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Film / King of Beggars

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A 1992 Hong Kong martial arts comedy film starring Stephen Chow, King of Beggars is loosely based on So Chan, a legendary martial artist who lived in the late Qing Dynasty and was a member of the "Ten Tigers of Canton".

The spoiled son of the wealthy General So (Ng Man Tat) in the province of Canton (present day Guangzhou), So Chan excels in martial arts, but is incredibly lazy and cannot read or write. After visiting a brothel and falling for a courtesan named Yu Shang (Sharla Cheung), she agrees to marry him only if he wins the title of martial arts champion. To that end, So becomes eager to win her hand and cheats his way through the written examination for the imperial martial arts tournament, and wins the physical tests. Although he emerges as champion, before the Emperor can award him the title, government official Chiu Mo Kei (veteran Wuxia actor Norman Chu aka Norman Tsui) reveals So's deception on the written tests. The insulted Emperor declares So Chan's family possessions and property seized, and banishes father and son to a lifetime of being beggars.


So's life turns utterly miserable: not only does Chiu break his legs, preventing him from ever using martial arts again, but he discovers Yu Shang and her family are one of the leaders of the "Beggars' Sect", and is ashamed about his earlier actions towards her and resolves to sleep away his problems. When the Beggars' Sect uncover a ploy about Chiu planning a rebellion and assassination on the Emperor's life, Yu goes to investigate but is kidnapped by Chiu and his subordinates. So must shakes off his burdens and rescue Yu, but cannot do it alone unless the rest of the Beggars' Sect is behind him. To that end, he must gain the organization's trust by becoming their leader and earn the titular title "King of Beggars".


King of Beggars provides the following tropes:

  • Almighty Janitor: So Chan became an Imperial Beggar at the end, which is a beggar sanctioned by the palace to...well, beg, with a very nice golden bowl...which you cannot say no to...
  • Action Girl: Yu Sheng.
  • All Your Powers Combined: The final stance for the "Eighteen Dragon Subduing Palms" is a combination of the previous seventeen stances.
  • Big Bad: Chiu Mo Kei.
  • Break the Haughty: So Chan
  • Brought Down to Normal: So Chan after Mo Kei broke his limbs, preventing him from doing martial arts.
  • Brainwashed and Crazy: Yu Sheng after she was captured by Mo Kei.
  • Chekhov's Gunman: The dirty beggar So Chan gave money to at the brothel turns out to be a spirit who later taught him how the Sleeping Arhat Palm in gratitude. This also serves to get So Chan out of his Heroic BSoD.
  • Chekhov's Skill: A sinister inversion of this trope takes in the form of So Chan's illiteracy, which causes him to get disqualified AND has his property confiscated.
  • Cool Old Guy: Uncle Mok
  • Crippling the Competition: Chiu breaks So's legs, preventing him from ever using martial arts again.
  • Deadly Gas: Mo Kei utilises poisonous gas to shred apart the Emperor's army, but fortunately the wind manages to blow the gas into another direction, and the Beggar's Sect responded to the incoming gas by urinating to neutralize the gas.
  • Defeat Means Explosion: The fate of Mo Kei after he got struck by the final stance of the "Eighteen Dragon Subduing Palms".
  • Demonic Possession: The spirit of Hong Qigong, the previous leader of the Beggars' Sect, possesses So as he vies for leadership of the organization. Averted as So is faking the possession to fool the Beggar's Sect into believing Hong is choosing him to be their leader after he broke the Dog-Beating Stick.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: Cheated in an exam? You get a death sentence! But, if you are a high-ranking government official, your property shall be confiscated and you will become a beggar for a lifetime, which is still this.
  • Dog Food Diet: Some Jerkass officials caught So's father stealing someone else's food and force both So and his father to eat on what appears to be a bowl of rice for dogs. The two find it tasty, though.
  • The Dragon: Sengge Rinchen
  • Evil Chancellor: Mo Kei
  • Heroic BSoD: So Chan after he becomes a beggar and got his limbs broken by Mo Kei.
  • Historical Domain Character: The character Sengge Rinchen is another government official who introduces Chiu to the Emperor. He is based on the Real Life general of the Qing Dynasty.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: An opponent during the martial arts section of the imperial examination attempts to use Poisoned Weapons on So. So manages to misdirect said weapons back towards him and kill him instead.
  • Mood Whiplash: So declared his love to Yu Sheng right in the middle of the latter's plot to assasinate Mo Kei.
  • Never Learned to Read: So Chan. Which bites back at him very hard, forcing him to improve his literacy.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: While the Emperor has his flaws, he is not above recognizing his mistakes and offered to reward So Chan a position in office for his heroism.
  • Religion of Evil: Mo Kei's cult, the Tianlijiao.
  • Screw This, I'm Out of Here!: Yu Sheng's sister when So Chan declared his love to Yu Sheng.
  • Shout-Out: The Beggar's Sect, the Eighteen Dragon Subduing Palms and "Dog Beating Staff" are all elements from the same-named organization written by Chinese author Jin Yong for his novels Demi-Gods and Semi-Devils and Heaven Sword and Dragon Sabre. Hong Qigong is the same character from The Legend of the Condor Heroes and The Return of the Condor Heroes.
  • Simple Staff: The Dog Beating Staff, the Beggars' Sect most treasured possession.
  • Took a Level in Badass: So Chan learns the Sleeping Arhat Palm from what is implied to be the spirit of one of the past Beggar Sect leaders and later learns the Eighteen Dragon Subduing Palm, which turned him into a One-Man Army.
  • Training from Hell: Attempted by So's father to push So to get his martial skills back, but failed hilariously.
  • Wuxia