It is 10:30 pm on a Thursday evening and my dad is propped before
the TV, all ready for his favourite gongfu show "The Snow Is Red".
What devious plot will our ruthless protagonist Nie Xiaofeng,
demoness of the evil Ming Yu sect, hatch this week to
dominate the pugilistic world? What will become of her love-hate
relationship with the righteous swordsman Luo Xuan? And what
about the love triangle between her twin daughters and the
new-generation hero Fang Zhaonan??
Vengeance, feuds, love triangles, chivalry vs. evil
confrontations spanning three generations, and of course plenty of
impressively-named martial arts skills, including a miraculous
snow-inducing swordplay (to freeze the opponents?) - all the good
ole ingredients which make a good swordfighting drama are
No wonder my dad is hooked. So am I.
After a hard day's work battling deadlines and people alike, it
is good to relax and indulge in a bit of escapism before sleep
catches on and arrrgh... the next working day arrives.
Most of us, average Singaporeans, live in a none-too-exciting
world of routine - dividing time between work, family or social
activities, sleeping and not forgetting eating, the favourite
Singaporean pastime. Certainly, there is no time to go hunting for
some long-lost pugilistic manual and then becoming an instant
martial arts exponent with no equal.
The people we meet in our daily lives are rarely as obviously
good or plainly wicked as the story characters we see. In the
wuxia world, you can always tell the good guys by their nicer
headgear and uprighteous gait when they walk. The bad ones will
snarl, squint their eyes and heavily made-up eyebrows, and then cast
that loud mocking laughter at their hapless victims. Predictability
and familiarity breed a certain attraction.
Which is what makes swordfighting sagas such an absorbing watch.
Cliches are a-plenty but it is precisely these that people want to
see. Who can resist that good-triumph-over-evil theme, no matter how
tried - and trite - the plots may be? Or that hero-gets-heroine and
live-happily-ever-after ending? The cliches provide a certainty, a
comfort, that things will turn out well and that good will beget
good. In real life, we are never quite sure.
Furthermore, we mere mortals need alter egos once in a while.
Watching the drama allows one to relive the hero's trials and
tribulations, often climaxing in some pugilistic meet where the hero
ultimately (and inevitably) wins the duel, in the process avenging
his father/teacher/lover and/or ridding the pugilistic world of some
evil sect leader. How noble.
Lovers in fighting shows also tend to be steadfast - "till death
do us part" exists - unlike us normal beings or even TV characters
in contemporary serials who are ever so fickle (Qiong Yao
The setting in "gu dai", an ancient faraway era (usually
the Song or Ming dynasty with that ponytail-on-top hairstyle I like
best), helps us to become immersed in the story. The longer ago, the
better. That way, we are not "hampered" in our room for imagination
by historical details, which tend (unfortunately) to be more vividly
known the more recent the history.
Hence, jumping up roofs with qing gong and immobilising
people with dian xue are as natural as can be (in fact, it
would be downright offensive for the characters not to perform such
acts!) All kinds of mountain-moving nei gong and fantastic
gravity-defying feats become believable.
What's more, there is no such thing as an incurable disease or
ailment. You can count on the shen yi - literally, godly
physician (there is one in every story) - to concoct a cure. Our
hero Luo Xuan recovered the use of his legs, after some
twenty years of paralysis, when his disciple transferred his leg
tendons to him. Even modern medicine today has not gone so far!
Isn't the wu xia world simply wonderful?
Back to the "The Snow Is Red" which is (sob) nearing the end of
its long run. No need to fret. News has it that "The Condor Heroes"
will air on Sunday nights. My dad is all ready to be glued to the
goggle box. So am I.
Ong Hwee Yen 1999