July 24, 2006

Kung Fu Sects in Costume Dramas!

I just love ancient costume dramas and their fantastic martial arts :-) Anyone who has read or watched 'Wuxia' or martial arts dramas will know that the story is basically about the hero getting more and more powerful martial arts as time goes by (and under the most unusual circumstances) before finally defeating the chief villian of the tale.

Besides the more or less common theme, another thing that runs through almost all the martial arts stories are the kung fu sects which I think are based on actual martial arts sects in China. The main ones are the following:

  1. Shaolin - no further explanation needed, they are world famous :-) In the martial arts world they are considered the source of all subsequent martial arts sects.
  2. Wudang - started by Zhang San Feng who was formerly from Shaolin. Most famous for TaijiQuan, the gentle art form which is practised by millions even now in parks and schools all across Asia.
  3. Ermei - the most famous all-female martial arts sect, the members are supposed to be "Tao Gu" or Taoist nuns but they are usually portrayed as being a group of pretty gals with nice costumes.
  4. Beggar Sect - the members are all highly skilled beggars, and perhaps the one with the most members cos practically every beggar in the drama and novels are from the beggar sect :-P Most famous fictional kungfu: 'The Subduing Dragon 18 Palms' which is reportedly so powerful that it can defeat eighteen dragons... And within the Beggar Sect, it is further subdivided into the Clean Beggar Division and the Dirty Beggar Division (apparently the clean ones just can't stand the dirty ones haha)

And besides the above big 4 you have a whole bunch of smaller sects, e.g. Quanzhen - the sect of Taoist monks, Kunlun, Ming sect and a whole lot more.

The thing to note that practically everyone in Wulin or the martial arts universe has only one ambition and that is to be Wu Lin Meng Zhu or the Top Martial Arts Exponent in the whole martial arts universe. Everything else is secondary. They would usually have competitions something like our modern Olympics almost every few years to see who would be the top kungfu expert.

Also, mundane matters usually do not bother people in Wulin, they usually have no cash problems and do not need to work... presumably they are either already very rich or they just steal from the rich what they need for daily expenses...

If the Kungfu world interests you I can find no better drama serial to introduce you to this wonderful genre than especially the 1983 version starring Felix Wong , Barbara Yong and Miu Kiu Wai. There were other subsequent remakes but I still think the 1980s one is the one that best captured the essence of Louis Cha's wonderful novel. You will fall in love with characters like the slow but upright Guo Jing and his highly intelligent partner Huang Rong besides a host of other really interesting characters.

For your info, 'Legend of the Condor Heroes' is the start of a trilogy that includes and . They are highly recommended too :-) You can find all the above kungfu sects and more portrayed in loving detail in these drama serials.


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