Yang Kang is the fictional antagonist in the wuxia novel The Legend of the Condor Heroes by Jin Yong (Louis Cha). He also serves as a foil to the novel's protagonist Guo Jing.
Birth and heritageEdit
Yang's hometown is in Niu Family Village. His father Yang Tiexin was from Shandong, and moved to Lin'an (present-day Hangzhou) after the Jurchens conquered northern China. Yang Tiexin met Bao Xiruo in the neighbouring town, Hongmei Village, and married her. Two years after their marriage, Yang Tiexin was apparently killed when Jin soldiers raided the village. Bao was heavily pregnant with Yang Kang then, and was rescued by Wanyan Honglie, the sixth prince of the Jin Dynasty. She gave birth to Yang Kang later and Yang was raised as a Jurchen noble and adopted his foster father's family name 'Wanyan'. He was initially known as "Wanyan Kang" before his real heritage is revealed.
Yang's given name "Kang" is the complementary of his sworn brother's "Jing". Together, their given names form "Jingkang" (靖康). Their fathers and a Quanzhen Taoist called Qiu Chuji named them as such to remind them of the Jingkang Incident and to be loyal to their native land, the Song Empire. Yang is also a descendant of Yang Zaixing, a Song general who participated in the war against Jin.
Treachery and retributionEdit
Yang discovers his true heritage when his biological father Yang Tiexin, who was apparently killed before his birth, appears to his mother Bao Xiruo. Bao tries to explain to her son that Yang Tiexin is his father. However, Yang refuses to acknowledge Yang Tiexin as his father. To him, Wanyan Honglie is a fatherly figure who showers love and care on him and provides him with everything he wants. In fact, Wanyan Honglie is responsible for the deaths of Yang's parents, as Yang Tiexin and Bao Xiruo commit suicide after being cornered by Wanyan Honglie and his men.
When Yang finally meets his sworn brother Guo Jing, the latter attempts to persuade him to take the Song Empire's side. Although Yang initially agreed to revert to the Song side, he later changed his mind after witnessing how the Han Chinese society of Song is infested with problems like corruption and disunity, as well as their cowardice in the face of Jurchen aggression. Disgusted, Yang is then tempted by the wealth, fame and power of being a Jurchen noble and denounces his ethnicity again. He collaborates with the Jurchens to exploit his own race (the Han Chinese) and pretends to have acknowledged his ethnicity. At one point, he attempts to kill Guo by stabbing him with a dagger when Guo tries to persuade him to revert again. He murders Ouyang Ke so that he can take the latter's place as Ouyang Feng's student. Yang is also responsible for the deaths of five of the "Seven Freaks of Jiangnan", and for accusing Guo of murdering Ouyang Ke.
Yang meets his retributive end in the Temple of the Iron Spear in Jiaxing. Huang Rong is about to reveal the truth behind the deaths of Ouyang Ke and the Freaks when Yang attacks her with a palm strike in an attempt to silence her. However, Yang hits the spikes on Huang's armour instead, which are stained with venom from a deadly breed of snakes. The poison seeps through the wounds into Yang's body and kills him eventually. Ironically, the venom that killed Yang was used by him to kill one of the Freaks. Ouyang Feng refuses to save Yang when he learns that the latter was the one who murdered Ouyang Ke.
Yang dies a slow and painful death in the temple as the poison works its way through his body. Wanyan Honglie and his men abandon him in fear of being infected. Before dying, Yang finally sees his mistakes and blames Wanyan Honglie for his plight but is too late. When Guo Jing reaches the temple, he is horrified to see that Yang's corpse had been devoured by crows and ravens. Guo buried whatever that is left of Yang outside the temple. Yang's teacher Qiu Chuji arrives later and constructs a tomb for Yang after Ke Zhen'e informed him about the incident. Qiu inscribes on the headstone "Yang Kang - The Unworthy Student. Erected by his untalented teacher Qiu Chuji" (不肖弟子楊康之墓, 不才業師丘處機書碑).
Love relationship with Mu NianciEdit
Yang meets his love interest Mu Nianci for the first time in a martial arts contest for a spouse. He defeats her but refuses to marry her after his victory. He is unaware that Mu's foster father Mu Yi is actually his biological father, Yang Tiexin. However, their romance is often strained as they have conflicting views over where their loyalties lie. Yang wants to remain as a Jurchen noble and indulge in wealth, fame and power, while Mu Nianci remains loyal to their homeland of the Song Empire.
Mu is disappointed with Yang when she recognises his treachery and stubborn refusal to acknowledge his ethnicity. She sees Yang as a race traitor and decides to leave him for good. Mu never saw Yang again. However, she is already pregnant with Yang's child. She gives birth to a boy, who is named "Yang Guo" by Guo Jing.
Martial arts and skillsEdit
Qiu Chuji of the Quanzhen Sect finds Yang and accepts him as a student upon learning that the boy is Yang Tiexin's son. Qiu teaches Yang Quanzhen's martial arts to prepare for an upcoming contest with Guo Jing, as well as some skills he created to counter the "Seven Freaks of Jiangnan". Yang also learnt an incomplete set of the Yang Family Spear Movement (楊家槍法) from Qiu, whose knowledge of the skill is based on recollections of his encounter with Yang Tiexin.