So no writing on women on wuxia yet, but I’ve been thinking that I’m going to eliminate Project A from the article. Both The Young Warriors and Eagle Shooting Heroes are period wuxia stories, whereas Project A is turn of the century. Plus, The Young Warriors has Mama Yang, which allows me to talk about motherhood and the relationship between mothers and kung fu like I was with Project A.
On a related note, I remember reading an article maybe by King-kok Cheung a long time ago on how writers like Frank Chin focused on the warrior Chinese legend as a reflection of Chinese masculinity, and completely ignored the scholar. In my umpteenth watching of Red Cliff and reading Romance of the Three Kingdoms, I’m thinking of maybe writing something on masculinity and the strategist. I polled my class, and while their favorite brother is Guan Yu, their favorite character is Zhuge Liang (mine too! it has nothing to do with the fact that Takeshi Kaneshiro playing him in the movie). They like him because he is clever and I just wonder if this is the model of a different mode of Chinese masculinity, whereas one is a great man because you are smart. Hmmmm. Reminds me of a line from Paul Beatty’s The White Boy Shuffle, “You ain’t hard. Calculus is hard!”
I recently finished Young Warriors (aka Young Warriors of the Yang Clan), and it epitomizes what I like about wuxia dramas. Everyone fights! This is the story of the fabulous Yang family, whose sons served the kingdom and eventually gave their lives, even when the fathead king made really bad decisions. This legendary family is known for their loyalty, and apparently have been immortalized in wuxia drama before, but this version focuses on their lives before the questionable leadership of the king takes them all down.
Of course the sons are all upright, righteous guys who help the weak and support the people. I know we are supposed to be in awe of the father and the seven brothers, but really, the mother, wives and girlfriends steal the show (they all dress amazingly well also!). Mama Yang is no joke! She can literally beat her sons down if she had to. But, for the most part, she doesn’t have to. She raised them right. What I find interesting is that she is also very maternal, and doesn’t lose her femininity in the process. It’s an interesting combination. Even when they get into trouble with the king, she’s willing to stand up for them. My favorite part is when the ‘lost son’ finds his way home, thinking he’s going to extract some revenge on his parents while honoring them at the same time? So he’s antisocial to both, but saves the father from some assasination attempt. He goes around talking smack to the mother, the other brothers don’t appreciate that. Then she snaps out of it and basically tells him: you have fulfilled your filial duty to your father, but not to me. He shapes up quick, fast and in a hurry. Later, the ladies don their own armor. How cool is that! And where can I get mine?
The gender dynamics are interesting in other ways as well. When the inevitable tragedy hits the family, and one of the sons, Wu Lang (I’m calling you out!), just can’t handle it, and decides he’s going to ignore his wife and become a monk. While I have to say I’ve seen series often consign women to this fate, it was interesting to see it done to a man. Wu Lang, pull it together!
This is one of my favorites, and will definitely be included in my not-even-started projects on women in wuxia and the kung fu couple.