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Wuxia, a Popular Culture for Most Chinese-Speaking Communities


Wuxia (武侠) is a broad genre of Chinese fiction that concerns itself with martial arts adventures set primarily in ancient China. Although traditionally a literary art form, it is now also found in art, comics, films, games, television, theatre, and other media. Wuxia forms a large part of popular culture for most Chinese-speaking communities around the world.

The word "wuxia" is a compound word composed from the words xia (俠, "honorable", "chivalrous"), which is the philosophy of the Chinese knight-errant, and wu (武, "martial", "military"), from the Chinese term wushu (武術, "martial arts" or "kungfu"). A martial artist who follows the code of xia is often referred to as a "swordsman" in works of wuxia, although he may not necessarily wield a sword. He is also sometimes called a xiake (俠客, lit: "follower of xia") or yóuxiá (游俠, "wandering xia").

The heroes in Chinese wuxia do not usually serve a lord, wield military power or belong to the aristocratic class. They are often from the lower social classes in ancient Chinese society. Wuxia heroes are usually bound by a code of martial chivalry, that requires them to right wrongs, especially when the helpless are oppressed. The wuxia hero fought for righteousness, typically, seeking to remove an oppressor, or to bring retribution for past wrong-doing. The Chinese xia traditions are similar to those of the Japanese samurai's bushido, the chivalry of the Western European knights and the gunslingers of America's Westerns.