Sunday, October 22, 2006

china girl

Why & make complete & utter sense to me is in major part because i grew up watching these:

Much as Lord of the Rings inc. can reduce some fully grown functional adults into bearded potato-robe-wearing 'wizards' and/or elvish-speaking plastic-bow-&-arrow-adorning 'faeries', Jin Yong's Legend of the Condor Heroes trilogy induces in this otherwise sophisticated young lady (ahem) a similar debilitating effect that sees her transform into a wide-eyed Asian-pride fanatic that would make her ancestors proud. People flying? But of course! Shooting out laser beams through your index finger? It's all in the chi. Giant Falcon that does kung fu? Why the hell not?! Re-attaching severed arteries by pushing really hard on acupunctural pressure points (without forgetting the mandatory "tchieu! tchieu!" sound effect)? Sign me up!

But what really tingles my tender loins are the insanely too-cool-for-school characters whose appearances i anticipate like a 14-year-old New Kids On The Block fan waiting for Jordan Knight at a concert (not that i would know, obv). These mostly include the Four Grand Masters:

This is Evil East. Notice the unbearably cool stern look (which by the way is really how you can get away with playing a jade flute, if you ask me). Master of logic, medecine, literature & most of the arts, he got his name not because he is indeed 'evil' but simply because he harbours the most utter contempt for all unwritten rules of the wulin (aka Martial Arts World), and therefore pretty much does what he likes. Which he can. Because he kicks arses. And nobody messes with him. Obviously.

Yet behind that cold austere exterior resides a deeply sensitive man who, after indirectly causing the death of his beloved wife, kept her body in an icy secret cavern in order to one day revive her. So romantic (albeit in a creepy Frankenstein-ish way).

Then comes Poison West. Of all the Four Grand Masters, he is perhaps the 'evilest'. But that's only because his ambitions to dominate the wulin have blinded him to any pre-established notions of what might be ethical or not, which, pfff, anyone in the same situation could understand...

By the end of the first chapter, he is driven to madness when Evil East's clever daughter (that's the girl who looks a bit like the Lady in Disney's The Lady & the Tramp oop there) read him a false copy of the much coveted wuxia (or kung fu) scroll Jiu Yin Zhen Jing, causing his chi to go all wonky (very bad). He then adopts Andy Lau in the second installment, "Return of the Condor Heroes", and finally shows how truly kind-hearted & good he is. However, because of his shady past, he is deemed as a bad influence on our young & handsome hero, thus forced by the latter's guardians to run away in order to prevent future evilness. Poison West spends the rest of the story if not looking for his son, then trying heartbreakingly in vain to remember who his true identity, which further drives him into madness (until he dies). It's all sad, really.

His specialties? Poison, of course. He also developped this strange technique called the Toad Stance, in case you've ever heard of it*... *wink*

This is the South King. Ruler of a small land of Dai Li, he exerts the technique of Prime Pointing Palm, which basically allows him to shoot out laser beams through his finger. This technique was developped along with Central Divinity**, and since shooting out laser beams is no easy task of course, demanding constant hours of practice and cultivation, the hard-working King soon finds his wife to be pregnant with another man's baby - his to be exact :
But love is such that the King forgives her even though she is desperately in love with her son's father, Ba Thong (who ran away after the fact, deeply ashamed of his actions, and also because despite his age is nothing more than a little boy at heart).

On one stormy night, a masked enemy fatally wounds the child in the hopes that the King might use his inner energy to heal it, thus becoming weaker and an easier target. At the incessant plea of his advisers, he fails to rescue the baby in time. His wife, believing that he has done so in spite, leaves the kingdom & bitterly swears vengeance. In utter despair & remorse, he abandons the throne and turns to Buddha (or 'voice of Reason'. Either/or).

Finally, a fond lover of good food & wine, this dusty old man here may appear harmless but he is the Leader of the Beggar Sect, thus earning the title of North Beggar, and a respected place within the Four Grand Masters with his signature Dog Clobbing Baton Technique & awesome Dragon Subduing Palm Explosion. I don't know much about his personal story as it is not mentionned in the 80's mini-series that lovingly formed my childhood. There are however some later series that try to interpret his life but seeing as it is utter rubbish, i don't give much credit to it. Unless Jin Yong himself tells me i should.

Among all of these wonderful stories (the above are nothing more than side-lines & secondary characters from the first two novels), none however holds a dearer place in my silly little heart than this one [cue in boastful 80's cantopop]:


The last part of the trilogy, it is set about 100 years after the previous two . Legend says that "In all of Wulin, Dragon Sabre rules. Who dares to defame it? Heaven Sword astray, who dares to challenge it?" (hmm, i swear it sounds so much cooler in chinese/vietnamese...). Fighting mindlessly to obtain these weapons are all of the Martial Arts World, believing that the owner may rule 'all under the heavens'. Little do they know that the true secret of the two weapons lies within their blades: inside the Dragon Sabre is hidden an important military book written by an ancient general, whereas the Heaven Sword witholds the legendary Jiu Yin Zhen Jing, both of which books were the central objects of covenant in the prequels. Only when the two blades hit one another can the secret finally be revealed.

Unbeknownst to everything is our innocent little hero, Vo Ky (that's the boy in the right, there...*blush from chidhood crush*). His father is the fifth & favorite disciple of the leader of the Wudang Clan, Zhang Sanfeng (who also happens, as legends would have it, to be the creator of what is now known as Tai Chi *incontrollable giggle at the utter awesomeness of it all*); and his mother, daughter of White Brow Master of the conflicted Ming Sect. Both sacrificed themselves when Vo Ky was only 10 years old in order in one part to protect the whereabouts of their blood brother Goldern Mane Master, Vo Ky's godfather & present owner of the Dragon Sabre, and in another because Vo Ky's father wrongly believed that his wife was responsable for the debilitating of his Third Clan Brother***.

As Vo Ky grows up and learns to deal with his parents' deaths, the intricate relationships within the wulin, blurred notions of Good & Evil vs. Right & Wrong, honour & sacrifice, how to make peace with his destiny as the new leader & unifier of the Ming Sect, and the meaning of brotherhood, he eventually ends up as a powerful martial artist - despite himself - having managed to learn the long lost chi part of the wuxia book Jiu Yin Zhen Jing, Jin Yang Zhen Jing (!)


Although this is all very interesting indeed [for a nerdy 8-year-old Asian], much more importantly however is that he also learns to L-O-V-E! And as a simple love triangle is just too darn pedestrian for our hero, he has to attract no less than the love of FOUR pretty young things (Aragorn, eat you heart out!).

First comes Tri Nhuoc. Intelligent & sophisticated, she can show to be a quite cunning & manipulative little minx as well. She met Vo Ky at the tender age of 10, and from then on rules of attraction dictate that she is to be deeply & passionately devoted to him.

Chau Linh is Vo Ky's younger cousin who, also from a teenage crush, falls in love with him. Which deeply troubled me as a kid as i did not realize that this could happen between cousins (which still troubles me a little to this day, to be completely honest). When she was 8, she defended her chronically ill mother by murdering her father's very mean Second Wife, and was then forced to run away. As her father tries to catch her, her own mother kills herself before her eyes (a popular practice, apparently) in order to distract him from his vengeful pursuit.

Enters Tieu Sieu. Though she is demure & shy, with no apparent talent other than looking really cute and serving as a devoted maid to Vo Ky, she later reveals herself as the Chosen Leader of the Ming Cult of the West (which is an awful translation on my part, apologies, but that's who they really are. Besides, any translation always pales in comparison to the real thing, sadly. Because the real thing is seriously excellent, of course), sent to the Mainland in search of the sacred Ming scroll, and thus redeeming her mother (who was supposed to be the Chosen One but as these must be virgins - and Tieu Sieu's presence kinda threw that out the window - the Cult will sacrifice her mother for the offense should they ever find her).

Other than THAT, I have nothing else on her. I did think she was the prettiest though. Oh, and she wore similar slippers as mine. Which may or may not be revelant in me finding her most attractive.

Last but most certainly not least is the spoiled & playful Mongolian princess, Trieu Minh. Despite her young age, she is astonishingly smart & quick-witted, and commands half of the terrible Mongolian troups as her father is the seating ruler of the land. A daddy's girl with a no-shit-taking attitude, she's charmingly offbeat & refreshingly sassy.

My sister & i know by heart almost all of her lines with Vo Ky. (Not that we are utterly pathetic or anything.)


As i know you are all dying to know which one he will choose, i'll spare you the details, and jump right into it if you don't mind. Ahem.

*clears throat*

When Tieu Sieu's destiny as the chosen leader is revealed, she is forced to abandon her beloved, not because she wants the position but should she refuse, they (the Wicked Ming Cult of the West) will not only kill her & her mother but Vo Ky as well. Tears were shead, a kiss exchanged, and bye-bye to sweet Tieu Sieu & her lovely slippers. Then, previously wounded by Tieu Sieu's mother, Chau Linh is now in a semi-conscious state, and cruelly killed off by none other than very bad Tri Nguoc as she finds out that Chau Linh has seen her drugging everyone, stealing both the Dragon Sabre AND Heaven Sword, after chasing off Trieu Minh (so that it looked as if it was Trieu Minh who did all of aforementioned evil doings, you understand. Oh wicked indeed!). Unfortunately, poor innocent Vo Ky, though truly in love with Trieu Minh, reluctantly believes all these webs of lies, and soon finds himself in this most awkward of situation:
What will he do?

The only satisfying thing of course - leave a heartbroken & shattered
bride behind. Not very honorable of him, i hear you snicker, and to be quite honest, i do feel most sorry for her. She is bitchingly bad but there are strenuous circumstances (pressure from her dead master, wanting to rule the world, etc, etc...things one can relate to, really) surrounding her unexemplary behaviours. And she does it all for him, really. I mean, just look at that sad face...

Besides, she does repent herself in the end. Lala lala - all is forgiven!

As for Vo Ky leaving a seemingly innocent bride at the alter with another girl? It was mainly because Trieu Minh knows where his godfather Golden Mane Master (remember him?) is hidden, and refuses to tell him unless he leaves with her immediately (because it was actually his bride-that-would-never-be who attacked his godfather, resulting in his capture by his sworn enemy).
And also because he loves Trieu Minh more. The end.

Well, okay no, not really. There are heaps of other things, obviously. Cases of vengeance & betrayal, warfare & mistaken identities, which are all tops & make for the bestest bedtime story ever, BUT, in the end, what truly matters is that Vo Ky finally makes an uncommon decision to leave everything behind to live freely with his one true love! And all is well again in the world!

So you see...?
And they dare say fairy tales distort the youth's minds - ha!

I am doomed.

*If you've seen Kung Fu Hustle then you'll understand that i was not making a pass at you (although i'm sure you are very much attractive), but in fact hinting why the movie riled me up as it did. If you haven't seen it, then by all means, go!...Or not. As you wish.

** Central Divinity only appears in flashbacks in the series as he has past away during its unraveling. My dad says that in the novel, he has beaten all of the Four Grand Masters, and therefore able to keep the Jiu Yin Zhen Jing book. Realizing how deadly this powerful wuxia book can be in the wrong hands, he divided it into two scrolls - one for the fighting techniques & the other for the chi cultivation - and gave them to his younger apprentice Ba Thong to guard after his death. Unfortunately, although he is himself quite powerful, Ba Thong has no interest whatsoever in the wuxia world but, just like Cindy Lauper, only wants to have fun.
Central Divinity actually has an extraordinary life story, along with a complicated romance but my brain can barely wrap itself around it for i cannot read in chinese (being non-chinese, you see) nor in vietnamese (being ethno-illiterate), and there has yet to be a proper series to come out for me to relish in, damn it all.

*** In truth, he was tortured by the Mongolians & their minions, who by the time this story unfurls have securely occupied China and established the Yuan Dynasty. Insanely wicked, innit?


arb® said...

wow, very impressive.

vapidly vibrant said...

Yes. And so are the 48 hours i've spent this week re-watching the ENTIRE serial trilogy :S...