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The Smiling, Proud Wanderer

The Smiling, Proud Wanderer
File:The Smiling, Proud Wanderer (笑傲江湖).jpg
1980 edition
Author Jin Yong
Original title 笑傲江湖
Country Hong Kong
Language Chinese
Genre Wuxia
Publisher Ming Pao
Publication date
Media type Print
The Smiling, Proud Wanderer
Traditional Chinese 笑傲江湖
Simplified Chinese 笑傲江湖
Literal meaning Laughing Proudly in the Jianghu

The Smiling, Proud Wanderer is a wuxia novel by Jin Yong (Louis Cha). It was first serialised in Hong Kong in the newspaper Ming Pao from 20 April 1967 to 12 October 1969.[1] The Chinese title of the novel, Xiao Ao Jiang Hu, literally means to live a carefree life in a mundane world of strife. Alternate English translations of the title include Laughing in the Wind,[2] The Peerless Gallant Errant,[3] and The Proud and Gallant Wanderer.[4] Another alternative title, State of Divinity, is used for some of the novel's adaptations.


The story's initial development revolves around a coveted martial arts manual known as the "Bixie Swordplay Manual". The manual is an heirloom of the Lin family, who run the Fuwei Escort Agency, a private security service, in Fuzhou. Yu Canghai, the leader of the Qingcheng Sect, leads his followers to massacre the Lins and attempts to seize the manual for himself, but does not find it. Lin Pingzhi, the sole survivor from the Lin family, is saved by Yue Buqun, the head of the Mount Hua Sect, which is a member of the Five Mountains Sword Sects Alliance. Yue Buqun accepts Lin Pingzhi as an apprentice and trains him in swordplay.

The novel's protagonist is Yue Buqun's most senior student, Linghu Chong, an orphaned, happy-go-lucky but honourable swordsman who has a penchant for alcoholic drinks. He befriends the notorious bandit Tian Boguang and saves Yilin, a nun from the (North) Mount Heng Sect, from Tian's lecherous advances. In the meantime, Liu Zhengfeng of the (South) Mount Heng Sect announces his decision to leave the jianghu (martial artists' community) and invites his fellow martial artists to witness his retirement ceremony. The event turns into a bloodbath when Zuo Lengshan, the chief of the Mount Song Sect, and other orthodox sects accuse Liu Zhengfeng of being unfaithful to their code by befriending Qu Yang, an elder of the "evil" Sun Moon Holy Cult. Liu and Qu are cornered by Zuo and his men and eventually commit suicide. Before dying, Liu and Qu give Linghu Chong the score of Xiaoao Jianghu, a musical piece they composed together.

Lin Pingzhi's entrance into the Mount Hua Sect causes Linghu Chong to lose his romantic feelings for Yue Lingshan, Yue Buqun's daughter, because she starts falling in love with Lin. Linghu Chong's association with unorthodox jianghu figures leads him into trouble; Yue Buqun punishes him by making him stay alone for a year in a secluded area on Mount Hua to reflect on his "misdeeds". He discovers carvings of swordplay techniques in a cave, practises them, and unknowingly familiarises himself with not only the skills of the other four sword sects, but also the counter-moves. He encounters Feng Qingyang, an elderly Mount Hua Sect swordsman, who teaches him the formidable skill "Nine Swords of Dugu".

The self-proclaimed orthodox Five Mountains Sword Sects Alliance, though seemingly united, is constantly troubled by politicking among its members. Linghu Chong gets entangled in the internal conflict and ends up seriously injured while using his newly mastered skill to save his Mount Hua Sect fellows from attacks by Mount Song Sect members in disguise. Yue Buqun grows suspicious of Linghu Chong.

Linghu Chong meets the "Six Immortals of the Peach Valley", who attempt to cure his wounds in their weird fashion, but they fail and aggravate his injuries instead. He follows Yue Buqun and the others to Luoyang, where he encounters Ren Yingying of the Sun Moon Holy Cult. By then, Yue Buqun has grown tired of Linghu Chong's frequent associations with jianghu lowlifes and strangers so he abandons him. Linghu Chong helps Ren Yingying after she is assaulted by enemies of the Sun Moon Holy Cult. She brings him to Shaolin Monastery to recuperate from his injuries. He learns from Fangzheng, the Shaolin abbot, that Yue Buqun has publicly announced that he has expelled Linghu Chong from the Mount Hua Sect.

Linghu Chong sinks into despair as he is now an outcast of the "orthodox" side of the jianghu. After leaving Shaolin, he meets a stranger, Xiang Wentian, whom he saves from dozens of enemies. Xiang becomes sworn brothers with Linghu and brings him to a manor in Hangzhou, where they find Ren Woxing (Ren Yingying's father), the former leader of the Sun Moon Holy Cult who was ousted from power by his deputy, Dongfang Bubai. Ren Woxing breaks out of captivity by knocking out Linghu Chong and using him as a decoy. While trapped inside the dungeon, Linghu Chong discovers carvings of Ren's infamous "Star Sucking Great Skill" and learns the skill by chance. Ren Woxing returns to save Linghu Chong later and tries to persuade him to join the Sun Moon Holy Cult by offering him Ren Yingying's hand-in-marriage. Linghu Chong declines to join, but still helps Ren Woxing defeat Dongfang Bubai and regain control of the cult.

Linghu Chong becomes the new head of the (North) Mount Heng Sect, whose members are all nuns, after he once helped its former leaders (who are mysteriously murdered later) fend off some masked attackers. He attends a special assembly of the Five Mountains Sword Sects Alliance called for by its chief, Zuo Lengshan. Zuo attempts to coerce the other four sects into completely submitting to him, but is defeated and blinded by Yue Buqun, who uses the Bixie Swordplay against him. Yue Buqun becomes the new leader of the alliance.

After leaving the assembly, Linghu Chong and Ren Yingying see Lin Pingzhi brutally slaying members of the Qingcheng Sect to avenge his family, and overhear a conversation between him and Yue Lingshan (who has married Lin), in which Lin reveals that he and Yue Buqun have both mastered the Bixie Swordplay. Through this, Linghu Chong learns that his respected teacher is actually a hypocrite who plotted an elaborate scheme against Lin Pingzhi to seize the swordplay manual, and that both Yue and Lin have castrated themselves to fulfil the prerequisite for learning the Bixie Swordplay. Yue Buqun's wife and daughter die because of their respective husbands.

Yue Buqun tries to kill Lin Pingzhi, who knows his secret and is quietly plotting revenge on him. The finale climaxes with the members of the Five Mountains Sword Sects Alliance being trapped in the cave on Mount Hua, owing to Yue Buqun's treachery, where they slaughter each other out of paranoia and distrust. Yue Buqun is killed by Yilin during the frenzy. Ren Woxing, now intoxicated by power, masterminds an attack to overcome the scattered and fragmented orthodox sects, and tries to force Linghu Chong to join his cult, but dies at a crucial moment from a stroke triggered by his own megalomania.

Ren Yingying becomes the new leader of the Sun Moon Holy Cult and successfully negotiates a truce between the orthodox and unorthodox sides of the jianghu. Three years later, she passes the leadership to Xiang Wentian and marries Linghu Chong. Disillusioned by all the strife caused by power struggles, Linghu Chong and Ren Yingying retire from the jianghu and live happily ever after.


Sects, clans and organisations

Five Mountain Sword Sects Alliance (五嶽劍派)

Sun Moon Holy Cult (日月神教)

The cult is based on Black Woods Cliff (黑木崖). Its origin is unclear, even though the final chapter of The Heaven Sword and Dragon Saber, another novel also by Jin Yong, indicates that the Sun Moon Holy Cult is the successor to the Ming Cult. Martial artists in the jianghu often refer to it as the "Demonic Cult" (魔教). Considered eccentric and heretical, the cult is a common enemy of the orthodox sects. Its members are known for engaging in various types of cult-like activities and committing heinous crimes. It was led by Ren Woxing until Dongfang Bubai ousts the former from power in a scheme. Dongfang treats his followers cruelly, forcing them to consume poison pills and giving them antidotes to temporarily ease their agony only if they obey him. Ren Woxing practises the "Star Sucking Great Skill" (吸星大法), which allows him to drain and absorb an opponent's inner energy, while Dongfang Bubai is said to be invincible after he mastered the skills in the Sunflower Manual (葵花寶典).



In the afterword, Jin Yong mentions that The Smiling, Proud Wanderer can be read as a political allegory disguised as a wuxia novel.[5] As an allegory, it can happen in "any dynasty or organisation".[6] Jin Yong also stated in the afterword that after the novel was published, Vietnamese politicians have used the names of Yue Buqun and Zuo Lengshan as derogatory terms against others in parliamentary sessions.

Although Jin Yong did not leave any unequivocal evidence, many people believe that characters and factions in the book are representations of people and great powers of the late 1960s, the time when the novel was written. Liu Guozhong believes that the Five Mountain Sword Sects Alliance represents the Soviet Union with Zuo Lengshan as a personification of Joseph Stalin, while the Sun Moon Holy Cult emblematises China with Dongfang Bubai representing Mao Zedong. The other major sects, including Shaolin, Wudang and Emei, represent the United States, the United Kingdom and other NATO members.[7]

This highly political book is written from an interesting perspective. Instead of looking at the situation from the point of view of a politician who is either seeking to start a rebellion or struggling to keep the world peaceful, the main character Linghu Chong is a lonely individual who does not seek supremacy in a power-driven world.



Year Production Main cast Additional information
1978 Shaw Brothers Studio (Hong Kong) Wong Yue, Shih Szu, Michael Chan, Ling Yun See The Proud Youth
1991 Film Workshop
(Hong Kong)
Sam Hui, Sharla Cheung, Cecilia Yip, Jacky Cheung, Fennie Yuen, Lau Siu-ming See The Swordsman
1992 Jet Li, Rosamund Kwan, Michelle Reis, Brigitte Lin, Fennie Yuen See Swordsman II
1993 Brigitte Lin, Joey Wong, Yu Rongguang See The East Is Red (1993 film)


Year Production Main cast Additional information
1984 TVB (Hong Kong) Chow Yun-fat, Rebecca Chan, Jaime Chik, Kenneth Tsang, Tung Wai, Isabella Wong See The Smiling, Proud Wanderer (1984 TV series)
1985 TTV (Taiwan) Bryan Leung, Leanne Liu
1996 TVB (Hong Kong) Jacky Lui, Fiona Leung, Cherie Chan, Timmy Ho, He Meitian, Wong Wai See State of Divinity (1996 TV series)
2000 CTV (Taiwan) Richie Ren, Anita Yuen, Vivian Chen, Song Ta-ming, Yue Yueli, Tsai Tsan-te See State of Divinity (2000 TV series)
MediaCorp (Singapore) Steve Ma, Fann Wong, Ivy Lee, Chew Chor Meng, Jacelyn Tay, Zheng Geping, Priscelia Chan See The Legendary Swordsman
2001 Ciwen Film & TV Production Co. Ltd. (Mainland China) Li Yapeng, Xu Qing, Wei Zi, Miao Yiyi, Li Jie, Cheng Lifeng, Yu Chenghui See Laughing in the Wind
2013 Cathay Media (Mainland China) Wallace Huo, Yuan Shanshan, Yang Rong, Chen Xiao, Howie Huang, Joe Chen, Deng Sha, Han Dong, Lü Jiarong, Bryan Leung See Swordsman (TV series)


A total of 26 volumes of the manhua series by Lee Chi Ching, titled State of Divinity, were published by Ming Ho in Hong Kong and M&C (Gramedia Group) in Indonesia.

Stage productions

In 2006, the Hong Kong Dance Company adapted the novel into a stage play, starring Rosanne Wong, Race Wong, Liu Yinghong, Su Shu, Chen Lei and Mi Tao, as a jubilee presentation to celebrate the company's 25th anniversary.

In 2010, the Yangtze Repertory Theatre of America presented the premiere of Laughing in the Wind: A Cautionary Tale in Martial Arts in New York City. The play was adapted and directed by Joanna Chan and featured 18 actors playing 26 roles.

Video games

Swordsman Online is a MMORPG developed by Perfect World. The game also features additional sects that do not appear in the novel.


  1. ^ The date conforms to the data published in Chen Zhenhui (陳鎮輝), Wuxia Xiaoshuo Xiaoyao Tan (武俠小說逍遙談), 2000, Huizhi Publishing Company (匯智出版有限公司), pg. 57.
  2. ^ Tong, Simon (2008). "The Beat of a Different Drum". In Pung, Alice. Growing Up Asian in Australia. Black Inc. p. 43. Retrieved August 7, 2014. 
  3. ^ Wu Dingbo; Patrick D. Murphy, eds. (1994). "Gallant Ficton". Handbook of Chinese Popular Culture. Greenwood Press. p. 248. Retrieved August 7, 2014. 
  4. ^ Mostow, Joshua, ed. (2003). "Martial-Arts Fiction and Jin Yong". The Columbia Companion to Modern East Asian Literature. Columbia University Press. p. 512. Retrieved August 7, 2014. 
  5. ^ "这部小说....通过书中一些人物,企图刻划中国三千多年来政治生活中的若干普遍现象。影射性的小说并无多大意义,政治情况很快就会改变,只有刻划人性,才有较长期的价值。不顾一切的夺取权力,是古今中外政治生活的基本情况,过去几千年是这样,今后几千年恐怕仍会是这样。任我行、东方不败、岳不群、左冷禅这些人,在我设想时主要不是武林高手,而是政治人物。"《笑傲江湖,后记》
  6. ^ "因为想写的是一些普遍性格,是政治生活中的常见现象,所以本书没有历史背景,这表示,类似的情景可以发生在任何朝代、任何团体之中。"《笑傲江湖,后记》
  7. ^ Liu, Guozhong (刘国重). Poyi Jin Yong Mima (破译金庸密码; Breaking the Secret Code of Jin Yong).