Martial arts novelist Jin Yong dies at 94

Louis Cha wrote 15 martial arts novels, the most revered of which is The Legend Of The Condor Heroes trilogy.
Louis Cha wrote 15 martial arts novels, the most revered of which is The Legend Of The Condor Heroes trilogy.

One of the world's best-selling authors and a titan in the Chinese martial arts fiction scene, Jin Yong, whose real name is Cha Leung Yung, has died at the age of 94.

He died peacefully yesterday at the Hong Kong Sanatorium and Hospital, surrounded by family. This came on the back of a long illness, said his son-in-law, Dr Ng Wai Cheong.

Digital news outlet HK01 reported that Cha, who was thrice married, had suffered a severe heart attack in 1995 and had to undergo surgery then.

Famed for his swashbuckling gongfu fantasies or wuxia novels, he was also known by the name Louis Cha. His novels, which began as newspaper serials in the 1950s, are widely read in the Chinese world with more than 300 million copies sold worldwide.

They are largely set in the world of the jiang hu, a pugilistic society where martial arts exponents travel through China trading blows, teaching skills and upholding a strict code of honour.

They have been translated into several languages and made into radio serials, movies, television dramas and video games.

In an article in The New Yorker published in April, Cha's works were described as having the "cultural currency roughly equal to that of Harry Potter and Star Wars combined".

Born in 1924 in a prosperous town along the Yangtze river delta, Cha was the second of seven siblings. During World War II, his family was displaced and his mother died while fleeing.

In 1948, Cha moved to Hong Kong and held jobs as a screenwriter, film critic and journalist.

He wrote his first novel in 1955 and became an instant hit. In all, Cha penned 15 popular martial arts novels, putting his pen down only in 1972 with The Deer And The Cauldron.

The legendary writer's most revered trilogy was The Legend Of The Condor Heroes, which allowed him to set up his own paper - Ming Pao Daily News - in 1959.

In 1967, the writer left Hong Kong briefly for Singapore after he was at the receiving end of credible death threats for his anti-Maoist editorials. His Singapore links did not end there. Shin Min Daily News, first published on March 18, 1967, was the brainchild of Cha and Axe Brand Universal Oil founder Leung Yun Chee.

Ming Pao said in a condolence letter that his death was "a great loss to Ming Pao, Hong Kong's news industry and even Chinese literature".

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 31, 2018, with the headline Martial arts novelist Jin Yong dies at 94. Subscribe