The Swordsman (1990 film)

The Swordsman

Film poster
Traditional 笑傲江湖
Simplified 笑傲江湖
Mandarin Xiào Ào Jiāng Hú
Cantonese Siu3 Ngou6 Gong1 Wu4
Directed by King Hu
Ching Siu-tung (uncredited)
Ann Hui (uncredited)
Andrew Kam (uncredited)
Tsui Hark (uncredited)
Screenplay by Kwan Man-leung
Story by Louis Cha
Starring Sam Hui
Cecilia Yip
Jacky Cheung
Sharla Cheung
Fennie Yuen
Music by Romeo Díaz
James Wong
Cinematography Andy Lam
Peter Pau
Edited by Marco Mak
David Wu
Release dates
  • 5 April 1990 (1990-04-05)
Running time
120 minutes
Country Hong Kong
Language Cantonese

The Swordsman or Swordsman is a 1990 Hong Kong wuxia film. King Hu was credited as the director but he allegedly left the project midway, and the film was completed by a team led by producer Tsui Hark. The film is adapted from Louis Cha's novel The Smiling, Proud Wanderer.


The film is set in the Ming dynasty, during the Wanli Emperor. Gu Jinfu, a eunuch from the spy agency Eastern Depot, leads a team to retrieve the Sunflower Manual, a martial arts manual which was stolen from the imperial palace. They track down and attack Lin Zhennan. Lin Zhennan encounters Linghu Chong and Yue Lingshan, two students from the Mount Hua Sect, and asks them to inform his son, Lin Pingzhi, where the manual is hidden.

While making their way to rendezvous with their Mount Hua Sect fellows, Linghu Chong and Yue Lingshan chance upon Liu Zhengfeng, who is planning to retire from the jianghu (martial artists' community) with his friend Qu Yang. Just then, Zuo Lengshan, who works for Eastern Depot, shows up with his men and tries to arrest Linghu Chong and Qu Yang. Linghu Chong and the others manage to escape, but Liu and Qu are seriously wounded in the process. Before committing suicide, Liu and Qu perform Xiaoao Jianghu, a musical piece they composed together, and pass their instruments and the score to Linghu Chong.

Linghu Chong encounters the reclusive swordsman Feng Qingyang and learns the skill 'Nine Swords of Dugu' from him. He also finds out that his gentlemanly teacher, Yue Buqun, who leads the Mount Hua Sect, is actually a power-hungry hypocrite. In the meantime, Gu Jinfu's henchman, Ouyang Quan, impersonates Lin Pingzhi (who is dead) and infiltrates the Mount Hua Sect. He tricks Linghu Chong into revealing the whereabouts of the Sunflower Manual and then poisons him. Linghu Chong is saved by Ren Yingying and Lan Fenghuang from the Sun Moon Holy Cult. They combine forces to defeat and kill Zuo Lengshan and his men.

Around the same time, Yue Buqun, Ouyang Quan, Gu Jinfu and the others have arrived at the location where the Sunflower Manual is hidden and are fighting over the manual. Linghu Chong shows up, kills Gu Jinfu, exposes Yue Buqun's treachery and defeats him. He decides to spend the rest of his life roaming the jianghu with his friends.


Box office

The film grossed HK$16,052,552 at the Hong Kong box office.[1]


Critical review of the film has found deep themes involving the film's exploration of the nature of power, loss, relationships and memory. The irony of the villains' search for the world's most powerful martial arts scroll is that it is repeatedly mistaken for a scroll containing the score for an eloquent song about the folly of man and the mystery of life.


The theme song of the film, Chong Hoi Yat Sing Siu (滄海一聲笑; A Sound of Laughter in the Vast Sea), was composed by Wong Jim, who also wrote its lyrics, and performed in Cantonese by Sam Hui.


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