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    A look at Titles: Wuxia, Chinese Drama, Ancient Chinese Series

    Wuxia should not be called Dramas, and I’m going to tell you why!

    As someone who always tries to promote Wuxia/Ancient Chinese Series, I’m very against people calling Wuxia or Ancient Chinese Series as Dramas, Chinese Dramas, CDramas – or anything with the word “drama” in it. These two do not mix well at all!

    (Image Source: hiliuyun)

    Before I start on my long argument, I want to firstly clarity that I am not at all against Asian Dramas, nor do I think they’re inferior. If I give off that vibe, you’re probably not understanding my intention.

    I am against the WORD drama, not the show Drama, I hate that drama mean two completely different things. 1) You have all that drama with those evil neighbours next door who got you in trouble because they gave you a fish as a gift and then wanted back and you didn’t want to, or your jealous ex-boyfriend who makes a drama out of everything, as well as you view the the couple arguing next door as drama because all you hear is yelling and view that as guilty pleasure because people are screaming and you find it entertaining. 2) You have very creative shows made in Asian countries with interesting storylines and character development where people call them DRAMAS.

    I MEAN, WTF? Why must two completely different things be called drama? I don’t even know whether I should laugh or cry. Who should I blame? People who changed the original meaning of drama, which meant “action” or should I blame it on whoever deciding to call these shows dramas, because it does not make any sense. You may as well start up a comedy series and call it THE GAY SERIES and see if people think that as a positive word and can see gay meaning HAPPY. Sorry, but the word drama is long ruined by the way it’s used in real life.

    So what in the world were they thinking? Firstly, I don’t know about other types of shows but I know for a fact Wuxia and Ancient Chinese Series is not all about scams, wives and husbands having affairs all the time with one rocking up in the middle of the night, and being called a cheater who slept with another woman, or bitchy girls being drama queens, screaming at their parents for ruining their lives. That’s how I think of the word, drama when people say it in a daily conversation. So why call shows that’s not about that drama? As a promoter of Wuxia, I don’t want people to get the wrong idea. I don’t believe everyone in the world will think of dramas as shows with an actual storyline. For people who has never seen any Dramas, they may think of it as exactly what I mentioned. That is absolutely sending Wuxia series to its own grave.

    Also, when I think of dramas, I think of soap operas because all the drama I mentioned above reminds me of how soaps are with affairs, bitchy fights and such. I have watched soaps and as much as some have entertained me, I don’t want people thinking Wuxia is like a soap opera, because I feel that too much emphasis on soaps are put on love affairs. It’s like, they’re together, but the guy has to cheat on her because he likes another girl. Wuxia is almost the complete opposite, with many characters only loving one person their entire lifetimes. For example – Zixuan and Changqing, Digua and Xiaoqi. That should not be mixed up with the way love is represented in soap, which often feels like they’re not treating love seriously if characters are always cheating on each other and can never stick to being with one person for long. have watched soap for many years of my earlier life, so I know what I’m talking about and know that affairs are an important aspect of soap operas.

    I know everyone has their views on the meaning of that word and I’m aware that it derives from the Greek word that means action, but when has action like martial arts ever been referred to as drama in conversations? Drama has already been tainted with negativity. For example- “Look at all the drama between them!”, or “Stop all the drama!” when people are arguing or even as simple as “You’re a drama queen!”. Also, when people say something is over dramatic, it’s always used in a negative sense that the person is showing too much emotions. Drama has lost its original meaning, if it’s suppose to mean action or acting, through the way it’s used in everyday language. I almost feel it’s an insult to Wuxia by calling it a Drama, because of how people use the word.

    So, calling it Drama is bad enough – but adding the word Chinese in front is digging its own grave. I think when people think “China”, many may think of cheap knockoffs, and it’s sad that a huge part of China is like that (heck, even I think buying things in China means they’ll break in a few days…) but what some people don’t realize is, China may have cheap knockoffs in a lot of things, but they produce amazing Wuxia and Ancient Chinese Series, which I think is their greatest strength, a type of story that’s very unique to China. That’s one of the things I’ve always loved about Wuxia, it gives me wild imaginations of beautiful costumes, with martial arts and stories of the Jianghu. But, it’s a very sad thing that not a lot of people know about Wuxia. If you ask any of your friends who has no association with Asia, I bet most haven’t even heard the name before.

    Those that already have a negative image of China may feel put off watching it if shows were introduced as Chinese Drama to them, especially if they don’t know anything about it. It has come to my attention that usually, people don’t go out of their ways to try new things unless they really want to. The title, Chinese Drama almost reminds me of Fairy from Wonderland, one of my favorite shows with the worst English name, which I renamed to Seven of the Sky to save it. Seriously, how could males not be put off watching a show like this when it sounds like a silly show for girls?

    Honestly, it shouldn’t be that hard to call Wuxia a series or show. I don’t understand why people has to call them a Drama. It almost feels as if they’re trying to say it’s bad.

    (Image Source: youxiandaxia)

    Next, I want to talk about my usage of Ancient Chinese Series and Wuxia. I think everyone that has some knowledge of Chinese would know Wuxia in China is a genre of Ancient Chinese Series (Guzhuangju), Wuxia refers to the heavy martial arts series, with heroes, villains, fighting over manuals, sword fights, Jianghu, etc. If you’re Chinese or know this genre well, you would not associate shows like Princess Returning Pearl, Bu Bu Jing Xin or even Three Kingdoms as Wuxia, those would be Palace and Historical. This is probably why I often use Wuxia/Ancient Chinese Series together, because I know if I just said “Wuxia”, it may limit a lot of shows that I just mentioned.

    However, I’ve always felt that Ancient Chinese Series doesn’t sound really good if trying to promote the show to people who don’t know about it, which is my number one priority. When people hear Ancient, they probably think of history, or medieval times. I don’t think they would imagine it all to be martial arts and fantasy, which are the shows I love most. I’ve even got a comment to prove it, for one of my MVs to promote Ancient Chinese Series.

    “i thought it was going to be a normal show about ancient china. then evrything got all crouching tiger and naruto on me.”

    This showed that person was probably expecting documentary or historical show on Ancient China after hearing the words, Ancient Chinese Series but were totally not expecting there to be full of battles and fantasy. This is the reason why I think the name Wuxia works out much better as the introduction word than Ancient Chinese Series.

    I really feel that all Ancient Chinese Series should just be referred to as “Wuxia” as the word to introduce new people who doesn’t know anything about it, mainly because of how catchy Wuxia sounds and and does not have a misleading word for those who has never heard of it. I’d much rather people be curious than assume or prejudge it as something else and risk losing interest. Also, Wuxia is a short word and “Xia” on its own just sounds really intriguing and imaginative. This is one of the reasons why I renamed my site/blogs to Wuxia Edge, although I cover all shows set in Ancient China. I really do think Wuxia would make people more interested than just calling them Chinese Dramas, or Cdramas, or Ancient Chinese Series. Of course, after the new person gains interest, teach him/her about all the different genres.

    I’ve always held Ancient Chinese Series with great regards, I love the fantasy/martial arts genre a lot, and I’ve been watching since a kid. I just love all the concepts, the feel of shows set in Ancient times. I love the way romance is portrayed for most of them, I also love the martial arts, the philosophies, the code of a hero and heaps more, so what I love doing so much is to get other people to know about it, this is why I am constantly thinking of how to promote it well.

    Although Wuxia may only mean a certain type of Ancient Chinese Series to many, I still think that word is much catchier than Cdramas, Chinese Dramas or Ancient Chinese Series.

    I would really love to hear what your thoughts are about this topic!

    Yay I got a reply from someone on Tumblr that I wanted to share here. It’s so nice to know that I’m not alone in thinking that Drama doesn’t really suit Wuxia.

    I love your post on “A look at Titles”. It hits on the exact points of confusion for those inexperienced or unaware of this genre of storytelling. I’m also very weary of the term ‘drama’ for wuxia since it’s often so high energy, fantastical, and adventurous that simply saying “it’s a drama” leaves so much about wuxia out! There’s such unique shows, I don’t even know how to begin explaining them without saying “gorgeous” and “amazing fight scenes” which often just confuses people more, hah^^ ~phenylketonurics

    So overall, I do believe to promote these kinds of shows well, the best word to use is Wuxia as an introduction, even if it’s to describe all shows set in Ancient China. After people get the gist of it, we can introduce genres such as Fantasy/Magical, Palace, Historical, Ancient Chinese, etc. But attracting new people is the key and to do that, we need to give them a whole new word that they’re not going to have any previous associations with. While I know it’s awkward for Chinese people to refer to all shows set in Ancient China as Wuxia, but it works out best if you say to someone, “Come check out a new type of show called Wuxia” rather than, “Come and watch Ancient Chinese Series”. I’m sure we all feel that Wuxia is more mysterious and catchier than Ancient Chinese Series, which would probably make us think it’s a normal show (quoted from above comment) about Ancient China, which probably means a show about the historical events of Ancient China. Also, most of the shows I promote are majorly adventure/action/fantasy with romance and comedy, so it works out.

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7 Comments

  • Gammel Prutte says

    2013-12-01 05:38:45

    I partly agree that the word ‘drama’ has been undermined by long misuse; however you are now doing the same to the word ‘edge’, which to a craftsman has a very specific meaning that is being usurped.
    Still, I thank you for your explanation of Wuxia and what it is about, which is why I came here in the first place. Another world has opened up for me.

    Reply
  • cdramaaddict says

    2013-10-20 01:11:49

    hmmmm I guess I agree but “chinese dramas” dont kill me >< I like to call them that because I think it differentiates it from english shows, not that english shows are I think wuxia series are just way better so to me chinese dramas have a good connotation but I see where your coming from, wuxia series it is ^^

    Reply
    • sapphiresky says

      2013-10-21 05:53:23

      Ohhh I think it’s more that drama to me has always meant ‘soap opera’ just because of the way the word is used, nothing against the asian series, but i think it just happened to be a mixup of some kind, so I really don’t want people to think wuxia is like a soap, as it’s nothing really alike :O but so glad you see what i mean :D

  • Marina Lee says

    2013-04-04 12:12:56

    I love watching Wuxia series and Korean Dramas, Thai Lakorns, and all that good stuff. I’m grateful that you are promoting Wuxia series, but I’m getting the vibe that you think DRAMAS are inferior to these Wuxia series, which I don’t think should really be up for debate because they all have different cultural aspects, as well as dialogue relating to real life situations. After all what we watch from these shows are only exaggerations from life.

    Reply
    • sapphiresky says

      2013-04-04 12:43:39

      I think people soemtimes mistaken when I talk about DRAMAS as in the show drama (like K-drama) or the word drama, it’s true that I do not like the word DRAMA but it has nothing to do with the actual shows because I have not seen any, therefore I ‘ve got no right to judge, but I don’t like DRAMAS as a word to describe any show from any country (unless it was a soap opera) because too many people use them negatively, if people are saying that there’s drama, it’s always viewes as something you watch to look at how hilariously crazy it is, like if someone said look at the drama between a couple next door, I’d want to sneak over and evesdrop and enjoy it in a mocking type way to see what entertainment I can gather out of their arguments and yellings at each other and I do not want people to see Wuxia as something like that, if you know what I mean. I don’t think of beautifully crafted shows with good storylines and interesting characters when I hear DRAMA, I think of two people arguing over stupid things (in real life)… That’s why I do not like any shows being called Dramas, unless nobody used dramas in negative ways like call bitchy people drama queens. it ruins all moods of that word completely. (Or, I think of a soap opera, and I will say that I have watched them and I do not like all the focus on love being all about cheating and affairs and such, and I don’t like Wuxia being thought of that way…)

      This is similar to that in the past, gay in my childhood years only happy or homosexuals, but now, people use it to mean it’s stupid, , and ugly. The original meaning of the word has forever been ruined and lost and I hearing that word so much when it’s misused. (Absolutely nothing against gay people) but I can never see that word as a positive word. If someone invented a new type of shows that I love and decided to call it The Gay Series to mean it’s a happy series, I’d probably start a riot… That’s how I feel about DRAMAS, the word is ruined for me because of the way people use it, even though it was probably not intentional.

  • DrakosAmatras says

    2012-12-21 08:43:04

    Actually, I like the idea of making a distinction between “Ancient Chinese” (which defines geographical and cultural settings) and “Wuxia” series (defining that martial arts are a major element of a story). That said, I should also admit that many Wuxia series (that I grew up with) shared various common elements like romance, drama and politics – sometimes even a bit of fantasy in various amounts. So I guess it’s at least understandable that some people use it as a catch-all term.

    Of course, literally speaking, “Wuxia” doesn’t say much beyond incorporating martial arts, so if I were to describe each individual story in keywords, I’d rather dissect it into various genres/flavors it offers.

    Reply
    • sapphiresky says

      2012-12-21 12:47:33

      Yes, I agree about needing the separate genres, but don’t forget we also need to promote the shows to people who don’t know anything about it, to do that, the best way is by introducing a catchy word they had no previous associations with. Sure, after they watch it, give them all the details about the different genres like Ancient Chinese, Magical, Palace, etc. But using Ancient Chinese to get people to first know about it is a idea, because firstly, some people think Ancient as all history, others think poorly of China for reasons I said in my post.

      I want people to not think about where it’s from, what it may be about, but watch it with a clear and unbiased mind. Wuxia would do that because these people would have never heard of the word before, so they’ll most likely to be curious, than assume it’s something it’s not.

      So, saying “there’s a new kind of show called Wuxia…” would most likely to attract more people than, “Check out Ancient Chinese Series.” This is similar to to when a friend of mine tried to convince her guy friend to watch Fairy from Wonderland and he REFUSED because of the name. I can’t help but think if she introduced it as Seven of the Sky, he would’ve had a completely different reaction as he probably thought fairies were pink, girly things whereas in China, fairies represent female immortals. Wonderland would probably reminded him of Alice in Wonderland. This is exactly the same concept as Ancient China, many people may assume it’s something completely different from what it actually is. They wouldn’t know it until they watch it, but if they get turned off by the title, that’s the worst way to lose someone – before they even try it.

      So yes, I definitely think sub-genres are important, but Wuxia should definitely be the initial word that people get introduced to as it’s such a mysterious and cool sounding word. But also, most of the shows I promote and enjoy are in fact adventure/fantasy/romance/comedy/action genres, so it doesn’t deviate too much.

      I guess I focus A LOT more on promoting the shows because that’s my life goal, so I will think about how to attract people and get them to know about it. Thanks heaps for your input in this!

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