Wuxia is a genre of Chinese fiction about ancient martial arts heroes. The martial arts as depicted in these stories often allow their masters to achieve superhuman abilities. The most famous example (at least in the U.S.) is probably Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, which features characters effectively flying, and fighting while standing on the thin top branches of trees. Other films released internationally include Hero, which shows people fighting on the surface of a lake, and House of Flying Daggers, where assassins can throw knives with impossible trajectories.

Are these abilities amazing enough to be considered "fantastic"? And, perhaps more importantly, are they a "central conceit" of the story, meaning the stories are off-topic, or a fantasy element, making them on-topic?

  • A grey area. Is the proposed question about the fantasy elements? – Valorum Feb 12 '15 at 19:18
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    @Richard I don't actually have a particular question in mind. I was thinking that this was a gray area, myself, so I decided to find out what the community thought. – KSmarts Feb 12 '15 at 19:34
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    Does that matter? The more popular (and more obviously Scifi/Fantasy) subjects have lots of questions about plot, characters, and other things not directly related to the Scifi/Fantasy elements. – KSmarts Feb 12 '15 at 19:35
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    I think it does matter. If the question was, for example, "why does Li's sword get stolen" then I would say it was a no. There's no discernible fantasy content in the question. – Valorum Feb 12 '15 at 19:37
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    @Richard - we've got lots of questions with no discernible fantasy or sci-fi content. But they are from fantasy or sci-fi stories. So that caveat only applies if the story is not primarily sci-fi or fantasy – The Fallen Feb 13 '15 at 0:12

These sorts of stories are definitely a grey area. While the hyper-velocity martial artistry we see in wuxia films is definitely unnatural in our universe, that's pretty much the only difference between that and our own experience. Whether this is, in and of itself sufficient to make a story a "work of fantasy" isn't especially clear.

My gut instinct is that

  • If the question is about the unrealistic combat (or something that relates to it) then the answer would be yes, it is on-topic.

  • If the question was merely asking for an explanation of a plot point that was wholly unrelated to any unreal elements, then I'd say no, take it to Movies:SE.

  • Agreed - it would basically be on a question-by-question basis rather than the genre as a whole. Pretty much any question about "The Forbidden Kingdom" would probably be on-topic here, but almost any about "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" would not. The biggest difference seems to be a basis in mythology versus historical events (with a little embellishment). – Omegacron Feb 16 '15 at 19:11
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    I propose a test; The CBS television series JAG is by no means considered by anyone to be Science Fiction or Fantasy, yet it contained a few Deus-Ex-Machina 'supernatural' plot points. Star Trek is one of our most popular tags. If we follow your logic, then some questions of JAG would be considered on topic, and a good number of otherwise good in universe Star Trek questions would be off-topic. This does not sit very well with me. – Tritium21 Feb 19 '15 at 1:06
  • @Tritium21 - I was under the impression that JAG was wholly reality-based. Can you give an example? – Valorum Feb 19 '15 at 1:08
  • @Richard The marine lt. colonel lawyer (I cant remember her name at the moment) has used psychic abilities to find Harm on more than one occasion. – Tritium21 Feb 19 '15 at 1:09
  • Interesting. The wikia says that she exhibits "borderline psychic powers"; en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sarah_MacKenzie. Questions about those would be on topic. Asking what she enjoys for breakfast wouldn't be. – Valorum Feb 19 '15 at 1:12
  • I suppose, as those story elements are in fact, intended to be fantasy, I cant really argue there. I retract my test. – Tritium21 Feb 19 '15 at 1:17

Wuxia in General

Simply being 'visually fantastic' should not (and does not to me) qualify a work as Fantasy. I am going to argue that while the visuals of these movies defy the laws of physics, the intent is not to show that these warriors have supernatural powers, but instead to imply that they are skilled enough to make it appear they are acting supernaturally. Its a form of visual hyperbole.

I am not excluding the possibility that there are such movies which are in fact fantasy, but just walking on air should not qualify them as on topic. I would go on to say that the visual hyperbole itself should be off topic, as it is not intended to be taken as fantastical.

Wuxia with a Sole Bona Fide Fantastic Element

To allow questions about a work with a limited scope of what about that work can be discussed (in the comments, the bamboo fighting scene from Crouching Tiger is used as an example), puts us in a paradoxical position. A question that may or may not be related to a fantasy or scifi element would be moved to another site if it was not obviously directly related to a fantastical element - before an answer could make that clear. A question apparently about a fantastical element would be allowed to stay even if it turns out it wasn't.

We also do not move questions with answers that prove not to contain any scifi or fantasy element.

To clear that paradox we either need to classify any work with a fantastic or scifi element as wholly on topic, or limit the works we accept as on topic to only those works that are intrinsically scifi or fantasy.


My position is that wuxia is not intrinsically fantasy (though a particular story MAY be), so should be considered off-topic. Crouching Tiger out, Kung-Fu In Space (a hypothetical film) in.

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    I think the issue is that wuxia films like Crouching Tiger go well beyond "visual hyperbole" into the genuinely fantastical. The bamboo fighting scene is clearly intended to be taken literally. There's even dialogue to support it. – Valorum Feb 19 '15 at 1:43
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    Then that would qualify the entire film as fantasy. I am ok with this. This is a film about warriors who do fantastical things. – Tritium21 Feb 19 '15 at 1:44
  • Ah, but that's the sole element of fantasy in an otherwise reality-based film. – Valorum Feb 19 '15 at 1:45
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    The crux of my opposition to "we can answer questions about the fantasy parts, but nothing else", or not classifying a work with a sole fantasy element is the converse - Then we cannot ask questions about the house plants on the enterprise. – Tritium21 Feb 19 '15 at 1:47
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    I'd vote no for CTHD. While not everyone is able to accomplish such feats, those who can are only seemingly revered as highly skilled, not superhuman. – phantom42 Feb 19 '15 at 1:47
  • Not true, since the disposition of the houseplants may have some bearing on the science-fictional nature of the environment; they may, for example be related to air recycling or improving living conditions or blocking people in Starbase from peering through the windows... – Valorum Feb 19 '15 at 1:49
  • If the fictional universe is steeped in sci-fi (set in space or the future, for example) then almost anything becomes on topic. The closer a universe comes to our own reality, the more chance there is that trivia questions are off-topic. – Valorum Feb 19 '15 at 1:50
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    But a film with only a sole fantastical element can only be discussed in direct terms of the fantastical element. Any question not obviously about that element would be moved (worse than closing in this case) before it could be established that it is or is not actually related to a fantasy element. Conversely, we do not close questions about fantasy and scifi works that do not have a direct fantasy or scifi component. Heck, we kept a question about star trek air dates! – Tritium21 Feb 19 '15 at 1:52

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