The Literary Legacy of Louis Cha

Still frames from a 1995 adaptation of the Louis Cha novel ‘Return Of The Condor Heroes’ (left) and a 1992 adaptation of his ‘The Smiling, Proud Wanderer’ (right). From Douban

His literary creations were the embodiment of honor, bravery, and chivalry for generations of Chinese readers.

On Oct. 30, the Chinese-speaking world lost a literary titan: Louis Cha, the famed novelist and author of over a dozen martial arts epics, who passed away at the age of 94.

The mainland-born, Hong Kong-based Cha was something of a Renaissance man: In addition to being one of the most influential Chinese writers of the 20th century, he was also a noted journalist, the founder of an influential newspaper, and a scholar of Chinese history who earned a doctorate from Cambridge University when he was in his 80s. But most readers know him best as Jin Yong — the pen name he used while producing some of Chinese literature’s most fully realized and distinctive characters.

Louis Cha poses for a photo while holding a copy of his novel ‘The Book and the Sword’ in Hong Kong, July 29, 2002. Bobby Yip/Reuters/VCG

Cha was a poet laureate of sorts for jianghu — a nigh-untranslatable term for a semi-mythical realm located outside the law, an oft-idealized criminal underworld filled with cunning rogues, rapacious brutes, and brave heroes, all living off little more than their fists and wits. By resurrecting one of the most classic and popular genres in the Chinese literary canon and updating them for modern sensibilities, Cha built a lasting following of millions of readers and laid the groundwork for a revival of martial arts novels, plays, and movies.

The key to Cha’s success lay in his vision of the world. Although Chinese culture is commonly viewed as a composite of Confucian, Buddhist, and Taoist traditions, there is another important component that often gets overlooked: xiayi. Most often translated as chivalry, xiayi is the very heart of Cha’s philosophy. Read the full article here.

– This is original content by Sixth Tone and has been republished with permission.