Heavenly Sword and Dragon Saber is the third and final in the Condor Trilogy produced by Zhang Jizhong. The first two being The Legend of the Condor Heroes (2003) and The Return of the Condor Heroes (2006). Although I’ve not seen any of the other renditions of the Condor Trilogy I can say that I have really enjoyed these three series.
The Heavenly Sword and Dragon Sabre takes place during 14th Century China during the Mongolian Yuan Dynasty, roughly 100 years after the events of Return of the Condor Heroes. After decades of struggles, famine, and bitterness which the Chinese citizens blamed on the Yuan Dynasty’s misgovernment, the Martial Arts sects have begun to rebel. Prince Ruyang asks Cheng Kun, a Shaolin monk with an ulterior motive, for a plan on how to deal with the rebels. “The wielder of Heavenly Sword and/or Dragon Sabre rules the world.” This well known legend in the Martial Arts community is the impetus for the tale of Zhang Wuji. The story begins with how his parents met, then tells his trials as an adolescent, proceeds to relate his rise to prominence and reveals the secret behind Heavenly Sword and Dragon Sabre and ends with the confluence of Wuji’s love life, the Martial Arts sects’ long standing grudges, and cruel fate..
I’m making this episode guide as I watch the series then saving this post as a draft. I don’t like to give spoilers so don’t read any further, however there are so many characters, Sects, places and stuff happening that I needed to go back and read my cliff notes when I’d forget something.
Episode 1: The series starts with Zhang SanFeng (Yu ChengHui) leader of the WuDang Sect reminiscing about his last days at Shaolin when he was a boy. He is telling this story to his first generation pupils, all but the third disciple, Yu DaiYan (Zhang Heng Ping) was not present. DaiYan was on his way back to Mt. WuDang when he saw the members of Heavenly Eagle Cult killing members of Sea Sand Sect who had come into possession of the Dragon Saber. DaiYan comes to the rescue and fends off the remanding Heavenly Eagle Cult only to have the last remaining Sea Sand Sect member die leaving the Dragon Sabre in his hands. Yu DaiYan is a righteous man and wants nothing to do with the Dragon Sabre so he decides to bring it to his master Zhang SanFeng. On his way he gets ambushed by more members of Heavenly Eagle Cult and gets poisoned by Yin SuSu (Wang Yuanke) silver needles.
Yin SuSu is the daughter of the Heavenly Eagle Cult’s founder, Yin TianZheng (Chen Zhi Hui). She and her brother, Yin YeWang (Guan Xiao Yu) are then able to take the Dragon Sabre. Yin SuSu stops her brother from killing Yu DaiYan, she then dresses as a man and hires the Dragon Gate Escort Agency to deliver the injured Yu DaiYan back to WuDang. At the foot of WuDang imposter’s posing as WuDang disciples take the wounded Yu DaiYan off of the Dragon Gate Escort Agency and then start to torture him for the location of the Dragon Saber. Yin SuSu had followed the Escort Agency then the imposter’s and attempted to rescue him but the imposter’s were just too powerful for her. Zhang CuiShan (Ken Chang) had descended down the mountain to look for DaiYan. He rescues his brother and returns him up the mountain.
Episode 2: Yu DaiYan will be injured for life so Zhang CuiShan is sent out to investigate the matter. He first meets up with Du DaiJin (Bai Hai Long) of Dragon Gate Escort Agency and threatens and interrogates them about what happened to his brother and who was it that paid them to escort him back to Mt. WuDang. Arriving in Lin’an home to the Dragon Gate Escort, CuiShan finds everyone dead and a few Shaolin Monks as well. While searching for survivors three monks come in and accuse Zhang CuiShan of killing everyone. They say they saw a man dressed just like him committing murderous crimes. A mysterious assassin kills the monks with needles while they are talking to Zhang CuiShan. later that night Zhang CuiShan comes across a woman playing the Zither (Yin SuSu) and she admits to killing everyone. She says she did it because she was poisoned by the Shaolin Monks and needed the antidote. Later Zhang CuiShan accompanies Yin SuSu to the Heavenly Eagle Cult’s gathering to display the Dragon Saber. It goes horribly wrong when Xi Xun steals the Saber and using his Lion’s Roar kills everyone but Zhang CuiShan, Yin SuSu, and Gai Guishou (however he went mad from the ordeal). Xi Xun then kidnaps the remaining two and they leave by ship.
Episode 3: A storm shipwrecks Yin SuSu (Wang Yuanke), Zhang CuiShan (Ken Chang), and Xie Xun (Zang Jin Sheng) unto an iceberg. Upon waking on the iceburg Xi Xun goes berserk and starts attacking both SuSu and CuiShan. Only by using her silver needles and blinding Xie Xun are they saved by his murderous rage. Those two wake up on Ice and Fire Island and decide to become man and wife. Back on the mainland tensions are rising between WuTang and the Heavenly Eagle Cult. Xie Xun shows up on Ice and Fire Island and they promise to all live in peace. This episode was slower paced than the other two.
Episode 4: Xie Xun is trying to learn the secrets of the Dragon Saber so he can take revenge for his murdered family. Meanwhile Yin SuSu tells Zhang CuiShan that they are going to have a baby. During a scene of Xie Xun throwing another tantrum they forgot to place the background on the green screen (embarrassing). Xie Xun becomes the Godfather of Yin SuSu and Zhang CuiShan boy which they name WuJi after Xie Xun’s murdered son. Also the three adults become sworn brothers and sister. Fast forward 10 years and Xi Xun is teaching Zhang Wuji martial arts and then tells his back story. After which he tells them to build a raft.
Episode 5: A tearful departure as Xi Xun stays on Ice and Fire Island while everyone else leaves for the mainland on a raft. They are rescued by a boat belonging to Heavenly Eagle Cult and the second disciple of WuDang, Yu LianZhou (Wang Jian Guo) as well as two KunLun Sect members are on the boat. The KunLun Sect Members are still looking for Xie Xun. Tragedy strikes just after they land when WuJi gets kidnapped by a strong fighter.
Episode 6: The couple return to WuDang and Zhang CuiShan is reunited with his brothers and his teacher. Zhang CuiShan promises to avenge the grievous injuries done to third brother Yu DaiYan not knowing it was his wife’s poisoned silver needles that caused his paralysis. It is soon Zhang Sanfeng’s 100th birthday and many clans arrived under the guise of celebrating it, but in truth they want the whereabouts of Xie Xun and the Dragon Saber. The Emei Sect is one such clan, Emei Sect was founded by Guo Xiang the daughter of Guo Jing and Huang Rong from the first two stories. Ji Xiaofu of the Emei sect is betrothed to Yin Liting of the WuDang Sect.
He Taichong (Wu Xiaodong) and the Kunlun Sect as well as Shaolin are also present. In their desire for the Dragon Saber Shaolin and Kunlun accuse 5th Brother Zhang CuiShan of killing the Shaolin Monks and Dragon Gate Escort Agency as well as harboring Xie Xun. Fearing for her husband Yin SuSu confesses that she is the one responsible for all of those acts (which she was). This is not enough for Shaolin and Kunlun and they blame all of WuDang as the Teacher is responsible for the actions of his students. Since Zhang CuiShan married an evil woman that makes him guilty in their eyes. To make amends for his wife and for Xie Xun Zhang CuiShan takes his life in front of everyone. Just then WuJi appears out of nowhere and runs to his father.
Episode 7: With Zhang CuiShan dead Yin SuSu says she will tell the Reverend Kongwen (Wang Weiguo) and him alone the location of Xie Xun. In front of everyone she whispered the location but purposely made it difficult for the Abbot to understand it thus sewing the seeds of decent towards Shaolin from the other clans and sects. She then tells WuJi never to trust women, the prettier they are the more they lie then she kills herself. Later Wuji collapses, when his shirt is removed he has a red hand print on his chest and Zhang SanFeng calls it “Xuan Ming Divine Palm”. After many attempts WuDang is unable to cure WuJi so Zhang SanFeng takes him to Shaolin in hopes the Nine Yang Manual will cure WuJi. The Abbot turns them away. On the way back to WuDang Mountain they save a bunch of people from Yang soldiers, one of which is a boatmans daughter named Zhou Zhiruo. Another is a member of the Ming Cult Chang Yuchun. He suggests taking WuJi to Hu Qingniu (Du Yuming) of Butterfly Valley to see if the Ming Cult physician can heal him. Since Hu Qingnui won’t treat non members of the Ming cult, Zhang SanFeng leaves WuJi in the care of Chang Yuchun in hopes then he will get cured.
On the way they watch as Ji Xiaofu and Ding Minjun (Li Shun) of the Emei Sect attack and blind Peng Yingyu (Hou Yueqiu) of the evil Ming Cult in his left eye. WuJi overhears Minjun accuse Xiaofu of having another mans baby.
In Butterfly Valley Hu Qingniu is intrigued by WuJi’s poisoning by Xuan Ming Divine Palm and plans to cure him then kill him so he will not go back on his word about treating nonmembers.
Episode 8: WuJi tries to treat Chang Yuchun with acupuncture and medicine. He is able to cure him but he did a poor job and Chan Yuchun will probably pass away at 40. Soon other people arrive but Hu Qingniu will not treat them. One of the visitors is Yang Buhui a little girl who’s mother just happens to be Ji Xiaofu. Xiaofu is sick and WuJi uses his impressive medical skills to cure her. It is found out that the golden lotus injured all these people and sent them to Master Hu.
Episode 9: A Grey haired woman who turns out to be Hu Qingniu’s wife tries to poison Ji Xiaofu and has tied and gagged Hu Qingniu. Golden Flower Granny (Ma Ling) shows up for a moment after Hu Qingniu poisons himself. They both die but not before Hu Qingniu gives WuJi a book of all his knowledge. Golden FLower Granny suggests that WuJi comes to Divine Snake Island with her. Ji Xiaofu and Yang Buhui go to see what the problem with WuJi is when Abbess Miejue arrives with other members of the Emei Sect. She gets into a duel with Golden Flower Granny using the Heavenly Sword.
The Abbess wins the fight then proceeds to interrogate Ji Xiaofu about her daughter and who the father is. When she finds out that the father is Yang Xiao (Wu Xiaodong) she goes into a rage because apparently Yang Xiao killed Elder Senior Uncle Guhongzi. Abbess Miejue is willing to forgive her favorite pupil and even let her have the Heavenly Sword and leadership of the Emei Sect as long as she makes amends by killing Yang Xiao. Ji Xiaofu refuses so the Abbess affectionately places her hand on top of Xiaofu’s head and twists it, snaping her neck and killing her. WuJi and Yang Buhui witness the killing. After burying her mother the pair leave Butterfly Valley. Later they get captured by some men that WuJi had cured on the island and they are going to eat him. They are saved by two heroes Xu Da (Liu Qiang) and a monk Zhu Yuanzhang (Yu Yu) from Huangjue Temple. They leave and the two kids make it to the foot of Kunlun Mountain.
Episode 10: It doesn’t take long for WuJi to get into trouble. THis time with the senior leaders of the Kunlung Sect He Taichong (Wu Xiaodong) also called “Iron Zither” and his wife and senior sister Madam He. They are saved by none other than Yang Xiao. After fulfilling his duty to Auntie Ji by delivering Buhui to Yang Xiao he leaves only to fall into a hunting pit a few days later. He is rescued by Zhu Jiuzhen (Xia Yu) who uses WuJi as target practice. Her father Zhu Changling notices that WuJi’s Kung Fu is WuDang then starts to treat him well only to find the location of the Dragon Saber. Zhu Jiuxhen hates WuJi because she has to be nice to him in order to find his secrets
Episode 11: Zhu Changling tries to trick WuJi by having Stone Hand Hu Bao (from the Kongtong Sect) disguise himself as Xie Xun and get the location of the real Golden-Haired Lion King and thus the location of the Dragon Saber. However our tricksters didn’t know that Wie Xun has gone blind due to Yin SuSu’s silver needles, WuJi knows it’s not his Godfather. Later WuJi overhears the truth and how everyone has been betraying him to get to his Godfather. WuJi gets into a scuffle with Zhu Changling and they go off a cliff down to a ledge that has a small cave entrance large enough for WuJi to enter into a hidden valley. There WuJi encounters a little monkey that takes him to a giant white ape who is ill. WuJi treats the Ape with his medical knowledge. He finds a set of books that were in the Ape’s stomach. The books are as set of WuDang kung fu manuals that will help cure the poison out of his body. They then cut to when WuJi is a young adult and he is still practicing from the manual.
Cut to a Shaolin Monk who appears to have given up his monks robes and prayer beads for normal clothing. Then you get a monk going to Abbess Miejue of the Emei sect and giving her a letter from his Abbott. It was a request for the Orthodox sects to join together and destroy the evil Ming Sect. The monk that left is actually Cheng Kun who is infact from the Shaolin Sect and is trying to destroy the Ming Sect due to jealousy. He even committed many crimes and framed the Ming Sect. He seems to be working for the Yuan Dynasty. A prince has his daughter Zhao Min who is to help Cheng Kun preoccupy the wulin world so he may focus on the invasion.
Episode 12: Wuji leaves the hidden valley. He is reintroduced to the girl who WuJi bit back in episode 8. She has turned out to be cruel and sadistic girl. The girl, Yin Li, although she goes by the name Zhu’er, gets in trouble and brings it down upon WuJi, including the Emei Sect. Most of this episode is used to build a relationship between Wuji and Zhu’er.
Episode 13: Reinforcements of the Emei Sect arrive including Zhou Zhiruo, the boatmans daughter from episode 7. After several confrontations Abbess Miejue catches up with the pair and defeats Zhu’er and breaks both of her wrists in a matter of seconds. They are then taken to the foot of the Ming Cults base of Operations. The next day they run into Sixth Hero Yin Liting (he was once betrothed to Ji Xiaofu of the Emei Sect) Abbess Miejue praises Yin Liting and said what a pity Ji Xiaofu couldn’t marry him as she was killed by Yang Xiao of the Ming Cult even though it was Miejue herself who killed Ji Xiaofu in Episode 9. Yin Li asked Yin Liting about WuJi and when he tells her he found out he fell down a cliff and his remains were not found she faints. Zhou Zhiruo knows that WuJi is right next to everyone and gives him a confused look.
Episode 14: Many skirmishes take place with Wu Dang and Emei Sect teaming up against the Ming Cult and The Heavenly Eagle Cult fighting with the Ming Cult separately. When Wu Dang and Emei Sect capture some Ming Cult members, Abbess Miejue orders their execution. WuJi begs for their release and the Abbess said she would if he can take three hits from her. After two hits Yin Yewang of the Heavenly Eagle Cult comes down and praises WuJi’s honor and integrity. After WuJi takes the third hit and WuDang and Emei Sect leave we find out that Yin Yewang is Yin Li’s father, which makes WuJi and her first cousins (Yin Yewang was Yin Susu’s eldest brother). When Yin Yewang reveals that he must punish Li for her practicing Golden Flower Grandma and learning the Thousand Spiders Venom Hand from her mother WuJi again intercedes on her behalf, then before they leave Bat King Wei kidnaps Yin Li. While trying to save her WuJi gets captured as well.
Episode 15: Starts out with Yang Xiao insinuating that the rest of the Ming Cult wants him dead so he won’t take over as leader. While fighting over leadership Cheng Kun the monk from episode 11 takes a cheap shot at Yang Xiao and in doing so manages to damage the other exponents of the Ming Cult. WuJin is still stuck in a bag and all the exponents injured Cheng Kun reveals his identity as the first betrothal to the wife of the former leader of the Ming Cult. He is jealous that her family rejected his proposal and married her off to Yang Dingtain the former leader of the Ming Cult. This is the same man that murdered Xie Xun’s family and causes him to go into murderous rages. WuJi is reunited with Yang Buhui (daughter of Yang Xiao and Ji Xiaofu) she also seems to have a bit of a cruel streak. Come to think of it everyone but WuDang seem to be villainous in some shape or form.
Episode 16: With the held of Yang Buhui’s servant girl WuJi finds the secret passage to go after Cheng Kun who is planing on blowing up Guangming Peak and the Ming Cult. Along the way WuJi discovers that the servant girl was faking a limb and disguised disfigurement of a hunchback and bad complection. Cheng Kun sneak attacks with a rock slide traping WuJi and the servant girl who reveals herself as Xiao Zhao. Using some gunpowder on the ground layed by Cheng Kun, WuJi blows open a stone door allowing them to escape. They eventually come to the corpses of Yang Dingtang (last leader of the Ming Cult) and his wife (junior sister and lover of Cheng Kun). They find the scroll of the Ming Cults great technique the “Great Universe Shift”. Xiao Zhao snatches it away from WuJi and wonders if that is what her Grandmother told her to steal from the Ming Cult. By using blood from a cut on her finger Xiao Zhao is able to make the words on the manual appear. The only way to leave the maze is for WuJi to master the Great Universe Shift. He learns it effortlessly as it is similar to the techniques of internal style he has been taught and practiced his whole life. WuJi master up to the seventh level which is enough to open the stone door enough for them to escape.
Episode 17: WuJi joins a large group watching White-Browed Eagle King (his maternal grandfather) and his fourth Uncle fighting. WuJi interrupts the match and takes challenges from all the sects in the name of the Ming Cult. While fighting Abbess Miejue all her students attack WuJi except for Zhou Zhiruo. This angers the Abbess and she attacks Zhou Zhiruo only to have WuJi interfere. After disarming Abbess Miejue, WuJi hands the Heavenly Sword to Zhou Zhiruo and tells her to give it back to her teacher. The Abbess and the rest of the Emei Sect tell Zhou Zhiruo to kill WuJi. While WuJi turns to her she stabs him on the left side of the chest. Everything comes to a head and it’s revealed that the Abbess Zhiruo killed Ji Xiaofu (Yang Buhui’s mother). After this everyone takes their leave and WuJi is proclaimed a hero.
Trying to take advantage of the Ming Cults weakened state the Jujing Sect attacks. Under duress WuJi excepts leadership of the Ming Cult and orders everyone into the secret passage and burn most of the buildings of Guangming Peak.
Episode 18: The Ming Cult beat back the attackers and the Eagle Cult proclaims they are disbanding and going back into the fold of the Ming Cult. WuJi sets out on an expedition to retrieve his Godfather Xie Xun “Golden Haired Lion King”. On the way they run into Yīn Lítíng of Wudang who was attacked by someone using the same skills as those that harmed Yú Dàiyán. He is very ill.
Episode 19: While looking into the attack on Yin Liting, WuJi and members of the Ming Cult come across Zhao Min (Princess Shaomin) and some of her archers. She invites them to her Manor. Zhao Min manages to poison almost everyone that was invited to the manor. While collecting the flowers that can be used for the Antidote Zhao Min and WuJi duel, however she is no match for WuJi and she loses. Pretending to commit suicide she lures WuJi into a pit trap only to fall into it herself. Meanwhile Yuan troops surround the injured Ming Cult. WuJi bullies Zhao Min to let him out of the pit and Xiao Zhao (the servant girl) takes control of the Ming Cult troops with great strategic insight.
Yin Liting attempts suicide but Yang Buhui stops him and makes him swear not to do it again. The rest of the Ming Cult reaches Shaolin but there is no one around. They find a message on the pillar that says the Ming Cult wiped them out and Wudan is next. WuJi races on horseback to save Wudan.
Episode 20: We start with Zhao Min and her men and we learn that she is responsible for the attack on Shaolin and she still has the help of Cheng Kun. Cheng Kun sends one of his fake Shaolin Monks to gain and audience with Wudang’s leader Zhang Sanfeng and tries to assassinate him to no avail. The rest of Zhao Min challenge Wudan only to have the upper members of the Ming Cult arrive to assist. WuJi eventually reveals himself and learns two new styles of martial arts from Zhang Sanfeng. It is also revealed that Zhao Min’s men are the ones who originally attacked Yú Dàiyán way back in Episode 1.
WOW! Half the series is over and I think I’ll publish this half. The ending of the 20th episode was really good. I notice the episodes ebb and flow so when it’s high tide they cram a ton of information, plots, twists, new characters all in at once. This can make it difficult to follow, hence why I started writing it all down. But as the tide goes out it all comes together in either an epic duel or a large congregation of heroes where they sit and talk. you wouldn’t think a duel or battle would be slower pace but it is much easier to follow.
Now I’m not sure yet but out of the three Condor Heroes series this may just top Legend of the Condor Heroes as my favorite!
List of Characters from the book
Wuxia Edge Episodes 2,