Wuxia (武俠 wǔxiá) - literally means "Martial Heroes". Fictional stories about normal humans who can achieve supernatural fighting ability through Chinese martial arts training and internal energy cultivation. Themes of chivalry, tragedy, revenge and romance are common.
Xianxia (仙侠 xiānxiá) – literally means "Immortal Heroes". Fiction stories with magic, demons, ghosts, immortals, and a lot of Chinese folklore/mythology. The protagonists (usually) attempt to cultivate themselves to immortality, seeking eternal life and the pinnacle of strength. Very inspired by Taoism.
Comparison: If Wuxia is "low fantasy", then Xianxia is "high fantasy".
Xuanhuan (玄幻 xuánhuàn) - literally means "Mysterious Fantasy". A broad genre of fictional stories that remixes Chinese folklore/mythology with foreign elements and settings.
The novels Wuxia, Xianxia and Xuanhuan are very similar so it can sometimes be difficult to distinguish.
The Three Realms (三界 sānjiè): The universe is divided into the Realm of Heaven and the Realm of Earth, with the Mortal Realm in the middle. The term is ultimately derived from the Three Kingdoms of Hinduism and Buddhism.
The Heavens (天 tiān) – where the Jade Emperor rules at the head of the Celestial Court. Characters in several novels rebel against the Heavens to change their destiny or take revenge for perceived wrongs. Immortal cultivation is often (although not always) said to go against the Will of Heaven.
The Mortal Realm (人界 rénjiè) (人间 rénjiān) - also called the human world. The setting of most of these novels, although some later branch out to explore the other realms.
The Earth (地 dì) - contains the Underworld (地狱 dìyù) in its depths. The Underworld is also commonly known as Netherworld (冥界 mingjiè) or Yellow Springs (黄泉 huángquán).
Six Paths of Reincarnation (六道轮回 liùdào lúnhuí) – in the cycle of reincarnation, it is possible to be reborn as  Deva,  Asura,  Human,  Animal,  Hungry Ghost or  a being tormented in hell.
Note: Devas and Asuras are reborn in the Realm of Heaven, Humans and Animals are reborn in the Mortal Realm, and Hungry Ghosts and beings from Hell are reborn in the Realm of Earth.
Karma (业 / 缘 / 因果 / 功德): cosmic merit or demerit accumulated throughout life based on one's actions. Determine what type of reincarnation (of the Six Paths) they will experience in their next life. Some novels expand on this concept and Karma even affects the daily lives of characters or unites certain characters through karmic ties/relationships.
Dao (道 dào) - the origin and source of all things. It can be translated in many different ways, including The Way/Road/Path/Method. According to Taoism, it is the absolute principle underlying the universe, which combines within itself the principles of Yin and Yang and means the path, or code of conduct, that is in harmony with the natural order. In these novels, characters often attempt to gain information about the Dao, which may give them supernatural powers or even control over aspects of the natural world.
Yin and Yang (阴阳 yīnyáng): the duality present in all aspects of the universe. For example: Yin is Feminine/Soft/Death/Dark/Moon, while Yang is Masculine/Hard/Life/Light/Sun - the comparisons are endless. Yin and Yang describe how opposing or contrary forces are actually complementary, interconnected and interdependent in the natural world, and how they originate from each other.
Five elements (五行 wǔxíng): wood (木 mù), fire (火 huǒ), earth (土 tǔ), metal (金 jīn) and water (水 shuǐ). The fundamental elements that make up everything in the universe. They have a detailed cyclical relationship, and each of them has various symbolic meanings. Something analogous to the four Western elements.
Qi (气): the vital energy that exists in all things. Qi cultivation is a major theme in the Wuxia, Xianxia, and Xuanhuan novels.
Qi is sometimes written as "Ki" or "Chi." It can be translated in many different ways, including Respiration / Vital Breath / Neuma / Vital Energy / Spiritual Energy. (etc ...)
Spiritual Energy of Heaven and Earth (天地之气 tiāndì zhī qì) – the natural energy of the world.
Beings and creatures
Gods (神 shén): supernatural beings of tremendous power. In Xuanhuan novels, it is often possible to achieve some form of divinity through cultivation.
Immortals (仙 xiān): beings who ascended to immortality through Taoist cultivation practices. They have magical powers, can fly freely through the air, and have a close connection to the Dao and the natural world. There are several types of Taoist immortals, such as celestial immortals (天仙) and the earthly immortals (地仙).
Saints (圣 shèng): similar, but different from immortals. They do not have a strong relationship with Taoism, and do not necessarily have eternal life. But aside from that, they usually also have a close connection to the natural world and similar magical powers achieved through cultivation. Very generally speaking, saints appear most frequently in Xuanhuan novels, while immortals appear most frequently in Xianxia novels.
Note: Unless explicitly stated otherwise, these are not Christian saints.
Magical Beasts (魔兽 móshòu) - animals capable of cultivation. Some are magical in nature and simply get stronger over time, while others must actively practice a cultivation method. They tend to be much more intelligent than mundane animals, and some are capable of speaking in human languages. Magical Beasts that have reached a high stage of cultivation can even take on a human form.
These Beasts often possess a Core (魔核/妖核) within their bodies that contains their essence and/or cultivation base. Growers value them highly. The cores are usually consumed by cultivators (to become stronger) or used in the production of magic items.
Beast cores are also sometimes called Neidan (內丹), which can be more literally translated as "Inner Core".
Some novels give the Beasts slightly different names such as Demonic Beasts (妖兽) or Spirit Beasts (灵兽), but they are all essentially the same type of creature. Kernel names vary similarly.
Demons (妖 yāo): Sometimes not translated as "Yao" or alternatively translated as Monsters. It is born when an animal, plant, or even an inanimate object absorbs spiritual energy over a long period of time and then gains spiritual consciousness. It is not inherently evil, although many have antagonistic relationships with humans.
Demons (魔 mó): Sometimes not translated as "Mo" or alternatively translated as Demons. Evil spirits/creatures of notable power and cruelty. Similar to the demons and demons of Western mythology. In some novels, evil cultivators emulate them by practicing diabolical cultivation methods and committing atrocities in their quest for power.
Some novels consider demons and demons to be a single species (妖魔 Yaomo), others as distinct species (妖族 Yao race / 魔族 Mo race).
魔 is sometimes translated as "Demon", which can sometimes be confusing (particularly when 妖 is also used in the novel). The difference between the two is explained here.
Ghosts (鬼 guǐ): evil spirits or spirits of the deceased. Ghosts are strongly Yin in nature.
Martial Arts World
Jianghu (江湖 jiānghú) – literally translates as "Rivers and Lakes", but figuratively refers to the "Martial World" or the "underground world of martial arts". A section of society made up of martial artists, gangsters, thieves, beggars, prostitutes, merchants, artists, and anyone else who wishes to operate outside of mainstream society or in the gray area of the law.
Wulin (武林 wǔlín) – literally "Martial Forest", figuratively referring to the "community of martial artists" within the Jianghu. The Wulin is usually controlled by an alliance formed by the Righteous/Orthodox sects to uphold justice.
The martial sects of the Jianghu are often divided into two main factions, commonly called the orthodox and unorthodox factions (黑白) or the righteous and wicked factions (正邪).
Xia (侠 xiá): a hero of the martial world. Fair and skilled martial artists who follow their own moral code. They sometimes come into conflict with the law, especially in novels where society or the government is depicted as corrupt.
Wandering Xia (游侠 yóuxiá): Wandering martial artists who protect the innocent and use their strength to right injustices. Seen as champions of the common people. Similar to the romantic European knights errant, but without any of the feudal overtones.
Cultivation World (修真界 xiūzhēn jiè): Not literally a separate world, but refers to the broad community of cultivators and their sects/schools/clans/etc... Analogous to the Wulin of martial artists.
Cultivator (修者 xiūzhě) (修士 xiūshì) (修仙者 xiūxiānzhě) - a person who trains in martial and mystical arts, usually to become powerful and increase his longevity. Meditation and Qi cultivation are common practices among cultivators.
Rogue Cultivators (散修 sǎnxiū) – literally translates to "Loose Cultivators". Independent cultivators not affiliated with any sect, clan or other martial organizations.
Devil Cultivators (修魔者 xiūmózhě) – also tradduced as Demon Cultivators. Evil cultivators who emulate demons (魔) and seek power by any means necessary. They are often said to follow the Devil's Way/Dao of the Devil (魔道), as opposed to orthodox Immortal Cultivators (修仙者 xiūxiānzhě).
Sect (宗 zōng) (派 pài) – an organization dedicated to the practice of cultivation and/or martial arts. Typically led by a sect leader (掌门) or patriarch (老祖). With the help of the Sect Elders (老), they instruct the Disciples (弟子) on the proper methods of cultivation or training in the martial arts styles of the Sect. The Disciples live in the Sect, which provides for their daily needs. There is almost always a strict hierarchy among the members of a Cult, and respect for older generations is demanded.
In some novels, ordinary Disciples are divided into another hierarchy of Core Disciples (核心弟子), Inner Disciples (内门弟子), and Outer Disciples (外围弟子), based on their level of talent and meritorious service to the Sect. Disciples higher in the hierarchy have higher status and receive more resources from the Sect.
Religious sect (教 jiào) - a sect with a strong religious background. If the religion being practiced is evil, then this term is translated as Cult. Commonly seen in Wuxia novels.
School (门 mén) - a school of cultivation or martial arts. It is not much different from a sect.
Clan (家 jiā) – an extended family related by blood, sharing a surname. They often pass down relics from generation to generation along with secret cultivation methods and martial arts styles that were developed by the clan's ancestors. They tend to jealously protect them from strangers.
Association (帮 bāng): also translated as Union, Gang, Clan or Brotherhood. A loose organization of people. Members may have something in common, such as sharing a particular way of life, or they may simply be working together to achieve a mutually beneficial goal. It is not religious in nature.
Society (會 huì) - a secret society. Similar to associations for the most part, but hidden in secrecy and deeply involved in rituals/traditions. Sometimes of a religious or cult nature.
Accompanying agency (镖局 biāojú): a contracted protection agency. Escorts (镖人/镖师/镖客) often work as bodyguards for travelers and merchant caravans. Commonly seen in Wuxia novels.
Martial Arts Terms
Martial arts (武功 wǔgōng) – fighting styles and techniques. It also includes physical exercises, mental discipline methods, and more. Chinese martial arts are commonly known as Kung Fu (功夫) or Wushu (武术).
External martial arts (外家 wàijiā): styles of martial arts characterized by rapid, explosive movements. They focus on cultivating physical strength and agility.
Internal martial arts (内家 nèijiā): styles of martial arts characterized by smooth, fluid movements. They focus on the cultivation of mind, spirit and Qi.
Hard & Soft (硬 yìng / 柔 róu): Terms used to describe how a martial artist counters an opponent's attacks. Practitioners of "hard" styles meet force with force, directly countering the opponent and attempting to overwhelm them with sheer power. Practitioners of "soft" styles counter the opponent indirectly, dodging or deflecting attacks and trying to take advantage of openings.
Internal energy (内力 nèilì) (內劲 nèijìn): also called internal energy, internal force, internal power or internal force. The energy cultivated within the body of a martial artist. Using it, a martial artist can achieve superhuman feats of speed, agility, strength, endurance, etc. It can even be used to heal wounds and nullify poisons.
Lightness Skill (轻功 qīnggōng) – often left untranslated as "Qinggong". The ability to lighten the body and move with great agility and speed. With a high level of proficiency, practitioners of this skill can run on water, jump to the top of trees, or even glide through the air.
Hitting the meridians/acupuncture points (点脉 diǎnmài) (点穴 diǎnxué) – often left untranslated as "Dianmai" and "Dianxue". Also known as "Strike/Seal Pressure Points". Fighting techniques that target the opponent's meridians and acupuncture points to kill, cripple, immobilize, or control the opponent. More information here .
Cultivation (修炼 xiūliàn) (修真 xiūzhēn) (修行 xiūxíng) (修仙 xiūxiān): The process of improving health, increasing longevity, and becoming powerful. This is achieved by cultivating Qi and training in martial and mystical arts. In many of these novels, the ultimate goal of cultivation is to become an Immortal or achieve divinity.
Cultivation Method (功法 gōngfǎ) (心法 xīnfǎ): A mystical art or collection of techniques that cultivators practice to cultivate. Related: Qigong (气功)
Cultivation base (修为 xiūwéi): The amount or capacity of refined Qi that a cultivator possesses.
Manual (秘笈 mìjí): A book containing detailed instructions on training in a cultivation method or style of martial arts. It is usually considered extremely valuable and is therefore kept secret (or at least not made available to the public).
Sutras and Scriptures (经 jīng) - sacred writings. In the context of these novels, they typically pertain to cultivation or martial arts. Used more or less interchangeably with "Manual."
Spiritual roots (灵根 línggēn) - figuratively, the foundation (roots) of the body and soul. Associated with a person's innate talent and elemental affinities.
Cultivation generally requires a minimum level of innate talent, and many people find it impossible to even take the first step. In some novels, the quality of a person's Spiritual Roots can be tested to determine if they have the necessary talent to cultivate. Rare people may even have special Spiritual Roots that allow them to cultivate quickly or grant them other benefits. For example, someone with "fire spiritual roots" could learn fire spells more easily than her peers.
Dantian (丹田 dāntián) – literally translates as "Field of Cinnabar" or "Field of Elixir". It refers to the region of the body where a person's Qi is concentrated. Technically, there are three dantians, but these novels simplify the concept and only use the lower dantian (located three finger widths below and two finger widths behind the navel).
Meridians (经脉 jīngmài) – the network of vessels/channels in the body through which Qi flows. Like blood vessels, but for Qi instead of blood.
Eight extraordinary meridians (奇经八脉 qí jīng bā mài): act as reservoirs or pathways for the circulation of Qi. Of the eight extraordinary meridians, the ship of government (Go) and the ship of conception (ception) are mentioned most frequently in these novels. The Ruling Vessel runs from the dantian (in the lower abdomen) along the spine to the head. The conception vessel runs from the dantian to the front of the body to the head, where it connects with the ruling vessel to form a complete circuit.
Twelve main meridians (正经十二脉 zhèngjīng shí'èr mài): meridians associated with internal organs.
Acupuncture points (穴 xué) – “acupuncture points”, related to pressure points. There are several hundred of them in the body, located mainly along the meridians. Knowledge of acupuncture points can be used in healing (through acupuncture or similar practices) or in combat by deliberately hitting them to achieve certain effects.
Qi Circulation (行气 xíngqì): The act of controlling Qi so that it flows from the dantian, through the meridians, and back to the dantian in a cycle. The purpose of this varies between novels, but generally helps replenish stamina, purify Qi, or strengthen meridians.
Breathing exercises (吐纳 tùnà) - also known as Tu Na Breathing. A special way of breathing that expels cloudy Qi within the body and draws in Qi from the natural world. An essential part of cultivation.
Embryonic Respiration (胎息 tāixī) - also known as Taixi or Fetal Respiration. A way to breathe without using your nose and mouth. Instead, the practitioner could breathe through his pores or dantian (for example). This is generally considered a highly advanced breathing exercise that confers mystical benefits and brings the practitioner closer to nature. Often compared to the way babies breathe in the womb (through the umbilical cord).
Meditation (冥想 mingxiǎng): a practice to train or calm the mind and spirit. Cultivators spend a lot of time meditating, as both Qi cultivation and contemplation of insights generally require it.
Lotus position (盘膝 pánxī): sitting in a meditative position with legs crossed.
Closed-door training (闭关 bìguān) – also called closed-door meditation or closed-door cultivation. Training conducted in seclusion, usually to focus on breaking a bottleneck or to avoid becoming distracted at a crucial moment and suffering a violent reaction as a result.
Insight (参悟 cānwù) (顿悟 dùnwù) – related to enlightenment. Cultivators usually gain ideas by meditating, engaging in life and death battles, or going out into the world to experience new things. These ideas are often necessary to master techniques or advance to higher stages.
Inner Demons (心魔 xīnmó) – literally translates as "Heart Demons". Instead of standard demons or demons, these are a practitioner's negative emotions and other mental barriers that make it difficult to train/cultivate her. Internal Demons, in some cases, can even attack the practitioner from within, and failure to resist them properly can lead to Qi Diversion.
Qi Deviation (走火入魔 zǒuhuǒ rùmó) – also known as Qigong Deviation. It literally translates to "set fire and be entered [possessed] by demons." A state in which the cultivation base becomes dangerously unstable, causing internal damage to the body and symptoms of psychosis. People who succumb to their Inner Demons, who practice cultivation/martial arts incorrectly, or who use forbidden arts recklessly risk falling into this state.
Bottleneck (瓶颈 píngjǐng) – The term for when cultivators figuratively hit a wall in their training and it suddenly becomes incredibly difficult to proceed. When they reach a bottleneck, cultivators may require new ideas, the help of medicinal pills, or even more severe training to achieve a breakthrough (突破 tūpò) and successfully bypass the bottleneck.
Impurities (杂质 zázhì): Generally described as a black, smelly substance that is secreted from a cultivator's skin when they reach new stages of cultivation or consume special medicinal pills. The result of the body purifying itself and expelling waste.
Ranks/Levels/Layers (级 jí) (层 céng): A common way to quantify martial power or progress made in cultivation. In many (though not all) cases where they are used, there are 9 ranks/levels/layers in each stage of cultivation, with rank 1 being the beginning and rank 9 being the peak. After moving to the next stage, the practitioner starts at rank 1 of that new stage. The number 9 has a lot of symbolism.
Another set of commonly used terms are Early Stage (初期), Middle Stage (中期), Late Stage (后期), and Peak (巅峰). For example, someone could be a “late-stage Core Formation expert” or they could be at “the peak of the Nascent Soul stage.”
A half-step for __ (半步__境) – refers to someone who is infinitely close to breaking into the next stage of cultivation, but has not yet achieved it. For example, someone who is "half-step to Foundation Establishment" is still technically in the Qi Condensation stage, but is just a hair's breadth away from Foundation Establishment.
Houtian and Xiantian (后天 hòutiān / 先天 xiāntiān) – the names of two stages of cultivation that appear in several novels, with the Houtian stage preceding the Houtian can mean Later Heaven/Postcelestial/Acquired. Xiantian can mean previous heaven/precelestial/innate. More or less, the idea is that something "Xiantian" is primordial and therefore close to the Dao, while something "Houtian" is degraded or further removed from the Dao.
"Houtian and Xiantian" are derived from Taoism and internal alchemy. There is a belief that people are born with a small amount of Xiantian treasures (Essence, Qi and Spirit). By practicing Taoist cultivation and internal alchemy, they can absorb and refine Houtian Qi from the natural world to constantly increase their supply of Xiantian treasures (which grant health and longevity benefits).
Qi Condensation (凝气 níngqì) – also known as Qi Refining (炼气 liànqì) or Qi Gathering (聚气 jùqì). An initial stage of cultivation that involves absorbing Qi from the natural world and refining it within the body.
Foundation Establishment (筑基 zhùjī) – also translated as Foundation Building. The stage after Qi condensation. Once a cultivator's Qi crosses a certain threshold (in Qi volume and/or density), he will be able to advance to this stage.
This term is derived from internal alchemy.
Core Formation (结丹 jiēdān) – sometimes left untranslated as "Jiedan". The stage after the establishment of the Foundation. It involves forming a Golden Core (金丹 jīndān) using the Dantian as a crucible and the Cultivation Base as raw material.
Golden core is sometimes not translated as "Jindan" or more literally translated as Golden Pellet. In scholarly articles on Chinese internal alchemy, it is translated as the "Golden Elixir." It is somewhat analogous to the Philosopher's Stone of Western alchemy, although there are many differences between the two.
Nascent Soul (元婴 yuányīng) – sometimes left untranslated as "Yuanying". It literally translates as "child origin." The stage after Core Formation (in some novels). The Nascent Soul resembles a child or miniature person and resides in the Dantian, usually seated in
a meditative position. In some novels, the Nascent Soul can travel outside the body and is like a second life for cultivators: if their main body dies, their consciousness can continue to exist in the Nascent Soul.
Immortal ascension (成仙 chéngxiān) - also known as apotheosis. The stage in which the cultivator becomes a Taoist immortal. There are many differences between the novels, but generally the cultivation/maturation of the Golden Core or Nascent Soul plays a key role in the ascension to Immortality.
Alchemy (丹道 dāndào) (外丹 wàidān): refining plants, minerals, and other substances into medicinal pills and elixirs. In these novels, alchemists (丹师) are essentially pharmacists who work with magical materials and produce miracle drugs.
Cauldrons and pill furnaces (鼎 dǐng) (丹炉 dānlú) – the tools used by alchemists to produce medicinal pills and elixirs.
Medicinal pills and elixirs (丹药 dānyào): Miracle medicines that can have all kinds of effects. It is often taken to boost cultivation, heal wounds, cure poisons, purify or strengthen the body, and much more.
Medicinal plants/herbs (药草 yàocǎo): A generic term for any type of plant that alchemists can use to make poisons or medicinal pills and elixirs. Older medicinal plants (100 years, 1000 years, etc.) are generally considered more potent.
Ginseng (参) and Lingzhi mushrooms (灵芝) appear quite frequently in these novels, where they are claimed to have great medicinal qualities.
Spiritual Plants/Herbs (灵草 língcǎo) – also called Spiritual Herb. A magical plant that has absorbed the spiritual energy of the natural world and is highly sought after by cultivators and alchemists alike. It is usually eaten to absorb the spiritual energy it contains or refined into spiritual medicines.
Items and weapons
- Magical Treasures (法宝 fǎbǎo) - also translated as Magical Objects. A generic term covering all magical weapons/clothes/trinkets/talismans/etc... that cultivators make and use.
- Magical Tools (法器 fǎqì) and Spiritual Tools (灵器 língqì) - terms that are almost interchangeable with “Magical Treasures”.
Spirit Stones (灵石 língshí) – translucent crystals with spiritual energy trapped inside. Mainly used as currency among cultivators. They can also be used for farming (absorbing spiritual energy), creating magical items or power spell formations.
- Flying Sword (飞剑 fēijiàn): a magical sword that can fly through the air and can be directed to engage in long-range attacks. Perhaps the most iconic cultivator weapon. In some novels, cultivators stand on their flying swords and ride them as a form of transportation.
- Interspatial Ring (空间戒指 kōngjiān jièzhi): A magical ring with a pocket dimension inside. With just a thought, the owner can store items within it and retrieve them at will. Depending on the novel, there may be some restrictions, for example, the size of the storage space may be limited or the ring can only store certain types of items.
- Storage Treasures (储物法宝 chǔwù fǎbǎo): a generic term for items similar in function to interspatial rings. Some novels, for example, may have bags, belts, gourds, and other objects that also have magical storage spaces within them.
Talisman (符 fú) – sometimes translated as a seal. A strip of paper with mystical diagrams and drawn calligraphy. In these novels, they are essentially consumable spells. (When activated, they cast a spell and will disintegrate once their magic runs out.)
Jade Slip (玉简 yùjiǎn): A long, narrow strip of jade used as a magical item. A cultivator can magically store information within him, and other cultivators can use that Jade Slip to directly transmit the information stored in their minds. Based on the Bamboo Slips used in ancient China.
The four main weapons:
Sword (剑 jiàn): straight double-edged sword. The weapon of choice for many, many characters in these novels.
Saber (刀 dāo): A curved, single-edged saber. Heavier and considered somewhat brutal compared to the elegant sword.
Spear (枪 qiāng) – A spear, often with a leaf-shaped spearhead and a whipped tassel just below it.
Walking stick (棍 gùn): walking stick made of wood or iron.
Concealed Weapons (暗器 ànqì): Weapons hidden in some way (often hidden in the owner's clothing). Its use and effectiveness depends largely on the element of surprise. Poisoned projectiles (darts/needles/etc.) are an especially popular type of hidden weapon.
ltas. But in the hands of a hidden weapons expert, almost anything can be lethal: in Wuxia novels, even things like abaci, coins, chopsticks, and musical instruments are used as hidden weapons.
-Heavenly Tribulation (天劫 tiānjié) (重劫 zhòngjié): In some novels, a trial encountered by cultivators at key points in their cultivation, which they must endure and ultimately transcend. Because immortal cultivation (in general) goes against the Will of Heaven, the Heavens will send tribulations to oppress high-level cultivators who progress towards Immortality, often just as they enter a new stage of cultivation. This usually takes the form of a thunderstorm, with extraordinarily powerful bolts of lightning raining down from the Heavens to attack the cultivator.
- Eight Trigrams (八卦 bāguà) - are often left untranslated as the "Bagua". Designed to represent the fundamental principles of reality. In real life, it is used for fortune telling. In these novels, it is mostly mentioned in passing. For example, a battle formation or martial arts movement might have the "Eight Trigrams" in its name.
- Feng Shui (风水 fēngshuǐ) - literally translates as "Wind Water". A form of traditional Chinese divination/divination, often performed using the Eight Trigrams and a Feng Shui compass (罗盘 luópán). In these novels, it is mostly mentioned in passing.
- Formations (阵 zhèn) (阵法 zhènfǎ) - divided into battle formations and spell formations, although they are often simply called "formations". Battle formations are "fantasy" tactical formations used by various cultivators or martial artists who attack in concert. Spell formations are also called arrays. They are essentially magic circles that cast a continuous area of effect spell at the location spanned by the formation.
- Formation Flags (阵旗 zhènqí): Magic flags installed at key points to activate a spell formation (usually around the perimeter).
Restrictions (禁制 jìnzhì) (禁法 jìnfǎ) - also translated as Seals, Restrictive Spells or Spell Restrictions. Something similar to formations. They are spells that form a barrier around a location or act to seal/suppress a person or object.
- Spiritual Sense (灵识 língshí) - also known as "Consciousness" or Divine Sense (神识 shénshí). An ability that cultivators possess to explore their environment (beyond the limits of their 5 common senses) with their spirit. The total distance/area they can scan corresponds to the strength of their spirit. It is also used in some novels to remotely control magical items such as Flying Swords.
- Essence (精 jīng): often called Blood Essence (精血). It's basically "life blood" or "life force." Powerful techniques sometimes require cultivators to expend their Essence, shortening their lifespan as a result.
The essence is one of the three treasures of internal alchemy.
Robes (PAO) - 袍the characters in these novels usually wear robes, as was the norm in ancient China. Cultivators are often said to wear academic/Taoist robes (道袍). Martial artists are frequently depicted wearing Tang suits (唐装).
-Face (面子 miànzi): a person's reputation in society and among their peers. If someone "has a face" (有面子), he has a good reputation. If they are "faceless" (没面子), then they have a bad reputation. "Give face" (给面子) to someone means to defer or pay homage to them. "Losing face" (丢脸) means that a person has damaged his or her reputation. “Not wanting face” (不要脸) means that a person is acting brazenly, in a way that suggests that he does not care about damaging her reputation.
- Kowtow (叩头 kòutóu) - an act of deep respect shown by prostration. The greatest sign of reverence in Chinese culture. It involves kneeling and bowing so low that your head touches the floor. The person who kneels may also hit his head repeatedly on the ground (to the point of injury), especially when he desperately begs for something or wants to show his utmost sincerity.
- Clasped Hands (抱拳 bàoquán) (拱手 gǒngshǒu) - also translated as Cupped Fist or Cupped Hands. A respectful greeting or greeting.
- The Baoquan (抱拳) is a greeting that originated among martial artists. Gongshou (拱手) is a greeting commonly used by Chinese people in general.
Pavilion (阁 gé) (亭 tíng) - a type of building. The pavilions in these novels probably look more like this, rather than this.
- Pagoda (塔 tǎ): a stepped tower with multiple, prominent eaves. It often has a religious function or is considered sacred.
- Cave of the Immortal (洞府 dòngfǔ) - also translated as State
of the cave or immortal State. The abode of a cultivator. Often high in the mountains in a cave where spiritual energy is abundant. Similar to a grotto (洞天).
- Fairy (仙女 xiānnǚ) (仙子 xiānzǐ) - a term used to describe a woman of otherworldly beauty.
Note: Not to be confused with the Western concept of fairies.
Lotus flower (莲花 liánhuā): symbolizes purity and enlightenment in Chinese culture. It appears quite frequently in these novels.
Jade (玉 yù): A type of gemstone that was more valuable than gold in ancient China. It was even thought to have mystical powers/properties and to be associated with the soul and immortality. In cultivation novels, magic items are often made of jade. And anything beautiful, refined or lustrous is commonly described as "Jade-like."
Jade comes in two types: Jadeite and Nephrite. Jadeite is usually a deep green color, and this is what Westerners are most familiar with. Nephrite comes in many colors, one of which is a creamy white. This white jade is called "mutton fat jade" (羊脂玉) by the Chinese, and they consider it to be the most valuable type of jade.
Incense (香 xiāng): Aromatic material that releases fragrant smoke when burned. Used in religious ceremonies, to aid in meditation and many other cultural activities. Incense sticks (or Joss Sticks) are frequently mentioned in these novels.
"The time it takes for an incense stick to burn" is a common phrase that refers to a short period of time, usually around 5 or 30 minutes. Other measurements of ancient Chinese time can be found here.
Hand seals (掐诀 qiājué) – also translated as incantation gestures. Taoist hand and finger gestures performed to cast spells.
- Sword-light (剑光 jiànguāng) - also translated as Sword Ray. A dazzling and powerful energy attack launched from the edge of a blade. Forming Swordlight generally requires a deep cultivation base and deep mastery of swordsmanship.
- Sword Energy (剑气 jianqi) is basically the same as Swordlight.
Refining (炼 liàn): a term that appears very frequently. Cultivators sometimes seem obsessed with refining almost everything: pills, treasures, Qi, and even themselves! This is derived from Chinese alchemy, where it was believed that materials that underwent multiple refinements would gain spiritual value and slowly approach the Dao and perfection.
- Killing intent (煞气 shàqì): a murderous aura that a person emits when they wish to harm someone. People who have experienced bloody battles and/or have already killed others tend to have a much stronger killing intent than an ordinary person. Experts can disguise their killing intent, as well as intentionally release it as a form of mental attack.
- Sword Intent (剑意 jiànyì) - somewhat similar to Killing Intent. A dangerous aura emitted by a sword or a master swordsman that makes others feel like they are about to be cut by a sword. In some novels, experts can even create physical manifestations (consisting of energy and their knowledge of the sword arts) with their Sword Intent, and this can be used to attack their enemies.