WUSHU IN THE WORLD
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TRADITIONAL CHINESE 武俠
SIMPLIFIED CHINESE 武侠
LITERAL MEANING "martial heroes"
HANYU PINYIN wǔxiá
HOKKIEN POJ bú-kiap
VIETNAMESE võ hiệp
WUXIA (武俠, IPA : ), which literally means "martial heroes", is a
Chinese fiction concerning the adventures of martial artists
in ancient China. Although wuxia is traditionally a form of
literature, its popularity has caused it to spread to diverse art
forms such as
The word "wuxia" is a compound composed of the elements wu (literally "martial", "military", or "armed") and xia (literally "honourable", "chivalrous", or "hero"). A martial artist who follows the code of xia is often referred to as a xiake (literally "follower of xia") or youxia (literally "wandering xia"). In some translations, the martial artist is referred to as a "swordsman" or "swordswoman" even though he or she may not necessarily wield a sword.
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 's bushido tradition.
* 1 History
* 1.1 Earlier precedents * 1.2 20th century
* 2 Themes, plots and settings
* 2.1 Code of xia * 2.2 Skills and abilities
* 2.3 Jianghu
* 2.3.1 Evolving interpretations of the term jianghu * 2.3.2 Current interpretations of the term jianghu * 2.3.3 Relationship with the government * 2.3.4 Norms of the jianghu * 2.3.5 Jianghu in modern times
* 3 Books and writers * 4 Comics * 5 Film and television * 6 Video games * 7 See also * 8 References * 9 Further reading * 10 External links
Even though the term "wuxia" as the name of a genre is a recent
coinage, stories about xia date back more than 2,000 years. Wuxia
stories have their roots in some early youxia tales from 300–200
BCE. The Legalist philosopher
Han Fei spoke disparagingly of youxias
in his book Han Feizi in the chapter On Five 'Maggot' Classes about
five social classes in the
Spring and Autumn period
Xiake stories made a turning point in the
The genre of the martial or military romance also developed during
the Tang dynasty. In the
The term "wuxia" as a genre label itself first appeared at the end of the Qing dynasty, a calque of the Japanese "bukyō ", a genre of oft-militaristic and bushido -influenced adventure fiction. The term was brought to China by writers and students who hoped that China would modernise its military and place emphasis on martial virtues, and it quickly became entrenched as the term used to refer to xiayi and other predecessors of wuxia proper. In Japan, however, the term "bukyō" faded into obscurity. :2–3 :11, 262
Many wuxia works produced during the Ming and Qing dynasties were
lost due to the governments' crackdown on and banning of such works.
The modern wuxia genre rose to prominence in the early 20th century
May Fourth Movement
The early 20th century and the period from the 1960s–80s were often
regarded as the golden ages of the wuxia genre. Xiang Kairan (pen name
Pingjiang Buxiaosheng ) became the first notable wuxia writer, with
his debut novel being The Peculiar Knights-Errant of the Jianghu
(江湖奇俠傳). It was serialised from 1921–28 and was adapted
into the first wuxia film,
The Burning of the Red Lotus Temple (1928).
Zhao Huanting (趙煥亭), who wrote Chronicles of the Loyal
Knights-Errant (奇俠精忠傳, serialised 1923–27), was another
well-known wuxia writer based in
There have also been works created after the 1980s which attempt to
create a post-wuxia genre.
THEMES, PLOTS AND SETTINGS
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A 17th-century woodblock print of a scene from a play on the Kunlun Nu story.
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.
A typical wuxia story features a young male protagonist who experiences a tragedy – such as the loss of his loved ones – and goes on to undertake several trials and tribulations to learn several forms of martial arts from various fighters. At the end of the story, he emerges as a powerful fighter whom few can equal. He uses his abilities to follow the code of xia and mends the ills of the jianghu . For instance, the opening chapters of some of Jin Yong's works follow a certain pattern: a tragic event occurs, usually one that costs the lives of the newly introduced characters, and then it sets events into motion that will culminate in the primary action of the story.
Other stories use different structures. For instance, the protagonist is denied admission into a martial arts sect. He experiences hardships and trains secretly and waits until there is an opportunity for him to show off his skills and surprise those who initially looked down on him. Some stories feature a mature hero with powerful martial arts abilities confronting an equally powerful antagonist as his nemesis. The plot will gradually meander to a final dramatic showdown between the protagonist and his nemesis. These types of stories were prevalent during the era of anti-Qing revolutionaries.
Certain stories have unique plots, such as those by Gu Long and Huang Yi . Gu Long's works have an element of mystery and are written like detective stories. The protagonist, usually a formidable martial artist and intelligent problem-solver, embarks on a quest to solve a mystery such as a murder case. Huang Yi's stories are blended with science fiction.
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.
CODE OF XIA
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.
In the jianghu , martial artists are expected to be loyal to their master (sifu ). This gives rise to the formation of several complex trees of master-apprentice relations as well as the various sects such as Shaolin and Wudang . If there are any disputes between fighters, they will choose the honourable way of settling their issues through fighting in duels.
SKILLS AND ABILITIES
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The martial arts in wuxia stories are based on wushu techniques and
other real life
Chinese martial arts
The following is a list of skills and abilities a typical fighter in a wuxia story possesses:
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.
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"Jianghu" redirects here. For other uses, see Jianghu (other) .
Evolving Interpretations Of The Term Jianghu
The meaning of the term jianghu (江湖; literally "rivers and lakes"; Cantonese: kong-woo) has evolved over the course of Chinese history, but is usually used to describe the pugilist world of ancient China. First coined by Zhuangzi in the late 4th century BC, it was used to describe a way of life different from that of being actively involved in politics. At the time, it referred to the way of life of underachieving or maligned scholar-officials who distanced themselves from the circles of political power. In this sense, jianghu could be loosely interpreted as the way of life of a hermit.
Over the centuries, jianghu gained greater acceptance among the common people and gradually became a term used to describe a sub-society parallel to, and sometimes orthogonal to, mainstream society. This sub-society initially included merchants, craftsmen, beggars and vagabonds, but over time it assimilated bandits, outlaws and gangs who lived "outside the existing law". During the Song and Yuan dynasties, bards and novelists began using the term jianghu to create a literature of a fictional society of adventurers and rebels who lived not by existing societal laws, but by their own moral principles. The core of these moral principles encompassed xia (侠; "chivalry"), yi (义; "righteousness"), li (礼; "virtue"), zhong (忠; "loyalty") and chou (仇; "vengeance", "revenge"). Stories in this genre bloomed and enriched various interpretations of jianghu. At the same time, the term jianghu also developed intricate interconnections with gang culture because of outlaws' mutually shared distaste towards governments.
The inclusion of martial arts as a feature of jianghu was a recent
development in the early 20th century. Novelists started creating a
fantasy world in jianghu in which characters are martial artists and
in which the characters' enforcement of righteousness is symbolised by
conflicts between different martial artists or martial arts sects and
the ultimate triumph of good over evil.
Current Interpretations Of The Term Jianghu
The following description focuses more on the martial arts aspect of jianghu, its well-established social norms, and its close relation with "wulin".
A common aspect of the jianghu is that the courts of law are dysfunctional and that all disputes and differences (within the community) can only be resolved by members of the community, through the use of mediation, negotiation or force, predicating the need for the code of xia and acts of chivalry. Law and order within the jianghu are maintained by the various orthodox and righteous sects and heroes. Sometimes these sects may gather to form an alliance against a powerful evil organisation in the jianghu.
A leader, called the "wulin mengzhu" (武林盟主; literally "master of the wulin alliance"), is elected from among the sects in order to lead them and ensure law and order within the jianghu. The leader is usually someone with a high level of mastery in martial arts and a great reputation for righteousness who is often involved in some conspiracy and/or killed. In some stories, the leader may not be the greatest martial artist in the jianghu; in other stories, the position of the leader is hereditary. The leader is an arbiter who presides and adjudicates over all inequities and disputes. The leader is a de jure chief justice of the affairs of the jianghu.
Relationship With The Government
Members of the jianghu are also expected to keep their distance from any government offices or officials, without necessarily being antagonistic. It was acceptable for jianghu members who are respectable members of society (usually owning properties or big businesses) to maintain respectful but formal and passive relationship with the officials, such as paying due taxes and attending local community events. Even then, they are expected to shield any fugitives from the law, or at the least not to turn over fugitives to the officials. Local officials who are more savvy would know better than to expect co-operation from jianghu members, and would refrain from seeking help except to apprehend the worst and most notorious criminals. If the crimes also violated some of the moral tenets of jianghu, jianghu members may assist the government officials.
An interesting aspect is that while senior officials are kept at a distance, jianghu members may freely associate with low-ranking staff such as runners, jailers, or clerks of the magistrates. The jianghu members maintained order among their own in the community and prevent any major disturbance, thus saving a lot of work for their associates in the yamen . In return, the runners turn a blind eye to certain jianghu activities that are officially disapproved, the jailers ensured incarcerated jianghu members are not mistreated, and the clerks pass on useful tips to the jianghu community. This reciprocal arrangement allowed their superiors to maintain order in their jurisdiction with the limited resources available and jianghu members greater freedom.
Norms Of The Jianghu
Although many jianghu members were Confucian -educated, their attitudess towards the way of life in the jianghu is largely overshadowed by pragmatism. In other words, they feel that Confucian values are to be respected and upheld if they are useful, and to be discarded if they are a hindrance.
The basic (spoken and unspoken) norms of the jianghu are:
* No using of dirty tricks such as eye-gouging during fights unless one has a personal feud with the opponent. * Personal feuds do not extend to family members. * Always show respect for seniors and elders according to their status or age. * Complete obedience to one's shifu (martial arts teacher). * No learning of martial arts from another person without prior permission from one's shifu. * No using of martial arts against those who are not trained in martial arts. * No violating of women. * No sexual relationships with the wives of friends. * One's word is one's bond.
Jianghu In Modern Times
The term jianghu is linked to cultures other than those pertaining to martial arts in wuxia stories. It is also applied to anarchic societies. For instance, the triads and other Chinese secret societies use the term jianghu to describe their world of organised crime . Sometimes, the term jianghu may be replaced by the term "underworld" à la "criminal underworld".
In modern terminology, jianghu may mean any circle of interest, ranging from the entertainment industry to sports. Colloquially, retirement is also referred to as "leaving the jianghu" (退出江湖). In wuxia stories, when a reputable fighter decides to retire from the jianghu, he will do so in a ceremony known as "washing hands in the golden basin" (金盆洗手). He washes his hands in a golden basin filled with water, signifying that he will no longer be involved in the affairs of the jianghu. When a reclusive fighter who has retired from the jianghu reappears, his return is described as "re-entering the jianghu" (重出江湖).
BOOKS AND WRITERS
Notable modern wuxia writers include:
NAME PEN NAME ACTIVE YEARS SOME WORKS BRIEF DESCRIPTION
Louis Cha Leung-yung
Chen Wentong 陳文統 Liang Yusheng 梁羽生 1955–84 Qijian Xia Tianshan , Datang Youxia Zhuan , Baifa Monü Zhuan , Saiwai Qixia Zhuan , Yunhai Yugong Yuan, Xiagu Danxin The pioneer of the "new school" wuxia genre. Some of his works were adapted into films and television series.
Xiong Yaohua 熊耀華 Gu Long 古龍 1960–84 Chu Liuxiang Series, Juedai Shuangjiao , Xiao Shiyi Lang, Xiaoli Feidao Series , Lu Xiaofeng Series A writer who blends elements of mystery in his works. He writes in short paragraphs and is influenced stylistically by Western and Japanese writers. Some of his works were adapted into films and television series.
Woon Liang Geok Wen Liangyu 溫涼玉 Woon Swee Oan Wen Rui'an 溫瑞安 1973–present Si Da Ming Bu, Buyi Shenxiang, Jingyan Yi Qiang His works were adapted into the television series The Four and Face to Fate , and the film The Four .
Huang Zuqiang 黃祖強 Huang Yi 黃易 1987–2017 Xunqin Ji, Fuyu Fanyun, Datang Shuanglong Zhuan Combines wuxia with science fiction in his works. His works were adapted into the television series A Step into the Past , Lethal Weapons of Love and Passion and Twin of Brothers .
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 so forth. The genre has proliferated in 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 .
Some notable comic artists are listed as follows:
NAME PSEUDONYM ACTIVE YEARS SOME WORKS BRIEF DESCRIPTION
馬榮城 Ma Wing-shing
Wong Jan-lung Huang Zhenlong 黃振隆 Wong Yuk-long Huang Yulang 黃玉郎 1980s–present Oriental Heroes , Weapons of the Gods , Legend of Emperors , Buddha\'s Palm Some of his works were adapted into films and television series like Dragon Tiger Gate , Kung Fu VS Acrobatic , and The Buddhism Palm Strikes Back .
Khoo Fuk-lung Qiu Fulong 邱福龍 1990s–present Saint , Solar Lord
FILM AND TELEVISION
The earliest wuxia films date back to the 1920s. Films produced by
King Hu and the
Shaw Brothers Studio
Cheng Pei-pei , Jimmy Wang and
Connie Chan are among the better known
wuxia movie stars in the 1960s–70s, when films made by
King Hu and
Shaw Brothers Studio
Western attempts at the genre have been limited, such as the 2008
The Forbidden Kingdom
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 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
* ^ Han, Fei . "五蠹第四十九 ". 韓非子 (in Chinese) ( ed.). Retrieved 25 December 2014. ... 俠以武犯禁，而人主兼禮之，此所以亂也。夫離法者罪，而諸先生以文學取；犯禁者誅，而羣俠以私劍養。
* ^ A B C D E Teo, Stephen (2009). Chinese Martial Arts Cinema: The
* ^ Yuan, Jiao. 甘澤謠 (in Chinese) ( ed.). Retrieved 25 December 2014. 紅線，潞州節度使薛嵩家青衣，善彈阮鹹，又通經史，嵩遣掌箋，表號曰「內記室」。 ... 歌畢，嵩不勝悲，紅線拜且泣，因偽醉離席，遂亡其所在。
* ^ Du, Guangting . 虯髯客傳 (in Chinese) ( ed.). access-date= requires url= (help ) * ^ Liang, Yusheng (February 2008). 筆花六照 (in Chinese) (revised ed.). China: Guangxi Normal University Press. 唐代著名的武俠小說有《紅線傳》、《虯髯客傳》、《劉無雙傳》、《崑崙奴傳》、《聶隱娘傳》，等等（空空兒、精精兒則是附在《聶隱娘傳》中）。
* ^ A B Liu, Damu; Lau, Shing-hon; Leong, Mo-Ling (1996). A Study
of the Hong Kong Swordplay Film (1945–1980). Hong Kong: Urban
Council of Hong Kong. ISBN 9627040517 .
* ^ A B C Hamm, John Christopher (2006). Paper Swordsmen: Jin Yong
and the Modern Chinese Martial Arts Novel (Paperback ed.). Honolulu:
University of Hawaii Press. ISBN 082482895X .
* ^ A B C D "An Introduction to the
* WJF Jenner, "Tough Guys, Mateship and Honour: Another Chinese
Tradition," East Asian History 12 (1996): 1-34.
* (Chinese) 汪涌豪 《中国游侠史》
* McCloud, Aaron Matthew Gordon. 2010. "Papercuts: The Literary and
the Martial in the Genre of
* An article about wuxia films * (in Polish) Wuxia, sztylety i wielka miłość. O filmie "Dom Latających Sztyletów" * Information on the wuxia genre from a website about actress Zhang Ziyi * (Partial) translations of some wuxia novels
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