What is Wuxia?

Wuxia, from the word ‘wu’ means military and ‘xia’ means knight errant, is one of the genre in Chinese novel, manhua or film. Literally, Wuxia would also translated as martial heroes and is a fiction genre which tell the journey and the development of a martial artist and or a swordsman. Sometimes, the story would specifically use a historical setting emphasized by the author. But this is not a pre-requisite in Wuxia manhuas and novels.

Some author prefers to use their own setting in a fantasy and imagined world. In Tales of Demons and Gods, we could see how the author use his own imagination to vividly describe the world where Nie Lie lived in. Demons and magic was all over the city and the world. 


The concept of xia is quite familiar in Western perspective. This same concept was shown in the legend of Robin Hood. Yi (righteousness) and xin (honour) are covered within xia. Most protagonist in modern wuxia genre would hold these values. Jiang Hu, literally means rivers and lakes, is the wuxia parallel universe and become the alternative world of martial artist and fighter, usually congregating in sects, disciplines and school of martial arts learnings.

This is a ‘share world’ and inhabited by many and various people. Some author would vividly described the intricate relationship of honor, love, loyalty and hatred between individuals and between communities within this environment. 

The classical plot line of Wuxia manhuas and novels were the exact opposite of those in western plot line. Some protagonist in western fantasy fiction typically belong to noble class with remarkable ancestry or special gift, in which their journey would revealed the hidden part of themselves. By contrast, heroes in Wuxia fiction usually born in lower classes of society or have experienced tragical events. Initially started as young child, they would went through unimaginable events and then learning some martial arts, preparing himself for the journey of their life.

In the end of the journey, after defeating their nemesis, they would appear as a young and promising martial artist. This is just the commonly known plot line in Wuxia but most martial art stories were mixed and blended with other element in other fictional genres such as mystery, detective, or even romance. Therefore, most Wuxia stories were long stories and cannot be concluded with a mere trilogy. Reader would often feel curious with the journey of the main character. 

Wuxia in general has its own sub-genre such as Classic Wuxia, Xianxia, Kingdom, Wuxia Romance, Xuan huan and Kung fu. Xianxia and Xuan huan is quite similar on the surface though they have different literal meanings. Xianxia literally means ‘immortal heroes’ and its stories would introduce magic, demon, ghost, immortal and some Chinese mythology. While Xuan huan literally means ‘mysterious fantasy’ and remix Chinese mythology with foreign elements.


Those sub-genres would introduce a unique element to Wuxia fiction genre in the form of mastery of their craft into fictitious levels of attainment. Either magic or martial arts, the character would have to passed each level with their own effort. Wuxia also grounded in real-life Chinese martial arts and internal energy cultivation (qigong) techniques that are kicked up to an exaggeratedly awesome level. Some famous wuxia manhua would includes Battle Through The Heaven, I Shall Seal The Heaven, Tales of Demons and Gods, and others. 

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