Thursday, October 28, 2010

Sword Vs Sabre

I woke up, compelled to write this down.

In Chinese comics (manhua), the sword is considered the weapon of a gentleman. Often depicted as light and sharp, the double-bladed weapon takes precision and style to incorporate deadly thrusts.

Meanwhile, the single-bladed sabre has been associated with conquerors and barbarians. It is usually either heavy, or would sport metal rings, to make the blade heavy as Chinese sabre-play makes full use of strength and a guillotine-like chopping or slashing action.

This trend is revered in Storm Riders/Wind and Cloud/Fung Wan/Feng Yun/Pedang Setiawan where the premier sword - Greatest Under Heaven/Pedang Istimewa - is heavy and blunt, wielded by a berserker - Cloud. Meanwhile, the more gentlemanly Wind uses the Ice Sabre/Pedang Salji which is light and fast.

Nameless, or Tanpa Nama/Mou Ming is the quintessential gentlemanly swordsman and as such, is arguably the most powerful pugilist in the series. He has attained the highest level of swordsplay Heaven Sword/Pedang Syurga and also practices the martial art Origin of All Swords/Seribu Pedang Pulang ke Asal.

Another play on the sword vs sabre in Fung Wan is shown by the Japanese character Po Jun. Po Jun uses two weapons - a very wide sword and a thin sabre, both of which contradict their normal nature in Chinese manhuas.

This is what I like about Ma Wing Shing's work - never afraid to break convention. Except for one plot which had a dragon shown as a T-Rex. I hated that.

The play on sword versus sabre is also a reference to the yin-yang in taoisme, as well as the Jungian concept of the duality of man. Cold, almost heartless Cloud wields the fiery Kirin arm and the Greatest Under Heaven Sword, which was forged from a very hot birthplace. Warm and kind-hearted Wind uses the cold Ice Sabre, inherited from his north-dwelling father Yan Wang.

The theme runs throughout the series, and is sometimes shown as incomplete simply to highlight both the existence of one side (for example, ultimate swordsman Nameless without a sabre-wielding counterpart) as well as the absence of the other.

This is how I see Hong Kong comics. Don't get me started on Tigershark/Pendekar Laut.