UCLA Library Becomes Academic Home For Beloved Martial Arts Fiction Author’s Collection

The literary genre known as Wuxia, Chinese martial arts fiction that extols the chivalrous deeds of a hero who develops superpowers to fight injustice, has found an academic home at UCLA’s library.

The family of the late Shiao Yi, considered one of the most famous authors of Wuxia (pronounced woo-sha) novels in the modern era, donated a collection to UCLA that includes his published works and unpublished manuscripts, correspondence, photographs and books. from his private library – records that span his prolific career, most of it based in Los Angeles. Due to the popularity of Wuxia, most East Asian libraries based in North America have collections of these materials, but what makes the Shiao Yi Wuxia collection unique is that it is acts from the private collection of a Wuxia author, including unpublished works.

The author, whose work is appreciated all over the world, has written more than 60 novels and short stories and nearly 1,000 essays; 31 of his works have been adapted for film and television. He was also the founder and first president of the Chinese Writers Association of North America.

Through his son, Peter Shiao, and the Shiao family, the collection will be managed by the Richard C. Rudolph East Asian Library at the UCLA Library, where Shiao Yi’s books will be made available.

“Peter Shiao’s generous donation of his father Shiao Yi’s collection to our East Asia Library will enable the UCLA Library to become a rich resource for Wuxia research, providing significant academic value to professors, students, and other scholars interested in Chinese literature, Chinese cultural forms, and Chinese-American contributions to the field of art,” said Norman and Armena Powell University Librarian Ginny Steel. preserve and elevate Shiao Yi’s legacy given his connection to local Asian American communities and his international reputation as a master of the genre.”

The collection will also help create a stronger representation of the literary and cultural contributions of Chinese Americans and will be useful on campus and beyond for scholars of Chinese literature and culture as well as for teaching, research, community outreach and programming.

Enjoyed by millions of fans around the world, Wuxia is the most popular literary genre in China, Taiwan, Hong Kong and the entire Chinese diaspora, said Su Chen, head of East Asia Library. . These fantastical stories celebrate traditional Chinese culture, history and values, at the heart of Taoist philosophy. Rooted in oral tradition, stories about xia (the knight-errant hero) date back over 2,000 years.

In Wuxia, said UCLA alumnus Peter Shiao, “Philosophy, spirituality, moral codes, poetry, beauty and history – all wrapped up in this hero’s journey and speaks to all those who want to be autonomous, who want to believe in themselves.”

Having the collection at UCLA will be a tremendous benefit to faculty, students and the global community at large, said Cindy Fan, vice provost for international studies and global engagement and professor of geography.

“This collection represents a unique combination of Chinese culture and literature, transnational heritage, transdisciplinary appreciation, university-community collaboration, and the global and lasting impact of one of the greatest martial arts novelists in the world. world,” said Fan, who grew up enjoying Wuxia’s films and novels, including Shiao’s.

Chen, the East Asian librarian who in 2019 first approached Peter Shiao about the possibility of a donation, said readers can get addicted to the genre. “It’s so popular that everywhere you go in the Chinese-speaking world, you’ll hear people using metaphors and plot lines from Wuxia novels.”

Min Zhou, a prominent professor of sociology and Asian American studies, said she is also a fan of the genre.

“As a UCLA professor doing research and teaching in the area of ​​international migration, Asian American studies, and Chinese diaspora studies, this collection is extremely valuable, not only as a collection of rare materials that is the only one of its kind for the library, but also for the very rich original data that will benefit future research and teaching,” said Zhou, director of the UCLA Asia-Pacific Center and Walter and Shirley Wang Professorship in US-China Relations and Communications.

The son of a general in the Chinese army, Shiao Yi was born in Beijing in 1935 and moved with his family to Taiwan at the age of 14. Fascinated by Chinese historical fiction and Wuxia novels, he began writing short stories in middle school and, at age 23, published his first novel, “Iron Geese, Wings of Frost”, which met with instant success and led to a two-part film franchise. In 1977, he moved his family to Los Angeles in search of better opportunities for his children. A lifelong student of Chinese history, classical Chinese literature, poetry, Taoism, Chinese astrology and divination, he pursued a full-time career as a novelist, journalist, essayist and screenwriter until his death in 2018 at the age of 83 years old.

Today, Peter Shiao, founder and CEO of Los Angeles-based Immortal Studios, continues to expand Wuxia’s story by adapting his father’s writings to new platforms, such as comics, movies and video games. Immortal Studios is part of a vanguard of media entertainment companies leading a resurgence of interest in the genre.

“For a very long time, Wuxia fiction was not taken seriously by academia,” said Michael Berry, director of the UCLA Center for Chinese Studies and professor of contemporary Chinese culture in the Department of Languages ​​and Arts. Asian cultures. “It was considered unscrupulous and disposable; it was pulp fiction.

“But that has changed,” said Berry, a Chinese film scholar who is also on the faculty of the UCLA School of Theatre, Film and Television. “Its growing influence on a global scale can be attributed to the rise of Bruce Lee, the arrival of Hong Kong filmmakers in Hollywood, the success of ‘Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon’ and the success of Marvel Studios with ‘ Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten”. Rings.”

But Wuxia has the potential to provide more than entertainment.

With the strength of a common culture and the powerful bond of storytelling, Peter Shiao said, Wuxia can connect countries in conflict. “Through our collaboration, through the creation of the Shiao Yi Wuxia Collection at UCLA, we can shed light on the cultural bridges that can bring people and nations together.”

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