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Dugu Qiubai

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Created by

Jin Yong

The Return of the Condor Heroes,
The Smiling, Proud Wanderer,
The Deer and the Cauldron
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"Sword Devil" (劍魔)

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Unarmed combat skills

Unarmed Swordplay
Armed combat skills

Nine Swords of Dugu,
Heavy Sword Technique

(four unnamed swords)
This is a Chinese name; the family name is Dugu.
Dugu Qiubai
Traditional Chinese 獨孤求敗
Simplified Chinese 独孤求败

Dugu Qiubai, literally "The Loner Who Seeks Defeat", is a fictional character who is mentioned by name in three wuxia novels by Jin Yong (Louis Cha). Nicknamed "Sword Devil" (劍魔) to reflect his prowess in and devotion to the practice of swordplay, he attains the philosophical level of "swordsmanship without a sword", which means that he uses swordplay techniques in combat without the physical existence of a sword.[citation needed]


Dugu's surname "Dugu" (獨孤) is made up of two Chinese characters that literally mean "single and lonely" when placed together. His given name "Qiubai" (求敗) literally means "to seek defeat". His full name is thus roughly translated as "The Loner Who Seeks Defeat". It represents Dugu's status as an invincible swordsman who is haunted by solitude as no one can defeat or equal him in swordplay.[original research?]


Dugu never made any appearances at all in any of the three novels. He is merely mentioned by name only as he lived in an age long before the events of the novels took place. He is briefly mentioned in The Deer and the Cauldron.

The Return of the Condor Heroes

In this novel, set in the late Song dynasty, Yang Guo inherits Dugu's 'Heavy Sword Technique'. Yang encounters the Condor, a giant bird-like creature that once accompanied Dugu. The Condor saves Yang after the latter lost his arm, and leads him to Dugu's Tomb of Swords. Yang learns the technique with the help of the Condor and uses the Heavy Iron Sword to practise the skill.

The Heavy Sword Technique has a rigorous requirement on inner energy. It emphasises simple swings and moves accompanied by potent inner energy exertion. Although it lacks the fancy and stylish movements of typical swordplay styles, it is more effective than the most complicated form of sword attacks. When Yang was learning this technique, he commented that average swords would be broken immediately when he channels his inner energy into the sword during fights. The sword's weight would also boost the power of his swings and thrusts. Yang mastered the inner energy technique used by Dugu and fulfilled the requirement.

The Smiling, Proud Wanderer

Dugu's swordplay technique 'Nine Swords of Dugu' (獨孤九劍) is featured in this novel. The protagonist, Linghu Chong, learns this technique from the reclusive swordsman Feng Qingyang.

The Deer and the Cauldron

In a very brief inner monologue, Chengguan, a very knowledgeable, yet naive, elder Shaolin monk ponders about two powerful swordmen in the past who performed swordplay without defined stances: Linghu Chong and Dugu Qiubai.

Nine Swords of Dugu

Created by Dugu Qiubai, the 'Nine Swords of Dugu' (獨孤九劍) are nine independent sword stances created to overpower all sorts of weapons, including swords, spears, clubs, whips, and arrows, as well as bare-handed attacks.

This swordplay has nine stances, each of which is designed to counter a particular form of martial arts. The mastery of all nine forms allows the swordsman to counter a wide range of martial arts moves (including those involving the use of weapons). The first core element of the swordplay is speed: The swordsman is trained to quickly predict and identify the weaknesses in the martial arts moves executed by an opponent, and then attack those weak points. The second core element of the swordplay is its formless nature and adaptability: Unlike typical martial arts styles described in wuxia stories, the moves of the 'Nine Swords of Dugu' do not follow any fixed sequence or pattern. As such, it is impossible for an opponent to predict (and counter correspondingly) the moves of the swordplay.

The key to mastering the swordplay is to understand the two core elements instead of rigidly memorising all the stances. Once the swordsman has grasped the essence of the swordplay, he can use it in endless forms and variations, hence the swordplay has no fixed sequence or pattern. During combat, the less the swordsman remembers, the less restricted he is by the original stances. He is thus able to customise and adapt the swordplay accordingly.

Nine stances

# Name Description
1 General Index Stance (總訣式) Has variations to implement the General Index Script. This stance cover all variations and changes of all forms of martial arts in the world.
2 Sword-defeating Stance (破劍式) Used to counter swordplay styles from any sect.
3 Saber-defeating Stance (破刀式) Used to counter single-blade weapons such as the broadsword, willow leaf cutlass, demon beheading saber, large cleaver and pudao.
4 Spear-defeating Stance (破槍式) Used to counter pole weapons such as the spear, halberd, staff, wolf head cudgel and monk's spade.
5 Whip-defeating Stance (破鞭式) Used to counter chain weapons such as the whip, three section staff, rope dart, chain whip and fishing net.
6 Mace-defeating Stance (破索式) Used to counter short weapons such as the club, mace, dianxue[1] peg, tonfa, Emei piercer, dagger, axe, octagonal hammer and awl.
7 Palm-defeating Stance (破掌式) Used to counter unarmed styles of hand-to-hand combat that utilise the fists, legs, fingers and palms. The stance include techniques to overcome boxing and grappling, joint manipulation and dianxue.
8 Arrow-defeating Stance (破箭式) Used in defence against missiles and projectile weapons. The first stage of mastering this stance involves the practitioner learning how to identify the type of missile by listening. Upon mastery, he is capable of blocking the projectiles with his sword, and may redirect the missiles back to the enemy.
9 Qi-defeating Stance (破氣式) Used to counter opponents who have strong inner energy reserves. It is not clearly explained in the novel on how this stance actually works.

Tomb of Swords

Dugu's final resting place is known as the Tomb of Swords. In The Return of the Condor Heroes the Condor leads Yang Guo to the Tomb. Yang reads Dugu's personal statement at the tomb:

"Having roamed the jianghu for more than 30 years, I have killed all my foes and defeated all champions. Under Heaven no one can be my equal. Without any other choice, I could only retreat and live in seclusion in this deep valley, with only a Condor as my companion. Alas, all my life, I have sought a match but in vain. Unbearable loneliness is my destiny." — "Sword Devil" Dugu Qiubai [2]

Yang read this from the Tomb of Swords:

"The "Sword Devil" Dugu Qiubai has become the invincible and unchallenged swordsman under Heaven, hence he buried his swords here. The heroes of the realm bow before me. Now, my Long Sword is of no use anymore. The agony!"[3]

The first sword (present)
"My first sword was so sharp, strong and fierce that none could withstand it. With it in hand, I strive for mastery by challenging all the heroes of the Northern Plains in my teenage years."[4]
The second sword (not present, represented by a wooden tablet)
"My second sword was violet in hue and flexible in motion. I used it in my 20s. With it, I have mistakenly wounded righteous men. It turned out to be a weapon of doom that caused me to feel remorseful endlessly. I cast it into a deep canyon."[5]
The third sword (present)
"My third sword was heavy and blunt. The uttermost cunning is based on simplicity. With it, I roamed all lands under Heaven unopposed in my 30s."[6]
The fourth sword (represented by a wooden sword)
"After the age of 40, I was no longer hampered by any weapon. Grass, trees, bamboos and rocks can all be my swords. Since then, I have developed my skills further, such that gradually I can win battles without reaching for weapons."[7]

Appearances in media

Dugu Qiubai appears as a female character in Wong Kar-wai's 1994 film Ashes of Time. The film is meant to be a prequel to The Legend of the Condor Heroes. The character's creator Jin Yong received credit as a co-screenwriter. In this film, Dugu Qiubai (renamed to Murong Yan) has a severe split personality of both genders. She gets involved in a love relationship with Huang Yaoshi.

In 1990 Hong Kong's TVB aired the television series Kim-mo Tuk-ku Kau-pai (劍魔獨孤求敗), featuring the life story of Dugu Qiubai. Felix Wong played the titular character, who was also known as "Lam Hong" (林康) in the series.[8]


  1. ^ An attack move that targets an opponent's acupuncture points
  2. ^ 縱橫江湖三十餘載,殺盡仇寇奸人,敗盡英雄豪傑,天下更無抗手,無可奈何,惟隱居深谷,以紫薇為妻,以雕為友。嗚呼,生平求一敵手而不可得,誠寂寥難堪也。
  3. ^ 劍魔獨孤求敗既無敵於天下,乃埋劍於斯。嗚呼!群雄束手,長劍空利,不亦悲夫!
  4. ^ 凌厲剛猛,無堅不摧,弱冠前以之與河朔群雄爭鋒。
  5. ^ 紫薇軟劍,三十歲前所用,誤傷義士不祥,悔恨無已,乃棄之深谷。
  6. ^ 重劍無鋒,大巧不工。四十歲前恃之橫行天下。
  7. ^ 四十歲後,不滯於物,草木竹石均可為劍。自此精修,漸進於無劍勝有劍之境。
  8. ^ Invalid language code. Jian Mo Dugu Qiubai on Baidu Baike