|Created by||Jin Yong|
|Appearances||The Heaven Sword and Dragon Saber|
|Alias(es)||Xie Wuji (謝無忌)
Zeng A'niu (曾阿牛)
|Family||Zhang Cuishan (father),
Yin Susu (mother),
Xie Xun (godfather)
|Romantic interest(s)||Zhou Zhiruo,
Ming Cult (34th leader)
"Seven Heroes of Wudang",
|Skills and abilities|
|Qinggong||Cloud Ascending Ladder|
|Neigong||Wudang Nine Yang Skill,
Nine Yang Divine Skill
|Unarmed combat skills||Seven Injuries Fist,
Wudang Long Fist,
Heaven and Earth Great Shift,
Dragon Claw Hand
|Armed combat skills||Taiji Swordplay,
Martial arts of the Holy Flame Tablets
|Weapons||Dragon Slaying Saber,
Heaven Reliant Sword,
Holy Flame Tablets,
Plum tree branch
- 1 Early life
- 2 Discovering the Nine Yang Manual
- 3 Becoming the leader of the Ming Cult
- 4 Adventures
- 5 Return to the mainland
- 6 Saving Xie Xun
- 7 Retirement
- 8 Jin Yong's evaluation of Zhang Wuji
- 9 Martial arts and skills
- 9.1 Wudang martial arts
- 9.2 Ming Cult's martial arts
- 9.3 Others
- 10 Family tree
- 11 Notes
- 12 References
Zhang was born on Ice Fire Island. His parents are Zhang Cuishan and Yin Susu. He was named by his godfather Xie Xun in memory of the his deceased son Xie Wuji. He spends the next nine years of his life on the island with them and learns some basic survival skills, martial arts and academia from them. When he became older, his parents decide to return to the mainland with him, while Xie Xun stays behind and refuses to leave with them.
Upon their return to mainland China, the family arouses the attention of several martial artists in the wulin (martial artists' community), who keep pestering them to divulge the whereabouts of Xie Xun and the Dragon Slaying Saber. Zhang is captured by the Xuanming Elders, who injure him with their 'Xuanming Divine Palm', but is rescued by his father's teacher Zhang Sanfeng later. His parents commit suicide in defiance after many people attempt to force them to reveal Xie Xun's hiding place.
Zhang Wuji is deeply traumatised by the loss of his parents and he suffers from his wounds. After receiving treatment for his injuries from his grandteacher and his father's fellows for two years, they teach him the 'Wudang Nine Yang Skill', in hope that it will cure him, but it only helps to minimise his suffering. Zhang Sanfeng brings him to seek treatment and they run into Chang Yuchun and Zhou Zhiruo. Zhang Sanfeng saves Chang and Zhou from some pursuers and entrusts Zhang Wuji to Chang's care. Chang brings Zhang to Butterfly Valley, where the physician Hu Qingniu lives. Hu partially succeeds in healing Zhang by slowing down the effects of the poison in his wound and imparts his medical knowledge to Zhang indirectly when Zhang stays with him while recovering. Hu's wife Wang Nangu also imparts her knowledge of toxicology to Zhang.
Discovering the Nine Yang Manual
Zhang meets Ji Xiaofu of the Emei Sect and her daughter Yang Buhui at Butterfly Valley and they become close friends. Zhang especially bonds with Ji as the result of the compassion she showed him after his parents died, and in return he treats Ji's daughter like a sister. After Ji is killed by Miejue, Zhang brings Yang Buhui to her father Yang Xiao after a perilous journey to the Kunlun Mountains. He encounters Zhu Jiuzhen later and has a crush on her. Zhu's family accepts him and Zhu's father Zhu Changling even agrees to marry his daughter to him. However, Zhang discovers that the Zhus and others are actually planning to trick him to reveal his godfather's whereabouts. He escapes death narrowly after Zhu Changling attempts to kill him. He crawls through a narrow tunnel and arrives in Nameless Valley.
Zhang lives in the valley for the next five years and spends his time helping other animals in the valley with his medical skills. Once he meets a white ape suffering from abdominal pain. He performs surgery on the ape and removes a large bundle inside the ape's stomach. He opens the bundle and finds the Nine Yang Manual. Zhang masters the skills in the manual and heals himself in the process. He builds up immense inner energy from practising the skills and learns to use the Nine Yang Divine Skill.
Becoming the leader of the Ming Cult
Zhang returns to civilisation and meets a disfigured girl called Zhu'er after he is injured while escaping from Zhu Changling. She takes care of him and nurses him back to health. Through a series of encounters, Zhang is reunited with Zhou Zhiruo, who is now a member of the Emei Sect. He also learns that the six major orthodox sects in the wulin are planning to attack the Ming Cult on Bright Peak. He ventures to the peak ahead of the attackers and discovers Cheng Kun's wicked plan. He escapes death again narrowly with Xiaozhao, a servant of Yang Xiao's family, whom he met there. He finds the manual of the 'Heaven and Earth Great Shift' in a secret chamber and masters the skill, which allows him to reach a near-superhuman level of martial arts prowess.
Zhang resolves the conflict between the Ming Cult and the six sects by representing the cult in taking up challenges from the other sects. He exposes Cheng Kun's evil scheme to stir up conflict and bloodshed in the jianghu and earns the respect of the orthodox sects for his prowess in martial arts. At the same time, he is also reunited with his father's fellows from the Wudang Sect and his maternal grandfather Yin Tianzheng. The Ming Cult's members are grateful to Zhang from saving them from destruction and want him to take the cult's leadership position, which has been vacant since the death of the previous leader Yang Dingtian. Zhang agrees reluctantly and he reforms the cult and improves its relations with other sects.
After leaving Bright Peak to fetch his godfather back to the Ming Cult, he learns that the members of the six sects have been captured by the Yuan military after their earlier departure. The Yuan forces are led by the princess Zhao Min, who is attracted to Zhang after encountering him in a few skirmishes. Zhang succeeds in rescuing the captured martial artists and earns further respect from them. The sects finally resolve their animosity with the Ming Cult and become its allies. Meanwhile, Zhao Min has fallen in love with Zhang secretly and she frees the martial artists after an agreement with Zhang, telling him that he must fulfil three conditions. The first one is to allow her to follow him on his adventures, and she will tell him the other two conditions later.
Zhang travels to Ice Fire Island together with Zhao, Zhou Zhiruo and Xiaozhao. They are closely followed by Golden Flower Granny and her apprentice Yin Li (Zhu'er). Zhang reunites with his godfather Xie Xun but they face enemies who are also eyeing the Dragon Slaying Saber. They meet some people from the Persian Ming Cult and Xiaozhao agrees to leave with them and become their new leader in place of her mother. Meanwhile, Zhou murders Yin secretly and knocks out Zhang, Zhao and Xie with drugs in order to seize the Dragon Slaying Saber and Heaven Reliant Sword.
Return to the mainland
Zhou Zhiruo frames Zhao Min for Yin Li's murder by casting her adrift while she was unconscious. When Zhang awakes, he is shocked to see that Yin is dead and believes that Zhao is responsible. He returns to the mainland with Zhou and his godfather. Xie Xun and Zhou are captured by Cheng Kun and Chen Youliang, who planning to stir up conflict in the jianghu once more. He runs into Zhao Min and wants to kill her to avenge Yin Li, but he refrains from doing so as he still loves her.
Zhang saves Zhou from the Beggars' Sect and Chen Youliang's clutches. He foils Song Qingshu's attempt to take over the Wudang Sect as well. A love triangle gradually develops between him, Zhao and Zhou. Zhang decides to marry Zhou to prove his loyalty to her. Zhao disrupts the wedding by telling Zhang that she knows where his godfather is held captive and telling Zhang that her second condition (for freeing the captured martial artists earlier) is that Zhang cannot marry Zhou. Zhou hates Zhao for embarrassing her and disrupting her wedding and she attacks Zhao with the Nine Yin White Bone Claw.
Saving Xie Xun
Zhou Zhiruo swears to make Zhang pay for betraying her love and vows to kill Zhao Min. Zhang saves Zhao and they decide to attend the Lion Slaying Ceremony at Shaolin Monastery, which is actually a plot by Cheng Kun to turn all martial artists against each other. Xie Xun is used as the bait, as his fate will be decided by the champion of the martial arts contest. Zhou appears at the ceremony and defeats all challengers. Zhang almost defeats Zhou but he hesitates at the critical moment and Zhou defeats him.
Zhou agrees to allow Zhang to help her fight the three Shaolin elders guarding Xie Xun, as defeating them will clear the last obstacle to claiming Xie. Zhang succeeds in rescuing his godfather and Zhou meets her match at the hands of the Yellow Dress Maiden.
Meanwhile, Zhang discovers that Yin Li had survived and returned to take her revenge on Zhou Zhiruo. By then, it is clear to him that Zhou is actually the mastermind behind the mysterious events on the island. Zhou feels guilty for her deeds and explains to Zhang that she has been bound by her oath to do so. Meanwhile, Zhang announces his plans to marry Zhao Min, whom he has finally decided to be his true love and obtains blessings from Zhang Sanfeng.
Zhang leaves the Ming Cult after mistakenly believing that his former subordinates are plotting to kill him to seize power. However, he is unaware that it is actually a ploy by Zhu Yuanzhang to take control of the cult's military without worrying that Zhang may interfere. Zhang decides to retire permanently from the jianghu and names Yang Xiao as his successor. In the last chapter, Zhao tells Zhang that her third condition is for him to help her paint her eyebrows. The story ends here, but in another version, Zhou Zhiruo visits them as a friend and makes some cheeky remarks, reminding Zhang that he has also promised her to do something. She says, "I haven't thought of it yet. But I'm afraid that I might think of it on your wedding day with Zhao Min." Zhang looks at Zhao, then at Zhou, and drops the paintbrush.
Jin Yong's evaluation of Zhang Wuji
Zhang has a more complicated personality as compared to Guo Jing and Yang Guo. He possesses less heroic traits than them and has an equal balance of strengths and weaknesses. The presence of these humanly traits in him makes him more realistic as compared to the other two protagonists in the Condor Trilogy. Zhang's personality is strongly influenced by social factors and the people around him. He is often placed in situations in which he has no other choice but to adapt to. He has no chance of escaping from harsh reality.
His relationships with his four love interests (Zhao Min, Zhou Zhiruo, Xiaozhao and Yin Li) are extremely complicated. Zhang is very hesitant and indecisive on who his true love is. Apparently, he loves Zhao the most and he states clearly that he loves Zhao to Zhou at the end of the novel. However, one can really speculate whether deep inside his heart Zhang really does know who his true love is,.
Although Zhang is a formidable martial artist and probably one of the best of his age, he is not a suitable candidate to be a leader. Undeniably, Zhang maintains a morally upright character and adopts an altruistic approach to his fellows. However, he lacks the qualities and prerequisites of becoming a great leader. On a personal level, he is reluctant to become a leader and only obliges to take up the Ming Cult's leadership position to please his subordinates. He lacks strong power hungry ambitions that a typical leader must have in order for him / her to remain in power. The absence of this important trait in Zhang clearly indicates that he will not become a strong leader and may eventually fail as one.
Martial arts and skills
Wudang martial arts
The 'Taiji Fist' (太極拳) was created by Zhang Sanfeng. It comprises 88 different stances and works on a principle which directly opposes that of conventional martial arts. Instead of basing its moves on speed, power and preemption, the Taiji Fist's moves are slow, "soft" and seemingly powerless. However, the true essence of this skill is to use the opponent's weight and counter the opponent using his own attack to minimise personal exhaustion. Zhang Wuji learns this by merely observing Zhang Sanfeng demonstrating the skill to Yu Daiyan.
The 'Taiji Swordplay' (太極劍法) is a series of swordplay techniques created by Zhang Sanfeng and the armed combat version of the 'Taiji Fist'. The swordplay has 54 styles and utilises slow and soft moves that are similar to those of a Taoist drawing circles with a sword during a ritual. The idea is to use the enemy's attacks to repel the enemy by drawing the attacks back on the enemy and minimise the amount of strength used by oneself. Zhang Wuji learns this from Zhang Sanfeng after observing his grandteacher demonstrating it once.
- 'Wudang Long Fist' (武當長拳) is one of Wudang's fundamental martial arts. Zhang learnt this from his father in his childhood.
- 'Cloud Ascending Ladder' (梯雲縱) is the best of Wudang's qinggong skills. Zhang learnt it from his father in his childhood and the skill enables him to travel at high speeds and leap to extreme heights. He exposes his true identity to Wudang members after using this skill during the battle on Bright Peak.
Ming Cult's martial arts
Heaven and Earth Great Shift
The 'Heaven and Earth Great Shift' (乾坤大挪移) is the most powerful of all the Ming Cult's skills. The skill allows the user to translocate forces and energy from one direction to another and direct enemies' attacks away. An additional aspect of this skill is that it allows its user to perceive the flow of energy in himself and his opponents, allowing him to understand external martial arts better. This is illustrated in the example of Zhang learning Kongxing's 'Dragon Claw Hand' after watching the latter demonstrate it once, while it took Kongxing more than ten years to master the 'Dragon Claw Hand'. The skill is created by the cult in its early years in Central Asia and is later passed on to China following the spread of the cult to Chinese soil. The skill's manual is written in a special type of ink on a piece of lamb's skin and the words will only be revealed when the skin is soaked in blood.
The skill is extremely difficult to master and requires decades of practice in order to progress from level to level of mastery. The practitioner must also have a very strong inner energy foundation and extreme focus when practising it or else he will suffer from internal injuries and die eventually. Only the leader of the cult is allowed to learn the skill and the place where the manual is hidden is known only to the leader. Zhang discovers the manual when he is trapped in the secret room together with Xiaozhao. He masters all the early six levels of the skill within hours, accomplishing a feat which none had achieved before as his mastery of the Nine Yang Manual has already equipped him with a strong inner energy foundation.
Martial arts of the Holy Flame Tablets
The Holy Flame Tablets (聖火令) are sacred artefacts of the Ming Cult and have a series of martial arts instructions engraved on them in the Persian language. These extremely powerful martial arts techniques are said to be created by the Islamic lord Hassan-i Sabbah. After the Chinese Ming Cult lost the six tablets, the Persians retrieved them and mastered the skills. The skills are introduced in the novel when Zhang is battling the three Persian warriors on the island. He succeeds in seizing the tablets from the enemy and masters the skills after Xiaozhao translates the text for him.
The skills are actually complementary to the 'Heaven and Earth Great Shift' and they are in fact no more profound than the first two levels of the Shift. By mastering those skills, Zhang can now use the Shift in a much more powerful and efficient manner, which he eventually uses to overcome the Persian warriors. However, the skills have varying degrees of success when Zhang uses them on his opponents. For instance, the perverse and hideous nature of these skills (originally designed for Hashashin suicide attacks) almost cause him to experience a nervous breakdown when he is attempting to break the 'Vajra Evil Subduing Ring' of the three Shaolin masters. He is only saved when he hears his godfather's chanting of the Diamond Sutra, which helps to counter the repressing effect of the ring.
Nine Yang Divine Skill
The Nine Yang Divine Skill (九陽神功) is a profound type of qigong or inner energy skill that has healing properties and promises superior inner energy. Zhang masters the skill after following instructions from the Nine Yang Manual. The skill allows him to cure the wounds he suffered from the Xuanming Elders' 'Xuanming Divine Palm' and increases his inner energy to a near superhuman level. The skill enhances his learning process and grants him access to mastering even more powerful skills which require a strong inner energy foundation. His success in mastering the 'Heaven and Earth Great Shift' can be largely attributed to the inner energy he has cultivated from learning this skill. The Wudang, Shaolin and Emei Sects have their less powerful and simplified versions of the skill after Zhang Sanfeng, Guo Xiang and Wuse memorised parts of the original Nine Yang Manual from the dying Jueyuan. Zhang learns Wudang's simplified version of the skill from Zhang Sanfeng and his father's fellows in his childhood, which provides him a foundation for learning the full version later.
Seven Injuries Fist
The 'Seven Injuries Fist' (七傷拳) is the most powerful of the Kongtong Sect's martial arts. The skill allows the user to inflict severe internal injuries on his opponent but he also suffers grave wounds when mastering the skill as well. As the practitioner progresses from one level to another, he will hurt one of his vital organs but his prowess is increased. Xie Xun stole the skill's manual from Kongtong in his desperate bid to seek vengeance on Cheng Kun. He practises the skill relentlessly without knowing the true adverse nature of mastering it. However, it was too late and Xie suffers from frequent fits of insanity as a consequence of neuroendocrine damage. Zhang learns this from his godfather in his childhood but only memorised the verses of the skills without really practising it. He masters the skill when he grows older and his 'Nine Yang Divine Skill' actually helps him prevent himself from sustaining injuries when practising it.
Dragon Claw Hand
Zhang learns the 'Dragon Claw Hand' (龍爪手) from Shaolin's Kongxing during their match at Bright Peak. He notes Kongxing's moves during the fight and figures out counter movements, mastering the skill in the process as well. This was possible because Zhang had learnt the 'Heaven and Earth Great Shift' earlier, which allows him to see the movement of energy during the fight.
Medicine and toxicology
Zhang gained his knowledge of medicine from Hu Qingniu while recovering from his wounds in Butterfly Valley. He uses his knowledge to solve problems that he encounters when he practises the 'Nine Yang Divine Skill' and 'Heaven and Earth Great Shift'. Zhang also learns toxicology from Hu's wife Wang Nangu.
Zhang Wuji's family tree
- (Chinese) Tan, Xianmao (2005). Zhang Wuji: Kind, Forgiving and Accommodating. In Rankings of Jin Yong's Characters. Chinese Agricultural Press.