Louis Cha (1924-2018) as Trinket, the Anti-hero of the Deer and the Cauldron (Text: Chapman Chen)

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Abstract: Universally acknowledged as the most influential Chinese chivalry novelist of the 20th Century, Louis Cha (Jin Yong), a Hongkonger, passed away on 30 October in Hong Kong at the age of 94. His novels been adapted for numerous movies, TV dramas, cartoons and video games. His fiction inherits Confucian benevolence, traditional spirit of chivalrous righteousness, and flexibility and agility specific to Hongkongers. According to Prof. John Minford, the English translator of Cha’s novel, The Deer and the Cauldron, Cha’s literary achievement is comparable to Alexandra Dumas, author of The Three Musketeers. The anti-hero character of the novel, Trinket, who cunningly profits as a go-between among various forces in the early Ching Dynasty, may symbolize pre-1997 Hongkongers. This novel and Alan Mak’s (2002) film, Infernal Affairs, may be two sides of the same coin. Hongkongers may learn from these two great works how to survive the current challenges to Hong Kong as posed by China.
 
Sometimes pro-Beijing, sometimes anti-CCP, and having gained immense wealth and fame, Louis Cha could be regarded as an embodiment of Trinket in actual life. According to critics like Joseph Y.Z. Lian, ethnic Chinese men of letters affected by a Pan-China complex, may eventually be won over by the Communist China, however anti-CCP right-winged they may have been.
 
Full Text:
Trinket symbolizes pre-1997-handover Hongkongers

 

The protagonist of The Deer and the Cauldron (1948) is a young fake eunuch known as Trinket in the Ching Dynasty who hunts with the hounds, and runs with the hare. Trinket is an anti-hero, who is uneducated, filthy-mouthed, comic, and cunning, though he is still capable of fraternity to his good friends at critical moments. He sneaks into the royal palace, gains the trust of the Emperor, and makes friends with corrupt officials, while maintaining ties with Taiwan, which was loyal to the last dynasty, and a secret cult with secret agents planted in the palace. Navigating subtly amongst these powers, he makes profits for himself and marries seven wives, while striking a balance between the interests of the establishment and the dissidents. He even led an army of the Ching Government and won a war against Tsarist Russia. Trinket symbolizes pre-1997-handover Hongkongers, who profited by acting as a go-between in the midst of the UK, Communist China, Taiwan, and the United States, yet were not without a moral bottom line.

 

The Deer and the Cauldron & Infernal Affairs

 

The Deer and the Cauldron and Alan Mak and Andrew Lau’s (2002) film, Infernal Affairs, may be regarded as two sides of the same coin.  Infernal Affairs tells the story of a police officer called CHAN Wing-yan, played by Tony Leung, who infiltrates the triads. Distrusted by both the police force and the triad society, the hero eventually dies a tragic death. This may insinuate the dangerous predicament of post-1997 Hongkongers, a sort of international orphan abandoned by the British and deeply suspected by Communist China (cf. Wing-sang Law 2002).

Louis Cha as Trinket 

Louis Cha could be regarded as an embodiment of his character, Trinket. With his kungfu novels, he gained immense wealth and fame. Sometimes pro-China and sometimes against CCP, he ingeniously won the praise of the British Hong Kong government, Communist China, HKSAR Government, Western powers, and indeed most ethnic Chinese all over the world. And his third wife is a beautiful lady thirty years younger than him.

 

Targeted during the 1967 Riots in HK

 

Born in Hangzhou, Cha graduated from the Law School of Suzhou in 1948. He moved to Hong Kong in 1948, immediately before the takeover of China by the CCP. In 1955, he published his first Chinese chivalry novel, The Book and the Sword, in the New Evening Post, under the pen name Jin Yong. He founded Mingpao, a leading Hong Kong newspaper, around 1959. He was said to be on a list of prominent people being targeted for assassination during the 1967 riots in Hong Kong because of his critical stance against the Cultural Revolution.

 

Affected by Pan-China complex?

 

In the late 1970s, Cha began to be involved in Hong Kong politics. He was became the first non-Communist Hongkonger to meet with Deng Xiaoping. He was a member of the Hong Kong Basic Law drafting committee but resigned in protest after the Tiananmen Square incident in 1989. In 1993, he sold Mingpao to the pro-Beijing Hong Kong entrepreneur, Yu Pun Hoi, and then retired. Cha was also part of the Preparatory Committee set up in 1996 by the Chinese government to monitor the 1997 transfer of sovereignty. He donated a luxury studio and an enormous library to China and was the Vice Chair of the China Writers Association in China from 2009 through his decease.  He was a good friend of the China billionaire Jack Ma, chairman of e-commerce giant Alibaba, which owns the South China Morning Post. He was awarded a Knight of the Legion of Honor (1992) and a Commander of the Order of Arts and Letters (2004) by the British French government, and a Grand Bauhinia Medal (2000) by the Hong Kong SAR Government. In July 2010, Cha earned his Doctor of Philosophy in oriental studies (Chinese history) at St John’s College, Cambridge.

According to critics like Joseph Y.Z. Lian, ethnic Chinese men of letters affected by a Pan-China complex, may eventually be won over by the Communist China, however anti-CCP right-winged they may have been.


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