The Mandarin 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 legends, 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.

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