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Jin Yong

The Book and The Sword

The Book and The Sword - pic_1.jpg

Louis Cha, GBM, OBE (traditional Chinese: ???; simplified Chinese: ???; pinyin: Zha Liangyong; known with his pen name Jin Yong (Chinese: ??; pinyin: Jin Yong; Cantonese Yale: Gam Yuhng)

The Book and the Sword (traditional Chinese: ?????; simplified Chinese: ?????; pinyin: shu jian en chou lu; literally, "The Book and the Sword: Gratitude and Vengeance")

Written by Louis Cha, translated by Graham Earnshaw

PART ONE

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It was a hot summer's day in June, l754, the eighteenth year of the reign of Emperor Qian Long. In the inner courtyard of the military commander's Yamen in Fufeng in Shaanxi province, a fourteen-year-old girl skipped towards her teacher's study, eager for a history lesson. All was peaceful: not even a thread of cool wind stirred. The girl hesitated, afraid that her teacher had not yet woken from his afternoon nap. Quietly, she circled round to the window, pierced a hole in its paper covering with one of her golden hair clips, and peeped inside.

She saw her teacher sitting cross-legged on a chair, smiling. His right hand waved slightly in the air, and there was a faint clicking sound. Glancing over to where the sound came from, she noticed several dozen flies on a wooden partition opposite, all as still as could be. Puzzled, she looked more closely and noticed a golden needle as slender as a hair protruding from the back of each fly. The needles were so small that she was only able to see them because they reflected the rays of the late afternoon sun slanting in through the windows.

Flies were still buzzing to and fro around the room. The teacher waved his hand again, there was a small noise, and another fly was pinned to the partition. Absolutely fascinated, she ran to the door and burst in, shouting: "Teacher! Show me how to do that."

The girl was Li Yuanzhi, the only child of the local military commander, Li Keshou. Her fresh, beautiful face was flushed with excitement.

"Hmm," said her teacher, a scholar in his mid-fifties named Lu. "Why aren't you playing with your friends? You want to hear some more stories, do you?"

Moving a chair over to the partition, she jumped up to look, then pulled the needles out of the flies one by one, wiped them clean on a piece of paper and handed them back to him. "That was a brilliant piece of kung fu, teacher," she said. "You have to show me how to do it."

Lu smiled. "If you want to learn kung fu, there's no-one better at it within a hundred miles of here than your own father," he said.

"My father knows how to shoot an eagle with an arrow, but he can't kill a fly with a needle. If you don't believe me, I'll go and ask him."

Lu thought for a moment, and then nodded. "All right, come tomorrow morning and I'll teach you. Now go off and play. And you're not allowed to tell anyone about me killing the flies. If anyone finds out, I won't teach you."

Yuanzhi was overjoyed. She knelt before him and kowtowed eight times. Lu accepted the gesture with a smile. "You pick things up very quickly. It is fitting that I should teach you this kind of kung fu. However…" He stopped, deep in thought.

"Teacher," said Yuanzhi hurriedly. "I will do anything you say."

"To be honest, I don't agree with much of what your father does," he said. "When you're older, I hope you will be able to distinguish between right and wrong, good and evil. If you accept me as your teacher, you must also accept the strict rules of the Wudang Martial Arts Order to which I belong. Do you think you can?"

"I would not dare defy your orders," she said.

"If you ever use the skills I teach you to do evil, I will take your life as easily as turning my hand over."

His face and voice became stern and hard, and for a moment Yuanzhi was frightened. But then she smiled. "I'll be good," she said. "Anyway, how could you bear to kill me?"

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The Wudang kung fu sect to which Lu belonged, one of the most famous, stressed the use of Internal Force Kung Fu. In his prime, Lu had roamed China fighting for justice, and had become a famous member of the Dragon Slayer's Society, a secret anti-Manchu organisation whose power and influence had been widespread during the reign of Yong Zheng, the former Emperor. But the society had been rigorously suppressed, and by the seventh or eighth year of Emperor Qian Long's reign, it had disintegrated. Lu fled to the border areas of China. The Manchu court dispatched men to look for him, but he was quick-witted and a good fighter and managed to avoid capture. Working on the principle that 'small crooks hide in the wilderness, middling crooks in the city and big crooks in officialdom', Lu eventually made his way to Commander Li's household and set himself up as a teacher.

From that day, Lu began teaching Yuanzhi the basic techniques of the Wudang school's kung fu style, known as Limitless Occult Kung Fu. He taught her control of her emotions and thoughts, the ten Tapestries and the thirty-two Long-arm Blows. He trained her to use her eyes and ears, and showed her the use of hand darts and other hidden projectiles.

More than two years passed. Yuanzhi, hard-working and clever, made fast progress. Her father, Commander Li, was transferred toGansu province as military commander at Anxi, one of the major towns in the northwest border regions, bordering on the great desert of central Asia. His family, including Lu, went with him.

Another two years passed as Lu taught Yuanzhi the Soft Cloud sword technique and the secret of the Golden Needles. She did as her teacher had ordered, and did not tell a soul that she was learning kung fu. Every day she practised by herself in the rear flower garden. When the young mistress was practising her kung fu, the maids did not understand what they saw, and the menservants did not dare to watch too closely.

Commander Li was a capable man, and he advanced steadily through the ranks of officialdom. In 1759, the twenty-third year of the Emperor Qian Long's reign, he distinguished himself in the battle of Ili, in which the largest of the tribes in the Muslim areas was defeated, and received an Imperial decree promoting him to the post of Commander-in-Chief of Zhejiang Province in the southeast.

Yuanzhi had been born and raised in the border areas of the northwest, and the prospect of travelling to new and beautiful lands filled her with excitement. She pressed her teacher to come as well, and Lu, who had been away from the central areas for a long time, agreed with pleasure.

Li Keshou went ahead with a small escort to take up his post and left his chief-of-staff and 20 soldiers in charge of his family who were to follow him. The officer's name was Deng, a vigorous and energetic man in his forties who sported a small moustache.

The entourage consisted of more than a dozen mules and a few horses. Madame Li sat in a mule-drawn carriage, but Yuanzhi couldn't bear to be cooped up and insisted on riding. Since itwould have been improper for the daughter of a high official to be seen riding in public, she changed into boy's clothes which made her look so extraordinarily handsome that she refused to change back into her normal attire no matter what anyone said. All Madame Li could do was sigh and let her daughter do as she pleased.

It was a deep autumn day. Lu rode far behind the group looking at the passing scenery as the colours of late afternoon merged into evening. But there was little to see around the ancient road except yellow sand, withered grasses and the occasional crow flying homewards. A breeze sprang up from the west and Lu began to recite:

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