Honors College Theses

Publication Date



History (B.A.)

Document Type and Release Option

Thesis (open access)

Faculty Mentor

Juanjuan Peng


Since its beginnings in China, martial arts have intrigued people with its mastery over mind and body, from the Shaolin monk practices of hand-to-hand combat and body conditioning to folktales of martial heroes with their mastery of swordplay and their almost superhuman-like fighting abilities. Martial arts have fascinated and astonished people in China for centuries, and since their introduction to the West they have captivated other cultures the world over. Their intrigue has caused them to penetrate entertainment circles through novelization early on. Chinese classics such as Water Margin and The Seven Heroes and the Five Gallants solidified martial arts as a readable genre, then eventually martial arts were assimilated into modern cinema during the twentieth century. We have been accustomed to viewing Chinese martial arts, or wushu (武术), and the fantastical stories of martial heroes called wuxia (武侠) together through famous movies such as Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, Iron Monkey, and Hero. To many, the two concepts are synonymous due to their exhibitions in modern entertainment and cinema. Although they are integrally related, the two are not the same. So what differentiates them? Through sources signifying real Chinese martial practice dating back to the Han dynasty, and more modern examples from novelization, the paper will trace how wushu and wuxia emerged and evolved. It will also reveal the realities of their almost symbiotic relationship through the lens of novelized entertainment and cinema during the modern age.

Included in

Asian Studies Commons