Zhang Wuji

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Zhang Wuji
The Heaven Sword and Dragon Saber character
Created by Jin Yong
In-universe information
GenderMale
Affiliation
Family
  • Zhang Cuishan (father)
  • Yin Susu (mother)
  • Xie Xun (godfather)
Masters
Zhang Wuji
Traditional Chinese 張無忌
Simplified Chinese 张无忌

Zhang Wuji (張無忌; Zhāng Wújì) is the fictional protagonist of the wuxia novel The Heaven Sword and Dragon Saber by Jin Yong.

Contents

Fictional character biography

Zhang Wuji's parents are from opposing sides of the wulin (martial artists' community). His father, Zhang Cuishan, is an apprentice of Zhang Sanfeng, the highly respected leader of the "orthodox" Wudang Sect; his mother, Yin Susu, is the daughter of Yin Tianzheng, the chief of the "evil" Heavenly Eagle Cult. Zhang Wuji was born on a reclusive volcanic island, where he spent his childhood with only his parents and his godfather, Xie Xun. When he was about ten years old, his parents brought him back to China and they soon found themselves the target of several martial artists trying to force them to reveal the whereabouts of Xie Xun, who possesses the highly coveted Dragon-Slaying Saber. His parents refused to betray Xie Xun and took their own lives.

The orphaned Zhang Wuji is initially mortally wounded but he wanders into an isolated valley by chance and discovers the long-lost Nine Yang Manual. He masters the inner energy skills described in the book, uses them to heal himself and becomes a formidable martial artist in the process. Later on, he helps to resolve the conflict between the "evil" Ming Cult and the six major "orthodox" sects, which are bent on destroying the cult. He earns the respect of the cult's members and becomes its leader after mastering the skill "Heaven and Earth Great Shift". He reforms the cult and helps to mend its relations with other sects.

Throughout his adventures, Zhang Wuji gets romantically involved with four maidens: Yin Li (Zhu'er), Xiaozhao, Zhou Zhiruo and Zhao Min. Yin Li turns out to be Zhang Wuji's maternal cousin, even though at that time cousin marriage is allowed, the one Yin Li love is the teenage Zhang Wuji, not the grown up Zhang Wuji. Meanwhile Xiaozhao has to return to Persia to succeed her mother as the Persian Ming Cult's leader.

Although Zhou Zhiruo is in love with Zhang Wuji, she has no choice but to turn against him because she is bound by an oath she made to her martial arts master, Abbess Miejue of the Emei Sect, who hates anyone related to the Ming Cult. Before her death, Miejue devises a vicious scheme for Zhou Zhiruo to seize the Dragon-Slaying Saber and Heaven-Reliant Sword by exploiting Zhang Wuji's love for her apprentice. Zhou Zhiruo secretly carries out this plan and attempts to push the blame to Zhao Min. Later, she turns vicious after Zhang Wuji publicly embarrasses her by abandoning her for Zhao Min just as she and Zhang Wuji are about to be married.

Zhao Min is a Mongol princess and formerly Zhang Wuji's arch-rival as she keeps thwarting his plans to improve the Ming Cult's relations with the "orthodox" sects. However, Zhang Wuji still succeeds in gaining the trust of nearly all the "orthodox" sects. Although they start off on opposing sides, they gradually fall in love, and Zhao Min reluctantly turns against her fellow Mongols to help Zhang Wuji.

Towards the end of the novel, Zhang Wuji saves Xie Xun, who has been captured, and exposes the truth behind the causes of the conflicts between the Ming Cult and the "orthodox" sects. He becomes a key figure in leading the wulin and rebel forces to overthrow the Mongol-led Yuan dynasty, but decides to retire from the wulin after mistakenly believing that the Ming Cult's members are plotting to betray him. He decides that Zhao Min is his true love and they leave to lead a reclusive life far away from society.

Jin Yong's evaluation of Zhang Wuji

In the afterword of the novel, the author Jin Yong explains that Zhang Wuji has less heroic traits compared to Guo Jing and Yang Guo, the protagonists of the first two books in the Condor Trilogy, and he has a fair share of strengths and weaknesses. His personality is strongly influenced by social factors and people around him, and he has no chance of escaping from harsh reality most of the time. Although he chooses Zhao Min in the end, his love life is in a mess as he is very indecisive on which of the four maidens he truly loves. He may be a formidable martial artist just like Guo Jing and Yang Guo, but he is not suited to lead a martial arts sect. On a personal level, he is sincere and self-sacrificing towards his followers, but he lacks the ambition and decisiveness that would enable him to remain in power. In fact, he only becomes the Ming Cult's leader because he is eager to please his followers, who insist that he leads them after he saves their lives. [1]

Martial arts and skills

In film and television

Notable actors who have portrayed Zhang Wuji in films and television series include Derek Yee (1978), Adam Cheng (1978), Tony Leung (1986), Jet Li (1993), Steve Ma (1994), Lawrence Ng (2000), Alec Su (2003), Deng Chao (2009) and Zeng Shunxi (2019).

Family tree

Notes

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References