The male protagonists of Cha's novels are usually adolescents. The plot usually follows their trials and tribulations, before they eventually (except Wei Xiaobao from The Deer and the Cauldron) attain the highest level of mastery of martial arts. Every male protagonist is chivalrous, brave, heroic and he achieves his goal after trial and error. For example, Zhang Wuji from The Heaven Sword and Dragon Saber (HSDS) encounters a series of troubles and puzzles. Eventually, he becomes a formidable pugilist and marries his beloved Zhao Min.
While female protagonists are usually cast in supporting roles in many contemporary Wuxia works, many of those in Cha's novels are central to the plots. They are depicted as strong, independent and intelligent individuals apart from being accomplished pugilists like their male counterparts. For example, Huang Rong in The Legend of the Condor Heroes (LoCH) is portrayed as a companion of the male protagonist Guo Jing as well as an independent, street-smart individual. Her intelligence and quick thinking is complementary to his physical strength. The female protagonist Huo Qingtong in The Book and the Sword is a strong pugilist, a protective elder sister, a loyal daughter, and a guardian who vehemently fights for her people's interests. She is even depicted in more fight scenes than the male protagonist Chen Jialuo. Even though Huo's younger sister Princess Fragrance does not know martial arts, she plays an essential role in the novel. Near the end of the novel, Princess Fragrance shows that she is not just beautiful but also intelligent enough to see the emperor's true intentions. She also has the courage to sacrifice herself to uphold her and her tribe's dignity and warn Chen Jialuo of emperor's ill intentions. Yin Susu, Zhao Min and Zhou Zhiruo are well characterized. They display traits of courage, determination and intelligence that equal those of the male protagonists in HSDS.
Cha also experiments with some colourful but extremist female characters, such as Abbess Mie Jue from HSDS, who conducts herself criminously in opposition to her religious beliefs. Li Mochou from The Return of the Condor Heroes (RoCH), a powerful opponent of the male protagonist Yang Guo, is portrayed as a disturbed and ruthless killer who suffers from failed love relationships. In contrast, her younger disciple sister Xiaolongnu is the most pristine, innocent and beautiful female protagonist in all of Cha's works. The evil Qiu Qianchi is a tragic fully-paralyzed victim who seeks vengeance on her vicious husband after surviving 18 years in a subterranean ravine in RoCH. Cha also describes Dongfang Bubai briefly in The Smiling Proud Wanderer as a self-castrated male nemesis who does so to master the skills in the Sunflower Manual. Actresses later play Dongfang Bubai's role in adaptations of the novel.
The Five Greats (五絕)Edit
One of the most successful portrayal of characters in Cha's works is the creation of the Five Greats in the Condor Trilogy. The quintet originally comprises "Eastern Heretic" Huang Yaoshi, "Western Venom" Ouyang Feng, "Southern Emperor" Duan Zhixing, "Northern Beggar" Hong Qigong and "Central Divine" Wang Chongyang, after the first martial arts contest on Mount Hua in LoCH. It proves to be both a source of controversies and a scene of drama as the plot further develops in RoCH. The new generation of the Five Greats comprise Huang Yaoshi, "Western Eccentric" Yang Guo, "Southern Monk" Yi Deng, "Northern Hero" Guo Jing and "Central Imp" Zhou Botong.
Wang Chongyang is a factual historical Taoist practitioner who founded the Quanzhen Sect of Taoism in the Song Dynasty. Cha paid him the highest accolade by naming him as the champion of the Five Greats who served as role models for future generations of heroes. It is also to recognise Taoist teachings where the many variants of the martial arts terminologies in his novels were derived from.
Duan Zhixing is also another historical character among the Five Greats. Before Ouyang Feng mastered the "edited" version of the Nine Yin Manual, only Duan's "Yiyang Finger" is able to force Ouyang to surrender. This entices Wang Chongyang to learn the "Yiyang Finger" from Duan in exchange for "First Heaven Skill" in order to keep Ouyang Feng under control.
Sweeper/Nameless Monk (掃地/無名僧)Edit
The Sweeper Monk from Demi-Gods and Semi-Devils is a nameless monk of unknown origin in charge of the library of Shaolin Monastery. He is often regarded as the most powerful pugilist in Cha's Wuxia world. He can easily subdue powerful exponents such as Xiao Yuanshan and Murong Bo. He enlightens them and makes them his disciples. His background, including his real name, age, entrance into Shaolin and how he acquires his supreme skills is not revealed.
Dugu Qiubai (獨孤求敗)Edit
Dugu Qiubai is a unique character in Cha's works. The character never appears in any of the novels and only his name and legendary skills are mentioned. His name roughly translates to "the lonely one who seeks defeat". It is a reference to his solitary lifestyle (that of a hermit) and his unsurpassed martial arts abilities which labels him as "undefeated". His name is first mentioned in The Return of the Condor Heroes, and then again in The Smiling, Proud Wanderer. He is last mentioned in The Deer and the Cauldron.
Huang Shang (黄裳)Edit
Huang Shang is another unique character in Cha's works but readers know him less than Dugu Qiubai. Dugu Qiubai and him are of the late Song Dynasty period. He is mentioned by Zhou Botong in The Legend of the Condor Heroes as the creator of the Nine Yin Manual. He was an imperial official who defied the powerful Ming Cult of his time.
"Sword Deity" Zhuo Bufan ("劍神" 卓不凡)Edit
As one of the most distinguished auxiliary characters in Cha's Wuxia universe, "Sword Deity" Zhuo Bufan is notable for achieving a wide range of extraordinary feats during his brief appearance in Demi-Gods and Semi-Devils (DGSD). His feats include:
- Attaining the highest level of prowess in the field of swordplay
- Slaying an enemy with a single sword stroke and evoking the fear of Tian Shan Tong Lao
- Transmitting his voice clearly across mountain peaks over a distance of three Chinese miles
- Slicing a table into nine identical pieces in the blink of an eye
- Thrusting a delicate sword blade a foot deep into a solid granite pole
- Effortlessly inflicting an external wound on Duan Yu, whose inner energy level is the highest in the novel
- Producing a snake-like whirling halo effect with his sword twirls
- Drawing no less than three massive cheering sessions from a crowd of hundreds of pugilists for his feats
The descriptions in DGSD also suggest that Zhuo Bufan may toss an object over a distance of three Chinese miles, although the details are loosely presented and open to interpretation.
Portrayal of actual historical figuresEdit
The Legend of the Condor HeroesEdit
Cha was very liberal in adapting actual historical characters into his works, often depicting them as important supporting characters. He attributed fictional dialogue and actions to them, especially when historical records about them are brief or speculative. For example, Tolui, the youngest son of Genghis Khan, appears as a childhood friend of the protagonist Guo Jing. Guo Jing's archery teacher Jebe was one of Genghis Khan's warriors.
Two of the "Five Greats", Wang Chongyang and Duan Zhixing, are historical characters as well. Qiu Chuji from the Quanzhen Sect appears as one of the teachers of Yang Kang. He appears in an actual meeting with Genghis Khan at the end of the novel.
The Deer and the CauldronEdit
The Kangxi Emperor of the Qing Dynasty is a smart and capable ruler and a close friend of the protagonist Wei Xiaobao. Other historical characters from The Deer and the Cauldron consist of Ao Bai, Wu Sangui, Li Zicheng, Chen Yuanyuan, Princess Changping, the Shunzhi Emperor, Suoertu and Sophia Alekseyevna of Russia. The Treaty of Nerchinsk between China and Russia was signed with Wei Xiaobao's help.
Sword Stained with Royal BloodEdit
Flying Fox of Snowy MountainEdit
Li Zicheng was mentioned and the ancestors of the Hu, Miao, Fan and Tian families once served as generals under him. The Qianlong Emperor was mentioned in the novel as well.
The Book and the SwordEdit
Some leading characters are also historical characters. They include Duan Yu from Demi-Gods and Semi-Devils, Princess Changping from Sword Stained with Royal Blood and Princess Fragrance from The Book and the Sword. Some supporting characters are based on historical figures, such as Qiu Chuji from The Legend of the Condor Heroes and Zhang Sanfeng from The Heaven Sword and Dragon Saber.
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