Wuxia Films - Themes, Plots and Settings

Themes, Plots and Settings

Modern wuxia stories are basically adventure stories set in ancient China. The plots vary from writer to writer, but there are distinct similarities between wuxia protagonists and characters from the modern Western fantasy genre. The fantasy element is not a prerequisite of a wuxia story and it is possible for a wuxia tale to be realistic. Louis Cha's Swordswoman Riding West on White Horse or The Book and the Sword are examples of possibly realistic wuxia stories. However, the martial arts element is a definite part of a wuxia tale, as most of the characters must know some form of martial arts.

Themes of romance are also strongly featured in several wuxia tales. The protagonists of most wuxia stories usually have beautiful maidens to accompany them on their adventures and the story typically concludes like a fairy tale, in which the protagonist and his lover are married and live happily ever after. The romance element is key in several of Liang Yusheng's novels, such as Baifa MonĂ¼ Zhuan, and in most of Louis Cha's as well.

A typical wuxia story features a young male protagonist who experiences a tragedy such as losing his loved ones. He undertakes several trials and tribulations throughout his adventures and learns several forms of martial arts from various fighters. At the end of the story, the protagonist emerges as a powerful fighter whom few can equal. He uses his abilities to follow the code of xia and offers them chivalrously to mend the ills of the jianghu. For instance, the opening chapters of Louis Cha's works follow a certain pattern; a tragic event occurs, usually one that costs the lives of the newly introduced characters, and then it sets events into motion that will culminate in the primary action of the story.

Other stories may use different structures. For instance, the protagonist is denied being accepted as a student of a martial arts sect. He experiences hardships and trains secretly and waits until there is an opportunity for him to show off his skills and surprise those who initially looked down on him. Some stories feature a mature hero with powerful martial arts abilities confronting an equally powerful antagonist as his nemesis. The plot will gradually meander to a final dramatic showdown between the protagonist and his nemesis. These types of stories were prevalent during the era of anti-Qing revolutionaries.

Certain stories also have unique plots, such as those by Gu Long and Huang Yi. Gu Long's stories have an element of mystery and are written like detective stories. The protagonist, usually a formidable fighter and intelligent problem-solver, embarks on a quest to solve a mystery such as a murder case. Huang Yi's stories are blended with science fiction.

Despite these genre blending elements, wuxia is primarily a historical genre of fiction. Notwithstanding this, wuxia writers openly admit that they are unable to capture the entire history of a course of events. They choose to structure their stories along the pattern of the protagonist's progression from childhood to adulthood instead. The progression may be symbolic rather than literal, as observed in Louis Cha's The Smiling, Proud Wanderer, where the young Linghu Chong progresses from childish concerns and dalliances into much more adult ones as his unwavering loyalty repeatedly thrusts him into the rocks of betrayal at the hands of his inhumane master.

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