Beyond the cinematic: Reinventing Chinese martial arts through new media art practices

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This article argues that the reinvention of Chinese martial arts through new media art practices reveals new aesthetic potentialities not readily available in the conventional cinematic medium. While martial arts cinema has captivated the global audience with visual and visceral excitements, most notably through the new-style wuxia films of the 1960s and the kung fu craze of the 1970s, it focuses on representational strategies characteristic of imaginative irreversibility and passive immersivity. The former refers to the rigid segregation of reality and fantasy that discourages the possibility of reversal, whereas the latter describes the immersive wuxia and kung fu spectacles as a disembodied experience, contrary to the core of martial arts learning and practice. To address the above issues, martial arts-inspired new media artworks, such as susuan pui san lok’s RoCH Fans & Legends (2015) and Jeffery Shaw, Sarah Kenderdine and Hing Chao’s Lingnan Hung Kuen Across the Century (2017), look for alternative approaches to represent martial arts imaginations for the goals of preserving an intangible cultural heritage and promoting an intellectual reflexivity. In so doing, not only do the new media artworks help to reposition Chinese martial arts as an everyday art form via conventional art spaces worldwide through the transnational and transre-gional flow of cinema, but they also establish the subtle connection between traditional martial art and contemporary art in the context of globalization.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)367-391
Number of pages25
JournalJournal of Contemporary Chinese Art
Issue number2+3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 2019


  • Chinese martial arts cinema
  • Imaginative irreversibility
  • Kung fu
  • New media art
  • Passive immersivity
  • Wuxia


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