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renzhe

First Episode 42: 射雕英雄传 (Legend of the Condor Heroes)

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renzhe

A part of the Grand First Episode Project -- See this thread for more info.

One of the most beloved wuxia stories ever told.

1983: youku

1994: youku

2003: Emule - youku - tudou <- My recommendation

2008: Emule - youku

Language difficulty level: Upper Intermediate (no subtitles)

A couple of words on versions. There are four major TV shows based on this book, listed above. Among these, I recommend the 2003 version. It captures the characters extremely well, and has that special wuxia air about it, plus production is really good, I found this as good as 天龙八部. I've read the book, and most of the characters (and the atmosphere) in here are just the way I imagined.

The 1994 version is nothing special, really, and the 2008 version, while modern, has some woeful characters and skips most of the first book. The definitive version is the 1983, the one everyone in China grew up with. It is obviously dated, but most characters are true to the book and the martial arts scenes are exceptional considering the age. If you don't want to watch the 2003 version, you should watch the 1983 one.

There are only two reason why I'm not recommending the 2003 version as the only one to consider. The first one is that there are no subtitles. It's not exceptionally hard, and I can follow (I know the story), but this will likely not be one for beginners. The second one is the selection of 周迅 as 黄蓉. I like 周迅, but she is totally wrong here -- she certainly looks the part, but doesn't act it. It's only one character, but it happens to be one of the most important and popular characters Jin Yong has ever created, so many people disliked the show. In place of a spoilt, but playful, quick-witted, feisty young girl, we get a bored, melancholy seductress (The 1983 黄蓉, in contrast, is just right.) Still, the other characters are generally strong, so maybe she'll grow on me. It probably won't bother the people who haven't read the book.

Below, I describe the 2003 version.

--- Plot Summary ---

The plot starts around 1200AD, with Song dynasty weakened by internal corruption and under threat of invasion from the growing Jurchen Jin dynasty in the north . In the north-west, the Mongolians are rising with a strong leader emerging in the person of Khan Temujin (later known as Ghengis Khan). In the south, there is the kingdom of Dali. We meet 丘处机 as he attacks a group of corrupt Song soldiers and decapitates a corrupt official. He is the most powerful of the 7 disciples of the Daoist 全真 sect, known for a strong sense of righteousness, but also an explosive temper. He soon has Jin soldiers on his tail.

Meanwhile, we meet two young heroes and sworn brothers, 杨铁心 and 郭啸天, and their wives, 包惜弱 and 李萍. They live in a village called 牛家村 and hate the Jin. They are proficient in their families' arts, but are still at a very low level when compared to many powerful Wulin characters. We also meet the elderly cripple 曲灵风 who runs the local inn. At home, they notice 丘处机 passing by and invite him inside for a drink, thinking that he must be a great hero. 丘处机 suspects that they are traitors waiting for him, so he insults them and a fight ensues. Of course, he beats them handily, but he recognises the family arts they are using, and realises that they are patriots. Soon, the Jin assassins arrive, and he makes quick work of them. We also find out that 包惜弱 is pregnant (as is 李萍). 丘处机 names both children (郭靖 and 杨康 -- see here for some background) and leaves two daggers as a gift to the children once they are born. The two sworn brothers decide that their children will be sworn brothers or sworn sisters, or if one is male and the other one, they will marry.

In the evening, an injured Jin soldier crawls to the house and is saved by 包惜弱 who has a very soft heart. She fears that 杨铁心 would kill him if he found out, so she doesn't tell him. The next morning, he is gone. A few months later, the two sworn brothers witness 曲灵风 kill a number of corrupt Song soldiers in the forest.Although he is crippled, his martial arts are at a really high level, something nobody in the village knew. Soon afterwards, a corrupt Song official 段天德 comes to arrest the two. They resist, but are overwhelmed by the soldiers' numbers. 郭啸天 is killed, 杨铁心 wounded, and the two women kidnapped. 丘处机 arrives too late to save them, and swears revenge.

--- Summary End ---

The following couple of episodes follow 包惜弱 and 李萍 and show the birth of the two main characters, 郭靖 and 杨康. Things really start rolling around the 5th episode.

In general, if you enjoyed the 2003 天龙八部, you should definitely watch this one. If you've read the book, you will want to watch it (as it is a really well-done dramatisation, with gorgeous scenery and strong characters), and if you haven't read it, you should watch it because the story is such an important part of modern pop culture.

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Edited by renzhe
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renzhe

I'm already 10 episodes into this and it is awesome.

I think that I've found my genre, the CCTV Jin Yong series have been pure entertainment for me so far.

This is as enjoyable as Tian Long Ba Bu, and I can't stop watching it. This would be enjoyable in any language. Full recommendation!

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skylee

I said here that "still I think I like 射鵰英雄傳 better. Perhaps I just like how 梅超風 dances and the helmuts of the Jin soldiers." :D Just look at the 2nd picture of your #1!!

BTW, renzhe which version of the book are you reading? I suppose you are aware that the master has re-written the book AGAIN. I haven't (dare not) read the latest version but I heard that there was development between Huang Yaoshi and Mei Chaofeng, which sounds logical.

And now that you have read the book and seen the TV, let us know what you think about Bao Xirou and Mu Nianci. I always think that nobody could blame them. Take a look at this thread -> http://www.chinese-forums.com/showthread.php?p=94089

And now that you've watched Tian Long Ba Bu, you might be able to appreciate the first picture of this post -> http://www.chinese-forums.com/showpost.php?p=144777&postcount=7

You might also be interested in this song -> 我不是黄蓉

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renzhe

I bought the book last year, and I'm pretty sure it's the last edition. It has 10 pages of 梅超風 recalling her youth (missing from the second edition translation I read), and it fits with the description of the changes I've found online.

Generally speaking, she is one of the coolest characters in the book. Although she is wretched and evil, somehow she evokes pity rather than hate. A fallen angel of sorts. I'm really glad that the series got this right. In fact, I was looking for a long time to find a photo which includes her. :)

I felt sorry for Bao Xiruo and Mu Nianci. It's hard to blame them, but I always felt that Mu Nianci should have been more intelligent, love-struck or not. Yang Kang is so obviously a hoodlum.

The cool thing about this series is that it portrays most of the really cool characters well. Huang Rong is not right, and Yang Kang is not handsome at all (you don't believe for a second that Mu Nianci would fall for him), but most other characters are cool. The Seven Freaks are awesome, Guo Jing is stupid (as he should be), and Ouyang Feng actually has the charisma that makes you understand why such an evil character commands such respect (contrast with Qiu Qianren who is just a villain). Good stuff all around.

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renzhe

OK, I'm about 25 episodes in, and I do like it slightly more than 天龙八部. The special effects are not as offensive (though they are kind of cheap) and the characters are stronger. It has its problems, a few parts feel like they were meant for children, but overall, it is quite close to the original story, and it is very well told a very enjoyable (and gripping) watch.

I have to admit that I have changed my mind on 黄蓉. She is not the 黄蓉 I expected, but she is not bad. After 10 episodes or so, I got used to it, and started appreciating the slightly different character. She is true to the book, actually, it's just a somewhat different interpretation than I had. After you get used to her, all is fine. Same goes for 洪七公, who was a bit different than I imagined (he seems almost senile when he is first introduced), but really works well in this series.

杨康, on the other hand, is terrible on every level. 老顽童 feels like the actor is acting FOR children instead of acting a child. Didn't quite sit with me, as he's one of my favourite characters in the book, but he was tolerable.

The rest of the cast is basically perfect. It's amazing they got so many of them cast so well. Great music, great scenery (!!!), decent fight scenes for a series and it mostly follows the book. A couple of scenes will have people who haven't read the book scratching their heads, but there aren't too many of them. It's hard to show a 内功 music battle on a TV screen, for example.

Edited by renzhe

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skylee
杨康, on the other hand, is terrible on every level.

A lot of people will agree with you about this. :D

Oh BTW, when will you move on to 倚天屠龍記? It will be great if you would share your view on 張無忌.

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renzhe

Actually, I was going to ask you for recommendations :mrgreen:

I'm planning to read 笑傲江湖 at a later time, so I won't watch that. So the 2000 version of 倚天屠龍記 should be my next target, I guess.

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renzhe

I've finished the show.

Overall, I really enjoyed this. Though there are some nagging annoyances (as with most Chinese shows), it is very interesting, gripping, with a great story, great characters, fantastic scenery and excellent music.

The parts I didn't like have to do with how some characters were portrayed. 周伯通 and 裘千仞 (and most of the Jin henchmen) are reduced to comic relief, 黄蓉 takes some getting used to, and I have no idea what they were thinking when writing (and casting) the part of 瑛姑. The worst of all, however, is 杨康. His part was changed considerably, in order to make him less evil and show how he is internally torn. This is hard to swallow in itself, but it could work if they actually had an actor that could evoke sympathy, or have some charisma, or could act at all, or was handsome, or had anything going for him. I cringed every time he was on screen. Terrible.

But these are only a few characters, and most of those are tolerable. On the other hand, the roles of 郭靖, 黄药师, 欧阳锋, 洪七公, 江南七怪, 梅超风, 全真七子, 李萍, Genghis Khan, virtually everyone, are fantastic. Great casting, great acting, you can feel their presence. Some of the scenes towards the end of the show involving the Greats (黄药师, 洪七公 and 欧阳锋) are really cool, as you get a feeling of just how powerful they are. 黄蓉 and 郭靖 have nice chemistry between them too (I believe they were dating while filming this).

Overall, this is a very enjoyable ride through Jianghu, from Mongolia and Jin to Jiangnan and Dali, with great visuals, decent fights, brilliant characters, great music. If you can swallow some sub-par effects and the odd quirk, it is an extremely entertaining ride.

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rob07

Just finished 天龙八部 and enjoyed it so I'm thinking about watching this next. But I have a couple of questions:

I want to watch a version that stays close to the book and I can't do without subtitles. So that narrows it down to the 1983 and 1994 versions I guess. Renzhe (or anyone else) would you mind expanding on what you didn't like about the 1994 version?

So 射雕英雄传 is the first part of a trilogy. I thought that 神雕侠侣 and 倚天屠龙记 were the second and third parts respectively, but Renzhe and Skylee seem to be saying that the next step after 射雕英雄传 is 倚天屠龙记 and not 神雕侠侣 (but maybe I've misunderstood). I'm a bit confused, can someone explain this to me? Also, how important is it to read or watch the entire trilogy, as opposed to just watching 射雕英雄传?

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skylee
So 射雕英雄传 is the first part of a trilogy. I thought that 神雕侠侣 and 倚天屠龙记 were the second and third parts respectively, but Renzhe and Skylee seem to be saying that the next step after 射雕英雄传 is 倚天屠龙记 and not 神雕侠侣 (but maybe I've misunderstood).

You are right. You should read/watch 射鵰 first.

神鵰 is directly related to 射鵰. Many characters in 射鵰 appear in 神鵰. 倚天 is only remotely related to 神鵰. Personally I prefer 倚天 (the book) to 神鵰 (the book), thus my comments.

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renzhe
I want to watch a version that stays close to the book and I can't do without subtitles. So that narrows it down to the 1983 and 1994 versions I guess. Renzhe (or anyone else) would you mind expanding on what you didn't like about the 1994 version?

I didn't watch much of it, to be honest, only a couple of episodes. The 1994 version just felt like any other HK costume drama in the parts I watched, and the acting seemed wooden and it was obviously all filmed in a studio. You can give it a go, watch a couple of episodes of each and see which one appeals more to you.

The 2003 version is the closest to the book, and the closest in atmosphere to the 天龙八部 you've watched, but the lack of subtitles does make it more difficult.

So 射雕英雄传 is the first part of a trilogy. I thought that 神雕侠侣 and 倚天屠龙记 were the second and third parts respectively, but Renzhe and Skylee seem to be saying that the next step after 射雕英雄传 is 倚天屠龙记 and not 神雕侠侣 (but maybe I've misunderstood). I'm a bit confused, can someone explain this to me? Also, how important is it to read or watch the entire trilogy, as opposed to just watching 射雕英雄传?

Like Skylee said, the sequence is 射雕英雄传 - 神雕侠侣 - 倚天屠龙记. I believe that Skylee recommended 倚天屠龙记 because the TV show itself is better than 神雕侠侣.

The three are not like Lord of the Rings (one story spanning three books). They are three separate stories that make perfect sense on their own (I've only read 射雕, but I've checked with my girlfriend on this).

Some familiar characters show up again, but not in main roles. You can read/watch 射雕 and stop, and 射雕 wouldn't lose anything.

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rob07

郭靖 is descended from a 梁山好汉! Very cool.

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renzhe

So, which version did you decide to watch?

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rob07

1983 as you recommended. But only seen the first two so far.

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rob07

I finished this (1983 version) a couple of weeks ago and it is great, my favourite Chinese TV series so far, beating out 魔幻手机 on beginning to end consistency. I thought it was considerably better than 天龙八部 because it was based more on strong characters than plot twists.

(The 1983 黄容, in contrast, is just right.)

She's definitely the soul of the story

Guo Jing is stupid (as he should be)

yes, one of my favourite bits is where 丘处机 tells him that Genghis Khan might want to conquer China and 郭靖 refuses to believe that this would even occur to warm and cuddly Papa Genghis.

周伯通 and 裘千仞 (and most of the Jin henchmen) are reduced to comic relief

They didn't seem to do that sort of comic relief in the early 80s thank goodness.

I liked this enough to want to look up the Wong Kar-Wai prequel movie 东邪西毒/Ashes of Time and I watched the 2008 Redux version last night which I really enjoyed. It seems to have got good reviews on the Impromptu Wong Kar-Wai Festival thread as well. Interesting to see 欧阳锋, 黄药师 and 洪七公 as young(er) men. For example, you get Wong Kar-Wai's take on the back story between 欧阳锋 and 欧阳克's mother, why 黄药师 plants 桃花 on his 岛, and to see 洪七公 cut off his finger and make different choices to the other two.

I've been listening to Skylee's song 我不是黄蓉 as well - it is getting me interested in 杨过般冷冷清清.

Finally, it should be noted that the story makes a convincing case for the intrinsic superiority of simplified characters over the traditional version:wink:. Just think how much trouble would have been saved if the first three strokes of 東 and 西 hadn't been the same.

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renzhe

Congratulations! :clap

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rob07
Like Skylee said, the sequence is 射雕英雄传 - 神雕侠侣 - 倚天屠龙记. I believe that Skylee recommended 倚天屠龙记 because the TV show itself is better than 神雕侠侣.

The three are not like Lord of the Rings (one story spanning three books). They are three separate stories that make perfect sense on their own (I've only read 射雕, but I've checked with my girlfriend on this).

Some familiar characters show up again, but not in main roles. You can read/watch 射雕 and stop, and 射雕 wouldn't lose anything.

I was curious about this, so I read 神雕侠侣 last weekend (in English translation, didn't have the patience for a couple of thousand pages in Chinese). I don't think I agree. For example:

  • Guo Jing and Huang Rong remain key characters. Each has a complicated relationship with Yang Kang's son leading to serious fights between them. Both continue to lead Song China in resisting the Mongols. It is interesting to see the contrast in their parenting styles.
  • Ouyang Feng struggles with his mental illness Despite this he becomes the adoptive father of Yang Kang's son right at the start. He has a memorable duel with Hong Qigong.
  • There is considerable development between Zhou Botong and Yinggu.
  • Qiu Qianren struggles with life as a monk.

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renzhe

Thanks for the info. I was going on hearsay.

Sounds like it could be a good idea to watch Shendiao then. Next first episode? :mrgreen:

At the moment, I'm still deep into Ba Jin's Torrents, and I've just laid my hands on loads of Lu Xun and Zhang Ailin. So I don't think I'll be reading Jin Yong this year.

I'd like to read another one by him once my level improves a bit more, though. Probably Xiao Ao Jianghu.

P.S. Not having Chinese input is quite terrible. :oops:

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rob07
Sounds like it could be a good idea to watch Shendiao then. Next first episode?

Apart from the parts directly related to 射雕英雄传, I didn't like it that much. The female lead was cardboard and the love story was mawkish. Much worse than any of 射雕英雄传, 天龙八部 or 雪山飞狐.

For me, it was worth spending a weekend reading it in English to see how things turned out, but wouldn't have been worth watching an entire TV series (this would take me a couple of months to get through) and definitely not worth reading the book in Chinese.

If you are looking for new first episodes, how about 半生缘? I haven't seen it myself but I read the 张爱玲 novel it is based on after hearing how great the TV series was.

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