Xianxia (simplified Chinese: 仙侠; traditional Chinese: 仙俠), directly translated to 'immortal heroes' comprises a number of popular genres including 'Cultivation' (修炼/修煉 xiūliàn; 修真 xiūzhēn; 修行 xiūxíng; 修仙 xiūxiān; 修道 xiūdào; 修身 xiūshēn), is a genre of Chinese fantasy heavily inspired by Taoism and influenced by Chinese mythology, Chan Buddhism, Chinese martial arts, traditional Chinese medicine, Chinese folk religion, Chinese alchemy and other traditional Chinese elements.
There are many ancient Chinese texts that could sometimes be classified as xianxia, such as the Classic of Mountains and Seas from the Warring States period, or the Legend of the White Snake. Xianxia novels were popularized during the Republic of China period, but it was the 1932 novel Legend of the Swordsmen of the Mountains of Shu that sparked the modern popularity of the genre. In the 21st century, the genre took on new life with the advent of online publishing, with sites such as Qidian.com, Zongheng.com, and 17k.com giving a platform for authors to reach wide audiences with high-volume, serialized content. It was popularized outside of China primarily by fan translations in the early 2000s. Novels such as Stellar Transformations, Coiling Dragon, Martial God Asura, and I Shall Seal the Heavens led to a boom in such fan translations. This genre is also a staple of Chinese television shows, films, manhua (comics), donghua (animation), and games.
Protagonists are usually "cultivators" (修心者 xiūxīnzhě, 修士 xiūshì, or 修仙者 xiūxiānzhě) who seek to become immortal beings called xian. Along the way, they attain eternal life, supernatural powers, and incredible levels of strength. The fictional cultivation practiced in xianxia is heavily based on the real-life meditation practice qigong.
The stories usually include elements such as gods, immortals, yaoguai, ghosts, monsters, magical treasures, immortal items, medicinal pills, and the like. They often take place in a "cultivation world" where cultivators engage in fierce and usually deadly struggles to acquire the resources they need to grow stronger. Oftentimes, the initial setting is reminiscent of ancient China, but the stories usually become cosmic in nature, with the protagonists attaining godlike abilities, sometimes creating their own planets, galaxies or universes. While the primary focus is action and adventure, there are also romance-heavy stories.
Films and televisionEdit
Perhaps one of the earliest successful xianxia films was the 1983 Hong Kong film Zu Warriors from the Magic Mountain, which was followed up by the 2001 film The Legend of Zu. Other film adaptations of novels have been well received, such as the 2017 romantic xianxia film Once Upon a Time and the 2019 Jade Dynasty.
Overall, television shows are more numerous than films when it comes to xianxia adaptations.
Some of the most popular and successful Chinese TV series in recent times are of the xianxia genre, such as Ashes of Love, Eternal Love, The Journey of Flower and The Untamed. It is worth noting all four dramas are adapted from popular novels published on the website Jinjiang Literature City. In addition, there are Swords of Legends, Noble Aspirations, Love of Thousand Years, Love and Redemption and other films and TV series. The already existing fandom of xianxia, and other fantasy novels has led to most new television and film titles to be adaptions and their warm reception by fans, along with increased exposure and high rates of anticipation.
The characters forming xianxia are xiān (仙) and xiá (侠). A xiān is an immortal, a kind of transcendent being from Chinese mythology. Xiá is usually translated as "hero", but specifically implies a person who is brave, chivalrous, and righteous.
Relationship with other genresEdit
Xianxia is often compared to the wuxia genre, and often shares many similarities - being set in a quasi-historical ancient China, featuring larger-than-life protagonists, and so on. The main difference is that xianxia generally has a much large focus on spiritual growth and powers, multiple realms of reality, interacting with spirits and immortals, and so on; while wuxia is somewhat more grounded. Crude Western approximations might be that wuxia is loosely similar to the (American) Wild West as a genre, where vigilantes, feuding factions, and gunfights / martial arts duels are common; while xianxia is closer to European high fantasy in tone, except with a vaguely ancient China-like setting. Other variants exist as well; xuanhuan generally refers to Chinese fantasy works that dispense with Taoist elements and have a less China-like setting; and qihuan are Chinese works set in a more explicitly Western-fantasy style setting, although generally keeping Chinese influence.[better source needed]
In popular cultureEdit
- The 1983 Zu Warriors from the Magic Mountain
- The 1987 A Chinese Ghost Story
- The 1990 A Chinese Ghost Story II
- The 1990 Demoness from Thousand Years
- The 1991 A Chinese Ghost Story III
- The 1991 An Eternal Combat
- The 1992 Painted Skin
- The 1993 Green Snake
- The 2001 The Legend of Zu
- The 2011 The Sorcerer and the White Snake
- The 2014 Swords of Legends
- The 2015 The Journey of Flower
- The 2016 Noble Aspirations
- The 2017 Eternal Love
- The 2017 Once Upon a Time
- The 2017 Legend of the Demon Cat
- The 2018 Ashes of Love
- The 2018 Legend of Fuyao
- The 2019 The Untamed
- The 2019 The Legends
- The 2019 Jade Dynasty
- The 2020 Eternal Love of Dream
- The 2020 Love of Thousand Years
- The 2020 Love and Redemption
- The 2021 Ancient Love Poetry
- The 2021 The Yinyang Master
- The 2022 Immortal Samsara
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