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Xianxia — Xia Heroes wielding Paramount Mystical Power

Xianxia is a genre of Chinese fantasy literature that explores immortal cultivation, drawing inspiration from Chinese Mythology and Taoism Religion, infused with chivalrous and benevolent virtues.

Xian refers to the attainment of immortality and the acquisition of paramount mystical power through cultivation.


Xia encompasses virtuous heroes and their moral values, including rebelling against injustice, fighting abusive power, aiding the weak and underprivileged, and bravely and altruistically protecting the country and its people.

Fights in Xianxia World

Fights in Xianxia World, Drawn by NAMO Zhang Hao.

What are the Differences Between Wuxia, Xianxia, Xiuzhen/Xiuxian, and Xuanhuan?


  • Wuxia is about heroes with Xia values and behaviors, without mystical power or being immortal.


Wuxia happens in real life in the human world, and Wuxia heroes are ordinary people that would grow old, get hurt, and die, even though they have excellent martial art skills.


Click to Read More about Wuxia and Xia Values


  • Xiuzhen or Xiuxian is a genre that focuses on obtaining supernatural powers and immortality through cultivation, without few or no stories about the spirit of Xia. 


  • Xuanhuan, influenced by Western fantasy culture, usually is about stories of a mythical world instead of the earth. 

Character Lu Xueqi from Xianxia Novel Zhu Xian

Character Lu Xueqi from Novel Zhu Xian, Drawn by Dacongjun.

Cultivation in the Xianxia World




Cultivation includes Xiuzhen and Xiuxian, two practice phases of the Taoism Religion


  • Xiuzhen, in general, is the practice of one's mind and spirit to find the true self and pursue the universe's final truth.


  • Xiuxian is one's practice to obtain eternal life, which usually comes after the Xiuzhen process. 


In many Xianxia novels, those two terms sometimes share a similar meaning: a person or a creature obtaining immortality and mystical power through practices. 




According to ancient classics of Taoism Religion, no later than the Tang Dynasty (618 — 907), some places (in Chinese Dongtian Fudi) are believed to have deities living in, usually great mountains, which are considered great cultivation spots. 

Pond Yangtianchi on Top of Mount Hua

Pond Yangtianchi on Top of Mount Hua, Believed the Place that Deities Take Water to Do Alchemies. 
This Mythical Small Pond is Surrounded by Rocky Stones but Had Never Overflown nor Dried Up. 



In the cultivation world, everything could be a cultivator, including humans, animals, plants, ghosts, monsters, and demons.


Their means and paths, however, would be pretty different.




Generally speaking, it is not easy for someone or something to upgrade to higher levels and ultimately become immortal through cultivation. 


One needs to be extremely intelligent, benevolent, and morally flawless; to go through a series of challenges and challenging practices for thousand years; have made extraordinary contributions in helping people and saving lives; or encounter fortunate situations, and so on.




In ancient classics and novels, many recorded means of Xiuzhen and Xiuxian are complicated, mysterious, time-consuming, and secretive. 


If trying to conclude Taoism Religion cultivation methods include physical practices (such as breathing exercises), taking elixirs from unique alchemy, and doing good deeds.

Golden Dragons (Zou Long) that used as Ritual Implements of Taoism Religion Ceremony in the Tang Dynasty

Golden Dragons (Zou Long) that used as Ritual Implements of Taoism Religion Ceremony in the Tang Dynasty (618 — 907) — Shaanxi History Museum (Photo by Dongmaiying)

Origin, History, and Source Materials of Xianxia


Xianxia novels originated during the Three Kingdoms, Jin, Northern and Southern Dynasties (220 — 589), from the popular Tales of the Miraculous and Records of Anomalies of this period. 


Long stories as a genre, however, have been popularized in recent decades. 


Meanwhile, ancient stories, modern novels, dramas, and games are primarily based on some old classics as fundamental materials, such as Classic of Mountains and Seas and Zhuang Zi. 


Click to Read More about Ancient Chinese Novels

Mythical Creature Kun Peng from A Fable of Zhuangzi.

Mythical Creature Kun Peng from A Fable of Zhuangzi.

World of Xianxia - the Six Races and Six Realms


In a Xianxia world, there are six realms, where reside God (Shen), Deity (Xian), Human (Ren), Demon (Yao), Devil (Mo), Ghost (Gui), Soul (Jing), Spirit (Ling), and Monster (Guai) to live in. 


Click to Read More About Soul, Spirit, Demon, Monster, Ghost, Devil, Deity, and God


They generally live in their realms and could enter other domains under certain circumstances or with paramount mystical power.

Divine Realm or the Heaven Realm


Divine Realm, or Heaven Realm, is the supreme place where deities live.


God or Shen includes the original powerful Gods, Goddesses, and Mythical Deities of heaven, the universe's creators. 

Some Taoism Religion Deities Murals inside the Yongle Palace (Built in 1247 — 1358) in Shanxi Province.

Some Taoism Religion Deities Murals inside the Yongle Palace (Built in 1247 — 1358) in Shanxi Province.

Immortal Realm

Immortal Realm is the deities' residences on earth or places where immortals stay.


Some Mythical Places in ancient mythology are believed to have Immortal Realms, such as Mount Kunlun, Mount Tai, and Penglai Island.


A deity or Xian is a successfully cultivated entity that obtained immortality. 


Some might be assigned missions to serve in heaven or guard certain places, while others wander in different realms free and easy. 

Mortal Realm

The Mortal Realm is the place where humans live, fight, and cultivate.

Human Realm from Xianxia Game Gujian.

Human Realm from Game Gujian.

Spirit Realm

Spirit Realm, or Demon Realm, is the kingdom of demons and spirits, which can be benign or evil based on their choices. 


Demon or Yao, Spirit or Ling, are the cultivated animals and plants that might later transform into human figures. Fox Spirit or Huli Jing is a type of Yao.


Devil Realm

Devil Realm is the opposite of the Divine Realm, the dark world of the lost and evil.


Devil or Mo includes naturally powerful evil creatures, demon cultivators, and ordinary cultivators that lost their integrity, those controlled by inner evil desires, or took a wrong path. 



Ghost Realm

Ghost Realm is the world of underworld ghosts.


Ghost or Gui are the deceased people, and only a few obsessed with unfinished wishes or unsettled ones might wander into the human world or hurt people. 

List of Famous Xianxia Novels, Dramas, and Games

Investiture of the Gods or Feng Shen Yan Yi


Investiture of the Gods or Feng Shen Yan Yi, written by Xu Zhonglin (about 1560 — 1630), is a history-based novel that tells the fall of the Shang Dynasty (about 1600 BC — 1046 BC) and the rise of the Zhou Dynasty (1046 BC — 256 BC) in ancient China, which also believed an influential origin of Xianxia world.


Di Xin (1105 BC — 1046 BC), the King of the Shang Empire, got a beautiful imperial concubine that was transformed from a powerful fox spirit.


The king's recklessness and her evil manipulation killed many decent people and caused catastrophic declines in the Shang Empire. 


Jiang Ziya (? — 1015 BC), a Taoist with supernatural powers, was sent to save the world by his deity master. 

Jiang Ziya's Image in the Chinese 3D Xianxia Adventure Film "Legend of Deification"

Jiang Ziya's Image in the Chinese 3D Adventure Film "Legend of Deification"

Trusted and empowered by Lord Ji Chang (1152 BC — 1056 BC) and the successive Lord Ji Fa (? — 1043 BC), Jiang Ziya led upright deities, immortals, spirits, and human armies, after a series of brutal fights, overthrew the Shang Empire and established the Zhou Dynasty. 

After everything was settled down, Jiang Ziya held a grand investiture ceremony in which 365 contributive heroes who fought bravely in establishing the Zhou Empire were granted immortals. 


In heaven, they were assigned to charge of thunder, rain, and fire, or to guard 28 Lunar Mansions and important stars; on earth, they were assigned to guard on Five Great Mountains and some other holy places. 


In this novel, historical events and important ministers are accurate, and Jiang Ziya was an important and accomplished politician of the Zhou Empire. 

Unearthed Ritual Bronze Vessel (Li Gui) with Inscriptions Carved inside Recorded the Battle of Muye that Perished Shang Dynasty, and the Establishment of the Zhou Dynasty
Inscriptions about the Battle of Muye on the Unearthed Bronze Bowl (Li Gui) of the Zhou Dynasty

 Ritual Bronze Vessel (Li Gui) with Inscriptions Carved inside Recorded the Battle of Muye that Overthrown Shang Empire by Zhou People — National Museum of China

Legend of the Eight Immortals or Dong You Ji


Legend of the Eight Immortals, or Dong You Ji, written by Wu Yuantai (? — about 1566), is the story of the eighth immortals of the Taoism Religion. 


The Eight Immortals come from folklore since the Han Dynasty (202 BC — 220 AD); about eight people from different backgrounds, man and woman, old and young, noble and humble, rich and poor, who became immortals after cultivation.

Eight Immortals of Taoism Religion

Legend of the Swordsmen of the Mountains of Shu or Shu Shan Jian Xia Zhuan


Legend of the Swordsmen of the Mountains of Shu or Shu Shan Jian Xia Zhuan, written by Li Shoumin (1902 — 1961), is the originator and founder of modern Chinese Wuxia and Xianxia novels. 

It tells cultivation stories of some young immortal heroes from Emei School when they defeated demons and protected people, as well as their fantastic and mysterious encounters. 

Mountains of Shu or Shu Shan, Drawn by Klace Haue.

Mountains of Shu or Shu Shan, Drawn by Klace Haue.

Series of The Legend of Sword and Fairy or Xian Jian Qi Xia Zhuan


The Legend of Sword and Fairy or Chinese Paladin, in Chinese Xian Jian Qi Xia Zhuan, developed by Softstar, is a set of role-playing video games, later produced into novels and TV series, one of the most representative and classic modern Xianxia products.


They are about a group of people's adventures in the magnificent fantasy world, growing stronger, obtaining mystical power, love, and friendship, and taking responsibility for defeating demons and saving people.

Xianxia TV Series Poster of Chinese Paladin or Xian Jian Qi Xia Zhuan 3

Poster of Chinese Paladin or Xian Jian Qi Xia Zhuan 3, Produced by Tangren Media.

Series of Jade Dynasty or Zhu Xian


Jade Dynasty, or The Attack of Heaven, in Chinese Zhu Xian, written by Xiao Ding, is a long novel that later developed into drama, video games, and Manhua.


It is about an ordinary young man's growing and cultivating paths, touching romance stories, struggles between good and evil, exploration of humanity and the Xia spirit, apperception of benign and faith, and his final choice of sticking to righteousness and protecting people as a true immortal hero. 

Character Bi Yao in Xianxia Game Jade Dynasty or Zhu Xian

Character Bi Yao in Game Jade Dynasty or Zhu Xian, Drawn by Yangmao Huahuade Suisui.

Series of Gujian


Gujian is a set of role-playing video games developed by Shanghai Aurogon Information and Technology Co., Ltd, which later produced drama, novels, and Manhua versions.


Stories of Gujian are set in ancient mythology ages, mainly based on legends and worlds of the Classic of Mountains and Seas, and are brilliant representatives of both Chinese Mythology and traditional culture. 

Picture from Xianxia Game Gujian.

Picture from Game Gujian.

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