The Book and the Sword

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The Book and the Sword
New Evening Post August 5 1955 Book Sword Part 10.jpg
Chapter 10 of The Book and the Sword, from page 6 of the 5 August 1955 issue of the Hong Kong newspaper New Evening Post.
Author Jin Yong
Original title 書劍恩仇錄
Translator Graham Earnshaw
Country  China
Language Chinese
Genre Wuxia, historical fiction
Publisher The New Evening Post, Oxford University Press
Publication date
8 February 1955
Published in English
Media type Print
ISBN 978-0-19-590727-8
The Book and the Sword
Traditional Chinese 書劍恩仇錄
Simplified Chinese 书剑恩仇录
Literal meaning Chronicles of the Book and the Sword: Gratitude and Vengeance

The Book and the Sword is a wuxia novel by Jin Yong (Louis Cha). It was first serialised between 8 February 1955 and 5 September 1956[1] in the Hong Kong newspaper The New Evening Post.

Set in the Qing dynasty during the reign of the Qianlong Emperor (r. 1735–1796), the novel follows the quest of the Red Flower Society, a secret organisation aiming to overthrow the Qing government, and their entanglements with an Islamic tribe in northwestern China. The "book" in the title refers to a Qur'an that was stolen from the tribe while the "sword" refers to a sword given to the protagonist, Chen Jialuo, by his first romantic interest, Huoqingtong. Historical figures such as the Qianlong Emperor, Zhaohui (兆惠), Heshen, Zheng Xie and Fuk'anggan also make appearances or are mentioned by name in the novel. One of the female protagonists, Princess Fragrance, is loosely based on the Qianlong Emperor's Fragrant Concubine.

This novel was Jin Yong's debut, and it quickly established him as one of the new masters of the wuxia genre.[citation needed] Alternative English titles of the novel include Book and Sword: Gratitude and Revenge and The Romance of the Book and Sword.


The Red Flower Society is a secret society aiming to overthrow the Manchu-led Qing Empire and restore Han Chinese rule in China. It is headed by 15 leaders with Chen Jialuo as their chief. The fourth leader, Wen Tailai, is ambushed and arrested on the order of the Qianlong Emperor because he knows a secret about the emperor, and the emperor wants to silence him.

The story's development is based on the society's repeated attempts to rescue Wen Tailai, and is intertwined with two or more extensive subplots. The heroes encounter some Islamic tribesmen, who are pursuing a convoy of mercenaries who have robbed them of their holy artefact, a Qur'an. Chen Jialuo aids the tribesmen in defeating the mercenaries and recovers the holy book. He earns the respect and admiration of Huoqingtong, the daughter of the tribe's leader. Throughout the story, some of the heroes eventually find their future spouses after braving danger together: Xu Tianhong and Yu Yutong marry Zhou Qi and Li Yuanzhi respectively.

Chen Jialuo and the heroes follow the trail of the convoy escorting Wen Tailai and arrive in Hangzhou. In Hangzhou, Chen Jialuo coincidentally meets the Qianlong Emperor, who is disguised as a rich man, and befriends him. However, later, after they discover each other's true identities, tensions between them increase. When the emperor's best warriors are defeated by the society's leaders in a martial arts contest, the emperor feels humiliated and wants to summon imperial forces stationed in Hangzhou to destroy the society. However, he eventually refrains from doing so when he learns of the society's strong influence and connections in Hangzhou.

When Chen Jialuo finally rescues Wen Tailai, he is shocked to learn that the Qianlong Emperor is not a Manchu, but rather, a Han Chinese. Wen also reveals an even more shocking piece of news: the emperor is actually Chen's elder brother, who, shortly after his birth, had switched places with the Yongzheng Emperor's daughter. Chen Jialuo and the heroes take the emperor hostage and try to persuade him to acknowledge his ethnicity. They suggest that he use his privileged status to drive the Manchus out of the Central Plains, and assure him that he will still remain as the emperor after that. The emperor reluctantly agrees and takes an oath of alliance with the heroes.

At the same time, the Qing army invades northwestern China, where the Islamic tribe lives, so Chen Jialuo travels there to help his friends. He meets Huoqingtong and her younger sister, Kasili (Princess Fragrance). Chen falls in love with Kasili and finds himself entangled in a love triangle, because Huoqingtong also has romantic feelings for him. The Islamic tribe is eventually annihilated by the Qing army and Kasili is captured and brought back to the Qing capital, Beijing.

The Qianlong Emperor is attracted to Kasili's beauty and tries to force her to become his concubine but she refuses. Chen Jialuo infiltrates the palace to meet the emperor, remind him about their pact, and promise him that he will persuade Kasili to marry the emperor. Kasili later discovers that the Qianlong Emperor is going to break his promise and is secretly planning to lure the Red Flower Society into a trap and destroy them, so she commits suicide to warn Chen. The society's members are angry with the emperor for renouncing his oath so they storm the palace. The Qianlong Emperor is defeated and forced to come to a truce with the society. Chen Jialuo and his friends then return to the western regions after paying their respects at Kasili's tomb.




Year Production Main cast Additional information
1960 Emei Film Company
(Hong Kong)
Cheung Ying, Tsi Law-lin, Yung Siu-yee See The Book and the Sword (1960 film)
1981 Shaw Brothers Studio (Hong Kong) Ti Lung, Jason Pai See Emperor and His Brother
1987 Hong Kong Zhang Duofu, Chang Dashi, Liu Jia, Aiyinuo See The Romance of Book and Sword and Princess Fragrance (film).


Year Production Main cast Additional information
1976 TVB (Hong Kong) Adam Cheng, Liza Wang, Candice Yu See The Legend of the Book and the Sword (1976 TV series)
1984 TTV (Taiwan) Yu Tien-lung, Sam-sam, Yang Liyin See Book and Sword Chronicles
1987 TVB (Hong Kong) Pang Man-kin, Jacqueline Law, Fiona Leung, Simon Yam See The Legend of the Book and the Sword (1987 TV series)
1992 CTS (Taiwan) Kenny Ho, Shen Meng-sheng, Leanne Liu, Fu Chuan See The Book and the Sword (1992 TV series)
1994 CCTV (Mainland China) Huang Haibing, Wang Weiguo, Wang Jinghua, Yang Yanuo See The Book and the Sword (1994 TV series)
2002 Chinese Entertainment Shanghai (various countries) Vincent Zhao, Aaron Chen, Esther Kwan, Rachel Ngan See Book and Sword, Gratitude and Revenge
2008 Mainland China Adam Cheng, Liu Dekai, Qiao Zhenyu, Niki Chow, Liu Ying See The Book and the Sword (2008 TV series)


In 1999, Hong Kong's RTHK produced a 32-episodes radio drama based on the novel, voiced by Tse Kwan-ho, Gigi Leung, Chow Kwok-fung and Jacqueline Pang.


  1. ^ The date conform 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. 56.

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