The Grandmaster of Demonic Cultivation: Mo Dao Zu Shi manhua English volumes licensed by Seven Seas Entertainment

Lan WangJi and Wei WuXian, Mo Dao Zu Shi promotional art. Pic credit: MO DAO ZU SHI Fandom Site

Seven Seas Entertainment has announced the English license acquisition of the manhua (Chinese comics) series Grandmaster of Demonic Cultivation: Mo Dao Zu Shi by Mo Xiang Tong Xiu (MXTX) and Luo Di Cheng Qiu.

The manhua, often abbreviated MDZS, is a full-color adaptation of the namesake light novel.

The Grandmaster of Demonic Cultivation: Mo Dao Zu volume 1 will be released in December 2022 and is available for pre-ordering through Amazon (US and CAN), Book Depository (worldwide), and Right Stuf.

“Feared and hated for his sinister abilities, Wei Wuxian — the grandmaster of demonic cultivation — was driven to his death when the most powerful clans united to destroy him. Thirteen years later, Wei Wuxian is reborn. Summoned by a young man who sacrificed his soul in a forbidden ritual, Wei Wuxian is now bound to seek vengeance on the stranger’s behalf or risk the destruction of his own soul. But when an evil entity emerges, a familiar face from Wei Wuxian’s past suddenly appears amidst the chaos — a powerful cultivator who will help shine a light on the dark truths that surround them.”

Seven Seas Entertainment’s Mo Dao Zu Shi synopsis.

The Grandmaster of Demonic Cultivation: Mo Dao Zu Shi light novel

The Grandmaster of Demonic Cultivation (魔道祖师, Mo Dao Zu Shi) light novel is set in a xianxia world (see below) where cultivators apply various Taoist practices (notably, meditation) to achieve high spirituality. Cultivator Wei WuXian diverges from the conventional path, inventing “demonic” cultivation.

The light novel follows two parallel plots — WuXian’s past and present life, all the while unraveling the mysterious circumstances of the titular demonic cultivation.

Mo Dao Zu Shi focuses on the love story between Wei WuXian and his fellow cultivator Lan WangJi, whereby it is also danmei (BL).

Mo Dao Zu Shi is a phenomenon of sorts. It was originally serialized on the Chinese online platform Jinjiang Literature City (2015-2016). While still being serialized, it instantaneously attained a devoted fan community both in China and abroad, with fan translations being credited for making the light novel famous internationally — before a single licensed translation appeared.

Namely, multiple groups had shared free translations into several languages online, encouraging their distribution.  As foreign publishers acquired the licenses, these translations were willingly taken down.

The light novel has so far been officially translated into 10 different languages (English, Japanese, Russian, German, Portuguese, Hungarian, Vietnamese, Thai, Korean, and Burmese). The first two volumes of the ongoing official English translation are New York Times bestsellers.

MDZS has already inspired a three-season donghua (Chinese animation) series, a webcomic, an audiobook, an audio drama (Chinese and Japanese), and a live-action web series. A smartphone game has also been announced.

Mo Dao Zu Shi promotional art. Pic credit: MO DAO ZU SHI Fandom Site

The Master of Diabolism: Mo Dao Zu Shi webcomic

The Master of Diabolism: Mo Dao Zu Shi (official English title) webcomic is ongoing. It is distributed by Kuaikanmanhua, co-created by Kuangfeng Chui Kudang, and written by Luo Di Cheng Qiu (a.k.a. Mao Tuan Xiao Jian Jian). New chapters are being published weekly, presently every Wednesday.

The manhua won the silver award for the Most Popular Web Comic Adaptation at the 16th China Animation Golden Dragon Award and the Best Manhua Award at the Golden Rooster and Hundred Flowers Film Festival (both in 2019).

The first six volumes of The Master of Diabolism: Mo Dao Zu Shi original Chinese manhua. Pic credit: Ningbo Yingtong Plastic/Aliexpress

Mo Dao Zu Shi donghua series

Mo Dao Zu Shi (Demonic Path Ancestral Master, a.k.a. The Founder of Diabolism) donghua series has three seasons and a chibi series, all of which aired on Tencent Video, as follows:  

  • Qian Chen Pian: the first season that aired from July 9 to October 6, 2018 (15 episodes);
  • Xian Yun Pian: the second season that aired from August 3 to August 31, 2019 (8 episodes);
  • Mo Dao Zu Shi Q: a chibi series that aired from July 31, 2020, to January 29, 2021 (30 episodes);
  • Wán Jié Piān: the final season that aired from August 7 to October 16, 2021 (12 episodes).
The Mo Dao Zu Shi donghua 3rd anniversary promotional art. Pic credit: MO DAO ZU SHI Fandom Site

Mo Dao Zu Shi live-action web series: The Untamed

The Untamed is a 2019 Chinese web series inspired by the Mo Dao Zu Shi light novel. Starring Xiao Zhan as Wei WuXian and Wang Yibo as Lan WangJi, the series follows an alternative plot of the two cultivators. Scilicet, due to China’s censorship policies, the adaptation doesn’t depict an explicit romance between the two MCs.

The original series has 50 episodes; it aired on Tencent Video from June 27 to August 20, 2019. A 20-episode special (The Untamed: Special Edition) aired on WeTV starting December 25, 2019.

The original series is available on Netflix.

Note on terminology:

  • Manhua are Chinese-language comics (China and Taiwan), the equivalent of manga in Japan.
  • Donghua is a Chinese-language animation, the equivalent of anime in Japan.
  • Xianxia is a genre of Chinese fantasy influenced by Taoism, Zen Buddhism, Chinese mythology, and other Chinese traditional elements.  
  • Danmei is a genre of literature originating from China that depicts romantic relationships between male characters. It corresponds to Japanese shounen-ai as it doesn’t feature explicit scenes, due to Chinese censorship policies.
  • Self-cultivation (xiūshēn) is self-development through personal efforts rooted in Taoism. The goal is to reach the Xingming Shuangxiu — to train the health of the mind and body (spiritual nature and life-fate (vitality)). Cultivation practices include meditation, martial arts, exercises to optimize energy within the body, mind, and spirit (qigong), and living in harmony with seasons, among others. Self-cultivation is also vital part of Confucianism and other Chinese philosophies and is deeply embedded in all East-Asian ethical values.

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