The movie Wonder Woman 1984 , released in December, is the latest adaptation of the story of the eponymous heroine with super powers. The character first appeared in a comic book, in October 1941, and has seen multiple transformations in characterisation and appearance since. China has its own fictitious woman of wonder in the character of Nie Yinniang. Written by Pei Xing in the 9th century, The Story of Nie Yinniang is short, at just over 1,700 characters in total, about a young woman with amazing powers that she acquired in her teens. And while she didn’t quite save the world, she did rid it of some evil. Nie was abducted from her home aged 10 by a Buddhist nun who trained her in the killing arts. In the beginning, she killed wild animals such as apes, tigers, leopards and eagles for practice. She then progressed to killing humans, often wicked officials or other villains. On one occasion, she was scolded by her teacher for taking too long to assassinate an official. Nie said the man had been playing with a child and in a moment of weakness, she could not bear to kill him there and then. Next time, kill the child first and then the adult, said the nun dispassionately. At the age of 15, Nie returned home after completing her training. The happiness her parents felt was soon replaced with unease when they learned what had happened to her in those five years. When she went out at night and returned home at daybreak, her father, a soldier, would not dare talk to her about it. After her father died, she was employed by his superior, the military commissioner of Weibo, as his personal assassin. It was the Yuanhe era (AD806-820) of the Tang dynasty, and the commissioner sent Nie to assassinate his rival, Liu Changyi, the military commissioner of Chenxu. After arriving at Chenxu, Nie became enamoured of Liu’s wisdom and switched allegiance to him. In Liu’s service, Nie helped foil further assassination attempts from Weibo. When Liu was transferred to the capital in 813, Nie decided not to follow him and became a wandering knight-errant. Nie would have been a common paid assassin had she not possessed certain skills. Mulan’s got company – six more female martial arts masters Apart from the useful ability to kill someone in broad daylight without getting detected and dispose of dead bodies by dissolving them with a special potion, she could scale high walls without effort and climb trees like a primate. She could even fly in the air. Her extraordinary repertoire also included the ability to turn herself into a mosquito and hide in another person’s digestive tract. Other improbable but entertaining set pieces in the story were assassins transforming themselves into flags, and live donkeys turning into paper effigies. Despite its brevity and minimal characterisation, The Story of Nie Yinniang has had a profound influence on wuxia novels, which are peopled by knights-errant skilled in the martial arts that they employ to perform heroic feats. The well-worn tropes of the genre – persons in religious orders who are also highly skilled in fighting, the student who trains under the eye of a strict master, the gravity-defying qinggong (“light kung fu”) that enables one to fly in the air – can all be found in this short story that was written in the 9th century.