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These assassins were known as cike (刺客; literally "stabbing guests").

The genre of the martial or military romance also developed during the Tang dynasty.

In the Ming dynasty, Luo Guanzhong and Shi Nai'an wrote Romance of the Three Kingdoms and Water Margin respectively, which are among the Four Great Classical Novels of Chinese literature.

Xiayi stories of chivalrous romance, which frequently featured female heroes and supernatural fighting abilities, also surfaced during the Qing dynasty.

Novels such as Shi Gong'an Qiwen (施公案奇聞) and Ernü Yingxiong Zhuan (兒女英雄傳) have been cited as the clearest nascent wuxia novels.

A code of chivalry usually requires wuxia heroes to right and redress wrongs, fight for righteousness, remove oppressors, and bring retribution for past misdeeds.

Chinese xia traditions can be compared to martial codes from other cultures such as the Japanese samurai's bushido tradition.

The most prolific writers there were collectively referred to as the Five Great Masters of the Northern School (北派五大家): Huanzhu Louzhu (還珠樓主), who wrote The Swordspeople from Shu Mountains (蜀山劍俠傳); Bai Yu, who wrote Twelve Coin Darts (十二錢鏢); Wang Dulu, who wrote The Crane-Iron Pentalogy (鹤鉄五部作); Zheng Zhengyin (郑証因), who wrote The King of Eagle Claws (鹰爪王); Zhu Zhenmu (朱貞木), who wrote The Seven-Killing Stele (七殺碑).

In spite of this, wuxia writing prevailed in other Chinese-speaking regions, such as Taiwan and Hong Kong.

The term "wuxia" as a genre label itself first appeared at the end of the Qing dynasty, a calque of the Japanese "bukyō", a genre of oft-militaristic and bushido-influenced adventure fiction.

The term was brought to China by writers and students who hoped that China would modernise its military and place emphasis on martial virtues, and it quickly became entrenched as the term used to refer to xiayi and other predecessors of wuxia proper.

Nonetheless, the wuxia genre remained enormously popular with the common people.