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By Giacomo Di Grassi

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82. Paul Pickowicz reminds us that May Fourth intellectuals never regarded cinema ‘as 36 WUXIA FROM LITERATURE TO CINEMA a serious form of art’. The film medium belonged ‘to the realm of popular culture and placed a premium on simplicity of message’ and was because of this not the favoured medium of the May Fourth literati. ‘The illiterate and semiliterate film audience had little in common with sober-minded May Fourth intellectuals’. To the intellectuals, the wuxia genre was the vehicle that drove their contempt for the cinema.

35 Though baishi pian were historical in theme and content, they were not necessarily dressed in ancient costumes. Characters could appear in modern-dress to perform a historical story. The Tianyi studio specialised in making costume subjects and later wuxia films. 37 During 1926, Shao made ten films of classical subjects whose immediate success forced all studios to follow suit. Tianyi’s major competitor, Mingxing, was at this time concentrating on contemporary dramas with social themes and romantic melodramas of the Butterfly and Mandarin Duck school.

WUXIA FROM LITERATURE TO CINEMA Mohists, the historical evidence suggests that jianghu was constituted as a super organisation or secret society. 12 The actions and principles of xia came under attack from the Legalist philosopher Han Fei Zi, who lived in the waning years of the Warring States period. He asserted that xia were selfish individuals operating a private code of yi (si yi). 13 Han Fei Zi’s famous critique that ‘knights-errant transgress the law with violence’ (xia yi wu fan jin) has resonated among wuxia detractors through the ages.

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