The Deer and the Cauldron

The Deer and the Cauldron
The Deer and the Cauldron  
Author(s) Jin Yong
Country Hong Kong
Language Chinese
Genre(s) Wuxia
Publisher Ming Pao
Publication date 24th 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, and was the last of Jin Yong's works. The novel was initially published as a serial, and ran between October 24, 1969 to September 23, 1972 in Ming Pao.[1]

Although the book is often termed as a wuxia novel, it is not archetypal of the genre, since the protagonist of the book, Wei Xiaobao, is not an adept martial arts practitioner, who relies on his wits to get out of trouble instead of his fighting skills.


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.

It is written in volume 92 of the historical text Book of Han, "The deer lost by Qin was hunted by all under Heavens (《史记•卷九十二》:“秦失其鹿,天下共逐之。” ), an illustration of the rise of numerous rivalling warlords contesting for supremacy to capture the prize, the empire lost by the Qin Dynasty.

During the Zhou Dynasty, there were the Nine Cauldrons, symbolic of the Divine Mandate of rulership. Zuo Zhuan recorded an account where the ruler of the most powerful Chu state enquired the weight of the cauldron from a Zhou minister. This sent a clear signal that he was coveting the rulership of the empire technically possessed by the king of Zhou.

The title refers to the novel's background where the Han Chinese subjects of the fallen Ming Dynasty struggle to restore their former empire by opposing the Manchu-ruled Qing Dynasty.


The story centers on a witty, sly, illiterate and lazy protagonist, Wei Xiaobao, who was born to a prostitute from a brothel in Yangzhou during the Qing Dynasty. The teenage scamp makes his way from Yangzhou to the capital city Beijing through a series of adventures. In Beijing, he is kidnapped and taken to the Forbidden City where he impersonates a eunuch. While in the palace, Wei Xiaobao bumbles his way into a fateful encounter with the young Kangxi Emperor and they develop an unlikely friendship.

Once, Wei Xiaobao is captured by some pugilists and brought out of the palace. He meets Chen Jinnan, the leader of the anti-Qing organisation Heaven and Earth Society, and becomes Chen's disciple. He also becomes one of the society's Lodge Masters and implanted by the society as an "undercover secret agent" inside the palace. He is captured again and brought to Divine Dragon Island, home base of the sinister Mystic Dragon Cult (神龍教). Unexpectedly, he becomes the cult's White Dragon Marshal by flattering the leader Hong Antong and sheer luck. Wei Xiaobao is also a lecherous womaniser and he marries seven beautiful women whom he encounters in different adventures. They have three children.

Wei Xiaobao makes several seemingly impossible achievements through sheer luck and cunning. Most of the time, he uses despicable and immoral means to accomplish them. Firstly, he assists Kangxi in deposing the cruel and power-hungry aristocrat Oboi and helps Kangxi secure his position as supreme ruler of the empire. Secondly, he discovers the whereabouts of the presumed-dead Shunzhi Emperor and rescues him from danger. Next, he helps Shunzhi reunite with his son, Kangxi. Thirdly, he eliminates the threat of the evil Mystic Dragon Cult by stirring up internal conflict, which eventually leads to the cult's self-destruction. Fourthly, he weakens the rebellion staged by Wu Sangui by bribing Wu's allies to discontinue supporting Wu, which allows the Qing army to crush Wu's forces easily. Lastly, he leads the campaign against the Russian Empire and helps Qing China reach a border treaty with Russia. He met the Russian regent Sophia Alekseyevna earlier and helped her establish her rule over Russia. Lastly, Wei Xiaobao is also responsible for recommending several talents to Kangxi, of which the most notable one is Shi Lang, who leads the successful naval campaign against the Kingdom of Tungning.

Throughout the story, Wei Xiaobao exhibits devout loyalty to both Kangxi and the anti-Qing forces. He instinctively shields Kangxi with his body from assassins twice and saves the emperor's life. He plays an important role in assisting Kangxi in securing his rule over the Qing empire. On the other hand, he helps the anti-Qing forces escape from danger on numerous occasions by distracting the Qing 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 Qing forces. For his numerous accomplishments, Wei Xiaobao is rewarded with immense wealth and ever-rising titles of nobility by Kangxi. His highest rank of nobility ever was "Duke of Mount Deer Cauldron" (鹿鼎候) or "Duke of Mount Deer". He also gained respect from the anti-Qing factions for opposing corrupt politicians and defending China from foreign invaders.

Ultimately, Wei Xiaobao's conflicting identities reach a disastrous conclusion. Kangxi discovers Wei Xiaobao's relationship with the society eventually. He forces Wei Xiaobao to choose between him and the society and puts Wei in a dilemma. If Wei Xiaobao chooses to side with the society, he will become an enemy of the state and be forced to turn against Kangxi, whom he regards as a childhood friend and master. If he chooses to follow Kangxi's orders, he will have to eliminate the anti-Qing forces and become a traitor in their eyes. Wei Xiaobao refuses to help Kangxi destroy the society and is forced into exile. However, Kangxi still regards him as a close friend and loyal subject so he pardons Wei Xiaobao and allows him to return to the palace later. Towards the end of the novel, Kangxi tries to force Wei Xiaobao to help him eliminate the anti-Qing forces again. On the other hand, Chen Jinnan had died and the society's members want Wei Xiaobao to be their new leader.

Wei Xiaobao ponders over the issue and realises that he will never be able to reconcile between the two rival parties. He feels that his divided friendships and split loyalties are tearing him apart. He decides to leave and lead a reclusive life away from society, taking with him his immense wealth and family. Wei Xiaobao is never heard of again. It is said that later Kangxi went on inspection tours to Jiangnan to look for Wei Xiaobao but never found him.


  • Wei Xiaobao (韋小寶) – the lazy, illiterate, witty and sly protagonist of the novel. He makes a number of seemingly impossible achievements through sheer luck and wit. He leads his family to Yunnan and lives there ever since his retirement from the jianghu.
    • Wei Xiaobao's family
  • Kangxi Emperor (康熙皇帝) – the ruler of the Qing Dynasty. He develops a close friendship with Wei Xiaobao in their childhood. He is first known to Wei Xiaobao as "Xiaoxuanzi" (小玄子).
  • Chen Jinnan (陳近南) – the society's leader and a subject of the Kingdom of Tungning. He is murdered by Zheng Keshuang.
  • Hong Antong (洪安通) – the leader of the cult. He is killed during an internal conflict in the cult.
  • Oboi (鳌拜) – a cruel and power-hungry aristocrat. He is removed from power by Wei Xiaobao and the young Kangxi Emperor and imprisoned. He is killed by Wei Xiaobao later.
  • Wu Sangui (吴三桂) – a former subject of the fallen Ming Dynasty. He defects to the Qing Dynasty and is appointed "West Subduing Prince of Yunnan". He stages a rebellion against the Qing Dynasty later (see Revolt of the Three Feudatories).
  • Zheng Keshuang (鄭克塽) – a grandson of Koxinga. He is the heir to the throne of the kingdom, which is independent of Qing rule. He is incompetent and spoilt by nature. He is the former lover of A'ke and she leaves him after he reveals his true colours. He surrenders to the Qing Dynasty eventually.

Miscellaneous information

Sutra of Forty-two Chapters (四十二章經)

The Sutra of Forty-two Chapters is a Buddhist sutra. There were originally eight copies. When the Manchus first invaded 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 leaders of the Eight Banners 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 Manchu royal bloodline, the "Dragon's Vessel" (龍脈). If this "root" is excavated, all Manchus will die. This is to ensure that none of the nobles will attempt to find this location and instead, guard the treasure with their lives. Only the reigning emperor knows the truth, as evident when the Shunzhi Emperor passes on this knowledge to the Kangxi Emperor.

The books are highly sought after by many, including Hai Dafu, the fake empress dowager Mao Dongzhu, the Mystic Dragon Cult, the Heaven and Earth Society, the former Princess Changping, Wu Sangui and many 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. Although Wei Xiaobao is greedy by nature, he did not excavate the treasure and keep it for himself as he strongly believes the myth about the treasure being the Manchu royal bloodline's "root".

The eight books

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

  • Plain Red Banner - the book is stolen from Prince Kang, leader of the Plain Red Banner. Wei Xiaobao finds it by accident. [LuDing Ch.10]
  • Bordered Red Banner - Rui Dong, an imperial guard in the palace, kills the leader of the Bordered Red Banner and takes away his book under the orders of the fake empress dowager, Mao Dongzhu. He is killed by Wei Xiaobao (who takes the book) before being able to hand the book in. [LuDing Ch.14]
  • Bordered Yellow Banner - the book is taken away from Oboi, leader of the Bordered Yellow Banner when he is imprisoned by Kangxi. It lands in the hands of Mao Dongzhu before Wei Xiaobao steals it from her. [LuDing Ch.14]
  • Plain White Banner - the book is taken away by Oboi from Suksaha, leader of the Plain White Banner when Suksaha is killed by Oboi. It later lands in the hands of Mao Dongzhu, and then in Wei Xiaobao's. [LuDing Ch.14]
  • Bordered White Banner - the book is first given by the Shunzhi Emperor to Consort Donggo. When Donggo dies, Mao Dongzhu takes it away. It is stolen by Wei Xiaobao later. [LuDing Ch.14]
  • Plain Yellow Banner - the book is kept by the Shunzhi Emperor after his abdication. He gives it to the Kangxi Emperor. It was taken away by Mao Dongzhu and by Wei Xiaobao later. [LuDing Ch.25]
  • Bordered Blue Banner - Tao Hongying's grand teacher attempted to steal the book from the leader of the Bordered Blue Banner, but is fatally wounded by the Thin Monk from the Mystic Dragon Cult, who keeps the book. The Thin Monk leaves the book behind in Mao Dongzhu's room by accident when he leaves in a hurry, and Wei Xiaobao takes it. [LuDing Ch.28]
  • Plain Blue Banner - the book is stolen from the leader of the Plain Blue Banner and ends up in Wu Sangui's possession. Wei Xiaobao replaced it with a Bordered Blue Banner book (with maps concealed within the book removed) without Wu knowing. [LuDing Ch.30]

Literary inquisition

In the early years of the Kangxi Emperor's reign, Oboi monopolised state power and introduced the practice of literary inquisition. Many intellectuals and scholars were persecuted for their writings. The Zhuang family of Huzhou compiled a book titled History of Ming, which chronicles the events of the Ming Dynasty. As the book uses the Ming emperor's reign title, considered taboo in the Qing Dynasty, it was reported to the authorities by Wu Zhirong.

The Zhuang family was massacred and all of its male members killed. The incident also sparked off a chain reaction, in which many others who were not directly involved or linked to the book were rounded up and executed. Among them include innocents, such as those who came into contact with readers, bookstore owners who sold copies of the book, and relatives of the Zhuang family.

Themes and story review

The novel is unique as its protagonist is different from those in Jin Yong's earlier novels. Wei Xiaobao is a greedy, lazy, womanizing anti-hero, and neither a morally upright person nor a highly-skilled pugilist. Jin Yong's other protagonists, such as Guo Jing and Chen Jialuo, live for noble causes, such as defending the 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 tone, 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 groups in China, such as the Jurchens, Mongols and Manchus, have always been portrayed as power-hungry villains who wish to dominate the Central Plains, while the Han Chinese are described as a race constantly facing the threats of foreign invasion and incompetent or corrupt governance.

One exception is Sword Stained with Royal Blood (an unofficial prequel to The Deer and the Cauldron), in which the Manchu ruler Hong Taiji 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 easily subject to manipulation.

A similar theme is present in the novel, in which Jin Yong has greyed out the traditional Han Chinese vs. barbarians theme. The Kangxi Emperor is depicted as a caring and wise ruler who aims to maximise the welfare of the people under his rule. In contrary, the self-proclaimed "patriotic" anti-Qing resistance 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 common people. The style which Jin Yong adopts in the novel is in direct opposition to his stance in some of his earlier novels.

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

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

English language translation

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

Works based on the novel

There are also books to examine the office-politic skills displayed by the main characters and their modern day applications:



Year Production Wei Xiaobao Kangxi Emperor Additional information
1983 Shaw Brothers Studio
(Hong Kong)
Wong Yue Gordon Liu See Tale of a Eunuch
1992 Hong Kong Stephen Chow Deric Wan See Royal Tramp
See Royal Tramp II
1993 Hong Kong Tony Leung Kent Tong See Hero - Beyond the Boundary of Time
2011 Chinese Entertainment Shanghai
(Mainland China)[2]
Hu Ge Nicky Wu[3] An online short film, Chinese title 夢迴鹿鼎記, also stars Cecilia Liu, Lin Gengxin and Annie Liu.


Year Production Wei Xiaobao Kangxi Emperor Additional information
1978 CTV (Hong Kong) Wen Hsueh-erh Cheng Si-chun
1984 TVB (Hong Kong) Tony Leung Andy Lau See The Duke of Mount Deer (1984 TV series)
CTV (Taiwan) Li Hsiao-fei Chou Shao-tung See The Duke of Mount Deer (CTV)
1998 TVB (Hong Kong) Jordan Chan Steven Ma See The Duke of Mount Deer (1998 TV series)
2000 Co-production Dicky Cheung Patrick Tam 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 See Royal Tramp (TV series)


Year Production Wei Xiaobao Kangxi Emperor Additional information
2000 RTHK Eason Chan Roland Leung 100 episode radio drama (available online for listening)

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 陳鎮輝,《武俠小說逍遙談》, 2000, 匯智出版有限公司, pp. 57.
  2. ^ 刘诗诗再度牵手胡歌 《鹿鼎记》饰俄女皇 (Chinese)
  3. ^ 电影《鹿鼎记》颠覆原著 三主角陷三角恋情

External links

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • List of The Deer and the Cauldron characters — The following is a list of characters from Jin Yong s wuxia novel The Deer and the Cauldron. Contents 1 Wei Xiaobao and his family 2 Qing Dynasty 3 Anti Qing organisations …   Wikipedia

  • The Duke of Mount Deer (2000 TV series) — The Duke of Mount Deer 2000 Official poster Genre Wuxia Written by Louis Cha (original story) Starring …   Wikipedia

  • The Smiling, Proud Wanderer — (zh tsp|t=笑傲江湖|s=笑傲江湖|p=xiào ào jiāng hú) is a 1967 Chinese language wuxia novel written by Louis Cha, who was better known as Jinyong.The term Xiao Ao Jiang Hu (笑傲江湖) means to live a carefree life in a mundane world of strife. An alternative… …   Wikipedia

  • The Sword in the Stone (film) — The Sword in the Stone Original theatrical release poster Directed by Wolfgang Reitherman Produc …   Wikipedia

  • Four Branches of the Mabinogi — The Four Branches of the Mabinogi are the best known tales from the medieval Welsh prose collection known as the Mabinogion . The word Mabinogi originally designated only these four tales, which are really parts or branches of a single work,… …   Wikipedia

  • List of Demi-Gods and Semi-Devils characters — The following is a list of characters from Jin Yong s wuxia novel Demi Gods and Semi Devils. There are about over 230 characters in the novel, including those who are only mentioned by name. Contents 1 Protagonists 2 Kingdom of Dali 3 Murong… …   Wikipedia

  • Duke of Mount Deer 2000 — infobox television show name = The Duke of Mount Deer caption = format = Wuxia, Drama runtime = 45 mins (per episode) creator = Jinyong (novel) starring = See Cast below country = Co Prodution of Taiwan and Hong Kong num episodes = 40 imdb id =… …   Wikipedia

  • Duke of Mount Deer — is a TV series (2007) based on Jin Yong s novel The Deer and the Cauldron. The major cast is Huang Xiaoming.This film is not like the previous installments, it emphasizes mostly on wits, as martial arts are not focused in the film, the film does… …   Wikipedia

  • Demi-Gods and Semi-Devils — This article is about the novel. For other uses, see Demigod (disambiguation). For other uses, see Demi Gods and Semi Devils (disambiguation). Demi Gods and Semi Devils   …   Wikipedia

  • Other Tales of the Flying Fox — For other uses, see Other Tales of the Flying Fox (disambiguation). Other Tales of the Flying Fox/Young Flying Fox   Author(s) Jin Yong …   Wikipedia

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”