Chinese Knight-errants【原创】

The knight-errant : 游侠

Like 江湖, 侠 has no definitive translation in English. Paladin, cavalier, adventurer, soldier o f fortune, and martial heroe are some of the terms used.

In his 1967 book, “The Chinese knight-errant”, Professor James Liu (刘若愚), introduced the term “knight-errant” for 游侠; that use have since caught on in the

Prof. James J.Y. Liu  was born in Peking in 1926..He majored in Western languages and Literature at the catholic Fu Je University in Peking. Later, while doing his gradual studies in English literature at Tsinghu, he was awarded a British Council Scholarship. He attended the University of Bristol, where, in 1952, he obtained his M.A.

Prof. Liu taught at universities in Hong Kong, Hawaii, Pittsburgh, Chicago, and finally at Stanford, where he remained until his death in 1986. He penned many books, nine of which were in English:

The art of Chinese poetry

The Chinese knight-errant

The interlingual critic: interpreting Chinese poetry

The poetry of Li Shang-yin: ninth-century baroque Chinese poet

 Major lyricists of the Northern Sung, A.D. 960-1126

Essentials of Chinese literary art

Elizabethan and Yuan: a brief comparison of some conventions in poetic drama

Language–paradox–poetics: a Chinese perspective

Chinese theories of literature


If I am not mistaken, the following is translated by James Liu.



The Swordsmanby Jia Dao:

For ten years I have been polishing this sword;

Its frosty edge has never been put to the test.

Now I am holding it and showing it to you, sir:

Is there anyone suffering from injustice.

According to Dr. Liu, Jia’s poem “seems…to sum up the spirit of knight-errantry in four lines. At the same time, one can also take it as a reflection of the desire of all those who have prepared themselves for years to put their abilities to the test for some justice.”

For further reading:

James Liu and wife Claire in Hawaii. Summer, 1963.

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