Bookstores and online stores have begun carrying an increasing amount of “武侠 (wǔxiá)” novels from China. Readers internationally are taking a keen interest in this genre of fantasy literature.
So, what is “wuxia fiction” and why is it gaining in popularity throughout the world? Heroes and protagonists in wuxia novels are considered the “Robin Hood” characters of Chinese culture, often originating from the lower classes and fighting for justice against oppressors and aggressors. They are classic tales of the introverted and humble “everyday” hero fighting against the corrupt powers.
武 (Wǔ) = military; martial (as in “martial arts”).
侠 (Xiá) = chivalrous; hero.
Like many parts of Chinese culture, wuxia fiction has a history that goes back thousands of years. While the stories passed down have changed and adapted throughout the generations, the themes have remained the same. The tales have influenced Chinese opera, music, folklore, and more recently, TV series and even video games. Although the popularity of wuxia has endured, the stories are still usually set in ancient China, although the themes have influenced stories set in modern times as well. In the ancient stories, plots are often fantastical- plotting an evil world against the world of humans. These are still common in today’s online wuxia stories.
As the Internet has made cross-cultural media more accessible, Chinese wuxia novels have become more popular in places like Europe and North America. Foreign readers can relate to the stories of the “little guy” fighting against the powerful invading evils. Many readers are downloading these novels digitally or ordering the printed versions online. We have entered a new era for the wuxia novel.
I’d like to introduce to you 10 iconic and famous wuxia novels for those of you who would like to explore this genre of literature. These novels are a great place to start if you are entering the world of wuxia! Here we go:
1. 斗罗大陆 (Dòu Luó DàLù) Combat Continent
This novel tells the story of Tang San, a student of the Tang Sect, the most famous martial arts school in the world. By stealing secret, sacred martial arts doctrines, he realized his dreams. Tang San committed an unforgivable crime by stealing these. With his ambitions realized but living in shame, he jumped to suicide from “Hell Peak.” He was reincarnated in another world, a world without magic, resentment and martial arts. However, he had retained his martial arts knowledge from his previous life.
Can he recast the glory of Tang clan in this new environment? With the new road, a new legend begins…
2. 修真世界 (XiūZhēn ShìJiè) World of Cultivation
An unknown disciple from a small sect, fighting the strongest powers in the land! Zuo Mo is a lower-class person who wishes to earn money for his family. Someone erased his memory and he only has a nightmarish recollection of his past. With no memory of his early life, guided by a strict class structure and complexity of “cultivation world”, as one of the lowest levels of the lowest class, Zuo Mo’s dream is to make money by becoming a “spiritual plant peasant”. Occasional events indicate that someone has powerfully changed the characteristics of Zuo Mo. The money-making “zombies” decided to start a journey of cultivation and find out the answers to Zuo’s mysteries. The ghosts of his past are soon to be revealed…
3. 天珠变 (Tiān Zhū Biàn) Heavenly Jewel Change
In this story, everyone has their own personal “gem”, and when awakened, this gem can be an “elemental gem” or a “physical gem.” Those in the story wrap this around their left wrist like a bracelet. There are also some “heavenly gems” which are shared between characters, making them like twins. The hero of the story, MC Zhou Weiqing, is trying to reach the peak of the “cultivation world.”
4. 神印王座 (Shén Yìn WángZuò) Sealed Divine Throne
This story tells of a young man who is determined to become a knight. Finally, he boards the throne of the gods that symbolizes the highest glory of knighthood. During this time, the devil is rising, and humanity is about to become extinct. Six temples rose and protected the last humans. A young boy joined the temple as a knight to help his mother. During his journey through the wonders and mischief of the demon world, can he ascend to become the most powerful knight and inherit the throne?
5. 人皇纪 (Rén Huáng Jì) The Human Emperor
The main character, Wang Chong, always felt detached and lived his life without aim. However, when disaster strikes, he saw his family and everything he cared about being torn apart. Therefore, he stood up and eventually became the Grand Marshal of the Central Plains, leading an army against those who attempted to destroy what he cherished. A meteor appears in front of him, and he has a chance to deal with his regret.
6. 择天记 (Zé Tiān Jì) Fighter of the Destiny
This is a story about choices. In the beginning of the story, a mysterious meteor falls from outer space and is scattered around the world. One of them falls on the eastern continent. A mysterious design is engraved on the meteor. By observing these designs, humans understand the Dao and establish a religion.
Thousands of years later, a 14-year-old orphan named Chen Changsheng leaves his master, cures his illness and changes his fate and begins a journey of becoming a hero. The author puts Chinese literary geography and historical imagination into a fantasy novel, describing the protagonist Chen and a group of characters going on a spiritual journey. This story is considered inspirational, as it describes how young people can better themselves and change their lives while helping others.
7. 狂神 (Kuáng Shén) Mad God
Humans, beasts, demons, gods, dragons and elves compete for world hegemony. This is a war, where the great beast warriors of the bat army, the dragon knights soaring in the sky, and the demon races all enter into battle.
A mixed-race child, with the blood of humans, demons, and beasts, has experienced hardships that no one else has, and yet has unparalleled potential and skill. He is destined to reorganize the various pieces of the world, and yet is also destined to have a particularly sad love life. You can follow his journey and learn more.
8. 天火大道 (Tiān Huǒ DàDào) Skyfire Avenue
This is the story of the mysterious messenger who travels the Milky Way galaxy and another mysterious universe. The story background is set in this other vast universe, and the story begins in the days of the “New Age of Mars”. The protagonist Lan Jue is the owner of a jewelry store on Skyfire Avenue, but he also has a name that resounds throughout the universe- Zeus. Skyfire Avenue is a street that is exactly 2,048 meters long. There are 168 stores along it, and each of the store owners is an extremely powerful character. Jewelers, sommeliers, and entrepreneurs of all kinds. There is a bizarre story behind each character, and the adventure begins here on Skyfire Avenue.
9. 盘龙 (Pán Lóng) Coiling Dragon
The novel tells the story of the protagonist named Lin Lei, who inadvertently picked up a magical ring from his ancestral home and then embarked on a dream trip. This story is a very interesting fusion of Chinese and Western fantasy, with a detailed description of the travels of Lin Lei.
10. 诛仙 (Zhū Xiān) Zhu Xian
This story describes the messages that protagonist Zhang Xiaofan sends to the devil. You can also read about the origins of change, the processes of life, and the love story between the protagonist and Baguio and Lu Xueqi. In Zhu Xian, there is no pure righteous or evil, as there are in other wuxia novels. Many things are linked to each other in a cause and effect relationship. At the same time, the story also shows the struggle between the hearts of the people, friendship, love, and changes in the world as time goes by.
So, I hope that these 10 suggestions for wuxia stories will help you decide where to start. Reading “武侠 (wǔxiá) wuxia” is an excellent way to supplement your language skills and better understand Chinese culture and mindset. Enjoy!
1. Read a dialogue and then select the appropriate answer.
Linda: Nǐ zuì xǐhuān de wǔxiá xiǎoshuō shì shénme?
Tom: Wǒ zuì xǐhuān de xiǎoshuō shì Dòu Luō DàLù.
Linda: Zuì xǐhuān shū zhōng nǎge rénwù ne?
Tom: Wǒ zuì xǐhuān de rénwù shì zhǔjué táng sān.
What does the underlined word “主角 (zhǔjué)”mean in the dialogue?
Becky Zhang is a teacher at eChineseLearning.com. She has over eight years of experience teaching Mandarin Chinese to foreign students and promoting Chinese culture. She lives in Beijing but loves traveling to ancient Chinese villages. One day she’d like to be a tour guide in China!
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