Chinese Martial Arts Cinema: The Wuxia Tradition (Traditions in World Cinema)
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The traditional martial arts genre known as wuxia (literally "martial chivalry") became popular the world over through the phenomenal hit Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000). This book unveils the rich layers of the wuxia tradition as it developed in the early Shanghai cinema of the late 1920s and in the Hong Kong and Taiwan film industries of the 1950s and beyond. Stephen Teo follows the tradition from its beginnings in Shanghai cinema to its rise as a serialized form in silent cinema and its prohibition in 1931. He shares the fantastic characteristics of the genre, their relationship to folklore, myth, and religion, and their similarities and differences with the kung fu sub-genre of martial arts cinema. He maps the protagonists and heroes of the genre, in particular the figure of the lady knight-errant, and its chief personalities and masterpieces. Directors covered include King Hu, Chu Yuan, Zhang Che, Ang Lee, and Zhang Yimou, and films discussed are Come Drink With Me (1966), The One-Armed Swordsman (1967), A Touch of Zen (1970-71), Hero (2002), House of Flying Daggers (2004), The Promise (2005), The Banquet (2006), and Curse of the Golden Flower (2006).
more apparently described in the novel.11 Her sexual identity being more amorphous, Sang states that the character yearns to ‘break free of the fragile female norm and dominate others in a violent world’.12 In the film, Jen is much more conventionally feminine and her hidden desire for Li Mubai (or his for her) must be couched in paternal master– disciple moral terms; thus her desire and her wish to be free clashes with the morality of the wuxia code as represented by Li. Jen flies from treetop
Generation wuxia films were not released outside of China). The rise of the Fifth Generation in the mid-1980s responded to the task of modernising Chinese cinema. In the genre, the first film that gained international exposure was He Ping’s Swordsman of Double Flag Town, released in 1990. Though He Ping did not graduate from the Beijing Film Academy, the alma mater of the Fifth Generation filmmakers,35 he can be considered part of that generation who sought to modernise Chinese cinema and set
unite the fractious community into a greater entity. It would be against the grain of his character to exhort the local community to ‘exhaust every means’ to do what Lo claims in his statement. See Lo, Chinese Face/Off: The Transnational Popular Culture of Hong Kong (Urbana and Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 2005), p. 149. 30. Hector Rodriguez, ‘Hong Kong Popular Culture as an Interpretive Arena’, p. 8. 82 THE RISE OF KUNG FU 31. I have borrowed this line from William Holland who
2002). 46. See ‘Qiao Hong pian chou bawan yuan?’ (‘Chiao Hung Gets $80,000 Per Film?’), Yinhe huabao (‘Milky Way Pictorial’), No. 132, March 1969, pp. 44–45. See also Escorts over Tiger Hills Special Issue brochure, p. 2. 47. From the Highway Special Issue brochure, p. 8. 48. For more on the proposed merger, see Liu Yafo, ‘Shaoshi Guotai hebing muhou xiaoxi’ (‘Behind-the-Scenes Information on Shaws-Cathay Merger’), Yinhe huabao (‘Milky Way Pictorial’), No. 120, March 1968, p. 27; and Liu,
are many fantastic things in wuxia, many illusions. You can make it into any form or shape. I feel that the wuxia film is at this moment (1979) very limited’, Tsui said.13 Tsui consciously set out to ‘modernise’ the genre by modifying the period world of The Butterfly 160 WUXIA AFTER A TOUCH OF ZEN Murders. His traditional knight-errant figures look like wandering Japanese samurai in some scenes, and like Roman gladiators battling in the arena in other scenes. Also, the character of the