What is different between Wuxia, Xianxia & Xuanhuan genres

Wuxia (武俠 wǔxiá) – literally means “Martial Heroes”. Fictional stories about regular humans who can achieve supernatural fighting ability through Chinese martial arts training and internal energy cultivation. Themes of chivalry, tragedy, revenge & romance are common.

Xianxia (仙侠 xiānxiá) – literally means “Immortal Heroes”. Fictional stories featuring magic, demons, ghosts, immortals, and a great deal of Chinese folklore/mythology. Protagonists (usually) attempt to cultivate to Immortality, seeking eternal life and the pinnacle of strength. Heavily inspired by Daoism.

  • Comparison: If Wuxia is “low fantasy”, then Xianxia is “high fantasy”.

Xuanhuan (玄幻 xuánhuàn) – literally means “Mysterious Fantasy”. A broad genre of fictional stories which remixes Chinese folklore/mythology with foreign elements & settings.

  • Xuanhuan and Xianxia novels may sometimes seem similar on the surface. Look for the presence of Daoist elements (the Dao, Yin and Yang, Immortals, etc…) in the novel to easily distinguish the two – if they aren’t present, then it’s probably a Xuanhuan novel.

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