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Magical Asian

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A wise Asian mentor to a typically Caucasian character.

The Magical Asian, like the Magical Negro or Magical Native American, exists to dispense lessons to Caucasian characters using the wisdom of his people. He (and it's almost always a he) will usually be a martial arts master, a practitioner of traditional Asian medicine, or a sage of some Eastern religion. If he is not explicitly supernatural, he will often 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 or chakra), and the sage will be enlightened with some kind of supernatural intuition. Expect at least one scene of them meditating, growing bonsai trees, or engaging in any other blatantly non-Western activity.

Their appearance almost always includes a beard, often long, as well as hairstyles and clothing typical of their respective culture, with bonus points added if the clothing is in fact some kind of ancient, traditional attire. They will often talk in You No Take Candle fashion, commonly with a heavy accent, and quote proverbs and Koans attributed to Confucius, Laozi, Buddha, or some other famous Asian sage.

Unlike the Magical Negro, the Magical Asian is not always nice to his Caucasian 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, with Mr. Miyagi's famous "Wax On, Wax Off" routine being one of the best-known examples. They also frequently have a habit of slapping their disciples with a hand, a stick, or a sandal, either to punish them for some misdemeanor or to lead them to enlightenment through an unexpected sensation. These tendencies are possibly related to Asian Rudeness.

He will often be referred to as sensei, sifu, master, or master sifu. Your training will be complete When You Snatch the Pebble from his hand. Asian and Nerdy is another intellectual-related trope about Asians being geeks, though both can overlap.

Contrast with the Yellow Peril, who shares many of these traits (Asian, old, knowledgeable, thick accent, droopy moustache, and antique dress sense) but is evil — and hence comes off as much more racially and culturally offensive (as opposed to the Magical Asian trope, which can seem clichéd and clueless but tends to at least be well-intentioned).

Often overlaps with Old Master. Also compare Magical Jew.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Inverted in My Hero Academia. All Might swears in English, has his named-moves named after American states, and is generally a caricature of an American. He serves as the mentor figure for the protagonist, even calling his training routine the "American Dream Plan". Despite this, it is shown that All Might is actually Japanese, having the name Yagi Toshinori.
  • Bongchim Na in The God of High School is Korean like the rest of the cast, but has the stereotypical Wizard Beard and a mastery of traditional Asian medicine that earned him the title of "Divine Doctor". He takes on Mori as an apprentice and teaches him how to use the body's pressure points to enhance his martial arts and heal injuries.

    Comic Books 
  • Doctor Strange: The Ancient One is the previous Sorceror Supreme and trained Doctor Strange in magic. The Ancient One's colleague Kaluu counts as well, Kaluu has taught Doctor Strange black magic and was at one point the resident black magic expert for Luke Cage's branch of Avengers.
  • Great Ten: Yao Fei the Accomplished Perfect Physician is a magical Chinese doctor. He gets transplanted on the Arrow TV show and becomes the archer mentor to Green Arrow, but still retains his healer roots by being the person who Oliver Queen learns medicinal herbs from.
  • Iron Fist: Yu Ti, as well as pretty much everyone else from K'un-Lun.
  • Iron Man: Ho Yinsen from Iron Man's origin, who exists only to be very wise and honorable and then die so Iron Man can get motivated to kick evil ass, is an Asian version of this. (He has since been retconned to Afghan rather than East Asian and was played by Shuan Toub in the 2008 film, but still kept the Asian name.)
  • Richard Dragon, Kung-Fu Fighter: O-Sensei teaches the pasty white redhead Richard Dragon and African-American (or Canadian) Ben Turner martial arts abilities that include chi-manipulation that allows for healing and extended life. He's also the godfather of Lady Shiva, and while she studied under him she didn't stay with him at his dojo for years perfecting his style like the two aforementioned more heroic of his students.
  • Ultimate X-Men (2001): Subverted. Nick Fury finds one at the Birla Temple, but it was just a facade to conceal an illegal genetics operation in a highly advanced lab inside the temple.
  • Wonder Woman: I-Ching, Wonder Woman's martial arts mentor from the period at the beginning of the Bronze Age where she lost her powers for four years' worth of stories, is a textbook example. He is an elderly blind martial arts master and expert in all things supernatural. In the latter capacity, he helped Superman when he faced off against the mystical Quarmerr entity (AKA the "Sand Superman"). More recently, he's been acting as a mentor to Kenan Kong, China's "New Super-Man."

    Films — Animation 
  • In Minions: The Rise of Gru, Master Chow is the only Asian character who exists to train the Minion trio in the ways of martial arts.
  • In Turning Red, Mr. Gao is an expert on the mystical events of the film, and is the leader of the ritual to remove the red panda spirits. Albeit he is among a cast of other Chinese-Canadians, most of whom are also magical.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • The Karate Kid:
    • Mr. Miyagi, though he's more well-developed than most other characters on this list as we see that he's neither perfect nor entirely unfazed by life, including a scene where we see him mourning his late wife and in future films such as The Karate Kid Part II we learn that he's made several mistakes throughout his life that hurt his loved ones, allowing us to see his more human side as opposed to remaining a completely above-normal human.
    • Mr. Han, played by Jackie Chan, in the 2010 remake.
  • 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 since while he's an Old Master, he is still a rather rotten bastard.
  • 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.
  • Dr. Yang in Alice by Woody Allen, who teach lessons about love and life, using magic, to Mia Farrow's character.
  • The Indian characters in Eat, Pray, Love, who teach spiritual lessons to Julia Roberts' character.
  • The nameless monk in Bulletproof 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.
  • "The Seven Faces of Dr. Lao": a fairly faithful adaptation of the book about the title character who sets up his carnival in a small town, taking on multiple personas and using other means to impart wisdom tailored specifically to many of its inhabitants.

  • The Destroyer series. Chiun is a Korean who is the Master of Sinanju, which is the sun source (original) martial art and the basis for all other martial arts. He teaches his knowledge to the protagonist, Remo Williams. The reason stated in the series for not simply employing Chiun to do the killing (instead of training Remo to do the killing) is to avoid invoking the related "Phantom Oriental" trope in passers-by.
  • Parodied in the Discworld series by Lu-Tze, the sweeper at the Temple of Oi-Dong, who is also a master of the martial art Déjà Fu (in which the hands move through both time and space). Also played straight, in that as a result of the Narrative Causality of the Disc, Lu-Tze does have power over the course of history.
    Rule One: "Do not act incautiously when confronting little bald wrinkly smiling men."
  • Teshoo Lama, the Tibetan priest who accompanies the eponymous character in Kim. He charms everyone around him with his wisdom and honesty, be they travellers in a train, Hindu priests, an old captain, an English museum caretaker, and even Kim himself. He's on a quest for the River of the Arrow of the Buddha, which is claimed that it can cleanse anybody from sin, and could detach him from the Wheel of Things. Kim was already marvelled on first meeting him because he couldn't tell his race or caste, having previously thought he knew them all in the world.
  • The title character of "The Seven Faces of Dr. Lao", who sets up his carnival in a small town, taking on multiple personas and using other means to impart wisdom tailored specifically to many of its inhabitants.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Kung Fu (1972):
  • Longstreet: Bruce Lee's character Li Tsung was a mentor to Mike 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.
  • Yao Fei on Arrow uses magical herbs capable of accelerating healing on several characters.
  • Subverted in Goodness Gracious Me, where the Indian guru teaching the secrets of Hinduism to a roomful of credulous white disciples is quite blatantly only in it for the money and is feeding them profound-sounding nonsense to justify the "living expenses" they are paying him. He is explicitly an Expy of The Beatles' guru Maharishi Yogi (see below under Music), right down to the name.

  • After The Beatles had their famous flirtation with Indian mysticism and were disciples of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, only George Harrison stayed the course and became one of the Hare Krishna sect (leading to a cycle of devotional songs such as "Within You, Without You" and "My Sweet Lord"). Meanwhile, John Lennon became violently disillusioned and wrote songs about Yogi being a total fraud ("Sexy Sadie" and "Come Together").

    Tabletop Games 
  • In Mutant Chronicles, the greatest spellcaster for the Brotherhood (outside of the Durand Brothers is a wise old Magical Asian renowned for kindness and tolerance (the Brotherhood is an Inquisition that often resorts to torture or immediate executions).

    Video Games 

    Web Comics 
  • 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.
  • Widdershins: The stereotype is Exploited by "the Mystical Chung Soo", an elderly Stage Magician who performs in total silence and plays up the exoticism of China to his 19th-century English audience. Off-stage, he's the 20-something Tim Chiang from Surrey.

    Web Original 
  • Cracked discusses this trope here, which it calls "The Wise, Old, Asian Asshole".

    Western Animation 
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender: The series takes place in a largely Asian-inspired world, but younger characters tend to have American accents while older, wiser mentor figures tend to have more stereotypically Asian accents, regardless of what nation they are from.
  • Codename: Kids Next Door: Played for Laughs in the episode "Operation: M.U.N.C.H.I.E.S." when the KND sends out thousands of probes to track down their favorite cereal, and when the one in the supermarket goes dark, the Japanese Genki Girl Numbuh 3 suddenly adopts the mannerisms of a mystic sage and says "No... it is there."
  • Jackie Chan Adventures: Uncle, 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.
  • Johnny Test: In one episode, Dukey leans into this when giving Johnny self-defense lessons (largely in a cliched/self-aware way).
  • Regular Show: Earl in the final season is an affectionate parody of this trope, as he's an elderly Asian martial arts master who teaches Pops to use his powers through in-universe Wax On, Wax Off-style training montages.