Part of this paper was presented in the Berkeley Film Seminar, 2005. The author would like to thank the faculty and the graduate students whose insightful questions and comments have helped her clarify some of the issues here.
1. Data from Huang, Shixian (Senior professor in the Beijing Film Academy) in “Post- WTO Period and A Consideration of the Future of Chinese Cinema” Lecture in San Francisco State University, Spring, 2003. [return to page 1]
3. For example, Zhang Yimou was given a five year ban after To Live, (which was not enforced), Zhang Yuan was put under house arrest after East Palace West Palace, 1997 and could not attend the Cannes Film Festival which honored his film that year. Also read Stone, Alan A. “Zhang Yimou’s Long Road Home” in Boston Review. October/November, 2001.
4. The “audience” here refers to those who paid for their own tickets. For films of this category the government would give out free tickets to the general population, such as entire schools or factories to boost viewership.
5. See Toby Miller et al. Global Hollywood 2. BFI Publishing, 2005.
6. Data according to the United Nation Development Program (UNDP) Human Development Report (HDR), July, 1999.
7. There had been cultural exchange including screening of Hollywood films since the early 80s. But there were no large scale commercial launchings of any particular films.
8. In 1985 Huang Jianxin was already well recognized in the U.S. through his film Black Cannon Incident.
9. See John Trumpbour. Selling Hollwyood to the World. Cambridge University Press, 2002.
10. Huang Shixian (Senior professor in the Beijing Film Academy) in “Post-WTO Period and A Consideration of the Future of Chinese Cinema” lecture in San Francisco State University, Spring, 2003. (author’s paraphrase)
11. 3/10/05. Data from
12. Interview “Zhang Yimou: Chinese Do Not Always Have a Taste for Foreign Films.” (in Chinese) Sing Tao Daily (Los Angeles), April 9, 2002.
13. I am quite aware of the danger of essentializing Chineseness here. Chinese scholars, such as Rey Chow has commented on this issue in many of her writings, including the article “On Chinese as a Theoretical Problem” in Modern Chinese Literary and Cultural Studies in the Age of Theory: Re-imagining a Field. ed. Chow, Rey. Duke University Press, 2000)
14. “Headline News on New China Website Criticizing Zhang and Jiang” in
15. “Zhang Yimou’s Hero — The Temptations of Fascism.” Evans Chan. Film International no. 8 (March 2004).
16. Chris Doyle. “A Fantastic Fable” in American Cinematographer vol. 84, no. 9 (Sept. 2003) p.35.
17. A vivid and concise description by Richard Corliss in TIME Asia Magazine, Dec. 23, 2002. [return to page 2 ]
18. The closest examples that come to mind would be A Touch of Zen, 1972 and Raining in the Mountain, 1979 by King Hu. Yet, even though the former won a "Special Technical Award" for "Superior Technique" in the Cannes Film Festival, (thus becoming the first Chinese film to win an award in the West) its visual aesthetic is relatively simple in comparison.
19. Read Aaron Anderson. “Kinesthesia in Martial Arts Films” Jump Cut no. 42 (Dec. 1998) p. 1-22 and “Violent Dances in Martial Arts Films” Jump Cut no. 44 (Fall, 2001). Also read David Bordwell. Planet Hong Kong.
20. Lo, Kwai-Cheung. “Muscles and Subjectivity: A Short History of the Masculine Body in Hong Kong Popular Culture.” Camera Obscura 39 (1996). 105-25. Chris Berry. “Bruce Lee’s Body, or, Chinese Masculinity in a Transnational Frame.” presentation in Berkeley Film Seminar series, April 29, 2004.
21. This is a particularly interesting point given that the rest of the world has almost equated “Chinese” cinema with martial arts cinema. Obviously, this is due to the audience’s mixing up of the cinemas of Hong Kong, Taiwan, and mainland China. Traditional or Confucian Chinese, beginning as early as the Han dynasty (206 B.C.-220 A.D.), emphasize wen (skill in words/literature) and slight the practice of wu (skill to fight.) Thus, although martial arts have been a popular art in different periods of Chinese history they were never considered a high art. In fact, martial arts were strongly discouraged or even banned in some dynasties, such as the Ming and Ching. During those periods martial arts practitioners had to hide their practices. This tradition continued in a tacit way in mainland Chinese cinema since the communist took over. In this regard mainland Chinese cinema has been different from say, Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Japan, which do make connections between arts and martial arts.
22. Tom Gunning’s notion of “the cinema of attraction,” which denotes a cinema not interested in narrative, was later used in the study of the musical genre. The song and dance sequences in a musical can be seen as moments of “attraction” in which narrative is suspended. This notion is also used in Bordwell’s study of Kung Fu films in which he took the fight scenes as similar to the dance scenes. They are the moments of “attraction” in which narrative is suspended. But neither of these studies addresses the notion of narration at these moments.
23. For further understanding read The Unfettered Mind: Writings of the Zen Master to the Sword Master. By Takuan Soho (1573-1645), translated by William Scott Wilson. Tokyo, New York & San Francisco: Kodansha International Ltd. 1986. There is commonality between Japanese and traditional Chinese thinking in this aspect of Martial arts as discussed in page 79-82.
24. To translate “xia” as the knight-errant is only an approximation of the rich meaning of the term. “Xia” can refer to nobility or commoners. The term does not carry the implied relation to royalty as in the West.
25. See “Hero” by Zhang Jia-xuan in Film Quarterly Vol. 58, Issue 4, page 47-52. This critic, for example, faulted the assassins for not having a political plan for how the society should be ruled if they succeeded in their assassination. This is almost like faulting the John Wayne character for leaving the community, whose enemies he just shot dead, and riding into the sunset. Again, Chinese scholar Zhang, Xudong claimed that the film was popular in the U.S. because of its post 9/11 “anti- terrorist content.” See his article “Watching Hero in New York” (in Chinese) in Wenhua Bao. Jan. 17, 2003.
26. See David Nivison, “Protest Against Conventions and Conventions of Protest” in The Confucian Persuasion. By Arthur Wright. Stanford University Press, 1960.
27. This comparison was made in Evans Chan’s aforementioned article.
28. National Public Radio. All Things Considered, February 8, 2005. Melissa Block talks with John Beatty, who teaches a course on Shakespeare's Macbeth at Brooklyn College, about the Scottish king's image. Macbeth is portrayed in Shakespeare's play as bloodthirsty, but Beatty says in actuality he was a respected king.
29. Interview “Zhang Yimou: Chinese Do Not Always Have a Taste for Foreign Films.” (in Chinese) Sing Tao Daily (Los Angeles), April 9, 2002