Wuxia Novelist: A Writer's Blog

Wuxia Novelist: A Writer's Blog looks at the broad range of issues encountered by me as a novelist working in the Chinese wuxia (heroic fiction) genre. I have, however, a very broad background and this blog will not narrowly focus on one genre of literature, rather I will consider books, movies, and ideas that relate to my life as a writer. For more information about my background please visit my author's website: www.thedragongateinn.com or www.facebook.com/WuxiaNovelist

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Thursday, October 4, 2007

Defining Wuxia as a Genre

Let's start this consideration of the nature of the wuxia genre with a definition. Since I'm the writer involved here, I'll start with my definition, my writer's definition as opposed to say a historical or literary definition. For those types of definitions do visit "The Wandering Blades Blog" my website www.thedragongateinn.com where I've written about the historical aspect of wuxia tracing it from its beginnings in China's pre-current era up through the Tang dynasty (7th-10th century CE).

My "writer's definition" is aimed at providing some guidelines for writing in this genre. Yet, I should point out right away, that I believe guidelines are there to mark the places where the writer has broken out of those structures to develop something new, to push the envelope, so to speak, on the genre. Nowadays, cross genre literature is very popular, but my old friend, Zhuangzi understood that a couple of thousand years ago when he wrote about "fish traps and rabbit snares"!

And another note on that point. Recently, I was reading David Chute's introduction to that wonderful film series out of UCLA, "Heroic Grace: The Chinese Martial Arts Film;" I found it here: www.geocities.com/tokyo/island/3102/heroic-intro.htm?200728 In that he writes:

Like all the great film genres the martial arts movie is a commodious vessel into which any number of personal styles, attitudes and philosophies can be poured. In fact, the genre's almost limitless flexibility is what has kept it current and enduringly popular for over 50 years, adapting effortlessly to sweeping changes in its demographic.

Naturally, I believe this also applies to wuxia as a literary genre. That being said, here's my definition of the genre:

Wuxiaxiaoshuo – The Heroic Fiction Genre

The wuxia genre is a traditional Chinese storytelling form defined by two basic elements: wu and xia. Wu pertains to all things martial such as weapons (especially the sword as a symbol of nobility and valor), fighting techniques, and martial culture. Xia is usually translated as “chivalric hero.” Xia refers to those men and women who acted in a subjective, heroic manner to right injustice. Their sense/code/ethic of chivalry involved the following values: altruism, justice/appropriateness, individual freedom, personal loyalty, honor & fame, generosity & contempt for wealth, and reciprocity.

This genre normally focuses on action (especially the action of the human form) and adventure and takes place in an imaginary world of these heroes known as the jiang-hu (literally, “rivers and lakes” also “cultural-imaginary world”) which has been defined as, “the self-contained and historically sanctioned world of martial arts.” It is a world that accepts the fantastic as normal at certain levels of skillful physical and mental attainment.

An important motif of this genre is a sense of nostalgia for a lost home in a mythical past that lacked any confusion about moral values – good and evil were simple and clear.

This genre can further be developed as a subgenre of historical fiction. When treated as such, it should, “polish the past into a mirror of the present.”

So what do you all think? Any additions, subtractions, questions, further comments?


The Innkeeper


Anonymous DonK said...

This is a really good explanation for "wuxia". I like that you've expanded it into heroic and historical fiction, rather than sticking with "martial arts stories".

Perhaps you could expand on "jiang hu"? You might include that it is often used as a shared universe - different authors might use it as a common context.

October 5, 2007 at 11:08 AM  
Blogger The Innkeeper said...

Hello Donk,

Thanks for being the first to leave a comment! And for you comment.

I was thinking about dealing with "jiang-hu" in the next blog as it is a very interesting concept.

October 5, 2007 at 11:43 AM  

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