Zhou Cheng

Let’s continue with the Iron Fist characters, and go to episode 8. In The Blessing of Many FracturesDanny travels to China along with Colleen and Claire to investigate Madame Gao‘s involvement in the murder of his parents. In the city of Anzhou, the trio reaches the factory Gao produces her drug in, and Danny fights with the guardian of the place: Zhou Cheng, portrayed by Lewis Tan. Zhou Cheng claims to be the “sacred protector of The Hand“, thus being some sort of dark mirror of Danny, and he proves to be a formidable martial artist, expert in the Drunken Fist style. He also points out to Danny that he’s not exactly living up to his oath as the Iron Fist, thus igniting quite a fury in him… In the comics, Zhou Cheng is an antagonist who appeared (and disappeared) quite recently, and who has some deep ties with Ch’i-Lin, the one that in the show he claims to be his master. Let’s see together.

Not much is known about Zhou Cheng’s early life, actually not even exactly when he was born, considering that he was much older than he looked like. He was born somewhere in China and, when he became adult, something happened that changed his life forever: whether willingly, by accident or because of a psionic attack, Zhou Cheng was visited by the Ch’i-Lin, a mystic beast residing in the long-lost 8th Celestial City, now home of exiled beasts that had been haunting the other seven Capitals for eons. The Ch’i-Lin had but one obsession: to end the cycle of rebirth of his nemesis, the immortal dragon Shou-Lao, by consuming his egg, but he couldn’t escape from the 8th City, so he needed a host to move in other dimensions. Needless to say, Zhou Cheng was the perfect candidate: mind-controlled by the beast, he became C’hi-Lin’s avatar on Earth (and beyond), fighting his master’s war against Shou-Lao and the ones who protected him, the residents of the mystical city of K’un-Lun. The city, like the others, had one of the Immortal Weapons protecting it, so Zhou Cheng had to kill him (or her) to get to the treasure he sought; Ch’i-Lin, however, instructed him to attack the Iron Fist only when he (or she) had reached the thirty-third year of age, so that he could harvest a fully developed chi from their heart and use their dead bodies to create a portal to K’un-Lun. Made resilient by the Ch’i-Lin, Zhou Cheng hunted down the Iron Fists for seventy-five years, killing them as they turned thirty-three, but he always failed to consume the dragon egg, stopped by Lei-Kung the Thunderer and the other warriors from K’un-Lun; every time, however, he got closer to his objective. The only Iron Fist who ever escaped him was the disgraced Orson Randall who, using heroine, killed what remained of his own spirit, making himself undetectable to Zhou Cheng and his master.

After waiting for decades for another chance, Zhou Cheng finally detected the new Iron Fist, Danny Rand, who lived in New York City…and had just turned thirty-three. The first attack didn’t go exactly as planned, as Iron Fist had more capable friends and allies than expected: despite overpowering Danny, Zhou Cheng was repelled by the combined efforts of his best friends, Luke Cage, Colleen Wing and Misty Knight. Retreated for the moment, Zhou Cheng found out that Danny Rand had a dojo in Harlem, the Thunder Dojo, so he attacked his students to lure the Iron Fist out. The plan succeeded, but once again Zhou Cheng was caught off-guard, as Iron Fist arrived accompanied by the other Immortal Weapons: facing at once Iron Fist, Fat Cobra, the Tiger’s Beautiful DaughterDog Brother, the Bride of Nine Spiders and the Prince of Orphans, even the Ch’i-Lin had to admit his inferiority, and Zhou Cheng retreated once again. Understanding that a direct approach would have led him nowhere, Zhou Cheng changed his tactics, and decided to attack Danny from every possible angle. He seduced his enemy’s secretary, Nadine, and used her ambitions to convince her to help him in taking over Rand Corporation. Taking away everything that was important to Rand, starting from his family company, was a good way to isolate him and make him vulnerable, but once again Zhou Cheng rushed things a little bit: along with Nadine, he poisoned Danny’s tea at a meeting, but once again he was saved by Luke Cage and Misty Knight. Sick of this tiring game of cat and mouse Zhou Cheng, after revealing to a pregnant Nadine his true identity in the worst way possible, challenged Iron Fist to a duel to the death, face to face. Bound by his honor, Iron Fist accepted…but he had understood that Zhou Cheng’s unbeatable technique came from his ability to read his chi: Iron Fist sealed his chi, and faced the monster’s avatar as a simple human being. Unable to forsee Iron Fist’s moves, Zhou Cheng was overpowered by his enemy, and eventually decapitated by him, ending a hunt long almost a century.

Zhou Cheng is a tireless and determined hunter, a single-minded predator who lives to serve his master, Ch’i-Lin (who’s actually controlling him, so it’s hard to tell how much of Cheng really belongs to his character). As the avatar of the Ch’i-Lin, he’s immortal and nearly invulnerable, a formidable warrior master of any known martial art, capable of detecting his target’s chi so that he can locate him everywhere and predict his movements during combat; he’s also able to absorb chi from other living beings and use it for a variety of purposes. A terrific fighter who serves an ancient evil, Zhou Cheng will never stop, not until his master achieves his vengeance on Shou-Lao and his servants…

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