When You Are Affected By The Death of Someone You Never Met
Sometimes I wondered how people could be affected by the death of someone they have never met. I would reckoned that most of the time, these are probably feelings towards famous people, especially those who had left behind great works enjoyed by many. Recently, the passing of a famous stranger affected me in a bizarre way. I became terribly saddened by the passing of a great Wu Xia novelist: Mr Louis Cha, or more affectionately known by his pen name as Jin Yong (金庸). Honestly, I have never imagine how his death would affect me the way it did when it actually happened.
In fact, it also affected people like Jack Ma. He penned a tribute to his passing, ‘If not for you, I wonder if there would have been an Alibaba’
Only upon his death and upon reflection, I come to realise how deeply influenced I was by his novels, much more than what I thought it would have been. Coming from a non-mandarin speaking family and an angmo pai school, learning mandarin has always been a challenge. Hence, it was no surprise that I had to go through chronic tuition intervention to level up my mandarin standard.
I was stuck with my Chinese tuition teacher (Mrs Lee) since primary 3 for 7 years. And unfortunately, she passed away during my year-end break in Secondary 3 due to brain aneurysm. As such, I had to deal with my ‘O’ level without her help, which was a pretty horrifying process (I won’t elaborate further on my misery though). Like many typical Chinese teachers, Mrs Lee often drilled me on the fundamental of memorising Chinese characters, which I really appreciated. But unlike many Chinese teachers, one thing she did right was to introduce Wu Xia through her deep understanding of Jin Yong’s novels. Mrs Lee was a voracious reader – I remembered her carrying at least one Chinese novel in her bag no matter where she travelled. Sometimes, she would share with me the content of her new book she read, but none fascinated me more than the rich Wu Xia world created by Jin Yong.
Photo credited to 香港蘋果日報
I fondly remembered asking her some questions pertaining to story plots after Legend of the Condor Heroes. That was my first Jin Yong inspired drama I watched when I was much younger. Mrs Lee would spent a fair amount of paid tuition time sharing with me the sequel and other plots from Jin Yong’s novels. I am sure to many people, this may seemed like a complete waste of paid tuition fee. But the personal immersion made me enjoy learning Chinese language and its culture more than just remembering weird strokes.
The real process of mastering a language often involves deep appreciation of its culture, literature and arts associated with the language that you are learning. In the late nineties, I also started playing a Taiwanese made game, inspired by all 14 Jin Yong’s novels. It is called 金庸群侠传. I have also tried playing other Chinese games, but none could surpass this classic DOS game. That game is a legend in the history of Wu Xia games. In fact, the desire to understand the narrative of the game made me overcome the mental challenge of reading traditional Chinese characters, which was pretty amazing knowing how that motivated me. Eventually, it also led me to my first Chinese comics in life – Return of the Condor Heroes.
Screenshot in 金庸群侠传
All these droplets of events accumulated and as I looked backwards now, it all made sense. From being able to read Chinese lyric during KTV sessions to conducting Good Death workshops in Mandarin, the practical usage was enormous. In fact, it probably played a hidden role in in my decision to take up Chinese Philosophy module from University of Hong Kong (HKU) via eDX platform.
Every journey has its destination. Every journey has its starting point.
And my starting point in learning the Chinese language is through Jin Yong. Though I have never met him, but his work had significant impact on me in my earlier years.
Photograph: Bobby Yip/Reuters