The literary world lost two cultural titans and men of imagination in recent weeks: writer Louis Cha, also known as Jin Yong, 94; and comics creator Stan Lee, 95. They were born worlds apart - one in the Yangtze river delta area, the other in New York. But between them, they amassed fans and followers globally, young and old, through works that not only told stories, but also transmitted values which were so largely similar that it is hard to imagine that Cha and Lee were products of two countries which, today, appear to be at loggerheads, with often unsettling consequences for countries in the immediate regions and beyond.
If there are lessons from these late greats, it is in the values that came through in the characters they created, some of whom may have appeared to be vulnerable or flawed. Yet these are values that are, arguably, in short supply or underrated today: honour, courage, integrity, compassion, just to name a few. Cha's genre of wuxia or Chinese martial arts fiction, first serialised in newspapers in the 1950s, sold over 300 million copies. Lee's Marvel Comics creations fuelled the genre's golden age in the 1940s, when 600 million copies sold annually. The worlds they created defined the popular culture of their respective hemispheres for most of the 20th century. Cha's stories - and the Chinese history, culture and philosophies therein - were retold on radio, television and in the movies, and are still being remade.