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The Deer and the Cauldron

The Deer and the Cauldron
Cover of the 1980 edition
Author Jin Yong
Original title 鹿鼎記
Translator John Minford (English)
Country Hong Kong
Language Chinese
Genre Wuxia, historical fiction
Publisher Ming Pao
Publication date
24 October 1969
Media type Print
The Deer and the Cauldron
Traditional Chinese 鹿鼎記
Simplified Chinese 鹿鼎记
Literal meaning Tale of the Deer and the Cauldron

The Deer and the Cauldron, also known as The Duke of Mount Deer, is a novel by Jin Yong (Louis Cha) and the last of his works. The novel was initially published in Hong Kong as a serial, and ran from 24 October 1969 to 23 September 1972 in the newspaper Ming Pao.[1] Although the book is often referred to as a wuxia novel, it is not archetypal of the genre, since the protagonist, Wei Xiaobao, is not an adept martial artist, but rather, an antihero who relies on wit and cunning to get out of trouble. Another alternative title of the novel is On Ruding Mountains.[2]


  • The novel's title 1
  • Plot 2
  • Characters 3
  • Miscellaneous information 4
    • Sutra of Forty-two Chapters 4.1
      • The eight books 4.1.1
    • Literary inquisition 4.2
  • Themes and story review 5
  • English language translation 6
  • Works based on the novel 7
  • Adaptations 8
    • Films 8.1
    • Television 8.2
    • Radio 8.3
    • Video games 8.4
  • References 9

The novel's title

The choice of the novel's title is alluded to in a section in the first chapter, in which a scholar has a conversation with his son. The scholar recounts that both the deer and the cauldron serve as metaphors for the Central Plains and the Chinese empire.

The historical text Records of the Grand Historian contains the following line, "The deer lost by Qin was hunted by all under Heaven", a figurative description of the rise of numerous rivaling warlords contesting for supremacy to capture a prize – the Chinese empire lost by the Qin dynasty.[3]

During the Zhou dynasty, there were the Nine Tripod Cauldrons, which were symbolic of the Divine Mandate of rulership. The historical text Zuo Zhuan recorded an account in which the ruler of Chu, a vassal state under the Zhou dynasty, enquired the weight of one of those cauldrons from a minister in the Zhou royal court. This sent a clear signal that he was coveting the throne, which was nominally occupied by the King of Zhou.

The novel's title also refers to its historical setting, the Qing dynasty, when the Han Chinese subjects of the fallen Ming dynasty struggle to restore their former empire by opposing the Manchu rulers of Qing.


The story centres on a witty, sly, illiterate and lazy protagonist, Wei Xiaobao, who was born to a prostitute from a brothel in Yangzhou in the early Qing dynasty. The teenage scamp makes his way from Yangzhou to the capital, Beijing, through a series of adventures. In Beijing, he is kidnapped and taken to the imperial palace, where he impersonates a eunuch. While in the palace, Wei Xiaobao bumbles his way into a fateful encounter with the young Kangxi Emperor, the ruler of the Qing Empire, and develops an unlikely friendship with him.

One day, Wei Xiaobao is captured by some martial artists and taken out of the palace. He meets Chen Jinnan, the leader of the Heaven and Earth Society, a secret society aiming to overthrow the Qing regime, and becomes Chen's apprentice. He also becomes one of the society's branch leaders and agrees to serve as their spy in the palace. Later, he is taken captive by another group of fighters, who bring him to Mystic Dragon Island, where the sinister Mystic Dragon Cult is based. Unexpectedly, he becomes the cult's White Dragon Marshal by flattering its leader, Hong Antong.

Wei Xiaobao makes a number of seemingly impossible achievements through sheer luck, cunning, and the use of unglamorous means such as cheating and deceiving. First, he assists the Kangxi Emperor in ousting the autocratic regent, Oboi, from power. Second, he discovers the whereabouts of the Shunzhi Emperor, who is presumed dead, saves him from danger, and helps him reunite with his son, the Kangxi Emperor. Third, he eliminates the Mystic Dragon Cult by stirring up internal conflict, which leads to the cult's self-destruction. Fourth, he weakens the revolt staged by Wu Sangui by bribing Wu's allies to withdraw, thereby allowing Qing imperial forces to crush the rebels easily. Finally, he leads a campaign against the Russian Empire and helps the Qing Empire reach a border treaty with its northern neighbour. Earlier on, he met the Russian regent, Sophia Alekseyevna, and helped her consolidate control over the Russian Empire. In the process of accomplishing these tasks, he also recommended talents to join the Qing imperial service, one of whom is Shi Lang, the admiral who led the successful naval campaign against the Kingdom of Tungning in Taiwan.

Throughout the story, Wei Xiaobao exhibits devout loyalty to both the Kangxi Emperor and his personal friends in the anti-Qing forces. He instinctively shields the emperor with his body from assassins twice and saves the emperor's life. He also plays an important role in assisting the Kangxi Emperor in consolidating power. On the other hand, he helps anti-Qing forces escape from danger on numerous occasions by distracting imperial forces. He undermines the attempts by the society on the emperor's life and uses his status in the imperial court to prevent the society from being destroyed by the Qing government. For his achievements, he is rewarded with immense wealth and titles of nobility. The highest position he reached is "Duke of Lu Ding" (lit. "Duke of Mount Deer"), which is used as an alternative English title for the novel. He earns the respect of the anti-Qing factions for eliminating wicked officials and defending the Qing Empire from foreign invasion. On top of his achievements, he also encounters seven attractive women on separate occasions, flirts and toys with them, and eventually marries all seven of them.

Wei Xiaobao's conflicting loyalties ultimately reach a disastrous conclusion. The Kangxi Emperor discovers his relationship with the Heaven and Earth Society, and forces him to choose to either remain loyal to the Qing Empire or become an enemy of the state. Wei Xiaobao faces a dilemma: If he chooses to follow the emperor's orders, he will have to betray his friends from the Heaven and Earth Society and help the emperor destroy the society; if he refuses, he faces the possibility of death and the extermination of his family. He chooses not to side with either the emperor or the society, and goes into exile. However, the Kangxi Emperor still regards him as a close friend and loyal subject so he pardons him and allows him to return to the palace later. Towards the end of the novel, the emperor tries to force Wei Xiaobao to help him eliminate the Heaven and Earth Society again. On the other hand, Wei Xiaobao faces an even bigger problem with the society. As Chen Jinnan had died recently, the society's members look up to Wei Xiaobao and want him to be their new leader.

Wei Xiaobao ponders the issue, realises that he will never be able to reconcile between the two opposing sides, and feels that his divided friendships and split loyalties are tearing him apart. He decides to leave and lead a reclusive life, and brings along his family and immense wealth with him. He is never seen again. It is said that when the Kangxi Emperor went on six inspection tours to the Jiangnan region throughout his reign, his true purpose was actually to search for Wei Xiaobao.


Miscellaneous information

Sutra of Forty-two Chapters

The Sutra of Forty-two Chapters is a classical Buddhist text. The founders of the Manchu-led Qing dynasty made eight copies of it. After the Qing forces conquered the Central Plains, they looted large amounts of treasure and transported them to a secret location in northeast China. The map to that location was torn into several pieces and hidden in the eight books separately. Each book was given to one of the Eight Banners for safekeeping.

To protect the treasure, the Eight Banners' commanders were not told about the treasure vault. Instead, they were told that the books contained a secret leading to a location containing the "root" of the Qing imperial bloodline, the "Dragon's Pulse" (龍脈). If this "root" is disturbed, it will end the fortunes of the Manchus. This is to ensure that none of the nobles will attempt to find this location; they will instead guard the secret with their lives. Only the emperor knows the truth, as evident when the Shunzhi Emperor passes on this knowledge to the Kangxi Emperor.

The books are sought by many, including Hai Dafu, Mao Dongzhu, the Mystic Dragon Cult, the Heaven and Earth Society, the former Princess Changping, Wu Sangui and others. Some of them know the truth about the treasure while others wish to end the Qing dynasty by destroying the Manchu "root". Wei Xiaobao collects the eight books and pieces the map together. He finds the treasure at Mount Deer Cauldron (鹿鼎山) in Heilongjiang, but does not seize it for himself because he holds on to the belief that the treasure is the Qing imperial family's "root".

The eight books

The books are listed in order of appearance. Their origins and how Wei Xiaobao acquired them are also included.

  • Plain Red Banner: The book was stolen from this banner's commander, Prince Kang. Wei Xiaobao finds it by accident.
  • Bordered Red Banner: Rui Dong, a palace guard, kills the banner's commander and takes away his book on the order of the fake empress dowager, Mao Dongzhu. Before he can pass it to Mao, he is killed by Wei Xiaobao, who takes the book from him.
  • Bordered Yellow Banner: The book was taken away from the banner's commander, Oboi, when he is imprisoned by the Kangxi Emperor. It ends up in the hands of Mao Dongzhu before Wei Xiaobao steals it from her later.
  • Plain White Banner: The book was taken away by Oboi from the banner's commander, Suksaha, when Suksaha was executed. It ends up in the possession of Mao Dongzhu, and later in that of Wei Xiaobao.
  • Bordered White Banner: The book was first given by the Shunzhi Emperor to his concubine, Consort Donggo. The book was taken away by Mao Dongzhu when Consort Donggo died. Wei Xiaobao later steals it from Mao.
  • Plain Yellow Banner: The book is kept by the Shunzhi Emperor after his abdication and he gives it to his son when they are reunited on Mount Wutai. It was taken away by Mao Dongzhu and later by Wei Xiaobao.
  • Bordered Blue Banner: Tao Hongying's grand-teacher attempted to steal the book from the banner's commander, but was fatally wounded by the Mystic Dragon Cult's Thin Monk, who keeps the book. The Thin Monk forgets about the book when he leaves Mao Dongzhu's room in a hurry. Wei Xiaobao finds it and keeps it for himself.
  • Plain Blue Banner: The book was stolen from the banner's commander and ends up in Wu Sangui's possession. Wei Xiaobao secretly replaces it with the Bordered Blue Banner's book (with the map pieces inside removed).

Literary inquisition

In the early years of the reign of the Kangxi Emperor, the regent Oboi monopolised state power and introduced the practice of literary inquisition. Many intellectuals and scholars were persecuted for their writings. Zhuang Tinglong, a merchant from Huzhou, sponsored the publication of an unauthorised book about the history of the Ming dynasty. The book used the Ming emperors' era names, which were considered taboo in the Qing dynasty. Wu Zhirong found out and reported it to the authorities.

Zhuang Tinglong and his family were persecuted and the male members of the Zhuang family were killed. The incident also sparked off a chain reaction, in which several individuals who were not directly involved or linked to the book were similarly rounded up and executed. These individuals included scholars who helped to write and proofread the book, bookstore owners who sold copies of the book, distant relatives of the Zhuang family, and even people who had contact with readers of the book.

Themes and story review

The novel is unique in a sense that its protagonist's personality differs significantly from those in Jin Yong's earlier novels. Wei Xiaobao is a greedy, lazy, womanising antihero, and is neither a morally upright person nor a highly skilled martial artist. Jin Yong's other protagonists, such as Guo Jing and Chen Jialuo, live for noble causes, such as defending their homeland from foreign invasion and upholding justice. Wei's philosophy in life, conversely, is to indulge in all kinds of sensual delights and pleasures he can lay his hands on. However, although Wei may disagree with his friends' beliefs, he displays genuine loyalty and affection for them.

The non-existence of absolute good and evil in reality is strongly echoed in the novel. The pro-Han Chinese stance, which has been a prominent feature of most of Jin Yong's previous works, is absent in the novel. In the Condor Trilogy and The Book and the Sword, other ethnic minorities in China, such as the Jurchens, Mongols and Manchus, have always been portrayed as power-hungry antagonists who wish to dominate the Central Plains, while the Han Chinese are described as a race constantly facing the threats of foreign invasion and corrupt governance.

One exception is Sword Stained with Royal Blood (an unofficial prequel to The Deer and the Cauldron), in which the Manchu ruler Huangtaiji is portrayed as a wise, just and benevolent ruler while Han Chinese leaders such as the Chongzhen Emperor and Li Zicheng are described to be covetous, callous, injudicious and susceptible to manipulation.

A similar theme is present in the novel, in which Jin Yong blurred out the Sinocentric "Han Chinese vs. barbarians" theme. The Kangxi Emperor is depicted as a caring and wise ruler who aims to maximise the welfare of his people. In contrary, the self-proclaimed "patriotic" anti-Qing forces place their hopes in the incompetent Zheng Keshuang of the Kingdom of Tungning and continue to fight to restore Han Chinese rule to China, a cause which does not seem to echo the wishes of the people. The style that Jin Yong adopts in the novel is in direct opposition to his stance in some of his earlier works.

Towards the end of the novel, Wei Xiaobao makes a concluding statement to the effect of a quote from Deng Xiaoping: "It does not matter whether a cat is black or white. A cat that catches mice is a good cat."

The novel's realism, historical references and parodist approaches to the wuxia genre contribute to its success, with some fans praising it as Jin Yong's best novel.

English language translation

The Deer and the Cauldron has been translated into English by John Minford and was published by the Oxford University Press in three volumes from 1997 to 2002. Several minute details were paraphrased and omitted in the translation.

Works based on the novel

There are books which examine the office politics displayed by the main characters and their applications in real life.

  • Qingjing Luding Ji (情境鹿鼎记), ISBN 7-80207-108-9
  • Zongcai Wei Xiaobao (总裁韦小宝; Wei Xiaobao the CEO), ISBN 7-80673-728-6
  • Poyi Wei Xiaobao (破译韦小宝; Interpreting Wei Xiaobao), ISBN 7-5048-4705-4
  • Chuankao Wei Xiaobao (串烤韦小宝), ISBN 7-80661-929-1
  • Renjing Wei Xiaobao De Hunshi Fabao (人精韦小宝的混世法宝) ISBN 7-80100-576-7



Year Production Main cast Additional information
1983 Shaw Brothers Studio
(Hong Kong)
Wong Yue, Gordon Liu See Tale of a Eunuch
1992 Hong Kong Stephen Chow, Sharla Cheung, Ng Man-tat, Natalis Chan, Sandra Ng, Chingmy Yau, Damian Lau, Brigitte Lin, Deric Wan See Royal Tramp
See Royal Tramp II
1993 Hong Kong Tony Leung, Veronica Yip, Dicky Cheung, Kent Tong See Hero – Beyond the Boundary of Time
2011 Chinese Entertainment Shanghai
(Mainland China)[4]
Hu Ge, Nicky Wu, Cecilia Liu, Lin Gengxin, Annie Liu An online short film, Chinese title 夢迴鹿鼎記.[5]


Year Production Main cast Additional information
1978 CTV (Hong Kong) Wen Hsueh-erh, Cheng Si-chun
1984 TVB (Hong Kong) Tony Leung, Andy Lau, Carina Lau, Sandra Ng, Kiki Sheung, Teresa Mo See The Duke of Mount Deer (1984 TV series)
CTV (Taiwan) Li Hsiao-fei, Chou Shao-tung, Chen Yu-mei, Chou Ming-hui, Ying Hsiao-wei, Lam Sau-kwan, Pei Hsin-yu, Cheng Hsueh-lin See The Duke of Mount Deer (CTV)
1998 TVB (Hong Kong) Jordan Chan, Steven Ma, Rain Lau, Cherie Chan, Vivien Leung, Michelle Fung, Hilary Tsui, Chan On-kei, May Kwong See The Duke of Mount Deer (1998 TV series)
2001 TVB (Hong Kong) Dicky Cheung, Patrick Tam, Ruby Lin, Annie Wu, Athena Chu, Teresa Mak, Monica Chan, Shu Qi, Jess Zhang See The Duke of Mount Deer (2000 TV series)
2008 Huayi Brothers Film Investment Company
Beijing Cathay Media Ltd.
(Mainland China)
Huang Xiaoming, Wallace Chung, Cherrie Ying, He Zhuoyan, Shu Chang, Liu Zi, Liu Yun, Hu Ke, Li Fei'er See Royal Tramp (TV series)
2014 Zhejiang Huace Film & TV Production (Mainland China) Han Dong, Wei Qianxiang, Zhang Meng, Jia Qing, Zhao Yuanyuan, Viann Zhang, Lou Yixiao See The Deer and the Cauldron (2014 TV series)


In 2000, Hong Kong's RTHK broadcast a 100 episodes radio drama based on the novel, with Eason Chan and Roland Leung voicing Wei Xiaobao and the Kangxi Emperor respectively.[6]

Video games

  • Role-playing video games:
    • 鹿鼎記 (智冠) (DOS) (Traditional Chinese)
    • 鹿鼎記 (歡樂盒)
    • 鹿鼎記II
    • Heroes of Jin Yong Online (金庸群侠传 Online)
  • Java ME games for mobile phones:
    • 情圣韦小宝
    • 韦小宝笑传


  1. ^ The date conforms to the data published in Chen Zhenhui (陳鎮輝), Wuxia Xiaoshuo Xiaoyao Tan (武俠小說逍遙談), 2000, Huizhi Publishing Company (匯智出版有限公司), pg. 57.
  2. ^
  3. ^ (秦失其鹿,天下共逐之, ...) Sima, Qian. Records of the Grand Historian vol. 92.
  4. ^ 刘诗诗再度牵手胡歌 《鹿鼎记》饰俄女皇 (Chinese)
  5. ^ 电影《鹿鼎记》颠覆原著 三主角陷三角恋情
  6. ^ Radio drama on
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