The Smiling, Proud Wanderer
The Smiling, Proud Wanderer (笑傲江湖) is a 1967 Chinese Wuxia novel by Louis Cha.
The term "Xiao Ao Jiang Hu" (笑傲江湖), literally translated as Laughing Proudly in the Jianghu, means to live a carefree life in a mundane world of strife. An alternative English name is State of Divinity. The book is known by both translations in English. The book has been adapted to films, in the form of The Swordsman and Swordsman II (whose Chinese titles both refer to the title of the novel).
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The Smiling, Proud Wanderer was intentionally written as a reflection of politicians. In 1980, Louis Cha commented that he did not include any historical setting in this novel to show that these colourful people appear in every era. Furthermore, he pictured the novel's characters as politicians rather than the leaders of martial art sects. Cha had also noted that The Smiling, Proud Wanderer was written during the time of the Cultural Revolution of China. The characters such as Lin Pingzhi and Fang Zheng were representative of actual politicians who lived during that time.
The Smiling, Proud Wanderer also contained elements of The Count of Monte Cristo written by French writer Alexandre Dumas, who was one of Cha's favourite authors. Linghu Chong's encounters with the recluse swordsman Feng Qingyang and the imprisoned Ren Woxing are similar to Edmond Dantes's encounter with Father Faria. Yue Buqun's evil schemes, Lin Pingzhi's revenge and Yue Lingshan's marriage are similar to certain parts of Dumas's novel.
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The plot's development is based on a highly-coveted martial arts manual known as the Bixie Swordplay Manual, which was created by Lin Yuantu, the founder of the Fuwei Escort Agency. The manual has been passed down as a family heirloom in the Lin family. Yu Canghai of the Qingcheng Sect massacres the Lin family to seize possession of the manual in the name of avenging his son's death. Lin Pingzhi, son of Lin Zhennan and a descendant of Lin Yuantu, survives and is rescued by Yue Buqun, leader of the Mount Hua Sect. Yue accepts Lin as his disciple and trains him in swordplay.
Yue Buqun's eldest disciple Linghu Chong is a scruffy, happy-go-lucky, ruffian-like swordsman. He befriends the notorious lecherous bandit Tian Boguang and rescues Yi Lin of the (North) Mount Heng Sect from being raped by Tian. Meanwhile, Liu Zhengfeng of the (South) Mount Heng Sect announces his plans to retire from the Jianghu and invites all pugilists to witness the ceremony. However, the ceremony culminates into a bloodbath when Zuo Lengchan arrives with his Mount Song Sect to cause trouble. Liu Zhengfeng and his friend, Qu Yang of the Sun Moon Holy Cult, commit suicide after being cornered by the pugilists. They pass on the score of their famous music piece Xiao Ao Jiang Hu to Linghu Chong before their deaths.
Lin Pingzhi's entrance into the Mount Hua Sect causes Linghu Chong to break up with his first love interest Yue Lingshan, the daughter of Yue Buqun. Yue Lingshan falls in love with Lin and causes Linghu to fall out of love and become depressed. Linghu Chong's carefree and reckless nature brings him into trouble time and time again, until his teacher decides to punish him by making him stay in the back-hill for a year and reflect on his actions. Linghu Chong wanders around the back-hill and discovers some swordplay technique carvings in the cave and practises them, thus becoming familiar with the swordplays of the Five Mountain Sects Alliance. He also meets the reclusive senior swordsman Feng Qingyang and learns the powerful Nine Swords of Dugu from Feng, which transforms him into a formidable swordsman.
During that era, the Wulin is divided along the line of good and evil, with the self-proclaimed "righteous and orthodox" sects such as Shaolin Sect, Wudang Sect and the Five Mountain Sects Alliance (Mount Hua, Mount Song, Mount Tai, North and South Mount Heng) taking the good side while the "evil and orthodox" side is dominated by the Sun Moon Holy Cult and a number of smaller unrecognised sects. The Five Mountains Sects Alliance is in fact a loose alliance which only exists in name, as it is called for by the Mount Song Sect, in its ambitious attempt to dominate the other four sects. The Mount Hua Sect is also divided into two factions, namely Qi and Sword factions, with the Qi Faction currently ruling the sect under Yue Buqun's leadership. Zuo Lengchan instigates the exiled members of the Sword Faction to return to Mount Hua and fight with Yue Buqun for control of their sect. To avoid disaster, Yue leads the sect out of Mount Hua but they fall into an ambush and are captured along the way. Linghu Chong comes to save them and blinds the enemies with his newly mastered swordplay technique, but sustains severe injuries as well. Yue Buqun becomes suspicious of Linghu Chong as he believes that Linghu Chong has secretly mastered the Bixie Swordplay behind his back.
Linghu Chong meets the Six Immortals of the Peach Valley who attempt to cure his wounds in their weird fashion but they only aggravate his wounds. Linghu Chong follows his teacher to Luoyang and meets an old woman there who teaches him music to heal his wounds and lifts everyone's suspicions on the music score, which is mistakenly believed to be the Bixie Swordplay Manual. However, Linghu Chong has never seen the old woman's looks before as she wears a veil to cover her face. When the group leave Luoyang, they encounter several weird and "unorthodox" pugilists along the way, who offer to help Linghu Chong heal his wounds. Yue Buqun suspicions on Linghu Chong increases and he banishes Linghu from the sect for being in cahoots with the evil side. Linghu Chong meets the old woman again after he has been abandoned and they fight together to defend themselves from some Shaolin pugilists.
The old woman lifts her veil and reveals herself to be actually a beautiful young maiden by the name of Ren Yingying. Linghu Chong falls in love with her on first sight, but he becomes unconscious as his condition has worsened after the fight. When he comes to, he finds himself in Shaolin Monastery and learns that Ren Yingying has actually pleaded with the Shaolin abbot Fang Zheng to heal him on the condition that she will stay in Shaolin. Fang Zheng cures Linghu Chong of his wounds using the Tendon-Altering Sutra and shows Linghu a letter from Yue Buqun. Yue Buqun states that he has officially expelled Linghu Chong from the Mount Hua Sect and denounces him as an enemy of the righteous sects.
Linghu Chong falls into despair as he is now an outcast of the Wulin. He leaves Shaolin and meets Xiang Wentian, whom he saves from dozens of enemies. Xiang becomes sworn brothers with Linghu and brings him to a manor in Hangzhou, where Linghu encounters Ren Woxing. Ren is the former leader of the Sun Moon Holy Cult and has been removed from power and imprisoned in a scheme orchestrated by his deputy Dongfang Bubai. Ren Woxing breaks out of prison with their help and teaches Linghu Chong his infamous "Essence-Sucking Skill" and wants Linghu Chong to join and help him regain control of the cult.
Linghu Chong declines and continues on his lone journey, hoping to find his teacher and rejoin Mount Hua. He sees Lin Pingzhi and Yue Lingshan at the old Lin residence in search of the Bixie Swordplay Manual. The manual is robbed by two masked men and Linghu Chong recovers the manual after defeating them in a fight. He falls into unconsciousness again after suffering injuries and finds that the manual is gone when he comes to. He sees Yue Buqun in front of him, who accuses him of stealing the manual and wounding Lin Pingzhi earlier. Linghu protests that he has been wronged and escapes from Yue's murderous advances with his fellow disciples' help.
Linghu Chong saves some North Hengshan Sect members from attacking enemies later and discovers that the enemies are actually Mount Song Sect members disguised as members of the Sun Moon Holy Cult. It becomes clear at that point that Zuo Lengchan is planning to dominate the four sects in the alliance by stirring up conflict. Linghu Chong escorts them safely back to Mount Heng and goes to Shaolin Monastery. Shaolin is under siege by several unorthodox pugilists who are there to save Ren Yingying. Linghu Chong makes his way in and finds Ren Yingying. He also finds two of the leaders of the North Mount Heng Sect, who have been fatally wounded. They name him as their successor as leader of their sect with their dying words.
By then, Shaolin is under siege again, this time by orthodox sects, who have gathered there to eliminate Linghu Chong and his companions. Linghu Chong helps his companions escape via a secret passage and goes back to reinforce Ren Woxing, Xiang Wentian and Ren Yingying who are confronted by the sect leaders. Chong Xu of the Wudang Sect suggests that the fates of the trio will be decided by the outcomes of a martial arts contest between them and representatives from Shaolin, Wudang and Mount Song. Ren Woxing defeats Fang Zheng of Shaolin but loses to Zuo Lengchan of Mount Song. Linghu Chong takes on the third decisive round and has Chong Xu as his opponent. However, Chong Xu admits defeat as he has already lost to Linghu Chong earlier in a friendly sparring session. Yue Buqun confronts Linghu Chong and demands that he fight him but Linghu refuses out of respect for his former teacher. He still injures Yue while trying to save Ren Yingying and the four of them leave Shaolin safely.
Ren Woxing offers his daughter's hand-in-marriage to Linghu Chong and tries to persuade Linghu to join the cult but Linghu declines again. Linghu Chong returns to North Mount Heng and assumes his role as leader of the sect according to the dying wishes of its former leaders. Fang Zheng and Chong Xu come to offer their congratulations and they discuss a plan to stop Zuo Lengchan from taking over the four sects in the alliance. Linghu Chong goes to the headquarters of the Sun Moon Holy Cult later to join Ren Woxing in the battle against Dongfang Bubai and helps Ren retake his position as leader of the cult. He leaves later together with Ren Yingying to attend a special assembly of the Five Mountain Sects Alliance called for by Zuo Lengchan. Zuo attempts to force the other four sects to submit to him but unexpectedly, Yue Buqun uses the Bixie Swordplay to defeat and blind Zuo. Yue becomes the new leader of the alliance, much to the surprise of everyone present.
After leaving the assembly, Linghu Chong and Ren Yingying meet Lin Pingzhi, who is brutally killing members of the Qingcheng Sect to avenge his parents. They are baffled when they see Lin Pingzhi using the Bixie Swordplay and have no idea how he managed to master the skill. They follow him secretly and overhear from a conversation between Lin and Yue Lingshan that Yue Buqun has actually lured Lin Pingzhi into joining Mount Hua Sect so he can take the Bixie Swordplay Manual for himself. Linghu Chong is appalled when he learns of his respected teacher's true colours. Yue Buqun is responsible for a number of mysterious murders (including those of North Mount Heng Sect's leaders) earlier and it was Yue Buqun who took the Bixie Swordplay Manual from Linghu Chong when he was unconscious.
Linghu Chong and Ren Yingying make their way to the back-hill of Mount Hua to stop Yue Buqun from proceeding with his evil plans to dominate the Jianghu. Yue lures all the four sects into the cave to view the carvings and seals the entrance afterwards, hoping to trap them all inside. Linghu and Ren are also trapped inside as well and they are almost killed by Yue Buqun. Just then, Yi Lin appears and kills Yue Buqun by stabbing him from behind and she rescues everyone trapped inside the cave. Upon learning of Yue Buqun's death, Ren Woxing leads the Sun Moon Holy Cult to attack North Mount Heng, attempting to force the Five Mountain Sects Alliance to submit to him. Linghu Chong refuses firmly and protects the North Mount Heng Sect while the other four sects begin fighting with each other, disintegrating in the process. Ren Woxing dies later after suffering from giddiness due to old age. Linghu Chong and Ren Yingying live happily ever after while the conflict in the Jianghu ceases when the good and evil sides finally come to a truce.
The Music of the film