Wuxia vs. Xianxia

So just a quick post that I’ve been meaning to do for a while now.  I know this website is ‘wuxiaworld.com’, and I know the current translation is of ‘Coiling Dragon’, but every time I heard someone describe Coiling Dragon as being Wuxia, I start (wink).  Just to get it on record; Coiling Dragon is technically not Wuxia, it is Xianxia.

Wuxia is made from two characters; ‘Wu’ and ‘Xia’, which literally mean ‘martial hero’.  Wuxia stories are basically martial arts stories, with an essentially ‘real’ world filled with people who do incredible things through martial arts and generating ‘qi’, which allows them to leap long distances across rooftops and skip across water, a la Crouching Tiger/Hidden Dragon.  Asian fans here surely have heard of famous novels/adaptations like the Legend of the Condor Heroes, Return of the Condor Heroes, Swordsman/Smiling Proud Wanderer, Seven Swordsmen (by Tsui Hark), etc.  The novel I posted here that I translated, ‘Horizon, Bright Moon, Sabre’, is another example of Wuxia.  These are all ‘Wuxia’; novels that are grounded in real-life Chinese martial arts and internal energy cultivation (qigong) techniques that are kicked up to an exaggeratedly awesome level.

As for Xianxia, the characters forming it are ‘Xian’ and ‘Xia’, which literally means ‘immortal hero’.  Xianxia is a newer genre and is essentially a ‘fantasy-fied’ version of Wuxia, with magic, demons, immortals, people who can fly, etc.  The biggest contributor to the Xianxia genre is actually not martial arts; rather, it is ‘Taoism’, which is a major part of Chinese history.  Taoism is both a philosophical way of life as well as an actual religion.  Religious Taoism is often blurred together with Chinese folk mythologies, and is chock-full of stories about demons, ghosts, and people learning how to become immortals through meditation/understanding the ways of heaven, and flying in the air and casting powerful magic spells.  The legendary Monkey King, Sun Wukong (whom Son Goku of DBZ is based off of) acquired his power through Taoist practices, and the concept of the Yin-Yang is also from Taoism.  Xianxia blends lots of these folk stories and magical Taoist legends into their stories in a way which ‘true’ Wuxia stories almost never do.

So there you have it!  A quick explanation of the difference between Wuxia novels (such as Horizon, Bright Moon, Sabre) and Xianxia novels (such as Stellar Transformations or Coiling Dragon).  Hope this was useful/helpful/of interest!

Posted by RWX

75 thoughts on “Wuxia vs. Xianxia” - NO SPOILERS and NO CURSING

    1. Well i would like to recommend a super great japanese manga that could be catogarized as wuxia then, the name “Kingdom”
      it’s funny that it is a japanese manga, but the story is about the first dynasty (Qin dynasty) that able to unify china. The protag was originally a slave boy who dream someday to be a great general under the heaven. Some twist happened, and he became best friend with a young king (same age as him). As they grew up, both walk their own path and pursue their dream. The young king want to be the first king to unify china and the slave boy want to be the strongest great general under heaven. of course their dream are supporting each other and would have the same goal at the end. It’s a historical manga, cuz the characters were actually real and the story tend to follow according the real history but the author manage to spendidly drawn the story with his own imagination, so it’s really fascinating. I dare say the protag is so badass, that you won’t consider him any less than linley. (Ofc linley is much much stronger as it he has fantasy power, duh different genre ppl~) and the young king need to win the power struggle of his own kingdom. So this manga has super badass battles (duh, they live in the age of never ending wars), battle of strategy, political struggle, lot of twist, cute strong badass women, etc. And it is simple to read. The author has done a very great job to make the readers could easily enjoy reading it. There isn’t any complicated things that make you hard to understand.

      Well it’s not a novel. It’s a manga, but i strongly recommend it. I could say this is the best manga i’ve read (and yeah, i read lot of mangas and watch animes too).

      1. It really is a great manga, the anime’s aren’t really good because some of the best moments wasn’t animated. I would say that it has some flaws like extreme bodies with huge frame cleaving 10 people with a swing of his/her glaive. But still one of my most favorite things to read if it is there.

          1. It’s Icecream, not Icedream -_- well it’s not much different, i also read olivier’s sword always as icecream ~ lol

          2. I started talking after my power was on the saint level. I will be a deity level soon and only consume Vanilla iceCream.

      2. I think it’s kind of manga that Ren would definetely love to read. I figure that ren love wuxia more than xianxia. But sadly ren doesn’t have time to read other things nowadays. Well in the future, if you have time and like to try reading manga, i strongly recommend it for you Ren 😀

    2. Wat the f***s up with you there’s a schedule that Ren keeps 11am then 7pm and if Ren feels like it 10 pm it’s people like you that ruin translation sites with ur inpatient inmature attitude so take a chill pill with me nd keep calm

        1. It’s pretty clear that it’s Sci-Fi/Xianxia in the current version of the story, I don’t see how this implies gods.

          There are wargods and people who transcend them in swallowed star though, that’s certainly a thing.

        1. I think they mean Swallowed Star. Which is funny, because all I said was Swallowed Star is classified as a Xianxia/Sci-Fi mix. I didn’t say anything about what percentages or elements of each are in the story xD

          1. lol yea well it started out like a wuxia so most would think it is one but, i guess IET’s fans would know better.

  1. I knew there was a difference between the genres, but I never dug any deeper. Thanks for the lesson Ren! Now I wont be a fool when talking or introducing my friends to this type of story.

  2. I knew they were different, but I still thought it’d be okay to call it wuxia collectively. Now I know better. I like xianxia more than wuxia. See? I can already use the two words properly in a sentence. 😀 BTW, Ren, what’s with that ad for some colon or something with a creepy pic? I don’t, but I hear many people eat while reading Coiling Dragon. 😛

        1. Right, but I need people to tell/link them to me. I usually (funny enough) have Adblock on my machine, because if I accidentally click on a Google Ad, Google has the right to shut me down entirely. So to prevent that risk, I adblock my own website to prevent me from accidentally clicking.

  3. Thx for making this clear for everybody ren.

    ps.: is it possible to add this post to “about wuxia world” as a kind of longer (and easier to understand for sleep deprieved minds) explanation?

  4. Thanks for the explanation Ren. Xianxia is my favourite of the two. I’m here primarily for the greatness of this fantasy story. Real life is a boring story. The imagination is king.

  5. Yep. Xianxia is definitely my favorite of the two. Of course I’ve never read any Wuxia, but I’m more of a fantasy-world-story person myself 🙂

    PS: Thanks for clearing that up, Ren! I saw someone call CD Wuxia the other day but restrained from correcting them since I couldn’t explain the difference. Now we can link a reference 😀

  6. boss ren can you please recommend some wuxia or xanxia with overpowered protagonist,(hoping that its already fully translated or having 10+volume translated?)
    thanks in advance,
    and thanks for always translating chapters ^^,

    1. Hi fufufu, honestly, I haven’t had much chance to read lately, being so busy with translations. I don’t think there are ANY that are completely done, but Stellar Transformation is closest to completion, thanks to he-man’s herculean efforts.

      1. i tried reading doulou w/c was recommended by firo’s ahoge at that time, but i accidentally read the summary or the prologue… the one where the guy jumped off the cliff?… made me lose all motivation to read >.<

        1. SPOILER
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          Douluo is a Reincarnation based story so the guy that jumps off the cliff is still main character and I would highly recommend to keep reading it! It’s a very good read!

  7. Well i would like to recommend a super great japanese manga that could be catogarized as wuxia then, the name “Kingdom”
    it’s funny that it is a japanese manga, but the story is about the first dynasty (Qin dynasty) that able to unify china. The protag was originally a slave boy who dream someday to be a great general under the heaven. Some twist happened, and he became best friend with a young king (same age as him). As they grew up, both walk their own path and pursue their dream. The young king want to be the first king to unify china and the slave boy want to be the strongest great general under heaven. of course their dream was supporting each other and would have the same goal at the end. It’s a historical manga, cuz the characters were actually real and the story tend to follow according the real history but the author manage to spendidly drawn the story with his own imagination, so it’s really fascinating. I dare say the protag is so badass, that you won’t consider him any less than linley. (Ofc linley is much much stronger as it he has fantasy power, duh different genre ppl~) and the young king need to win the power struggle of his own kingdom. So this manga has super badass battles (duh, they live in the age of never ending wars), battle of strategy, political struggle, lot of twist, cute strong badass women, etc. And it is simple to read. The author has done a very great job to make the readers could easily enjoy reading it. There isn’t any complicated things that make you hard to understand.

    Well it’s not a novel. It’s a manga, but i strongly recommend it. I could say this is the best manga i’ve read (and yeah, i read lot of mangas and watch animes too).

  8. Hey Lord Ren
    Thanks for all your hardwork.
    When CD is over,I hope you can take up any other IET novels for translation.
    I love his work.Although the plots kind of gets repetitive at the end,it always worth a read.:)

    Your loyal subject
    SpoilerLord

  9. I let out a rather shrill squeal of utter delight at the mention of Condor Heroes. Gawd I love that novel. Watched the animation and read the legendary couple. My heart flutters!!! Oh btw! Though not new to Wuxia/Xianxia, im a noob here so….*bows* please continue to take care of me in the future 😀 Awesome work guys! I will continue to support ^^

  10. 星辰变属于仙侠,但是盘龙(Coiling Dragon)不是仙侠吧。。。 ,盘龙(Coiling Dragon)应该属于西方玄幻类小说(Western fantasy novels)。 最经典的仙侠小说还是诛仙、蜀山

  11. Could you mention some of the earliest instances of xianxia novels you know of?
    I’d like to figure out who we might credit with pioneering the genre. It seems hard to search for this in english.

  12. I thought about why xianxia better in Novel because you can understand the fight from the system yet wuxia is better while being a manhua because you can understand the fight better

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