Editorial﹕Pearls of wisdom and a crimson heart

【明報專訊】FOUNDER of Ming Pao and renowned wuxia (or martial arts) novelist Louis Cha Leung-yung has passed away at the age of 94. An intellectual running a newspaper business, he made Hong Kong his home while remaining mindful of national affairs and deeply concerned about the country and its people. Cha made his name as a great writer, and, with his crimson heart of loyalty, offered pearls of wisdom to the nation. Written under the pen name Jin Yong, his novels have won universal adoration and brought the wuxia genre to its apex, so much so "wherever you find Chinese people you can find Jin Yong's works". Political controversies are short-lived compared to the immortality of culture. The cultural heritage left by Cha will be engraved in the memory of all Chinese worldwide.

History is like the gushing, east-flowing waters of the Yangtze River, washing away all the past heroes. To China, the 20th century was a period dominated by turbulence rather than peace. Cha was born into a family of scholars. From the era of the Republic of China, the war of resistance against Japanese aggression, the founding of new China, the Cultural Revolution to the country's reform and opening-up, he witnessed the country's major changes spanning nearly a hundred years. All through the time, his wholehearted passion for the homeland did not change a bit. Be it an opinion piece on current affairs in the newspaper he founded or a wuxia novel, what he wrote invariably reflected his deep love for Chinese culture and his sense of responsibility as a traditional Chinese intellectual.

When the Cultural Revolution broke out in 1966, China's adoption of isolationism turned Hong Kong into an important window for understanding the mainland. Taking his newspaper as a platform and his pen as a weapon, Cha articulated strong and sound criticisms of the harm inflicted upon Chinese culture by the perverse practices of the Cultural Revolution. During the 1967 riots, he adamantly opposed the excessive action taken by the leftists, denouncing them for "hijacking the word 'patriotism'". "They praise whoever supporting their cause as a patriot, and accuse whoever opposing them of treason." Time has flown and half a century has passed. But the mindset and mentality criticised by Cha back then can still be seen everywhere in Hong Kong society. Many people still like to classify people into enemies or friends by means of various political dichotomies. Taking only people's stances but not reason into consideration, they impose the thinking of "either friends or foes" on other people. Looking back at the pearls of wisdom offered by Cha, his comments are indeed still relevant nowadays.

However, to the majority of the global Chinese community, the most familiar side of Cha is not his political stance or advocacy at a particular time or in a particular place, but his wuxia universe. Cha's works appeal to both refined and popular tastes. The characters he created all have a unique personality as if they were alive. Transcending political and ideological differences, his novel series including The Legend of the Condor Heroes, The Return of the Condor Heroes, The Heavenly Sword and the Dragon Saber, Demi-Gods and Semi-Devils, The Smiling, Proud Wanderer and The Deer and the Cauldron have enjoyed enormous popularity among global Chinese societies.

Cha once noted that given politics often changed rapidly, there was not much meaning in writing novels of literary innuendos. Instead, what he tried to portray in his works were human nature and phenomena related to politics or livelihood universal across all times and cultures. Rather than martial arts masters, some of the characters in his works in fact resemble political figures even more. That exactly is also the reason behind the long-lasting appeal and vitality of his novels. Cha said he would be contented if people would still read his works one or two hundred years after his death. Foreseeably it will not be difficult to fulfil this last wish.

明報社評2018.10.31﹕金石良言為家國 一片丹心留汗青







pearl of wisdom﹕a wise saying

apex﹕the top or highest part of sth

innuendo﹕an indirect remark about sb/sth, usually suggesting sth bad or rude

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