Follow TV Tropes


Literature / Demi-Gods and Semi-Devils

Go To
Vintage cover

Demi-Gods and Semi-Devils is the 11th novel of Jin Yong and widely considered to be his most critically acclaimed work. The story follows the adventures of three protagonists: Xiaofeng, Duan Yu and Xuzhu. The complex narrative switches from the initial perspective of Duan Yu to those of the other main characters and back.

The novel's title has been a challenge for translators for years. The major characters in the novel are based on the eight races of non-human demi-gods and semi-devils described in Buddhist cosmology. In Buddhism, these demi-gods and semi-devils are ranked higher than mortals but are still bound to Saṃsāra by their own desires. It is said that Jin Yong originally modelled each major character after one of the races, but, as he continued writing, the complexity of the story made it impossible for such a simplistic mapping. An alternative English title (and the literal meaning of the original Chinese title 天龙八部) is "Eight Books of the Heavenly Dragon".


The novel — or at least, parts of it, are adapted into a high-flying fantasy wuxia in 1977 by Shaw Brothers studios, titled The Battle Wizard.

Demi-Gods and Semi-Devils presents examples of:

  • Almighty Janitor: The nameless monk is the cleaning guy for the library in Shaolin Temple. Most of the higher-up monks in Shaolin didn't even know about him, but he ends up being the strongest character in the entire Jin Yong universe.
  • Bad Powers, Bad People: Ding Chunqiu has a skill that dissolve the inner energy of anyone he touches. Naturally, everyone loathes the bastard.
  • Broken Ace: For all of Xiaofeng's prowess in martial arts, he couldn't save his family, master and finally his lover. All he got left to do is raising Azi to adulthood then commit suicide to join Azhu.
  • Chick Magnet: Duan Yu and Duan Zhengchun, his father. It leads to a rather hilarious reveal that majority of Duan Yu's love interests are actually his half-"sisters", courtesy of Duan Zhengchun's various affairs. Fortunately, Duan Yu himself is the bastard child of Duan Yanqing, which makes the love interests cousins.
  • Conflicting Loyalty: Xiaofeng is torn between his duty with the Liao Kingdom, his country of origin and the Song Empire, the place where he was raised and the majority of his acquaintances live. This eventually drives hime to suicide.
  • Cycle of Revenge: Murong Bo's scheme leads to the death of Xiao Yuanshan's wife, so Xiao Yuanshan killed everyone involved and intends to kill Murong Bo to avenge his family. Then, Murong Bo's son will kill Xiao Yuanshan in return, and so on. The nameless monk explains his solution to Xiao Yuanshan and Murong Bo; he will kill both Xiao Yuanshan and Murong Bo to end the cycle for good. It's actually a ploy to treat their wounds. It's complicated.
  • Dangerous Forbidden Technique:
    • The seventy two arts of Shaolin. If practicing without guidance of the proper Buddhist scripture, it could lead to severe injury or even death.
    • Tianshan Tonglao's Immortal Skill. It grants her great power but one of its side effects is that she will maintain her present body size regardless of age. She is already in her 90s when the events of the novel take place, but since she started practicing the skill in her childhood, her body is that of a child's. Also, every 30 years she will lose all of her power for a period of time, the next will be longer than the last. This makes her extremely vulnerable for attacks. Although these side effects would disappear and continue growth normally upon complete mastery, but due to her love rival intentional disruption during a critical moment, she became stuck at this level.
  • Deus ex Machina: The nameless monk, an impossibly strong character who only appears in one scene to solve the conflict between Xiao family and Murong family. Without him, there is nothing could prevent the confrontation from devolving into bloody combat.
  • Driven to Madness: After failing various schemes to restore the Yan state, Murong Fu finally snaps and thinks he's already the King of Yan, dressing like royal and addressing local children as his subjects. It's actually quite sad.
  • Evil Is Petty: Ding Chunqiu, the leader of Xingxiu Sect, is universally recognized as the most reviled villain in the jianghu. He has a band of thugs constantly singing praises to him and murder anyone who does not show him respect.
  • Love Martyr: You Tanzhi. Several acts he does to entertain Azi includes sticking his head in a lion cage and letting an extremely venomous insect bite him. He even offers his eyes to her to help her regain her sense of sight after she is blinded by Ding Chunqiu. Azi is not amused.
  • Love Triangle: Between Wuyazi, Li Qiushui and Tianshan Tonglao. Wuyazi is actually in love with Li Qiushui's twin sister. Ouch.
  • Loving a Shadow: Duan Yu's infatuation with Wang Yuyan; he saw the statue of an incredibly beautiful woman ( Wang Yuyan's maternal aunt) and was instantly smitten, so when he saw a flesh and blood person who resembled that woman he wanted to be with her forever. This is made much more explicit in the new edition, where he himself eventually comes to that realization.
  • Luke, I Am Your Father: All three main characters. Xuzhu is revealed to be the son of Xuanci, the abbot of Shaolin Temple. Also, Duan Yu is also revealed to be the son of Duan Yanqing, the leader of the Four Evils.. Xiaofeng is the son of Xiao Yuanshan, a Khitan warrior.
  • If I Can't Have You…: Kang Min. Since she can't have Duan Zhengchun, she tricked Xiaofeng into believing Duan Zhengchun is the Leading Big Brother so Xiaofeng will kill him. Azhu hears about this and decides to disguise as Duan Zhengchun to pay for his crime.
  • Manipulative Bastard: Murong Bo. He spreaded rumors about a group of elite Khitan warriors attacking Shaolin Temple to steal the martial art scriptures stored there. The abbot Xuanci hastily gathered a group and ambushed the Khitan warriors—actually Xiao Yuanshan's entourage—at Yanmen Pass, leading to the death of Xiao's wife. This caused conflicts between Song and Liao martial art communities. After thirty years, he offers Xiaofeng, now a high ranking noble in Liao Kingdom, the chance to kill him in exchange for the Liao army under Xiaofeng's command to attack Song Empire, allow Murong Bo's descendant the chance to reestablish Yan state. Xiaofeng doesn't buy it.
  • Manly Tears: Xiaofeng, tough as he is, sheds tears when his adopted parents and master die.
  • Master of Disguise: Azhu. She could impersonate house maid, old hag or Buddhist monk perfectly. Her disguise is so perfect Xiaofeng couldn't recognize she is impersonating her father Duan Zhengchun and kill her in a horrible misunderstanding.
  • Murder the Hypotenuse: Li Qiushui and Tianshan Tonglao had tried to kill each other multiple times to keep Wuyazi for herself. They eventually died while fighting each other. Too bad Wuyazi loved neither of them.
  • Ninja: The fighting style of Qin Hongmian and her daughter, Mu Wanqing resembles ninjas, with throwing daggers as their primary weapon. Wanqing is even masked when she first appears.
  • Not Quite Dead: Wuyazi. He survived being thrown off a cliff by his disciple Ding Chunqiu and later pass his inner energy to Xuzhu.
  • Old Master: Several. The three elders of Carefree Sects and the nameless monk are the most notable.
  • One-Man Army: Xiaofeng. He cuts through the warriors at Hero Gathering Manor like a hot knife through butter.
  • Orwellian Retcon: The 2005 revised version.
  • Poor Communication Kills: If Xiaofeng had asked Duan Zhenchun directly if the latter had been the one who caused his suffering, if Azhu had simply told Xiaofeng that Duan Zhenchun was her father while trying to persuade Xiaofeng not to kill him, Azhu wouldn't have to die, and Xiaofeng wouldn't have had to suffer the trauma of killing the woman he loved.
  • Quirky Miniboss Squad: The Four Evils.
  • The Reveal: Xiaofeng is eventually reveal to be a Khitan, the main ethic group of Liao Kingdom, mortal enemy of the Song Empire.
  • Roaring Rampage of Revenge: Xiao Yuanshan went to great length to avenge his family. First, he snuck into Shaolin Temple and read all the martial art scriptures there. Then, he kidnapped the illegitimate son of the abbot and placed him in the temple garden so the monks would adopt him, reenacted what happen to his own son. After he finished reading all the scriptures in Shaolin, he started killing the people responsible for the death of his wife, one by one. Then, he revealed the affair of the abbot Xuanci, who is actually the Leading Big Brother of the group that attacked his family years ago, to the jianghu members present, forcing Xuanci to commit suicide. Then he threatened to bring Shaolin martial arts back to Liao Kingdom so the Liao army could learn martial arts and gain advantage over the Song army.
  • Redemption Equals Death: Xuanci, the abbot of Shaolin Temple.
  • Signature Move: Any martial artist worth his salt will have at least one. Most notably Xiaofeng's Eighteen Dragon Subduing Palms and Duan Yu's Six Meridian Divine Sword Skill.
  • Stalker with a Crush: Duan Yu to Wang Yuyan. It's either romantic or incredibly creepy, depend on who you ask.
  • The Chessmaster: Murong Bo.
  • Took a Level in Badass: Duan Yu and Xuzhu. From total bums to the most powerful fighters in the novel.
  • Trauma Conga Line: Xiaofeng's life in a nutshell.
  • Undying Loyalty: Many characters to Xuanci, the Leading Big Brother. They rather die than reveal his identity to Xiaofeng.
  • Woman Scorned: Kang Min. Her attempt to get back at Duan Zhengchun directly lead to the death of Azhu.
  • Yandere: Azi. She shoots poison darts at Xiaofeng so he will be blinded and stay with her forever. It fails and she is severely injured by Xiaofeng's strike.