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Magical Asian

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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 (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 (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.



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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.

    Comic Books 
  • The Ancient One is the previous Sorceror Supreme and trained Marvel's Doctor Strange in magic. The Ancient One's colleague Kaluu counts as well, Kaluu has taught Doctor Strange black magic and is currently the resident black magic expert for the Luke Cage's branch of Avengers.
  • Yao Fei the Accomplished Perfect Physician from DC's Great Ten 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 learnt medicinal herbs from.
  • Mantis from Avengers and several other Marvel franchises who is half-Vietnamese and was raised in an oriental Temple of the Priests of Pama, becoming an adept of Eastern mysticism gifted with superpowers. She is a rare case when ethnic stereotypes do not spoil the character: she is seductive (to the point of working as a prostitute at a certain period of her life), she goes barefoot (bearing association with Asian martial arts), and almost always refers to herself in the third person (which is also a common practice in Eastern religions). Nonetheless, she is a very smart, independent and strong-willed character whose depiction is not in the least patronizing.
  • Yu Ti, as well as pretty much everyone else from K'un-Lun in Iron Fist.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Chirrut from Rogue One is pretty much this exactly if you just substitute the Force for the source of "wisdom".
  • The Karate Kid:
    • Mr. Miyagi, though he's more well-developed than most other characters on this list.
    • 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 Farrows' character.
  • 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.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Kung Fu:
    • Master Po and Master Kan. Their protege Caine is half-Chinese and half-White.
    • Caine himself to the people he meets when he's Walking the Earth of The Wild West.
    • In Kung Fu: The Legend Continues the Identical Grandson of Kwai Chang Caine, also called Kwai Chang Caine, took this role towards his long-lost son Peter and others, and The Ancient One was this to Kwai Chang.
  • 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.
  • Yao Fei on Arrow uses magical herbs capable of accelerating healing on several characters.

  • 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."

    Video Games 
  • 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.

    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.

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

    Western Animation 
  • 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.

    Real Life