This article relies largely or entirely on a single source. (June 2015)
Xianxia (Simplified Chinese: 仙侠小说; Traditional Chinese: 仙俠小說), is a type of Chinese Martial Arts novel genre developed from the Wuxia genre that is heavily influenced by Taoism and Buddhism. It was first introduced in the Republic of China and became popular worldwide in the 21st century. Protagonists (usually) attempt to cultivate to immortality, seeking eternal life and the pinnacle of strength. Contrary to the Wuxia genre, Xianxia novels have more elements of fantasy, complete with magic, demons, ghosts and immortals.
The Xianxia genre is believed to have begun with Huanzhu Louzhu (还珠楼主) (1902-1961) , author of Swordsman of Mount Shu (蜀山剑侠传). Xianxia is a fantasy version of Wuxia, and can be separated into two general categories - mysterious fantasy, which is a broad genre of fictional stories which remixes Chinese folklore/mythology with foreign elements & settings, and cultivation fantasy, which incorporates elements such as Dao or The Way and yin and yang.
The characters forming Xianxia are Xian and Xia, which literally means ‘immortal hero’. In many Xianxia novels, those referred to as immortals are people who have cultivated to a certain realm that provides them with extended lifespans, sometimes true eternal life, and have powers that those below the "immortal" level usually cannot match.
One notable author, using Xiaoding (萧鼎) as a penname, wrote a novel called Zhu Xian (诛仙). The novel is about a child who escapes the massacre of their village and is adopted by Qingyun Men (Cyan Cloud School), known as the leading school of Justice for immortals.
The world of Xianxia novels usually consists of three realms, including The Heavens (天界), the mortal world (人界) and the underworld (冥界). Most novels will also incorporate versions of the cycle of reincarnation and Karma, which refers to the cosmic merit or demerit accumulated throughout one’s life based on one’s deeds. Karma determines which type of reincarnation the characters will experience in their next life. Some novels expand on this concept and have Karma affect even the daily lives of the characters or bind certain characters together through karmic relationships.
Others consist of different hierarchical level of realms (or universes) with different LingQi (灵气) concentration. These realms are structured in a pyramidal form. The lowest level is consisted of many mortal realms (人界). A higher intermediate level are the LingJie (灵界), and the ultimate top level are the immortal realms or XianJie (仙界). The XiuXian (修仙) practitioner could progress to a higher realms when they achieved specific level of power through cultivation and generally needed to endure heavenly calamity test. These tests generally involved enduring thunder strikes.
Many characters in Xianxia novels have special powers and extended lifespans. Some live 300 to 500 years and retain a youthful appearance. Their powers vary with their level of activity, achievements and weapons used. These weapons are typically the sword, the stick or saber.
Most novels provide an abnormal or unusual pet for their protagonists. The pet might be an ancient creature like a dragon, monkey, fox or wolf. Most of these companion creatures are stronger in body but weaker in spirit compared to a human who is at the same level. When a companion creature's mastery achieves a high level, their intelligence is also increased. Some of these high-mastery creatures are able to speak like a human and use tools.
Xiuzhen (Chinese: 修真), meaning "to cultivate", is a Taoist concept by which humans can extend their lifespan through practicing a set of martial and mystical arts involving meditation and the cultivation of Qi. In many novels, the ultimate goal of cultivation is to become an immortal or attain godhood. The "Cultivating Method" could comprise martial arts, Buddhism, or Taoism depending on the doctrine of different religions.
Whatever the level that is settled, it mostly follows the following steps, according to Base Building:
- Turning spirit / essence into Qi (炼精化气),
- Turning Qi into a spirit /supernaturalness (炼气化神),
- Turning a spirit/ supernaturalness back into emptiness (炼神还虚),
- Turning emptiness into Tao (炼虚合道).