Author：Verbena C. W，Elaine Yang
In Western fantasy novels and movies, species are a common way to differentiate between supernatural beings such as spirits, vampires, werewolves, etc. Their distinctive looks and varied personalities are very appealing to readers. After the audience watch a Chinese fantasy show, however, they will realize that in addition to species, there’s also “clans.”
Unlike species, there are many kinds of clans in the human species alone. The distinction is not in looks or heritage but the type of supernatural ability. Compared to Western fantasies, it is like categorizing species according to their magical powers, i.e., creatures with fire-manipulation powers are in one clan, and water-controlling beings are in another clan, etc., which could be seen in the American movie, <i>The Last Airbender</i>. In one clan, not only does everyone possess the same magical power, they also share the same set of rules, just like every company has its own corporate culture and mission.
The Clan of Shushan is undoubtedly the largest clan in Chinese fantasies. It first appeared in the fantasy and wuxia game, <i>The Legend of Sword and Fairy</i>, and kept appearing in later fantasy works. The leader of a clan is called the “Zhangmen (Chief),” who has subordinates under him or her called “Zhanglao (Elder)” to help with administrative affairs and managing the disciples. It was rumored that before the Clan of Shushan was established, its first chief was human, after a major accomplishment in maintaining justice in the world, he was given supernatural abilities by the gods and became a god as well.
Later on, the Clan of Shushan was formed. The clan considers maintaining the order between humans and spirits its mission, and builds pagodas to trap evil spirits. The clan practices sword craft, uses some Chinese Qi Gong, and doesn’t object to using other clans’ practices. They also collect and save all kinds of methods to defeat evil beings. Members of the clan fly with their swords like Harry Potter on his broom; they could also use swords to fight monsters in the air. Powerful clan members could even control thousands of swords to defeat large groups of enemies.
This clan also has another distinction: Members could apply to be Taoists at anytime and wear clothes of the same color and style; however, if they ever regret their faith and wish to leave their place of study, they could no longer call themselves a member of the Shushan Clan. Also, if they ever violated clan rules or practiced forbidden methods, they would be robbed of their powers.
In 2016, <i>Zhu Xian</i>, a famous web novel, was adapted into the fantasy TV show, <i>The Legend of Chusen</i>. The biggest clan in the show, the Clan of Qingyun, was similar to the Clan of Shushan in its ability to import powers of nature into mortal bodies. People who practice this craft could harness anything in nature into a weapon. Their enemy, the Clan of Ghost King, use curses to make people lose themselves and their souls. There’s other clans too, such as the Clan of Ten Thousand Poisons, whose members are very mysterious and rarely show their faces. In fact, no one guessed their basecamp was inside a valley filled with poisonous snakes.
Clans are part of the special allure of Eastern fantasies. They’re becoming more accepted by overseas readers and generating a lot of interest. In the near future, the many creative settings in fantasies would only become even more amazing and spectacular.