The Heaven Sword and Dragon Saber
One of earliest editions of book 9 of The Heaven Sword and Dragon Saber
|6 July 1961|
|Preceded by||The Return of the Condor Heroes|
|The Heaven Sword and Dragon Saber|
|Literal meaning||Story of the Heaven Reliant and Dragon Slayer|
The Heaven Sword and Dragon Saber, also translated as The Sword and the Knife, is a wuxia novel by Jin Yong (Louis Cha). It is the third instalment in the Condor Trilogy and is preceded by The Legend of the Condor Heroes and The Return of the Condor Heroes. It was first serialised from 6 July 1961 to 2 September 1963 in the Hong Kong newspaper Ming Pao.
Jin Yong revised the novel in 1979 with a number of amendments and additions. A second revision was published in early 2005, incorporating later thoughts and a lengthier conclusion. It also introduced many changes to the plot and cleared up some ambiguities in the second edition, such as the origin of the Nine Yang Manual. As is typical of some of his other novels, Jin Yong included elements of Chinese history in the story, such as featuring historical figures like Zhu Yuanzhang, Chen Youliang, Chang Yuchun and Zhang Sanfeng. The political clash between the Han Chinese rebels and the Mongol-led Yuan dynasty is also a prominent theme in the novel.
Set in the late Yuan dynasty, the story revolves around a pair of priceless and extremely powerful weapons, the Heaven Reliant Sword (倚天劍) and Dragon Slaying Saber (屠龍刀), which are coveted by many martial artists in the jianghu. Either or both of them are thought to allow their wielder to rule the wulin (martial artists' community), according to a widely circulated mantra which goes, "Honoured by the wulin, the precious Saber slays the Dragon. It commands the world. Who dares to disobey? If the Heaven Reliant does not appear, who can challenge it?" (武林至尊，寶刀屠龍，號令天下，莫敢不從！倚天不出，誰與爭鋒？) The origins of this mantra are not known at the beginning of the novel.
The protagonist, Zhang Wuji, is of mixed heritage. His father, Zhang Cuishan, is an apprentice of Zhang Sanfeng, the highly revered leader of the Wudang Sect; his mother, Yin Susu, is the daughter of Yin Tianzheng, the chief of the "unorthodox" Heavenly Eagle Cult. He spent his childhood on a reclusive northern island, where he was born, with only his parents and his godfather, Xie Xun, to keep him company. When he is about 10 years old, he returns to the Chinese mainland with his parents. They soon find themselves the target of several martial artists, who try to force them to reveal the whereabouts of Xie Xun and the Dragon Slaying Saber. His parents refuse and commit suicide. At the same time, Zhang Wuji is wounded by the Xuanming Elders, but he survives after seeking medical treatment from Hu Qingniu, an eccentric physician.
After ending up in an isolated valley by chance, Zhang Wuji discovers the long-lost Nine Yang Manual, masters the inner energy skills described in the book, and becomes a formidable martial artist. Later on, he helps to resolve the conflict between the Ming Cult and the six major orthodox sects, which are bent on destroying the cult. He earns the respect of the cult's members and becomes its leader after mastering the skill 'Heaven and Earth Great Shift'. He reforms the cult and helps to improve its relations with other sects. He becomes a key figure in leading the rebel forces to overthrow the Mongol-led Yuan dynasty.
Throughout his adventures, Zhang Wuji finds himself entangled in a complex web of love relationships with four maidens. The first, Yin Li, is a horribly disfigured girl who is actually his maternal cousin. The second, Xiaozhao, is a Chinese-Persian servant girl who understands him very well. The third, Zhou Zhiruo, is a childhood friend whom he develops a strong bond with. The fourth, Zhao Min, is a Mongol princess and his former arch-rival. Yin Li is apparently killed in the middle of the novel while Xiaozhao returns to Persia after it is revealed that she is destined to lead the Persian Ming Cult.
Zhou Zhiruo soon falls in love with Zhang Wuji, but has to turn against him as she is bound by an oath she made in front of her teacher Miejue, who hates and distrusts Zhang Wuji and anyone related to the Ming Cult. Miejue devises a vicious scheme for Zhou Zhiruo to seize the two weapons by exploiting Zhang Wuji's love for Zhou. Zhou Zhiruo also turns vicious after Zhang Wuji reneges his promise to marry her and swears vengeance on him. Zhao Min was initially Zhang Wuji's rival as they were on opposing sides. However, Zhao Min gradually falls in love with Zhang Wuji after their various encounters, and she even turns against her clan to help him.
At the end of the novel, Zhang Wuji decides to retire from the jianghu after he mistakenly believes that the Ming Cult's members are plotting to betray him. He decides that Zhao Min is his true love and they leave to lead a reclusive life far away from society. (The second edition of the novel has an ambiguous ending about Zhang Wuji's relationship with Zhou Zhiruo.) Zhang Wuji gave up an opportunity to become a ruler because the Ming Cult eventually overthrew the Yuan dynasty. Ideally, Zhang would have become the new emperor, but instead, Zhu Yuanzhang takes the throne and establishes the Ming dynasty.
In 2005, Jin Yong published a third edition of the novel, which has a slightly different ending from the earlier versions. In this edition, Zhang Wuji feels disillusioned after failing to save a general's life and addressing Han Lin'er's death. He relinquishes his leadership of the Ming Cult to Yang Xiao and Fan Yao, and then leaves the Central Plains with Zhao Min.
The two weapons
The two titular weapons, the Heaven Reliant Sword (倚天劍) and the Dragon Slaying Saber (屠龍刀), were forged from a single sword, the Heavy Iron Sword (玄鐵重劍), which Yang Guo wielded in The Return of the Condor Heroes.
The Heavy Iron Sword belonged to Dugu Qiubai, a great swordsman whose skills were unmatched in his time. Yang Guo chanced upon the Heavy Iron Sword while he was recovering from the Love Flower's poison and the loss of his right arm. When Yang Guo and Xiaolongnü depart from Xiangyang, they left the sword with the couple Guo Jing and Huang Rong. The sword was melted and special steel material was added and it was then forged into the two weapons.
In the third revised edition of the novel, the Heaven Sword was reforged from Yang Guo's Gentleman Sword (君子劍) and Xiaolongnü's Lady Sword (淑女劍) while the Dragon Saber's origin remained unchanged.
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Hidden in the blade of the Dragon Saber is a military treatise titled Book of Wumu (武穆遺書), authored by Yue Fei. Similarly, concealed in the blade of the Heaven Sword are two scrolls detailing the Nine Yin Manual and Guo Jing's "Eighteen Dragon Subduing Palms".
The Dragon Saber was given to Guo Jing and Huang Rong's son Guo Polu, while their younger daughter Guo Xiang inherited the Heaven Sword.
The content of the hidden book and scrolls, in addition to the fact that the weapons can only be damaged and broken when used against each other, was the source of the claim that whoever possesses the Dragon Saber will rule the world and yet only the one who possesses the Heaven Sword can stand against the wielder of the Saber.
The secret of the weapons was passed down only from the leader of each generation of the Emei Sect to her successor. Miejue is succeeded by Zhou Zhiruo and the secret is passed on to the latter. In the novel, Zhou Zhiruo gains possession of both weapons through her cunning and deception and she breaks them to obtain their contents.
In the latest revision, two halves of an iron-plated map are hidden in the weapons instead of manuals. Once pieced together, the map points out to locations on Peach Blossom Island, where the manuals are hidden. Jin Yong reasoned that the change was due to a possibility that the dissection of the weapons will cause the manuals to be burnt, hence two pieces of an iron-plated map would be better substitutes.
In Chinese culture, the Dragon is a symbol of the emperor or sovereign ruler. The full translated name of the Dragon Saber is "Dragon Slaying Saber" (屠龍刀), which implies that it is used to "slay the emperor". In this case, the "emperor" refers to Emperor Huizong of the Yuan dynasty.
Throughout Chinese history, several monarchs have become tyrants, just like when the mythical Dragon goes out of control and becomes a menace. The Heaven Sword's full translated name is "Heaven Reliant Sword" (倚天劍) as it embodies Heaven. In Chinese culture, the emperor is respectfully called the "Son of Heaven", which implies that Heaven is the ultimate authority in determining who will be ruler of China.
It can thus be interpreted as such: The secret in the Dragon Slaying Saber can be used to "kill" (dethrone) the (Mongol) emperor and replace him with another (Han Chinese) ruler. Ideally, a brilliant military leader can use the textbook to its full potential by staging a rebellion to overthrow the Yuan dynasty and restore Han Chinese rule. However, if the new emperor turns out to be an incompetent monarch or tyrant, a martial artist can master the skills from the manuals in the Heaven Reliant Sword and assassinate the emperor and replace him with a wise and benevolent ruler.
|Year||Production||Main cast||Additional information|
|1963 / 1965||Emei Film Company
|Lam Ka-sing, Chan Hiu-kau, Connie Chan||See Story of the Sword and the Sabre|
|1978||Shaw Brothers Studio
|Derek Yee, Ching Li, Candice Yu||See Heaven Sword and Dragon Sabre (1978 film)|
|1984||Derek Yee, Ti Lung, Alex Man, Cherie Chung, Leanne Liu||See The Hidden Power of the Dragon Sabre|
|1993||Win's Entertainment, Ltd.
|Jet Li, Sharla Cheung, Gigi Lai, Chingmy Yau, Sammo Hung||See Kung Fu Cult Master|
The story was adapted into a manhua series, illustrated by Ma Wing-shing and Jin Yong credited as the writer. In 2002, ComicsOne published an English translation of the manhua as Heaven Sword & Dragon Sabre. While the plot details remain intact, some of the story's events were not presented in the same order as in the novel.
In 2000, Softworld released a RPG based on the novel. The game ends after the battle at Bright Peak.
In 2004, Softworld released another RPG. Instead of the traditional turn-based RPG, this version has a real-time battle system (similar to Diablo), and follows the entire story.
- Wu, Dingbo; Murphy, Patrick D., eds. (1994). "Gallant Fiction". Handbook of Chinese Popular Culture. Greenwood Press. p. 248.
- 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), p. 57.