Wuxia The Underdog Chinese Martial Arts Hero And The Code Of Jianghu

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Illustrations for the Romance of the Three Kingdoms Prints (1883) Herbert R. Cole Collection. (Public Domain)

Wuxia The Underdog Chinese Martial Arts Hero And The Code Of Jianghu

Those who are familiar with the Chinese word wuxiá (martial heroes) may associate it with memories of martial arts films and television programs that portray a fanciful depiction of Chinese martial arts to audiences around the world. However, there is more to wuxia than meets the eye. Wuxia is in fact an entire literary genre that depicts the exploits of ancient Chinese martial artists. It has proven to be popular enough to feature in a number of modern cultural media, including Chinese opera, films, television series and video games.

Depiction of fighting monks demonstrating their skills to visiting dignitaries (early 19th-century mural in the Shaolin Monastery) (Public Domain)

Origins Of Wuxia

In general, wuxia is a narrative about heroes. But the heroes in wuxia rarely serve a ruler, wield military power, or belong to the aristocracy. In fact, they are frequently descended from the lower social classes of ancient Chinese society. The chivalric code upheld by the hero typically requires heroes to right and redress wrongs, fight for righteousness, remove oppressors, and bring retribution for previous wrongdoings.


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