Da Mo Yao: How Tong Hua Paid Homage to Return of the Condor Heroes

Having read all three of Tong Hua’s historical novels, I have to concede that Da Mo Yao is her weakest work. It lacks the intelligent depth of Bu Bu Jing Xin and the emotional range of Yun Zhong Ge. But it’s my favorite nevertheless. I’ve been waiting for Tong Hua to actually start on the final novel of her great desert music trilogy (Da Mo Yao or Ballad of the Desert is the first book, Yun Zhong Ge or Song in the Clouds is the second book, and her final book is supposed to be Xie Yiu Qu or Sorrow Relieving Melody), but it doesn’t look likely anytime soon. I’ll discuss Yun Zhong Ge at a later time, but first I want to tackle the characterization in DMY.

I was feeling that Tong Hua took inspiration from a very famous C-wuxia novel for her characters in DMY, but I didn’t know if this was an anomaly or a thread she was planning to follow. After finishing YZG, I am now fairly certain that DMY was Tong Hua’s random homage to Return of the Condor Heroes, turning what is an epically famous love story into a love triangle. Before I get yakking, I just wanted to explain that the desert vista pictures in this post were all just released by Tangren this morning as the first official illustrations of the DMY drama adaptation, and meant in anticipation of the press conference this Friday to kick off the filming.

While I find Yu Er written impossibly fantastical with her wolfy and human sides co-existing in such seamless harmony, taking the leap of faith with her is easy because she’s very vividly multi-facted and vibrant. DMY is written in a first person point of view (same as in BBJX), which makes it easy to relate to the narrator because we hear her thought process. What hurts DMY’s depth is where Tong Hua chose to write her two males leads, both of whom evoke equally passionate devotion from fans. The problem I have is that Tong Hua pretty much took one of the most famous fictional male heroes in modern Chinese period fiction and spliced him in half to create Meng Jiu and Huo Qu Bing. Hilariously enough, I’m such a Qu Bing fan because he’s got the half that I love while Jiu Ye got stuck with the half that makes me roll my eyes. Who is this character? Why, none other than C-literary wuxia fiction’s very own epic loverboy Yang Guo from RoCH. Humor me while I pontificate.

RoCH is nowhere near being one of my favorite Louis Cha (his Chinese name is Jing Yong) novels. It is for a lot of folks, but an equally vocal dissent group finds it an wholly self-gratifying display of maschismo on the part of Louis Cha to dump his idea of this epic “love” on us all. I really wouldn’t dismiss it so much if he had written a great female lead, but instead he barfed up Xiaolongnu, who to this day and age I find wholly abhorrent and annoying that I take out my sharp knives whenever I talk about her. She’s placid, vapid, and completely a cipher – the homage to the perfect goddess of every man’s dreams. One who is so beautiful she must be hidden away, doesn’t have a personality other than doing whatever her man wants, and completely having no life other than floating through her existence between coveted and/or dismissed.

And into this paragon of female perfection Louis Cha crafts one of his most complicated and compelling leading men in all his novels. Unlike his daddy Yang Kang or his uncle Guo Jing in Legend of the Condor Heroes, Yang Guo is the successful creation of a male lead that has plenty of flaws and faults, yet rises above it all to become an iconoclast hero. He’s also not a character I love terribly, but I appreciate his complexity. Tong Hua herself mentioned LoCH and RoCH in her prologue to Yun Zhong Ge, in a self-deprecating attempt to borrow the seamless ties between those two novels and say that DMY and YZG don’t have the same epic connective depth of Louis Cha’s two seminal works, but is her own version of that type of generational storytelling.

[This poem reads: Wanting only the heart of one person, to never be apart even when our hair is white]

I was already in a period drama mood, and the soundtrack for RoCH83 is just perfectly to listen to when translating DMY, so I was listening and translating when I had my “Huo Qu Bing and Jiu Ye is just Yang Guo spliced in half epiphany” and “Yu Er is Tong Hua’s non-annoying homage to Xiaolongnu.” I’m not saying Tong Hua lifted characters or even plot from RoCH, but merely that everyone worth their period C-novel salt has read these books and I find RoCH heavily influenced DMY’s emotional characterization. In fact, aside from splitting Yang Guo into her two male leads, Tong Hua even threw other RoCH plot drivers over to her other characters, which makes for an interesting read when one knows both source materials.

Huo Qu Bing is the yang to Jiu Ye’s ying, and if you take into account Louis Cha managing to write one unforgettable male lead that encompasses both male characters, does highlight the thinness of Tong Hua’s characterization. Huo Qu Bing is the side of Yang Guo that is arrogant, cold to those he can care less about, completely and utterly devoted to one woman in his entire lifetime, and a warrior god. Jiu Ye is the side of Yang Guo that is emo, insecure because of his birth, Jiu Ye’s leg handicap corresponds with Yang Guo’s arm injury in the second half of RoCH, and living decades pining for one woman. It’s no wonder I am completely obsessed with Huo Qu Bing, because he got the half of Yang Guo’s personality that doesn’t drive me nuts, whereas Jiu Ye got stuck with the side of Yang Guo that drives me bonkers.

Jiu Ye’s reluctant patriotism in wanting to help the Xi Yu kingdoms because of his background reflects Yang Guo’s torn desire to not get involved in the Song/Mongol conflict but in the end he goes back to Xiang Yang and helps defend the city. In many ways, the more immature Huo Qu Bing is the younger version of Yang Guo, willing to defy the world to be with the woman he loves, while Jiu Ye’s calm depth reflects the older and injured version, complete with rivers of longing and a lifetime of secretly helping out the world. Jiu Ye also got Yang Guo’s excessive tendency to 鑽牛角尖 (this phrase means to hone a bull’s horn, i.e. to be so stuck on one issue that you wear it down over time). Jiu Ye’s inability to get over his handicap hang ups with respect to Yu Er’s pursuit of him was his Achille’s heal. Similarly, Yang Guo’s insistence that Huang Rong is to blame for his dad’s death is something he almost couldn’t overcome.

[This poem reads: Even if our passion is deep, who can lament if our fate is shallow, with no regrets and a lifetime of longing]

Similarly, Yu Er is like a bizarro version of Xiaolongnu. Both of them are outliers, freaks if you will, to normal society. Yu Er is an orphan raised by wolves outside the structure of normal human development. Xiaolongnu is an orphan raised by a emotionally scarred master hidden away from society in the Living Tombs. Both of them have a low EQ due to their unique upbringing, though Tong Hua helped turn Yu Er around by giving her a Papa who helped normalize her when she was still young enough to adapt back to human society. While Louis Cha wrote Xiaolongnu as literally the most beautiful woman in the entire world, I find it amusing that Tong Hua merely elected to describe Yu Er in the same descriptor used for Xiaolongnu “icy cool beauty” while bestowing the title of most beautiful woman in the world on another female character in DMY, namely Li Yan.

Because Tong Hua bisected the character of Yang Guo into two male leads, she managed to create a compelling love triangle where there was none in RoCH. But in doing so she thinned out her male leads so that they are presented almost as direct contrasts to each other. Less time is spent on their nuances and they become contrasts in behavior and attitude towards Yu Er. And just like RoCH remains Louis Cha’s most “romantic” novel, with the most amount of time spent on the love story compared to his other works, DMY is also Tong Hua’s most romantic novel as well. BBJX focused on the fraternal politicking and internal emotional struggles more than any straight forward romance, and Yun Zhong Ge…..I am not ready to talk about that novel yet. I’m still completely traumatized. Though I said only DMY took inspiration from RoCH, the two female leads in YZG are actually also lifted directly from RoCH. Yun Ge is a carbon copy of Guo Xiang, while Huo Cheng Jun is so similar to Guo Fu it freaks me out.

I bring up DMY’s more than passing similarity to RoCH because the latter is such a famous novel (with nearly a dozen drama adaptations to date) that I can’t believe Tong Hua didn’t know she was paying homage to a famous love story. It also matters because the two males leads in DMY are comparatively thinner characters even if one merely stacks them up against the male leads in BBJX and YZG, and for that I posit the reason I stated above. Since they are really one very complicated character split into two male leads, it’s hard to flesh them out more than Tong Hua already did. In my second read of DMY for the translation project, I found myself liking Jiu Ye much more, appreciating his quiet suffering. I even came to the understanding that Yu Er will be just as happy with either man, but ultimately it all comes down to timing. The Chinese call it “Yuen” (fate or destiny), and when love is equal and cannot be weighed, fate tips the scale in favor of one man or another, and with that comes a truly unforgettable love story.


Comments

Da Mo Yao: How Tong Hua Paid Homage to Return of the Condor Heroes — 72 Comments

  1. Miss Koala.. I am now very curious about Yun Zhong Ge, just because both Guo Xiang and Guo Fu have always intrigued me, with all the flaws included. I do hope you will discuss about YZG when you are ready *bow*

    • I want to talk about YZG, but I can’t until I finish DMY. It’s impossible to talk about it without spoiling all of DMY. Worse part is I turn into a weepy sieve when I even think about YZG.

      Ling gege……*wails*

      • If you ever want to poke your own eyes out with a red hot poker, then read book 3 of YZG. Otherwise, pretend that that novel ended in book 2. I am serious. I wish I could unread it. T____T and O____O.

        Tong Hua, you are an evil cruel woman….

      • I finished Book 2 of YZG and started book 3.. and could not continue… it’s hard to continue… i am sure i will ended up finished it at some point.. but I might just wait for your discussion…

        I finished book 2 and i am totally emotionally drained.. why does Tong Hua enjoy tragic love story so much..

      • If its more sad than BBJX I dont know if I’m intrigue anymore. I still cant handle the heartbreak of RuoXi and 4th T_T

      • Koala,
        I cant wait for you to start on YZG. =D
        I was an IDIOT to read YZG becos I misread the sypnosis – ie i tot the ending was the opposite of what it actually was. And I agree with you that it was a book that leaves you feeling completely empty by the end. I must have used up boxes of tissue paper.

    • I read the end of YZG…..and decided I couldnt read the book afterall. DMY has spolit me for anything less than a “perfect” romantic story..

  2. I’ve been following your blog off and on since I discovered BBJX last semester. I really appreciate you translating this novel as my literacy in Chinese is not very good. I love that this blog has really offered me a chance to connect with Asian dramas, something I’ve missed because I’ve lived in the states for so long.

  3. Koala,

    I read somewhere that someone suggests that Qu Bing is the combination of 13 and 14 and 9 Ye is the combination of 4 and 8 from BBJX. But I also see the similarities between DMY and RoCH too. Good observation!

    • Er, I wrote that comparison of the leads in DMY and the princes in BBJX in my first post about DMY. That was a superficial observation on their personalities, but digging deeper the similarities to YG rise up.

      The two male leads in DMY reminds of a mash up of the four main Princes in BBJX. Meng Jiu is a cross between 4th Prince and 8th Prince – refined, artistic, thinks carefully about everything, keeps thoughts close to his vest, prefers hidden gestures of care over direct communication, and a man who believes that love sometimes means silent sacrifice. Huo Qu Bing is a blend of 13th and 14th Princes – a master tactician and warrior, arrogant and proud, a man who refuses to be governed by anyone else, who loves once and for all time.

      http://koalasplayground.com/2012/02/07/introduction-to-the-sweepingly-romantic-da-mo-yao-by-tong-hua/

  4. Haha! Didn’t realise that XiaoLongNu was so anti-feminist. Had always thought she was a bit stupid – how can she NOT know that it wasn’t Guo-er who had taken away her chastity. Argh.

    Anyway, Yu-er seems more like the other Jin Yong heroines – Huang Rong or Zhao Min – who love passionately (but only one man), and are resourceful, witty, and somewhat slightly amoral.

    It’s about time wuxia stories had a more female-centric vision, instead of just having a hero who has learnt all sorts of strange martial arts surrounded by a harem of adoring girls. Though it is hardbreaking of course, since no female equivalent of Wei Xiao Bao can be accepted in this age yet.

    What IS Yun Zhong Ge about? Curiosity piqued…

    • I think personality wise Yu Er is more assertive and less passive than Xiaolongnu, but she doesn’t remind me of Rong Er or Zhao Min since those two were loved, pampered, spoiled brats, and that’s not Yu Er. In my mind, Yu Er’s orphan status and her strange otherworldly upbringing hews close to how “strange and odd” Xiaolongnu seems to the people who come into contact with her. Though Yu Er is a passionate female lead as much as Xiaolongnu is a block of ice.

      And yeah, Xiaolongnu is so stupid I have no words. Beyond the loss of virginity scene, how the hell did she get so mad at Guo Er because he wouldn’t stop calling her Auntie, when that should have clued her in that he didn’t just sleep with her!!! Oh, I forget, she has zero EQ. All of her positive traits went into her face. I find ALL of RoCH decidedly anti-feminist not just in Xiaolongnu, but in the way Louis Cha upended Huang Rong’s adult character from her youthful charming brilliance, the way he decided to berate her for being a loving wife but a terrible mother and creating the monster that was Guo Fu, and lastly, for insisting that the perfect Guo Xiang ended up founding the Eh Mei sect as opposed to finding a guy? WTF, LC?

      • OH. That Huang Rong. I was thinking of the young Huang Rong in The Legend of the Condor Heroes (射鵰英雄傳). Perhaps when Louis Cha wrote RoCH, he was having a tough time with the woman/women in his life =p

      • Guo Xiang pined for Yang Guo and was doomed to a life without him (like all the other young women in RoCH).

        I always wanted Zhang San Feng to secretly be in love with GX. 🙂

      • Oh, I know that LC claimed GX pined for YG so much she ended up where she ended up. But I don’t buy that shit AT ALL. It was his self-indulgent macho fantasy to have every single girl in RoCH pine for YG until they either were insane, doomed to a life of solitude, or simply gave up.

        GX’s personality was too much of an iconoclast and non-comformist. She’s not Xiao Dong Xie (Little Eastern Heretic) for nothing. It was a huuuugggeee stretch to push her there in the end.

      • Yeah I agree. GX didn’t have to go there. I wanted her to have her own story, her own life and not tie her emotional identity to YG. She could have been happy! Why did she have to end up a nun!?

    • XLN is the reason I don’t rank RoCH one of my favorite Jin Yong novels. She is so bad. Everything “happens” to her. But does she take any responsibility for her life? Does she have thoughts aside from YG? Even Princess Fragrance is slightly better.

      • Buh? Oh no no no, yeah, Princess Fragrant appears mildly less retarded than Xiaolongnu, but with a name like Princess Fragrant, I’ll have to rank her lower. XD

        Actually, the annual rankings of most annoying LC heroines, his top three most beautiful always take the cake: Xiaolongnu, Princess Fragrant, and Wang Yu Yen. It’s like the more beautiful LC writes ’em, the more annoying he turns them into because he’s using all his descriptors on their beauty and forgetting to give them brains.

        Okay, Wang Yu Yen had the ability to memorize shit on sight, but her use of that to help her cousin barfmaster Murong Fu makes me loathe her on sight.

      • My favorite heroin of Jin Yong has always been Zhao Min, I just love how she plotted from start to end, and say what you may from her ‘elope’, she got her happy ending. Actually, the fact she was tossed out of her family actually guaranteed her happy ending. Can’t imagine her ending if she remained a princess.

        Xiaolongnu was a Mary Su, so the author loves her, and everyone else hates her. She made reading RoCH really, really hard. Huang Rong was cute, and I think the author was too hard on her for the fact that 1, she didn’t have a son, and 2, she held more power than her husband. Jin Yong definitely regretted a lot of his decisions by the time he wrote RoCH, which has always been his biggest fault: instead of building up the hero, his heroins tends to fall madly in love for no reason and seems to lose personality.

      • about Jin Yong’s work I just know ROTCH, LOTCH and HSDS and my fav heroine out of all JY’s works is one of girl of HSDS. This persian-looking girl if I am not wrong she was a servant in the the “Ming” sect and then she unwillingly left ZWJ because she was the head of a persian sect. I love this girl the best because I really felt she loved who ZWJ was while in Zhao Min’s case I felt she mostly loved what he was : strong, powerful, leader etc…She loves power. Besides I just can’t stand her sadictic personnality. Yes she is funny, clever and an interesting character but sometimes she is eww..

      • @lilly
        OMG I finally found someone who love XiaoZhao like I do. She’s like the best female character, smart, kind but not too gentle. I wish I found other characters that resemble her. I feel WuJi actually is interested in her, he trust and value her,there’s a reason why Zhao Min feels threatened by her. ZWJ and XZ is my favorite pairing

  5. Thanks once again for sharing your thoughts on DMY! I find them very insightful & it makes reading the books much more pleasurable. A very interesting theory you’ve got here. Jin Yong has got to be my favourite Wuxia novelist of all time & I adore every single one of his works esp. Tian Long Ba Bu. I didn’t know about the comparison that TH made with respect to the generational storytelling of her books & Jin Yong’s but now I’m starting to see it.

    I’ve commented before during the early chapters of your translations that Jin Yu is no Xiao Long Nu & I stand by my words. Actually I feel that DMY is more similar to LoCH than RoCH. Jin Yu is definitely a blend of Huang Rong & Mu Nian Ci; whereas HQB is romantic version of Yang Kang & Jiu Ye a placid Guo Jing. JIn Yu’s feist and wits reminds me greatly of Huang Rong while her wholehearted pursuit and loyalty to Jiu Ye is very MNC-esque. HQB arrongance and can’t care less attitude seems like a nod to the younger Yang Kang but minus the evil-doings. Eventhough TH made him extremely learned and bright, Jiu Ye’s kind and caring ways seem to stem from Guo Jing. The Xiong Nu and desert plains in the story also seems like a nod to the Mongolians in LoCH.

    Lastly, I’ve only read a short chapter of Yun Zhong Ge out of sheer curiousity & trepidation as the Chinese fans seems to adore the story alot & are raving all about it. However, I am also wary about it as they’ve called it the most “nue” story out of all TH’s works. Will probably dive into it when your DMY translations are completed so I can join in the discussions too haha.

    • i like ur idea of Jin Yu being a combi of Huang Rong and Mu Nianci…. which will tie in nicely with Koala’s idea of TH paying homage to the Condor books.

      but I cannot imagine Jiu Ye being similar to Guo Jing at all… JY seems far sharper and much smarter.

  6. Tbh, I appreciate all of JY’s works. All of them made me marathon through them.
    My ultimate favourite is xajh, next joined by loch. I also like tlbb, and yttlj but it’s much less emotional for me. I just got a kick out of all the pretty ladies to be honest. ^^”” And how the heroes were really insanely good. I always loved the scenes where people underestimate the ability of the hero and he basically draws their jaw open and kick their butt. Also, for purely entertainment sake, I liked the “short” xiakexing.
    Among those where I found myself disliking/indifferrent to the main characters most, roch, and ldj. so i couldn’t really connect with the story. In fact, i think if I’m honest with myself, even though i tried really hard to like yang guo, i just couldn’t, which is unusual because usually, i love unconventional characters. but i just found him annoying at times when im pretty sure i was supposed to find him charming. as for xiaoln, i never put much thought into her. she was more like a plot device for me than a character despite all the thing she suffered through. don’t get me wrong though, i still rooted for them, and still loved roch. It’s just that i’m not into the whole suffering after suffering ordeal that other people find utterly moving and romantic. maybe i’m just cold?

    • Oh and I agree with the annoying female characters. I like them much better when they’re not acting like flower wallpapers, all perfectly behaved, and as a consequence, rather dull. I even thought the “evil” zhou zhiruo was uninteresting until the very last scene he added at the end of yttlj which wasn’t before. That was about the only time I liked her. As well as princess changping/ajiu in bxj. i guess even the nun in xajh, was it yilin?, was not my favourite. She was cute in a way I guess. and even memorable. But it was more for the scenes she was in than herself. it’s funny that even in zhangjz dramas, the characters were made as boring, whether it be roch xiaolongnu, tlbb wang guniang, bxj ajiu, yttlj zzr, etc.
      and i need to shup up now. I swear i can go on and on and on if i don’t check myself on these things.

      • I know right? I LOVE LHC. Well… at times, i wanted to shake him for harping over xiao mei mei when he had a precious kickass princess willing to die for him but aside from that, i LOVE how cavalier he is about a lot of things while being a true hero at heart. And as a novel, xajh had some of the funniest jinyong scenes I’ve read. The scenes with the 6 brothers were epically hilarious (I remember laughing myself off during the downhill trip in the mountain where they carried him, or when they started arguing and “curing” him, or when he hid behind the statue and they were arguing AGAIN XD), or the yilin’s monk father and his ridiculous logic (and his wife’s… -____-), or the scene where lhc disguises himself as a drunk good-for-nothing captain to help out the nuns…. priceless. I also liked the scene in the mansion with the 3 brothers where he had to disguise himself and fight. or when he fought the wudang warrior, or his fight with tian boguang to save yilin… XD one thing that really really makes me sad is how he never got to meet his elder feng qingyang ever again. the fact that he stayed recluse was so sad. and one scene i’ll never forget is how the authors of “xiao ao jiang hu” and their daughter died. SNIFF. after that scene, there was no way I was going to stop reading that novel.

    • I had the same reaction to you about Xiaolongnu. I felt sorry for her sufferings and I rooted for her and Yang Guo to be together, but I never found their romance particularly moving/epic. I actually liked Guo Jing/Huang Rong pairing of LOCH much better than the ROCH novel. As others have said, I like women characters to have more personality than just be a beautiful prize for men to fight over. This is why I think Huang Rong in LOCH is one of the best wuxia female characters, because she had brains and an awesome personality, and was not just a pretty face. I like the way she and Guo Jing (who is just so adorable and likable) balance each other is wonderful 🙂

      This analysis is making me want to watch LOCH again LOL. 😀

      • and yes.. for xianlongnu, the problem is that it was more the fact that i felt that i HAD to be sorry for her, rather than i was sorry for her. and i HAD to root for them, rather than me rooting for them. I also like guo jing a lot more than yang guo. and huang rong of course. that girl is love love love. even guo jing behaved like an idiot at one point, where he rejected her after his 6 masters died or when his engagement with his princess came up, but she was always awesome all the way through, and i’m not just talking about her brains but her heart too. she’s also THE most beautiful woman in LOCH, and yet I remember her beauty second, or even at the very bottom of the list to other characteristics when I think about her. as for guo jing, like you said, usually, i would like guys like yang guo more. lack of “intelligence” SHOULD be a turn off for me. But i think huang rong loved him despite everything so much that I loved him too. as for yang guo. i can’t put my finger exactly where i don’t like him. he’s handsome, awfully loyal, and utterly intelligent and quick on the update. it’s just that i guess he’s a bit volatile at times you know? and the way he doesn’t care about anyone but his gugu (and vice versa) is a bit unsettling, and though really romantic on paper i guess, makes it hard for me to connect with him. for example, i LOVE the scene where people are discovering how yang guo is good at martial arts in the tournament against the mongolians to become no1 leader in the jiang hu world. guo fu’s reaction and everyone else is pretty much epic. it’s just that the aftermath of it, the wishy washy romantic scenes between him and xiao long nu was less smile inducing, and more cringeworthy for me. ^^”” that and how I feel like for him chivalrous conventional codes isn’t something he really puts much importance to and observe and that kinda bugged me (but then again, lch is also selfishly cunning like that at times but i didn’t have a problem then?? i like unconventionality usually. i’m just not sure why i dont like it in yang guo…). anyway. i liked roch and if i think about it, it’s really one of the best written books jinyong did. it’s probably better written than yitiantulongji, but for some reason, i like yttlj more.
        and as for loch, it will forever hold a special place in my heart. i can’t count the number of scenes i love in that. makes me want to reread it too. sigh. 🙂

      • I feel exactly the way you do about Yang Guo and Xiaolongnu. You described it perfectly. I felt like I was obligated to feel sorry for her too. I like Yang Guo too and he’s a very interesting character, but yes, he does have his more obsessive/extreme moments… I like him best when he’s being his kickass self without pining and obsessing over Xiaolongnu – don’t get me wrong, I totally support him and Xiaolongnu together but just not the cringeworthy moments, if you know what I mean…

    • I actually like Guo Jing more than Yang Guo (which is extremely strange for me as I usually love unconventional characters like him). I think Yang Guo is very cool, but probably because he spent so much time angsting over Xiaolongnu that it took some points off for me?

      • Everyone I know likes Guo Jing more than Yang Guo.

        I said this one to mookie:

        Guo Jing is husband material, Yang Guo is boyfriend material, Linghu Chong is drinking buddy material, and Wei Xiaobao is a one-night stand material if you’re using protection.

      • I totally agree with you! Guo Jing is definitely husband material! 😀

        Haha LOL yep, Yang Guo is boyfriend material and I’d love to go drinking with LHC. I agree with you about Wei Xiaobao although he isn’t really quite my type…

  7. Been checking into your site since bbjx and finally decided to jump into the conversation.

    I definitely had suspicions about Yu Er and xln while I was reading your translations (big hint was their weapons of choice) but since I’m Chinese illiterate, wasn’t really able to catch on to the rest of the parallels for the other characters. I have to acknowledge that, despite Meng Jiu and Huo Qu Bing being a bit flat, Tong Hua did do a lot of work on puffing up xln into Yu Er, almost to the point where I was beginning to doubt the parallels I was seeing. As you pointed out, the major difference was that Yu Er had Papa to ground her to humanity and give her a brain while xln was… well… kinda raised to just be a freak -_-;;; … Definitely think that, without Papa, thing book would have turned into a horrible re-run of RoCH…

    Thanks for all your hard work and translations!!

    • I think the difference comes from the author’s gender. LC is a man, writing for men. Naturally he writes unforgettable multi-facted heroes (at least he tries). Wei Xiaobao is one of the best characters ever written. Dissertations on have written about him.

      Whereas Tong Hua is a woman, and her novels are not about “wuxia” and the concept of honor and chivalry. Her novels are about love within the confines of whatever cultural and political norms of that time period. She makes her heroines more colorful than really they could realistically have been. From a feminine perspective, it does create a tighter emotional resonance with me.

      • You’ve pinpointed exactly the difference between Louis Cha and Tong Hua. While I LOVE Louis Cha novels, I think the biggest weakness is his female characters. Which is why I love LOCH Huang Rong so much because FINALLY we have a female lead that actively complements the male lead (Guo Jing) without being just a prize for the men to win.

  8. Very interesting! Ms. Koala, I’m impressed with how articulate you are with your thoughts and writing. I can definitely see where you’re coming from on Yang Guo. As much as I love HQB, he always appeared just a tad one-dimensional to me, same with Jiu Ye. And yes, I have noticed that DMY seems to be a lot less nuanced than BBJX, as much as I’m enjoying it.

    I can definitely see how Yu Er is a non-annoying XLN, and I actually thought of it myself when the golden bells and sash first showed up. To be quite honest, I didn’t start seeing all of XLN’s faults till later because I first saw Idy Chan in RoCH when I was young and thought she was so utterly beautiful that I was enchanted. I also thought her bees were wicked cool. But as I grew up, I saw how flawed and boring the character was. Hence, why my favorite heroines are Rong Er and Zhao Min. I also that Wang Yu Yan was super pretty but she really pissed me off too.
    I like Yang Guo, just not his mopey side, so I’m like you in loving HQB.

    I’m curious though, who are your favorite Jin Yong heroines? Since your hated ones are Xiaolongnu, Princess Fragrance, and Wang Yu Yan?

    • LC’s biggest weakness was writing women. For example, I hated every single female character in Dragon Sabre. Every single one of them. Original flavor Zhou Zi Ruo was fine, but in his revision he pretty much blackened her to the nth degree. Sorry, but I really dislike Zhao Min. LC decided to go all Oedipal in Dragon Sabre, because Zhao Min was pretty much a Yin Su Su v.2, and ewwwww to Zhang Wu Ji marrying what is essentially a version of his own mom. Plus I really dislike these ladies ruthlessness and cunning. It undercuts their “I love my man” passion, because outside of that they are pretty soulless.

      I have very few LC heroines I love. I love teenage Huang Rong (LoCH version), I love Shuang Er in Duke and the Cauldron, I actually like Yuan Zhi Yi in Fox Volant of Snowy Mountain (and I adore the Wong Jin 2005 drama adaptation with Nie Yuan and Athena Chu where Wong Jin pretty much did a fan fiction version of Fox where Hu Fei and Zhi Yi get together….seriously they are so hot together). But my favorite female character has got to be Guo Xiang. She’s just this bundle of innocence and heart and brains and goodness and spunk.

      I suppose if I dig deep into Demi Gods and Semi Devils I might find a few girls I like since that novel was overrun with female characters. Hell, Duan Yu had like, what?, 7 half-sisters. No? I suppose Ah Ju is well-loved since she’s pretty awesome, but she bit it in such a pointless way I sorta went meh on her.

      • No love for Xiao Zhao?
        I agree with you, guo xiang is my fave too, I used to wish Yang Guo would just choose her, because its clear that he is brighter everytime he sees her.

      • Ooh yes, I forgot about Guo Xiang! I love her. She was just so darn vibrant. Yeah, my favor for Zhao Min probably stems from watching Alyssa Chia as her when I was younger. I’ve never read Dragon Sabre so….

        I do agree, LC is very weak at writing women. So many of them become one-dimensional and flat. Teenage Huang Rong is my number one.
        Among the Demi Gods and Semi Devils girls, I guess I liked Mu Wanqing the best before she just faded into another of Duan Yu’s girls. She was pretty badass at the beginning.

  9. Thank you for this wonderful and insightful analysis! I totally agree with you! It is exactly for the reasons you said that ROCH is much lower on my list of favorite Jin Yong novels (as compared to LOCH which I think is brilliant because of the AWESOME Huang Rong!). I always thought Xiaolongnu had too little personality and was just there to look beautiful most of the time, a prize for men to fight over, etc. I didn’t like how every girl pined for Yang Guo too. Sure, Yang Guo is pretty awesome but c’mon, Guo Xiang pined for him all her life and ended up becoming a nun because of it? I felt that was so inconsistent with her character. I can buy that Guo Xiang becomes a nun and founded Emei Sect – but at least give us a better reason than “pining for Yang Guo” – he’s like an uncle to her!

    As for Huang Rong character assassination in ROCH … I have no words. *sigh* Sometimes I tend to ignore that bit and just think back to how AWESOME she is back in LOCH…

    I agree with your thoughts about Tong Hua splitting her male leads and them being weaker as a result. It’s true. Especially when compared with the male leads in BBJX.

    Thanks for bringing us DMY translations/analysis and the desert pictures look good 😀

    • i agree with everything. ^^ but just pointing out that 20 ish year of difference doesn’t matter much in love. ~~~ i’ve witness personally several true lasting loves with that much large difference of age.

      • I agree with you – there definitely are couples who have a large age difference yet have a strong bond of love between them. I wasn’t referring to age difference – I meant that Yang Guo is like an uncle to her in terms of their feelings for each other (well, in Yang Guo’s case anyway) – he dotes on her like an uncle would to his favorite niece. 😀 I personally think Yang Guo would be an awesome uncle/big brother to have around. 😀

  10. I have not seen any of the Condor dramas but find it interesting that you think she split the male leads in DMY based on those dramas or novels. You leave out YZX. His personality is rather large in this novel and he’s not included….

    I do agree that both men are compatible with Yu Er. I still am skeptical about what would’ve happened if Jiu Ye got to her first though. Based on his history, I think he would have strung her along…again and not come clean about his emotional attachment to her or her place in his heart. I think he would have asked her to come back with him, but not make his intentions known or clear. He may have gotten around to it eventually, but HQB is direct and to the point. That is needed sometimes to take the guess work out of things and give the heart some peace and rest.

    We can only look hindsight and that without using what we now know about HQB. We still have not seen Jiu Ye’s lament (realizing he lost out) or conviction (his efforts to bring her back).

    • 3-novel series (Da Mo Yao, Yun Zhong Ge, and Xie Yiu Qu). Each novel can stand alone as a story but all three are inter-related… kind of like “The Hobbit” and “The Lord of the Rings” … Each novel can then be broken down into books. There’s two for Da Mo Yao… I think…

  11. I never thought about it until you pointed it out but you’re right. As usual. Jiu Ye + HQB = Yang Guo.

    Poor Jiu Ye… He’s got all that potential to be an amazing lead guy and lover to Yu Er except he had to go and be an insecure, pessimistic, noble idiot. Yu Er wasn’t dropping hints so much as aiming pin-point accurate missiles at Jiu Ye saying she loves him. But the idiot goes, “No. I’m a cripple. I won’t be able to make you happy.” Exasperating!

    In the Philippines, we have a term for guys like him. “Torpe.” Guys who are too scared and insecure to make romantic advances, sometimes even when the girl obviously likes him back. Like I said, exasperating.

    • In the real world…….. no girl want a handicapped guy… and handicapped guys are mostly broken… this is just a fiction romance novel…

  12. Now that you’ve talk about it, I’m even more curious to watch DMY on screen. However I’m curious to what Song of the Clouds is that makes you think the way you do.:)

  13. your comments made me laugh out loud so many times. I guess from the perspective of a male author, they can only use pretty adjectives to idolize their beauty. i started reading dmy but kind of picked it up and down throughout the last few days because i realized there wasnt anything to pull me in. i can predict behavioural patterns which result in expected endings to scenes, which diminishes the fun of the book. bbjx was such a thoughtful book that it’s hard to get over.
    the xajh-2001 with xq and lyp version is by far my favourite adaption of all time. xq brought much more complexity in the tv series than the book and it was hard to get used to at first. but towards the end, it only made YY and LHC’s get together that much sweeter. The older adaption in 94 (?) one had YY too abrash and kind of needy. LHC was fine. Since we’re on the topic of female heroines, XQ does the best version of a modern one – independent, sweet, yet assertive and level-headed. They even had a firm happy ending too which is what more can you ask of a c-drama production. I saw you posted there’s news of new adaptations of xajh… please keep posting updates 😀 (and if possible the chinese source too) highly anticipating that series to come out.

    • For me, I tend to separate enjoyment versus quality. Where BBJX was a well-written novel, and DMY more youthful in verse, scope, and narrative, the former I have no desire to re-read whereas the latter I can read over and over again. I find DMY strikes the right balance for me in being lovely with a touch of sweetness, while a novel like BBJX is a nourishing mental feast but it turns bitter with time.

      To be sure, I don’t even think BBJX can even hold a candle to Yun Zhong Ge. In terms of TH’s writing, YZG is where she hit her peak in wordsmanship and narrative complexity. I wonder if she can’t write her third novel Xie Yiu Qu because it would be neigh impossible to top YZG.

      • There’s still *struggles to say* some hope… I think… according to spcnet, Yu Mama’s doing State of Divinity and he gave the script to Jin Yong to go over… plus it seems like he’s been putting on the image that he’s trying to turn over a new leaf… I guess we can only wait and see and hope our fingers crossed for the best 🙂

      • interesting, i actually re-read bbjx a few times because there were so much small details in the big scenes for each character. i didnt want to miss any parts. the enjoyment for me was dissecting the story. we are quite different readers! i need to be entertained when reading books, gotta get through dmy first.
        btw, i wiki-ed hqb’s history profile with no result but just wondered if anyone knew any better, 为什么是“去病”, such a strange name to rid off disease. i almost thing jiu ye should be called qu bing. hahaha

      • @Bwear

        I think Yumama is pond scum, but for some weird reason he might be perfect to do YZG. He doesn’t need to plagerize since the story is there, and he can add his theatrical flourishes left and right.

        This interview by Tong Hua awhile back almost made me cough up blood. She said that when she wrote YZG, she had a different ending in mind. But……when she wrote the ending of the novel, she was feeling soft-hearted so the ending became what it was.

        So the takeaway was that TH initially wanted to end YZG in an even more gutwrenching way, and she didn’t go through with it. She claims she shared that ending with the drama producers who are interested so the drama ending could be different. But different only in a more depressing way.

        Grah!!! How could YZG possibly be more depressing. Rocks Fall Down endings are less depressing than YZG. Someone said “OMG, how much more bad shit can happen to those people?!?” and I laughed so hard I wanted to cry.

      • “I think Yumama is pond scum” XD ROFL

        I always find Yumama’s work to be a bit too shallow on emotional appeal… to the point where I end up simply clicking through the episodes since the costumes are eye-catching… and then steadily picking up the pace of my clicking once that attraction has started to die off. Maybe he is perfect for YZG. He’ll deafen what sounds like an emotional hurricane and make everybody less of a wreak.

  14. Hmm, after thinking about it, I’m afraid I still don’t see the connection between HQB/Jiu Ye/Yang Guo. It might be because I simply can’t fathom splitting Yang Guo in half; he’s meant to be such a complex character that if I try to separate his “good parts” from his “bad parts”, then he’s simply no longer Yang Guo to me.

    In my opinion – and one of the reasons I simply can’t get into DMY as much as I did with BBJX – HQB and Jiu Ye are frankly embodiments of diametrically opposing female ideals/fantasies of men. You have HQB, the “bad boy”, and Jiu Ye, the “good boy”, yet both share one essential characteristic, which is that they are both completely and utterly devoted to the heroine. Beyond that, though, honestly, HQB and Jiu Ye aren’t very complex characters. If anything, I find secondary characters like YZX and Li Gan more interesting in their internal conflicts. And that’s why, while I like DMY well enough, it simply doesn’t get me as viscerally in the heart as BBJX did, with its vast array of super-complex and conflicted characters. The characters of BBJX actually feel like real people, not female ideals/fantasies brought to life (cough, Edward, I’m looking at you).

    I also don’t see Xiao Long Nu in JY at all. It seems rather superficial to me to say that they are similar just because they share orphan backgrounds. Indeed, if anything, they ended up on completely opposite trajectories. XLN starts out emotionally repressed because even though she was brought up by 2 humans, it was still a cold, emotionless environment that she grew up in; then, after meeting and falling in love with Yang Guo, she turns into a wallflower, because Jin Yong apparently likes his women as wallflowers. JY, on the other hand, even though she was raised by wolves, was nevertheless able to connect with her wolf pack on an emotional, heart-to-heart level, and so she had much less difficulty in adapting to and interacting with humans/society than the emotionally-stunted XLN did.

    Actually, in my mind, even though BBJX is the time-traveling novel and DMY is not one, in fact DMY much better fits the mold of the stereotypical female-audience-oriented time-traveling fantasy novel, wherein you have the male protagonist(s) falling madly in love with the female protagonist simply because she’s brash and direct and thus super-different from the demure, softspoken ladies of whatever period we’ve time-traveled back to.

    Indeed, I think one of the reasons time-traveling novels so enthralled the female population of China back when they were all the rage (still are?) is because they tap into our desire to snag some handsome, rich, powerful dude, and apparently, the secret to getting a “one-in-a-million” guy to fall in love with you and to stay in love with you is to be “one-in-a-million” yourself. However, it sure feels a lot harder to be “unique” when everyone else around you is also striving to stand out. Fortunately, time-traveling neatly solves that little conundrum, because you can’t get more fish-out-of-water than being dropped in a time that’s not your own, plus you’ll be armed with your superior, modern-day knowledge that no one but you will know.

    Basically, to me, DMY is Tong Hua’s fantasies put to pen and paper. If I had read DMY, say, in my teens, then I might have joined the hordes of girls raving about it, but these days, I apparently prefer my novels more nutritional than cavity-inducing.

  15. I’m not sure if HQB + JY = Yang Guo but you definately help me pinpoint one aspect of DMY which borthered me which is HQB + JY = 1 whole. For some time now, I felt that HQB is too perfect, so much so that the character seems a bit flat. But if you couple him with JY with his insecurities, big-heart, etc, they would almost add up to a person. They are so Yang and Yin, Sun and Moon, they could almost be identical twins seperated at birth? Yu Er is like a female HQB – clever, passionate, loya and I love their pairing, I really do, but there is just this very distracting Moon nearby….

    I also want to agree that Tong Hua is a really evil woman simply by her ending DMY the way it did. She could have woven the last chapter into the second last, which is a natural progression of things but no, she just have to nail the readers with guilt and sadness. This is one good writer who is fond of sad endings and make my own sky grey in the process since I love all her characters anyway.

    Thanks Koala for giving us a spot to rant and rave!!

  16. Mz. Koala,

    I really love this entry. May I translate it into Vietnamese, my mother tongue, to share with my friends? I will publish the translation on my (blog.

    Thank you,

  17. Koala,

    this is a most interesting take on DMY…. yes I do think you have a point about HQB and JY being a split Yang Guo.

    My other impression of HQB is that of a Domyoji/Dao Ming Si/Gu Jin Pyo…though I am not sure if JY qualifies as a Hanazawa Rui/Hua Ze Lei.

    • You absolutely talked my mind. I thought I was the only one seeing a similarity between DMY and Hana Yori dango storyline. Girl falls for the nice and near perfect guy at the begining but she absolutely feels she is herself when being with the passionate and more brutal guy, just like Makino relationship with Rui and Domyoji.

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