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Thread: Moments of surprising modernity in wuxia?

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    Moderator Ken Cheng's Avatar
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    Default Moments of surprising modernity in wuxia?

    Most wuxia stories, particularly those set prior to the Qing Dynasty, have a mythical feel to them because they are set in historical eras far removed from modern times. People in wuxia fiction don't think or act the same as modern people do.

    Are there moments in wuxia fiction, however, in which something surprisingly modern turns up and kind of throws you out of the wuxia past for a moment and back into modern day reality (and no, I don't mean TVB bloopers in which orange juice cans are left on the set or trucks are seen driving by in the distant background)?

    I have a few that come from wuxia adaptations that were *not* bloopers, but part of the script.

    1. In TVB's adaptation of LUK SIU FUNG: BEFORE AND AFTER THE DUEL, Luk Siu Fung and Fa Mun Lau have a conversation with a waiter at the Chun Hua Restaurant concerning the impending duel between Sai Mun Chui Sheut and Yip Goo Sing. The waiter remarks that he had bet heavily on Yip Goo Sing, and wanted Luk's and Fa's opinion on whether he had wagered on the right "horse." After the waiter leaves to get the two heroes' order, Fa Mun Lau remarks to Luk Siu Fung, "The duel has not only caused great excitement throughout wulin, but has also affected all levels of the imperial capital's society."

    Fa Mun Lau used the term "society," ("seh wui," "社會"). He didn't use more wuxia-sounding terms such as "gongwu," or even the general "teen ha" ("天下") or "yan gan" ("人間"). "Society," at least as Fa used it, is a fairly modern term in Chinese and one derived from Chinese interaction with Western civilization in modern times. It's not a term you'd expect a denizen of Ming Dynasty-era China to use. I don't know if Gu Long used it in the original novel, but its usage in the adaptation momentarily took me out of the fantasy world of wuxia and into modern day reality.

    2. Similarly, in ROCH '83, when Chow Bak Tung is confronted by people from Passionless Valley, they demand that he come with them to see their master (Gung Sheun Tze) because otherwise, they'd have a difficult time answering to their master for the vandalism that Chow had caused at Water Fairy Manor. Chow, in his typical fashion, jokingly tells them to say that an antiques salesman ("gwoo woon ging gei") had broken the manor's artifacts. "Ging gei" (Cantonese; don't know the kanji) is the term for "salesperson" in modern Cantonese business parlance. It is not a term that was used in pre-modern China. This was unlikely part of the ROCH novel, but even in the context of the adaptation, it was a jarring moment of modernity in a story set in pre-modern times.

    Have you had similar experiences in reading/watching wuxia fiction in which you encountered an unexpected moment of modernity that threw you off briefly?

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    Senior Member junny's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ken Cheng View Post
    1. In TVB's adaptation of LUK SIU FUNG: BEFORE AND AFTER THE DUEL, Luk Siu Fung and Fa Mun Lau have a conversation with a waiter at the Chun Hua Restaurant concerning the impending duel between Sai Mun Chui Sheut and Yip Goo Sing. The waiter remarks that he had bet heavily on Yip Goo Sing, and wanted Luk's and Fa's opinion on whether he had bet wisely. After the waiter leaves to get the two heroes' order, Fa Mun Lau remarks to Luk Siu Fung, "The duel has not only caused great excitement throughout wulin, but has also affected the all levels of the imperial capital's society."

    Fa Mun Lau used the term "society," ("seh wui," "社會"). He didn't use more wuxia-sounding terms such as "gongwu," or even the general "teen ha" ("天下") or "yan gan" ("人間"). "Society," at least as Fa used it, is a fairly modern term in Chinese and one derived from Chinese interaction with Western civilization in modern times. It's not a term you'd expect a denizen of Ming Dynasty-era China to use. I don't know if Gu Long used it in the original novel, but its usage in the adaptation momentarily took me out of the fantasy world of wuxia and into modern day reality.
    I skimmed the novel but found no such scene. In fact, I don't think Hua Manlou appeared much, if at all, in this particular story. As for 社會, it is not a relatively new term, it's been in existence since at least the Tang dynasty. The term has several meanings, among them: 1) society; 2) a group of people drawn together by common interests; 3) mass organisation; 4) religious festival featuring parades of idols, floats, stilts etc. Granted, the term has evolved to take on the meaning it has today, but even in writings of late Ming, the idea of it representing the public or at least a kind of fraternity is already there.
    Last edited by junny; 04-12-12 at 06:24 PM.
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