term wu xia pian originally referred to the genre
of martial arts
films. "Wu xia" means chivalrous
combat, and "pian" means film. It’s China's version of the Western
, but instead of six-shooters and saloons, its swords and kung-fu. It's arguably the first form of martial arts film, with its origins dating back hundreds of years.
Often based on legend
s, popular fiction, or Chinese opera
, they feature a strong supernatural
element, with people flying, shooting death rays
out of their hands, and displaying deadly mental powers
. This style of film fell out of favor with the development of more realistic
styles in the 1970s, but has experienced a recent revival thanks to such filmmakers as Tsui Hark
and the popularity of films like Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
. Even western films, such as The Matrix
, are becoming influenced by Wu Xia Pian.