Thursday, January 29, 2009

Classic Wuxia Pan novelist passes away

Two of my favorite Wuxia pan(kung fu fantasy)films are Seven Swords and the Bride With Hair. So This makes me sad. As far as I know these novels have never been translated into English.

From Kung fu
Liang Yusheng, a pioneer in modern wuxia (heroic Chinese martial arts) literature died in his home in Sydney, Australia on Jan. 22, as reported in the Australian edition of the Hong Kong newspaper Sing Tao Daily. A contemporary of fellow wuxia novelist Louis Cha, Liang is known in the martial arts movie world for providing source material for a number of wuxia movies including Tsui Hark’s SEVEN SWORDS and Ronny Yu’s iconic classic, THE BRIDE WITH WHITE HAIR.

Liang Yusheng was born as Chen Wuntong in 1924 to a prominent family in Mengshan, Guangxi. He studied classical Chinese literature, Chinese history and economics before joining Hong Kong’s Sin Wan Bao newspaper as an editor following graduation from the Lingnan University in Guangzhou.

In 1954, a rivalry in the martial arts world between White Crane and Wu-style Tai Chi schools led to a war of words in the newspaper which in turn sparked a famous fight between the heads of the two schools (see video). Capitalizing on the popularity of this fight, Lo Fu, the newspaper’s editor persuaded Liang to write a wuxia novel to be published in serialized form in the newspaper. THE DRAGON FIGHTS THE TIGER became the first work in a new era of wuxia fiction upon which many of the popular wuxia films of the 1960s and beyond have been based.

Liang wrote 36 novels over 30 years before retiring to relative seclusion in Sidney. THE WANDERING SWORDSMAN was turned into a feature film with the same title by director Chang Cheh for Shaw Brothers in 1970. Tsui Hark adapted SEVEN SWORDS OF MOUNT HEAVEN into the feature film SEVEN SWORDS in 2005 and a TV series with the same title the following year.

The most famous adaptation of a Liang Yusheng novel remains Ronny Yu’s THE BRIDE WITH WHITE HAIR, a 1993 film loosely adapted from ROMANCE OF THE WHITE HAIRED MAIDEN. Liang’s description of a female bandit leader who becomes a “White-Haired Demoness” after being betrayed by her lover was popular enough to inspire two earlier film adaptations, WHITE HAIR DEVIL LADY (1980) and WOLF DEVIL WOMAN (1982). Two Chinese-language TV series based on the novel were aired in the 1990s. In 2008, Liang’s creation made its first appearance in a Hollywood film when Li Bingbing portrayed a white-haired villainess in THE FORBIDDEN KINGDOM.


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