WUXIA SERIES INTRODUCTIONS
|Heavenly Sword and Dragon Saber (2003)|
This is a great website a strong emphasis on wuxia and ancient Chinese television series. Operated by a wuxia fan whose knowledge of the genre is encyclopedic, there are a number of cool resources available here, including regular articles that talk about the wuxia in real, every day terms. She keeps it positive and has an uplifting approach I enjoy. No snark just fun articles that cover everything from food and costumes to martial arts techniques and character types.
Note: Since the original writing of this post, Wuxia Edge is no more. I will post a part 2 for this topic with an expanded list of current places to find material.
|The One-Armed Swordsman|
My stock suggestions are:
Come Drink with Me
New Dragon Gate Inn (1992)
House of Flying Daggers
Brotherhood of Blades
I usually don't recommend all of these at once. Rather I suggest two or three off the top of my head and then throw in a suggestion that I know will have more appeal to a fan of fantasy RPGs (which most of my players are) like Detective Dee and the Mystery of the Phantom Flame, The Sorcerer and the White Snake, Flying Swords of Dragon Gate or Painted Skin.
I find film quality is important when making these sorts of lists for people because if a person's first introduction to a genre is something grainy and hard to see (even if it is the best film in the world), that can turn them off. So New Dragon Inn is probably the most grainy thing on the list I include. Most of the other movies it is pretty easy to get a good version of (though I'd steer them away from the Netflix version of Swordsman II because that is pretty grainy). There are lots of other movies I would want to suggest to people but I know they are either hard to obtain or not very well preserved.
Your list might vary. I think whatever it is the idea is to find accessible movies you also really enjoy yourself.
Once in a while you could do a movie night if your group is up for it. If they have the endurance for two to three movies back to back, that could be a great introduction to the genre.
|Return of Condor Heroes (2006)|
There is also a divide among fans worth pointing out here over series made in Hong Kong prior to the transfer of sovereignty in 1997 and the ones made in mainland China today. I don't think it is my place to weigh in on that debate but it is simply worth mentioning that a lot of fans see the series produced prior to 1997 as superior to those produced afterwards.
In my view these series are some of the best for finding game inspiration. But they are long and require the time investment. Plus they can be hard to find on online platforms. I've started many series only to discover that it was no longer dubbed in English after the 15th episode (which is really frustrating once you are invested). You can buy many on blue ray or DVD but not all, and older ones often end up being really pricey.
BOOKS AND COMICS
It is very hard to get wuxia material in print in English. A lot of it is available through fan translations online but I find folks are a bit hesitant to read stuff like that (particularly since a lot of it is difficult to find or comes in quirky formatting). Know there are really good fan translations if you want them.
A few have been put into print in English though and of them I highly recommend The Eleventh Son by Gu Long translated by Rebecca S. Tai. It is simply the best translation of a wuxia novel I have seen in English. Plus the novel is exciting and a fast read.
Another print series worth checking out is the Heaven Sword and Dragon Saber comic illustrated by Wing Shing Ma. This is a storyline that has been done many times in film and on television (and is based on the book by Louis Cha--a.k.a. Jin Yong) and the comic does a great job with it. If anyone's read my campaign log for Wandering Heroes of Ogre Gate, it is pretty obvious this has an influence so I I've been recommending this series to my players. The artist has done a number of other wuxia series as well that are worth checking out.
A book I recommend to players who seem more interested in the academic side of film is Chinese Martial Arts Cinema: The Wuxia Tradition by Stephen Teo.
Another book worth recommending, though it is very long, is The Water Margin. This is a classic novel, not modern wuxia, but it has a lot of the elements you see now. This comes in a number of different translations and players can get a lot of ideas just by reading the odd chapter here or there (if they read the whole thing, great, but it may be enough for them to just read a few chapters to get a sense of things).