天龍八部 (Demi-Gods and Semi-Devils)

tian long ba bu So I finally finished watching 天龍八部 (Tian Long Ba Bu), also known as Demi-Gods and Semi-Devils. This is story written by 金庸 (Jin Yong) and adapted into TV series multiple times. The one I watched was the newest one adapted by China in 2003. It consisted of 40 episodes due to the fact the story is just that long. At first I wanted to watch it at 1.5x speed given that I was busy with work and wanted to complete the series quickly, however my Mandarin skill wasn’t good enough to comprehend it when they were speaking that quickly.

I honestly think this adaptation was poorly done. The acting was okay, but the directing was horrible. The storyline just didn’t flow that well and it felt like it was stitched together chapter by chapter. The ending was also really abrupt and left me with a feeling of incompleteness. If this story is like the other masterpieces that 金庸 (Jin Yong) has written, the only reason I can come up with for this being poorly done is the directing. The sceneries were really pretty and the fighting choreography was pretty good, but the acting and directing was just not that great.

Anyway, the story left several plot holes which I’m not sure if it ever got explained in the original novel.

BEGIN SPOILERS

慕容復 (Murong Fu) had 2 followers: 包不同 (Bao Butong) and 風波惡 (Feng Boe), and they are respectively 3rd brother and 4th brother. Assuming 慕容復 (Murong Fu) is the 1st brother, who was the 2nd? (Brothers in this context need not be blood-related)

無崖子 (Wu Ya Zi), head of 逍遥派 (Xiaoyao Clan), apparently was married to 李秋水 (Li Qiushui), his younger disciple sister. However, it was later revealed that he was in love with the sister of 李秋水 (Li Qiushui). 李秋水 (Li Qiushui) and her sister look very similar. 無崖子 (Wu Ya Zi) kept a drawing of a lady by his sides at all time till his death. However since the drawing had a mole on the lady’s face, it was revealed that 無崖子 (Wu Ya Zi) was indeed in love with the sister of 李秋水 (Li Qiushui). Before 無崖子 (Wu Ya Zi) died, he had told 虛竹 (Xu Zhu), the next head of 逍遥派 (Xiaoyao Clan) to look for this lady and ask her to teach him martial arts. However, this lady never appeared in the story and that just felt weird…

There’s this monk in Shaolin Temple only known as the Sweeper Monk. The only thing we know about him is that he’s been hiding hiding in the Shaolin Temple for over 40 years (even longer than 蕭遠山/Xiao Yuanshan and 慕容博/Murong Bo) and has awesome martial arts skills. However, the back story of the sweeper monk was not revealed and my only guess is that it’s revealed in one of Jin Yong’s other stories.

Near the end of the story, 游坦之 (You Tanzhi) also known as the Iron Clown (鐵丑/Tie Chou) donates his eyes to 阿紫 (A Zi) to give her back sight. However, being childish and immature, 阿紫 (A Zi) doesn’t realize the sacrifice the Iron Clown has done and she runs away from him. 蕭峰 (Xiao Feng) tells her that she is now forever indebted to this young man and has the responsibility to take care of him. The story ends with 蕭峰 (Xiao Feng) committing suicide to prove his loyalty to the Liao Empire (Qidan people). 阿紫 (A Zi) decides to commit suicide with him, but before she does, she pulls her eyes back out and throws it to the Iron Clown and says she does not want to be indebted to him anymore and jumps off the cliff. The Iron Clown, unable to take this, commits suicide by bashing his head on the side of the cliff. The story ends with everyone crying… WHAT!?!?! WHAT THE HECK!?!?! HOW CAN YOU END THE STORY LIKE THIS!?!?!? I would’ve been mildly fine with the story ending with 蕭峰 (Xiao Feng)’s suicide, but how can you end the story like this?

UPDATE:
Another thing I didn’t get was at the beginning where a bunch of high level martial artists had to hide their identity. I understand they were tricked by 慕容博 (Murong Bo), where he hopes by creating a conflict between the Song and Liao empire, it would make taking a chunk of the Song empire and rebuilding his Yan Empire easier. I also understand those high level martial artists were tricked into believing that a high level martial artist 蕭遠山 (Xiao Yuanshan) from Liao empire was going to sneak into Shaolin Temple and steal all their martial art manuscripts. However, what I don’t understand is, why did they have to hide their identity? Why did they have to dress up in all black and cover their faces (like ninjas). What they were doing wasn’t something sneaky… And worst of all, you’d think as a high level monk, you wouldn’t attack a defenseless mother carrying a baby, while the others have occupied the father from protecting them.

END SPOILERS

One thought on “天龍八部 (Demi-Gods and Semi-Devils)

  1. Hi, regarding Tian Long Ba Bu. I haven’t read the book, read Duan Yu’s story translated into english online, not the part I wanted as of course Qiao Feng is my main focus but the book is very good, even funny to read from what I read. My knowledge aside from some forums of the story is from the Hong Kong 1996 version (I’ll assume you have seen it but if not this version is much more accurate than that one, better done effects due to budget and being made later of course. Kung fu is performed better, more natural, on the whole better looking actors for their role played, better scenery… well it is China vs some set in Hong Kong…), I prefer China’s for sure but I do miss the chi dragons and the colourful sword chi blasts from 1996, much more fun than the more accurate portrayal in China’s version. I definitely have a more positive view of this series than you, I felt it was done well for the most part but anyway my main goal is to try and address your plot questions.

    The ending was one rare instance where this version is less faithful than Hong Kong’s. The book ends with where the final part of China’s starts if I remember right. That bastard Murong Fu’s madness is taken care of earlier whereas the book and the 96 version ended correctly with this, I thought it was a horrible ending cos that guy was a real son of a bitch (Well we never saw his mother but I assume it runs in the family going by him and his father) he deserved a terrible death or torture over a blissful ending where he becomes emperor of all he surveys (Children on a beach)… All the more so as the great hero of the story, the greatest of the 3 mains had not such a happy ending at all to understate it…. If Tian Long Ba Bu has a heavy tie with Buddhism, which it does from what I’ve heard, the 8 main fighters each being demi gods and semi devils of Buddhism hence it’s alternate name Demi Gods Semi Devils… It has somehow divorced another Indian principle Karma…. Treachery leads to ignorant bliss whereas heroism leads to suicide and martyrdom?
    My opinion of why it ended this way was to keep Qiao Feng in the spotlight, Murong Fu was cast despicably, I cannot imagine this not to be so I even have heard he is more likable in the novel…. This I need to see for myself as we all know his end result I can’t imagine… Well I guess same can be said for Darth Vader, then again no cos Vader had raw talent at the very least and Murong was anything but that, he had talent yes but he fell far short of expectations and resorted to deceit and murder to compensate…. Having Qiao Feng dying as the ending makes him the star, the show started with him so fitting it ends with him (And that bitch, as you said ungratefully throwing her donated eyes away) They couldn’t end it without showing the fate of Ah Zi though actually now that I think about it I am unsure if this last scene is 100% accurate. In the HK version, after they fall off Tie Chou jumps off after Ah Zi, followed by a lot of crying from the survivors. (Heck I am a strong man myself when it comes to holding back tears but to see a great hero die in front of me in real life I would be too) but as we saw here Tie Chou smashed himself to death first…. Is just weird, anyhow I never liked the ending of this story at all. Something so fundamentally wrong about it, in my mind and I’m sure many others Jin Yong’s greatest hero having such a crappy fate, whereas the other heroes get to live longer and we assume get more powerful, this great warrior’s life is cut to his 30s, like Bruce Lee…. Oh one area where this series isn’t good for me is the main music, compared to other mainland series anyway, the awesome Condor Heroes/She Diao Ying Xiong Zhuan’s opening is unmatched, the ending music soppy but better than this song. The music in the series was good though, even the scenes that used Terminator 2 music hehe but I like Cameron’s work so no matter.

    Regarding Murong Fool’s followers, good point I never took note! I didn’t realise there may have been more, who in their right mind would follow this maniac?! Same can be said for real history I guess…

    Sweeper monk is never explained, ever. When I was a kid and watched the 1996 version, I thought the title was literal, we’d be seeing demi gods and semi devils and when sweeper appeared I thought he was a demi god! He was more powerful in this version, he just looked at Xiao Yuan Shan and Murong Bo to overwhelm them, Qiao Feng was totally useless against him.(Who is a bigger badass in the 96 version, in some fights at least, he takes on Murong Fu, Ding Chun Qiu AND You Tan Zhi not for the few seconds in this recent version but he has a full on fight and beats them all easy, really was no need for Duan Yu and Xu Zhu to help. Murong Fu even got his sword broken… Well that happens a lot anyway haha. Generally they had more fights in 1996, that never happened in the book) So useless he did nothing, whereas he actually does blast him in the book and the mainland one as you saw after watching his father die. ‘Die!!!!!!!!!’ ‘Hao Gong Fu’…. He got that out of the sweeper at least but of course he’s no match for him, the book Qiao Feng broke the monks ribs with this blast, no small feat… Anyway no we know nothing about him, he was there 41 years not 40 if I remember right. I actually was told one CRAZY theory…. Now about Xu Zhu being told to receive instructions from a woman, who never appeared. That SAME woman is theorised to be the MONK!??? Timeline wise its possible, that woman disappeared over 40 years ago and she can leech chi so her prospects for power are endless and I was told sweeper used non Shaolin techniques, looking at Ah Zhu it’s possible also for women to convincingly appear as men in this story, though how do they mimic the voice? Anyway I don’t accept this crazy theory!

    Another, which sounded like a nice one but doesn’t work for some continuity reasons is that Sweeper is Murong Bo’s own father! Who also took the dark path and was dying from it but was healed by the previous secret master of Shaolin….
    The moderate of an extinct Wuxia forum I used to frequent even said Sweeper is an incarnation of Buddha himself so no reason to compare his powers to the others cos he is just too out of their league!
    What does frustrate me with Jin Yong is how he builds these superhumans yet somehow China still gets owned in wars with barbarians…. Senseless, the Mongols in Condor Heroes were nothing compared even to the weakest villian characters but somehow they take China in battle?
    I think he’s a great mystery character, it took him to defeat these two old troublemakers of Wulin and as far as I know Murong Bo is in fact the most powerful villain in Jin Yong world, along with Jiu Mozhi that Tibetan. He also beat them way too easily it was scary, always someone stronger as they say. It was also a letdown, cos of how hyped Qiao Feng was in the Hong Kong version, along with his father and Murong Bo and this stranger just rewrites the league tables out of nowhere, I couldn’t look at Qiao Feng as the unstoppable after this cos we saw there is at least one that can own him easily.

    Finally the assassination at Yanmen Pass, it was a dishonourable attack so they wanted it secret, sure anyone nearby will note a slaughter happened but they can’t say they saw the faces of who did it. Clearly they were guilt ridden for their crime and they raised Qiao Feng as a Han to atone for it, you are right in how cruel they were in the execution of it and it wasn’t lost on Xiao Yuan Shan that’s for sure!

    The last part was very different in this version compared to 96, 96 was a showcase of mass fighting, Liao vs Qiao Feng and co, they were continually overwhelmed but they sure killed many enemies. This one was less entertaining cos Qiao Feng doesn’t hurt a single countryman during his escape (He scares them with dragon sounds), while it is more noble we watch these shows for action!

    I’ll leave with my own plothole, cop out. The poison that is used a few times to incapacitate a whole crowd, surely a cheap way to take people down. Why don’t they use it every scene then? I don’t think the tv ever explained it and poison is used often in Jin Yong, it sure is a lame way to avoid fighting and watching a film or show that’s kung fu based to see people avoiding fighting is just bull.

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