Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
Crane - Iron Pentalogy
Novles by Wang Du Lu
The author of the "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" novel is Wang Du Lu (1909 - 1977). He was a popular Chinese wuxia novelist in the 1930s. Wang Du Lu first started to write drama then shifted to wuxia. Love and tragedy are the center of his novels.
In total, Wang Du Lu wrote 16 wuxia novels. The most famous of these are in a sequence of five novels that are collectively called the Crane - Iron Pentalogy. "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" (the film) is based on the Pentalogy's fourth book. The pentalogy describes certain linked stories of love and hate which spanned three generations set in the late Qing Dynasty (1644 - 1911).
I have been lucky enough to have a chance to read the Crane - Iron Pentalogy, which is great literature. Unfortunately, as far as I know, Wang Du Lu's novels are not available in English - at least not yet. (A Reuters/Variety news on 10/17/01 states that Simon & Schuster paid six figures earlier this year for English-language rights to the Crane-Iron Pentalogy. If you have any additional information, please let me know.)
The following is an outline of these five novels.
Part I: Crane Frightens KunLun
Part II: Precious Sword, Golden Hairpin
Part III: Sword Force, Pearl Shine
Part IV: Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
Part V: Iron Knight, Silver Vase
|Part I: "Crane Frightens KunLun"
The story begins in the late section of the Qing dynasty.
The leader of the Kun Lun clan, called old Master Bao by others, killed one of his disciples in a rage because this disciple broke the rule of not having affairs with married women. He also contemplated killing Jiang Xiao He, the young son of the disgraced dead disciple, to avoid being revenged later. Jiang Xiao He escaped. He met a martial artist from Mount Jiuhua who kindly kept him and later taught him martial arts.
Twelve years passed, Jiang Xiao He was 26 years old and became a martial art expert himself. He swore to revenge his father's death. But he and Bao Ah Luan, his childhood friend and the granddaughter of old Master Bao, are deeply in love with each other. They found themselves with a love-hate dilemma. Bao Ah Luan decided to kill herself in exchange for her grandfather's life. Jiang Xiao He was too late to stop her. Seeing what he had wrought, old Master Bao was filled with regret over what he had done and also killed himself.
Jiang Xiao He sent Ah Luan's body back to their hometown. The memories were still fresh. Being deeply grieved, Jiang Xiao He went to Mount Jiuhua to live as a hermit. Later, he became an errant knight and sought to spend his life combating evil and helping the weak. He renamed himself Jiang Nan He (Southern Crane).
* The crane is a symbol of immortality in traditional Chinese culture.
** Two friends of Southern Crane - one of whom later became Li Mu Bai's father and another of whom was entrusted to be Li Mu Bai's master by Southern Crane - also figure in this novel.
|Part II: "Precious Sword, Golden
This story starts off thirty years after Southern Crane went to Jiuhua Mountain.
A handsome young martial artist named Li Mu Bai fell in love with the daughter of a security firm master. Yu Shu Lien was said to have no match in her martial art skills and beauty. However, Li Mu Bai soon learned that Shu Lien was already engaged to Meng Si Zhao - a son of Master Yu's friend who lived in another town and someone who Li Mu Bai had never met - by family arrangement. Li was extremely disappointed. Shortly afterwards, he decided to leave his hometown.
Master Yu was threatened by some enemies. Not wanting anything to happen to their daughter, Master and Madam Yu decided to send Shu Lien to Meng's family to get married. On the road, Master Yu was chased by the enemies. At one point, he also got framed and put into jail by a local officer who had been enamored on Shu Lien's beauty but had been rejected as his daughter's suitor by Master Yu.
Li Mu Bai, who was on his way off to Peking, accidentally met up with the Yu family. Li helped Shu Lien and Madam Yu to get Master Yu free but Master Yu had got very sick while in the jail and passed away soon after getting out. Before Master Yu died, Li Mu Bai promised him that he would ensure that Shu Lien and her mother got safely sent to Meng's family.
When this trio arrived at Meng's home, they learned that Meng Si Zhao had injured a local tyrant and escaped from his hometown. No one knew where he was.
Li Mu Bai went to find Meng Si Zhao for Shu Lien. In Peking he made friends as well as enemies because of his outstanding martial art skills. One of the former, Li Mu Bai was to only belatedly learn, was Meng Si Zhao. The two men became good friends.
Not knowing Meng's real identity (because he was going under a fake name at the time), Li Mu Bai told Meng about his unrequited love for Shu Lien. As a fugitive, Meng Si Zhao thought Li Mu Bai could give Shu Lien a better life. So he gave his blessings for Li Mu Bai to marry Shu Lien. When some dangerous enemies of Li Mu Bai was looking for Li, Meng Si Zhao went to fight against them - alone, knowing he probably wouldn't survive. Indeed, he did end up dying from the severe injuries he sustained in that battle.
After her mother died of sadness and illness, Yu Shu Lien left Meng's family to go to Peking to look for Meng Si Zhao (whom she did not know had perished in the meantime). Li Mu Bai felt he could not face Shu Lien upon Meng Si Zhao's death. Sometime later, he killed a local tyrant in order to protect his friend and was put in jail. Shu Lien risked her own life and broke into the jail in order to rescue him but Li Mu Bai refused to escape. In the end, Southern Crane himself got involved in this matter and took Li Mu Bai out of the jail by force. He left Li Mu Bai's sword at Shu Lien's bedside as an engagement gift (without Li Mu Bai's knowledge).
* At this point in the story, Li Mu Bai was around 25 years old while Yu Shu Lien was 17.
* The book also has a significant part which is about a prostitute Xie Cui Qian. She was introduced to Li Mu Bai by a friend of his when he just arrived Peking. Li Mu Bai felt Cui Qian was unusual because her eyes were similar to Shu Lien's. It turned out that Cui Qian came to Peking in order to escape from her savage and cruel husband, who had killed her father and forced her to marry him. This man -- Tiger Miao was his nickname -- just so happened to be the same person who killed Meng Si Zhao but later got killed by Yu Shu Lien. Although he had never before been close to a prostitute, Li Mu Bai and Cui Qian grew fond of each other. However, their story was to have a tragic end.
|Part III: "Sword Force, Pearl Shine"
Continued directly from the Part II.
After Li Mu Bai had been sprung out of jail, he went to Southern China under a different name as per Southern Crane's instructions and request. On the way he stole a martial arts book about paralyzing techniques from a monk named Jing Xuan. While trying to escape, he was chased and knocked into a river and disappeared.
Fast forward three years.
Yang Bao, a young martial artist, obtained 40 extremely valuable pearls. Many Jiang Hu people tried to get them from him. As a consequence of some of these attempts, Yang Bao's grandfather was killed and a sister of his was kidnapped. He himself got seriously injured and died.
Outraged by the injustice, and seeing that Yang Bao's sister was in grave danger, Yu Shu Lien returned to the Jiang Hu world to save the former. Yu Shu Lien showed herself to be brave as well as skillful. She injured a disgraced disciple of Monk Jing Xuan and the person died of the injury. Monk Jing Xuan attacked Shu Lien and paralyzed her twice. Due to her not know paralyzing techniques, she could not defeat him.
Unbeknownst to Shu Lien, Li Mu Bai - who by now had learned these paralyzing techniques - followed and helped her.
Convinced all the more of the pair being a perfect couple, Southern Crane ordered Li Mu Bai to marry Yu Shu Lien. Because they thought this act would dishonor Meng Si Zhao's memory, both Li and Yu refused.
The book ended with Shu Lien going with Li Mu Bai to Mount Jiuhua to practice paralyzing techniques.
* Yang Bao happens to be the biological brother of Lo Xiao Hu (Lo).
** Why didn't Li Mu Bai and Yu Shu Lien get married?
- Li Mu Bai wanted to be faithful to Meng Si Zhao, who was his good friend and eventually died for him. He did not want to take Shu Lien away from Meng, whether or not Meng was alive or dead. As for Shu Lien, she wanted to follow the old Chinese tradition whereby a woman of moral integrity would only go with one man in her whole life, and an engagement was almost as serious as a marriage. She told Southern Crane: "Even Brother Li (Mu Bai) wanted to marry me, I wouldn't marry him. I never forget I was engaged to Meng Si Zhao. I carry the hairpin his family gave me for the engagement with me all the time."
The traditional practice that Shu Lien thought that she ought to adhere to probably will be very hard to understand for Westerners and today's young Chinese, especially when it is realized that Shu Lien decided to be a widow to Meng Si Zhao even though she had in fact never met her betrothed. Something else that ought to be known about this Shu Lien's decision is that, even in olden times, it was not something that was practiced by every woman who ended up in a similar situation as her. Rather, it was one that was idealized as being of an extremely honorable and respectable order.
|Part IV: "Crouching Tiger, Hidden
Three years after the last events covered in the previous book.
Governor Yu of Xinjiang is called back to Peking to be in charge of the security of China's capital city. Yu Jiao Long, the 18 year old daughter of Governor Yu, was admired by many young women for her remarkable beauty and elitism. No one knew she was a martial art expert.
A skilled martial artist stole a precious sword named Green Destiny. Yu Shu Lien discovered it was Yu Jiao Long who had done so. She advised Yu Jiao Long to return the sword. This the younger woman did.
Yu Jiao Long was to be married off to an ugly scholar but she couldn't forget about the bandit Lo Xiao Hu whom she met three years ago in the Xinjiang desert. She stole the sword again and ran away at her wedding night. She fought with everyone who was in her way. At first, she eluded capture but her family paid dearly for her criminal actions. Her father had to resign from the position, and her mother got very sick and died. When Yu Jiao Long was captured and sent back to her home, she found herself friendless, with no one wanting to have anything to do with her.
Yu Jiao Long decided to jump off a cliff and by so doing, make people believe she had died. After doing so, she went and spent one more night secretly with Lo Xiao Hu, then left him forever (She could not become the wife of a bandit and thereby bring more shame to her aristocratic family). She headed back to the Xinjiang desert alone, from where she never returned.
* Unlike the movie of the same name, the CTHD book also contains lengthy portions about Lo Xiao Hu's background. E.g., details are provided re how his parents got murdered and how he got separated from his brother and sisters. Also, we learn that he knew that he sought to revenge his parents' death but didn't do so, on account of his feeling that he could only live for Yu Jiao Long after meeting her. So, instead, his youngest sister went after their family's enemies, with the help of Yu Shu Lien.
|Part V: "Iron Knight, Silver Vase"
On a snowy winter night, Yu Jiao Long gave birth to a boy in an inn on the road to Xinjiang. Unexpectedly (but on purpose), her son was taken by an officer's wife, who left a baby girl and a silver vase in his place.
After failing to find her son, Yu Jiao Long adopted the girl and named her Chun Xue Ping (Snow Vase). They lived together in the desert.
19 years later, Yu Jiao Long left the desert to look once more for her son but got very ill along the way. A young man named Han Tie Fang elected to take care of her.
As it so happened, Han Tie Fang was looking for his mother, an officer's wife who got kidnaped by bandits when he was a baby. Yu Jiao Long realized the young man was actually her son. Knowing herself she wouldn't live long because of the illness, she wanted to take him to the desert to be with Xue Ping. However, she was too ill to finish the trip and died on the way during a storm night (and without disclosing her relationship with him to her son).
Han Tie Fang went to see Chun Xue Ping but was driven away by the young woman and her friends. He later found out his mother was actually Yu Jiao Long, the 'friend' he buried in the desert. He also met Lo Xiao Hu, who believed he had a daughter and got captured for protecting her. Han Tie Fang managed to get Lo Xiao Hu free but Lo was already badly injured and died on an icy mountain soon afterwards.
Chun Xue Ping and Han Tie Fang had more adventures while looking for the woman who Han Tie Fang thought was his mother but turned out to be Chun Xue Ping's biological mother. Xue Ping and Tie Fang finally became a happy couple - the only happy couple of this pentalogy.
* Yu Jiao Long died at the age of 38. The book also mentioned that Yu Shu Lien died of illness back in her hometown five years earlier - when she was at her 38. After this happened, Li Mu Bai - who did not die in the CTHD book the way he did in the film - went to pay his respect to Shu Lien at her graveside.
© Michelle Yeoh Web Theatre