The Condor Trilogy and New Jin Yong Wuxia Universe: Detailed Explanation

New Jin Yong Wuxia Universe

There's an upcoming spin-off of the classic Wuxia series, The Legend of the Condor Heroes, called New Jin Yong Wuxia Universe, lately renamed to The Legend of Heroes. 

It has five sub-units with 60 episodes in total and will be divided into two parts. The first part is expected to air this first week of February. 

Wuxia fanatics are very excited because The Condor Trilogy is the finest example of a classic Wuxia and has been adapted numerous times in movies and television. The current edition seems to be the most detailed as it is divided into different sub-plots focusing on important characters.

The of New Jin Yong Wuxia Universe

However, those drama fans who are not familiar with Jin Yong's Condor Trilogy might view this latest spin-off as confusing (just like the Sword and Fairy editions 😂)

So here's a detailed explanation of the background of each novel in the trilogy, the major characters, and the several drama adaptations.

Main characters in The Legend of the Condor Heroes. From left: Huang Yi as Mu Nianci, Wang Hongyi as Yang Kang, Bao Shang En as Huang Rong, and Ci Sha as Guo Jing 

The Condor Trilogy

The Condor Trilogy was serialized in Hong Kong newspapers in the 1950s. It was written by Louis Cha Leung-Yung, also known as Louis Cha, who wrote his wuxia novels under the pen name, Jin Yong

He was born on February 6, 1924, in Zhejiang, China, and worked as a journalist and translator for the Ta Kung Pao newspaper in Shanghai. 

New Jin Yong Wuxia Universe
Louis Cha wrote his wuxia novels under the pen name, Jin Yong

In 1948, he was transferred to the Hong Kong office of Ta Kung Pao newspaper and was later moved to the New Evening Post as a Deputy Editor. He later founded Ming Pao newspaper in 1959 where he published his Condor Trilogy. 

Due to the style of his writing, the setting of the story, and the characters of his novels, his works quickly gained popularity in Chinese-speaking areas. 

It eventually caught the attention of movie and TV producers in Hong Kong, mainland China, and Taiwan, and began adapting his novels into live-action. 

Before his death on October 30, 2018, Louis Cha was able to watch all the drama adaptations of his Condor Trilogy.  

He has many wuxia novels published in the 1950s, however, his most popular series was The Condor Trilogy:

  • First series - The Legend of the Condor Heroes (1957)
  • 2nd series - The Return of the Condor Heroes (1959)
  • 3rd series - The Heaven Sword and Dragon Saber (1961)

So let's talk about each of these chapters a bit:

1. The Legend of the Condor Heroes

This is the first novel in the trilogy. The Chinese title of this novel has a literal translation of the Story of the Eagle Shooting Hero. 

But for marketing and cinematic purposes, the "eagle" word was replaced with "condor" when this novel was adapted into film and series, which became the subject of debate since Condor is not a bird native to China. Condor is part of the family of flying birds, such as vultures, native to North America. Nonetheless, the marketing stunt was successful as it caught the attention of the public, so it stayed that way. 

Main characters: 
  • Guo Jing
  • Huang Rong
  • Yang Kang
  • Mu Nianci
Guo Jing and Yang Kang's parents

1. Guo Xiaotian - He is Guo Jing's father. He has a sworn brother named Yang Tiexin. While their respective wives were pregnant they made a pact that if their children were all males, the kids would become sworn brothers like them, but if they were born of the opposite sex (female and male), their kids would marry. 

2. Li Ping - She is Guo Jing's mother. After surviving the raid on Niu Family Village where her husband, Guo Xiaotian, was killed, she was captured by Duan Tiande of the Jin Empire forces. But she managed to escape to Mongolia, where she later gave birth to her child, Guo Jing. Towards the end of the novel, she commits suicide to remind Guo Jing of his Han Chinese heritage. In this way, Guo Jing would not help Genghis Khan conquer the Song Empire.

3. Yang Tiexin - He is the sworn brother of Guo Xiaotian and the father of Yang Kang. He specializes in using the Yang Family Spear. When the Jin Empire forces attacked the village of Niu where he lives with his wife Bao Xiruo, Guo Xiaotian, and Li Ping, he managed to escape and lived far away from the people he knew. He renamed himself Mu Yi and adopted a girl named Mu Nianci.

After so many twists and turns he got reunited with his wife, Bao Xiruo, but their son, Yang Kang refused to acknowledge him. However, his adopted daughter, Mu Nianci, became close to Yang Kang. He committed suicide later with his wife when they were cornered by the forces of Wanyan Honglie.

4. Bao Xiruo - She is Yang Tiexin's wife and Yang Kang's mother. One day, she saves a Jin Empire warrior who turns out to be the cunning prince, Wanyan Honglie. While tending his wounds, Wanyan Honglie falls in love with her but she is already married to Yang Tiexin. So Wanyan Honglie ordered his men to attack the Niu Family Village to take Bao Xiruo by force. Wanyan Honglie brought her to his territory. Thinking her husband already died during the attack, Bao Xiruo marries Wanyan Honglie but remains faithful to the memory of Yang Tiexin. She later reunited with Yang Tiexin.

For detailed description of Guo Jing and Yang Kang's character, read our related post HERE 

The Plot:

The story of The Legend of the Condor Heroes is set during the warring period of the Han Chinese-led Southern Song Dynasty and the Jurchen-led Jin Dynasty.

During this warring period, the Mongol tribes led by Temüjin (Genghis Khan) emerged to be the rising power in the north. 

New Jin Yong Wuxia Universe
Hu Ge as Guo Jing in the 2008 edition of The Legend of the Condor Heroes

Gou Jing grows up in Mongolia under the care of Genghis Khan. He learns martial arts from the "Seven Freaks of Jiangnan" and Ma Yu from the Quanzhen School, as well as archery skills from Jebe

Due to his upbringing in the Mongolian peninsula, Guo Jing embraces the customs of the Mongols and becomes an expert in archery and horseback riding. He can shoot two eagles/vultures in a single arrow, thus, he became known as the Eagle (Condor) Hero. 

Yang Kang was born in the Jin Empire and was raised as a Jurchen nobleman. Although he is mentored by Qiu Chuji of the Quanzhen School, he also secretly learns the evil "Nine Yin White Bone Claw" technique from Mei Chaofeng.

It is through these two main male protagonists that the story of The Legend of the Condor Heroes revolves.

Guo Jing and Yang Kang, however, have opposing characters. Guo Jing is an honest, loyal, and righteous man, but slow-witted. While Yang Kang is clever and wise but scheming and treacherous. Guo Jing's lover in the story is Huang Rong while Yang Kang's lover is Mu Nianci. 

New Jin Yong Wuxia Universe
Hu Ge as Guo Jing and Ariel Lin as Huang Rong in the 2008 The Legend of the Condor Heroes

The main plot of The Legend of the Condor Heroes follows Guo Jing and Huang Rong's adventures and their encounters with the "Five Greats", the five most powerful martial artists in Wulin or Jianghu (martial art world). 

They become entangled with Yang Kang and Mu Nianci due to the issues of loyalty towards their Han Chinese heritage. Guo Jing tries hard to convince Yang Kang to help him defend the Song Empire against the Jin Empire but Yang Kang has been blinded by his ambition for power and comfort.

New Jin Yong Wuxia Universe
Liu Shishi as Mu Nianci and Justin Yuan as Yang Kang in the 2008 The Legend of the Condor Heroes

There have been countless movie and TV adaptations of The Legend of the Condor Heroes since 1976, and the most popular in recent times are the 2008 and 2017 editions: 
  • The Legend of the Condor Heroes (2008) - Hu Ge as Guo Jing, Ariel Lin as Huang Rong, Justin Yuan as Yang Kang and Liu Shishi as Mu Nianci
  • The Legend of the Condor Heroes (2017) - Yang Xuwen as Guo Jing, Li Yitong as Huang Rong, Chen Xingxu as Yang Kang, and Meng Ziyi as Mu Nianci
2. The Return of the Condor Heroes. 

This is the second novel in The Condor Trilogy. The story revolves around the protagonist, Yang Guo, and his martial arts master, Xiaolongnü.

This is the story of a romantic relationship between a teacher and a disciple. However, in the martial arts world, this relationship is forbidden, nonetheless, Yang Guo and Xiaolongnu fall in love. 

New Jin Yong Wuxia Universe
Wu Lei as the young Yang Guo, a mischievous and playful orphan in The Romance of the Condor Heroes (2014)

The main protagonist, Yang Guo, is the orphaned son of Yang Kang and Mu Nianci. He was adopted by Guo Jing and Huang Rong when his mother died.

Guo Jing and Huang Rong then sent him to the Quanzhen School on Mount Zhongnan for better guidance in moral values and to teach him "orthodox" martial arts. 

In Quanzhen school, Yang Guo is often bullied by his fellow students so he leaves the school and ventures into the nearby Tomb of the Living Dead, where the Ancient Tomb School is based. 

New Jin Yong Wuxia Universe
Michelle Chen as Xiaolongnu and Wu Lei as the young Yang Guo in The Romance of the Condor Heroes

There, he meets Xiaolongnü, a mysterious maiden of unknown origin with powerful skills. After initially arguing, he gives up and asks her to take him as her disciple/student. 

Together, they live in the tomb/cave for many years until Yang Guo grows up. Eventually, they develop romantic feelings for each other, but their romance is forbidden by the prevailing norms of the martial arts world. 

New Jin Yong Wuxia Universe
Michelle Chen as Xiaolongnu and Chen Xiao as Yang Guo in The Romance of the Condor Heroes (2014)

Throughout the story, their love meets with several tests, such as the misunderstandings that threaten to tear them apart, and their encounter with Gongsun Zhi, whom Xiaolongnü almost marries at one point. 

Finally, after their reunion and marriage, Xiaolongnü leaves Yang Guo again, owing to her belief that she cannot recover from a fatal poison. 

Yang Guo then wanders around the martial arts world alone and encounters several formidable martial artists and a giant eagle. His fighting skills eventually improved. 

His many adventures gradually molded him into a courageous hero and became the most powerful martial artist of his time. 


New Jin Yong Wuxia Universe
Huang Xiaoming as Yang Guo and Liu Yifei as Xiaolongnu in The Return of the Condor Heroes (2006)

The most recent (21st century) adaptations of this novel:
  • The Return of the Condor Heroes (2006) - Huang Xiaoming as Yang Guo, Liu Yifei as Xiaolongnu, Wang Luoyong as Guo Jing, and Kong Lin as Huang Rong 
  • The Romance of the Condor Heroes (2014) - Chen Xiao as Yang Guo (Wu Lei played his young version), Michelle Chen as Xiaolongnu, Zheng Guolin as Guo Jing, and Yang Mingna as Huang Rong. It's interesting to note that Chen Xiao and Michelle Chen fell in love while filming this drama and got married in 2016.
3. The Heaven Sword and Dragon Saber. The main protagonist is Zhang Wuji

Zhang Wuji is not related to any of the main characters of the first two novels but his powerful weapons have connections to Yang Kang, Yang Guo, Guo Jing, and Huang Rong. 

This last chapter of the trilogy is meant to showcase the powerful weapons and supreme capabilities of martial artists, thus considered the heart of wuxia.

Set in China towards the end of the Mongol-led Yuan dynasty, the story revolves around a pair of highly coveted and allegedly unrivaled weapons in the martial arts world, the Heaven-Reliant Sword and the Dragon-Slaying Saber. 

According to a widely circulated mantra, either or both of these swords allow the wielder to rule the Wulin (martial arts community), which is divided into an "orthodox" side comprising schools such as Wudang and Shaolin, and an "evil" side represented by the Ming Cult, which is also unflatteringly called the "Demonic Cult". 

New Jin Yong Wuxia Universe
Two popular Zhang Wuji. Lawrence Ng in the 2000 version and Joseph Zeng in the 2019 version

At the start of the novel, the Heaven-Reliant Sword is in the possession of Abbess Miejue, the leader of the "orthodox" Emei School, while the Dragon-Slaying Saber is seized by the "Golden-Haired Lion King" Xie Xun, a senior member of the Ming or Demonic Cult.

The protagonist, Zhang Wuji, has a mixed background, his father, Zhang Cuishan, is an apprentice of Zhang Sanfeng, the highly revered founder of the Wudang School. His mother, Yin Susu, is the daughter of Yin Tianzheng, the chief of the Heavenly Eagle Cult which is affiliated to the Ming Cult. 

New Jin Yong Wuxia Universe
Chen Yuqi, Joseph Zeng, and Zhu Xudan in the 2019 The Heaven Sword and Dragon Slaying Sabre

Zhang Wuji became an orphan when her parents committed suicide after being cornered by different martial arts figures who forced them to reveal the location of Xie Xun.

The two titular weapons, the Heaven Reliant Sword and the Dragon Slaying Saber, were forged from the Heavy Iron Sword, which Yang Guo wielded in The Return of the Condor Heroes.

Yang Guo chanced upon the Heavy Iron Sword while he was recovering from the Love Flower's poison and the loss of his right arm. 

When Yang Guo and Xiaolongnü departed Xiangyang, they left the sword to the couple Guo Jing and Huang Rong. The sword was melted, adding a special steel material, forming the two weapons.

In the third edition of the novel, the Heaven Sword was forged from Yang Guo's Gentleman Sword and Xiaolongnü's Lady Sword while the Dragon Saber's origin remained unchanged. 

The Dragon Saber was given to Guo Jing and Huang Rong's son Guo Polu, while their younger daughter Guo Xiang inherited the Heaven Sword.

The content of the hidden book and scrolls, in addition to the fact that the weapons can only be damaged and broken when used against each other, was the source of the claim that whoever possesses the Dragon Saber will rule the world and yet only the one who possesses the Heaven Sword can stand against the wielder of the Saber.

This novel also has many adaptations with different titles but the most popular are the following:
  • Kung Fu Cult Master (1993, Hong Kong movie) starring Jet Li as Zhang Wuji and Sammo Hung as his master, Zhang Sanfeng
  • New Kung Fu Cult Master 1 (2022, Hong Kong movie) starring Raymond Lam as Zhang Wuji and Donnie Yen as his master, Zhang Sanfeng
  • The Heaven Sword and Dragon Saber (2000, series) - Lawrence Ng as Zhang Wuji or Cheung Mo-Kei
  • The Heaven Sword and Dragon Saber (2009, series) - Deng Chao as Zhang Wuji, Ady An as Zhao Min, and Liu Jing as Zhou Zhiruo
  • Heavenly Sword and Dragon Slaying Sabre (2019, series) - Joseph Zeng as Zhang Wuji, Chen Yuqi as Zhao Min, and Zhu Xudan as Zhou Zhiruo
The newest version of The Legend of the Condor Heroes characters


The upcoming New Jin Yong Wuxia Universe has 60 episodes all in all. It has five sub-stories and will be aired in two parts. The first part is expected to air this coming February.

This newest spin-off of The Legend of the Condor Heroes might not follow the original script of the source novel but will most likely tell the story of the new generation of great warriors taking new adventures in the martial arts world, showcasing chivalry, heroism, and friendships.

Vengo Gao as Ouyang Feng
Chen Duling as Feng Heng

The characters, however, remain the same. With some twists and improvements, and new weaponry. Here are the five sub-units and the main characters:

For the background of each character: 
Read our separate post, New Jin Yong Wuxia Universe characters

1. Eastern Heretic and Western Venom. Number of Episodes: 8
  • Gao Wei Guang as Ouyang Feng/Western Venom
  • Zhou Yiwei as Huang Yao Shi/Eastern Heretic
  • Chen Duling as Feng Heng
  • Luo Qiu Yun as Dan Min
2. Southern Emperor and Northern Beggar. Number of Episodes: 8
  • Peter Ho as Duan Zhixing
  • Hani Kezi as Yi Huo
  • Ming Dao as Hong Qigong
  • Jin Meng Yi as Hong Qigong (young)
3. Duel on Mount Hua. Number of Episodes: 6
  • Zhou Yi Wei as Huang Yaoshi
  • Gao Wei Guang as Ouyang Feng
  • Peter Ho as Duan Zhixing
  • Ming Dao as Hong Qigong
  • Yu Xiao Wei as Wang Chongyang
4. Nine Yin True Sutra. Number of Episodes: 8
  • Zhou Yi Wei as Huang Yaoshi
  • Meng Zi Yi as Mei Chaofeng
  • He Yu as Chen Xuanfeng
  • Chen Du Ling as Feng Heng
5. Hot Blood. Number of Episodes: 30
  • Ci Sha as Guo Jing
  • Gong Jue Rui as Guo Jing (young)
  • Bao Shang En as Huang Rong
  • Wang Hong Yi as Yang Kang
  • Xia Tian as Yang Kang (young)
  • Huang Yi as Mu Nianci
For the background of each character: Read New Jin Yong Wuxia Universe characters

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