The Tang: Back to the Future
I just read some fascinating news from my friend, Mark Pollard’s excellent wuxia movie site, Kungfu Cinema (www.kungfucinema.com). The Taiwanese government provided a $2.6 million grant to the great Taiwanese director, Hou Hsiao-hsien to make his first wuxia movie. Ho is famous – notorious according to some critics – for his slow moving art house films like The Puppet Master (1989), A City of Sadness (1989), Flowers of Shanghai (1998), and The Voyage of the Red Balloon (2007). So it should be very interesting to see what he does with the wuxia genre. The
Now, if you guys have done your reading in my website blog, The Wandering Blades Blog, you know all about the Tang, the rise of the short story form, and the subjects of those short stories! I’m further delighted about the actual story that Hou has picked to use in his film, “Nieh Yin-niang,” is one such short story from the brush of Pei Xing (825-880 A.D.), a Tang writer. A Taoist nun kidnaps ten year-old Nieh Yin-niang, the daughter of a general. Trained for five years in sword fighting and magic arts, Nieh was sent to assassinate some evil-doers. She returns home, ends up marrying, and continuing to use her wuxia skills to help others. You can read a full synopsis in the hard to find, The Chinese Knight-Errant by James J.Y. Liu, pp.89-90; it’s a book I often referred to in writing about the history of wuxia literature in my Wandering Blades Blog.
It should be very interesting to see what a modern art house director makes of this magical, mystical wuxia story from the Tang. I’m reminded most of the great Wong Kar wai (Wang Jiawei)’s Ashes of Time, which if you’ve been reading my blogs, you know I have a great fondness for that movie even though it didn’t go over well amongst wuxia cinema fans.
Interestingly enough, Jiang Yimou’s last two works (House of Flying Daggers and Curse of the Golden Flower) were also set in the Tang. I’m not at all impressed with Jiang’s wuxia storytelling abilities. And like Hou, Jiang was an art house director and very good at it producing some of his best work in that mode – seems that the opening to the Beijing Olympics that were directed by Jiang combined both his art house skills and his interests in wuxia.
And for those of you who have been kind enough to ask, I am continuing my wuxia fiction based on Tang history with a trilogy about a Shaolin monk who is recorded as being one of the thirteen Shaolin monks who saved Li Shimin, the son of the founder of the Tang dynasty and eventually one of East Asia’s greatest emperors. It should be epic stuff that takes the reader the length and breadth of the 7th century Chinese empire.
There is also a screenplay in the works for Dream of the Dragon Pool, which, of course, doesn’t mean there’s a movie – not yet.
In the end, for the folks that publish books and produce movies it’s all market driven. If wuxia and fantasy fans want to see such works in the bookstores and on the silver screen then the more support you give those of us working in the genre, the more chance of seeing us there. And I appreciate your support that has taken me to this point! Xiexie! Thanks!