Wuxia film

Wuxia films or wuxia pian (武俠片 Pinyin: wǔxi pin) is a film genre from Taiwan and Hong Kong. The term "wuxia", from Mandarin Chinese, means "martial arts heroes". Because of distinguishing characteristics, this genre is considered different from other martial arts film styles.

This genre has been around in the Pacific Rim region since the 1950s or 1960s. The Shaw Studio was the forerunner of this type of movies. It was introduced to mainstream Hollywood for the first time in 2000 by Ang Lee's movie Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. However, in 1986, John Carpenter's film Big Trouble in Little China drew heavily on the wuxia style.

This genre is characterized by its fantasy component. The heroes in the movie practice martial arts to reach a state where they attain any number of superhuman powers collectively known as shengong (神功), so that they can, among other things:

  • float in air
  • scale a cliff or wall
  • have lightning fast movement
  • release mystical inner energy (qi) in a form of a beam
  • paralyze or kill their opponents by hitting their acupressure points with a finger

This type of movie usually has a setting in the past so that the audience can justify the fantasy component more readily with an assumption that the methods to practice these supernatural abilities have been lost. There are occasional wuxia movies in modern settings, but they are usually considered unrealistic. When the Star Wars movie came out in the late 1970s, many Chinese audience viewed it as a western wuxia movie set in a futuristic and foreign world. It is unknown if George Lucas's concept of the Jedi was influenced by the wuxia genre. The audience can readily accept the concept of the Force in the Star Wars series or the superpowers of mutants in X-Men or an alien in Superman. However, the same Western audience may have trouble accepting the wuxia type of fantasy because the wuxia heroes are supposed to be regular people with superpowers.

The storylines of this genre are mostly about revenge for killings in the context of a lawless state of society known as Jiang Hu. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon was a rare wuxia movie that broke out of this mold.

Following Ang Lee's foot steps, Zhang Yimou made Hero targeted for the international market in 2003.

See also: Qi, Qigong, fantasy film, Cinema of China

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