Wuxia and 9Dragons (1)

I think less of you know that the story of 9Dragons was inspired by Wuxia, a popular culture for most of Chinese communities. The original in-game story for Indy21’s Korean version was written by wuxia novelist Jwa Baek .I will try make a portrait  of the spirit, themes, the Code of Xia, plots, skills and abilities of wuxia.

Wuxia (武侠) is a broad genre of Chinese fiction that concerns itself with martial arts adventures set primarily in ancient China. Although traditionally a literary art form, it is now also found in art, comics, films, games, television, theatre, and other media. Wuxia forms a large part of popular culture for most Chinese-speaking communities around the world.

The word “wuxia” is a compound word composed from the words xia (俠, “honorable”, “chivalrous”), which is the philosophy of the Chinese knight-errant, and wu (武, “martial”, “military”), from the Chinese term wushu (武術, “martial arts” or “kungfu”). A martial artist who follows the code of xia is often referred to as a “swordsman” in works of wuxia, although he may not necessarily wield a sword. He is also sometimes called a xiake (俠客, lit: “follower of xia”) or yóuxiá (游俠, “wandering xia”).

The heroes in Chinese wuxia do not usually serve a lord, wield military power or belong to the aristocratic class. They are often from the lower social classes in ancient Chinese society. Wuxia heroes are usually bound by a code of martial chivalry, that requires them to right wrongs, especially when the helpless are oppressed. The wuxia hero fought for righteousness, typically, seeking to remove an oppressor, or to bring retribution for past wrong-doing. The Chinese xia traditions are similar to those of the Japanese samurai’s bushido, the chivalry of the Western European knights and the gunslingers of America’s Westerns.

Wuxia stories have their roots in some early You Xia (游侠, “Chinese knight-errant” or “assassins”) stories from 200-300 BC. Some famous stories include those of Jing Ke (荆轲), who attempted to assassinate the King of Qin Ying Zheng, and Zhuan Zhu (专诸), who successfully assassinated King Liao of Wu. In the “Assassins” section (刺客列传) of Records of the Grand Historian (a.k.a. Shi Ji (史记)), the author Sima Qian outlined a number of notable assassins from the Warring States era who were entrusted with (the usually noble) task of carrying out political assassinations on aristocrats and nobles during that period.

These assassins are known as Ci Ke (刺客, lit: “stabbing guests”). These assassins usually rendered their loyalties and services to feudal lords and nobles in return for rewards such as riches and shelter. As such, they are often compared to the Japanese Ninjas who served their Daimyos. In another section of Shi Ji, “Roaming Xia” (游侠列传/游侠列传), Sima Qian detailed several embryonic features of Xia culture of his period. This popular phenomena was also documented in other historical records such as the Book of Han (汉书) and the Book of Later Han (后汉书).

Xia Ke stories made a turning point in the Tang Dynasty and returned in the form of Chuan Qi (传奇, lit: “legendary tales”). Stories from that era such as Nie Yin Niang (聂隐娘), The Kunlun Slave (昆仑奴), Jing Shi San Niang (荆十三娘), Red String (红线) and The Bearded Warrior (虬髯客) served as prototypes for modern Wuxia stories. They featured fantasies and isolated protagonists, usually loners, who performed daring heroic deeds.

The earliest full-length novel considered to be of the Wuxia genre was the Water Margin (水浒传), authored by Shi Nai’an during the Ming Dynasty. Some might classify sections of Luo Guanzhong’s Romance of the Three Kingdoms (三国演义) as a possible early antecedent. The former criticises the deplorable socio-economic status of the late Northern Song Dynasty whilst the latter is a romanticised historical retelling of the events of the late Han Dynasty and Three Kingdoms Period. The Water Margin’s portrayal of outlaws who follow the code of honour played an influential role in the development of Jianghu culture in later centuries. Romance of the Three Kingdoms contained classic close combat descriptions which were later borrowed by Wuxia writers in their works.

Many Wuxia works produced during the Ming and Qing dynasties were lost due to the government’s strong crackdown and banning of such works. Wuxia works were deemed responsible for brewing anti-governmental sentiments which gave rise to rebellions during these periods. The ethos of personal freedom and conflict-readiness of these novels were seen as seditious even in times of peace and stability. The departure from mainstream literature also meant that patronage of this genre was limited to the masses and not to the literati, which accounted for the stifling of the development of the Wuxia genre.

Nonetheless, the Wuxia genre remained enormously popular with the common people. Certain full-length novels such as The Strange Cases of Shi Gong (施公案奇闻) and The Romance of the Heroic Daughters and Sons (儿女英雄传) were cited as the clearest nascent Wuxia novels. Even Justice Bao stories from San Xia Wu Yi (三侠五义, later extended and renamed Qi Xia Wu Yi 七侠五义) and Xiao Wu Yi (小五义) incorporated much of social justice themes of later Wuxia stories.

Source : Cultural China.

by Story Teller


19 responses to “Wuxia and 9Dragons (1)

  1. Thanks for this share. I don’t know much about wuxia, but I want to learn, after all I love 9dragons because of martial arts.

  2. very nice of you Story Teller to tell us about wuxia. i heard about wuxia and I sow some movies, but i never knew what is it.

  3. This is a subject from which I would want to learn more.Thanks for the debating this subject. I am a big fan of martial arts movies.

  4. It is true, most of the people who plays 9dragons, likes the game because of martial arts, they like martial arts novels, martial arts movies, same goes for me. I didn’t know in China they call it wuxia.

  5. Try Seven Swords or Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.

    Wulin exists only in fiction, and is a term used to describe the World of the Martial Arts. This is the world of the wuxia heroes of authors like Jin Yong and Gu Long, as well as the Hong Kong cinema (or rather, the Mandarin cinema). It is a world in which xia dedicate their lives to perfecting their martial skills, and fighting for truth, justice and the Confucian way. More worldly xia seek glory, fame and wealth. In fiction, these members of the Wulin carry on the shi legacy, and follow many of the rules embodied in wude (martial virtue), li (chivalry), hao (gallantry), and bao (vengeance). In the River-lake, the elite of the Wulin are known as gao shou (lit: high hands) or huang-baofu (lit: yellow-bags), and treated with the utmost of respect and deference.

  6. From where SEA make 9dragons sheets for clans ? I think they are from original author JWE Baek. So the idea was from JWE, SEA just re-copy. We don’t know what is original and what is not.

  7. about SEA and the story of 9dragons I found this:

    MMORPG.com: How did you feel when approached to write for what essentially is a video game?
    Steve Altman:
    Glad you asked, Carolyn. I was hesitant for a moment when Howard Marks, Acclaim’s CEO, took me out to lunch and asked me if I’d be interested in coming on-board to create The Lore for 9Dragons. He knew my work, that I’d written novels, scripts and comics. I knew he was responsible for making A-level games. He convinced me that 9Dragons was a game that had a strong story component… and that he felt confident in my grasp of East meets West storytelling after reading a novel I wrote called Zen in the Art of Slaying Vampires. Then he showed me the in-game visuals and well… as you’ll see, they are very compelling. I felt like I was being given a chance to live inside the film Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. It was sort of irresistible.

    MORPG.com: What of your background do you think makes you suitable for this position? Are you a gamer at all?
    Steve Altman:
    Suitable, hmmm. I think it is an odd combination of things that make me suitable. Having lived extensively in China, I already had a love for their mythology, and experience translating Asian-based stories. I played Dungeons & Dragons when I was a kid, and I still play World of Warcraft. But believe me, when you’re suddenly faced with helming an in-game story, it changes how you look at all games. You start to observe all the different working parts and how they unify as a whole… and you get a rush of respect for both the process and the finished project.
    MMORPG.com: Since 9 Dragons is actually an existing game in Korea – have you been given a blank slate apart from the historical basis to work on or are there some “don’t touch” elements in it?
    Steve Altman:
    Well Carolyn, I must admit that at the beginning I felt lost in translation. A lot of the early documents I read based on the backgrounds of the Clans (those are the groups you can join in-game, each with their own special philosophy, ideals and Kung Fu) were rather confusing. There are elements of Asian culture that simply do not translate. So, the earliest part of my job was trying to ask the right questions (through translators) to the designers to find out how clan history was actually interacting with elements like alliances and quests. Once I understood what elements were essential to game-play, I could choose which historical information would be fun and accessible to English-speaking gamers. The Korean team’s writer and Loremaster, Jwa Baek, a rather famous best-selling author in Korea, did an amazing job at weaving the original story with compelling characters and Chinese mythology. So I felt a little nervous when I started changing story elements to suit the English market… but he has been very accepting of the new work as they translate my “Remastered English” back to the Korean designers.
    There weren’t any real “don’t touch” moments, but everybody did get a little antsy when I explained that we had to adjust the names of several of the clans. Sure, our gamers have probably heard of Shaolin and Wu-Tang Clan, but other clan names would have been meaningless (and difficult to pronounce). So a good example might be that I studied the “Mojiao Clan”, thought about their arcane ideals, read up on their Bloody Fist Kung Fu technique, and then renamed them Heavenly Demon Clan.
    So, rather than a blank slate, it was more like an empty plate I could fill… and when I couldn’t understand something on the menu, I asked them to bring the cart around and let me taste the food. Then I did my best to describe each delicacy.

    MMORPG.com: How different has the experience of writing for an MMORPG been for you so far?
    Steve Altman:
    Well, every writing assignment is a new learning experience, Carolyn. When I first moved from writing novels to writing scripts, I had to learn about film structure and make every second count. In a game, let’s say during a quest assignment, you have to get your point across very quickly and efficiently. So while the elements of story remain the same, it’s a much more concise format. Dialogue is the only thing I’ve encountered that is fairly constant. Great dialogue requires getting into character. I’ve even given the game system itself a certain feel, so you can expect to read error messages in a voice like, “One cannot use Kung Fu while in Peace Mode.”

    MMORPG.com: Are you directing the story or is it more of a collaborative experience?
    Steve Altman:
    I guess I’m directing the story, though in a way it has been directing me as well. Since the actual game-play and directives are set, it’s more like I’m watching certain events that must unfold, and then going back and reading as much about the history as I can… then I just create the story, dialogue, or parable that guides you there.

    MMORPG.com: Do you work closely with any other members of the development team?
    Steve Altman:
    Yes, since many of the elements I’m working on require very subtle translation, I have to work very closely with the Korean development team. I’ve actually adjusted my schedule to theirs, so my workday is 4 PM until 4 AM. I have a chat window open with Jongjoo “Jade” Lee, the lead translator with our Korean partners at Indy21, and we constantly bat ideas back and forth. I also conference daily with our UK partners at Persistent Worlds, on the “Lore” elements for our articles and newsletters, and consult daily with David Jun from Acclaim, here in Los Angeles, who is directing our advertising and marketing efforts. As you can imagine, with all these different time zones to consider for our combined global effort, sleep is often elusive.

    MMORPG.com: Would you or can you draw any parallels between adapting a Korean story to the US market and adapting a novel to movie script? Or has it felt like it is the other way around?
    Steve Altman:
    Both essentially require the same starting point, which is digging down deep into the core of what the original story was trying to say, ideally through conversations with the original creators. In the case of a translation from a foreign language, you have the additional responsibility of wading through the cultural barriers, and asking the right questions. Once you’ve got a firm grip on the core themes, you have to understand the audience you’re adapting for. Which is why I’ve kidnapped several US and European gamers and thoroughly interrogated them. Just kidding… no really… I’m kidding. And once you believe you have all the elements you need to begin writing… you have to say a prayer to your muse, trust yourself, and just jump in and write. As far as execution goes, adapting a novel to a script suggests nothing has been shot yet, so as the writer you are the first one in the driver’s seat on a long winding journey. Adapting an MMO that is already in play, however, suggests you know exactly where you must drive… and the fun is in thinking up ways to taunt and tantalize the gamers you’re about to interact with on their own roads in-game.


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