15 user 17 critic

Xiao ao jiang hu (1990)

When a scroll containing valuable martial arts secrets is stolen from the Emperor, an army detachment is sent to recover it. Blademaster, a young martial arts expert, accidentally ends up ... See full summary »


(novel), | 5 more credits »

On Disc

at Amazon

4 wins & 11 nominations. See more awards »


Learn more

People who liked this also liked... 

Swordsman II (1992)
Action | Fantasy
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.3/10 X  

With an entirely new set of actors, this movie continues the story from Swordsman (1990). Blademaster and his martial arts school decide to retire to a distant mountain. Before leaving, he ... See full summary »

Directors: Siu-Tung Ching, Stanley Tong
Stars: Jet Li, Brigitte Lin, Michelle Reis
Fantasy | Romance
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.3/10 X  

A royal official accompanies a Portuguese warship to the Black Cliffs to see the site of the defeat of the evil Invincible Asia, who attained supernatural abilities by following the sacred ... See full summary »

Directors: Siu-Tung Ching, Raymond Lee
Stars: Brigitte Lin, Joey Wang, Rongguang Yu
Action | Comedy | Fantasy
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7/10 X  

In this installment of a phenomenal saga of the super natural, four young people are caught in a tug-o-war of evil between an Imperial Wizard and a corrupt General. Outrageous special ... See full summary »

Director: Siu-Tung Ching
Stars: Leslie Cheung, Joey Wang, Michelle Reis
Action | Comedy | Fantasy
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.8/10 X  

Basically a retread of the first movie, in which the evil Tree Spirit is back with yet another ghost played by Joey Wong. The Swordsman Yen and Leslie Cheung characters are replaced by a ... See full summary »

Directors: Siu-Tung Ching, Hark Tsui
Stars: Tony Chiu-Wai Leung, Joey Wang, Jacky Cheung
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.3/10 X  

This big hit at the Sundance Film Festival had audiences cheering. Set during the Ming Dynasty, this acclaimed production tells the story of a power hungry eunuch who employs an evil sect ... See full summary »

Directors: Raymond Lee, Siu-Tung Ching, and 1 more credit »
Stars: Tony Ka Fai Leung, Brigitte Lin, Maggie Cheung
Action | Comedy | Fantasy
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.2/10 X  

A parody of Louis Cha's novel The Eagle Shooting Heroes (thats the literal translation). Story begins with the Queen of Golden Wheel Kingdom had an affair with her cousin West Poison, and ... See full summary »

Director: Jeffrey Lau
Stars: Leslie Cheung, Brigitte Lin, Maggie Cheung
Action | Comedy | Fantasy
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.6/10 X  

After a string of bad luck, a debt collector has no other choice than to spend the night in a haunted temple.

Director: Siu-Tung Ching
Stars: Leslie Cheung, Joey Wang, Wu Ma
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 5.6/10 X  
Director: King Hu
Stars: Li-hua Chang, Adam Cheng, Ting Chou
Green Snake (1993)
Drama | Fantasy
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.2/10 X  

Two snake spirits become human and learn about love and suffering. A monk discovers his own weaknesses and finds that morality is not as simple as he had thought.

Director: Hark Tsui
Stars: Maggie Cheung, Joey Wang, Wenzhuo Zhao
Comedy | Action
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.5/10 X  

The movie is set in chaotic 1920's China, when warlords fought each other for power while Sun Yat-Sen's underground movement tried to establish a democratic republic. The movie tells the ... See full summary »

Director: Hark Tsui
Stars: Brigitte Lin, Sally Yeh, Cherie Chung
Dragon Inn (1967)
Action | Adventure
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.5/10 X  

The Eunuch of the Emperor has ordered the commander of his army condemned to death for betrayal and insurrection. The commander's family was was murdered to cut off his bloodline, but his ... See full summary »

Director: King Hu
Stars: Lingfeng Shangguan, Chun Shih, Ying Bai
Comedy | Drama | Romance
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.3/10 X  

A romantic Chinese New Year comedy about the three Shang brothers. Eldest brother Shang Moon is a philandering businessman who treats his hideous yet hard-working wife like dirt. Middle ... See full summary »

Director: Clifton Ko
Stars: Leslie Cheung, Stephen Chow, Raymond Bak-Ming Wong


Credited cast:
... Ling Wu Chung
... Kiddo
... Au Yeung
Man Cheung ... Ren Ying Ying (as Sharla Cheung)
... Blue Phoenix (as Fanny Yuen)
... Ngok (as Siu Ming Lau)
... Lau (as Wo Ma)
... Kuk (as Ching Ying Lam)
... Zhor
Shun Lau ... The Eunuch
Ming Man Cheung ... Luk Ta Yau
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Yiu-Sing Cheung
Sing Kwong Lai
Chi Ming Lau ... (as Chi Ming Liu)
Chi Wai Wong ... New head of Seun Fung Tong


When a scroll containing valuable martial arts secrets is stolen from the Emperor, an army detachment is sent to recover it. Blademaster, a young martial arts expert, accidentally ends up in possession, but the plot grows complex as Japanese samurai, an illegal Chinese sect, a tribe of snake-wielding women warriors, a rival martial arts school and the leader of his own martial arts school vie for the scroll. Romantic complications also ensue, involving him with his longtime chum, daughter of the leader of his school, a Japanese woman, and two of the snake- wielding tribeswomen (Blue Phoenix and their leader, Princess Yin-Yin). Written by Reid Gagle

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


TV-14 | See all certifications »






Release Date:

27 January 1990 (Taiwan)  »

Also Known As:

Swordsman  »

Company Credits

Show more on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


King Hu was credited as the director but he allegedly left the project midway, and the film was completed by a team led by producer Hark Tsui. See more »


Version of Xiao ao jianghu (2013) See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

This FAQ is empty. Add the first question.

User Reviews

This is not a kungfu film
20 January 2006 | by See all my reviews

THE SWORDSMAN is a movie very much in the style of the classically-influenced Wuxia movies of the 1960s, like DRAGON GATE INN (1966) and A TOUCH OF ZEN (1969), which was based in turn on a Qing Dynasty (17th Century) story by Songling Pu. These sword movies were at their most popular in the years running up to the earliest kungfu movies like Chinese BOXER (1970) and THE BIG BOSS (1971), but are not to be confused with the more familiar martial arts movies, as they have conventions and rules all their own.

Wuxia movies are typified by the spectacular sword battles where antagonists fly through the air in prodigious leaps as they cross swords. This kind of spectacle may have reached its pinnacle in the stunning sword battles seen IN CROUCHING TIGER, HIDDEN DRAGON or HERO, but it can trace its roots back to the earliest swordplay movies of King Hu and the first New Wave movies like Tsui Hark's ZU: WARRIORS OF THE MAGIC MOUNTAIN. But Wuxia films are also about honour and the code of the warrior, and in this respect resemble Samurai movies more than kungfu films.

In THE SWORDSMAN, the students of the Hua Mountain style of sword fencing have developed their Chi (internal power) to such a high degree that they are able to quite literally float through the air during their sword battles. Most powerful of all the Hua Mountain practitioners is Sifu Ngok, teacher to the young hero of the story Ling Wu Chung. Or so it seems. Early in the film, Wu Chung meeting an elder of the Hua Mountain Clan, Fung Ching Yeung, who'd gone into hiding so his enemies wouldn't try to control him by harming his family. Fung recognises Wu Chung as one of his own clan and teaches him the deadly "Nine Solitary Swordplays" and it is these techniques he uses against his own traitorous sifu.

As other reviewers have noted, "The Song" does get a bit of a caning in this movie, and I defy anyone who's heard it once to get it out of their heads in less than five days.

And it should be pointed out that Celia Yip is fooling no one with that boy disguise. Though in all fairness, this "girl disguised (badly) as boy" routine crops up a lot in Chinese stories. Anyone remember the equally gorgeous Kara Hui (Hui Ying-Hung) in EIGHT DIAGRAM POLE FIGHTER searching for brother Gordon Liu disguised as a man?

Wuxia have to be accepted on their own terms. There is a prevailing belief in China that the Chi abilities of martial artists in historical times were far superior to what contemporary kungfu experts are capable of. This is no different to the belief in the West that ancient seers were able to predict the future. Neither set of beliefs have any real credibility, but it makes for fun storytelling.

THE SWORDSMAN is a pretty good example of the genre, but to be honest, the sequel, SWORDSMAN II, is the better movie.

9 of 12 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you? | Report this
Review this title | See all 15 user reviews »

Contribute to This Page