Shaolin, Wuxia Novels, Kung Fu Movies and National Identity

  • Lu ZhouxiangEmail author


This chapter explains the role of Shaolin kung fu novels and movies in the construction of a national identity among the Chinese people. Wuxia novels and kung fu movies produced in the twentieth century functioned as important vehicles for the maintenance and reinvention of nationhood. They served two purposes: retrieving traditional Chinese culture and constructing a modern Chinese national identity. As the cradle of Chan Buddhism and a centre of Chinese martial arts, Shaolin was regarded as a symbol of indigenous virtue and strength and therefore became a popular theme in novels and movies. Chinese novelists and movie producers used legendary Shaolin heroes and Shaolin kung fu to invent a cultural identity, and aided the construction of a collective modern national identity among the Chinese.


Shaolin Kung fu Wuxia Novel Movie National identity 



I wish to thank Routledge for allowing me to use some parts of my monograph—A History of Shaolin: Buddhism, Kung Fu and Identity (2019)—in this chapter.


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Maynooth UniversityMaynoothIreland

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