A Touch of Zen is the third King Hu film I’ve watched so far, and the second of his films after he left Hong Kong and Shaw Brothers for Taiwan. The first, Dragon Inn, kept some of the framework of the Wuxia Western while using Taiwan’s more diverse scenery for great visual effect. A Touch of Zen, on the other hand, leans more heavily into the Wuxia side.

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I love martial arts films – particularly those from South East Asia (starting with Hong Kong but expanding over time to Thailand, Korea, and Malaysia), thanks to role-playing games – with two, in particular, starting me down this path.

The first was Dragon Fist by Chris Pramas, which seeded my love for wuxia. The other was Feng Shui, which expanded my love to the entire Ur-genre. However, when trying to sell people on Feng Shui, I had to downplay why the game had that title – the concept of a variety of factions from through history, past and future, doing battle over “Feng Shui Sites” – places of great magical power where those who hold them can shape the flow of destiny. If I had seen Bury Me High, I would have had a lot more confidence and just told people to watch this instead.

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When I reviewed Come Drink With Me on the blog, I described it as a “Wuxia Western,” as the initial plot of the film – with Golden Swallow going to rescue her brother from bandits holed up in a monastery – could easily be the plot of a western. It is only with the introduction of Drunken Cat’s plot that the wuxia elements come to the fore. Dragon Inn, by comparison, maintains a better balance of the concepts, melding them together to make a cohesive whole.

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