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Martial art fictions in textbook; debate ensues
Updated: 2005-03-03 11:45

"Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" is no longer a name for movie screens or paperback covers -- it now appears as reading material in Chinese middle-school textbooks, triggering a national debate on martial-arts fiction's literary status.

"I feel strange," said Zhang Qiang, a high school senior at Beijing No. 15 Middle School, when he first found part of the fiction in his new Chinese textbook.

Along with "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon," part of another fiction "Eightfold Path of the Heavenly Dragon" was also selected for the textbook, forming a section called "magic martial arts."

"Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" was shot into a movie, which garnered the Oscar for Best Foreign Film of 2000. "Eightfold Path of the Heavenly Dragon" has inspired many movies and TV series.

Its writer Jin Yong is also widely regarded as the best Chinese "wuxia" or author of martial arts stories.

Despite his surprise, Zhang said the inclusion of excellent martial-arts stories into the senior middle-school textbook has enriched the content with novelty, which is, he said, "definitely a progress."

Some middle-school and college teachers, however, find such a move disturbing as they believe such novels are popular literaturemainly for entertainment.

"They are for leisure reading. The fictional plots and fightingscenes in martial-arts novels might have a bad effect on teenagers," said a college professor who declined to be named.

As early as 2001, media reports about the Ministry of Education(MOE) planning to put Jin Yong's martial-arts fiction in a middle-school textbook triggered a national debate, which pressured the MOE to drop the plan.

"The selection process of martial-arts fiction is very careful.We held three discussions before making the decision," said a teacher surnamed Wang with the People's Education Press, which published the controversial textbook for the first time last November.

"The textbook is not just a teaching material. It is just for students who are willing to do after-school reading."

"It is only designed to expand students' reading scope," she said, adding that including martial-arts content in a textbook forteaching has to get the MOE's approval.

Many Internet users have voiced their support for the new textbook, some even saying that Jin Yong's fictions are a treasureof modern Chinese literature.

Liu Ximing, a research fellow with the education science research institute at Beijing's People's University, said that martial-arts fictions are stories of good triumphing over evil andconcern for the poor or the weak, both of which are themes that should be advocated.

"There are something not good in those fictions, but we should not give up eating for fear of choking," he said.

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