Wen, Wu, and Romantic Love: The Xia and Masculinities in Jin Yong’s Wuxia Novels

In 1955, Jin Yong serialized his first wuxia novel in Hong Kong. Generally categorized as being part of the New School wuxia fiction, Jin Yong had followed a literary tradition that was no longer permitted in China, with a different interpretation of the xia figure and the composition of masculinity. Jin Yong’s male characters are not fully wen (cultured) or wu (martial). His male protagonists do not consider women a source of trouble or distraction from their martial arts studies; in fact they all boldly embrace romantic love. Yet love is not the men’s sole focus, as the men in the scholar-beauty stories. These heroes are simultaneously impacted by their female companions and the political situation at the time, thus range somewhere in the middle of the wen and wu spectrum, but never completely reach either ends. Chen Jialuo, the male protagonist of Jin Yong’s first novel Book and Sword, is a handsome, learned young man hailing from an honorable family and has superb martial arts skills. In great contrast, the “hero” of Jin Yong’s last novel Deer and Cauldron is the rascal Wei Xiaobao, who is illiterate, has weak morals, and his only martial arts skill is to escape from danger. In addition to the two characters mentioned above, I will also examine Guo Jing from Condor Heroes, and Linghu Chong from Proud, Smiling Wanderer in regards to the wen, wu, and romantic aspects in the makeup of their masculinity and chivalrous characters.

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