Woman as Fighter and the aesthetics of domestic engagement

Ching Kiu, Stephen CHAN

Research output: Other Conference ContributionsPresentation


For a variety of cinematic, cultural, and political reasons, contemporary kungfu films are preoccupied with the motif of a desire to take leave altogether from the world of martial arts, known commonly in Chinese as jianghu (or the “rivers and lakes”), an allusion to the totality, tempo and transience of worldly engagements. I shall examine some manifestations of such desires or anxieties through the perspective of the woman fighter who in her retreat in life hides herself -- and hence her full-being as a kungfu fighter -- from the visibility and public-ness of the larger socio-political world “out there.” Addressing the usefulness of the craft and art of kungfu as core engagement in their becoming the player of martial arts that all conventionally aspire to, woman fighters tackle issues of domesticity in their commitment to win a place and a life in jianghu and to champion their line of art in the contest for excellence. In so doing, they sometimes take part personally in handling the cultural heritage and martial arts legacy of which they
find themselves an irregular part. Be she a resourceful landlady, a professional assassin, a well-equipped princess, or a thoroughly disciplined disciple, the woman fighter becomes “useful” in her individual struggles to overcome the condition of ordinary existence. In applying her kungfu thus to life, she engages with worldly politics and aesthetics as she confronts domesticity in terms of the work framing her ties to family, kinship, love, and the stability and resources one must manage for home-making. The uses of kungfu now open an avenue for fighting with the woman within. / Films to be discussed are: Kungfu Hustle (Stephen Chow 2004), Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (Ang Lee 2000), The Grandmaster (Wong Kar-Wai 2013), and The Assassin (Hou Hsiao-Hsien 2015).
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 29 Jul 2017
EventInter-Asia Cultural Studies Conference 2017: Worlding Asia Beyond / After Globalization - Sungkonghoe University, Seoul, Korea, Republic of
Duration: 28 Jul 201730 Jul 2017


ConferenceInter-Asia Cultural Studies Conference 2017: Worlding Asia Beyond / After Globalization
Abbreviated titleIACS 2017
Country/TerritoryKorea, Republic of
OtherInter-Asia Cultural Studies Society and Sungkunghoe University
Internet address


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