Exhibition on late Chinese martial arts writer Louis Cha strikes patriotic chord with visitors

Copies of the Ode to gallantry by Louis Cha Photo: IC

A visitor is dressed up for a photo at the Jin Yong exhibition in Shanghai on November 1, 2022. Photo: Xie Jun/Global Times Copies of Louis Cha's Ode to Bravery Photo: IC

A visitor is dressed up for a photo at the Jin Yong exhibition in Shanghai on Nov. 1, 2022. Photo: Xie Jun/Global Times

An exhibition about famous Chinese martial arts novelist Louis Cha (pen name Jin Yong) in Shanghai has awakened visitors’ collective memories of the fictional characters and legendary adventures created by the late Hong Kong-based novelist, considered the one of the most important icons of Chinese popular literature.

His novels are also seen as a patriotic symbol for many Chinese people, visitors told the Global Times on Tuesday, as the books are a blend of martial arts stories and traditional Chinese culture.

The Jin Yong exhibition, which opened at the Shanghai Library on Friday, was organized by the Hong Kong Economic and Trade Office in Shanghai of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region government to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the return of Hong Kong to homeland.

At the exhibition’s opening ceremony, Hong Kong Director General John Lee said Cha was the most widely read writer in the Chinese community and his influence on literature, film, television and popular culture had been boundless for the past 60 years, according to a report by Chinese media thepaper.cn.

Lee said he hopes visitors will enjoy Cha’s extraordinary life through the exhibition and savor the spirit of patriotism contained in his works, the report noted.

Divided into four sections, the exhibit features around 300 exhibits related to Cha’s life and novels, such as his personal collection of chess pieces, seals, different versions of his novels, and stage photos from TV dramas. and films based on his works.

The exhibit also features installations recreating scenes from the popular author’s novels where visitors can dress up as their favorite characters and take photos. There is also a sculpture of the eagle from Cha’s novel The Legend of the Condor Heroes.

Cha has written 14 martial arts novels in total, many of which were written while working for Hong Kong newspapers. The stories, which are often set against the backdrop of Chinese historical events, are beloved by Chinese readers around the world, not only for the story twists, but also for their depictions of traditional Chinese culture.

Besides being a successful novelist, Cha also became a famous icon of Hong Kong popular culture. Many famous cultural products have been produced based on Cha’s novels, such as songs written by Hong Kong lyricist and songwriter James Wong for films adapted from Cha’s works.

A visitor to the exhibition named Huang, from the post-1980s Chinese generation, told the Global Times that the patriotism in Cha’s novels is what appealed to him the most.

“I started reading Cha’s novels when I was in middle school. There were also many TV shows adapted from Cha’s novels at the time. What impressed me weren’t just the martial arts scenes, but also the chivalrous spirit of contributing to the homeland that Cha’s books have focused on, which I think is very powerful and inspiring,” she said.

She also said that Cha’s novels often focus on individuals making important life choices, which she believes can broaden the horizons of today’s younger generation.

Thomas Yeung, a Hong Kong economist and vice-dean of the Futian School of Finance, told the Global Times that Cha’s works have always promoted a chivalrous spirit and the concept of the Chinese nation.

Cha’s thought has influenced the minds of Hong Kong people by focusing on commitment, the willingness to help others, and surviving difficult situations.

Many Hong Kongers also have the personalities of the main characters depicted in Cha’s novels, he said.

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