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Wuxia Glossary - Beginner's Guide to Wuxia Part 2

A reference for those new to the Chinese literature genre of Wuxia.
A reference for those new to the Chinese literature genre of Wuxia. | Source

If you haven't, please read part 1 of my Beginner's Guide to Wuxia!

General Terms

Anqi (暗器): The term literally means hidden or concealed weapons, and is commonly used to refer to projectiles. In the Wuxia world, there exists a wide variety of such projectiles, such as darts, daggers, coins, needles, discs, etc. Some anqi could also be elaborately constructed. For example, a bejewelled box that releases needles on opening.

Binqi (兵器): Weapon.

Dizi (弟子): Disciple. In Chinese, the term could be used as a pronoun or a noun.

Dianxue (点穴): Both Wuxia and actual Chinese martial arts integrate the study of acupuncture points into their techniques. Dianxue is correspondingly the art of striking such crucial areas of the human body. Executed precisely, dianxue can immobilise or weaken one’s opponent. Conversely, dianxue could also be used to heal, to contain the spread of poison, or to enhance one’s neigong.

Jianghu (江湖): Another term for Wulin. This has a more solemn, jaded connotation.

Lianwu (练武): The learning or practicing of martial arts. The term implies an unspoken mission of chivalry and upholding justice.

Menpai (门派): A general term used to refer to clans, factions and sects. Note that in Chinese, the term is never used together with a name. For example, it is wrong to say “Shaolin menpai.”

Miji (秘籍): Literally, secret manual. A recurrent trope in many Wuxia stories is the competition for manuals containing exotic martial arts. Many “heroes” also gain formidable power after accidentally discovering such manuals.

Mojiao (魔教): An accusatory term used to refer to heretic sects, evil gangs, etc. Note that such gangs seldom refer to themselves as mojiao. They tend to have actual names.

Neigong (内功): Translated literally as internal prowess, neigong is the internal body energy all Wuxia characters seek to cultivate. It is also commonly referred to as neili (内力) or neijia (内家). In all Wuxia stories, characters with strong neigong are capable of incredible feats such as self-healing and swift mastering of other techniques. They practicing neigong are typically shown in a seated, motionless position. With the emphasis being on invisible qi (气) manipulation.

Note: Real life neijia martial arts emphasise on connected, smooth actions. The focus is on cultivation of the mind and spirit.

Qinggong (轻功): Qinggong translates to lightness skill, and refers to skills meant for agility improvement. In movies and television dramas, such skills are often exaggerated to endow users with superhuman leaps and temporary flight. Characters are also often shown easily scaling high cliffs with superior qinggong.

Shifu (师傅): Teacher or master.

Waigong (外功): Also known as waijia (外家), waigong refers to martial arts that emphasise on strength, agility, or physical hardiness. They are almost always explosive and aggressive in execution. 70s Wuxia movies are particularly fond of showcasing shirtless male protagonists in arduous rituals of waigong practice.

Wulin (武林): The overall world of the martial artists. It encompasses all clans and sects, unaffiliated individuals, and all happenings between these characters and factions. Also frequently interchangeable with jianghu (江湖). Note that the term differs from lulin (绿林), the latter term referring to brigands.

FInding a "miji." The dream of many Wuxia characters!
FInding a "miji." The dream of many Wuxia characters!

Clans, Factions and Sects

In Chinese literature, especially Wuxia, the suffixes of pai (派), men (门), bang (帮), jiao (教), hui (会), gong (宫), are all used to refer to sects. There are subtle differences in meaning, though. Jiao implies some sort of religious affiliation. Bang translates to “gang” and implies a looser structure of organisation. Gong literally means palace, and is used to refer to factions based in a specific architecture.

This following list is far from comprehensive. Listed here are famous sects, or those that are particularly memorable in their stories.

Cihang Jingzhai (慈航静斋): A mystical faction that often appears in the stories of Hong Kong “modern” Wuxia writer, Huang Yi. The de facto leader of the righteous factions, Cihang Jingzhai consistently plays a heavy, albeit veiled, hand in restoring national peace and determining the rightful heirs to the Chinese empire.

Diancang Pai (点苍派): Diancang Pai mostly appears in Gu Long and Liang Yushen stories. Their disciples are usually portrayed as skilled swordsman capable too of superior qinggong.

Emei Pai (峨嵋派): Emei Pai, named after the Buddhist peak in Sichuan, appears in many Wuxia stories. It is one of the orthodox sects, and is typically associated with superior swordplay. In Jin Yong’s stories, Emei Pai is dominated by females, and is loosely affiliated with Wudang Pai.

Gaibang (丐帮): The Beggers’ Clan. Gaibang features prominently in many Wuxia stories, and is said to have an unmatched network of information. They have both beggar and non-beggar followers, the latter referred to as jinyi dizi (净衣弟子, clean-attire disciples). Often, leaders of Gaibang are among the most skilled in Wulin. Gaibang is also frequently hailed as the largest gang in Wulin.

Honghua Hui (红花会): The heroic underground movement in Jin Yong’s first novel, the Book and the Sword (书剑恩仇录). The movement was a gathering of powerful martial artists with the explicit aim of overthrowing the Qing Dynasty. The story’s protagonist, Chen Jialuo (陈家洛), headed the movement.

For Wuxia fans, ascending the perilous Mount Hua is a dream!
For Wuxia fans, ascending the perilous Mount Hua is a dream!
Mount Qingcheng. Wuxia stories tend to feature Taoist or Buddhist mountains as headquarters of sects.
Mount Qingcheng. Wuxia stories tend to feature Taoist or Buddhist mountains as headquarters of sects.
The remote Kunlun Mountain Range.
The remote Kunlun Mountain Range.

Huashan Pai (华山派): The actual Mount Hua is the “Western Peak” of the five holy Taoist mountains in China. In Jin Yong’s stories, Huashan Pai is respected as one of the strongest swordplay sect. As a testimony to the popularity of Jin Yong’s novels, many Chinese tourists to Mount Hua today brave the dangerous trek uphill simply to visit locations associated with Jin Yong’s stories. One such location is the perilous Cliff of Penance (思过崖).

Jinqian Bang (金钱帮): Translated as the “Money Gang,” this was an expansionist, powerful organisation in Gu Long’s signature work, Duoqing Jianke Wuqing Jian (多情剑客无情剑). The gang was headed by the powerful and evil Shangguan Jinhong (上官金虹), the primary antagonist of that story.

Kongdong Pai (空洞派): Named after one of the sacred Taoist mountain ranges of China, Kongdong Pai is usually one of the orthodox sects in Wuxia stories. In Jin Yong’s The Heaven Sword and Dragon Sabre (倚天屠龙记), it was one of the six main orthodox sects and respected for its fist play.

Kunlun Pai (昆仑派): The actual Kunlun Mountain Range lies at the extreme western borders of China. Despite that, Kunlun Pai often appears as one of the main orthodox sects in many Wuxia stories. Like Emei and Wudang, they are respected for their superior swordplay techniques.

Mangshan Pai (邙山派): Mangshan Pai features prominently in Liang Yusheng’s Qing Dynasty novels. It was established by Dubi Shenni (独臂神尼, the lone-arm nun), who was said to be the last surviving princess of the previous Ming Dynasty.

Mingjiao (明教): In Jin Yong’s The Heaven Sword and Dragon Sabre (倚天屠龙记), Mingjiao was the primary antagonist faction in the first half of the saga. They were Zoroastrians, and top ranks were populated by extremely powerful martial artists. In the second half of the saga, Mingjiao was revealed to be righteous, with the lofty aim of overthrowing the then occupying Mongolian Yuan Dynasty. Of note, the character for “Ming” is the same as that for the subsequent Ming Dynasty. The founding emperor of the Ming Dynasty also appeared in the story as a section head of Mingjiao.

Nangong Shijia (南宫世家): Nangong Shijia, or the Nangong Clan, occasionally appears in some Wuxia stories as a wealthy, powerful Wulin family. In Huang Ying’s Reincarnation (天蚕变) stories, they were infiltrated and tragically destroyed by the White Lotus Sect.

Qingcheng Pai (青城派): Mount Qincheng is one of the holy Taoist mountains of China, located in the heart of Sichuan province. In Wuxia stories, it occasionally appears as one of the orthodox sects, famous for its swordplay and neigong techniques.

Qinglong Hui (青龙会): Translated as the Green Dragon Association, this mysterious organisation is mentioned in several Gu Long stories, mostly notably his Seven Armaments series (七种武器). A ruthless organisation, they were believed to have successfully dominated all aspects of Wulin.

Quanzhen Jiao (全真教): Quanzhen is one of the main branches of Taoism. Under Jin Yong’s pen, its founder, Huang Chongyang (王重阳), became the top martial artist in Wulin. Quanzhen Jiao subsequently features prominently in two parts of Jin’s Condor Trilogy. They were heavily involved with the defence of the Song Dynasty against the invading Mongolians.

Riyue Shenjiao (日月神教): Riyue Shenjiao only appears in Jin Yong’s The Smiling, Proud Wanderer, and is the main antagonistic faction. Their cultish practices and expansionistic nature earned them the infamy of a “demonic cult,” and the bulk of the story involved their conflict with the rest of Wulin. Riyue Shenjiao was famously headed by Ren Woxing (任我行) and Dongfang Bubai (东方不败), two of the most powerful characters to appear in Jin Yong’s stories. They were believed to be the descendants of Mingjiao. Riyue means sun and moon. When the Chinese characters for these words are combined, they form the character for Ming.

Shaolin. Honoured as the founding place of martial arts in all Wuxia stories.
Shaolin. Honoured as the founding place of martial arts in all Wuxia stories.

Shaolin Pai (少林派): The most famous sect of all and based on the actual Shaolin Temple located in Henan Province, China. In all Wuxia stories, Shaolin is acknowledged as the founding place of Chinese Martial Arts. Its disciples include both monks and secular individuals, the latter known as sujia dizi (俗家弟子).

Tangmen (唐门): Also referred to as Chuannei Tangmen (川内唐门), the Tangs are a clan in Sichuan famous for their anqi making. In Gu Long stories, they are feared for their many deadly and unearthly anqi.

Tiandi Hui (天地会): An insurgency movement that features prominently in Jin Yong’s The Duke of Mount Deer. Translated as the Society of Heaven and Earth, the actual, historical Tiandi Hui is regarded as the predecessor of modern Chinese secret societies. For example, Hong Kong triads.

Tianshan Pai (天山派): The actual Tianshan Range is located in the extreme northwest of China, and is thus infrequently written about in Wuxia stories. Liang Yusheng, however, places Tianshan Pai as the leading sect of Wulin. Many of his most powerful characters hail from Tianshan Pai, and are respected for their unmatched swordplay. Liang’s Tianshan Pai also possesses a legendary anqi, Tianshan Shenmang (天山神芒). This was made from a fruit unique to the Tianshan Range.

Tianxia Hui (天下会): The primary antagonist faction in the Hong Kong Wuxia comic series, Feng Yun. (风云, known as The Storm Riders in movie adaptations) While Feng Yun strictly isn’t Wuxia literature, it warrants a mention for its popularity and well-received movies.

Wudang Pai (武当派): The most famous Taoist sect, and usually portrayed as a counterpart / rival of Shaolin. Based on the real-life Mount Wudang in Hubei, China, Wudang disciples are often shown as superior in swordplay, neigong, and taiji (太极).

Wuyue Jianpai (五岳剑派): Wuyue Jianpai is an association of five smaller sects in Jin Yong’s The Smiling, Proud Wanderer (笑傲江湖). Consisting of five sects named after the five holy Taoist mountains in China, the association was established to counter the dominance of Riyue Shenjiao. The internal conflict between these five sects formed the premise for the epic saga.

Yihua Gong (移花宫): Yihua Gong is the primary antagonistic faction in Gu Long’s Juedai Shuangjiao (绝代双骄, sometimes translated as the Magnificent Twins). It is headed by two sisters with phenomenal martial arts accomplishments, their deadliest skill being the ability to redirect any attack towards them. Yihua literally means to switch/move a flower.

Historical Eras

Extent of Chinese empire during different dynasties
Extent of Chinese empire during different dynasties

(This section is arrange chronologically)

Tang Dynasty (唐朝, tang chao): The Tang Dynasty (AD 618 - 907) is universally regarded as one of the most prosperous periods in Imperial Chinese history. At its peak, its capital, Chang’an, was the largest and most organised city in the world. Despite this, few Wuxia stories are set in the Tang Dynasty, reason probably being the various sects, clans, etc, are believed to have originated much later in history. Famous events during the Tang Dynasty includes Wu Zetain, the only female emperor of China. And the An Lushan uprising, which led to the slow decline of the dynasty.

Song Dynasty (宋朝, song chao): While there were significant scientific and artistic advancement during the Song Dynasty (AD 960 - 1279), this was a tumultuous period in Imperial Chinese history, with China constantly surrounded by hostile neighbours. In 1127, the Jurchens occupied Northern China, forcing the Song Dynasty to retreat and shift its capital southwards. A century and a half later in 1279, the remnants of the dynasty was overrun and replaced by the Yuan Dynasty. Wuxia stories set in this era often feature martial artists rising in arms against invaders. Among these, the most famous works are the first two parts of Jin Yong’s Condor Trilogy (射雕三部曲), and Demi-Gods and Semi-Devils (天龙八部).

Yuan Dynasty (元朝, yuan chao): The Yuan Dynasty (AD 1271-1368) was established by Kublai Khan after the successful invasion of China. It was in essence, a Khanate, and didn’t survive very long against Chinese resistance. Wuxia stories set in this period tend to focus on uprising efforts. The most famous work among these is undoubtedly Jin Yong’s The Heaven Sword and Dragon Sabre (倚天屠龙记).

Ming Dynasty (明朝, ming chao): Historically, the Ming Dynasty (AD 1368 - 1644) was a period of exploration and global contact. China sailed the seas and made contact with numerous other civilisations. A great number of Wuxia stories are set in this period, and for many writers and readers, this is also regarded as the period that birthed the most sects, factions and clans. Stories happening in the later part of the Ming Dynasty tend to reference actual woes suffered by the empire during those twilight years. These woes include, increasingly hostile northern invaders, indifferent emperors, and the strange phenomenon of eunuchs dominating the imperial court.

Note: In Wuxia, eunuchs dominating imperial politics are often portrayed as capable of fantastic, if not undefeatable kung fu.

Qing Dynasty (清朝, qing chao): Qing (AD 1644 - 1912) was the last dynasty of China, and was established after the invasion of China by the Manchus. Because of this, Wuxia stories in this period almost always involve some sort of uprising effort against the Manchurian government. Several of Liang Yusheng’s best known works are set in this period. Jin Yong’s first novel also revolves around a conspiracy to overthrow Qing court. Of note, Wuxia stories seldom venture beyond the reign of the sixth Qing Emperor (Qianlong, reign between AD 1735 – 1796). This is likely to preserve the medieval feel of the stories by staying away from the modern age.

One of the best known heroes of  Wuxia, the story of Guo Jing continues to be adapted regularly for movies and television series.
One of the best known heroes of Wuxia, the story of Guo Jing continues to be adapted regularly for movies and television series.
Adam Cheng's portrayal of Chu Liuxiang was instrumental in immortalizing the popularity of the character.
Adam Cheng's portrayal of Chu Liuxiang was instrumental in immortalizing the popularity of the character.

Famous Characters

(A selection of the most famous names in the Wuxia genre. I am admittedly more familiar with the “traditional” works, not those of newer writers like Huang Yi. I would progressively expand this section over time.)

Bu Jingyun (步惊云): One of the two protagonists of popular Hong Kong Wuxia comic, Feng Yun (风云, titled as the Storm Riders in movie versions). Bu was a sullen youth taken in by the murderer of his father, and feared for his Cloud Sweeping Palm (排云掌, pai yun zhang). In the Hong Kong movie adaptation, he was portrayed by pop singer Aaron Kwok.

Chen Jialuo (陈家洛): The title character of Jin Yong’s first novel, The Book and the Sword (书剑恩仇录). He headed the Honghua Hui, which strived to overthrow the Qing Dynasty. In the story, Chen was also the half-brother of Qing Emperor Qianlong, and attempted unsuccessfully to convince his half-sibling into restoring Chinese rule.

Chu Liuxiang (楚留香): One of the most beloved characters of Taiwanese Wuxia writer Gu Long, Chu Liuxiang was a Chinese Robin hood, renowned for his qinggong and resourcefulness. Together with his band of loyal friends, he embarked on many thrilling adventures that saw him challenging the deadliest and most feared in Wulin. In television dramas, Chu was also known for his “flickering finger” technique (弹指神通). This snazzy move releases a deadly projectile from his palm with a finger flick.

Fu Hongxue (傅红雪): A tragic sabre user who appeared in several Gu Long stories. Lame in one leg, epileptic, and trained by his mother to enact vengeance against Wulin, Fu was a fearsome killing machine that few could survive from. His technique epitomises the terse writing style of Gu Long, who deliberately avoids verbose descriptions of fights. In the stories, hardly anyone survived more than one slash from Fu Hongxue.

Guo Jing (郭靖): One of the best known heroes under Jin Yong’s pen. Dim and stoic Guo Jing was born to Han Chinese parents, but grew up among the Mongolians. His righteous character eventually won him the admiration of several top martial artists, and later in the stories, he was also shown to be a talented military strategist. Guo Jing featured heavily in the first two parts of Jin Yong’s Condor trilogy (射雕英雄传, 神雕侠侣). His death also set the premise for the events in the final part (倚天屠龙记).

Hua Wuque (花无缺): One of the two protagonists of Gu Long’s Juedai Shuang jiao (绝代双骄, sometimes translated as the Magnificent Twins). Hua Wuque was separated from his twin brother at birth by the evil Yaoyue Gongzhu (邀月宫主), the latter having the intention of manipulating the two brothers into fighting to their deaths. His name translates as “flawless.”

Huang Rong (黄蓉): Devoted wife of Guo Jing (see above) and only daughter of a feared Wulin master. Intelligent and witty, Huang Rong was an interesting contrast to Guo Jing in the stories she appeared in. Like her husband, her death set the premise for the events in Heaven Sword and Dragon Sabre (倚天屠龙记).

Jin Shiyi (金世遗): One of Liang Yusheng’s most colourful male characters, Jin Shiyi accomplished what was thought to be impossible in Liang Yusheng’s Wuxia world. He successfully tamed the “evil” neigong he mastered, thus not only avoiding painful death, but also reaching new heights of prowess. Jin Shiyi’s personality subtly paralleled this accomplishment. When young, he was cantankerous and antagonistic. As he matured, he became more worldly and dignified.

Li Xunhuan (李寻欢): Li Xunhuan appeared in only one Gu Long story, but was made famous throughout the international Chinese community by a popular television adaptation. His signature technique was his flying daggers (小李飞刀). So it was written, Li never wasted a shot (例不虚发). There was no way at all to dodge his daggers, once they have left his hands.

Long Jianfei (龙剑飞): The title character of the Rulai Shenzhang movies (如来神掌, usually translated as The Buddha’s Palm). While Rulai Shenzhang was not based on any novel, it is worth mentioning for it was one of the first Hong Kong movies to feature substantial special effects. Till today, remakes of the stories tend to utilise heavy visual effects.

Retro movie featuring the story of Lü Siniang.
Retro movie featuring the story of Lü Siniang.

Lü Siniang (吕四娘): Probably the most famous of Liang Yusheng’s heroines, Lü Siniang is remembered for accomplishing the astonishing. In Liang’s stories, she assassinated the Qing Emperor Yongzheng. This “accomplishment” remains a popular myth in Chinese mass media up to today. Many romanticised dramas of the Qing period continue to integrate this assassination into their plots.

Lu Xiaofeng (陆小凤): One of the most well-known heroes under Gu Long’s pen. Like Chu Liuxiang (see above), he was dashing, incredible popular with women, and fond of intervening in Wulin crises. Lu’s defining feature was his moustache, which gave him his nickname “four eyebrows.” He was also feared for his Lingxi Finger (靈犀一指), a miraculous technique that traps and immobilises weapons between his fingers.

Nian Nishang (练霓裳): Liang Yusheng’s Nian Nishang is better known as the Demoness with White Hair (白发魔女). A brigand, she fell in love with a Wudang disciple, but the romance was impossible because of her background. Despaired, Nian’s hair whitened overnight. She spent the latter part of her life as a feared recluse in the outer reaches of the Chinese empire.

Nie Feng (聂风): One of the two protagonists of popular Hong Kong Wuxia comic, Feng Yun (风云, titled as the Storm Riders in movie versions). Nie was a gregarious youth taken in by the murderer of his father, and renowned for his Wind Deity Kick (风神腿, feng shen tui). In the Hong Kong movie adaptation, he was portrayed by veteran actor Ekin Chen.

Qiao Feng (乔峰): The eldest of the three protagonists of Jin Yong’s Demi-Gods and Semi-Devils (天龙八部). Qiao was a Khitan who grew up in Song Dynasty China, and before his ethnicity was exposed, he was respected for his leadership and martial arts prowess. Thereafter, he was ruthlessly persecuted and branded as a murderous barbarian. Through him, Jin Yong discussed the ambiguity of nationality and race. Some readers consider Qiao Feng to be Jin Yong’s most tragic characters.

Jin Yong's Wei Xiaobao is one of the most unique characters in Wuxia.
Jin Yong's Wei Xiaobao is one of the most unique characters in Wuxia.

Wei Xiaobao (韦小宝): The title character of Jin Yong’s final novel, The Duke of Mount Deer (鹿鼎记). Among all Jin Yong’s protagonists, Wei Xiaobao stands out for never mastering any formidable kung fu. He was also uneducated, a rascal, and generally considered a lowlife. Despite these, he became heavily embroiled in politics involving the Qing Dynasty court. After threading a razor thin path between Emperor Kangxi and insurgents for years, he vanished with his seven wives to live a life of luxury.

Xiang Shaolong (项少龙): The title character of Huang Yi’s time traveling Wuxia epic, Xun Qin Ji (寻秦记). Xiang was a 21th century special force trooper who time travelled to Ancient China after an experiment. Utilising knowledge from the modern era, he survived well in those times, and even played a crucial role in the wars leading to the establishment of the Qin Dynasty. In the epic, it was written that real-life warlord Xiang Yu was his godson.

Xiao Longnü (小龙女): The teacher/master of Yang Guo (see below). In her story, Xiao Longnü was described as possessing an unearthly beauty. She was also stoic and formidable in skill, thus fulfilling the classic Chinese archetype of an otherworldly fairy.

Xiao Yuer (小鱼儿): One of the two protagonists of Gu Long’s Juedai Shuangjiao (绝代双骄, sometimes translated as the Magnificent Twins). Xiao Yuer grew up in the notorious “Valley of Villains” and was skilful in all form of skulduggery and trickery. He was separated from his twin brother at birth by the evil Yaoyue Gongzhu (邀月宫主), the latter having the intention of manipulating the two brothers into fighting to their deaths.

Yang Guo (杨过): Protagonist of Jin Yong’s Return of the Condor Heroes (神雕侠侣), and one of the author’s most famous characters. Rebellious Yang Guo was the son of a Chinese traitor, and after escaping from his enemies, grew up in the ancient tomb of a Wulin master. The bulk of his story involved his adventures in repelling the Mongolian invaders of the Song Dynasty, as well as his forbidden romance with his teacher, Xiao Longnü (see above).

Ye Kai (叶开): The disciple of Li Xun Huan (see above) and hero of two Gu Long stories. Compared to his melancholic master, Ye Kai was cheerful and optimistic. He was also renowned for his superior qinggong.

Zhang Danfeng (张丹枫): Protagonist of Liang Yusheng’s Pingzong Xiaying Lu (萍踪侠影录), Zhang Danfeng was a master swordsman described by the author himself as his most satisfying creation. In many ways, Zhang does embody the ideals of a righteous Wulin master. He was loyal, patriotic and compassionate. He was also supremely talented in his skills, ultimately creating his own set of techniques. Zhang become the prototype for many Wuxia heroes in subsequent stories by Liang and other writers.

Zhang Wuji (张无忌): Hero of Jin Yong’s Heaven Sword and Dragon Sabre (倚天屠龙记). Zhang was the only son of a forbidden Wulin union, and thus was heavily persecuted during childhood. As an adult, he mastered astonishing kung fu, and became the leader of an insurgency movement against the Yuan Dynasty. Unlike most Wuxia heroes, Zhang was decisively indecisive in character. While he was a reasonable leader, he made many errors in his personal life. Some of which resulted in lifelong repercussions.

Many East Asian games reuse the colourful, popular characters in well-known Wuxia stories.
Many East Asian games reuse the colourful, popular characters in well-known Wuxia stories.
Though less obvious in this glossary, a lot Wuxia techniques uses Buddhist and Taoist terms in their names.
Though less obvious in this glossary, a lot Wuxia techniques uses Buddhist and Taoist terms in their names.

Techniques and Cultivation

Binchuan Jianfa (冰川剑法): Translated as Glacier Swordplay, this technique appeared in several Liang Yusheng stories, and was one of the author’s more colourful creations. Mimicking the movement of glaciers, the swordplay emphasises slowness of movement to conceal vast energies. It was occasionally paired with the Glacier Sword (冰魄寒光剑). The latter an icy armament that enhanced the potency of the swordplay.

Dabei Fu (大悲赋): Appearing in the latter part of Gu Long’s Tianya Mingyue Dao (天涯, 明月, 刀), this was said to be a collection of the most heinous martial arts known to Wulin. Gu Long, however, never did fully introduced all seven. Most Gu Long readers determine only two techniques were properly written about.

Dagou Bang (打狗棒): In Jin Yong’s stories, Dagou Bang, or Dog Beating Staff, was a weapon, a technique as well as a sceptre. It was the symbol of authority for the leader of the Beggers’ Clan, and was described as a jade like rod. The technique itself was one of the two supreme techniques of the Clan. By ancestral laws, only the clan leader was permitted to learn it.

Daomo Zhongxin Dafa (道魔种心大法): In several stories by modern Wuxia writer Huang Yi, Daomo Zhongxin Dafa was one of ten demonic techniques known to Wulin. The potential for massive power aside, mastering the technique requires three persons. One of which becoming the thrall of the practitioner, and dying at the end of the process.

Dugu Jiujian (独孤九剑): The nine sword strokes of Dugu. This was the supreme swordplay mastered by the protagonist of The Smiling, Proud Wanderer (笑傲江湖), and the name of each stroke begins with the Chinese character for “break.” Unlike conventional swordplay, each stroke is actually a countering method for a specific family of weapons.

Jiayi Shengong (嫁衣神功): Considered by Gu Long readers to be the author’s strongest neigong technique, Jiayi Shengong was unparalleled in power and exceedingly difficult to master. A crucial step involves the destruction of one’s original neigong. The words jiayi means dowry in Chinese, thus referring to this process of surrendering one’s worth in exchange for a future greater.

Jiuyang Shengong (九阳神功): In the earliest editions of Jin Yong’s stories, Jiuyang Shengong was the twin of Jiuyin Zhenjing (or Jiuyin Shengong), and both were created by the founder of Chinese martial arts, Bodhidharma. Later editions retconned Jiuyang Shengong to be a set of Buddhist neigong techniques. As a “pure” neigong method, mastering Jiuyang Shengong doesn’t make one a powerful fighter. The technique is, however, highly useful for healing. It also vastly simplifies the learning of other skills.

Jiuyin Zhenjing (九阴真经): Jin Yong’s most famous martial arts compendium, which appeared in all three parts of his Condor Trilogy. Written by the vengeful Huang Shang (黄裳), the compendium contained Taoist neigong secrets and several deadly sets of kung fu techniques. Competition for the compendium was a major plotline of The Legend of the Condor Heroes (射雕英雄传).

Kuihua Baodian (葵花宝典): Translated as the Sunflower Manual, this compendium of exotic martial arts secrets was written by a eunuch. Because of this, all male practitioners must first castrate themselves before commencing training. As befitting the “lifestyle” of a eunuch, the compendium emphasises on speed, the usage of feminine instruments such as sewing needles for weapons, and alchemy. Misinterpretation and competition for the compendium resulted in the events in Jin Yong’s The Smiling, Proud Wanderer (笑傲江湖).

Liumai Shenjian in games.
Liumai Shenjian in games.
Rulai Shenzhang, or the Buddha's Palm, is one of the most mythical Wuxia techniques ever written about.
Rulai Shenzhang, or the Buddha's Palm, is one of the most mythical Wuxia techniques ever written about.

Liumai Shenjian (六脉神剑): In Jin Yong’s Demi-Gods and Semi-Devils (天龙八部), this was described as the supreme technique of the ruling Duan family of the Dali Kingdom. In contrast with Yi Yang Zhi (see below), which has only one stroke and is limited to dianxue, Liumai Shenjian has six complete sets of swordplay, each executed by the releasing of “sword aura” (无形剑气) from one’s fingers. Some Jin Yong fans consider this to be the deadliest technique penned by the author.

Qiankun Danuoyi (乾坤大挪移): The pinnacle art of the Zoroastrian Mingjiao (see above section), this was famously mastered by Zhang Wuji in Heaven Sword and Dragon Sabre (倚天屠龙记). The name itself hints at the function of the technique. Nuoyi means to subtly move. In movies and television dramas, Zhang Wuji is often shown effortlessly redirecting the attacks of his opponents.

Rulai Shenzhang (如来神掌): Translated as The Buddha’s Palm, this is the supreme Wulin technique in a series of similarly named movies and television dramas. Rulai Shenzhang was never written as a novel, although it did draw inspiration from several. Depending on which movie or television version, there are at least nine stances. Wanfo Chaozhong (万佛朝中, The Congregation of Ten Thousand Buddhas) is the most famous final stance.

* In Stephen Chow’s homage to Wuxia, Kung Fu Hustle, Rulai Shenzhang was the technique used to defeat the final antagonist.

Shizi Hou (狮子吼): The Lion’s Roar. A sonic technique written about in several Wuxia stories, it is usually described as the user releasing a deafening howl through skilful manipulation of neigong.

Tiancan Shengong (天蚕神功): A legendary technique featured in several Huang Ying (黄鹰) stories, the stories themselves based on two popular Hong Kong television dramas in the early 80s. Tiancan Shengong, or the Heavenly Silkworm Technique, was the most powerful of all Wudang Pai techniques. Other than imbuing great neigong, the final stage reincarnates the practitioner. It is particularly useful in saving the lives of the seriously wounded.

Tianlong Bayin (天龙八音): One of the most unique Wuxia techniques ever written about, and the scourge of Wulin in Hong Kong writer Ni Kuang’s Deadful Melody (六指琴魔). The user devastates his enemies using the sound of a Chinese zither, either manipulating their emotions or shattering them outright. In recent years, this was paid homage to in Stephen Chow’s Kung Fu Hustle.

Tianmo Jieti Dafa (天魔解体大法): Translated roughly as the Demonic Dissection Skill, this suicidal technique appeared in several Liang Yusheng’s stories. Through self-destruction of blood veins, the user momentary amplifies his neigong, in hope for mutual death with his opponent.

Tianshan Jianfa (天山剑法): Unlike other Wuxia writers, Liang Yusheng does not feature Shaolin or Wudang as the leading orthodox sect in Wulin. Instead, this role is fulfilled by Tianshan Pai. In his stories, the swordplay of Tianshan Pai is recognised as the strongest of all orthodox styles, and consists of several types of distinctively different styles. Examples of such styles include the lightning fast Zhuifeng Jian (追风剑, wind chasing sword), and the slow and ponderous Daxumi Jianshi (大须弥剑式, Mount Meru swordplay).

Tianwai Feixian (天外飞仙): Translated roughly as the Soaring Fairy/Deity, this technique only appeared in one Lu Xiaofeng (see above section) story. In short, it was an unstoppable sword thrust. Thanks to movies and television dramas, Tianwai Feixian became the most beloved sword technique penned by Gu Long. The lyrical name, which could also mean blazing meteorite, likely contributed to this popularity.

The Dragon Subduing Palm. One of the best known techniques of the Wuxia genre.
The Dragon Subduing Palm. One of the best known techniques of the Wuxia genre.

Xianglong Shiba Zhang (降龙十八掌): Translated as the Dragon Subduing Palm, this was one of the two supreme techniques of the Beggers’ Clan in Jin Yong’s stories. Hailed as the most physically aggressive technique in Wulin, all eighteen strokes were named after phases from the I’Ching, and all names contained the Chinese character for dragon. Two of Jin Yong’s most famous heroes, Guo Jing and Qiao Feng (see above section), were renowned for their mastery of this technique.

Xiuluo Yinsha Gong (修罗阴煞功): The deadliest demonic neigong technique in several Liang Yusheng stories. Mastering it radically strengthens one’s Yin or negative energy. Liang was fond of describing victims as literally having their bloodstreams frozen solid by the users.

Xixing Dafa (吸星大法): In Chinese, Xixing could mean black hole or magnet. This diabolical technique appeared in Jin Yong’s The Smiling, Proud Wanderer, and was used by the megalomaniacal Ren Woxin to “absorb” the neigong of opponents. While theoretically this would make Ren Woxin unmatchable, the technique came with dire repercussions. Absorbed neigong, which vary in nature, would conflict within one’s body. Eventually, this leads to painful death.

Yi Yang Zhi (一阳指): The solar finger. This was the secret technique of the ruling Duan family of Dali. (Dail was an actual small kingdom during the Song Dynasty, situated in modern day Yunnan) In Jin Yong’s stories, the technique was mostly described as a superior method of dianxue. Television and movie adaptations, however, tend to showcase it as a laser shooting technique.

Yihua Jieyü (移花接玉): Yihua Jieyü is a Chinese metaphor for devious/clandestine swapping. In Gu Long’s Juedai Shuangjiao (绝代双骄), it was the signature technique of the murderous Yaoyue Gongzhu. Through blazing speed and immaculate precision, Yaoyue utilises the Chinese martial arts concept of “borrowing strength” to divert attacks. The miraculous way she does this with creates the illusion of magical swapping, thus giving rise to the name.

The actual Shaolin Yijin Jing qigong exercise.
The actual Shaolin Yijin Jing qigong exercise.

Yijin Jing (易筋经): Yijin Jing is an actual set of Shaolin Qigong, believed to have originated from Bodhidharma. In Wuxia stories, it is typically portrayed as one of the strongest neigong techniques known to Wulin. Several stories mentioned Yijin Jing, most famously Jin Yong’s Demi-Gods and Semi-Devils, and the Smiling, Proud Wanderer. In reality, Yijin Jing is but one of many Qigong, stretching techniques used by Shaolin monks for physical conditioning. The most popular version consists of twelve positions.

Yunü Xinjing (玉女心经): This translates rather awkwardly as the exquisite virgin sutra. In Jin Yong’s Return of the Condor Heroes (神雕侠侣), it was the secret art of the Ancient Tomb sect, and practiced by both Yang Guo and Xiao Longnü.

Gu Long's Seven Armaments series contain some of the most exotic weapons ever written in Wuxia.
Gu Long's Seven Armaments series contain some of the most exotic weapons ever written in Wuxia.

Weapons

Baoyu Lihua Zhen (暴雨梨花针): This legendary anqi, translated roughly as Tempest Pear Blossom Needles, appeared in several Wuxia stories. Most famously in Chu Liuxiang (see above section). Released from a small casket, it spews a torrent of needles at astonishing speed and force. Gu Long described it as the king of all anqi.

Bawang Qiang (霸王枪): The Despot’s Spear, and one of Gu Long’s Seven Armaments (七种武器). In its eponymous story, this powerful weapon was used as a metaphor for bravery.

Biyu Dao (碧玉刀): The Jade Dagger, and one of Gu Long’s Seven Armaments (七种武器). A priceless artefact, the weapon was written as a metaphor for honesty.

Changshen Jian (长生剑): The Sword of Longevity, and the first of Gu Long’s Seven Armaments (七种武器). Wielded by the roaming swordsman Bai Yujing (白玉京), the sword generates a vortex of energy when imbued with neigong. It was intended by Gu Long to be a metaphor for the potency of optimism.

Da Gou Bang (打狗棒): See above entry of similar name.

Duoqing Huan (多情环): The Circlet of Lingering Emotions, and one of Gu Long’s Seven Armaments (七种武器). The deadliness of this Circlet was that once it locks over your weapon, it will never detach again. Gu Long used this nature of the Circlet as a metaphor for how the hunger for vengeance never leaves, once embraced.

Gelu Dao (割鹿刀): Translated as the Deer Cutter, this was an exceptionally sharp dagger that appeared in two Gu Long stories. In the stories, the dagger resonated with its eventual owner, Xiao Shiyilang (萧十一郎), thereafter imbuing him with great prowess.

Kongque Ling (孔雀翎): The Peacock’s Plume, and one of Gu Long’s Seven Armaments (七种武器). This legendary anqi was said to release such a dazzling glory upon execution, victims die while still mesmerised. In the eponymous story, it was revealed that the weapon was long lost after a duel, although descendants of the owning clan continued to benefit from fear of the weapon. Intended by Gu Long to be a metaphor for the power of trust, and the power of myth.

Libie Gou (离别钩): The Hook of Departure, and the last of Gu Long’s Seven Armaments (七种武器). In its story, the Hook was feared for its capability to force one’s “departure” from life. Gu Long intended this aspect to be a contrasting metaphor for the potency of reunions.

Tianshan Shenmang (天山神芒): Tianshan Shenmang was both the anqi and the title of Ling Weifeng (凌未风), the founder of Tianshan Pai in Liang Yusheng stories. The projectiles were made from a plant unique to the Tianshan Mountain Range.

Tulong Dao (屠龙刀): Jin Yong’s most famous sabre. Translated as Dragon Slayer, or Dragon Sabre, the weapon was unmatched in finesse, and within it was one of two metallic tablets leading to a great treasure. Made by heroes of the doomed Song Dynasty, the sabre was meant to rally Wulin heroes into overthrowing the invading Yuan Dynasty (Mongolians). The dragon to be slayed, thus, referred to the Mongolian Khan.

Xiaoli Feidao (小李飞刀): See above entry under Li Xun Huan.

Yitian Jian (倚天剑): Jin Yong’s most famous sword. Translated as the Sword of Heaven’s Will, or Heaven Sword, it could break any other sword, and within it was one of two metallic tablets leading to a great treasure. Made by heroes of the doomed Song Dynasty, the sword was intended to be a safeguard, i.e. assassination weapon, should the Yuan Dynasty be replaced by a Chinese tyrant.

Youlong Jian (游龙剑): The superior sword of Liang Yusheng’s Tianshan Pai and usually wielded by the current leader. Its name means dancing/swirling dragon.

Zaiyun Jian (载云剑): The superior sword found by Jin Shiyi (see above section) on a barren island. One of three treasures left by a legendary evil master, the sword was described as superior to any other sword in Wulin.

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