Action in Tranquillity: Sketching Martial Ideation in The Grandmaster

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This article argues that the concept of wuyi 武意 (‘martial ideation’) forms the aesthetic core of kung fu cinema. Rather than focusing on the expressive amplification of emotion, martial ideation negotiates action and stasis through stabilization and eventually reaches a state of tranquillity. In The Grandmaster (Wong, 2013), such an ideational experience is sketched through the Buddhist notion of guan 觀 (‘perspicaciousness’). Perspicaciousness is embodied by three ways of ‘seeing’ in the mise-en-scène, including ‘listening bridge’ in martial arts performance, ‘looking back’ in narrative structure and ‘visioning’ in theme. In this light, Wong’s kung fu debut treats the southern hand-to-hand combat tradition not as a spectacle, but as an embodied knowledge that links kung fu practice with Chinese aesthetics and philosophy.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)201-23
Number of pages23
JournalJournal of Asian Cinema
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2018


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