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

Location: United States

Check out my author's website: www.thedragongateinn.com for everything you could ever want to know about me.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Lance Armstrong and the Writer

Story writing has its own hurtles, what with developing a story, its characters, plotting, pacing, dialogue, setting, and on and on. Publishing is a whole other set of hurtles. And, of course, there are various levels of “being published.” The whole storytelling process, from formulating a story to finding a publisher (if you feel that’s necessary), demands one basic quality: persistence.

I was reminded of that today when I saw an ad for cycling glasses that featured Lance Armstrong. As a wuxia novelist, I write stories about heroes and Lance is one of my heroes.

Well, the ad featured a quote from Lance. I don’t know what the quote has to do with cycling equipment, but it sure has a lot to do with writing. So I’ll pass it on here with the hope that you’ll also find it inspiring:

Pain is temporary. It may last a minute, or an hour, or a day, or a year, but eventually it will subside and something else will take its place. If I quit, however, it lasts forever.

Lance Armstrong


The Innkeeper

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Mountain Home: Nature & the Writer

Next week, I will be speaking about my novel, Dream of the Dragon Pool – A Daoist Quest, at a local library. Many writers like to talk about how they came to write their novels or how they managed to get it published as there is a strong interest in writing and publishing among the general public. Since my background and my genre, wuxia, are a bit unusual, I tend to talk about how I came to this genre and usually end up just outlining the novel in order to give the audience time for questions.

Naturally, the best of all possible audiences would include a number of people who have already read the novel, and even better, have also familiarized themselves with my website and blogs. No doubt, that is very wishful “author-think.”

Yet, there is so much to say about the wuxia genre and its literary tradition – some of that is on my website’s Wandering Blades Blog. Add to that the fact that the protagonist of my novel is the great Chinese poet, Li Bo (701-762 A.D.). There’s a lot to talk about!

This week, David Hinton reminded me about that latter aspect as I read through his delightful collection of Chinese poetry translations. Hinton’s work, Mountain Home: The Wilderness Poetry of Ancient China (ISBN: 0811216241) puts forth the idea that there was a genre of Chinese poetry – “wilderness” or “rivers-and-mountains” poetry - that wrote about “Nature” in a unique way – where a sense of dichotomy between the observer and the object being observed was lacking. Hinton explains in his introduction:

Originating in the early 5th century C.E. and stretching across two millennia, China’s tradition of rivers-and-mountains (shan-shui) poetry represents the earliest and most extensive literary engagement with wilderness in human history. Fundamentally different from writing that employs the “natural world” as the stage or materials for human concerns, this poetry articulates a profound and spiritual sense of belonging to a wilderness of truly awesome dimensions. This is not wilderness in the superficial sense of “nature” or “landscape,” terms the Western cultural lens has generally applied to this most fundamental aspect of Chinese poetry. “Nature” calls up a false dichotomy between human and nature, and “landscape” suggests a picturesque realm seen from spectator’s distance—but the Chinese wilderness is nothing less than a dynamic cosmology in which humans participate in the most fundamental way.

Hinton goes on to explain that the Chinese, influenced by both Taoism and Chan/Zen Buddhism, discovered a profound sense of enlightenment in their “observation” of Nature. They merged with Nature and found “self”-expression through the “10,000 things” - a classical Chinese expression for the natural world. He concludes that such poetry was at the same time both secular and religious. The rest of Hinton’s book collects his translations of 5th century to 13th century A.D. Chinese poets that represent “wilderness poetry.” Li Bo, my protagonist, is included.

There is no doubt that Li Bo had this aspect of his poetry, but, like any complex character, he also had other dimensions. Scholars of Chinese literature will tell you that Li Bo possessed a huge ego and was perhaps one of the first Chinese poets to appreciate the use of “public relations” in building his reputation. Chinese sources and Li Bo’s own poetry make much of his fondness for wine. Chinese poets were noted for their use of the fermented fruit to inspire their poetry by dissolving obstructions between watcher – watched / poet - Nature. Scholars are not sure how much of this Li Bo constructed in order to feed his audience the persona of a poetic genius who could dash off brilliant poetry under the most inebriated conditions. There is little doubt from the historical record that he was and remains a very popular figure in Chinese culture.

Thankfully, as a novelist, I do not get involved in such academic ponderings. Rather, I believe that when building characters, “dimensions fascinate.” So “my” Li Bo has both these aspects: he loves to drink and he knows how to be a clear headed realist when the situation calls for it. My goal is to make all the characters in my novels fascinating so that the story remains with the readers after the book is finished.

Yet there is little doubt that much of my writing is influenced by this “wilderness literature” approach. For years, I enjoyed cycling and traveling through the mountains, experiencing the mist, fog, spectacular rock formations, and scenery that are unique to southern Chinese geography. Reading this genre of poetry, I can hardly contain my sense of inspiration.

With these thoughts in mind, I would like to leave you today with a wonderful poem by Li Bo’s friend - the other poet the Chinese honor as their “greatest”- Tu Fu (712-770 A.D.) translated by my old friend, “Red Pine.” In this poem, Tu Fu wonders if being a writer was not a useless occupation.

Recording My Thoughts While Traveling at Night

A shore of thin reeds in light wind
a tall boat alone at night
stars hang over the barren land
the moon rises out of the Yangtze
how could writing ever lead to fame
I quit my post due to illness and age
drifting along what am I like
a solitary gull between Heaven and Earth

Poems of the Masters: China's Classic Anthology of T'ang and Sung Dynasty Verse (ISBN: 9781556591952)

In some later blog, I’ll come back to Hinton’s Introduction as he also raises interesting points on the relevance of this Chinese poetry genre to ecology and gender.


The Innkeeper

Wednesday, March 12, 2008


I thought with this new blog title perhaps it's time to restate my definition of this storytelling genre known as wuxia. So I'm re-posting my definition here and hopefully will have time later this week to drop in again when I'd like to talk about an interesting wuxia movie that will be out in April, "The Forbidden Kingdom."

Here's my definition:

Wuxia xiaoshuo – Heroic Fiction Literature

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.”


The Innkeeper

Monday, March 10, 2008

Hello! I guess I owe everyone an explanation - you can all see that the title of this blog has changed from my beloved Zhuangzi and his "attitude" toward "words" to, I guess you could call it a statement of fact - Wuxia Novelist.

There are two immediate reasons. 1. I am tired of getting visited by people who are looking for information on how to kill, trap, or otherwise injure rabbits and fish. Yes, I got a lot of inquiries - too many! And I don't have a clue on how to do trap or snare anything - after all, the idea is to let all of that go!

2. The new title is a statement of fact, that's what I do and perhaps it will make it easier for more fans of both the genre and writing to find us up here at The Dragon Gate Inn. I hope so.

Zhuangzi would probably have a good laugh at me for all this!


The Innkeeper

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

The Award Dragon is Flying, Again!

Great news! Dream of the Dragon Pool has done it, AGAIN! We just got news that my novel as been selected as a Finalist in the Science Fiction (read: speculative fiction) category:


ForeWord Magazine announces the finalists in the tenth annual Book of the Year Awards. These books represent some of the best work coming from today's independent press community.

Nearly 1,600 books were entered in 61 categories. These were narrowed to 658 finalists, from 350 publishers.

The winners will be determined by a panel of librarians and booksellers, selected from our readership. ForeWord's Book of the Year Awards program was designed to discover distinctive books across a number of genres.

Gold, Silver, and Bronze winners, as well as Editor's Choice Prizes for Fiction and Nonfiction will be announced at a special program at BookExpo America at the Los Angeles Convention Center in Los Angeles on May 29. The winners of the two Editor's Choice Prizes will be awarded $1,500 each. The ceremony is open to all BEA attendees.

Check out: www.forewordmagazine.com/botya , then do a search for my book or me and you can see the other 10 finalists in my category.

Fingers crossed – we’ll find out on May 29th! WUXIA LIVES!


The Innkeeper