Saturday, November 18, 2006

Nuyen's B-day

Last night, the Gang went out to celebrate Nuyen's birthday. First, we had dinner at Rex Saigon Buffet. I had lots of mango salad and curry chicken. At one point, "Cathy" was chatting with Nhan, and he responded with "Nuyen is good to have a girlfriend like you...but he's not worth it."

OUCH!!! Nhan just killed two birds with one stone, and the funniest thing is that he didn't even know it. I just sat there laughing my ass off as Clare tried to explain to Nhan what he just did. "You just dissed me by saying Cathy's a good gf, and then you dissed him by saying he's not worth it!" ROTFLMAO!!!

After dinner, we went to a driving range in Vaughan. On the way there, I rode in Nhan's car with Clare and Leung. We played the cd that I had just burned for them, full of TVB theme songs from the 80s. The three of us were on a high, and Nhan kept muttering "God help me...for the love of God..." and so on. Obviously, Nhan is not a fan of 80s kung fu movies from TVB, nor is he willing to fall in love with the music. Too bad!

The song that got us the most was

作詞:黃霑 作曲:黎小田 演唱:梁朝偉/梅艷芳

(男)問蒼茫大地上 劍伴誰在
   為你尋遍八方路 想你心開
(女)心已隨風中笑影 偷偷投夢內
(合)不知你不知我 誰武功厲害
   劍是龍 劍是虹 騰躍萬年萬代
   一招了 千招了 良將知良才
   以熱誠以熱愛 衷心喝采
(男)望江湖七洲四海 劍在人在
   仗劍行遍八方路 胸襟放開
(女)撫劍攜心中笑聲 輕輕投夢內
(合)以熱誠以熱愛 放盡異彩

Monday, November 13, 2006

Upon First Meeting Zhao Min

Top to bottom: Alyssia Chia, Gigi Lai, Kitty Lai

After reading the book , I realize that none of the actors who have played Zhao Min in the TV series match well with the book's descriptions. When we first meet Zhao Min, she is dressed up as a man, holding a fan with a handle that is made of white jade. "The hand that held the fan was so pale they matched (23, p.1075). Even in male dress, she looked very pretty. When she spoke, she did so delicately and did not try to conceal her true gender.

At the Green Willow Villa, Zhao Min wined and dined with Zhang Wuji and the rest of the Ming Sect desciples. After a while, her face developed a blush from the alcohol, and this actually made her look even prettier. She is still dressed up as a man to boot!
What makes her so mesmerizing is not just that she's pretty, but in her beauty there is an underlying current of the heroic and the noble.

I have seen 3 versions of HSDS, and I think that Gigi Lai looked best as Zhao Min, but Kitty Lai played the payed the role the best. Alyssia Chia, as pretty as she is, looked a bit too gentle, and acted the part with too much delicate childishness. Now, after reading the descriptions, I realize it's foolish to picture any actress as Zhao Min because she is described in such a way that she could never appear in the flesh.

I wish Jin Yong had spent equally as much paper on describing Zhang Wuji's appearance.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Funniest Scene So Far

Ch. 22, pp. 1032-1033

"宋青書心中大駭,偶一回頭,突然和周芷若的目光相接,只見她滿臉關懷之色,不禁心中又酸又怒,知道她關懷的絕非自己,當下深深吸了一口氣,左手揮掌猛擊張無忌右頰,右手出指疾點他左肩 ‘缺盆穴’,這一招叫作 ‘花開並蒂’,名稱好聽,招數卻十分厲害,雙手遞招之後,跟著右掌擊他左頰,左手食指點他右肩後 ‘缺盆穴’。這兩招 ‘花開並蒂’ 並成一招,連續四式,便如暴風驟雨般使出,勢道之猛,手法之快,當真非同小可。眾人見了這等聲勢,齊聲驚呼,不約而同的跨上了一步。"

The above is a description of a set of Wudang kungfu called "Blossom and the Receptacle". It is made up of four manouvres that are executed in rapid succession. First, you use your right hand to press on an acupressure point in your opponent's left shoulder area, and then you hit the left side of his forehead. You repeat this with your left hand and strike the right side of your opponent's shoulder and forehead. It is executed with such speed that your opponent will be immediately immobilized by your pressing on those two specific acupressure points. Then, he is also disoriented because of being struck on the forehead twice.

When Zhang Wuji was heavily injured by Zhou Zhiruo's sword, he couldn't even stand up straight to fight his opponent, Song Qingshu (son of Song Yuenqiao). Song thought that this would be his best and probably only chance to humiliate Zhang Wuji in front of Zhou Zhiruo. So he attacked Zhang Wuji with the "Blossom and the Receptacle." Little did Song know that Zhang Wuji had already mastered seven levels of Qian Kun Da Nuo Yi. Zhang Wuji used this to "return" whatever Song wanted to use on him back onto Song himself. When Song wanted to press on Zhang Wuji's acupressure point, Zhang pushed his hand back and Song ended up pressing on his own acupressure point. When Song wanted to strike Zhang Wuji on the forehead, Zhang pushed that back, too, and Song ended up hitting his own forehead. Because these four manouvres are executed with such speed, Song Qingshu ended up immobilising himself completely, became disoriented , and fell over backwards "with a bang."

"只聽得拍拍兩下清脆的響聲,宋青書左手一掌打上了自己左頰,右手食指點中了自己左肩 ‘缺盆穴’,跟著右手一掌打上了自己右頰,左手食指點中自己右肩 ‘缺盆穴’。他這招‘花開並蒂’四式齊發,卻給張無忌已 ‘乾坤大挪移’ 功夫挪移到了他自己身上。倘若他出招稍慢,那麼點中了自己左肩 ‘缺盆穴’ 後,此後兩式便即無力使出,生他四式連環,迅捷無倫,左肩 ‘缺盆穴’ 雖被點中,手臂尚未麻木,直到使全了 ‘花開並蒂’ 的下半套之後,這才手足酸軟,砰到一聲仰天摔倒,掙紮了幾下,再也站不起來了。"


In the 1986 TVB version, the martial arts choreography looked so cool when Tony Leung acted this out. I didn't know that the novel description would actually be so hilarious.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Notes Ch. 21, pp. 974

When Zhang Wuji battles Kongxing, one of Shaolin's three "divine" monks, there are hints as to the difference between kungfu that is jiang 剛 versus kungfu that is yinrou 陰柔. Jiang kungfu is more agressive and uses clear methods of attack. Yin kungfu is more sly, and attacks by first drawing your opponent into a trap.


In wuxia novels, the kungfu used by females is usually of the yinrou nature, while men use the jiangyang kungfu. My guess is that females rely on a more sly strategy when they fight because they don't have the physical strength nor the muscular stature of the males. Of course, this attitude is very sexist, and wuxia novels by Jin Yong do display this prejudice.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Notes: Qian Kun Da Nuo Yi

Ch. 20. Zhang Wuji and Xiao Zhao are in the secret chambers of the Ming Cult Castle. It is here that Zhang Wuji finds the sheep skin with the instructions of Qian Kun Da Nuo Yi written on it.

Qian Kun means heaven and earth. Da means big. Nuo Yi means to move around. I interpret this name to mean "move heaven and earth." A wugong that teaches one's neigong (inner energy) to become so powerful as to be able to move heaven and earth, that must be some incredibly powerful stuff.

In actuality, it is a neigong that releases all of the inhibitors inside a person's body. The novel description uses the example of a man who is trying to save someone in a building that has caught on fire. Normally, one man's strength is very limited, but when he is in a critical and dangerous situation, he can exert an abnormally large amount of strength. Such a man could lift a fallen wooden beam to save his brethren. In western medicine, this might be described as simple adrenaline. When you're in a dangerous or critical situation, you will be able to achieve things that you would not normally. One real life example of this is Olympic athletes. When it's the gold medal race/competition/match, some athletes are able to shine and deliver their very best, far surpassing their own personal best results to beat the rest of the competitors to win the gold medal.

Qian Kun Da Nuo Yi simply allows a person to use and exert all of the inner strength in one's body. Everyone has this inner strength, but nobody can control it. Only during moments of dire urgency will people accidently discover how powerful we are. QKDNY allows one to control one's inner strength, so that one can be as powerful as a giant at any moment.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Notes: Jiu Yang Shen Gong

Chapter 19, p. 897-898. Here, it's revealed how Zhang Wuji was able to completely master the Divine Powers of the Nine Suns. When he was tied up in the Baggy Monk's magical bag, he tried using his power of the Nine Suns to break out of it. While he was doing this, the magical bag became a pot, and the power of the Nine Suns was building up, almost like steam. Inside this cloth "sauna", Zhang Wuji's power of the Nine Suns grew more and more potent. Like steam to raw flower to make a bun, all of the pressure points on his body were "opened," so that he was able to master the powers of the Nine Suns even sooner, and with greater potency. The result is that Zhang Wuji is now the most powerful of all the heroes of wulin.

p. 901-02. In the book, Xiao Zhao (brightness) first appears to be a very ugly girl. This is because of a birth defect, which is feigned. In the 1994 TVB version of this story, Kong Hay-man acts this part like the novel describes. In the 1986 TVB version, Siu May-kay doesn't.

Chapter 21, 960-63. The 1994 version portrays the batthle with Zhang Wuji and Song Weixia at Bright Shining Peak fairly faithfully to the novel. Song Weixia is one of the elders of the Hong Dong school for martial arts. He had been practicing the school's highest and most powerful set of wugong called the Fists of Seven Wounds, and he slowly began to injure his own physical health. He had been feeling some pain, but because he was afraid of facing these injuries, and at the same time he didn't want to lag behind his brethren in mastering this set of fist-combat arts, he ignored the pains and continued.

When he meets Zhang Wuji at Bright Shining Peak, Zhang Wuji tries to educate Song Weixia, but Song is too proud to consider the advice of a man more than half his age. Moreover, he attacks Zhang Wuji to show off how powerful the Fists of Seven Wounds are. Zhang Wuji, however, was able to absorb the force of the fists, neutralize it and surprisingly, returns the force of the attack to Song Weixia in the form of jinqi 九陽真氣, pure energy of the Nine Suns.

Song Weixia then realizes that Zhang Wuji was sincere in his advice, so he praises and graciously thanks Zhang Wuji for returning Song's hostility with kindness.

In the 1986 version, this is scene is omitted. One reason I could think of is because the scene is not crucial to the main conflict of this battle at Bright Shining Peak. I believe it was written more to reveal the forgiving nature of Zhang Wuji.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Mie Jue Vs. Xie Xun

Reading chapter 18, I realized that there is a parallel between these two characters. Mie Jue is a nun, and the master of O-Mei. Xie Xun is a blind old man whose wugong is very powerful. Earlier on, the story of Xie Xun and a Shaolin monk is told. This Shaolin Monk is the teacher of Xie Xun's mortal enemy. He tells Xie Xun to strike him thirteen times, and if he lives, Xie Xun must give up his vengeful quest. If he dies after the thirteen strikes, then Xie Xun's enemy will appear and they will have to resolve all enmity between them.

After Xie Xun strikes the elderly monk 13 times, the monk cannot withstand the force of the attacks anymore and dies. At that moment, he also realizes that he had been tricked. Even as he lay dying, his pupil did not appear. Instead, Xie Xun was so moved by this monk's act of love and forgiveness that he realizes how wrong his past actions were. It is in Xie Xun's arms that the elderly monk breathes his last breath. From that day onwards, Xie Xun promised never to kill another innocent person to force his mortal enemy out of hiding.

About twenty-five years later, Zhang Wuji meets Mie Jue on the way to Bright-Shining Peak. There, Mie Jue and her desciples capture a group of followers of the "evil" Ming Sect. She commands them to abandon their evil past and become good people. They refuse, and she allows her desciples to cut off each person's right arm. After that, if they still refuse to turn against their "evil" Ming Sect, then they will have to suffer the loss of their left arms.

Zhang Wuji begs Mie Jue to stop this torturous mutilation of these warriors, and agrees to accept three strikes from Mie Jue. If he survives, then Mie Jue must release the Ming Sect followers. At the end, Zhang Wuji survives and prevails, yet Mie Jue only grudgingly releases the prisoners. She doesn't even realize that what she and her desciples did was cruel and inhumane. She arrogantly refuses to admit any wrong-doing on her part.

This is one of the prevailing themes of many wuxia stories: followers of an organization that is accepted as "noble and good" in the eyes of wulin may not actually live what they preach. Ironically, followers of "evil and corrupt" organizations may act more chivalrous and more gallantly.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Yin Liting's Sword

One of the things I love about reading HSDS are the descriptions of the Seven Wudang Heroes. Each of them have their own strengths and weaknesses. Of the seven, the fifth brother, Zhang Cuisan, is the most famous and the favourite of Master Zhang Sanfeng. The sixth brother, Yin Liting, also has an important part to play in the story.

He was in love with one of O-Mei's desciples, Ji Xiaofu. Unfortunately, his love for her was unrequited. In chapter 18, Zhang Wuji has grown to an adult, and in one scene, he meets his sixth uncle again. Yin is fighting a daoist monk, and here is the description of how skillful Yin is with his sword.

"Suddenly, the green flash of a long sword flew out from Yin Liting's hand, piercing through the wind like lightning through air towards the daoist monk. When the daoist monk realized what was coming and wanted to dodge aside, the long sword pierced right through his heart, then through his body completely; and still onwards it flew. The injured monk kept running, however, and after a few yards, he finally fell to the ground. Three more yards beyond him, the flying sword began to descend, and in another flash of green it struck the earth in an upright position and lodged itself there; an ordinary sword, but ever so divinely powerful."

Being an ordinary sword, but from Yin Liting's hand, it is divinely powerful. This is how Jin Yong shows the reader just how skillful skillful Yin is with his sword.