Entry updated 5 August 2020. Tagged: Author.
Writing name of Wang Baoxiang (1909-1977), a Chinese author, largely of detective stories and mysteries, whose most productive period in the late 1930s and 1940s saw some of the definitive works of martial-arts fiction (see Wuxia). He was born to Manchu parents in Beijing, shortly before the abdication of the last emperor would see the suspension of the hereditary stipend paid to aristocrats. As a result, his family and many like it fell swiftly into penury; he left school at 15 after the death of his father, but by 1924 was writing columns and articles in the Xiaoxiao Ribao ["Little Daily"] as by Xiao Yu or Liu Jin.
Wang's fame lies in his interlocking newspaper serials of martial-arts daring, inevitably tinged with star-crossed tragedy as would-be lovers are forced to put aside their desires in the pursuit of justice and revenge. Paramount among these is the Crane-Iron sequence, beginning with Baojian Jinchai ["Precious Sword, Golden Hairpin"] (November 1938-April 1939 Qingdao Xinminbao; fixup 1941), although the checklist below reorders the books by their internal chronology, not order of original serialization. The protagonist, Li Mubai, is a swordsman-for-hire, who unwittingly falls in love with Xiulian, the girl he is supposed to be protecting, and whose fiance he is charged with finding. Subsequent books deal with the couple's continued involvement in intrigues and adventure, while refusing to consummate their love out of respect for the memory of the fiance, now believed to be deceased.
Wang refused to allow any notion of Magic, insisting that all his books remain resolutely realist – which is to say, faithful to the Pseudosciences of Chinese tradition: feng shui, the presence and power of qi, and the mystic properties of the Dao. Although regarded today as matters of Religion, to Wang and his readers they were real-world phenomena, the "scientific" nature of which was immanent and emerging; even in the People's Republic, serious research was conducted into qi until the 1980s. The unreal leaps and achievements of his acrobatic swordsmen, for example, would be regarded not as fantastical feats, but as the logical application of Daoist training, creating a physical existence so attuned to the universe that warriors can appear to float on air. Unlike many other wuxia authors such as Jin Yong – who often lionized the anti-Manchu resistance – Wang eschewed stories attacking his own ethnicity, instead presenting the Manchu aristocracy as part of the fabric of Chinese life.
His career in fiction was halted in 1949, concurrent with the proclamation of the People's Republic of China. He worked as an editor for an educational publisher and a school teacher in China's north-east, before being singled out in the anti-intellectual purges of the Cultural Revolution, and sent to the countryside for "re-education". His enduring legacy did not become apparent until long after his death, particularly when the Qiao Bao, a Chinese-language periodical published in the United States, reprinted several of his novels in the 1990s. Wohu Canglong ["Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon"] (March 1941-June 1942 Qingdao Xinminbao; fixup 1948) was adapted by Ang Lee into the Hugo- and Nebula-winning feature film Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000), leading to mass-market republication, translations in multiple languages (although not English) and its rather free adaptation into a Cantonese comic by Andy Seto.
Justin Hill's novel Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: Sword of Destiny (2016) is a Tie to the belated film sequel, and is best regarded as a Sequel by Other Hands rather than an entirely faithful translation of Tieqi Yinping ["Iron Knight, Silver Vase"] (1942-1944 Qingdao Xinminbao; fixup 1948). [JonC]
born Beijing: 13 September 1909
died Tieling, China, 12 February 1977
- He Jing Kunlun ["Crane Frightens Kunlun"] (Qingdao: Qingdao Baoshe, 1941) [Crane-Iron: binding unknown/]
- Baojian Jinchai ["Precious Sword, Golden Hairpin"] (Qingdao: Qingdao Baoshe, 1941) [Crane-Iron: binding unknown/]
- Jianqi Zhuguang ["Sword Force, Pearl Shine"] (Qingdao: Qingdao Baoshe, 1941) [Crane-Iron: binding unknown/]
- Wohu Canglong ["Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon"] (Qingdao: Qingdao Baoshe, 1948) [Crane-Iron: binding unknown/]
- Tieqi Yinping ["Iron Knight, Silver Vase"] (Shanghai: Lili Chubanshe, 1948) [Crane-Iron: binding unknown/]
- Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: Sword of Destiny (London: Little, Brown, 2016) [adaptation by Justin Hill of the above, through the screenplay by John Fusco: pb/]
previous versions of this entry