The heroes in wuxia fiction typically do not serve a lord, wield military power, or belong to the aristocratic class. They often originate from the lower social classes of ancient Chinese society. A code of chivalry usually requires wuxia heroes to right and redress wrongs, fight for righteousness, remove oppressors, and bring retribution for past misdeeds. Chinese xia traditions can be compared to martial codes from other cultures, such as the Japanese samurai bushidō.
The modern wuxia genre rose to prominence in the early 20th century after the May Fourth Movement of 1919. A new literature evolved, calling for a break with Confucian values, and the xia emerged as a symbol of personal freedom, defiance to Confucian tradition, and rejection of the Chinese family system.
There have also been works created after the 1980s which attempt to create a post-wuxia genre. Yu Hua, one of the more notable writers from this period, published a counter-genre short story titled Blood and Plum Blossoms, in which the protagonist goes on a quest to avenge his murdered father.
Modern wuxia stories are largely set in ancient or pre-modern China. The historical setting can range from being quite specific and important to the story, to being vaguely-defined, anachronistic, or mainly for use as a backdrop. Elements of fantasy, such as the use of magic powers and appearance of supernatural beings, are common in some wuxia stories but are not a prerequisite of the wuxia genre. However, the martial arts element is a definite part of a wuxia tale, as the characters must know some form of martial arts. Themes of romance are also strongly featured in some wuxia tales.
Despite these genre-blending elements, wuxia is primarily a historical genre of fiction. Notwithstanding this, wuxia writers openly admit that they are unable to capture the entire history of a course of events and instead choose to structure their stories along the pattern of the protagonist's progression from childhood to adulthood instead. The progression may be symbolic rather than literal, as observed in Jin Yong's The Smiling, Proud Wanderer, where Linghu Chong progresses from childish concerns and dalliances into much more adult ones as his unwavering loyalty repeatedly thrusts him into the rocks of betrayal at the hands of his inhumane master.
The eight common attributes of the xia are listed as benevolence, justice, individualism, loyalty, courage, truthfulness, disregard for wealth, and desire for glory. Apart from individualism, these characteristics are similar to Confucian values such as ren (仁; "benevolence", "kindness"), zhong (忠; "loyalty"), yong (勇; "courage", "bravery") and yi (義; "righteousness"). The code of xia also emphasises the importance of repaying benefactors after having received deeds of en (恩; "grace", "favour") from others, as well as seeking chou (仇; "vengeance", "revenge") to bring villains to justice. However, the importance of vengeance is controversial, as a number of wuxia works stress Buddhist ideals, which include forgiveness, compassion and a prohibition on killing.
The martial arts in wuxia stories are based on wushu techniques and other real life Chinese martial arts. In wuxia tales, however, the mastery of such skills are highly exaggerated to superhuman levels of achievement and prowess.
In wuxia stories, characters attain the above skills and abilities by devoting themselves to years of diligent study and exercise, but can also have such power conferred upon them by a master who transfers his energy to them. The instructions to mastering these skills through training are found in secret manuals known as miji (秘笈). In some stories, specific skills can be learned by spending several years in seclusion with a master or training with a group of fighters.
New and original wuxia writings have dwindled significantly in modern times, particularly so as patronage and readerships of the genre decimated due to readily available alternatives in entertainment such as DVDs, gaming consoles, and other newer forms of entertainment. However, the genre has persisted in the form of manhua (Chinese comics) in places like Hong Kong and Taiwan, with the core essentials of the wuxia genre living on in weekly editions equivalent to the Japanese manga.
The earliest wuxia films date back to the 1920s. Extant early wuxia films produced in China include Red Heroine (1929), Woman Warrior White Rose (1929), and Woman Warrior of the Wild River 6: Rumble at Deerhorn Gully (1930), the sixth film in a series. Hua Mu Lan (1939), another surviving film, is considered a representative of the second wave of wuxia films, during the Anti-Japanese War. Films directed by King Hu and produced by the Shaw Brothers Studio featured sophisticated action choreography using wire and trampoline assisted acrobatics combined with sped-up camera techniques. The storylines in the early films were loosely adapted from existing literature.
Wuxia was introduced to Hollywood studios in 2000 by Ang Lee's Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, though influence of the genre was previously seen in the United States in the 1970s television series Kung Fu. Following in Lee's footsteps, Zhang Yimou made Hero, targeted for the international market in 2002, House of Flying Daggers in 2004, Curse of the Golden Flower in 2006 and Shadow in 2018. Western audiences were also introduced to wuxia through Asian television stations in larger cities, which featured miniseries such as Warriors of the Yang Clan and Paradise, often with English subtitles.
In 2013, Keanu Reeves directed and starred as the main antagonist in Man of Tai Chi, with Tiger Chen as a martial artist attending underground fights. The Mulan remake in 2020 was Disney's attempt in making a wuxia movie. In 2021, Marvel's Shang-Chi opens with a wuxia sequence and has action sequences inspired by Jackie Chan.
Some notable wuxia video games of the action RPG genre include The Legend of Sword and Fairy, Xuan-Yuan Sword, Jade Empire, and Kingdom of Paradise, all of which blend wuxia with elements of Chinese mythology and fantasy. The Legend of Sword and Fairy, in particular, expanded into a franchise of eight video games, two of which were adapted into the television series Chinese Paladin (2005) and Chinese Paladin 3 (2009). There are also MMORPGs, such as JX Online 3, Heroes of Kung Fu and Age of Wulin, and hack and slash games, such as Bujingai and Heavenly Sword.
Games adapted from the works of wuxia writers include Heroes of Jin Yong, an RPG based on characters in Jin Yong's novels; Dragon Oath, an MMORPG inspired by Jin Yong's Demi-Gods and Semi-Devils; and Martial Kingdoms, a strategy game featuring several martial arts schools which commonly appear in wuxia fiction.
The wuxia genre continues to be drawn as a pool of inspiration or source material for Chinese video game studios. In June 2022, Tencent's Lightspeed Studio released a demo trailer on Code: To Jin Yong. In the following month, Everstone Studio unveiled Where Winds Meet, a game compared to Ghost of Tsushima and Assassin's Creed.
Amélie Wen Zhao's fantasy novel, Song of Silver, Flame Like Night, is rooted in the Chinese genres of xianxia and wuxia. It follows a young girl uncovering the secrets of her tumultuous kingdom with the help of a magician. In today's episode, the author talks to Here & Now's Kalyani Saxena about how her imperfect characters make difficult choices in their search for power. Zhao draws clear comparisons between the themes of anti-imperialism and history depicted in the book to real world battles being fought today, including anti-Asian racism.
This concert also features the orchestra performing to a special version of the groundbreaking wuxia movie One-Armed Swordsman (1967), with music composed by established composers such as Hong Kong composer Lincoln Lo and rearranged by Singapore composers Phoon Yew Tien and Law Wai Lun.
The Heavenly Sword and Dragon Saber, also translated as The Sword and the Knife, is a wuxia novel by Jin Yong (Louis Cha). It is the third instalment in the Condor Trilogy and is preceded by The Legend of the Condor Heroes and The Return of the Condor Heroes. It was first serialised from 6 July 1961 to 2 September 1963 in the Hong Kong newspaper Ming Pao.
The first wuxia films were made during the 1920s by two studios: Manhua Film Company, led by Wong Jing and Jin Shanzhuo; and Lianhua Film Company, led by Yuan Muzhi (director), Zhou Jianyun (composer), Xu Lichen (actor) and Cai Chusheng.
Jin Yong is a Chinese writer. He is best known for his wuxia novel series, starting with The Condor Trilogy, which consists of three novels: The Legend of the Condor Heroes, The Return of the Condor Heroes and The Heaven Sword and Dragon Saber.
Gu Long is a Chinese novelist. He is considered one of the most influential writers in the genre of wuxia and his works are widely read in China and abroad. Gu Long was born Zhu Ziqing into a poor family in Yulin, Shaanxi Province, China. 781b155fdc