surprisingly, in wuxia stories, it seems that *most* characters are literate. When Mo Yung F'uk was revealed to be illiterate (and even then, it was by choice, not circumstantial limitations), it was shocking. Is the high degree of literacy among wuxia characters at all historically plausible?

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    Senior Member ChanceEncounter's Avatar
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    Gotta be literate to read all those fancypants manuals.

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    Moderator Ken Cheng's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ChanceEncounter View Post
    Gotta be literate to read all those fancypants manuals.
    That's just the thing, though: a conspicuously high number of those protagonists could read and write. For some, such as Deun Yu, it's not surprising...but just how Gwok Jing managed to learn to read and write is difficult to explain. While his second teacher (Chu Chung) was a scholar, the Gong Nam 6 Freaks were barely able to teach him martial arts, let alone reading and writing.

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    Senior Member ChanceEncounter's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ken Cheng View Post
    That's just the thing, though: a conspicuously high number of those protagonists could read and write. For some, such as Deun Yu, it's not surprising...but just how Gwok Jing managed to learn to read and write is difficult to explain. While his second teacher (Chu Chung) was a scholar, the Gong Nam 6 Freaks were barely able to teach him martial arts, let alone reading and writing.
    If Guo Jing was illiterate, he would have never been able to memorize the 9YZJ and the story would never have happened. We would be treated to 40 chapters of him sitting in his tent at home.

    It's a bit like natural selection. The people with extraordinary circumstances (and often extraordinary literacy) fall into situations which make good Wuxia.

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    Senior Member jadebunny9's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ken Cheng View Post
    That's just the thing, though: a conspicuously high number of those protagonists could read and write. For some, such as Deun Yu, it's not surprising...but just how Gwok Jing managed to learn to read and write is difficult to explain. While his second teacher (Chu Chung) was a scholar, the Gong Nam 6 Freaks were barely able to teach him martial arts, let alone reading and writing.
    I believe in Guo Jing's case, his mother taught him how to read and write Chinese because she wanted him to remember his real roots and culture.

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    Moderator Ken Cheng's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jadebunny9 View Post
    I believe in Guo Jing's case, his mother taught him how to read and write Chinese because she wanted him to remember his real roots and culture.
    How was she literate, though? She was an unremarkable peasant woman, and in ancient China, literacy was a privilege of the social elites.

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    well liu bei who weaved straw sandals for a living because his dad died early learned how to read and founded the kingdom of Shu.

    during the same era, Lu Meng, who started his career as a brave soldier and leader of the van, was persuaded by his lord Sun Quan to study the military classics. He did, and became supreme commander of the kingdom of Wu.

    I think for Guo Jing, having his 2nd master teach him is plausible enough. What's not plausible is how as a kid he worked and practiced martial arts very hard, i mean where does he get the time to sleep??? adults should sleep 8h15 every day to stay healthy, and kids should sleep much more than that.

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    Moderator Ken Cheng's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by BlackRaven View Post
    I think for Guo Jing, having his 2nd master teach him is plausible enough. What's not plausible is how as a kid he worked and practiced martial arts very hard, i mean where does he get the time to sleep??? adults should sleep 8h15 every day to stay healthy, and kids should sleep much more than that.
    Moreover, Gwok Jing was an infamously slow learner in anything other than martial arts. He was inarticulate and had very little affinity for literary or fine arts. Chu Chung would have had an even harder time teaching Gwok Jing to read and write than teaching him martial arts.

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    Moderator kidd's Avatar
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    Mo Yung F'uk is illiterate? Only today I know and an equally shocked.

    Maybe Kwok Jing can learn the language because only 1 person is teaching him reading unlike the martial art part where 7 people are teaching him 7 different type of martial arts.

    Btw, Sek Por Tin is illiterate. Wai Siu Bo only knows a few characters.
    什麼是朋友?朋友永遠是在你犯下不可原諒錯誤的時候,仍舊站在你那邊的笨蛋。~ 王亞瑟

    和諧唔係一百個人講同一番話,係一百個人有一百句唔同嘅說話,而又互相尊重 ~ - 葉梓恩

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    Senior Member Ian Liew's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ken Cheng View Post
    How was she literate, though? She was an unremarkable peasant woman, and in ancient China, literacy was a privilege of the social elites.
    Another thread mentioned that she was illiterate to the point where she didn't even know her husband's full name. Zhu Chong would most definitely have taught him how to read and write if he didn't already know. The Mongols would have had their own system, but probably not have gone as far as teach Han Chinese.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ian Liew View Post
    Another thread mentioned that she was illiterate to the point where she didn't even know her husband's full name. Zhu Chong would most definitely have taught him how to read and write if he didn't already know. The Mongols would have had their own system, but probably not have gone as far as teach Han Chinese.
    Yes Li Ping was illiterate and only knew her husband as Tian Ge (Brother Tian) or some such -- others would refer to him by his full name but she didn't really pay attention enough.

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