Paper Swordsmen: Jin Yong and the Modern Chinese Martial Arts Novel
360pp. February 2006
Paper Swordsmen: Jin Yong and the Modern Chinese Martial Arts Novel
Author: Hamm, John Christopher;
The martial arts novel is one of the most distinctive and widely-read forms of modern Chinese fiction. In Paper Swordsmen, John Christopher Hamm offers the first in-depth English-language study of this fascinating and influential genre, focusing on the work of its undisputed twentieth-century master, Jin Yong.

Through close readings of Jin Yong’s recognized masterpieces, Hamm shows how these works combine a rich literary tradition with an extraordinary narrative artistry and an evolving appreciation of the political and cultural aspects of contemporary Chinese experience.

"Perceptive and well written. . . . Highly recommended." —China Review International (spring 2007)

"Paper Swordsmen is not merely a history of China’s most important martial arts writer and a critique of his expansive oeuvre, but more importantly an elegantly written, exhaustively researched, and fascinating analysis of the role of popular fiction in the construction of cultural identity. Hamm beautifully weaves close readings of Jin Young’s novels with solid historical research and critical theory, particularly that of Pierre Bourdieu, to produce a clear, relatively jargon-free analysis that will appeal to the sensibilities of martial arts fiction fans and literary critics alike." —MCLC Resource Center Publication (January 2006)

"An eye-opener and an absolute pleasure. Hamm’s immensely readable introduction to Jin Yong’s writing and activities, his analyses of individual texts, and his tracing and placing of these works within the relevant sociopolitical and literary fields will surely be warmly welcomed by scholars and students of Chinese literature and culture." —Journal of Asian Studies

"Paper Swordsmen is by far the best treatment in a Western language of a long-neglected topic in Chinese popular culture. Primal notions of bravery, health, cultivation, skill, justice, loyalty, and romantic love are at the core of martial arts fiction. In the modern context of Jin Yong’s Hong Kong, issues of foreign incursion, cultural rootedness, nationalism, and a sometimes-flawed ‘national character’ also come to the fore. Hamm weaves these strands together and sets them perceptively into their Hong Kong/Guangdong context as well as the larger Chinese cultural world." —Perry Link, Princeton University

"Hamm’s book is comprehensive and meticulous, touching on a wide range of issues, from generic studies to the question of canon, from readers’ responses to media marketing tactics, and from national allegory to political maneuvering. He asks intelligent questions and answers them from theoretically stimulating perspectives." —David Der-wei Wang, Harvard University

Author: Hamm, John Christopher;
Read the introduction (PDF).
Preface and Acknowledgments

A Note on Conventions

1 Introduction: The Literary and Historical Contexts of New School Martial Arts Fiction

2 Local Heroes: Guangdong School Martial Arts Fiction and the Colony of Hong Kong

3 The Marshes of Mount Liang Beyond the Sea: Jin Yong’s Early Fiction and Postwar Hong Kong

4 National Passions: From The Eagle-Shooting Heroes to The Giant Eagle and Its Companion

5 The Empire of the Text: Jin Yong and Ming Pao

6 Beyond the Rivers and Lakes: The Smiling, Proud Wanderer

7 Revision and Canonization: From Ming Pao to The Collected Works of Jin Yong

8 Beyond Martial Arts Fiction: The Deer and the Cauldron

9 Coming Home: Jin Yong’s Fiction in Mainland China

10 Jin Yong at the Century’s End: The Wang Shuo Incident and Its Implications


Select Glossary of Chinese Characters