A wise Asian mentor to a usually white character.
The Magical Asian, like the Magical Negro
or Magical Native American
, exists to dispense lessons to white characters using the wisdom of his people. He will usually be a martial arts master
, a practitioner of traditional Asian medicine (which in fact is not
magical, but actually works
, and is taught in many Chinese universities alongside Western medicine), or a sage of some Eastern religion. If he is not explicitly supernatural, he will often (but not always) be so highly skilled in his art that it will appear superhuman
. Martial artists will be impossibly good fighters, the medicine-men will be able to easily diagnose and cure any illness (bonus points if he mentions chi), and the sage will be enlightened with some kind of supernatural intuition. Expect at least one scene of them meditating. They will often quote Ice Cream Koans
attributed to Buddha, Confucius, or some other famous Asian sage.
Unlike the Magical Negro
, the Magical Asian is not always nice to his white protégé. It is common for the Magical Asian to put his student through a number of demeaning and seemingly pointless tasks. However, it always turns out that there is a purpose to these tasks that helps get his lesson across. Mr. Miyagi's
famous "Wax On, Wax Off
" routine is one of the best known examples. This tendency is possibly related to Asian Rudeness
He will speak in proverbs and Koans
. He will often be referred to as sensei, sifu, or master. Your training will be complete When You Snatch the Pebble
from his hand.
Often overlaps with Old Master
- Master Po and Master Kan in Kung Fu. Their protege Caine is half Chinese and half White.
- Bruce Lee's character on Longstreet.
- An acupuncturists' teacher in The Invisible Man. He is able to intuit that the acupuncture needles he is using were stolen by his apprentice from a museum when they are ineffective.
- Lampshaded in an episode of Zeke and Luther, then played straight with the Asian mailman who appears in that episode and tries teaching one of the boys some sort of kung-fu technique.
- The Dragon, a Chinese magical healer from Once Upon a Time. Though he's implied to be an actual dragon, he mostly appears as an Asian human.
- Mr. Miyagi from The Karate Kid, though he's more well-developed than most other characters on this list.
- Jackie Chan and Jet Li's characters in The Forbidden Kingdom.
- Pai-Mei from Kill Bill. His treatment of students is less Wax On, Wax Off and more Training from Hell.
- Mr. Lee, played by Mako, in the Karate Kid ripoff Sidekicks. His own version of Wax On, Wax Off is throwing raw dumpling dough at his student and giving him a demeaning nickname. He is also somehow able to teleport a lit cigarette into the pocket of a racist who insulted him.
- The Indian characters in Eat, Pray, Love, who teach spiritual lessons to Julia Roberts' character.
- The nameless monk in Bullet Proof Monk.
- Pretty much every Chinese character in Big Trouble in Little China. For some reason, a restaurant owner, a maitre'd, and a Chinatown tour guide are all experts in Chinese martial arts and sorcery.
- He doesn't appear in Paradigm Shift in person, but Mike has made occasional references to his sifu, and his background was quite typical of this trope; he was a bit of a delinquent as a teenager, but studying martial arts under an Old Master taught him self-discipline and got him interested in Zen Buddhism. As of the most recent story arc before the comic went on hiatus, he's started paying it forward to his partner and definitely-not-love-interest-she-swears Kate.
- Cracked discusses this trope here, which it calls "The Wise, Old, Asian Asshole".
- In Avatar: The Last Airbender, younger characters tend to have American accents while older, wiser mentor figures tend to have Asian accents regardless of what nation they are from. Iroh is the most prominent example. He was originally also played by Mako.
- Uncle from Jackie Chan Adventures, voiced by Sab Shimono. A highly-skilled practitioner of qi magic, he could send spells through the phone, but didn't know how a fax machine worked.
- The Matrix: Path of Neo for a level has the old NPC Chinese herbalist who can sense auras/chi, who gives Neo a golden powder to make him permanently stronger.