The Wu-Tang Clan is one of the most influential hip-hop groups ever founded. For proof, look no further than the fact that their associated acts and affiliates number in the dozens. As such, it makes sense that there would be plenty of interest in the Wu-Tang Clan’s name as well as the Wu-Tang Clan’s logo. This is one group of musicians everyone knows.
How Did the Wu-Tang Clan Get Its Name?
As strange as it sounds, the Wu-Tang Clan’s name can be traced to Chinese martial arts. After all, Wu-Tang refers to the Wudang Mountains in China’s Hubei province, which have been famous for being a center of Daoism for centuries. In particular, they have a connection with Daoist martial arts, so much so that it is sometimes said that half of Chinese martial arts descend from Wudang while the other half of Chinese martial arts descend from Shaolin. This isn’t true. However, this is nonetheless useful as a statement of the Wudang Mountains’ status in Chinese culture.
Naturally, the Wudang Mountains show up a lot in fiction focused on Chinese martial arts. For instance, some people might be familiar with wuxia media, which envisions a martial arts-focused sub-society split up into numerous sects, schools, and other forces. In such stories, it is very common for the Wudang Mountains to be considered a pillar of the righteous elements, though whether a particular version can live up to that reputation is something that sees enormous variation from story to story. In any case, when movies started being made about Chinese martial arts, it made perfect sense for them to start mentioning the Wudang Mountains in various ways.
It isn’t exactly a mystery that the Wu-Tang Clan took inspiration for its name from a movie called Shaolin and Wu-Tang. For those who are curious, the movie features a plot to convince the Shaolin Monastery and the Wudang Mountains to destroy one another by playing upon their traditional rivalry, which falls to pieces when the villain lets his plan slip out. In fact, it is worth mentioning that the Wu-Tang Clan’s debut album Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers) has both a Shaolin side and a Wu-Tang side, which is on top of the fact that the debut album name was inspired by both Enter the Dragon and The 36th Chamber of Shaolin.
As for how this happened, it seems safe to say that RZA’s fondness for martial arts movies played a major role. He has stated that he became interested in martial arts by watching martial arts movies, with the result that he and his friends started trying out what out what they saw on the screen in real life. Something that eventually led to his martial arts training as well as his lifelong interest in martial arts as a whole.
Regardless, it isn’t hard to see why martial arts movies caught on with a lot of African-Americans in the latter part of the 20th century. In short, martial arts movies have a strong connection with the Chinese stock hero called the youxia, which translates to something along the lines of a wandering vigilante. The youxia was someone who used their power to right the wrongs inflicted upon the common people by the powerful. Sometimes, they used physical force. Other times, they used political influence. Something that was possible because youxia could come from any social background. Instead, what united them was their willingness to act in accordance with their personal sense of justice even when that went against the considerations of conventional society. As such, while a lot of martial arts movies can be summed up as revenge fantasies, there is something higher to many of them as well.
Considering the experiences of African-Americans, that kind of attitude was bound to resonate. For proof, look no further than the fact that the urban black population has played a huge role in the numbers of every single martial arts movie that has become successful in the United States in recent decades. On top of this, it is worth noting that martial artist movies apparently benefited from a more outwards-looking trend in the Black Power movement in certain periods, which emphasized solidarity with all people suffering from oppression.
How Did the Wu-Tang Clan Get Its Logo?
For those who are unfamiliar, the Wu-Tang Clan logo is a stylized W split into a top half and a bottom half. Between the two halves are the word Wu-Tang, which leave no doubt about what the W is a reference to. Some people might see the influence of graffiti in the stylized W. If so, they should feel proud because that was definitely a major source of inspiration.
The DJ/Producer Mathematics was the one who came up with the Wu-Tang Clan logo. As the story goes, RZA asked him to make a logo. However, RZA didn’t want the whole of Wu-Tang but rather just the W, though it is amusing to note that he also suggested pairing the W with a decapitated head. Thanks to this, the prototype of the Wu-Tang Clan logo was a very familiar-looking W with a hand coming out of it holding a decapitated head by the dreadlocks. Unsurprisingly, this prototype winded up being rejected because it was much too gory for what the group had in mind. Due to that, Mathematics eventually put out the iconic Wu-Tang Clan logo in a single day while working under some serious time pressure.
Nowadays, the Wu-Tang Clan logo has an enormous amount of brand power packed into it. As a result, some of its members have used personalized versions of it for their own purposes. For example, Method Man has used a version of the logo that has been turned upside down, thus turning it from a W to a M. Similarly, Gza has used a version of the logo that has been turned on its side, thus turning it from a W to a G. Having said that, the Wu-Tang Clan logo has remained very consistent over the course of its existence, which speaks volumes about its effectiveness for its intended purpose in spite of the small amount of time spent upon it.