Anyone for Wuxia in English?

Reading some of the posts here, I thought some people might be interested in reading some Chinese wuxia fiction in English. I’ve always thought that it was a great shame that so little wuxia fiction has been officially translated into English. As far as I know, of the main novels of Jin Yong, only “The Deer and the Cauldron” has been translated into English officially and it’s published under an academic imprint and is therefore outrageously expensive to actually buy.

As an ethnic Chinese, many of Jin Yong’s and Gu Long’s (the two main wuxia writers) stories are well known to me due to endless television and movie adaptations. But my proficiency in reading Chinese is such that it’s extremely painful for me to attempt to read the originals. Happily, this being the Internet and all, amateur translators have taken upon themselves the job, and I’ve recently discovered that you can find bits and pieces of various translations at Wuxiapedia and the wuxia forums.

Being a volunteer effort, most of the translated pieces are in various states of completion and vary a lot in quality, but I’d recommend Jin Yong “Condor Trilogy” as a work that pretty such is the archetype for wuxia fiction. It comprises three works, The Eagle Shooting Hero, over 50% translated if you count the bits on the forums, Divine Eagle, Gallant Knight, fully translated at Wuxiapedia, and my favorite of the three, Heavenly Sword, Dragon Sabre, somewhat less than 50% done. The stories basically have the familar archetype of introducing a young hero with mediocre or non-existent kungfu skills who for various implausible reasons (finding a long lost martial arts manual, meeting a great master by chance etc.) eventually becomes a force to be reckoned with.

It’s not great literature but I think some of the stories are great fun. Some of the love scenes can be smaltzy, but if you can live through Robert Jordan’s braid-tugging and skirt-smoothing, you can probably live through that as well. The upside is tons of kungfu action, described in exacting detail, and the advancement of the main hero as he gains more and more skills. Plus all the details of the martial arts schools, Shaolin, Wudang, Kong Dong, Emei, Kunlun etc and the fantastically powerful martial arts greats.

Another plus: after reading these translations, it’s incredibly obvious how heavily Stephen Chow borrows from and makes references to wuxia fiction. The toad stance kungfu used by The Beast in the movie “Kung Fu” for example, is the main martial art skill of Ouyang Feng, the Western Poison, one of the four greats in “The Eagle Shooting Hero”. Chances are, if you enjoyed watching “Kung Fu” and the way more and more martial arts masters appeared out of nowhere, each with stranger skills and more powerful than the last, you’ll enjoy reading these.

Also some fun threads from the wuxia forums:

How many foot soldier does it take to take down a hero?

Marvel Superheroes VS the Brotherhood… of Lake and River

Where do martial art schools get their funding from?

Hey, this is neat. I was in Hong Kong for about a month some ten years ago, and I caught part of the tv production of Eagle Shooting Hero. It was actually the highlight of my days there, since I was there mainly to visit family and was too young to go out on my own. Didn’t see the ending (those shows go for 90+ episodes) and never imagined there’d be a english translation. Thanks.

Well I thought there would be more interest in this considering how geeky it is, I mean just take a look at the martial arts skills Guo Jing, the protagonist of “The Eagle Shooting Hero” gains over the course of his adventures (list stolen from Wikipedia):

Mongolian Archery and Wrestling
Martial arts of the Jiangnan Qi Guai
Quanzhen Pai Wu Gong (Quanzhen Sect Martial Arts)
Xianglong Shiba Zhang (18 Dragon-Subduing Palms)
Kongming Quan (Vacant Fist) / Shuang Shou Hu Bo (Technique of Ambidexterity)
Jiu Yin Zhen Jing (True Manual Of Nine Yin)
Peach Blossom Island Martial Arts

It’s just so game-like.

My wife picks this kinda stuff up from time to time, although usually she just reads romances in Chinese (read: porn stories).

I’m shocked. I’m just stunned. My wife does the exact same thing! For the wuxia stuff, she will only read stuff from Jin Yong.

I’ve watched the HK TVB 80’s adaptation of various Jin Yong sets. Those were like the best kung fu shows evar! I should really go buy the DVD sets from Chinatown and watch them again.

I heard that Jin Yong banned TVB from ever making another adaptation of any of his works after the atrocious 2000 version of Heaven Sword and Dragon Sabre. No idea how long that will last.

Personally I think a lot of the appeal of the old 80s adaptations comes from nostalgia and watching the AAA chinese stars of today, Tony Leung, Chow Yuen Fatt, Andy Lau etc. acting in cheap roles at the debut of their careers. These days I think the mainland China productions of Jin Yong’s works are better.

I liked the China / Taiwan 2003 production of Heaven Sword / Dragon Sabre but its been criticized for overuse of cheap-looking CGI:

The 2003 China version of The Eagle Shooting Hero is also pretty well regarded for its production values and fidelity to the novel. I haven’t seen it but I plan to some day:

The 2003 Eagle Shooting Heroes is perhaps the one most faithful to the book.

After ages and ages, Condor Heroes has finally been translated into English:

Starting 2019 or 2020, and all 4 volumes were available as of last year. I took a stab at reading the fan translation a couple of years ago, but reading via a series of forum posts was annoying enough that I gave up, so I’m happy to have it in an actual book.

I’ve been sort of variously aware of Condor Heroes since I was a kid, thanks to manhwa and TV versions from Hong Kong, but I’ve never actually read the story somehow, so I’m coming into it weirdly fresh.

I read The Book and The Sword a while back (which is excellent and self contained), and I tried the Deer and the Cauldron, but the Deer and the Cauldron is a little less typical as wuxia novels go, so I lost steam after the first volume.

Condor Heroes is sort of odd so far, in that you don’t appear to meet all the “main characters” until the end of the first volume. It’s extremely breezy and easy to read though.