Fighting Heroes: The Core Values of the Xia Tradition in Early China

Albert Dalia


The core values of China’s famed wuxia (heroic fiction) literature and cinema developed in response to the chaos and warfare of the Warring States Period (475-221 B.C.E.). In English, probably the best commercial source of information on this topic is Professor James J.Y. Liu’s book, The Chinese Knight-Errant (1967), which unfortunately is out of print. This article is based on that book, along with the author’s academic and literary work on the East Asian hero. These heroic values appear to be rooted in individualism, which would seem to contradict the region’s vaunted sense of group cohesiveness.


Chinese martial arts; ethics; fiction; literature; cinema


Ames, R. & Rosemont Jr., H. (1999). The analects of Confucius: A philosophical tradition. New York: Ballantine Books.

Hamm, J. (2004). Paper Swordsmen: Jin Yong and the Modern Chinese Martial Arts Novel. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press.

Lai, S. (1999). From cross-dressing daughter to lady knight-errant: The origin and evolution of Chinese women warriors. En Sherry J. Mou (Ed.), Presence and Presentation: Women in the Chinese Literati Tradition. (pp. 77–107). New York: St. Martin’s Press.

Liu, J. Y. (1967). The Chinese knight-errant. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul.



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