The Smiling, Proud Wanderer has to be my favourite Jin Yong story. This story is known for its great divide among those in the martial arts world with regards to technique and internal strength. Like most of Jin Yong’s stories, this story also touches on the themes of hypocrisy and the definitions of good and evil. However, unlike the other stories that only touch on these themes briefly, this story puts its magnifying glass right on them.
Asides from the themes, I have to say that the characters of this story are some of the most complex characters written by Mr. Jin Yong up to date. For example, one of the most iconic villains in the world of martial arts, Dongfang Bubai (roughly translates as “The East Never Falls”) manages to spark inspirations amongst many creative individuals (ie. script writers, directors, writers, and even song writers) despite actually having appeared in only one chapter in person. If anyone is ever looking for some great classic villainous lines, then look up Dongfang Bubai. He would put most psychotic, twisted criminals to shame with a eerily sense of elegance. Yes, he’s not just fabulous, but he’s also damn elegant.
Another character that I would like to mention, and actually one of my favourite Jin Yong characters (besides Zhao Min…no, I like Zhao Min more actually), is Lin Pingzhi. He is probably one of the most complicated characters that Jin Yong has ever written. His name, Pingzhi, means “of the ordinary” (approximate translation), yet his life is anything but ordinary. He came from a great background, but his family eventually settled to be ordinary merchants because they wanted to avoid the martial arts worldly events. Coming from a rich background, Lin Pingzhi was quite the spoiled brat. However, despite his young and impulsive nature, he seemed to have a heart of gold and was willing to fight injustice whenever he witnessed it. However, all of his goodness eventually came to an end when his family was brutally murdered because of the greed of the martial arts world wanting to steal his family’s kungfu manual. Then, just when he thought he had finally find someone trustworthy to help him to avenge for his family’s death, he realized that person was no different than all the other people who were out to get him. Thus, he was forced to grow up fast and learned to scheme to get his ways, all with one thing in his mind – revenge. Unfortunately, his life met with a tragic end…His life was nothing like the name that his parents have given him at all.
Anyways, here are the motion screen versions of this story that one must see:
1) The Swordsman II (1992) – Starring Jet Li, Rosamund Kwan, Michelle Reis, Brigritte Lin
This is a very loosely adapted version of the story, but it is probably the most iconic version of the story…character-wise. Not only is the cast visually stunning, great fight scenes are ensured with Jet Li around.
2) State of Divinity (1996) – Starring Jacky Lui, Fiona Leung, Cherie Chan, and Timmy Ho
This is probably one of the less stunning adaptations of the story. However, this version seems to follow more faithfully than other versions of the actual story. Timmy Ho’s version of Lin Pingzhi is as much of “a must see” as Chen Xiao’s version in 2013. Timmy Ho’s acting has always been subtle but impressive (yes, I have been watching a lot of old dramas recently). It’s unfortunate for the viewers that Timmy Ho has decided to live as a monk, away from the worldly life.
3) Swordsman (2013) – Starring Wallace Huo, Joe Chan, Yuan Shanshan, and Chen Xiao
One of the significant creative measures that this version has taken is turning Dongfang Bubai into a real female character and forcing a love story between her, Linghu Chong, and Ren Yingying. I was hesitated to watch this version of the story at first because of the changes they have made to such an iconic character. However, I’m glad that I have given this version a chance. The cinematography and casting are perfect (maybe with the exception of Yuan Shanshan’s version of Ren Yingying, it seems the stylist has a grudge against her or something). Just a warning though, please forget that this is Jin Yong’s The Smiling, Proud Wanderer when watching this version; please treat this as an entirely different story.
Okay, let’s end this post with the theme song of this story, A Sound of Laughter in the Vast Sea, composed by Wong Jim (aka James Wong). This is a timeless piece of music that laughs at the greeds and struggles of the martial arts world; why all the competitiveness for power and fame when one can live simply and happily? The singing doesn’t start until about one and half minute into the music.
Here’s the Cantonese version of the song, sang by Sam Hui. His voice is more gentle than Wong Jim’s version. Nonetheless, both versions depict a light-heartedness and desire to be away from all the power-hungriness of the martial arts world.