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SOCIETY & CULTURE

Obituary: Jin Yong, Martial Arts Novelist Who Inspired Alibaba’s Jack Ma, Dies at 94

Novelist Louis Cha, who wrote under the name Jin Yong, holds his book
Novelist Louis Cha, who wrote under the name Jin Yong, holds his book "Book and Sword, Gratitude and Revenge" at his office in Hong Kong on July 29, 2002. Photo: VCG

“If there was no Jin Yong, I am very certain that Alibaba wouldn’t have reached its scale of today, where thousands of people work together to create the impossible,” Jack Ma wrote on his Twitter-like Weibo account on Wednesday, as tributes poured in from all over the Chinese-speaking world one day after the death of the Chinese novelist.

Louis Cha, widely known by his pen name Jin Yong, died Tuesday afternoon at a Hong Kong hospital at the age of 94. No cause of death was reported, but the New York-based New Yorker magazine in April said he had “been frail since suffering a stroke in 1997.”

A former journalist and the founder of Hong Kong newspaper Ming Pao, Cha has been regarded as one of the three greatest “wuxia” (martial arts) writers, along with Gu Long and Liang Yusheng, both of whom have also died.

Cha was one of the best-selling Chinese authors, publishing 15 titles including the hits “The Deer and the Cauldron,” “Demi-Gods and Semi-Devils” and “Legend of the Condor Heroes.” More than 300 million copies have been sold in the Chinese-speaking world, and many were adapted to films, TV series, comics, radio dramas, and video games.

Cha’s works were largely set in the world of the “jianghu,” a pugilistic society in which martial arts practitioners travel China trading blows, teaching skills and upholding a strict code of honor.

The author might be not familiar to Western readers due to a lack of English translations of his works. In February, however, the first installment of “Condor Heroes” was published in English, and Waterstones, one of Britain’s largest chains of bookstores, described the book on its website: “If you are a fan of ‘Lord of the Rings’ and are looking for the next best thing, ‘A Hero Born’ is definitely the book for you.”

Ma has said the teachings of honor, integrity and justice in Cha’s fiction formed the corporate values of Alibaba. “His works are full of imagination, dashed with a bit of romanticism,” the billionaire recalled in a video interview in 2016. “The chivalry, which encourages people to fight to eradicate social injustice, has a profound impact on me personally.”

According to Shen Jian, a history professor at Zhejiang University, Cha was straightforward and amiable but didn’t like to socialize much. “He didn’t value fame and disliked bureaucracy,” said the professor, who worked with the author when Cha was dean of the school of humanities at the turn of the millennium.

Another top Chinese entrepreneur, founder of handset-maker Xiaomi Corp. Lei Jun, was also a fan. He wrote on his Weibo account on Wednesday: “There will be ‘jianghu’ no more.”

Tributes also poured in from the world of politics.

Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam said Cha’s works inherited the tradition of Chinese classics with the integration of history and culture, and have been very popular among Chinese in various parts of the world, contributing significantly to the promotion of Chinese culture, local media reports said.

According to the newspaper Straits Times, Singapore’s Education Minister Ong Ye Kung posted on Facebook: “I loved his novels as a kid. Grandma would read them first, followed by my brother, and then me. The books taught me a lot about Chinese history, although you need to differentiate fact and fiction.”

Liu Jiefei contributed to this report.

Contact reporter Jason Tan (jasontan@caixin.com)

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