The New Tropes of Xia

Xia 侠 stories are one of the major heroic traditions in Chinese literature. With tales of swordsmen and cultivators stretching back as far as 100 BCE in China. Today, it’s probably best known around the world through kungfu movies, and more recently, the 20th century wuxia novels of writers such as Jin Yong and Gu Long have become popular again.

In China itself, the tradition has never stopped evolving, and there has recently been an amazing output of vibrant CDramas on streaming sites, adapted from the current slew of exciting web novels. It’s interesting to see how modern living, and preoccupations have shaped this classic storytelling tradition, and I thought it would be fun to look at how this new generation of Xia authors and directors are developing new tropes, both visual and thematic, with a bingo card to help you navigate through the complex and ever-changing universe of wuxia, xianxia and any other branches of this dynamic genre.

If you’re starting a new series, I would love to hear from you how many of these you spot. And if you get a full house? How soon in the series you found yourself stamping the final square! I look forward to seeing your completed bingo cards over on Twitter. Just be sure to tag @xuetingni, so I can find them!


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Introduction to Chinese Animation with Screenings (Amecon 2008, Leceister)

Donghua (Chinese for animation) has spread its wings internationally over the last decade, so impressive have been the currents it’s generated that even big Western studios like Disney, are capitalising on the trend. But its history of donghua goes all the way back to the early twentieth century. This is a talk I delivered for at Amecon in 2008, at the UK premier of Storm Rider: Clash of Evils. Having discovered that certain ageing white academics have helped themselves to my talk for ‘research’ without crediting me, I removed it from Myspace. Today, I’m making it available, in honour of the release of Domee Shi’s Turning Red. If you do use it for whatever project, put my name in the sources, and in return, put a little towards my research materials, or, buy me a cup of tea. 


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Net Novels and the She Era: How Internet Novels Opened the Door for Readers and Writers in China

It’s International Women’s Day and also the publication day of Tordotcom’s The Way Spring Arrives and Other Stories: A Collection of Chinese Science Fiction and Fantasy in Translation (ed. Yu Chen and Regina Kanyu Wang). As a collection that spotlights contemporary SFF by women and non-binary writers, I thought it would be appropriate to contribute an essay on the story of the amazing growth and diversification of China’s female web literature output.


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Fiction Fans: Translating and SFF

It was so lovely to be on the Fiction Fans podcast with hosts Sara and Lilly. The episode was focussed on Sinopticon, the anthology of Chinese science fiction I’ve curated and translated, but we discussed so much more – tea, reading, SFF, the fine techniques of translating. Highlighted stories include Meisje met de Parel by Anna Wu, The Tide of Moon City by Reging Kanyu Wang and The Last Save by Gu Shi. As with most delectable discussions, the conversation meandered into all sorts of topics, but the episode was loosely based on the following questions. Follow the link below.


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Green Snake and the Legend of Donghua

As a child living in China during the 1980s, I grew up with its animation classics from the ‘60s and ‘70s, that were often repeated on TV.  But when it came to the new works, I stuck with anime and Western cartoons, such as She-Ra, TMNT, and Transformers. It wasn’t until after I’d emigrated to Europe, and returned to study in Beijing in the late 2000s, that I began to be impressed by new Chinese output.

When you think about Animation, China may not be the first place you think of. You might picture the charming works of Disney, or the ultra-violence of Japanese anime, or perhaps the slapsticks of Looney Tunes. But the history of 动画 Donghua (Chinese for animation) is long and full of beautiful works that are not as appreciated in the West as they could, or should be.


Posted in Culture

Hesuipian 2022

For those of you finally seeing the back of the Christmas weight gain, have some sympathy for those of us who live with a foot in both China, and the West, and are now heading again into further festivities. With nearly two weeks of celebration, mainly marked by meals, snacks, and other culinary over indulgences, it’s no surprise that China has collectively decided to escape into cinema for a respite from food and family.

As usual, anticipation has built up over the last few months for the greatest annual celebration in the Chinese calendar, and among the food shopping, clothes buying, and decorating, bookings have been flooding in to cinemas by the millions, reserving seats during what is now the busiest cinema season of the year. Hesuipian, or “films to celebrate the birth of a new year” are now integral part of Spring Festival, but the tradition only really established itself in the late 90s.


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The Shengxiao and Chinese Horology

The Chinese Zodiac, 十二生肖,Shi’Er Shengxiao, has existed ever since the first dynasty of Qin. There are many theories surrounding its origin. Some suggest that it was a way of counting time created by neighbouring tribes of herdsmen who intermingled with the Han Chinese in various ways throughout history; others that the zodiac was based on the twelve animals ridden by Indian gods. Anthropologically speaking, the zodiac seems to combine our primeval worship of totems with early astrological observations. 


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The Legend of White Snake: From Cautionary Tale to Tragedy, and Beyond

Recently, White Snake 2: The Tribulation of Green Snake came out on Netflix. This release brings us a unique experience of the Legend of White Snake in a contemporary adaptation, in the most accessible of media and platforms. As the tale of these (literally) millennium-old snake spirits become part of the global cultural consciousness, here’s a quick look at how they came into being.


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The History of Manhua: The Modernist Era

After exploring the ancient beginnings of the Chinese comics tradition, I take a look at manhua in the early 20th century. 


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Chinese ‘Pop’ Art I : Drinks with Faces

This year’s Qixi (Double Seven) festival was marked in a few interesting ways. Western brands like Gucci released ‘couple’ ads featuring LGBT partners, and Gong Jun, star of hit series Word of Honour appeared on Xuehua Beer cans. Though dressed in modern clothing, he is depicted wielding a paper fan, and surrounded by a colour scheme reminiscent of his character’s signature teal hanfu. He is just one of thousands of Chinese stars who lend their images to advertising, and there is a particular dynamism to Chinese drinks can and bottle art, which has flourished over the last decade, inspiring the art of other media and reaching far outside China.


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