Enticing from without; awesome from within.
Jianghu is a word that appeared during the
Ming dynasty, and is used to describe the world of the you-xia.
The word originally referred to places where hermits lived, but eventually
came to designate what has been termed as the Underworld, the World of
Vagrants, or sometimes the World of Martial Arts. For Once Upon a Time
in China the literal translation of River-lake will be used. The historical
River-lake, refers to the world of secret societies and bandits. The fictional
River-lake includes the Wulin, and is composed of wanderers of slender
means, with no fixed abode. Its denizens include xia, lumpen intelligentsia,
adventurers, monks, priests, rebels, cultists, unemployed peasants and
laborers, itinerant peddlers, beggars, disbanded soldiers, gangsters, smugglers,
and other outcasts of society. To these people, the River-lake provided
a substitute lineage, which offered them the assistance and protection
that they did not receive from mainstream society.
Those who deprive others of their property are either bandits or burglars.
The former work in groups, use violence unreservedly; they kill and rob
in broad daylight, in open defiance of the law. On the other hand, the
later work in cliques of three to five; they sneak about at night, and
only resort to violence when their lives are at stake. -- He Xiya
The Lulin is the World of the Outlaw. Its
members are termed 'underworld stalwart' in The Water Margin,
or 'brothers of the greenwoods' in Judge Dee novels. The Lulin includes
bandits, burglars, pirates and other criminals. In general, bandits and
pirates started out by working in small groups. In order to strengthen
themselves against opposition, they would recruit from the ranks of dispossessed
peasants and boatmen, as well as other members of the River-lake. As their
numbers grew, it became necessary to form hierarchies and establish rules
to maintain order. The bandits borrowed heavily from secret societies in
this respect. Members of the Brotherhood of the Greenwoods swore blood-oaths,
maintained their own codes of law and ethics, and communicated with secret
codes, signs and languages.
In times of stability, bandits would prey upon honest
peasants. Towns and villages would be forced to pay protection money or
suffer the consequences. These villages essentially became part of a bandit
'lineage', and could prevent the depredations of weaker bandit groups by
claiming the protection of their 'elder brothers.' Occasionally, villages
would call upon their outlaw protectors to carry out inter-lineage vendettas.
An independent village facing this type of opposition, would be forced
to join a rival bandit gang for their own protection. This would lead to
an escalation of the conflict, and such disorder would result in the intervention
of the government. Ironically, for the official charged with the task of
suppressing bandits, the Lulin was also the source from where mercenaries
for his militia army (tuan lien) were recruited.
A related development was that of the village union
(lian zhuang hui), which was organized and led by the peasants themselves,
to resist bandits, and oppose the more egregious demands of the local elite.
Such groups were often sympathetic to anti-dynastic revolutionaries, due
to infiltration of their ranks by members of secret societies. Officials
called such groups 'bogus militia' or 'bandit militia' for their armed
resistance to tax-collectors, and for the ease with which they became actual
bandits when instigated by secret societies. Even traditional bandits became
full-fledged rebels during periods of turmoil, leading popular uprisings
against oppressive landlords. It was also quite common for such bandit
groups to work in conjunction with anti-dynastic secret societies. In the
genre, righteous bandits who opposed local despots and protected the weak
were known as dao-xia.
Your gong-fu is no good!
Wulin exists only in fiction, and is a
term used to describe the World of the Martial Arts. This is the world
wuxia heroes of authors like Jin Yong and Gu Long, as well
as the Hong Kong cinema (or rather, the Mandarin cinema). It is a world
in which xia dedicate their lives to perfecting their martial skills,
and fighting for truth, justice and the Confucian way. More worldly xia
seek glory, fame and wealth. In fiction, these members of the Wulin
carry on the shi legacy, and follow many of the rules embodied in
(martial virtue), li (chivalry), hao (gallantry), and bao
(vengeance). In the River-lake, the elite of the Wulin are known
as gao shou (lit: high hands) or huang-baofu
(lit: yellow-bags), and treated with the utmost of respect and deference.