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Wuxia (武俠 lit. martial heroes) is a genre of Chinese historical fiction focusing on stories of martial artists and warriors in ancient Chinese settings. Wuxia works, while historically comprised mostly of literature, have grown to include Chinese opera, films, television series, manhua (comics), and video games. The genre boasts great popularity in Chinese-speaking areas around the world and is considered a prominent aspect of Asian popular culture.

Wuxia stories follow a hero of some kind, typically of a lower social class, as they fight evil and injustice. The heroes in wuxia works usually follow a form of chivalric, martial code, which differs between the storyteller and era the story is told in and acts similarly to Japanese samurais' bushido, and often belong to a secret warrior society related to the jianghu (rivers and lakes, or the greater world of outlaw martial artists).


Many ancient Chinese stories feature warriors that would fit this aesthetic today such as the ancient Chinese ballad of Hua Mulan that is dated back to 4th to 6th century CE. Chinese films and plays often followed suit with these legends, and the Wuxia fad arrived in the US with Chinese ethnic enclaves. With Bruce Lee, a Chinese-American martial artist, the aesthetic was popularized among American youth.


The aesthetic is mainly focused on the fandom and general genre of films, books, and folklore that tell of Chinese warriors or martial artists fighting for what is right, usually in an ancient Chinese setting. Anyone who has an appreciation for the genre could be considered a part of the aesthetic, although actual martial artists are considered to be 'figures' of the aesthetic. The heroes in Wuxia work are usually similar in some ways to each other: they could be both in a low social class and follow a specific moral code as each other, for example.

Many Chinese novel websites, such as Qidian, have their own distinct visual styles for wuxia book covers that often include white backgrounds and Chinese characters.


  • Long hair for both men and women, with traditional hairstyles often featuring buns
    • This is because not cutting ones hair is considered "filial piety" in the Confucian ideology
  • Hanfu
  • Chinese medieval weapons

Prominent Figures[]


  • Jin Yong
  • Liang Yusheng
  • Gu Long
  • Woon Shee Oan
  • Huang Yi
  • Ma Wing-shing

Martial Artists (both fictional and real)[]

  • Zhou Tong
  • Bruce Lee
  • Hua Mulan


As it is a genre of fiction, media is the core of wuxia, especially wuxia books, which were the main beginnings of the genre. Wuxia books include:

  • A Hero Born by Jin Yong
  • Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon by Wang Dulu
  • The Eleventh Son by Gu Long
  • The Three Kingdoms by Luo Guanzhong
  • Water Margin by Shi Nai'an
  • The Empress of Salt and Fortune by Nghi Vo
  • Boxers & Saints by Gene Luen Yang
  • Worm by John C. McCrae (is capepunk, but has many wuxia and anime tropes)

Wuxia films include:

  • The Return of The Condor Heroes (2006)
  • The Bruce Lee films
  • The Grandmaster (2013)
  • Dragon (2011)
  • The Mulan film adaptations
  • Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000)


Xianxia is a subgenre of wuxia where the characters are written in the mold of the Taoist xian or immortal, a demigod-like ideal that humans could supposedly strive to be in some branches of Taoism. Usually, the characters are quite powerful and use chi for energy-based attacks, and often, there is a multiverse and biopunk elements.