Zhou Botong

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Zhou Botong
Created by Jin Yong
Appearances The Legend of the Condor Heroes,
The Return of the Condor Heroes
Personal information
Nickname(s) "Old Imp" (老頑童),
"Central Imp" (中頑童)
Gender Male
Romantic interest(s) Liu Ying
Children Unnamed son (killed by Qiu Qianren)
Sworn siblings Wang Chongyang,
Guo Jing
Organisations Quanzhen Sect
Teachers Unofficial teachers:
Wang Chongyang,
Students Official students:
Yelü Qi
Unofficial students:
Guo Jing,
Skills and abilities
Neigong Quanzhen-style neigong,
Nine Yin Manual skills
Unarmed combat skills Technique of Ambidexterity,
Seventy-two Styles Vacant Fist,
Quanzhen Skills
Weapons Jade bees
This is a Chinese name; the family name is Zhou.
Zhou Botong
Traditional Chinese 周伯通
Simplified Chinese 周伯通

Zhou Botong is a fictional character in the wuxia novel The Legend of the Condor Heroes and its sequel The Return of the Condor Heroes, both written by Jin Yong (Louis Cha). He is nicknamed "Old Imp" (老頑童) in the first novel and becomes the "Central Imp" (中頑童) of the Five Greats at the end of the second novel, replacing "Central Divine" Wang Chongyang.[1] His most notable trait is his childish and mischievous personality, as he enjoys playing pranks and games like an immature child, constantly seeking fun and entertainment at an old age.

The Legend of the Condor Heroes[edit]

Zhou is the junior of Wang Chongyang, the founder of Quanzhen Sect. He is the most senior of all Quanzhen members after Wang died. However, Zhou neither accepts any students nor remain in Quanzhen most of the time. Instead, he roams the jianghu to derive entertainment from anything of interest to him, including fights and toys. Despite so, he still maintains respect for Wang and abides by Quanzhen's rules.

Zhou had a romantic affair with Duan Zhixing's concubine Liu Ying, but broke up with her after heeding Wang's advice. However, Liu was already pregnant with Zhou's child and she gave birth to a son later. The infant was mortally wounded by a masked assailant (later revealed to be Qiu Qianren) and died from his injuries. Duan Zhixing, who had the ability to save the boy, refused to do so. Zhou was unaware that he had a son until he met Liu Ying (renamed to Yinggu) several years later.

Conflict with Huang Yaoshi[edit]

After Wang Chongyang's death, Zhou followed the latter's dying wish and concealed the coveted Nine Yin Manual. He met Huang Yaoshi and his wife Feng Heng along the way. Huang tricked Zhou into allowing his wife to read the manual after winning Zhou by cheating in a game of stone-throwing. Zhou let Feng read the second volume of the book and she memorised the text after reading it once.

Feng lied to Zhou that the manual was actually a copy of a book of childish rites, claiming that she knew the text by heart, and she recited it fluently to Zhou without looking. Zhou believed her and destroyed the second volume of the manual in anger before leaving. Some time later, Zhou realised that he had been fooled and he returned to Peach Blossom Island to confront Huang and demand an explanation. Feng had died recently after giving birth to Huang's daughter and Huang was still feeling sore. The two of them had a heated quarrel, and Zhou taunted Huang, saying that he could now practise martial arts better without distraction from his wife. Huang was furious and he fought with Zhou but neither of them was able to defeat his opponent. Huang sealed off all exit routes from the island so Zhou was effectively imprisoned on the island for the next 15 years. Zhou found a cave and settled there.[2]

Meeting Guo Jing[edit]

15 years later, Guo Jing sets foot on the island and meets Zhou. They become sworn brothers even though Zhou is older than Guo by at least 40 years. Zhou tells Guo stories about the Nine Yin Manual and his conflict with Huang Yaoshi. Zhou still has the first volume of the manual with him and he decides to let Guo learn the skills. Zhou had been forbidden by Wang Chongyang to practise the skills in the book. Guo memorises the text and Zhou also teaches him the 'Seventy-two Styles Vacant Fist' (七十二路空明拳) and the 'Technique of Ambidexterity' (雙手互搏).

Zhou finally settles his feud with Huang Yaoshi with the help of Guo Jing and Huang Rong. He leaves the island with them and follows them on their adventures on the mainland. He participates in the second martial arts contest held on Mount Hua but leaves halfway when Yinggu appears, telling him to kill Qiu Qianren and avenge their son.

The Return of the Condor Heroes[edit]

Zhou makes some brief appearances in the sequel. He secretly accepted Yelü Qi as his apprentice and imparted some of his skills to the latter. He also teaches Xiaolongnü the 'Technique of Ambidexterity' when both of them are trapped in a cave by Jinlun Guoshi. In return, Xiaolongnü teaches him how to use the jade bees and helps to cure him after he is poisoned by Jinlun's ice spiders.

Zhou then lives alone for a few years in the Hundred Blossoms Valley, where he spends his time keeping bees as his pets and practising how to control and direct them with the skill he learnt from Xiaolongnü. He meets Yinggu and Duan Zhixing (now known as Reverend Yideng) again with Yang Guo's help. He forgives Qiu Qianren for his misdeeds and Qiu dies in peace. Zhou also participates briefly in the defence of Xiangyang from Mongol invaders.

Martial arts and skills[edit]

  • 'Seventy-two Styles Vacant Fist' (七十二路空明拳): Zhou created this skill when he was trapped on Peach Blossom Island by Huang Yaoshi. Zhou passes on this skill to Guo Jing.
  • Jade bees (玉蜂): Zhou is trapped in a cave together with Xiaolongnü by Jinlun Guoshi. Jinlun uses his poisonous creatures to attack them without entering the cave. Zhou is poisoned after being stung by Jinlun's icy spiders and Xiaolongnü uses her jade bees to cure Zhou, as the bees' poison helps to neutralise the spider venom. Zhou is fascinated and asks Xiaolongnü to teach him how to use the bees, and in return he teaches her the 'Technique of Ambidexterity'. Zhou learns how to direct the bees to attack enemies and keeps bees as pets when he stays in Hundred Blossoms Valley.
  • 'Technique of Ambidexterity' (雙手互搏): Zhou created this skill when he was trapped on Huang Yaoshi's island. He was bored and decided to fight with himself to keep himself occupied. He used a different set of martial arts technique for each hand and fought with himself. This made him seem as though he was watching a fight between two opponents, and he mastered the art of ambidexterity as a result. In practical use, Zhou uses this skill to simultaneously attack and defend against multiple opponents and is even able to create doppelgänger illusions purely from the blazing speed and confusing movements of two styles used simultaneously. Zhou passes on this skill to Guo Jing and Xiaolongnü.
  • Shark-riding: Zhou is lost while travelling at sea on board Wanyan Honglie's ship. He wagers with Ouyang Feng and challenges the latter to kill all the sharks in the sea; Ouyang uses his venom to poison and kill all sharks within sight. Zhou is presumed to be dead after falling into the sea, but he reappears several days later and returns to the ship, riding on a shark in the waves. He finds shark-riding an extremely fun sport and claims that Ouyang has lost the bet, since Ouyang failed to kill the last shark (the one he is riding).[3]