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Martial Art Movies

The first martial arts film was made in Shanghai in 1905. Ding Jung Shan starred Beijing opera star Tan Xi-pei, and it gave birth to the first of China’s five martial arts cinema genres: wuxia pian. Loosely translated as “martial chivalrous-hero films,” wuxia movies are soaked in traditional tales and legends of superhuman swordsmen who fight with magical martial arts skills. These films influenced the Japanese chambara (sword fighting) films.

The second genre from China is the gongfu pian (kung fu films), which emerged in the late 1960s and were brought to prominence by Bruce Lee. These movies were filmed with characters who fought with more realistic skills. Because of the success of Jackie Chan’s kung fu films at Golden Harvest, rival studio Shaw Brothers tasked director Chang Cheh and fight director Liu Chia-liang to create the third genre of film. Guoshu pian (national art film) mixed kung fu film fights with the magic of wuxia.

In the early 1980s, Jackie Chan invented the fourth genre of film known as wuda pian (fight films using martial arts). In these films, he combined martial arts with dangerous stunts in contemporary settings. In fact, most martial arts films made today and around the world are influenced by Jackie Chan’s wuda vision.

In 1983, director Tsui Hark created the final genre known as Fant-Asia films. These revamped, stylized wuxia movies mixed frenetic over-the-top action mixed with far-out sight gags and gravity-defying wire-fu.

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