Demi-Gods and Semi-Devils
Volume 16 of an early edition of Demi-Gods and Semi-Devils
|Publisher||Ming Pao, Nanyang Siang Pau|
|3 September 1963|
|Demi-Gods and Semi-Devils|
|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 and Nanyang Siang Pau in Singapore. The novel has since spawned several adaptations in film and television in mainland China and Hong Kong.
The novel's title has been a challenge for translators for years. The major characters in the novel are based on the eight races of non-human demi-gods and semi-devils described in Buddhist cosmology. 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.
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 Tibet.
The plot is made up of separate yet intertwining story lines revolving around three protagonists – Qiao Feng, Duan Yu and Xuzhu – who become sworn brothers in chapter 41. The complex narrative switches from the initial perspective of Duan Yu to those of the other main characters and back.
Duan Yu's story
Duan Yu is a young and naïve prince of the Dali Kingdom. His reverence for Buddhist teachings and disdain for bloodshed prompt him to defy his family's tradition of practising martial arts. He runs away from home when his father, Duan Zhengchun, tries to force him to learn martial arts. Ironically, for the sake of survival, he ends up mastering three powerful skills and becomes a formidable martial artist. In addition, he acquires immunity to poison after accidentally consuming the Zhuha, a venomous toad.
During his adventures, he encounters five young maidens – Zhong Ling, Mu Wanqing, Wang Yuyan, A'zhu and A'zi – and becomes romantically involved with the first three. However, at different points in the novel, each of them is revealed to be actually his half-sister due to Duan Zhengchun's secret affairs with other women in the past. Of these maidens, he is extremely obsessed with Wang Yuyan, who resembles a statue of a fairy-like lady he chanced upon before. He relentlessly tries to win her heart but she does not reciprocate because she has a crush on her cousin, Murong Fu.
Towards the end of the novel, in a tragic 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
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 murders. He is accompanied by A'zhu, who loves him and stands by him when the wulin turns against him. After a long journey in disguise, he concludes that he is indeed a Khitan and assumes his ancestral name "Xiao Feng". In tracking down a mysterious "Leading Big Brother", whom he believes is responsible for the murders and his parents' deaths, he mistakenly thinks that Duan Zhengchun is the "Leading Big Brother", and challenges him to a one-on-one fight. However, the event turns into a tragedy when A'zhu disguises herself as Duan Zhengchun and allows Xiao Feng to kill her. It is too late when Xiao Feng realises his mistake. Before dying, A'zhu tells Xiao Feng that Duan Zhengchun is actually her father, and she hopes that her sacrifice would satisfy his thirst for vengeance.
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 her sister. They wander far into northeastern China and settle down among the Jurchen tribes. By chance, Xiao Feng encounters the Liao emperor, Yelü Hongji, becomes sworn brothers with him, and helps him suppress a rebellion. In return, Yelü Hongji makes Xiao Feng a powerful noble and gives him a large princely estate. Xiao Feng returns to the Song Empire later to attend a wulin gathering at Shaolin Monastery, where he combines forces with Duan Yu and Xuzhu to overcome their foes. At Shaolin, the truths behind all the murders are revealed and the guilty parties receive their just deserts; Xiao Feng also successfully proves his innocence and reconciles with the wulin before returning to Liao.
Towards the end of the novel, Yelü Hongji plans to invade the Song Empire and wants Xiao Feng to support him, but Xiao refuses and attempts to dissuade him to prevent bloodshed. The Liao emperor imprisons Xiao Feng and decides to proceed with the campaign. In the meantime, A'zi escapes from Liao and seeks help from Duan Yu, Xuzhu and their allies. Impressed by Xiao Feng's righteousness, they manage to rally martial artists from throughout the wulin to join them in rescuing Xiao Feng. Even though the mission is successful, they are ultimately outnumbered and trapped by Liao forces at Yanmen Pass. Xiao Feng takes Yelü Hongji hostage and forces him to promise that there will be no war between Song and Liao for as long as he lives. He then commits suicide while A'zi follows suit.
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. By coincidence and sheer luck, he breaks a weiqi formation and inherits the powers of Wuyazi, the leader of the Carefree Sect. Later, he encounters Tianshan Tonglao, learns martial arts from her, and eventually succeeds her as the ruler of Lingjiu Palace, which commands allegiance from several smaller martial arts sects.
Feeling overwhelmed by the sudden influx of heavy responsibilities and a major leap in martial prowess, Xuzhu desires to detach himself from 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 actually the illegitimate son of Xuanci, the abbot of Shaolin, 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.
|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)|
- 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.
- Dragon Oath, also known as TLBB in China, is a MMORPG developed by Changyou and Sohu, and was launched in 2007.
- 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.
- 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.
- Preface of the novel
- Dingbo, Wu; Murphy, Patrick D., eds. (1994). "Gallant Ficton". Handbook of Chinese Popular Culture. Greenwood Press. p. 248. Retrieved 7 August 2014.
- (Chinese) Demi-Gods and Semi-Devils (RPG) on Baidu Baike
- (Chinese) Dragon Oath at ChangYou.com
- (Chinese) 《天龙八部》10月25日 “神兵海域”深海公测！
- (simplified Chinese) Demi-Gods and Semi-Devils at cnnovels.com