The Smiling, Proud Wanderer

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The Smiling, Proud Wanderer
The Smiling, Proud Wanderer (笑傲江湖).jpg
Cover of the 1980 edition
AuthorJin Yong
Original title笑傲江湖
CountryHong Kong
PublisherMing Pao
Publication date
Media typePrint
Followed byThe Sword Stained with Royal Blood 
The Smiling, Proud Wanderer
Traditional Chinese笑傲江湖
Simplified Chinese笑傲江湖
Literal meaningLaughing Proudly in the Jianghu

The Smiling, Proud Wanderer is a wuxia novel by Jin Yong (Louis Cha). It was first serialised in Hong Kong in the newspaper Ming Pao from 20 April 1967 to 12 October 1969.[1] The Chinese title of the novel, Xiao Ao Jiang Hu, literally means to live a carefree life in a mundane world of strife. Alternate English translations of the title include The Wandering Swordsman,[2] Laughing in the Wind,[3] The Peerless Gallant Errant,[4] and The Proud and Gallant Wanderer.[5] Another alternative title, State of Divinity, is used for some of the novel's adaptations.


In the jianghu or Mauling (martial artists' community), there is a highly coveted martial arts manual known as the Bixie Swordplay Manual. The manual is an heirloom of the Lin family, who run the Fuwei Security Service in Fuzhou. Yu Canghai, the leader of the Qingcheng Sect, leads his followers to massacre the Lins and attempts to seize the manual but does not find it. Lin Pingzhi, the sole survivor of the Lin family, is saved by Yue Buqun, the leader of the Mount Hua Sect, which is a member of the "orthodox" Five Mountains Sword Sects Alliance. Yue Buqun accepts Lin Pingzhi as an apprentice and trains him in swordplay.

The novel's protagonist is Yue Buqun's most senior apprentice, Linghu Chong (令狐冲), an orphaned, happy-go-lucky but honourable swordsman who has a penchant for alcoholic drinks. He befriends the notorious bandit Tian Boguang and saves Yilin, a nun from the (North) Mount Heng Sect, from Tian's lecherous advances. In the meantime, Liu Zhengfeng of the (South) Mount Heng Sect announces his decision to leave the jianghu and invites his fellow martial artists to witness his retirement ceremony. The event turns into a bloodbath when Zuo Lengshan, the chief of the Mount Song Sect, and other "orthodox" sects accuse Liu Zhengfeng of being unfaithful to their alliance by befriending Qu Yang, an elder of the "evil" Sun Moon Holy Cult. Liu Zhengfeng and Qu Yang are cornered by Zuo Lengshan and his men and eventually commit suicide. Before dying, Liu Zhengfeng and Qu Yang give Linghu Chong the score of "Xiaoao Jianghu", a musical piece they composed together. (The Chinese title of the novel comes from the name of this fictional piece of music.)

Lin Pingzhi's entrance into the Mount Hua Sect causes Linghu Chong to lose his romantic feelings for Yue Lingshan, Yue Buqun's daughter, because she starts falling in love with Lin Pingzhi. At the same time, Linghu Chong's friendship with Tian Boguang leads him into trouble as it is against the Mount Hua Sect's rules to associate oneself with any jianghu lowlife or person from an "evil" sect. His master punishes him by making him stay alone for a year in a secluded area on Mount Hua to reflect on his "misdeeds". During this time, he discovers carvings of swordplay techniques in a cave, practises them, and unknowingly familiarises himself with the skills of the other four sword sects and the counter-moves. He also encounters Feng Qingyang, a reclusive Mount Hua Sect swordsman, who teaches him the powerful skill Nine Swords of Dugu.

The self-proclaimed righteous Five Mountains Sword Sects Alliance, though seemingly united, is constantly troubled by politicking and infighting among its members. Linghu Chong gets entangled in the conflicts and sustains serious internal injuries while using his newly mastered skill to defend his Mount Hua Sect fellows from attacks by Mount Song Sect members in disguise. The other sects mistakenly think that Linghu Chong's Nine Swords of Dugu is the Bixie Swordplay, and wrongly accuse him of stealing the manual and keeping it for himself. Yue Buqun also becomes suspicious and secretly jealous of his apprentice's sudden leap in swordplay prowess.

While accompanying his master and Mount Hua Sect fellows on a trip to Luoyang, Linghu Chong encounters Ren Yingying, a key figure of the Sun Moon Holy Cult and falls in love with her, and several jianghu lowlifes, who are friendly towards him and try to heal him. By then, Yue Buqun has grown tired of Linghu Chong's association with jianghu lowlifes so he abandons his apprentice. Linghu Chong also helps Ren Yingying fend off enemies of the Sun Moon Holy Cult and his injuries worsen over time. Eventually, she brings him to the Shaolin Sect to seek help. Linghu Chong later learns from Fangzheng, the Shaolin abbot, that Yue Buqun has publicly announced that he has expelled Linghu Chong from the Mount Hua Sect.

Linghu Chong sinks into despair as he is now an outcast of the "orthodox" side of the jianghu. After leaving Shaolin, he meets a stranger, Xiang Wentian, whom he saves from dozens of enemies. Xiang Wentian becomes sworn brothers with Linghu Chong and brings him to a manor in Hangzhou, where they find Ren Woxing (Ren Yingying's father), the former leader of the Sun Moon Holy Cult who was ousted from power by his deputy, Dongfang Bubai. Ren Woxing breaks out of captivity by knocking out Linghu Chong and using him as a decoy. While trapped inside the dungeon, Linghu Chong discovers carvings of Ren Woxing's infamous Cosmic Absorbing Power and learns the skill by chance. Ren Woxing returns to save Linghu Chong later and tries to persuade him to join the Sun Moon Holy Cult by offering him Ren Yingying's hand in marriage. Linghu Chong declines to join, but still helps Ren Woxing defeat Dongfang Bubai and regain control of the cult.

Linghu Chong becomes the new head of the (North) Mount Heng Sect, whose members are all nuns, after he unsuccessfully tries to save its leaders from a masked assassin. He attends a special assembly of the Five Mountains Sword Sects Alliance called for by Zuo Lengshan, who attempts to coerce the other four sects into merging into the Mount Song Sect under his leadership. However, he is defeated and blinded by Yue Buqun, who uses the Bixie Swordplay against him. Yue Buqun becomes the new leader of the alliance.

After leaving the assembly, Linghu Chong and Ren Yingying see Lin Pingzhi brutally slaying members of the Qingcheng Sect to avenge his family, and overhear a conversation between him and his wife, Yue Lingshan. Lin Pingzhi reveals that both he and Yue Buqun have mastered the Bixie Swordplay, which is considered "unorthodox" because they need to castrate themselves to fulfill the prerequisite for learning it. Linghu Chong also learns that Yue Buqun, his respectable former master, is actually a villainous hypocrite who planned an elaborate scheme against Lin Pingzhi to seize the swordplay manual in the hope of dominating the jianghu. Lin Pingzhi killed Yue Lingshan, his wife to show his loyalty to Yue Buqun's nemesis, before Yue Linshan died, she made Linghu Chong swear he'll protect Lin Pingzhi as a final act of love for her, Linghu Chong saw a look of pleading on her face, the expression he'd once loved when he and Lingshan were playing on Mount Hua together, he swore he'd protect Pingzhi, Lingshan died in his arms.

Yue Buqun schemes to kill Lin Pingzhi, who knows his secret, and seeks to silence him. Linghu Chong, despite his reluctance to be enemies with his former master, ultimately chooses to stop him in order to foil his machinations for the sake of the innocent. The finale climaxes with the members of the Five Mountains Sword Sects Alliance being trapped in the cave on Mount Hua owing to Yue Buqun's treachery. The sects slaughter each other out of paranoia and distrust, ultimately leading to the alliance's dissolution. Linghu Chong remembered Lingshan's final words and paralyses Lin Pingzhi permanantly instead of killing him, meanwhile Yue Buqun is killed by Yilin when fighting Linghu Chong during the frenzy.

After the collapse of the alliance, Ren Woxing plans an attack on the scattered and fragmented "orthodox" sects in order to unite the jianghu under the control of his "evil" Sun Moon Holy Cult. He tries to force Linghu Chong to join him, but dies at a crucial moment from a stroke.

Ren Yingying becomes the new leader of the Sun Moon Holy Cult and successfully negotiates a truce between the "orthodox" and "evil" sides of the jianghu. Three years later, she passes the leadership to Xiang Wentian and marries Linghu Chong, giving birth to a girl. Disillusioned by all the strife caused by power struggles, Linghu Chong and Ren Yingying retire from the jianghu and live happily ever after.


Sects, clans and organisations[edit]

Five Mountain Sword Sects Alliance[edit]

Sun Moon Holy Cult[edit]

The Sun Moon Holy Cult (日月神教; Rì Yuè Shén Jiào) is based on Black Woods Cliff (黑木崖; hēi mù yá; in present-day Xibaipo, Hebei). Its origin is unclear, Martial artists in the jianghu often refer to the Sun Moon Holy Cult as the "Demonic Cult" (魔教; Mó Jiào), as they previously did to the Ming Cult. Considered eccentric and heretical, the cult is a common enemy of the orthodox sects. Its members are known for engaging in various types of cult-like activities and committing heinous crimes. It was led by Ren Woxing until Dongfang Bubai ousts the former from power in a scheme. Dongfang treats his followers cruelly, forcing them to consume poison pills and giving them antidotes to temporarily ease their agony only if they obey him. Ren Woxing practises the "Cosmic Absorbing Power" (xīxīng dàfǎ), which allows him to drain and absorb an opponent's inner energy, while Dongfang Bubai is said to be invincible after he mastered the skills in the Sunflower Manual (葵花寶典; kuíhuā báodiǎn).


  • Qingcheng Sect (青城派; Qīngchéng Pài)
  • Fuwei Security Service (福威鏢局; Fúwēi Biāojú)
  • Shaolin Sect (少林派; Shàolín Pài)
  • Wudang Sect (武當派; Wǔdāng Pài)


In the afterword, Jin Yong mentions that The Smiling, Proud Wanderer can be read as a political allegory disguised as a wuxia novel.[6] As an allegory, it can happen in "any dynasty or organisation".[7] Jin Yong also stated in the afterword that after the novel was published, Vietnamese politicians had once used the names of Yue Buqun and Zuo Lengshan as derogatory terms against one another in parliamentary sessions.



Year Production Main cast Additional information
1978 Shaw Brothers Studio (Hong Kong) Wong Yue, Shih Szu, Michael Chan, Ling Yun See The Proud Youth
1990 Film Workshop
(Hong Kong)
Sam Hui, Sharla Cheung, Cecilia Yip, Jacky Cheung, Fennie Yuen, Lau Siu-ming See The Swordsman
1992 Jet Li, Rosamund Kwan, Michelle Reis, Brigitte Lin, Fennie Yuen See Swordsman II
1993 Brigitte Lin, Joey Wong, Yu Rongguang See The East Is Red (1993 film)


Year Production Main cast Additional information
1984 TVB (Hong Kong) Chow Yun-fat, Rebecca Chan, Jaime Chik, Kenneth Tsang, Tung Wai, Isabella Wong See The Smiling, Proud Wanderer (1984 TV series)
1985 TTV (Taiwan) Bryan Leung, Leanne Liu
1996 TVB (Hong Kong) Jacky Lui, Fiona Leung, Cherie Chan, Timmy Ho, He Meitian, Wong Wai See State of Divinity (1996 TV series)
2000 CTV (Taiwan) Richie Ren, Anita Yuen, Vivian Chen, Song Ta-ming, Yue Yueli, Tsai Tsan-te, Leanne Liu See State of Divinity (2000 TV series)
MediaCorp (Singapore) Steve Ma, Fann Wong, Ivy Lee, Chew Chor Meng, Jacelyn Tay, Zheng Geping, Priscelia Chan See The Legendary Swordsman
2001 Ciwen Film & TV Production Co. Ltd. (Mainland China) Li Yapeng, Xu Qing, Wei Zi, Miao Yiyi, Li Jie, Cheng Lifeng, Yu Chenghui See Laughing in the Wind
2013 Cathay Media (Mainland China) Wallace Huo, Yuan Shanshan, Yang Rong, Chen Xiao, Howie Huang, Joe Chen, Deng Sha, Han Dong, Lü Jiarong, Bryan Leung See Swordsman (TV series)
2018 Youku (Mainland China) Ding Guansen, Xue Haojing, Ding Yuxi, Chen Xun, Jiang Xinxin, Ding Yuxi, Liu Jiatong and Jiang Zhuojun See New Smiling, Proud Wanderer (2018 TV series)


A total of 26 volumes of the manhua series by Lee Chi Ching, titled State of Divinity, were published by Ming Ho in Hong Kong and M&C (Gramedia Group) in Indonesia.

Stage productions[edit]

In 2006, the Hong Kong Dance Company adapted the novel into a stage play, starring Rosanne Wong, Race Wong, Liu Yinghong, Su Shu, Chen Lei and Mi Tao, as a jubilee presentation to celebrate the company's 25th anniversary.

In 2010, the Yangtze Repertory Theatre of America presented the premiere of Laughing in the Wind: A Cautionary Tale in Martial Arts in New York City. The play was adapted and directed by Joanna Chan and featured 18 actors playing 26 roles.

Video games[edit]

Swordsman Online is a MMORPG developed by Perfect World. The game also features additional sects that do not appear in the novel.[citation needed]


  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), p. 57.
  2. ^ Morton, Lisa (2001). The Cinema of Tsui Hark. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Company, Inc. p. 171. ISBN 0786409908.
  3. ^ Tong, Simon (2008). "The Beat of a Different Drum". In Pung, Alice (ed.). Growing Up Asian in Australia. Black Inc. p. 43. ISBN 1921825456.
  4. ^ Wu, Dingbo; Murphy, Patrick D., eds. (1994). "Gallant Fiction". Handbook of Chinese Popular Culture. Greenwood Press. p. 248. ISBN 0313278083.
  5. ^ Mostow, Joshua, ed. (2003). "Martial-Arts Fiction and Jin Yong". The Columbia Companion to Modern East Asian Literature. Columbia University Press. p. 512. ISBN 0231113145.
  6. ^ "这部小说....通过书中一些人物,企图刻划中国三千多年来政治生活中的若干普遍现象。影射性的小说并无多大意义,政治情况很快就会改变,只有刻划人性,才有较长期的价值。不顾一切的夺取权力,是古今中外政治生活的基本情况,过去几千年是这样,今后几千年恐怕仍会是这样。任我行、东方不败、岳不群、左冷禅这些人,在我设想时主要不是武林高手,而是政治人物。"《笑傲江湖,后记》
  7. ^ "因为想写的是一些普遍性格,是政治生活中的常见现象,所以本书没有历史背景,这表示,类似的情景可以发生在任何朝代、任何团体之中。"《笑傲江湖,后记》