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Martial arts novelist Liang Yusheng dies

The Beijing News
January 27, 2009

Today's papers announce the news that Liang Yusheng (梁羽生), an acclaimed martial arts novelist, passed away in Sydney on January 22. He was 85.

Liang got started writing martial arts, or wuxia 武侠, fiction in the 1950s, and continued writing until the mid-80s. In 1984 he moved to Australia and largely vanished from the public eye, unlike his contemporary Louis Cha (aka Jin Yong), who regularly appears in the media to this day.

Liang's most famous works are Romance of the White-Haired Maiden (白发魔女传, loosely adapted by Ronny Yu into the 1993 film The Bride With the White Hair) and Seven Swordsmen of Mount Heaven (七劍下天山, most recently adapted by Tsui Hark into the 2005 film Seven Swords).

The Beijing News gives the following brief summary of his life:

Liang Yusheng was born Chen Wentong on March 22, 1924, to an educated family in Mengshan, Guangxi. After the anti-Japanese war was won, Liang went to Guangzhou's Lingnan University to study international economics. After graduating he became editor of the supplement to Hong Kong's Ta Kung Pao newspaper. In 1954, a dispute in the martial arts world between the White Crane style and [Wu style] Tai-chi escalated from a war of words in the newspaper to an actual fight between the heads of the two schools. Lo Fu, who was general editor of the New Evening Post at the time, serialized Liang's The Dragon Fights the Tiger (龙虎斗京华) to capitalize on martial arts fever. This novel is seen as the beginning of "new wuxia." Over the three decades beginning in 1954, when he started writing "new wuxia novels," through 1984, when he declared that he was "putting away his sword," Liang wrote 35 novels in 160 volumes, totalling 10 million characters.

In an interview with Lo Fu published a few years ago in Southern Metropolis Daily, journalist Li Huaiyu provides some details about newspaper politics at the time Liang started writing:

The New Evening Post's big news headline on that day was "Two fighters face off at 4 o'clock before 5,000 Hong Kong spectators." Having a flash of inspiration, Lo Fu persuaded Liang Yusheng to write a wuxia novel. The day after the fight, New Evening Post ran a notice that it would serialize wuxia fiction to satisfy readers' desire for fighting. The following day, The Dragon Fights the Tiger, the product of "one day of planning" on Liang's part, began publication. Later, Lo invited Louis Cha to "join the fight," and thus The Book and the Sword shook the world.
Lo: There was the new Commercial Daily, you see, and they saw the readers the New Evening Post was getting by running Liang's wuxia fiction, so they asked if he could write for them. We had to agree to that, because we had to support the Commercial Daily, you know. We had launched it as a leftist paper to take over from Ta Kung Pao and Wen Wei Po, which had been involved in a lawsuit with the Hong Kong government that accused Ta Kung Pao, Wen Wei Po, and New Evening Post of instigating social unrest. The three papers could potentially have been shut down, so we immediately began plans for another paper, the Commercial Daily. But when we had it about ready, the lawsuit ended with the other papers not getting shut down. So the Commercial Daily carried on, but we decided to turn it into a more neutral paper to attract more readers. The content would be more plebeian and not so leftist. Since wuxia attracted readers, we naturally let Liang write for them. But we had to have it too, so we immediately found Louis Cha, who was quite happy to do it.

Incidentally, a film of the 1954 martial arts face-off is available on Youtube (beware the cheesy sound effects).

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There are currently 1 Comments for Martial arts novelist Liang Yusheng dies.

Comments on Martial arts novelist Liang Yusheng dies

Sad news. The first martial arts book I read was his Seven Swords.

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