Demi-Gods and Semi-Devils

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This article is about the novel. For other uses, see Demigod (disambiguation).
Demi-Gods and Semi-Devils
Demi-Gods and Semi-Devils earliest ed book 16.jpg
Volume 16 of an early edition of Demi-Gods and Semi-Devils
Author Jin Yong
Original title 天龍八部
Country Hong Kong
Language Chinese
Genre Wuxia
Publisher Ming Pao, Nanyang Siang Pau
Publication date
3 September 1963
Media type Print
Demi-Gods and Semi-Devils
Traditional Chinese 天龍八部
Simplified Chinese 天龙八部
Literal meaning The Deva, the Nāga, the Eight Sections

Demi-Gods and Semi-Devils is a wuxia novel by Jin Yong (Louis Cha). It was first serialised concurrently from 3 September 1963 to 27 May 1966 in the newspapers Ming Pao in Hong Kong[1] and Nanyang Siang Pau in Singapore. The novel has since spawned several adaptations in film and television in both mainland China and Hong Kong. The novel's title has also been a challenge for translators for years. The major characters in the novel are based on the eight races of non-human entities described in Hindu-Buddhist cosmology[2] who are collectively known in Chinese as the Tian Long Ba Bu – hence the novel's Chinese title. The eight races are Deva, Nāga, Yaksha, Asura, Garuda, Kinnara, Gandharva and Mahoraga. In Buddhism, these demi-gods and semi-devils are ranked higher than mortals but are still bound to Saṃsāra by their own desires. It is said that Jin Yong originally modelled each major character after one of the races, but, as he continued writing, the complexity of the story made it impossible for such a simplistic mapping. An alternative English title of the novel is Eight Books of the Heavenly Dragon.[3]


The main thematic element of the novel concerns the complex, troubled relationships between the great multitude of characters from various empires and martial arts sects, and the inherent bond that underlies the struggles of each. The novel examines the cause and effect that forms and breaks these bonds on five uniquely corresponding levels: self, family, society, ethnic group, and country (dominion). The novel is primarily set in the Northern Song dynasty (960–1127) of China, but its setting also covers the non-Han Chinese empires of Liao, Dali, Western Xia and Tubo.


The plot is made up of separate yet intertwining story lines revolving around three protagonists: Qiao Feng, Duan Yu and Xuzhu. The complex narrative alternates between the perspectives of Duan Yu and those of the other characters.

Duan Yu's story[edit]

Duan Yu is a young, naive prince of the Kingdom of Dali. Despite a long tradition of the practice of martial arts in the royal family, he refuses to learn martial arts due to Buddhist influence and his disdain for bloodshed. When his father tries to force him to learn martial arts, he runs away from home. Ironically, for the sake of survival, he ends up mastering three powerful skills and ultimately becomes a formidable martial artist. In addition, he becomes immune to poison after accidentally consuming the Zhuha, a poisonous toad described as the "king of all venomous creatures".

During his adventures, he encounters several young maidens, whom he becomes romantically entangled with. However, one by one, these maidens are revealed to be actually his half-sisters due to his father's past illicit affairs with several women. Of these maidens, he is extremely obsessed with one Wang Yuyan, who resembles a statue of a fairy-like lady he chanced upon before. He tries to win her heart but she has no feelings for him as she has a crush on her cousin, Murong Fu. After a twist of events, Duan Yu finds out that he is actually not Duan Zhengchun's biological son. His love life ends on a happy note when Wang finally realises that he truly loves her and decides to marry him.

In the latest revision of the novel, Duan Yu and Wang Yuyan's romance is marred by a series of incidents which eventually cause them to be separated.

Qiao Feng's story[edit]

Qiao Feng is the charismatic chief of the Beggars' Sect who possesses strong leadership qualities and exceptional prowess in martial arts. He falls from grace after he is revealed to be a Khitan, and after he is wrongly accused of murdering some fellow martial artists. He becomes an outcast of the wulin (martial artists' community) of the Han Chinese-dominated Song Empire, which is at war with the Khitan-led Liao Empire. Qiao Feng's relations with the Han Chinese martial artists worsen due to the Song–Liao conflict, and also because he is now seen as a murderer and a threat to the wulin. He is forced to sever ties with them and engage them in a one-against-several battle, in which he singlehandedly kills many opponents, including some of his old friends and acquaintances.

Qiao Feng leaves to verify the claims that he is a Khitan and investigate the mysterious murders. He is accompanied by A'zhu, who is in love with him and stands by him. After a long journey in disguise, he concludes that he is indeed a Khitan and assumes his ancestral name "Xiao Feng". Tragically, he commits a major blunder after being tricked into believing that Duan Zhengchun (A'zhu's father) is responsible for his parents' death. He kills A'zhu by mistake when she disguises herself as Duan Zhengchun to protect her father.

Xiao Feng regrets and leaves Song territory with A'zi, A'zhu's younger sister, whom he had promised to take care of. A'zi has a strong crush on him but he does not reciprocate due to his undying love for A'zhu. Xiao Feng wanders into Liao territory, where he becomes a powerful noble after forging a strong friendship with the Liao emperor, Yelü Hongji. When Yelü Hongji decides to invade the Song Empire, Xiao Feng attempts to dissuade him because he still values his past relations with the Han Chinese. Xiao Feng eventually commits suicide to prevent war between Song and Liao after taking Yelü Hongji hostage and making him swear that he will never invade Song for as long as he lives.

Xuzhu's story[edit]

Xuzhu is a monk from the Shaolin Sect who is described to have a kind-hearted and submissive personality. He strongly believes in following the Buddhist code of conduct and refuses to break it even when he faces life-threatening situations. He follows his elders to a meeting, which marks the start of his adventures. Coincidentally, and by sheer luck, he breaks a weiqi formation, becomes the successor of the Carefree Sect, and inherits the powers of the sect's leader, Wuyazi. Later, he encounters Tianshan Tonglao and other acquaintances of Wuyazi, and learns martial arts from them. He becomes the leader of several unorthodox martial arts sects in the jianghu.

Overwhelmed by the sudden influx of heavy responsibilities and his major leap in martial prowess, Xuzhu desires to detach himself from all these duties and return to his former monastic life. However, he is unable to wrench himself free from the various tribulations and dangers that lie ahead: he is no longer regarded as a Shaolin monk and has no choice but to accept his fate. He also has a pitiful parentage: he is revealed to be the illegitimate son of Xuanci, the Shaolin abbot, and Ye Erniang, one of the "Four Evils". His reunion with his parents is fated to be the first and also the last. Later, by chance again, he becomes the prince consort of Western Xia due to his previous affair with Princess Yinchuan, to whom he is happily married.


Ni Kuang's additions[edit]

Jin Yong went on travel for a short period of time during the writing of the novel, so Ni Kuang took over the serialisation and made additions amounting to more than 40,000 words. One notable extension by Ni Kuang is the episode in which A'zi is blinded. Since the novel was published as a serial, Jin Yong had to continue from where Ni Kuang stopped after he returned from his trip. In his revision, Jin Yong excised most of the parts added by Ni Kuang but retained the story about A'zi losing her sense of sight, since that chapter had become a crucial point in the plot's development.



Year Production Main cast Additional information
1977 Shaw Brothers Studio (Hong Kong) Danny Lee, Tanny Tien, Lam Jan-kei, Wai Wang See The Battle Wizard
1982 Hong Kong Norman Chu, Kent Tong, Felix Wong, Idy Chan, Lam Jan-kei, Austin Wai See Demi-Gods and Semi-Devils (1982 film)
1994 Hong Kong Brigitte Lin, Gong Li, Sharla Cheung, Frankie Lam See The Dragon Chronicles – The Maidens


Year Production Main cast Additional information
1982 TVB (Hong Kong) Bryan Leung, Kent Tong, Felix Wong, Idy Chan, Wong Hang-sau, Chan Fuk-sang, Sharon Yeung See Demi-Gods and Semi-Devils (1982 TV series)
1991 CTV (Taiwan) Austin Wai, Eddie Kwan, Sung Kang-ling, Chang Yung-yung
1997 TVB (Hong Kong) Felix Wong, Benny Chan, Louis Fan, Carman Lee See Demi-Gods and Semi-Devils (1997 TV series)
2003 Ciwen Film & TV Production Co. Ltd. (Mainland China) Hu Jun, Jimmy Lin, Gao Hu, Liu Yifei, Liu Tao, Chen Hao See Demi-Gods and Semi-Devils (2003 TV series)
2013 Zhejiang Huace Film & TV Production Co. Ltd. (Mainland China) Wallace Chung, Kim Ki-bum, Han Dong, Zhang Meng, Jia Qing, Zong Fengyan, Mao Xiaodan, Zhao Yuanyuan, Canti Lau See The Demi-Gods and Semi-Devils (2013 TV series)

Video games[edit]

  • Demi-Gods and Semi-Devils is a single player RPG released in 2002. The player takes on the role of an unrelated protagonist (default name Lei Zhen) and meets characters from the novel. His choices and actions will affect how the story progresses.[4]
  • Tian Long Ba Bu: Shen Bing Hai Yu (天龙八部:神兵海域) is a MMORPG developed by Changyou and Sohu, and was launched in China on 25 October 2012. The game is endorsed by Hu Ge and Cecilia Liu, who appeared as Duan Yu and Wang Yuyan respectively in a short video promoting the game and other promotional material.[6]


  1. ^ The date conforms to the data published in Chen Zhenhui (陳鎮輝), Wuxia Xiaoshuo Xiaoyao Tan (武俠小說逍遙談), 2000, Huizhi Publishing Company (匯智出版有限公司), pg. 58.
  2. ^ Preface of the novel
  3. ^ Dingbo, Wu; Murphy, Patrick D., eds. (1994). "Gallant Ficton". Handbook of Chinese Popular Culture. Greenwood Press. p. 248. Retrieved 7 August 2014. 
  4. ^ (Chinese) Demi-Gods and Semi-Devils (RPG) on Baidu Baike
  5. ^ (Chinese) Dragon Oath at
  6. ^ (Chinese) 《天龙八部》10月25日 “神兵海域”深海公测!

External links[edit]