Wuxia (martial arts and chivalry) novels and films are very popular in China, but while most people are content just reading or watching the exploits of fictional heroes, some go to extremes in order to experience these adventures themselves.
Jin Yong is considered one of the greatest and most popular wuxia writers in history, and his novels have enjoyed massive success among both Chinese communities around the world and have been translated in several foreign languages. His works have inspired dozens of martial arts movies and TV series, and if news reports in Chinese media are to be believed, they’ve even pushed some die-hard fans to live their lives behind, venture into the mountains, and train like Yong’s fictional characters.
The first reported case of an obsessed fan of Jin Yong novels retreating into the mountains to practice martial arts was reported back in March of this year. According to an article on Chinese website Zhihu, a 20-something man by the name of Xiaohao, who had been a big fan of Jin Yong’s book since childhood, had retreated into the mountains to live as a recluse and practice martial arts in order to become a “generational hero”.
Photos posted online showed young Xiaohao practicing with a traditional Chinese spear, reportedly fashioned after the one Lu Bu wielded in the fictional masterpiece Romance of the Three Kingdoms. Apart from spear warfare, the would-be martial artist also practiced unarmed combat, like boxing and kung-fu. Whenever he isn’t training, he is reading wuxia novels, obviously.
So why didn’t Xiaohao just train at home? Well, apparently he felt modern society was much too noisy, making it impossible to focus during his training. He felt that he wasn’t progressing in his quest to become a martial artist like the heroes of his favorite books, so he decided to retreat into the mountain.
Xiaohao’s case is not a singular one, however. Back in September, Chinese media featured the story of another fan of Jin Yong’s novels, who had also retreated into the mountains to train in martial arts.
Surnamed Tai, the wuxia fan had apparently become so fascinated with Jin Yong’s fictional stories that he wanted to recreate them in real life. He had become so engulfed in these fantasies that he had started identifying with Yang Guo, the protagonist of “The Return of the Condor Heroes” by Jin Yong. His role play got out of hand when he hit and broke the glasses of a workmate named Yin, because he associated him with Yin Zhiping, another character in the novel. That cost him his job.
After becoming unemployed, Tai decided to immerse himself into Jin Yong’s fantasy world even more, leaving behind society and going into the mountains to train in martial arts. He even dug himself a hole in the ground to mimic the Ancient Tomb where fictional hero Yang Guo trained and met his love interest, Xiaolongnü.
In photos posted on Weibo, China’s version of Twitter, Tai can be seen reading Jin Yong’s novel in his hole in the ground, and pumping his fist into the air in a victorious gesture. Like Xiaohao, he dreams of becoming a real-life wuxia hero and potentially meeting his very own warrior princess.