Chinese Sword Fantasies

If you're getting bored with ordinary Hollywood movies and you want to find something completely different, try out “wuxia” movies. Wuxia are Chinese sword fantasies set in a mythical kung fu world where fighters can fly or demonstrate other magical powers. People often confuse wuxia with kung fu movies, but the two are not strictly the same. Kung fu movies as such emphasize hand to hand fighting. They often happen in the modern world, and the characters don't have magic powers.

Wuxia movies are set in the distant past, they emphasize swordsmanship more than fisticuffs, and the characters often do have magic powers. Wuxia movies aren't supposed to be realistic, they're a type of fantasy fiction. They tell stories about “xia” or Chinese knights, men and women who violated the rules of Confucian society and wandered around having adventures and correcting injustices.


“Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” is an example of a wuxia movie. It's based on a novel in a wuxia epic called the Crane-Iron Pentalogy, which still isn't available in English although it really ought to be. For fans of fantasy fiction, wuxia are a welcome change from the thousands of huge fantasy novels set in fictional versions of the European Middle-Ages. All wuxia are set in fictional versions of ancient China instead.


For fans of martial arts movies, wuxia are a more poetic and enchanting version of the classic kung fu movie. The stories are often poignant and beautiful, and the swordplay can be breathtaking.