Writing name of Zha Liangyong GBM, OBE (1924-2018), also known as Louis Cha, a Chinese newspaper publisher, editor and author, particularly in the Wuxia tradition of heroic martial-arts fiction. A graduate from Soochow University in international law, he was posted to Hong Kong to set up a branch of the Shanghai newspaper Ta Kung Pao in 1947. Zha became a permanent resident of the city, moonlighting as a novelist with Shu Jian Enchou Lu (February 1955-September 1956 Xin Wan Bao; fixup 1976; trans Graham Earnshaw as The Book and the Sword, 2002) in the paper's evening edition. Zha was by no means the first, but arguably the most successful wuxia novelist at allegorizing political conditions in the People's Republic of China with historical fiction set during the Manchu-dominated Qing dynasty, in which a Pariah Elite of martial artists conspires to overthrow the usurpers and return China to the rule of the ethnic-Han Chinese. Notably, many of his works focused on liminal areas of Chinese territory, where the Han Chinese majority interacted with minorities, including Kazakhs, the Muslims of Xinjiang, Manchus, and the people of the Dali kingdom, establishing a multi-ethnic sense of Chineseness far removed from the all-Han, all-the-time attitude of certain other novelists.
By the late 1950s, Zha enjoyed concurrent careers as the publisher-owner of the Ming Pao newspaper, a scenarist in the Hong Kong Cinema industry, and a novelist supplying the raw materials for both newspaper serials and movie scripts. Notable works of Equipoise among his publications include Xiao Ao Jianghu ["The Smiling, Proud Wanderer"] (April 1967-October 1969 Ming Pao; fixup 1978), which features a team-up between several fictional and semi-legendary martial arts sects, fighting several fictional and semi-legendary religious sects over possession of secret manuals of supernatural fighting techniques. These McGuffins include the Evil-Quelling Sword Manual and the Sunflower Scripture, while the rivals count among their number a warrior who fights with Star-Absorbing Thaumaturgy, a kung fu skill that saps the energy of his opponents.
Zha's prolific career as an author officially came to an end in 1970, although he spent several years thereafter revising and republishing his bestsellers in an enterprise that seemed as time-consuming and meticulous as their original creation. A thriving pirate publishing industry in Hong Kong and Taiwan (where he was then banned) led him to pursue the publication of an authorized Complete Works in order to thwart unlicensed compilations of his newspaper serials; for this reason, many of the novel editions of his work are substantially augmented fix-ups, adding new chapters, rewriting many elements, and occasionally removing entire occasional chapters originally written in his absence by friends and amanuenses such as Ni Kuang. Notably, these redacted editions drop much of the mysticism originally present in the serial forms.
Retaining his newspaper-publisher role, Zha became a power-broker of note in Hong Kong, courted by both the British and the Chinese as a public opinion-former in negotiations over the 1997 Handover. His stories enjoyed a new popularity during the political thaw of Deng Xiaoping's economic reforms post-1979, swiftly transposed into the simplified typography used in the People's Republic, and hence finding a readership in their millions on the mainland. After writing a work of pragmatic Futures Studies, Xianggang de Qiantu ["Hong Kong's Future"] (1984), he served for a time on the committee to draft The Hong Kong Basic Law (1990) of the Special Administrative Region, which, as noted in this encyclopedia's entry on China, is a work of "near-future brinkmanship" that attempts to legislate for conditions in the former colony until 2047. He resigned from this role after the Tiananmen Square incident of 1989, although by 1995 he was a member of the preparatory committee that set up the 1997 Handover, and groomed the first China-approved chief executive.
In the 1990s, permitting himself an indulgence only available to an author who owned his publisher, he undertook a multi-year project to re-edit his Complete Works a second time (the New Century Editions, sometimes jocularly known as the New New Editions), changing character names and the connections between separate books to create a more integrated corpus. These editions may be preferred by their author, but met with considerable complaint from readers who had grown up with earlier versions – the checklist below cites only the middle-period editions, after the first publications, but before the most drastic revisions.
In 1999, he was subject to a sneering attack in the pages of Beijing's Zhongguo Qingnian Bao ["China Youth Paper"], which decried his novels as a "wretched experience" of pointless violence and macho posturing. If this were an attempt to downplay his bestselling status with PRC audiences, it largely failed – there is no avoiding his popularity among the general public in all Chinese communities, including the PRC, Taiwan (where he was banned until 1979), Singapore and the communities of the Chinese diaspora. Controversially for some parent-teacher associations, excerpts from his visceral martial arts fiction have even been included on some school curriculums to encourage "resisting readers".
His works have been adapted into over a hundred films, Television shows, Comics and Games, deeply embedding his style and concerns in the Media Landscape of modern Chinese. Late in life, in 2010, he earned a PhD from St John's College, Cambridge, for a thesis titled The Imperial Succession in Tang China, 618-762. The St John's "Louis Cha Scholarship in Oriental Studies", funded by a generous donation from its famous alumnus, was inaugurated in 2016. [JonC]
born Haining, Zhejiang, China: 10 March 1924
died Happy Valley, Hong Kong: 30 October 2018
- Shediao Yingxiong Chuan ["The Eagle-Shooting Heroes"] (Hong Kong: Ming Ho, 1976) [Condor Heroes: binding unknown/]
- Shendiao Xia Lu ["God-Shooting Heroes", also known as Return of the Condor Heroes] (Hong Kong: Ming Ho, 1976) [Condor Heroes: binding unknown/]
- Yitian tu Longji ["Heaven Sword and Dragon Sabre"] (Hong Kong: Ming Ho, 1976) [Condor Heroes: binding unknown/]
individual titles (selected)
- Shu Jian Enchou Lu ["The Book and the Sword"] (Hong Kong: Ming Ho, 1975) [binding unknown/]
- Bixue Jian ["The Sword Stained with Royal Blood"] (Hong Kong: Ming Ho, 1975) [binding unknown/]
- Xueshan Feihu ["Fox Volant of the Snowy Mountain"] (Hong Kong: Ming Ho, 1976) [binding unknown/]
- Feihu Waizhuan ["Side Story of the Flying Fox" aka "Young Flying Fox" aka "Sword of Many Lovers"] (Hong Kong: Ming Ho, 1977) [binding unknown/]
- Baima Xiao Xifeng ["The White Horse Neighs in the Western Wind", also known as "Swordswoman Riding West on a White Horse"] (Hong Kong: Ming Ho, 1977) [binding unknown/]
- Yuanyang Dao ["Mandarin Duck Blades" aka "Blade Dance of the Two Lovers"] (Hong Kong: Ming Ho, 1977) [binding unknown/]
- Liancheng Jue ["A Deadly Secret"] (Hong Kong: Ming Ho, 1980) [binding unknown/]
- Tianlong Babu ["Demigods and Semidevils"] (Hong Kong: Ming Ho, 1978) [binding unknown/]
- Xiake Xing ["Ode to Gallantry"] (Hong Kong: Ming Ho, 1977) [binding unknown/]
- Xiao Ao Jianghu ["The Smiling, Proud Wanderer"] (Hong Kong: Ming Ho, 1978) [binding unknown/]
- Lu Ding Ji ["The Deer and the Cauldron"] (Hong Kong: Ming Ho, 1981) [binding unknown/]
- The Deer and the Cauldron (Hong Kong: Oxford University Press, 1998-2002) [published in three volumes: trans of the above by John Minford: hb/]
- Yue Nu Jian ["Sword of the Yue Maiden"] (Hong Kong: Ming Ho, 1981) [binding unknown/]
- Xianggang de Qiantu ["Hong Kong's Future"](Hong Kong: Ming Pao, 1984) [nonfiction: binding unknown/]
about the author
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