This question has been asked since Chinese Paladin III came out and I couldn’t help with debating it also. Seriously, I must choose Jing Tian regardless of how much I liked Xiao Yao and Yue Ru as a pairing. Why? The transition that was written for Xiao Yao just did not go well with me. Jing Tian seemed more down to earth and real in his way. There were many similarities in them, but there were definite traces of totally different characters in regard to how they handled matters at times (of course). Jing Tian was both a kind person and a loudmouth at the same time. It was just that over time that his good side came out more after being with the others on the journey. Xiao Yao? I don’t know. He was just too random at the beginning and then just changed for the better good later. Though I know it was the maturity through time and things he’d been through, but I feel that Jing Tian was more mature and more real in a sense. He was not one dimensional like being bad or mean all the time and then changing later. All the personalities in Jing Tian that co-exist at the same time made it more believable. Jing Tian was a loudmouth, but so what? Like he could stop that. Or he would worry for his friends yet do not say it in nicer ways. Here, it was similar to Xiao Yao that he cared for his friends and all, but it was just different. I just think that it was because of the way the story was at the beginning that made Xiao Yao lose momentum with his transition and the pace of the story. Jing Tian’s development in character was smoother.
With Xiao Yao’s story, I think it was more like a teenager growing up in exploring things around him, lusting after a girl and then paying for the heavy price of a lifetime. It was until he went through different trials that he matured and developed a much more matured relationship, experiencing what was really known as going through hardships together, not just all talks like the first love that seemed sweet but became a burden when reality hit. He ended up paying for everything when his past caught up with him and then he had to take responsibilities for what he’d done. (I seriously thought about it in modern terms in that way. I’m sorry but it seemed that way to me with how the story was.)
With Jing Tian, he knew the world around him already–at least in normal people world. So when he ventured into battling demons and much more, he was just inexperience with the abilities to fight, not having to learn so much about love and hate (aka different relationships of life). He encountered them and learned even more, but it wasn’t random. There was actually a purpose that made sense about finding the five pearls and helping to restore peace all around, not running around senselessly trying to be a hero and protect some weakling like the other one. Jing Tian’s righteous actions were shown when he did not abandon Chang Qing and managed to bring Chang Qing to Mt. Shu no matter how Chang Qing told him to run first. Then there was the whole Jing Tian’s encounter with the monkey–who eventually became his master–showed that he knew how to react to certain situations. Though he was seemed immature at times, when the time called for it, he knew what to do, not hesitating. He valued friendship and treated others kindly–though in his own way. He did not go around lecturing people of how to behave (though he liked to pick on Xue Jian). But when he had to defend his friends, he was ready and was there, especially how he was really protective of Mao Mao–regardless of how he was seemed mean or trying to upstage Mao Mao in situations.
Or perhaps the plot had a lot to do with it that I chose Jing Tian over Xiao Yao. I liked the idea of him valuing friendship over love. Though there were romances, the friendship between Jing Tian and Chang Qing surpassed all the romances in Part III. Also, maybe it was because how Jing Tian and Xue Jian were the ones who possessed the jade pieces that reminded me of Tang Yu and Ah Nu in Part I, making me believe in the strong relationship between both pairings. Ah Nu had a crush on Xiao Yao just like how Xue Jian had a crush on Chang Qing at the beginning. It was showing their innocent sides yet there was some cuteness in it. Though I could not say that Tang Yu and Jing Tian were alike–since Tang Yu was not such a loudmouth (lol), but both valued friendship very much and their sense of righteous was seen at various times throughout. They had a duty to follow and they weren’t afraid of fulfilling it at the end. (Didn’t Tang Yu sacrifice himself? There it was, the same pattern.)