Wuxia or martial heroes is a genre of fantasy literature mainly derived from traditional Chinese fiction concerning the adventures of martial art practice and spiritual cultivation. It has become more and more popular in Chinese operas, TV dramas, films and video games on the internet.
Audiowuxia is an online platform of audiobooks specializing in Wuxia and Xianxia romance series.
The term “wuxia” as a literary genre is more of a recent coinage, but stories about martial heroes date back 2,000 years. Wuxia stories could be found in the book of the legalist philosopher Han Fei about five social classes in the Spring and Autumn period. In the Warring States Periods, political assassins like Jing Ke were famous for their reputation of trying to stab the dictator or Emperor of Qin to death. Similar stories were recorded in the work of the Grand Historian Sima Qian.
The genre of martial or military romance developed during the Greater Tang dynasty and the Qing Dynasty. Romance of the Three Kingdoms and Outlaws of the Water Marsh are among the Great Classical Novels of Chinese literature. They were seen as an early antecedent as they contain close-combat descriptions that were later emulated by wuxia writers in their work.
Many wuxia works produced during the Ming and Qing dynasties were lost due to the imperial crackdown and banning of such works. The wuxia heroes often originate from the lower social classes and a code of their chivalry was to redress wrongs, fight for righteousness, remove oppressors, and bring retributions.
The modern wuxia genre rose to prominence in the early 20th century, calling for a break with Confucian values, and the xia emerged as a symbol of personal freedom, defiance to Confucian tradition, and rejection of the traditional family system.
Xiang Kairan (pen name Pingjiang Buxiaosheng) became the first notable wuxia writer, with his debut novel being The Peculiar Knights-Errant of the Jianghu(江湖奇俠傳).
The most prolific writers there were collectively referred to as the Five Great Masters of the Northern School (北派五大家): Huanzhulouzhu, who wrote The Swordspeople from Shu Mountains (蜀山劍俠傳); Gong Baiyu (宮白羽), who wrote Twelve Coin Darts (十二金錢鏢); Wang Dulu, who wrote The Crane-Iron Pentalogy (鹤鉄五部作); Zheng Zhengyin (郑証因), who wrote The King of Eagle Claws (鹰爪王); Zhu Zhenmu (朱貞木), who wrote The Seven ‘Kill’ Stele (七殺碑).
Between the 1960s and 1980s, the genre entered a golden age when writers such as Jin Yong (Louis Cha) and Liang Yusheng took the stage in Hong Kong. In Taiwan, Wolong Sheng, Sima Ling, Zhuge Qingyun (諸葛青雲), Shiao Yi (萧逸), and Gu Long became the region’s best-known wuxia writers. After them, writers such as Woon Swee Oan and Huang Yi rose to prominence in a later period.
Chen Yu-hui is a contemporary female wuxia novelist who made her debut with the novel The Tian-Guan Duo Heroes (天觀雙俠). Yu Hua, one of the more notable writers from this period, published a counter-genre short story titled Blood and Plum Blossoms, in which the protagonist goes on a quest to avenge his murdered father.
Modern wuxia stories are largely set in ancient or pre-modern China. The historical setting can range from being quite specific and important to the story to being vaguely defined, anachronistic, or mainly for use as a backdrop. Elements of fantasy, such as the use of magic powers and the appearance of supernatural beings, are common in some wuxia stories but are not a prerequisite of the wuxia genre.
However, the martial arts element is a definite part of a wuxia tale, as the characters must know some form of martial arts. Themes of romance are also strongly featured in some wuxia tales.
Plots and Settings
A typical wuxia story features a young male protagonist who experiences a tragedy – such as the loss of his loved ones – and goes on to undertake several trials and tribulations to learn several forms of martial arts from various fighters. At the end of the story, he emerges as a powerful fighter whom few can equal. He uses his abilities to follow the code of Xia and mends the ills of Jiangsu.
For instance, the opening chapters of some of Jin Yong’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.
The eight common attributes of the Xia are listed as benevolence, justice, individualism, loyalty, courage, truthfulness, disregard for wealth, and desire for glory.
In the jianghu, martial artists are expected to be loyal to their master (Shifu). This gave rise to the formation of several complex trees of master-apprentice relations as well as the various sects such as Shaolin and Wudang. If there are any disputes between fighters, they will choose the honorable way of settling their issues through fighting in duels.
Xianxia, or immortal heroes, is a newly developed genre of Chinese fantasy 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.
Wuxia and Xianxia share many similarities. Xianxia generally has a much larger focus on spiritual growth and powers, multiple realms of reality, and interacting with spirits and immortals.
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, The Untamed and Love Between Fairy and Devil.
Modern films featuring Wuxia have been popular since the 1980s and western audiences were mainly introduced to wuxia through Asian television stations in cities. The Xianxia series have found a younger audience with more translations available.
Korean writers have in recent years contributed a lot to the Xianxia and Xuanhuan genre. Popular titles include the Player That Can’t Level Up, the Regressed Demon Lord Is Kind, Overgeared, Damn Reincarnation, Duke Pendragon, etc.
With AI technology, the Western audience can now enjoy listening to most of the best Xianxia episodes in www.audiowuxia.com.
Not many wuxia novels have been translated into English, though the fan translation community has translated quite a few Jin Yong and Gu Long novels, in addition to some xianxia novels that have been put onto the stage as movies. Audiowuxia has the best team of translators who are working hard to bring you the best episodes daily, fresh onto your mobile.
From 1955 to 1972 Jin Yong wrote 14 novels, then retired. He weaved historical events into his fictional narratives and was really good at describing fight scenes, making it so that the reader always knows what’s at stake through each stage of the fight.
His novels in English translation include:
The Book and the Sword — Jin Yong’s first book, also the first to get an official translation (by Graham Earnshaw).
Legend of the Condor Heroes — His third novel. The official translation is published in four volumes: A Hero Born, A Bond Undone, A Snake Lies Waiting, and A Heart Divided.
Fox Volant of the Snowy Mountain — Jin Yong’s 4th novel.Translation by Olivia Mok.
Return of the Condor Heroes — Same publisher as Legend of the Condor Heroes.
White Horse Neighs in the Western Wind and Blade-dance of the Two Lovers — two short stories.
Heaven Sword and Dragon Sabre, A Deadly Secret, and Demi-Gods and Semi-Devils — Fan translation only.
Smiling Proud Wanderer — Fan translation only. One of Jin Yong’s best novels.
The Deer and the Cauldron — Fan translation and official translation by John Minford are available.
Sword of the Yue Maiden — Fan translation only, Jin Yong’s final wuxia story.
Gu Long is right behind Jin Yong as the second-best wuxia author, according to the majority opinion.
Many of his novels have been translated by fans, including:
Flower Guarding Bell
The Sword and Exquisiteness
The Eleventh Son
Lu Xiaofeng Series
Eagles Soar in the Ninth Month
Horizon, Bright Moon, Sabre
Sword of the Third Young Master
The Jade Tiger
Righteous Blood Cleanses the Silver Spear
Dragon King with Seven Stars
Heroes Shed No Tears
Flying Dagger, The Flying Dagger Reappears
Other Wuxia Writers
Liang Yusheng is credited as the pioneer of the new school of wuxia literature. He incorporates history into his novels as we can see from his Legend of the White-Haired Maiden, already with a fan translation.
Huang Yi combined science fiction and fantasy into his work, and at least two of his books translated: A Step Into the Past and Legend of Great Tang’s Twin Dragons
Wang Dulu was one of the Five Masters of the Northern School of wuxia. We can also find two of his titles translated: The Crane Startles Kunlun and Treasured Sword, Golden Hairpin.
Huanzhulouzhu is the pen name of Li Shoumin. He was one of the Five Masters of the Northern School. We found two translated books of his: Blades from the Willows and Sword Xia of the Shu Mountains.
There are also a dozen short wuxia novels translated by fans. You can find them mostly at audiowuxia.com
The audience can also find some free wuxia audiobooks with the wuxiaworld domain.
The Audio Market and Audiowuxia
The development of the audio market is far faster than you think. On any streaming platform in the world, premium audio content is an expanding business.
According to the 2019 US Audio Content User Survey Report released by Edison Research in March 2020, the US market size is expected to reach 1.5 billion US dollars in 2020, the largest in the world, and will grow at a rate of 20%~25% in the next few years.
The global audiobook market size reached $4,219.0 million in 2021 and is expected to grow at an annual rate of 26.4% from 2022 to 2030. The flexibility and versatility features of audiobooks allow individuals to listen to content at any time. Audiobooks make content easily accessible on electronic devices, whenever and wherever. The internet provides an easier way for consumers to listen to audiobooks.
Audiobooks are growing and becoming more and more popular among young people. The growing popularity of audiobooks among the younger generation is expected to boost market growth as these individuals encourage their family members and peers, thereby generating a larger potential customer base.
Audiowuxia is proud to deliver a new generation of AI entertainment by bringing literary words to life, with fun.
Enjoy, and have fun!