Staff Picks Genre Study – Wuxia: A Quick Guide to the Fantastical Genre

Thursday, May 23, 2024

As the world becomes more globally connected through the internet and social media, there is an increased interest in other cultures, especially Asian media. Japanese media such as anime and manga are perhaps the most accessible to western audiences. However, as streaming services and other media outlets increases accessibility, other forms of Asian media, notably K-pop and K-drama originating in South Korea, have become more popular. There is plenty for library users to explore.

One such topic is Wuxia. Wuxia (pronounced: woo-shee-ah), is a fiction genre originating in China, offers rich world building where honor, martial arts, and ancient traditions collide in epic battles of good versus evil. The genre can trace its roots back to the Tang and Song dynasties (618-1279 CE). These stories focused on the adventures of skilled swordsmen and honorable warriors fighting to uphold justice. There are several key elements characterizing Wuxia:

  • Martial arts mastery: Characters possess extraordinary martial arts abilities, allowing them to perform gravity defying feats, engage in spectacular battles, and wield formidable weapons.
  • A code of honor: Protagonists are often bound by a strict moral code emphasizing loyalty, righteousness, and integrity.
  • A colorful world: Typically set in ancient China, Wuxia features vivid descriptions of landscapes, historical settings, and cultural traditions.
  • Epic battles: Perhaps Wuxia’s most distinctive feature is its grand, breathtaking battles, the confrontations are more than just physical, representing clashing ideologies and values.
  • Mysticism and fantasy: Supernatural powers and legendary artifacts often play a significant role. Characters may harness magical powers or use secret techniques.

With its rich history and memorable characters, Wuxia is a genre ready to transport readers to a world of adventure and honor. For JaxStacks readers, these books could satisfy multiple categories including a sci-fi or alternative history book set in Asia.

Romance of the Three Kingdoms by Luo Guanzhong

The story, which contains elements of true historical accounts mixed with myth and legend, is set during the tumultuous end of the Han dynasty in 169 AD and ends with the reunification of the country in 280 AD. This time was known as the "Three Kingdoms" period in Chinese history and is famous for the battles waged by feudal lords and their loyal retainers as they fought with each other to either replace the fading Han dynasty or restore it to its former power. The story follows hundreds of characters during this time of unrest and conflict and focuses on the politics, diplomacy, and struggle for power of the time. This edition follows the translation of C. H. Brewitt-Taylor.

Legends of the Condor Heroes, A Hero Born, Book 1 by Yong Jin

A Hero Born is a tale of fantasy and wonder, love and passion, treachery and war, betrayal and brotherhood. And then a hero is born. After his father, a Song patriot, was murdered, Guo Jing and his mother fled to the plains and joined Ghengis Khan and his people. Loyal, humble and driven, he learned all he could from the warlord and his army in hopes of one day joining them in their cause. But what Guo Jing doesn't know is that he's destined to battle an opponent that will challenge him in every way imaginable and with a connection to his past that no one envisioned. With the help and guidance of his shifus, The Seven Heroes of the South, Guo Jing returns to China to face his foe and carry out his destiny. But in a land divided by treachery and war, betrayal and ambition, he'll have to put his courage and knowledge to the test to survive.

The Order of the Pure Moon Reflected in Water by Zen Cho

A bandit walks into a coffeehouse, and it all goes downhill from there. Guet Imm, a young votary of the Order of the Pure Moon, joins up with an eclectic group of thieves (whether they like it or not) in order to protect a sacred object, and finds herself in a far more complicated situation than she could have ever imagined.

The Art of Prophecy by Wesley Chu

A child will rise to defeat the Eternal Khan, a cruel immortal god-king, and save the kingdom. And that prophecy did anoint a hero, Jian, raised since birth in luxury and splendor, and celebrated before he has won a single battle. But that’s when the story hits its first twist, the prophecy is wrong. What follows is a story more wondrous than any prophecy could foresee, and with many unexpected heroes: Taishi, an older woman who is the greatest grandmaster of magical martial arts in the kingdom but who thought her adventuring days were all behind her; Sali, a straitlaced warrior who learns the rules may no longer apply when the leader to whom she pledged her life is gone; and Qisami, a chaotic assassin who takes a little too much pleasure in the kill. And Jian himself, who has to find a way to become what he no longer believes he can be, a hero after all.

The Empress of Salt and Fortune by Nghi Vo

A young royal from the far north is sent south for a political marriage in an empire reminiscent of imperial China. Her brothers are dead, her armies and their war mammoths long defeated and caged behind their borders. Alone and sometimes reviled, she must choose her allies carefully. Rabbit is a handmaiden, sold by her parents to the palace for the lack of five baskets of dye, befriends the emperor's lonely new wife and gets more than she bargained for. At once feminist high fantasy and an indictment of monarchy, this evocative debut follows the rise of the empress In-yo, who has few resources and fewer friends. She's a northern daughter in a mage-made summer exile, but she will bend history to her will and bring down her enemies, piece by piece.

Song of Silver, Flame Like Night by Amélie Wen Zhao

Once, Lan had a different name. Now she goes by the one the Elantian colonizers gave her when they invaded her kingdom, killed her mother, and outlawed her people's magic. She spends her nights as a song girl in Haak'gong, a city transformed by the conquerors, and her days scavenging for what she can find of the past. Anything to understand the strange mark burned into her arm by her mother in her last act before she died. The mark is mysterious, an untranslatable Hin character, and no one but Lan can see it. Until the night a boy appears at her teahouse and saves her life.

Daughter of the Moon Goddess by Sue Lynn Tan

Daughter of the Moon Goddess begins an enchanting duology which weaves ancient Chinese mythology into a sweeping adventure of immortals and magic, of loss and sacrifice, where love vies with honor, dreams are fraught with betrayal, and hope emerges triumphant.

The Sword Dancer by Jeannie Lin

Sword dancer Li Feng is used to living life on the edge of the law, a woman alone in the dangerous world of the Tang Dynasty has only her whirlwind reflexes to trust. She will discover the truth about her past, even if that means outwitting the most feared thief-catcher of them all. Relentless, handsome and determined, Han sees life and love as black and white. Until he finally captures the spirited, courageous Li Feng, who makes him question everything he thought he knew about right and wrong. Soon he's faced with an impossible choice: betray the elusive sword dancer he is learning to love, or trust his long-disregarded heart and follow her to dangerous, tempting rebellion.

She Who Became the Sun by Shelley Parker-Chan

In 1345, China lies under harsh Mongol rule. For the starving peasants of the Central Plains, greatness is something found only in stories. When the Zhu family's eighth-born son, Zhu Chongba, is given a fate of greatness, everyone is mystified as to how it will come to pass. The fate of nothingness received by the family's clever and capable second daughter, on the other hand, is only as expected. When a bandit attacks it is Zhu Chongba who succumbs to despair and dies. Desperate to escape her own fated death, the girl uses her brother's identity to enter a monastery as a young male novice. There, propelled by her burning desire to survive, Zhu learns she is capable of doing whatever it takes, no matter how callous, to stay hidden from her fate.

The Epic Crush of Genie Lo by F. C. Yee

The struggle to get into a top-tier college consumes sixteen-year-old Genie's every waking thought. But when she discovers she's a celestial spirit who's powerful enough to bash through the gates of heaven with her fists, her perfectionist existence is shattered. Quentin, a transfer student from China whose tone-deaf assertiveness beguiles Genie to the brink of madness. Quentin nurtures Genie's outrageous transformation, sometimes gently, sometimes aggressively, as her sleepy suburb in the Bay Area comes under siege from hell-spawn.

These Violent Delights by Chloe Gong

In 1926 Shanghai, eighteen-year-old Juliette Cai, heir of the Scarlet Gang, and her first love-turned-rival Roma Montagov, leader of the White Flowers, must work together when mysterious deaths threaten their city.

Bonus films!

Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings

Martial-arts master Shang-Chi confronts the past he thought he left behind when he's drawn into the web of the mysterious Ten Rings organization.

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon

The disappearance of a magical jade sword sets into motion a quest for love and loss.The perils of Western China and a mysterious assassin provide pitfalls along the way.

Ying Xiong = Hero

Hero is the story of the First Emperor of China, who is on the brink of winning a war-torn land during the dawn of the Qin dynasty over 2000 years ago. Three opponents are determined to kill the King, and one loyal subject stands in their way.

Personalized Booklist

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