The Let's Play Archive

Amazing Cultivation Simulator

by Nyaa

Part 232: Cultivation Novels & Tropes - by SaffronKit

Greeting dao brothers and sisters. Daoist SaffronKit here to share this one's insights and thoughts into the Dao of Cultivation Novels with those initiates mostly unfamiliar with the concept. As for those already familiar with this particular dao, pardon this little one for displaying my slight skill in front of an expert. Feel free to add any additional insights to the subject of these posts, as the dao is vast and impossible for one person to fully explore even one single path. This one has but walked this path for a short 3 years with a limited, singular view point and hope it can provide some insight into Cultivation novels.

Cultivation Novels, what are they?

Cultivation novels are a (large) sub-genre of xianxia. Xianxia is a genre influenced by Chinese mythology, Taoism, Buddhism, Chinese martial arts, Traditional Chinese Medicine, and other traditional Chinese elements. Xianxia became popular during the Republic of China era, but it was the 1932 novel Legend of the Sword Heros from Zu Mountain. Xianxia then became popularized in the 2000s in the west when fan translation sites picked up such novels as Stellar Transformations, Coiling Dragon, Martial God Asura, and I Shall Seal the Heavens. Eventually official translations of these novels were provided by sites like and But Daoist SaffronKit, that doesn't tell you anything about Cultivation novels? True, however a firm foundation is important when pursing the dao. This is but the most basic of foundations, but good enough for starters.

Back to the subject matter, cultivation novels typically happen within a fantasy world (typically) based on ancient china and involve a system in which mortals may cultivate a system or systems to improve their body, mind and spirit in the pursuit of the Dao. Typically cultivation in pursuit of the Dao provides benefits that are mundane as improving health, improved looks, a longer life to as fantastical as controlling the elements, communicating with other daoists across long distances with ones mind/spirit, flying through the air on swords/clouds/using spirit power, etc. Cultivation happens over long periods of time, typically starting at weeks/months scaling up to years, decades, centuries and even millennia! By nature the settings of cultivation novels lend themselves especially well to long running series of books which a good author can make excellent use of to entertain readers, while bad authors... well... it can get a bit boring and repetitive.

Cultivation novels have many tropes but as a whole the primary plot line that runs through any cultivation novel is pretty much the same. The MC of the novel is given a reason to cultivate, said MC follows the system of cultivation to its peak accruing (or not) riches, bitches and most importantly, all encompassing power to do whatever they please with. Seriously, it should really come as no surprise to anyone that most cultivation novels end with the MC as the figurative and/or literal god of the setting. But that's spoilers you say? Not at all, as the ancient Chinese proverb states "Life is about the journey, not the destination." So to is the cultivation novel, and a long journey it is.

What are some of the typical tropes of a cultivation novel?

The list goes on and on, but for the most part there are there are a few major tropes that encompass the majority of cultivation novel MCs and plots. The following are what I consider the major tropes:
A) The MC is a lowly mortal who, by some twist of fate, is swept on to the path of cultivation whether they like it or not. Coincidentally they're actually pretty good at this whole cultivation thing and through luck/fate reach the pinnacle of the Dao.
B) The MC reincarnated after dying in a futile/frustrating manner, usually after they had a troubled/difficult start to their previous life's cultivation but became a fairly powerful figure before being killed by others for reasons.
C) Revenge. Yes, that simple, usually because some asshole came around and murdered the shit out of their family/clan for fun and/or profit. Miraculously the MC manages to survive and of course cultivates to achieve his/her vengence.

There are of course more tropes, but frankly these are really the main three that you'll see in some variation. Frankly I could go on about this subject, but I think I'll leave it at that to let the thread absorb and digest. Hopefully my fellow dao brothers and sisters can attain some enlightenment from my bit of knowledge.