Xianxia (genre)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
  (Redirected from Xianxia novel)
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Xianxia (simplified Chinese: 仙侠; traditional Chinese: 仙俠), directly translated to 'immortal heroes' comprises a number of popular genres including 'Cultivation' (修炼/修煉 xiūliàn; 修真 xiūzhēn; 修行 xiūxíng; 修仙 xiūxiān; 修道 xiūdào; 修身 xiūshēn), is a genre of Chinese fantasy heavily 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.[1]


Xianxia novels were popularized during the Republic of China period, but it was the 1932 novel Legend of the Swordsmen of the Mountains of Shu that sparked the modern popularity of the genre.[citation needed] In the 21st century, the genre took on new life with the advent of online publishing, with sites such as Qidian.com, Zongheng.com, and 17k.com giving a platform for authors to reach wide audiences with high-volume, serialized content. It was popularized outside of China primarily by fan translations in the early 2000s. Novels such as Stellar Transformations, Coiling Dragon, Martial God Asura, and I Shall Seal the Heavens [zh] led to a boom in such fan translations.[2] This genre is also a staple of Chinese television shows, films, manhua (comics), donghua (animation), and games.


Protagonists are usually "cultivators" (修心者 xiūxīnzhě, 修士 xiūshì, or 修仙者 xiūxiānzhě) who seek to become immortal beings called xian. Along the way, they attain eternal life, supernatural powers, and incredible levels of strength. The fictional cultivation practiced in xianxia is heavily based on the real-life meditation practice qigong.

The stories usually include elements such as gods, immortals, yaoguai, ghosts, monsters, magical treasures, immortal items, medicinal pills, and the like.[1] They often take place in a "cultivation world" where cultivators engage in fierce and usually deadly struggles to acquire the resources they need to grow stronger. Oftentimes, the initial setting is reminiscent of ancient China, but the stories usually become cosmic in nature, with the protagonists attaining godlike abilities, sometimes creating their own planets, galaxies or universes. While the primary focus is action and adventure, there are also romance-heavy stories.[3]

Films and television[edit]

Perhaps one of the earliest successful xianxia films was the 1983 Hong Kong film Zu Warriors from the Magic Mountain, which was followed up by the 2001 film The Legend of Zu.[4] Other film adaptations of novels have been well received, such as the 2017 romantic xianxia film Once Upon a Time and the 2019 Jade Dynasty.

Overall, television shows are more numerous than films when it comes to xianxia adaptations.[5]

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 and The Untamed.[6][7] It is worth noting all four dramas are adapted from popular novels published on the website Jinjiang Literature City. In addition, there are Swords of Legends, Noble Aspirations, Love of Thousand Years, Love and Redemption and other films and TV series. The already existing fandom of xianxia, and other fantasy novels has led to most new television and film titles to be adaptions and their warm reception by fans, along with increased exposure and high rates of anticipation.


The characters forming xianxia are xiān () and xiá (). A xiān is an immortal, a kind of transcendent being from Chinese mythology. Xiá is usually translated as "hero", but specifically implies a person who is brave, chivalrous, and righteous.[1]

Confusion with other genres[edit]

During the initial explosion of popularity of Chinese fantasy novels with English-speaking audiences, many readers began to use that term to describe all of genres of Chinese fantasy novels. In reality, although xianxia shares many characteristics with wuxia, they are in fact separate genres. Later, as more readers came to understand the difference between wuxia and xianxia, they began to use xianxia to refer to all types of Chinese cultivation novels, when in fact there are some unique genres that are not xianxia, such as xuanhuan, qihuan, etc.[8]


As xianxia novels have become more popular worldwide, other genres have been heavily influenced by it, such as progression fantasy, including authors such as Will Wight.[9][10]

In popular culture[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c "General Glossary of Terms". WuxiaWorld. Retrieved 14 January 2019.
  2. ^ Yin, Yijun (15 October 2019). "The Chinese E-Publishers Making an Epic Journey to the West". Sixth Tone. Retrieved 6 May 2021.
  3. ^ Paterson, Robyn (25 January 2016). "Xianxia- The Fantasy Genre that's Dominating Chinese Web Fiction". RobynPaterson.com. Retrieved 6 May 2021.
  4. ^ Rauscher, Andreas (2013). "Strange Hybrids from a Hong Kong Studio". In Ritzer, Ivo; Schulze, Peter W. (eds.). Genre Hybridisation: Global Cinematic Flow. Marburger Schriften zur Medienforschung. Vol. 44. Marburg: Schüren. pp. 265–266. doi:10.5771/9783741000416-265. ISBN 978-3-89472-863-2.[verification needed]
  5. ^ "Popularity and Future of Xianxia Fantasy Dramas Assessed at TV Forum". stvf.com. Shanghai Television Festival. 9 June 2016. Retrieved 6 May 2021.
  6. ^ Lusky, Bridget (2 December 2019). "'The Untamed': Chinese boy love drama we can't stop watching". Film Daily. Retrieved 6 May 2021.
  7. ^ Romano, Aja (27 March 2020). "The Untamed, streaming on Netflix, ripped my heart out and fed it to me. I can't get enough". Vox. Retrieved 6 May 2021.
  8. ^ "Glossary of Terms in Wuxia, Xianxia & Xuanhuan Novels". Immortal Mountain. Retrieved 6 May 2021 – via WordPress.
  9. ^ Lukas, Alex (18 January 2021). "5 Shonen-Style Books to Read if You Wish Your Novels Were More Like Anime". CBR. Retrieved 21 January 2022.
  10. ^ Salao, Cole. "Xianxia: Your Guide to Cultivation Fantasy". TCK Publishing. Retrieved 21 January 2022.