Zhou Botong

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Zhou Botong
Wuxia character
Created byJin Yong
Nicknames"Old Imp" (老頑童),
"Central Imp" (中頑童)
AffiliationQuanzhen Sect
Significant otherLiu Ying
ChildrenUnnamed son (killed by Qiu Qianren)
Zhou Botong
Traditional Chinese周伯通
Simplified Chinese周伯通

Zhou Botong is a fictional character in the wuxia novel The Legend of the Condor Heroes and its sequel, The Return of the Condor Heroes, by Jin Yong. He is nicknamed "Old Imp" (老頑童) in the first novel and becomes the "Central Imp" (中頑童) of the Five Greats at the end of the second novel to replace his senior, "Central Divine" Wang Chongyang.[1] His most notable trait is his childish and mischievous personality. He enjoys playing pranks and games like an immature child, and constantly seeks fun and entertainment even at an old age.

In The Legend of the Condor Heroes[edit]

Zhou Botong is the junior of Wang Chongyang, the founder of the Quanzhen Sect. He is the most senior person in the Quanzhen Sect after Wang Chongyang's death. However, Zhou Botong neither accepts any apprentices nor remains in Quanzhen most of the time. Instead, he roams the jianghu to derive entertainment from anything of interest to him, including fights and toys. Despite so, he still maintains respect for Wang Chongyang and abides by Quanzhen's rules.

Zhou Botong had a romantic affair with Duan Zhixing's concubine, Liu Ying, but broke up with her after heeding his senior's advice. However, Liu Ying was already pregnant with his child and gave birth to a son later. The infant was mortally wounded by a masked assailant (later revealed to be Qiu Qianren) and died from his injuries. Duan Zhixing, who had the ability to save the boy, refused to do so. Zhou Botong was unaware that he had a son until he meets Liu Ying (renamed to Yinggu) several years later.

Conflict with Huang Yaoshi[edit]

After Wang Chongyang's death, Zhou Botong followed the former's dying wish and concealed the coveted Nine Yin Manual. He met Huang Yaoshi and his wife, Feng Heng, along the way. Huang Yaoshi tricked Zhou Botong into allowing his wife to read the manual after winning Zhou by cheating in a game of stone-throwing. Zhou Botong let Feng Heng read the second volume of the book and she memorised the text after reading it once.

Feng Heng lied to Zhou Botong that the manual was actually a copy of a book of childish rites and claimed that she knew the text by heart. She recited it verbatim to him without looking. Zhou Botong believed her and destroyed the second volume of the manual in anger before leaving. Some time later, Zhou Botong realised that he had been fooled so he returned to Peach Blossom Island to confront Huang Yaoshi and demand an explanation. Feng Heng had died recently after giving birth to Huang Yaoshi's daughter, and Huang Yaoshi was still feeling sore. The two of them had a heated quarrel, in which Zhou Botong taunted Huang Yaoshi by saying that he could now practise martial arts better without distraction from his wife. Huang Yaoshi turned furious and fought with Zhou Botong but neither of them was able to defeat his opponent. Huang Yaoshi then sealed off all exit routes from the island so Zhou Botong was effectively imprisoned on the island for the next 15 years. Zhou Botong found a cave and settled there.[2]

Meeting Guo Jing[edit]

15 years later, Guo Jing sets foot on the island and meets Zhou Botong. They become sworn brothers even though Zhou Botong is older than Guo Jing by at least 40 years. He tells Guo Jing stories about the Nine Yin Manual and his conflict with Huang Yaoshi. He still has the first volume of the manual with him so he lets Guo Jing learn the skills as he had been forbidden by Wang Chongyang to practise the skills in the book. Guo Jing memorises the text. Zhou Botong also teaches him the 'Seventy-two Styles Vacant Fist' (七十二路空明拳) and the 'Technique of Ambidexterity' (雙手互搏).

Zhou Botong finally settles his feud with Huang Yaoshi with the help of Guo Jing and Huang Rong. He leaves the island with them and follows them on their adventures on the mainland. He participates in the second martial arts contest held on Mount Hua but leaves halfway when Yinggu appears and tells him to kill Qiu Qianren to avenge their son.

In The Return of the Condor Heroes[edit]

Zhou Botong makes some brief appearances in the sequel. He accepted Yelü Qi as his secret apprentice and imparted some of his skills to him. He also teaches Xiaolongnü the 'Technique of Ambidexterity' when both of them are trapped in a cave by Jinlun Guoshi. In return, Xiaolongnü teaches him how to use the jade bees and helps to cure him after he is poisoned by Jinlun's ice spiders.

Zhou Botong then lives alone for a few years in the Hundred Blossoms Valley, where he spends his time keeping bees as his pets and practising how to control and direct them with the skill he learnt from Xiaolongnü. He meets Yinggu and Duan Zhixing (now known as Reverend Yideng) again with Yang Guo's help. He forgives Qiu Qianren for his misdeeds and Qiu dies in peace. Zhou Botong also participates briefly in defending the city of Xiangyang from Mongol invaders.

Martial arts and skills[edit]

  • 'Seventy-two Styles Vacant Fist' (七十二路空明拳): Zhou Botong created this skill when he was trapped on Peach Blossom Island by Huang Yaoshi. It was meant to be a counter-move against the "18 Dragon Subduing Palms" of the Beggars' Sect. He teaches this skill to Guo Jing later.
  • Jade bees (玉蜂): Zhou Botong is trapped in a cave together with Xiaolongnü by Jinlun Guoshi. Jinlun uses his poisonous creatures to attack them without entering the cave. Zhou Botong is poisoned after being stung by Jinlun's icy spiders and Xiaolongnü uses her jade bees to cure him since the bees' poison helps to neutralise the spider venom. Zhou Botong is fascinated and asks Xiaolongnü to teach him how to use the bees. In return, he teaches her the 'Technique of Ambidexterity'. He learns how to direct the bees to attack enemies and keeps bees as pets when he stays in Hundred Blossoms Valley.
  • 'Technique of Ambidexterity' (雙手互搏): Zhou Botong created this skill when he was trapped on Huang Yaoshi's island. He was bored and decided to fight with himself to keep himself occupied. He used a different set of martial arts technique for each hand and fought with himself. This made him seem as though he was watching a fight between two opponents, and he mastered the art of ambidexterity as a result. In actual fights, he uses this skill to simultaneously attack and defend against multiple opponents and is even able to create doppelgänger illusions purely from the blazing speed and confusing movements of two styles used simultaneously. He teaches this skill to Guo Jing and Xiaolongnü later.
  • Shark-riding: Zhou Botong is lost while sailing on Wanyan Honglie's ship. He wagers with Ouyang Feng and challenges the latter to kill all the sharks in the sea. Ouyang Feng uses his venom to poison and kill all sharks within sight. Zhou Botong is presumed dead after falling into the sea, but he reappears several days later and returns to the ship, riding on a shark in the waves. He finds shark-riding an extremely fun sport and claims that Ouyang Feng has lost the bet since he failed to kill all the sharks (the one he is riding).[3]