Yang Guo

Yang Guo, style name Gaizhi (改之), is the fictional protagonist of Jin Yong's wuxia novel The Return of the Condor Heroes. His romantic affair with his teacher Xiaolongnü is one of the classic love stories in wuxia fiction. One of the main themes in the novel is his personal development from an immature and rebellious youth into a legendary hero as he grows older.[original research?] He bears a striking resemblance to his father Yang Kang for his cunning and mercurial nature, but also shares traits of the kindness and devotion of his mother Mu Nianci


Birth and heritage

Yang was born to Yang Kang and Mu Nianci. He traces his lineage to Yang Zaixing, a Song general who participated in the war against the Jin Empire. His father is the antagonist of the first novel The Legend of the Condor Heroes, and was notorious for having committed several acts of depravity.

Yang's birth was briefly mentioned at the end of the first novel. His mother met Guo Jing and Huang Rong shortly after giving birth to him. Guo, who was Yang Kang's sworn brother, hoped that Yang's child will not follow in his father's footsteps. He named the baby boy "Guo" (過), which means "wrong" or "fault", and gave him a style name "Gaizhi" (改之), which means "to correct it". Guo hopes that Yang Guo would redeem his family's honour, which had been tarnished by Yang Kang's past actions, and promised Mu Nianci that he will teach Yang martial arts when the boy becomes older.

Early life

Yang became an orphan at the age of 11 after his mother died. His mother taught him some of the skills she learnt from his grandfather Yang Tiexin and the Beggars' Sect's former chief Hong Qigong. He roams the jianghu after his mother's death and meets Guo Jing and Huang Rong by coincidence. They recognise him as the son of Yang Kang and Mu Nianci, after noting that he looks like his late parents. Their suspicions are confirmed when Yang demonstrates some combat skills that only his mother knew, and the couple take him into their care. Huang is suspicious of Yang as she feels that he bears an uncanny resemblance to his late father. She opposes her husband's decision to instruct Yang Guo in martial arts and only teaches him literary arts such as poetry and Confucian classics.

Guo brings Yang to the Quanzhen Sect on Mount Zhongnan for better guidance and tutelage orthodox martial arts and moral ethics. In an earlier misunderstanding, Guo fought and defeated several Quanzhen students, who mistook him for an enemy. The students vent their frustration on Yang after Guo leaves, picking on him and bullying him all the time. Yang's master Zhao Zhijing is prejudiced against him and does not teach him any practical martial arts. Yang is unable to bear with the ill treatment and flees from Quanzhen after injuring one of the bullies.

Yang ventures into the nearby Tomb of the Living Dead and meets Xiaolongnü and Granny Sun. Xiaolongnü refuses to let him stay in the tomb and asks Sun to send him back to Quanzhen. Sun likes the boy and defends him from the bullies. The scuffle gradually escalates into a fight between Sun and Quanzhen members. Sun is accidentally killed by Quanzhen's Hao Datong during the fight. Xiaolongnü appears at a critical moment and rescues Yang.

Love relationship with Xiaolongnü

Yang becomes a student of Xiaolongnü of the Ancient Tomb Sect and they live together in the Ancient Tomb for many years. During this time they develop a romance and their teacher-student relationship is merely superficial. Yang meets Guo Jing and Huang Rong later and they immediately oppose his decision to marry his teacher. Their romance is seen as taboo in the Confucianist Chinese society of that era. Yang's impulsive personality and lack of respect for other senior pugilists, compounded by the rebellious streak in him, makes the situation worse. He leaves with Xiaolongnü after the quarrel.

Yang becomes an outcast of the wulin (martial artists' community) and is despised by fellow pugilists. However he saves Guo Jing's family from danger time and time again as he still respects Guo and Huang as his surrogate uncle and aunt. He is separated from Xiaolongnü numerous times in the story briefly over misunderstandings but they are always reunited again later.

From rebellious youth to legendary hero

Throughout the story, Yang encounters several elite martial artists, including Huang Yaoshi, Ouyang Feng and Hong Qigong of the Five Greats, who teach him some of their skills. He employs the skills he mastered to his advantage and uses them for greater purposes as he gradually matures. He creates a new palm technique called Melancholic Palms, a hybrid skill incorporating elements of all he had learnt earlier.

Yang initially suspects that Guo Jing and Huang Rong are responsible for his father's death. He meets Jinlun Guoshi and agrees to help the Mongols kill Guo. However, he becomes so impressed with Guo's loyalty to his native land and strong sense of chivalry that he refrains from killing Guo on a few occasions when he had a chance to. He eventually gives up his desire to avenge his father after hearing about his father's villainy and misdeeds. Yang still maintains respect for his father despite learning of his father's depravities. He replaces the original headstone (inscribed by Qiu Chuji) on his father's grave, with a new one bearing the words "Yang Kang - The Honourable Father. Erected by his unworthy son Yang Guo." (先父楊府君康之墓,不肖子楊過謹立). He takes Guo Jing's side and aids the people in defending the city of Xiangyang from Mongol invaders. At the end of the novel, he is reunited with Xiaolongnü, temporarily halts the Mongol invasion by slaying Mongke Khan, and becomes a national hero.

During the 16 years of separation from Xiaolongnü, Yang further improves on his martial arts and progresses swiftly under the tutelage of the Condor. He travels around the land and does a series of chivalrous deeds to help the people. He is hailed as the "Condor Hero" (神雕俠) and his accomplishments became legend. At the end of the novel, Yang is named as the "Western Eccentric" of the new Five Greats.

Martial arts and skills

Mu Nianci

Yang's mother Mu Nianci taught him some of the martial arts she learnt from Yang Tiexin and Hong Qigong. However, due to his young age and his mother's demise, Yang was unable to fully master those skills or utilise them in combat. When Yang first met Guo Jing and Huang Rong, the latter managed to deduce that he is the son of Yang Kang and Mu Nianci by observing his movements.

Ouyang Feng

At the beginning of the story, Yang encounters the insane Ouyang Feng, who likes him and accepts him as a godson. Ouyang teaches him the Toad Skill (蛤蟆功). Yang used this skill once in his childhood on the Wu brothers when he was bullied by them and seriously injured Wu Xiuwen. He uses the skill again when he is bullied in Quanzhen Sect and knocks out one of the bullies.

He meets his godfather for the last time when the latter is fighting with Hong Qigong. Ouyang teaches him the Serpent Staff techniques before his death.

Quanzhen Sect

In Quanzhen, Yang becomes a student of Zhao Zhijing, one of the senior disciples of the "Seven Immortals". However, Zhao harbours a grudge against Guo Jing after the latter defeated him in an earlier misunderstanding. Zhao vents his frustration on Yang after Guo leaves. Zhao is determined not to instruct Yang in martial arts and merely teaches him the literary and verbal forms to disguise his negligence. Yang is able to recite the verses smoothly but has not been taught how to apply them in actual combat.

Yang only learnt how to apply those verses in martial arts after he joined the Ancient Tomb Sect. He uses the verses to help himself and Xiaolongnü master the Swordplay of Jade Maiden.

Ancient Tomb Sect

While in the Ancient Tomb, Yang learnt the sect's martial arts from Xiaolongnü. Some of the skills are listed as follows:

Ancient Tomb Sect qinggong (古墓派輕功)

Fist of Beauties (美女拳法)

Palm of Infinity Web (天羅地網式)

Swordplay of Jade Maiden (玉女素心劍法), based on the Jade Maiden Heart Sutra (玉女心經)

Five Poisons Secret Manual

Yang Guo was saved by Cheng Ying after he was injured in a fight against Jinlun Guoshi. Cheng brings him to a secluded hut in a mountainous area to recuperate. On the same night, Li Mochou comes to kill Cheng and her cousin Lu Wushuang. Lu passes Yang the Five Poisons Secret Manual (五毒秘籍), which she stole from Li Mochou, and tells him to memorise the book before destroying it.

Nine Yin Manual

In an early chapter, Yang and Xiaolongnü were fleeing from Li Mochou when they stumble upon a secret chamber in the Ancient Tomb. They discover carvings of the Nine Yin Manual on the stone walls and practise them. Although Yang does not manage to fully master all the skills in the manual, he integrates the fragmental knowledge he gained from those carvings into his own martial arts and his prowess improves tremendously.

The manual is also a legacy of Yang and Xiaolongnü. In The Heaven Sword and Dragon Saber, the Yellow Dress Maiden defeats Zhou Zhiruo's evil Nine Yin White Bone Claw (an unconventional skill derived from the manual) with an orthodox version of the Claw. Her surname is briefly mentioned to be "Yang" and she hints to Zhang Wuji that she is a descendant of the Condor Hero Couple (Yang Guo and Xiaolongnü), by saying: "Behind Mount Zhongnan in the Tomb of the Living Dead, the Condor Hero Couple disappears from the jianghu" (終南山後, 活死人墓, 神雕俠侶, 絕跡江湖).

Hong Qigong

Yang meets Hong Qigong and Ouyang Feng on Mount Hua. Hong and Ouyang have been rivals for a long time and they fight again on the summit. Neither emerges the victor after several rounds of fighting. After many days, both of them are physically weakened after pitting their inner energy against each other. Both of them thought of new techniques to counter each other's moves but fatigue prevents them from doing so. Yang has been an observer throughout this time and they decide to use him as an intermediary, performing each technique for the other to see. Yang learns the Dog Beating Staff Technique (打狗棒法) from Hong.

Huang Yaoshi

Yang meets Huang Yaoshi once while he is escaping from Li Mochou together with Lu Wushuang and Cheng Ying. Huang helps them defeat and drive away Li, and then chats with Yang. Huang likes Yang and teaches him the Finger Flicking Skill (彈指神通) and Jade Flute Swordplay (玉簫劍法). Huang also teaches Yang how to utilise his inner energy to its full potential.

Dugu Qiubai

In a dramatic twist of events, Guo Jing's daughter Guo Fu attacks Yang in a heated argument and slices off his right arm with a sword. Yang is weakened and delirious from losing too much blood, but manages to stagger away and is later saved by the Condor. The Condor was once a companion of Dugu Qiubai, a great swordsman who lived long ago and whose skills were unparalleled in his time.

The Condor helps Yang recover from his wound and leads him to the items left behind by Dugu. Yang inherits Dugu's Heavy Iron Sword (玄鐵重劍) and learns Dugu's swordplay techniques from the Condor. Dugu's swordplay skills are advantageous to the handicapped Yang as they focus on great strength rather than fancy moves. Yang trains with the Condor and overcomes his disability to wield the Heavy Iron Sword with one arm.

Yang confronts a group of pugilists on Mount Zhongnan later and defeats them easily with the Heavy Iron Sword. After his separation from Xiaolongnü again, he returns to join the Condor and continues with his training for another seven years.

Melancholic Palms

Yang's agony and misery from being separated from Xiaolongnü spurs him to create a new set of palm techniques, known as the Melancholic Palms (黯然銷魂掌), which incorporates elements of all the martial arts he learnt in his whole life. The movements are based on Yang's emotions, as the more dejected he feels, the greater the power of the skill.

Yang spars with Huang Yaoshi and Zhou Botong with his new skill and they are impressed. Huang commented that Yang's new palm techniques can rival Guo Jing's Eighteen Dragon Subduing Palms. Zhou even goes down on his knees to beg Yang to teach him the Melancholic Palms.

Last update 16-06-2012

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