I’m not sure when Gan Shijiumei was originally published, but the reprint I have pictured is from 1981. The novel has been adapted into TV dramas, twice: once in 1996 and again in 2015 (under the name Sister Gan Nineteen, a literal translation of the character’s name). The author, Xiao Yi, had two “primes” you could say. He originally rose to fame in 1960 with his first novel, Iron Goose, Frost Feathers, and then in the 1970s he changed his style and became popular all over again. His new style, Gan Shijiumei being the most famous, focused more on romance, making them good candidates for TV serial adaptations.
The novel follows Yin Jianping, whose sect has been wiped out, on his path of revenge against the Phoenix Sect, to which Gan Shijiumei belongs. Gan Shijiumei had been ordered to wipe out Yin Jianping’s sect to redress a wrong done to her teacher, Shui Hongshao, some forty years previous. Problem is, Yin Jianping is operating under an assumed name, Yin Xin, so Gan Shijiumei doesn’t know who he is when she falls for him…
The excerpt below is part of the first chapter of the novel. Before that though, for those interested in knowing the whole story, here is a translation of a full synopsis of the novel. SPOILER ALERT: This synopsis reveals the major plot points for the entire novel, so don’t read if you don’t want to be spoiled. But let’s face it, this novel will likely never be translated (hope I’m wrong about that), so some of you might want to know the full story. Here it is.
Full Synopsis – SPOILERS
Forty years ago, the beautiful, but vicious Shui Hongshao became famous for her “Heartbroken in Seven Steps” poison skill, and so the “Seven Cultivators of the Martial Fraternity” appeared in the jianghu to get rid of her. Using the affection between Shui Hongshao and Xian Bing, they lured her to Phoenix Mountain Tunnel, where they burned and disfigured her face in a big fire. After that she didn’t trust men, and harboring her grudge she founded the Phoenix Sect in Sichuan.
Forty years later, she sent her favored disciple, Gan Shijiumei to return and get revenge for her. Gan Shijiumei first went to Dongting Lake and used her poison skills to kill “Yueyang Secy” chief Li Tiexin, and used her internal skills “Five Finger Lantern” to covertly leave her poisonous fingerprints on Tiexin’s “Jade Dragon Sword”. When Xian Bing saw the sword he explained the longstanding enmity, and exhorted Yin Jianping to revive the Yueyang Sect, because he could see that only he, who had sought a master and acquired excellent martial arts, who was calm and steady, would be able to do it. He also gave Yin Jianping a jadeite ring that could ward off poisons that Shui Hongshao had given him back then, and he gave Yin Jianping an ‘Secret Iron Box Manual” that contained the “Blood Cover Skill”.
Gan Shijiumei and her attendant, the corpse-like Ruan Xing went to Yueyang Sect and slaughtered everyone there, except for Yin Jianping, who managed to escape with the Jade Dragon Sword and the secret manual. He went to to Mi Ruyan of “Twin Crane Hall” and Fan Zhongxiu of “Clear Wind Fortress”, two of the Seven Cultivators still living, to ask for help in getting revenge. But he didn’t expect to find that Mi Ruyan was an old man already given over to drink, and who had been taken in by Huang Make’s son, Yan Chunlei, as repayment for saving Huang Make’s life.
Yan Chunlei and Yin Jianping became sworn brothers, but because the former was too conceited about his “Duplicity Bridge” skill’s superiority over her “Five Finger Skill”, even though he wounded Gan Shijiumei, Yan Chunlei was still killed by her. Yin Jianping, wearing a mask, entered an inn to launch an ambush on Gan Shijiumei, but he couldn’t bear to kill her and lost his chance and was instead poisoned by Ruan Xing’s “Poison Phoenix Tally”. Poisoned, his life hanging in the balance, Yin Jianping came across a recluse at Emerald Lake named Mother Wu Qing. Her husband had been killed by Shui Hongshao’s Poison Phoenix Tally, so she had devoted herself to developing an antidote. Therefore she was able to save Yin Jianping, and she passed on her mysterious and abstract illustrated manual which contained her “Secret Double Reflections Hall Skill”.
Yin Jianping left in search for Gan Shijiumei’s whereabouts, and at an inn he changed his name to Yin Xin and had a duel with Gan Shijiumei. Because she didn’t know his real identity, she liked him, and together she and Yin Jianping, who had had a strong, unforgettable impression of her, fell into the contradictions of love, hate, passion, and enmity. Later the two consummated their relationship in a mountain cave. Later, after failing to help Silver Heart Palace oppose Gan Shijiumei, she and Yin Jianping agreed to settle their affairs on the night of the Mid-Autumn Festival.
In a mountain cave Yin Jianping met his father’s sworn younger brother, Ruan Nan, where he learned that his (Jianping’s) family had also been killed by Shui Hongshao. In order to get revenge for his father and other family, he assiduously practiced the Secret Double Reflections Hall Skill and learned more martial arts from Ruan Nan. And Gan Shijiumei, now the leader of Silver Heart Palace, was met by her teacher, Shui Hongshao, and her senior sister. Steward Wei Cong informed her that Ruan Xing was a spy sent by Shui Hongshao to keep an eye on her, so her situation became more and more perilous. Plus, she had killed many people to get revenge for her teacher, causing the originally benevolent Gan Shijiumei to begin to understand Shui Hongshao’s ruthlessness, and she began to think about deserting her sect.
After training hard, Yin Jianping killed Shui Hongshao when she attacked Clear Wind Fortress, finally completing his revenge and his most longed for mission. On the night of the Mid-Autumn Festival, on the banks of Dongting Lake, Gan Shijiumei was killed by Yin Jianping with a piercing thrust to the back of her head. But before she died she learned that Yin Jianping was Yin Xin, and Yin Jianping, still deeply in love with Gan Shijiumei, used his Jade Dragon Sword to commit suicide with a thrust to through his belly.
The final lines of the novel are:
The two bloody bodies slowly drew near each other, finally embracing tightly together. Once they had come together in that tight embrace, no force on this earth would ever be strong enough to separate them.
Chapter 1: Delicate Hands Execute Treacherous Deeds, Love Gone Bad Causes Disaster
Short days of winter, when it gets dark so fast you barely have time to eat lunch!
Only half a sun left in the west, the last thin traces of light through the branches of a stand of old trees out front shining on the big gold lacquered sign which read: “Yueyang Sect”, the light playing over it giving off a resplendent, subdued air of dull melancholy, a flavor of “passed its zenith and on the wane”!
Snow, not yet completely melted, a broad view of desolation, mud everywhere, no wind, but very cold.
Old Ma blew into his palm and vigorously rubbed his hard calloused hands, stretched out like a cat and sluggishly stood up from the porch.
Every day he sat there and soaked up a bit of sun, his back resting against a stone lion, legs spread out, letting the warm winter sun shine on him. His old cotton-padded pants, warmed by the sun, felt so cozy!
He was fifty-seven years old, nicknamed “Mantis Sabre”, and though he wasn’t an official disciple of Yueyang Sect, yet he had received the favor of two generations of sect heads who had taught him several sabre skills, so even though he was only the doorman, no one within Yueyang Sect looked down on him, and those of lesser seniority still referred to him as “Uncle”. He wasn’t inclined to go anywhere else, so year after year he stayed put.
These forty years he had witnessed the renowned former sect head “Seagull” Xian Bing, whose martial arts was exceptional and known to all. Now the man was old, had retired the year before and handed over power to the current sect head——”Peerless Sword” Li Tiexin.
This Li Tiexin was no ordinary man himself. Within two years of taking over he had accomplished many feats which had brought him fame and glory.
For example: he dispatched the Seven Fiends, purged Dongting; singlehandely smashed bandits; burned the Dongting Gang’s stronghold by the lake……These feats and others all caused a sensation, proving he had earned his nickname!
No wonder that within the martial fraternity people said: in the Yueyang Sect, Peerless Sword is unmatched. Whew! Such an appellation is really too much.
Creating distinction is tough, but maintaining it is even harder, and Li Tiexin knew this well. A tall tree beckons the wind, a great reputation sows jealousy. Knowing to hide one’s talents and bide one’s time is the only way to conduct oneself.
Who knows why, but ever since the sect head returned from his trip to far off Taihu he had stayed home. The whole year he had not left the school. Everyone within the sect knew the reason: he had closed himself off to practice some martial art, but what was he practicing? Why he had suddenly taken to diligently practicing, no one knew.
Suddenly a gust of wind.
The wind scraped along the snowy ground, bitter cold like small knife cuts or scissor slashes.
Old Ma’s face was pale, cold enough to make his teeth chatter. He stamped his padded shoes and was about to go in through the side door when he saw something.
A small sedan chair, with emerald green curtains and a red roof, was approaching.
It was carried by two male servants, dressed clean and orderly, red satin belts tied around their waists, white socks and black shoes. Although they tread the slush their clothes were completely spotless! They walked in step, were of equal height, their appearnce delicate and pretty. One glance was enough to know they belonged to a rich household.
This wasn’t so curious, what was strange was the person leading the way in front of them.
Thirty-two to thirty-three years old, palefaced, 八-shaped eyebrows, tall and thin, at first glance this person really looked like a ghost of someone who had hanged himself. The person wore a crimson fox-pelt gown, a round cap of the same color, and carried a large mottled bamboo staff. Really looked like one of those clown characters from the opera.
The person leading, close before the sedan chair, was most likely a footman. The sedan chair came on wobbling under their shoulders toward the gate of the illustrious Yueyang Sect.
The sedan chair wasn’t what was strange, but the extravagence of it, the strangeness of the three people.
Old Ma watched them come.
He had just seen them appear, yet in the blink of an eye the retinue was right in front of him.
Three people, six feet, trampling in the slush, nimble and orderly, they carried the sedan chair high, as if it were floating in the air. If they weren’t employing the highest level of lightness skill, then what else could it be?
Old Ma felt his hair stand on end, shocked like he had seen a ghost. He instinctively took a step back.
The colorful sedan chair had already arrived at the lofty gates of Yueyang Sect.
The sedan chair stopped.
The red-clad man walked forward a few steps and, looking a bit slow and simple, craned his neck up, but he wasn’t sizing anyone up, he was sizing up the signboard——the gold-lacquered sign which read: Yueyang Sect.
Having seen it clearly, the staff in his hand stamped the snow three times and the sedan chair was set down on the ground.
The sedan curtain remained lowered as before. Through the thin-spaced bamboo slats one could just make a person sitting inside, but it was unclear what kind of person or what the person was wearing.
The the sedan chair had without a doubt stopped before the front gates of Yueyang Sect, resting only about ten feet away from the doors.
The red-clad man turned and went to the sedan and spoke in a low voice, but what he said was inaudible, as was the response from the person inside. The red-clad man waved away the two sedan bearers, who bowed before stepping out of the way. They didn’t go far, but sat on the horse-mounting step-stone. The red-clad man scratched out a circle in the snow about six feet in diameter around the sedan chair with his verdant bamboo staff.
The area was originally laid with granite stone, so there was only snow, no muddy slush, so the circle marked was clearly discernable. But what was its purpose? Old Ma had no idea.
The wooden slim man didn’t give Old Ma even a glance, but walked back to the sedan chair when he had finished with his circle. He leaned forward slightly, supporting himself with the bamboo staff. He didn’t move.
Old Ma stared wide-eyed. He had no idea what was going on.
The sedan curtain remained lowered. The curve-waisted, shrimplike man closed his eyes as if indifferent. He looked like he was asleep.
Old Ma couldn’t stand idly by any longer. He cleared his throat, coughed once, cupped his hand in his fist in greeting toward the red-clad man, and smiled. “Brother, you all are…?”
The red-clad man opened his eyes, looked at him, then closed his eyes again. Old Ma stared blankly, befuddled. It seemed the footman was clearly acting the snob, paying absolutely no attention to him! The more he thought about it the angrier he got. He took a step forward, his toe coming to rest just three inches away from the edge of the circle.
“Brother,” Old Ma said loudly, “What’s going on here? Why has this sedan chair stopped before our gates?”
The red-clad man simply didn’t open his eyes, didn’t cast a single glance at him!
Old Ma had spoken to him twice, yet the man had not uttered a sound, so he couldn’t help but be angry. He hmphed and took a big step toward the sedan chair. He was done dealing with the red-clad man; he wanted to talk to the person inside the sedan chair and see just what all this was about. But as soon as his foot crossed the circle the man had drawn, a strange cold wind hit his trouser leg, and his leg seemed to have been suddenly hit by lightning.
He cried out, staggered, and thumped down on the ground.
His left leg, even though covered by the thick padded pants, suddenly felt like it was frozen, like it was paralyzed. A cold feeling penetrated his leg and soon spread throughout his entire body. Old Ma struggled to stand up and felt his whole body shudder with cold! His bright red face in a flash turned pale! His whole body in that instant became not his own!
It was really like he was “paralyzed”, but Old Ma was sure he wasn’t paralyzed. He seemed to recall the chilly wind that had attacked him had come from the sedan chair opposite him. The whole thing seemed really strange.
His body could barely move, but his mind was clear. He had to go back and report this matter to the sect head.
The red-clad man opened his eyes and looked at him.
Old Ma struggled to crawl on the ground, but two steps and he was down again. This time he couldn’t get back up!
A peculiar feeling came over him. Old Ma felt like there was a big boulder on his chest. “Cold”, an unspeakable “cold”! He let out a cold howl, but he couldn’t move.
That howl startled two others! One old, one young, from the side door suddenly appeared, flustered. The older one wasn’t that old, maybe sixty or so, the young one wasn’t too young, about twenty-five. Old Ma saw them and it was like meeting his saviors.
“Second Uncle Xu!” Old Ma called out hoarsely. “Hurry……Save me!”
The one called “Second Uncle Xu”, the older one, white-faced, grizzle-haired, his face looking fearful, was retired from Yueyang Sect, but his seniority was still quite high. He was one of the seven elders of the inner hall. People called him “Chase the Wind Elder” Xu Bin.
The younger man was a third generation disciple, called “Jade Faced Nezha” Xiong Kunliang.
The scene before them stopped both men in their tracks!
Xiong Kunliang leapt over and helped Old Ma up out of the snow, who was like a clay statue, no energy at all to move. Xiong Kuliang could feel the coldness of the latter’s body through his padded clothes, so that it wasn’t like he was supporting a person but hugging a block of ice. Xiong Kunliang was shocked. “Uncle Ma, what happened to you?”
“Chase the Wind Elder” Xu Bin had seen it all in his day. He suddenly stepped forward and grabbed Old Ma’s wrist to feel his pulse. “Speak, what happened?”
Under the internal force exerted on him by Xu Bin, Old Ma received a jolt of energy. He was still able to endure the cold that had overcome him, but his teeth were chattering so bad he couldn’t speak clearly.
“Second Uncle……careful about that sedan chair……”
“Sedan chair?” Xu Bin turned and looked at the sedan chair and saw the circle in the snow surrounding it. Of course he also noticed the man standing like a rigid corpse next to the sedan chair.
It was all puzzling!
Old Ma looked more listless; his face gradually changed from pale to a dark blue, his eyes shot with blood. He forced his eyes open and they seemed ready to burst from their sockets.
His whole body shivered and he said with great difficulty, “Be careful……whatever you do don’t get close……close to that……that……” He kept stuttering but couldn’t finish his words and soon his ashen face suddenly turned a deep black.
Xu Bin still held his wrist and felt his pulse change and to his surprise thick purple-black blood began running from his mouth and eyes and ears and nose!
Old Ma shook violently and lurched forward violently, then was still. Jade Faced Nezha Xiong Kunliang was shocked. He held up Old Ma’s head and looked into his ghastly face.
Chase the Wind Elder Xu Bin sighed heavily. “He’s dead. Take him inside.”
Xiong Kunliang murmered assent, picked up Old Ma’s corpse, and carried it inside.
Xu Bin coldly watched. “Inform the master we have a guest.”
Jade Faced Nezha Xiong Kunliang had obviously been shocked to distraction by this unexpected event. He hurriedly carried the corpse inside.
What comes is not good, what’s good never comes! Xu Bin’s sharp eyes taking in this scene, he felt a great sense of dread. He didn’t dare take these visitors lightly. He took a few steps to the side and faced squarely the red sedan chair resting on the snow.
The sedan curtain hung down. Inside he could faintly discern a figure sitting——but who it was he couldn’t tell.
The red-clad man kept his posture as before, seemingly deeply lost in dreamland!
Xu Bin drew up his wide sleeves with care. He said, “Sir, since you have arrived at our Yueyang Sect’s gates, you are our sect head’s guest. What have you come to talk about?”
Refraining from mentioning the bloody scene of carnage that had just transpired was a testament to Xu Bin’s wisdom. But there was no response, not from the person within the sedan chair, nor from the servants without.
Chase the Wind Elder Xu Bin had lost some face; he figured Xiong Kunliang had by this time reported to the sect head and reinforcements would be here soon. His martial arts was not on par with that of Old Ma. Yet even though this guest possessed some rare skill, yet he probably couldn’t take him out in only a few moves, so what was there to worry about?
Thinking of this, Xu Bin steeled his courage.
The sedan chair was only six feet or so distant. The red-clad man was even closer and he didn’t believe he could lose to a mere footman. With a sneer he stepped over the line.
The situation was no different than it had been with Old Ma.
Just as his body crossed the line, a gust of cold wind blew forth from within the sedan chair. Chase the Wind Elder Xu Bin felt his right leg go numb, and he couldn’t help but shiver. He suddenly staggered back a step.
The red-clad man, looking like a living corpse at that moment, opened his eyes, the trace of a gruesome smile splitting across his face.
Chase the Wind Xu Bin was a martial arts expert with fifteen years of riding experience, and his internal force was exceptional; although he felt things were bad, yet he still felt a bit self-assured.
He directed his internal force, sinking down, and crossed the line a second time.