A young Chinese warrior steals a sword from a famed swordsman and then escapes into a world of romantic adventure with a mysterious man in the frontier of the nation.A young Chinese warrior steals a sword from a famed swordsman and then escapes into a world of romantic adventure with a mysterious man in the frontier of the nation.A young Chinese warrior steals a sword from a famed swordsman and then escapes into a world of romantic adventure with a mysterious man in the frontier of the nation.
Having grown up reading a bunch of these stories of epic fantasy, I remember being surprised when I went to watch CTHD in the theaters, and saw the audience break out in laughter at the flying stunts. I suppose the concept probably does seem ridiculous to foreigners.
The whole deal with the flying is this:
In the stories, the world of "Giang Hu" mentioned in CTHD is the unconventional part of society in which the characters that practice high transcendent martial arts exist. "Giang Hu" literally translates to something like "lakes and rivers", which kind of is a cultural allusion to the fact that most of these people wander a whole lot participating in great duels of swordsmanship and all kinds of tragic drama.
One of the forms of transcendent martial arts is "chin guon", which translates to something like "the art of lightness". It's a skill that these warrior folk develop from a young age using various methods that make it so they can move as if they were light as a feather. I think the idea is that they're trained so that they progressively have less and less of a perception of their own weight, and thus they can run up walls and fly across rooftops in style.
There's another type of martial art which involves transmitting "chi" (spiritual essence or whatever you want to call it) through your hands or fingertips and into the pressure points of others, either doing them harm, rendering them unable to move, or restoring some of their strength.
If you don't understand that it's another culture's fiction/mythology and can't get over that it defies known physics and medicine etc., well, too bad.
At the same time, look at acupuncture. Millions swear by the benefits of acupuncture. Hell, my father had a stroke that paralyzed half his face and went to four separate doctors. They couldn't do a damn thing. He then went to an acupuncturist and after two sessions the paralysis was gone. Conventional medicine still has no idea how acupuncture could possibly work, yet a lot of doctors will accept it as a viable option. Who the hell knows, maybe once upon a time in China people could fly.
I find Chinese warrior mythology pretty interesting, and the problem is that these novels do not translate well. I'm not sure if anyone has ever tried. A lot of what goes on in them has a lot of cultural relevance and wouldn't be readily understood by certain people who have Western sensibilities. Hong Kong and Taiwan have for a couple of decades produced a lot of television shows that portray these stories, but they're mostly pretty cheesy like American soap operas.
Which is why CTHD is semi-important as a film. It's the first film to expose a lot Americans to this facet of Chinese mythology, and I hope it's not the last.
- Aug 13, 2004