MANDARIN FILM. By definition, Mandarin, or Guoyu (national language), is the official national-standard spoken language of China. However, the term “Mandarin film” refers specifically to films made after 1949 in Taiwan (Republic of China/ROC) and Hong Kong (by pro-Nationalist film companies) that used the Mandarin language. It, therefore, does not apply to any film made in China after 1949, under the rule of the People’s Republic of China (PRC), in which the official national-standard spoken language is Putonghua. Taiwanese-dialect, Cantonese-dialect, Xiamen-dialect, and Hakka-dialect films, or films made in any other local dialect, are not considered Mandarin films by the ROC government.

Supporting Mandarin films was a ROC government policy between the 1950s and 1980s. Even though there existed quite an active Taiwanese-dialect film industry in the 1950s and 1960s, the Nationalists suppressed it through censorship and other barriers, in order to foster a Mandarin film industry. All government subsidies, awards, incentives, and other special treatment to filmmaking and the film industry applied only to Mandarin films made in Taiwan and Hong Kong. Even the Golden Horse Awards was initially established to award Mandarin films. It was originally called the “Golden Horse Awards for Mandarin Film,” until 1983, when Taiwanese-dialect film became a thing of the past, and. therefore, did not threaten the government’s Mandarin film policy. In the Film Law promulgated in 1983, the term “Mandarin film” is replaced by “national film” (benguo dianying) and “domestically-produced film/domestic film.” “National film” referred to films produced in national languages (including Mandarin and other Chinese dialects) by ROC nationals outside the country, with the principal actors being ROC nationals. “Domestically-produced film” referred to films made in national languages by companies established by ROC nationals, and written, directed, as well as main characters performed by ROC nationals. However, the press and film critics commonly called both “national film” made in Hong Kong, and “domestic film” (made in Taiwan), guopian, i.e., national film.

The production of Mandarin films took off in the mid-1960s, as a result of the Kuomintang (KMT) government’s policies to encourage the making of them. In 1962, there were only one Mandarin film from government-affiliated studios, and four Mandarin films from privatelyowned film companies. By the end of the 1960s, there were five from government-affiliated studios and 76 from private companies. The Nationalist-owned Central Motion Picture Corporation (CMPC) became a leader in the Taiwan film industry, under Kung Hong’s leadership. During Kung’s tenure between 1963 and 1972, nearly 40 Mandarin films were made. By comparison, from the CMPC’s inception in 1954 until 1963, before Kung was appointed general manager, only 24 such films were made, including two films coproduced with Japan studios that were actually made by the Japanese. Most of these films won awards in Taiwan and some at international film festivals as well. Most importantly, the majority of these films were successful commercially in Taiwan, as well as in Hong Kong and Southeast Asia.

The Golden Days of Mandarin film in the 1960s was also attributed to Li Han- hsiang, who moved the operations of his Grand Motion Picture Company to Taiwan in 1963. Li brought talent with him as well as the technology of studio filmmaking. He also gave young directors opportunities to make films. Even though Grand Motion Picture Company produced only somewhat over 20 films in its existence between 1963 and 1970, most of them were of high quality, thus elevating the level of Mandarin films made in Taiwan, and rivaling those made in Hong Kong for the domestic and overseas markets in Hong Kong and Southeast Asia.

Union Film Company (Lianbang) started producing Mandarin film in the late 1960s with King Hu’s Dragon Gate Inn/Dragon Inn/Longmen kezhan (1967), which was a great success, creating a fervor to produce wuxia pian martial arts films in the late 1960s and early 1970s. After Bruce Lee’s Fists of Fury/The Big Boss/Tangshan da xiong (Lo Wei, 1971) and The Chinese Connection/Jing wu men (Lo Wei, 1972) triumphed at the box office, Mandarin-speaking Kung fu films replaced wuxia in popularity not only in Taiwan and Hong Kong, but internationally. Chang Cheh’s kung fu fistfighting films and Lau Kar-Leong’s Shaolin martial arts Mandarin-speaking films, made in Hong Kong and Taiwan, also contributed to the prevalence of Mandarin films in Asia and other parts of the world.

Another genre that contributed to the dominance of Mandarin films in the Chinese market (Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Southeast Asia) in the 1960s and 1970s was wenyi pian, especially Chiungyao films. These melodramatic romantic films were adapted from the best-selling (in the Chinese market) novels of Chiung Yao and other contemporary female writers.

Mandarin film was heading toward a dead end when the Hong Kong New Wave began. It prompted the emergence of a new Cantonese film catering to the interests and needs of local audiences. A similar phenomenon appeared in Taiwan after films of Taiwan New Cinema started using the Taiwanese-dialect, other Chinese dialects, and even foreign languages in their films. The abolishing of the term “Mandarin film” in the 1983 Film Law was directly related to an incident at the 1982 Golden Horse Awards, in which Cantonese-speaking films directed by Hong Kong New Wave directors that won awards were accused of violating Taiwan government regulations for awarding only “Mandarin” films. To avoid facing further awkwardness, after 1983 the Film Law stipulated that the Golden Horse is no longer restricted to Mandarin-speaking films.






MIAO, TIEN (Miao Tian, Miao Yanlin) (1925-2005). A renowned character actor in Taiwan and Hong Kong cinema between the 1960s and 1990s, Miao Tien (real name Miao Yanlin) was born on 6 December 1925 in Tongshan County, Jiangsu Province, China. After graduating from Xuzhou Teachers College in China, Miao became an elementary school teacher. In 1942, in response to the Nationalist government’s call for young men to join the army to fight the Japanese invaders, Miao Tien joined the political army in the 202nd Division of the Youth Corps, where Miao had his first experience in theater. Miao moved with the Youth Corps to Taiwan in 1948.

In 1949, China Film Studio (CFS) moved from China to Taiwan after the Nationalist army lost in the civil war against the Chinese Communists. In 1951 the CFS finally settled at Beitou, a Taipei suburb, and built a soundstage in 1954. Miao Tien joined the CFS’s stock of actors in 1955, working mostly in military educational films. He then transferred to the Nationalist-owned Central Motion Picture Corporation (CMPC) as a contract actor. His first feature appearance was in Traveling Miles/Chang feng wan li (Wang Fang-shu, 1957). Miao’s performances were not recognized during his tenure at CMPC, however. Tiao Chan/The Bait of Beauty/Diaochan yu lubu (Li Chia and Hu Jiachen, 1967) was his last appearance at the CMPC before moving to the privately-owned Union Film Company (Lianbang).

Miao Tien was cast by King Hu for his Dragon Gate Inn/Dragon Inn/Longmen kezhan (1967) and A Touch of Zen/Xia nu (1971). He also appeared in most of Lianbang’s other martial arts wuxia pian and kung fu films, including The Swordsman of All Swordsmen/Yidai jian wang (Kuo Nan-Hong, 1968), Iron Petticoat/Tie niangzi (Sung Tsun-Shou, 1969), The Grant Passion/Lie huo (Yang Shih-ching, 1970), Rider of Revenge/Wan li xiong feng (Hsiung Ting-wu, 1971), The Ghost Hill/Shi wan jinshan (Ting Shan-hsi, 1971), She’d Hate Rather Than Love/Ci manwang (Hua Hui-ying, 1971), The Brave and the Evil/Hei bai dao (Jimmy Wang Yu, 1971), and A Girl Fighter/Nu quanshi (Yang Shih-ching, 1972). He also served as assistant director for Iron Petticoat, A Touch of Zen, and The Grant Passion.

During the golden age of martial arts wuxia pian and kung fu films in the 1970s, Miao Tien was active in Taiwan and Hong Kong, making more than 100 such films. He was briefly recruited by Shaw Brothers in Hong Kong for the role of Li Lianying, the eunuch who served the Empress Dowager, in Li Han-hsiang’s two historical epic dramas about the Qing imperial court, The Empress Dowager/Qing guo qing cheng (1975) and The Last Tempest/Ying tai qi xie (1976). It was the peak of Miao Tien’s acting career.

In the late 1970s, he turned his attention to television drama, first becoming a contract actor at Chinese Television System (CTS), and later at Taiwan Television Enterprise (TTV). Miao also performed in King Hu’s stage play, Dream of the Butterfly, in 1986. He retired from acting in 1987.

Miao Tien returned to acting at the invitation of young director Tsai Ming- liang in the early 1990s, appearing in Tsai’s single-episode television drama, Xiuyue’s dowry/Xiuyue de jiazhuang (1991), and then in most of Tsai’s feature films, playing actor Lee Kang-sheng’s father and Lu Yi-Ching’s husband in Rebels of the Neon God/Qinshaonian nuozha (1993), The River/Heliu (1997), The Hole/Dong (1998), and What Time Is It There?/Ni nabian jidian (2001). He also appeared in Lee Kang-sheng’s directorial debut film, The Missing/Bujian (2003). Miao Tien won “Best Actor” at the 1997 Singapore International Film Festival, and was nominated for “Best Actor” at the 1997 Golden Horse Awards for his performance in The River, a highlight in his acting career.

In Miao’s last film, Tsai Ming-liang’s Goodbye, Dragon Inn/Bu san (2003), he meets Shi Chun, his counterpart in Dragon Gate Inn, at a cinema showing Dragon Gate Inn, the final film the movie theater screens before it closes forever. It was quite a prognostication on the part of Tsai, as Miao Tien died of lymphoma on 19 February 2005.


MING, CHI (Ming Ji) (1923- ). The former general manger of the Nationalist-owned Central Motion Picture Corporation (CMPC) Ming Chi was renowned for his “newcomer policy,” which led to the inception of the Taiwan New Cinema movement in the early- to mid-1980s.

Ming Chi was born in 1923 to a family from Zhuqi, Hubei Province in China. He joined the army to fight the Japanese invaders when he was 17. After moving to Taiwan, following the Nationalist government in 1949, he graduated from the Political Warfare Cadres Academy, becoming a military officer in charge of political propaganda and military education.

In 1973, Ming was assigned to be assistant general manager and head of the CMPC studio, beginning his film career. In the six years of his tenure as head of the studio, Ming built outdoor movie sets and also turned it into a theme park. He started several training classes for film technicians and actors. Many important film artists, such as Liao Ching-Song and Tu Duu-Chih, were graduates of such classes.

Ming Chi was appointed general manager of the CMPC after Mei Chang-Ling left the post in 1978. In his early days as its head, Ming continued Mei’s production of national policy films, including the anti-communist films, The Coldest Winter in Peking/Huangtian houtu (Pai Ching-jui, 1980) and Portrait of a Fanatic/Unrequited Love/Ku lian (Wang Tung, 1982), as well as features such as Gone with Honor/Xiang huo (Hsu Chin-liang, 1978), The Pioneers/Yuan (Chen Yao-chi, 1979), and A Man of Immortality/Dahu yinglie (Chang Pei-cheng, 1980), which advocated a blood-relationship between Taiwan and the Mainland, countering Taiwan independence ideology that claimed Taiwan had no connection to the People’s Republic of China. Many of these propaganda films failed miserably at the box office, forcing the Kuomintang Party (KMT) to issue an order demanding the CMPC stop making all films.

For the survival of the CMPC, Ming decided to hire young talent, such as writers Wu Nien-Jen and Hsiao Yeh, to help him implement a “newcomer policy,” giving young novices their first chance to make feature films. The success of the first three films that resulted from the policy – In Our Time/Guangyin de gushi (1982) , directed by Edward Yang, Ko I-Cheng, Chang Yi, and Tao Dechen; Growing Up/Xiao bi de gushi (1983), directed by Chen Kun-Hou and written by his partner Hou Hsiao-hsien (and Chu Tien-wen); and The Sandwich Man/Erzih de da wan’ou (1983), directed by Hou Hsiao-hsien, Wan Jen, and Tseng Chuang-hsiang/Zeng Zhuangxiang – created the Taiwan New Cinema movement.  

After The Sandwich Man completed production, the Nationalist government received an anonymous letter accusing the film of smearing Taiwan, and damaging the relationship between the Nationalist government and the United States. In the third part of the film, based on the satirical short stories of nativist novelist Huang Chun-ming, children of a poor family were happy that their father was injured by a limousine of a U.S. military officer in an accident, because they were given apples, luxurious gifts they never had a chance to eat before. Taiwan, controlled by the KMT under Martial Law, was conservative, especially when it involved the sensitive Taiwan-United States relationship. The KMT, owner of the CMPC, held a screening for its senior members. Fortunately, under the pressure of public opinion, most of the KMT leaders did not insist on banning or heavily recutting the film. The “happy” ending, with the so-called “peeling of the apple” incident, had an “unhappy” ripple effect – Ming Chi was soon removed from his post as the CMPC’s general manager. He was appointed president of Three One Production Company, a satellite of the CMPC.

In total, Ming Chi served for 17 years at the CMPC – five years as assistant general manager and head of the studio (1973-1977), six years as general manager (1978-1983), and six years as president of Three One Production (1983-1988). He made 29 feature films and nearly 60 documentary films. Because of the significant Taiwan New Cinema films he produced, Ming became the second most important general manager of the CMPC after Kung Hong, who advocated “healthy realism.”

After retirement in 1988, Ming became chair of the Department and Graduate School of Russian Language and Literature at Taipei’s Chinese Culture University, between 1988 and 1998. He received “Life Achievement” awards at both the 2009 Golden Horse Awards, and 2009 Taipei Film Festival’s Taipei Film Awards.


MOTION PICTURE & GENERAL INVESTMENT CO. LTD. (MP&GI), Cathay Organization (Hong Kong) (1956-1971). One of the two major film production companies of Mandarin films in Hong Kong in the 1950s and 1960s (and rival of Shaw Brothers), Motion Picture & General Investment Co. Ltd. (MP&GI) was established in 1956, after merging its predecessor, International (Guo Ji) Films with Hong Kong’s Yung Hwa Studio, which International Films’ parent company, Cathay Organisation, acquired in 1955. International Films was a distribution company established 1951 in Singapore by Malayan tycoon Loke Wan Tho to supply films to Cathay’s theaters in Southeast Asia. International Films established a Hong Kong branch in 1953, which was managed by Albert Odell, a British citizen who spoke fluent Mandarin and Cantonese.

In 1957, Odell was succeeded by Robert Chung Kai-Man/Zhong Qiwen, who hired writers Yao Ke/Yao Hsin-nung, Sun Jin-san, Eileen Chang, and Stephen C. Soong as script supervisors. Soong was soon promoted to production manager. Writers and directors such as Griffin Yue Feng, Evan Yang/Yi Wen, and Doe Ching/Tao Qin were also recruited. Under the management of Chung and Soong, with many first-rate directors and actors, as well as a Hollywood-style studio production system and star system, MP&GI entered its prime. Soon, MP&GI productions outdid its more conservative competitor, Shaw & Sons, at the box office. In the first seven years, MP&GI regularly turned out family melodrama, romance, comedy, and musical influenced by Hollywood.

During this period, MP&GI hired talent from Taiwan, including actors Muk Hung/Mu Hong (Our Sister Hedy/Si qianjin, 1957, directed by Doe Ching), Diana Chang Chung-Wen/Zhang Zhongwen (Calendar Girl/Long xiang feng wu, 1959, directed by Doe Ching), and Maria Ye Kwong/Yi Guang (Mad About Music/Ying ge yan wu, 1963, directed by Yi Wen). Scriptwriters such as Cheung Wan/Jiang Yun and Wong Lau-Chiu/Wang Liuzhao, originally on the staff of Nationalist- owned Central Motion Picture Corporation (CMPC), were also hired. Wang Liuzhao wrote and codirected Four Brave Ones/Diehai si zhungshi (Tang Huang and Wang Liuzhao, 1963), a spy-war film, for MP&GI in Taiwan, which won “Best Screenplay” at the 1965 Golden Horse Awards.

In the early 1960s, Lok Wan Tho, concurrently general manager of MP&GI and its parent organization, Cathay Organisation, decided to expand film production into Taiwan, to enlarge the market share in Taiwan. He first helped Shaw Brothers’ ace director Li Han-hsiang start his production company, Grand Motion Picture Company, in Taiwan. In 1963, Lok signed an agreement with Taiwan Film Studio to coproduce thre feature films annually, and the TFS agreed to let its star Chang Mei-Yao appear in three MP&GI productions – Four Brave Ones (1963), The Imperial Lady/Xitaihou yu zhenfei (Yi Wen, 1964), both costume epics, and The Crisis/Land of the Brave/Sheng si guantou (Yi Wen, 1964), a war film.

While participating at the Film Festival in Asia (later renamed Asia Film Festival, and most recently, Asia-Pacific Film Festival), Lok Wan Tho died in a tragic airplane crash in June 1964, while searching for a location to build a new film studio in Taiwan. Most of Lok Wan Tho’s projects to expand MP&GI’s production of Mandarin films were suspended by his successor Choo Kok Leong, Lok’s brother-in-law. Subsequent reshuffles in MP&GI and Cathay Organisation administrations weakened the production capability of MP&GI, causing it to gradually lose its competitive edge to Shaw Brothers.

In October 1964, MP&GI formulated a new plan to help independent production companies in Hong Kong and Taiwan produce wenyi pian melodramas. By June 1965, MP&GI was reorganized as the Cathay Organization (Hong Kong), and put under the direct management of Choo Kok Leong. However, the production policies of MP&GI remained unchanged. It continued making melodrama and comedy, but could not respond to changes in the social conditions and general atmosphere of Hong Kong. This was in sharp contrast to Shaw Brothers, who produced new style martial arts wuxia pian that were extremely successful at the box office.

   Cathay Organization (Hong Kong) continued its close relationship with Taiwan. In 1969, it recruited Taiwan director Chang Tseng-chai to write and direct a wenyi pian in Taiwan, Blues in the Dream/Lanse de meng (1969), as well as From the Highway/Luke yu daoke (1970), a martial arts wuxia pian, a genre rarely made by Cathay. From the Highway was very successful commercially and critically in Taiwan and Hong Kong. It was awarded “Excellent Film,” “Best Director,” and “Best Film Music” at the 1970 Golden Horse.

Despite this success, Cathay Organization (Hong Kong) closed its production department in 1971. Its Yung Hwa Studio facilities and equipment were sold to Raymond Chow Man-Wai/Zou Wenhuai, who founded Golden Harvest with Leonard Ho Koon-Cheung/He Guanchang, both former chief executives at Shaw Brothers. Cathay Organisation became the distributor of Golden Harvest films in Singapore and Malaysia.


MOTION PICTURE DEVELOPMENT FOUNDATION (1975- ). The Motion Picture Development Foundation was established by the Government Information Office (GIO) and the Taipei Film Business Association to help the film industry and promote film education to the general public.

The source of its funding came from funds received in the “foreign film quota” system, including a NT$100,000 (US$2,600) surcharge on each imported foreign film, and income from auctioning annual quotas for importing Japanese films. It was estimated that the accumulated amount was more than US$3 million. Over the years, disputes about the management and utilization of the money repeatedly erupted, causing problems among distributors, and between distributors and the government. Establishing the Foundation to manage and utilize the funds was an acceptable solution to all parties involved.

Originally, the Foundation was headed by the minister of the GIO, and the director of the Department of Motion Picture Affairs was the Foundation’s managing director. Its board of directors included representatives from the GIO, Taipei Film Business Association, Movie Theater Association, and Associations of Producers, Directors, and Actors, etc.

However, before the Foundation found an office, personnel from the GIO’s Department of Motion Picture Affairs were already in charge of its administration. Even after its independent office was built, the budget for the Foundation’s daily operation still had to be allocated by the GIO, and decision-making, including the employment of personnel, also came through the GIO. Thus, this so-called “non- governmental organization” was actually controlled and operated by the Department of Motion Picture Affairs of the GIO. Major decisions, such as the founding of the Film Library (later renamed Chinese Taipei Film Archive) as well as the establishment and operation of the Golden Harvest Awards through the Foundation, were totally made by the GIO. In 1989, the Motion Picture Development Foundation was also briefly in charge of the Domestic Film Guidance Fund, but it was taken over by the GIO the following year.

In 1990, displeased at the newly imposed GIO policy to collect a NT$1 dollar surcharge on each movie theater ticket sold (the collection of which was soon delegated to the Development Foundation), in addition to long-term grievances about the GIO’s control of the Foundation (most of its resources was actually money previously charged against film distributors and exhibitors), the Taipei Film Business Association asked the GIO to withdraw from the Foundation’s board of directors. It hoped to transform the Foundation into a genuine “private” organization. Private film distributors and exhibitors also asked the GIO, not the Foundation, to financially support the Film Archive.

GIO finally agreed to the requests. It not only withdrew most of its staff from the board of directors, but also began preparing for the establishment of a national film archive, separate from the Motion Picture Development Foundation. The National Film Archive finally became an independent organization, financially supported by the GIO, in July 1991. With the departure of the Film Archive, the Development Foundation was also relieved from the responsibility to hold the Golden Harvest Awards.

After June 2001, the NT$1 surcharge on each ticket sold was eliminated by the Foundation, resulting in its lack of a steady income. The Foundation can only rely on interest from its Funds, and rental fees the Chinese Taipei Film Archive regularly pays, to maintain its operation. The only function of the Development Foundation now is organizing the annual Golden Horse Awards and Golden Horse International Film Festival, which are actually operated by the Taipei Golden Horse Film Festival Executive Committee, an independent organization placed under the Motion Picture Development Foundation in 1990, by arrangement with the GIO.






NATIONAL POLICY FILM. The term “national policy film” (kokusaku eiga) is commonly used in referring to a body of Japanese films produced between 1937, after the Second Sino-Japanese War broke out, and 1945, when Japan surrendered unconditionally to the Allies. The number of such films increased sharply immediately after implementation of the Film Law in 1939 and the beginning of the Pacific War in 1941.

“National policy film” was defined as “films produced under the supervision of the state for the diffusion of national policies – policies for the accomplishment of the state’s objectives or the measures for the governing of a country.” Although some national policy films were made by the state, or supervised under agencies of the government, some films were privately produced by film studios. Under the 1939 Film Law, it was hoped that films would help raise the idea of a national polity, establish morality in the population, correct misunderstandings about Japan’s domestic and international situation, and publicize administrative measures regarding the military, industry, education, hygiene, disaster prevention, and other services that could enhance public interests.

Films had been already used by the colonial government as a tool to serve some of these functions, ever since its early rule. The motion picture unit of the Taiwan Education Society (TES), established in 1914, started making films in 1917 promoting good hygiene and prevention of epidemic diseases, as well as teaching school children “to respect the Imperial Family, and increase their understanding of the national polity. Even though these TES-produced films are not by definition national policy films, nevertheless, they are propaganda films, made with the purpose of enhancing colonial rule, and following the colonial government’s assimilation (dōka) policy to turn Taiwanese into subjects of the Japanese Empire.

In 1934, following the League of Nations’ condemnation of the invasion of Manchuria by Japan, the direction of filmmaking and attitudes toward film in Taiwan were strongly affected. Isolation from the world made the Japanese government and military more eager to use film for propaganda, such as the issuance of “the proclamation of a national state of emergency, and the need for absolute national unity.” Since then, films made by the TES showed a tendency to promote patriotism, militarism, and Japanization in Taiwan. For example, Taiwan in the Current Situation/Jikyoku ka no taiwan, produced by the TES in 1937-38, was a documentary film depicting the conditions in Taiwan following the China Incident. The film showed scenes of the activities of Japanese soldiers, Taiwanese army porters, and those remaining at the home front, who expressed their patriotism and loyalty to the state. It was a pure propaganda film, and qualified as a national policy film. In fact, after the China Incident, film screenings in the name of social education on the island was totally committed to screening newsreels of current affairs to lift national consciousness about the war efforts, and to provide better understanding about the war in Mainland China.

After 1937, the Government-General Office implemented a policy of militant Japanization, or Imperialization (kōminka). In the words of Governor-General Kawamura Takeji, the Taiwanese were to become imperial subjects “who dress, eat, and live as Japanese do, speak the Japanese tongue as their own, and guard our national spirit in the same way as Japanese born in Japan.” As politicians and the military turned their goals to south China and Southeast Asia, after Manchuria and north China fell into the hands of Japan, Taiwan was considered a launching pad for Japan’s southward advancement. Thus, the colonial government made a bigger budget “national policy film,” Clan of the Sea/Umi no gōzoku (Arai Ryōhei, 1942), coproduced with Nikkatsu’s Kyoto studio. The film depicts the victory of Taiwan Plains Aborigines in their war against Dutch “invaders” in the 17th century, with help from Japanese samurai. The historical epic was aimed at advocating the concept of a so-called “East Asia co-prosperity sphere,” as part of the Imperial government’s “southward advance” policy.

Sayon’s Bell/Sayon no kane (Shimizu Hiroshi, 1943), another “national policy film,” was a coproduction of the Government-General Office, Manchurian Film Association (Man’ei), and Shochiku Company. It was based on a true story about a young Aborigine girl who died crossing rapids on a stormy night, carrying her school teacher-policeman’s luggage, to help send him to fight on the battlefield. The film was part of a campaign promoted by the colonial government to commemorate and celebrate her “patriotic” deed, meant to rouse the aspirations of Taiwanese and Aborigines to join a “volunteer army” and fight for the emperor.

After the end of World War II, Taiwan was taken over by the Republic of China, represented by Chiang Kai-shek’s Kuomintang (KMT) government, which fled there in 1949 after losing the Mainland in the Civil War with the Communist Party of China (CPC). The KMT government controlled three studios – Taiwan Film Studio (TFS), China Film Studio (CFS), and Agricultural Education Film Studio (AEFS, later restructured to become the Central Motion Picture Corporation or CMPC) – making films to propagate the national policy more effectively than the colonial government that preceded it. Failure of the KMT’s originally intention to merge the three government-affiliated studios into one large studio led to a division in the missions of the three studios. The military-controlled CFS was to produce newsreels, documentaries, and educational films for and about the military; TFS, owned by the Taiwan Provincial Government, was asked to make social education films, newsreels, and documentaries; AEFS, owned by Farmers Bank of China, but controlled by the KMT, was assigned to make anti-communist narrative features.

The Nationalists believed that the main reason it lost in the Civil War was because the Chinese Communists controlled the media, especially film. Therefore, after the Nationalists settled in Taiwan, Chiang Kai-shek assigned his son Chiang Ching-kuo president of the AEFS, to produce anti-communist propagandistic narrative films. Awakening from a Nightmare/Emeng chuxing (Tsung You/Zong You, 1950), coproduced by the AEFS and CFS by order of Chiang Ching-kuo, was the first new “national policy film” made in Taiwan after World War II. Awakening from a Nightmare showed the calamities in China after the CPC rule began. Never to Part/Yong bu fenli (Hsu Hsin-fu, 1951) “exposes” the conspiracy of underground CPC spies in Taiwan to launch strikes and instigate conflicts between native Taiwanese and “Mainlanders,” the refugees who came from China after 1949.

Several such films were made to function in concert with the implementation of the Statutes for the Punishment of Rebellion, promulgated in 1949. Many national policy films, made during this period by the AEFS, and its succeeding company the CMPC, as well as with the TFS and CFS, were about communist spies in Taiwan. This was to assist the KMT campaign about reporting people suspected of working for the CPC. The number of such films was never large, however. It was estimated that out of 53 Mandarin films made in the 1950s, only six were anti-communist national policy film. The problem with anti-communist films was their lack of marketability. At the time, Taiwan only accounted for one-third of the Mandarin film market, with the other two-thirds in Hong Kong and Southeast Asia, both of which banned anti-communist films. Filmmakers of such films also needed to figure out how to circumvent censorship, as no symbol, flag, attire, or human portrait of leaders of the Communists, neither Chinese nor Russian, were allowed to appear.

By the 1960s, the CMPC’s mission was switched from anti-communism to showing the progress of Taiwan society after the KMT’s land reform, a new policy it was proud of. To achieve this goal, the CMPC’s new general manager, Kung Hong, invented the healthy realism film genre, to show humanity “realistically,” yet without exposing the dark side of society. The Oyster Girl/Ke nu (Li Chia and Lee Hsing, 1963) and The Beautiful Duckling/Yangya renjia (Lee Hsing, 1964) are the two pioneer films successful both commercially and artistically in Taiwan and Southeast Asia.

In 1964, after China tested its first atomic bomb, President/Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek started a “Never Forget the Time at Ju/Wu wang zai ju” campaign, at first in the military, and later expanded throughout Taiwan. The campaign was meant to demonstrate that Chiang’s determination to recover the Mainland remained unchanged. To be in line with this national policy, the CMPC produced Fire Bulls/Huan wo he shan (Lee Hsing, Li Chia, and Pai Ching-jui, 1966), a historical costume epic depicting the story that the Generalissimo was referring to. A similar historical costume epic had been made only a year earlier by Taiwan Film Studio and Li Han-hsiang’s Grand Motion Picture Company, entitled Hsi Shih: Beauty of Beauties (Li Han-hsiang, 1965), which glorified the determination of King Gou Jian of Yue to recover his former country, although it took him 10 years to achieve the goal. The Generalissimo was known to allude to himself as being “King Gou Jian of 20th century China.”

The 1970s was a perilous decade for the Republic of China (ROC) on Taiwan. The ROC was expelled from the United Nation in 1971. Subsequently, major countries, such as the Great Britain and Japan, severed their official ties with the Nationalists recognizing the People’s Republic of China (PRC) instead. This culminated in 1978 with the United States pulling out its embassy and military from Taiwan. Chiang Kai-shek died in 1975, succeeded by his son Chiang Ching-kuo, who was elected president in 1978 and inherited his political power. The political opposition movement grew stronger during the 1970s, resulting in a violent riot, the “Chungli/Zhongli Incident” in 1977, and the mass arrest of opposition leaders after the “Formosa Incident” in 1979.

To cope with the turbulent diplomatic and political situation, the Nationalist government led several campaigns to promote patriotism, nationalism, self- reliance, and to strengthen its stand against Taiwan independence. The government-affiliated studios (CMPC, CFS, and TFS) produced around 10 films depicting the Second Sino-Japanese War, among them, two emphasizing the blood relationship between Taiwan and China (in order to dispel Taiwan independence rhetoric that the Taiwanese people were not Chinese), and two advocating patriotism and appealing for national unity after the U.S. withdrew its recognition of Taiwan.

Anti-communist films were occasionally made in the 1970s by the CMPC and CFS, most notably, Sergeant Hsiung/Da Motianling (Li Chia, 1974), about a Nationalist army victory in battle with Chinese Communists in Northeast China (former Manchuria). In the 1980s, because of Taiwan’s continued isolation in the international arena, and the terrible stories about the 1960s and 1970s Cultural Revolution that were starting to be known outside China, the CMPC and CFS made half a dozen films about Mainland China. Some recreated 1950s battles between the two sides of the Taiwan Strait, while others showed conditions in China under the PRC rule, such as The Coldest Winter in Peking/Huang tian hou tu (Pai Ching-jui, 1980), Portrait of a Fanatic/Unrequited Love/Ku lian (Wang Tung, 1982), and The Sunset in Geneva/Twilight in Geneva/ Rineiwa de huanghun (Pai Ching-jui, 1986).

Martial Law was lifted in 1987. The following year, President Chiang Ching-kuo died, and Lee Teng-hui became the first native Taiwanese president of the ROC and chairman of the KMT (mutually-held positions since the Nationalist Party was essentially the government, and vice-versa). Following the democratization of Taiwan after 1987, the mission to support government policy with their films was no longer required by the government-owned China Film Studio (renamed Hanwei Pictures in 1986), the TFS (renamed Taiwan Film Culture Company in 1988), or the KMT-owned CMPC. In 1991, Lee abolished the Temporary Provisions of the Constitution that empowered the government to mobilize civilians and their facilities in order to suppress the “Chinese Communists’ rebellion” (in China). Exchanges between Taiwan and China were no longer prohibited. National policy film was a thing of the past.


NATIVIST FILMS. The expulsion of the Republic of China (ROC) by the United Nation General Assembly in 1971, and the following loss of diplomatic recognition by the Great Britain, Japan, and other major countries, forced Taiwan politicians and elite to find a new national identity, because the island lost its self-proclaimed status that the ROC on Taiwan represented China. In 1972, a movement of “bentuhua” (“localization” or “indigenization”) was implemented by Chiang Ching-kuo, son and successor of Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek. Conscious of the danger in losing their Chinese/Taiwanese cultural identity, the left-leaning intelligentsia began to advocate a cultural subjectivity, thus precipitating the realist and nativist movements in Taiwan literature, dance, and arts in the mid-1970s. The works of nativist novelists of the 1960s and 1970s, such as Chen Ying-chen, Huang Chun-ming, Wang Tuo, Wang Chen-ho, and Yang Ching-chu, mostly took an anti-capitalism, anti-imperialism, anti-colonialism, and anti-westernization stand. Their approach, deliberately focusing on key issues in contemporary Taiwan society, was in opposition to that of the American- influenced, introspective, humanist modernists.

Huang Chun-ming, regarded as a representative writer in the nativist literature movement, always portrayed the lives of people at the bottom of society. Seven of his short stories and novellas were adapted into nativist films, making him the most well-known, popular, and respected nativist novelist.

The term “nativist films,” by definition, refers to films based on Taiwan nativist literature that reflected the realistic conditions of Taiwanese people. In 1983, Wang Tung turned Huang Chun-ming’s short story, A Flower in the Rainy Night/Kan hai de rihzih, into a film with the same title, making A Flower in the Rainy Night (1983) the pioneer work of Taiwan nativist films. The story/film depicts a prostitute, Bai Mei (meaning “white roses”), who dreamed of having a baby and leaving the prostitution profession. She finally was impregnated by a young fisherman. After giving birth, Bai Mei, in a sense, was reborn herself and became a mother-earth figure. Skipjack (tuna fish) becomes a motif in the story, symbolizing determination and vitality. The film A Flower in the Rainy Night was very successful commercially, and was nominated for four awards in the Golden Horse Awards, including Best Picture and Best Adapted Screenplay, winning two in two categories, Best Actress (Lu Hsiao-Fen) and Best Supporting Actress (Ying Ying).

While he was in preproduction for A Flower in the Rainy Night, Wang Tung was asked by the Central Motion Picture Corporation (CMPC), his employer, to direct a short film also based on another Huang Chun-ming short story. The project, which Wang Tung turned down, was to be part of an omnibus film, The Sandwich Man/Erzih de da wan’ou (1983), directed by Hou Hsiao-hsien, Wan Jen, and Tseng Chuang-hsiang/Zeng Zhuangxiang.

The Sandwich Man consists of three short films, each adapted from one of Huang Chun-ming’s short stories – His Son’s Big Doll, The Taste of Apples, and Xiaoqi’s Cap. The first, His Son’s Big Doll/Erzi de da wan’ou, directed by Hou Hsiao-hsien, explores the plight and tortured soul of an uneducated man who can only find employment as a “sandwich man,” dressed in a clown’s costume, carrying movie theater billboards on his shoulders through the streets. The Taste of Apples/Pingguo de ziwei, depicts the consequences of a car accident, in which a poor Taiwan native riding a bicycle is hit by the limousine of an American military officer. In the hospital, the family is offered apples, luxury fruits they could never afford to enjoy. Xiaoqi’s Cap/Xiaoqi de na ding maozi portrays the “bad attitude” of a greenhorn Japanese pressure cooker salesman and his relationship with a little girl, who always wears a cap to disguise the disfiguring mark on her head.

The three shorts reveal a common theme of Huang Chun-ming’s short stories – change and the impact of modernity on little people. Making and screening of The Sandwich Man gave rise to the so-called “peeling of the apple” incident, in which the film was threatened by the KMT government’s strict censorship, thus creating an uproar in literati and intelligentsia circles, primarily due to anti-American sentiment revealed in The Taste of Apples episode, as well as the “leftist” label attached to the nativist literature movement. The Sandwich Man is considered a pioneer work that helped put Taiwan New Cinema on the map of world cinema.

The critical and commercial successes of both A Flower in the Rainy Night and The Sandwich Man made Hung Chun-ming the most sought-after writer in the 1980s. Three other short stories by Huang were made into films, including I Love Mary/Wo ai mali (Ko I-Cheng , 1984), a satiric representation of a slavish comprador who agrees to raise a dog (Mary) that his former American boss gave to him, in order to maintain a good relationship with the “superior” American family. The film clearly criticizes the younger generation xenophiles in the 1970s and 1980s. The story’s excessive ideological concerns, however, was considered by some critics as detracting from its artistic achievement.

Huang Chun-ming wrote a screenplay in 1987, based on his own short story, Sayonara Goodbye/Sayonara, zaijian, which once again depicts the xenophilia phenomenon of the youngsters. Huang was originally chosen as director by the executive producer, who later took over the film and became a director himself. Sayonara Goodbye (Yeh Chin-sheng, 1987) tells the story of a Taiwanese trading company employee who simultaneously humbles the group of Japanese businessmen he entertains, while censuring a college student for adoring the Japanese.

Huang’s other nativist short story, The Two Sign Painters, follows two unhappy billboard painters, a young Aborigine confronting his urban aboriginal identity crisis, and an elderly alcoholic Mainlander veteran, drinking to escape from his pungent, gambling-addicted wife and good-for-nothing son. The grouchy behavior of these two characters, while drinking by the side of a billboard atop a building, is mistaken for their double suicide attempt, causing a commotion in the street, which results in inflammatory media coverage. The story was first made into a Korean film, Chilsu and Mansu/Chilsu wa mansu (Park Kwang-su, 1988), and then a Taiwanese film, Two Painters/Liang ge youqi jiang (Yu Kan-ping, 1989, written by Wu Nien-Jen).

Though regarded as the most important nativist novelist/theorist, Chen Ying-chen has only had one of his works made into a Taiwan film, Goodbye Darling/Zaijian alang (Pai Ching-jui, 1970). Based on Chen’s novella, A Race of Generals/Jiangjun zu, it is considered one of veteran director Pai’s best films. (Chen Ying-chen’s only other adapted work, Night Van/Ye xing huoche [1986], was made in China by Xie Yuchen, a Taiwanese director who emigrated to China from Taiwan in 1984.)

Wang Chen-ho, another famous nativist author, wrote the screenplay for An Oxcart for a Dowry/Jiazhuang yi niuche (Chang Mei-Chun, 1984), based on his short story of the same title. Wang’s experience with the film was not pleasant, however. Subsequently, when his two novels were made into the films Rose, Rose, I Love You/Meigui, meigui wo ai ni (1985) and A Portrait of Beauty (Americans)/Meiren tu (1985), both once again directed by Chang Mei-Chun, Wang was not involved in the scriptwriting. The three films did not do well commercially or critically.

Other films based on nativist novelists’ works of the 1970s include The First Stitch/Huanghua guinan/Zai shi nan (Tsai Yang-Ming, 1984), Now and Then/ Renjian nan nu (Chiu Ming-cheng, 1984), Virgin/Zai shi nu (Chiu Ming-cheng, 1985), all adapted from Yang Ching-chu’s books; and Aunt Chin-shui/Jinshui shen (Lin Ching-chieh, 1987), adapted from Wang Tuo’s novel.

By the 1980s, new nativist writers, such as Li Chiao, Wu Chin-fa, and Wang Ben-hu, became more conscious of form than their predecessors. Wu’s two coming-of-age novellas, Chun qiu cha shi and Qiu ju, were adapted into My Mother’s Tea House/Chun qiu cha shi (1990), directed by Taiwan New Wave director Chen Kun-Hou, and Green, Green Leaves of Home/Qinchun wu hui (1993), directed by young director Yankee Zhou Yan-Zi.

Five of Wang Ben-hu’s short stories were made into films: The Digger/Yinjian xiangma (Ho Ping, 1988), The Suona Player/Chui guchui (Daw-Ming Lee, 1988), Autumn Tempest/Luo shan feng (Huang Yu-Shan, 1988), That Vital Organ/Na gen suoyouquan (Chang Chi-chao, 1991), and The Daughter-in-Law/Aba de qingren (Steve Wang Hsien-Chih, 1995). The films were not enthusiastically received by Taiwan audiences, perhaps due to a change of media environment, as cable television and videotapes became major sources of entertainment for the general population.

With Taiwan cinema going through a long-term recession since the late 1980s, nativist films became less and less popular as the years went by. By the mid-1990s, very few such films were made, thus ending a decade-long period of Taiwan cinema based upon nativist stories, concerning the lives and social conditions of people at the bottom of Taiwan society.




OU, WEI (Huang Huangji) (1937-1973). Character actor in Taiwanese-dialect films in the 1950s and Mandarin films of the 1960s and 1970s, Ou Wei (real name, Huang Huangji) was born on 16 September 1937 in Hsinhua Township, Tainan County (now Hsinhua District, Tainan City), in southern Taiwan. Huang’s father, a billboard painter, died at age 27, when Huang was only five. After graduating from junior high school in 1953, Huang worked in the police department.

Huang was very interested in acting, so he joined a theater troupe, but found that theater was not right for him, so he soon left. Huang began writing letters to film companies, recommending himself as an actor, after the sudden burst of Taiwanese-dialect films in 1956. He was finally accepted by Hwa Shing Studio, established by director Ho Chi-Ming, and trained as an actor there. His debut film was Green Mountain Bloodshed/Qing shan bi xie (Ho Chi-Ming, 1957), a historical drama based on the true Wushe Incident/Musha jiken, in which Seediq Aborigines rebelled against cruel Japanese rule. Huang played a Seediq aboriginal named “Ou Wei,” which he took as his professional name thereafter.

Ou Wei subsequently appeared in several Taiwanese-dialect films produced by Hwa Shing Studio, such as Uncourageous Hero/Wudan yingxiong (Ho Ling-Ming, 1958). He won “Best Supporting Actor” at the First Taiwanese-Dialect Film Festival, sponsored by a newspaper in 1959, for his performance in The Mysterious Homicide Case in Chingshan/Jinshan chi an (Ho Chi-Ming, 1958).

He served his three-year compulsory military service in the Air Force between 1958 and 1961, during which time Hwa Shing Studio closed down in 1959. Thus, when Ou Wei was discharged, he became a free agent, acting in supporting roles in many Taiwanese-dialect films, including When Shall We Overcome/Heshi chutou tian (1959), directed by his former employer Ho Ling-Ming, younger brother of Ho Chi-Ming.

Ou Wei began appearing in Mandarin films in 1961. In Typhoon/Taifeng (Pan Lei, 1961), he played a supporting role, imitating the style and clothes of American star James Dean, his idol. He continued appearing in Taiwanese-dialect films until 1966, the most notable among them was Bride in Hell/Diyu xinniang (1965), considered one of the best Taiwanese-dialect films, adapted from Victoria Holt’s novel Mistress of Myllen, in which he acted with actor Ko Chun-hsiung. They became good friends and rivals.

In 1963, Ou Wei signed a one-year contract with the Nationalist-owned Central Motion Picture Corporation (CMPC) and was cast in two healthy realism films, Oyster Girl/Ke nu (Lee Hsing and Li Chia, 1963) and The Beautiful Duckling/ Yangya renjia (Lee Hsing, 1964). The later won him “Best Supporting Actor” at the 1964 Film Festival in Asia. In 1964, he signed a three-year contract with Shaw Brothers, acting in Pan Lei’s two films made in Taiwan for Shaw Brothers – Lovers’ Rock/Qingren shi (1964) and Downhill They Ride/The Highjackers/Shan ze (1966, written by King Hu), a Chinese-style Western genre film. His performance in Hometown Plunders/The Country Calamity/Guxiang jie (Chang Tseng-chai, 1966), an anti-communist national policy film produced by the military-owned China Film Studio, was awarded “Best Actor” at the 1967 Golden Horse Awards.

Ou Wei returned to the CMPC once again, between 1967 and 1969, starring in Coral Forever/Shanhu (Chang Tseng-chai, 1968), a melodramatic wenyi pian; Home Sweet Home/Home is Taipei/Jia zai Taibei (1970), Pai Ching-jui’s commedia all'italiana-style comedy; and Stardust/Qun xing hui (1969), Lee Hsing’s musical. Afterward, he was cast in Lee’s “Sadness” part of the omnibus film Four Moods/Xi nu ai le (1970), in which Lee, Li Han-hsiang, King Hu, and Pai Ching-jui each directed a segment.

During this period, Ou Wei also appeared in feature productions for other film companies, notably the Shaw Brother’s Taiwan productions directed by Pan Lei, such as The Purple Shell/Zi beike (1967), a Chiungyao film; Fallen Petals/Luo hua shijie (1968), a melodrama wenyi pian based on Pan’s own novel of the same title; and Purple Darts/Zi jing biao (1969), a wuxia coproduction between Shaw Brothers and Union Film Company (Lianbang). He was also cast by Lee Hsing in his wenyi pian for Lianbang, The Melody of Love/Qingren de yanlei (1969). Ou Wei’s working relationship with Lee Hsing would continue until Ou’s final film.

In 1969, Lee Hsing founded Ta Chung Motion Picture Company, together with his colleagues from the CMPC, such as director Pai Ching-jui, cinematographers Lai Cheng-ying and Lin Chan-ting, and Hu Cheng-ding, manager of the CMPC’s Project Development Department. Ou Wei appeared in the new company’s first film, Accidental Trio/Not Coming Home Today/Jintian bu huijia (Pai Ching-jui, 1969), a comedy. Subsequently, he was cast in another comedy, From Home with Love/Jinggao taoqi (1970), scriptwriter Chang Yung-hsiang’s directorial debut feature; The Fake Tycoon/Miao ji le (Li Chia, 1971), a thriller; Life with Mother/Mu yu nu (Lee Hsing, 1971), a family drama; Love Style XYZ/Aiqing yi er san (Lee Hsing, 1971), a romantic melodrama consisted of three shorts, which was developed by Ou Wei; and Autumn Execution/Qiu jue (Lee Hsing, 1972), Lee’s tragic melodramatic masterpiece.

Autumn Execution was the peak of Ou Wei’s career. He fought with Ko Chun-hsiung to get the leading role of a spoiled, stubborn, rebellious young master from a rich family, sentenced to death, imprisoned, and awaiting execution. Ou Wei was said to insist on carrying a real heavy wood yoke, to which he was painfully handcuffed for many hours during filming, to help him perform the role more realistically. His great effort in the role paid off when he was awarded “Best Actor” for the second time at the 1972 Golden Horse Awards.

Other important films Ou Wei appeared in during the 1970s include two spy films – Storm over the Yangtse River/An Inch of Ground an Inch of Blood/Yicun shanhe yicun xie (Li Han-hsiang, 1969) and The Story of Ti Ying/Tiying (Li Hang-hsiang, 1971), which were also popular national policy films, produced by the military-controlled China Film Studio. He played the lead role as a cowboy in Love is an Elusive Wind/Feng cong nali lai (Lee Hsing, 1972), costarring Tang Pao-yun (of The Beautiful Duckling). The Taiwan-style “Western” was considered out of character for Lee, who was just having fun making such a different genre film.

Ou Wei appeared in over 100 films during his 16-year career. His films encompassed numerous film genres, such as martial arts wuxia pian, kung fu, fantasy, suspense, thriller, horror, gangster-crime, spy, war, melodrama, and comedy. Besides acting, Ou Wei also tried his hand at scriptwriting. Two of his screenplays were made into Taiwanese-dialect films, and he also cowrote Greatest Fight/Qing long zhen (Li Chia, 1968), a wuxia pian. In 1973, even after his health was declining, Ou Wei was determined to write, direct, produce, and act in The Big Raid/Da tongqi ling, a crime-gangster film. He died of kidney disease in December 1973, soon after completing the film, which was well received.






PAI CHING-JUI (Bai Jingrui) (1931-1997). The directing career of Pai Ching-jui extended from the 1960s to 1980s, encompassing major periods in the history of Taiwan cinema. His films spanned a wide-range of genres, from healthy realism, commedia all'italiana-style comedy, romantic wenyi pian, and Chiungyao film, to films adapted from literary works. Ranked with Lee Hsing, Li Han-hsiang and King Hu, Pai was considered one of the “four major directors” of Taiwan cinema in the 1970s.

Pai was born in June 1931 in Yingkou, Liaoning Province in northeastern China. When the Mukden Incident (also called the “918 Incident,” or Manchurian Incident) broke out three months after his birth, Pai’s family moved to Peping (Peking/Beijing). Later, his father’s post was transferred to Wuhu, Anhui Province in central China, and the family moved there. After the outbreak of the Second Sino-Japanese War in 1937, the family took refuge in Chungking/Chongqing.

In Chungking, Pai took an interest in theater when he was a junior high school student. After the war ended, he went to Nanking/Nanjing with his elder brother and entered Lizhi High School, which was owned and operated by Chiang Kai-shek’s Whampoa Military Academy Alumni Association. Nanking fell to the Chinese Communists in 1948, during the Chinese Civil War. Pai was forced to flee to Canton/Guangzou, then to Penghu on the Pescadores Islands, and finally to Taipei, where he worked at a newspaper as an assistant editor and cartoon artist.

A year later, he took a part-time job with the Military Artistic Service Group, part of the General Political Warfare Bureau’s Recreation Corps in the National Defense Ministry. Pai’s performance in a drama won an award, impressing the director of the Recreation Corps, Long Fang (Peter F. Long). Six years later, Long became director of Taiwan Film Studio and invited Pai to work for him.

Pai entered Taiwan Provincial Teachers College (TPTC, now National Taiwan Normal University) in 1949, as a student in the English Department. His enthusiasm for theater drew him to Lee Hsing, who was leader of the school drama club, and they became long-term good friends. At TPTC, Pai acted in and directed plays, and also performed off-campus in amateur dramas.

After serving a year in the military, and another year as apprentice teacher in a junior high school, Pai took over Lee Hsing’s job as an entertainment reporter for the Independent Evening News, which was published by Lee’s father. He also wrote film and art reviews for the United Daily News.

In 1958, Pai had his first film experience, as continuity supervisor and bit part actor, in On Mount Hehuan/Hehuan shan shang (directed by Pan Lei). The film was produced by the National Defense Ministry’s China Film Studio to celebrate completion of the most dangerous segment of the Central Cross Island Highway.

Inspired by Italian neo-realism films, such as The Bicycle Thief/Ladri di biciclette (Vittorio De Sica, 1948) and Open City/Roma, città aperta (Roberto Rossellini, 1945), Pai was determined to study in Italy. An acquaintance, George Wang, who had a part in The Dam on the Yellow River/Apocalisse sul fiume giallo (Renzo Merusi, 1960), and was then working as an actor in Italy, promised to help him.

In 1961, Pai enrolled in an academy of fine arts in Rome, studying painting and stage design. A year later, he was accepted by the Scuola Nazionale di Cinema (National Film School) of the Centro Sperimentale di Cinematografia (Experimental Cinematography Center). Pai was the first Chinese student to study filmmaking at the school. He acted in Marco Polo (Piero Pierotti, 1962) while at the film school.

After graduating in 1963, with his thesis film Infatuated by Love/Zhongqing zhe chi in hand, Pai was asked to work for his former boss, Peter F. Long/Long Fang, now head of Taiwan Film Studio. However, Lee Hsing strongly recommended that Pai work with him at the Nationalist-owned Central Motion Picture Corporation (CMPC). Lu Yi-cheng, head of the Information Division at the Government Information Office’s New York branch, also wrote a recommendation letter on Pai’s behalf. At the time, the CMPC General Manager Kung Hong was making healthy realism films, a genre inspired by Italian neo-realism. Kung had strong expectations of Pai, who had trained in the neo- realism tradition at Scuola Nazionale di Cinema.

Pai’s first work at the CMPC was a documentary, A Morning in Taipei/Taibei zhi chen (1963). His concept for the film was similar to the “city symphony” films of the 1920s. Had the film been shown in Taiwan then, it would have been a pioneer documentary work. Unfortunately, after rough editing it was shelved by  the CMPC.

Instead of being offered another documentary to direct, Pai was given a title of manager of the Production Department, so he could familiarize himself with the process of making fiction films. Pai joined production teams of healthy realism films, helping edit The Oyster Girl/Ke nu (Li Chia and Lee Hsing, 1963), as well as helping develop and write The Beautiful Duckling/Yangya renjia (Lee Hsing, 1964). He also was involved in the development and writing of Lee Hsing’s Chiungyao film, Four Loves/Wanjun biaomei (1964) and The Silent Wife/Yanu qingshen (1965).

Kung Hong was asked by his superiors in 1966 to make a propaganda film advocating the national policy of military counterattack and recovery of Mainland China. He decided to let Pai co-direct Fire Bulls/Huan wo he shan (1966), a historical costume epic, with Lee Hsing and Li Chia. The allegorical film was successful both critically and at the box-office. It won for “Best Art Direction” (Chou Chih-liang) at the Film Festival in Asia in 1967.

Pai’s good work on the film earned him the opportunity for his solo directorial fiction feature debut, Lonely Seventeen/Jimo de shiqi sui (1967). Originally, Pai intended to make a realist film reflecting adolescent depression. Such an idea, however, was in conflict with the spirit of the CMPC’s healthy realism. Pai had no choice but to turn the film into a melodramatic wenyi pian, about a 17-year-old girl who becomes schizophrenic when she mistakenly blames herself for the death of a cousin, her unrequited love. Despite the setback, Pai was still able to use novel expressive techniques to express “realistic” emotions.

Pai won “Best Director” at the 1968 Golden Horse Awards. Cinematographer Lin Chan-ting’s use of moving camera and color to capture the girl’s confused state of mind earned him “Best Color Cinematography.” Lead actor Ko Chun-hsiung also won an award for “Best Actor” at the Film Festival in Asia in 1967. Lonely Seventeen established Pai’s status in the Taiwan film industry.

Pai’s next film, Because of Love/Di liu ge meng (1968), was an atypical Chiungyao film, or to be more precise, a Chiungyao film in Pai’s personal style. Characters were added for humor and vivacity. Pai stressed color design and frame composition, as well as editing. The film was well-received by audiences and highly acclaimed by critics.

After that film, Pai was ingenious in successfully bringing the commedia all'italiana style to Taiwan cinema with his two comedy films for the CMPC, The Bride and I/Xinniang yu wo (1969) and Home Sweet Home/Home is Taipei/Jia zai Taibei (1970).

The Bride and I was a love story between a newly wedded loving, quarrelsome couple. The comic sense came more from editing, fast motion, and sound effects, than from slapstick comedy effects inspired by mischief and wisecracks, most commonly seen in Mandarin films made in Hong Kong and Taiwan at the time. Pai’s film was again commercially and critically successful. It won for “Excellent Film,”Best Director,” and “Best Editing” (Wang Chin-chen) at the 1969 Golden Horse, and for “Best Sound Recording” (Hsin Chiang-sheng) at the Film Festival in Asia in 1969.

Pai’s second comedy, Home Sweet Home, crisscrossed the lives of three Overseas Taiwanese students. Their stories were told interestingly and energetically through the use of split-screen and music effects, new techniques in Taiwan cinema at the time. It was one of Taipei’s box-office winners in 1970. The film won for “Best Actress” (Kuei Ya-lei) and “Best Screenplay” (Chang Yung-hsiang) at the Film Festival in Asia, and for “Best Feature,” “Best Actress” (Kuei Ya-lei), and “Best Editing” (Wang Chin-chen) at the Golden Horse in 1970.

Pai Ching-jui and Lee Hsing took leaves of absence from the CMPC in 1969 to co-direct, with Li Han-hsiang and King Hu, a portmanteau film, Four Moods/Xi nu ai le (1970). Their goal was to raise money to help Li Han-hsiang’s Grand Motion Picture Company out of financial distress. Pai directed the “Happiness” episode without dialogue, but only body movements and facial expressions with creative use of lighting and shadows, to tell the comical story about a scholar captivated by a beautiful female ghost.

Soon after the film was completed, Pai and Lee Hsing left the CMPC to form their own company, Ta Chung Motion Picture Company. Other partners in the company included former CMPC cinematographers Lai Cheng-ying and Lin Chan-ting, along with Hu Cheng-ding, former manager of the CMPC’s Project Development Department. The new company’s first film was Pai’s comedy, Accidental Trio/Not Coming Home Today/Jintian bu huijia (1969). His storytelling again moved between three families who lived in a condominium. The great commercial success of that film laid a solid financial foundation for Ta Chung.

Pai’s comedies were strongly influenced by commedia all'italiana. He liked to use humorous dialogues to satirize important social issues. For example, in Accidental Trio, family issues of the middle class in a developing economy were explored. Both Home Sweet Home and Accidental Trio elevated standards for comedy films in Taiwan. It is unfortunate that Pai did not make more such films.

In 1970, Pai directed his most ambitious film, Goodbye Darling/Zaijian alang. The film was based on A Race of Generals/Jiangjun zu, a nativist novel about a reckless hoodlum (Ko Chun-hsiung) who sponges off women, yet remains a principled man, written by famous nativist writer Chen Ying-chen. Ko’s realistic performance and his attention to details breathed life into the protagonist Ah Lang, considered one of the most memorable film roles in Taiwan cinema. Though critically successful, Goodbye Darling failed miserably at the box office. Even worse, Pai’s serious work failed to receive any recognition at the Golden Horse Awards.

The blow sent Pai to a low point in 1972, until the commercial success of his next film, Love in a Cabin/Baiwu zhi lian, made for the CMPC. The new film made Hong Kong actor Alan Tang Kwong-Wing a big star. Its success rejuvenated Pai. He decided to open a production company, Pai’s Enterprises. Together with Golden Harvest, he co-produced a six-part portmanteau film, Four Winds/Dong nan xi bei feng (1972).

Though he now owned his own production company, Pai continued to do work for other film companies too, as director or producer. His comedy, How is the Weather Today/Hao nu shiba bian/Qing shi duoyun ou zhenyu (1974), was welcomed by the audience because of its humorous, unconventional approach. On the other hand, My Father, My Husband, My Son/Wo fu, wo fu, wo zi (1974), a 90-minute drama, was overly ambitious. It inadequately told a 50-year, three-generation story through the life of a modern woman in China (Ivy Ling Bo), who had survived all the political and social turmoil. The film was a failure, both critically and commercially.

Pai Ching-jui once again directed a Chiungyao film in 1974, Girl Friend/Nu pengyou/Xibian taiyang dongbian yu. The journey the story took was unique. The film was based on a story written by Chiung Yao, who later wrote a novel based on the film. Pai’s approach to the material was to use contrast and interpolation to tell the tale of two couples whose personalities and family backgrounds were totally different. Storytelling was clear and thorough, costume design was fresh yet realistic, and performances by Charlie Chin, Bridget Lin, and Josephine Siao were good in their roles, making Girl Friend one of Pai’s best works. The film won “Best Feature,” “Best Supporting Actress” (Josephine Siao), and “Best Color Cinematography” (Lin Chan-ting) at the 1975 Golden Horse Awards.

After that, Pai directed several consecutive romantic wenyi pian, including Forever My Love/Maple Tree Love/Fengye qing (1976), followed by two Chiungyao films, The Autumn Love Song/Qiu ge (1976) and Fantasies Behind the Pearly Curtain/Yi lian you meng (1976).

Although different companies produced Forever My Love and The Autumn Love Song, Bridget Lin, a superstar at the time, was cast as the lead in both films. In fact, at her peak, Lin was forced to star in six films simultaneously. Pai, himself, was required to direct several films during this most frantic, chaotic period in Taiwan cinema.

During this time, Pai was selected as president of Ta Chung Motion Picture Company. However, he was not a good business manager and was unable to keep the finances on track.

By this time, Pai Ching-jui was a very marketable director, and would not give up his dream project, a film about the struggles of Overseas Chinese. In September 1976, with the support of distributor Huang Cho-han’s First Films, Pai was finally able to lead the cast (Bridget Lin, Charlie Chin, Hsia Ling-ling, Terry Hu) and crew from Pai’s Enterprises for a three-month location shoot in Europe. Three films were made during this trip. There’s No Place Like Home/Roman Encounter/Yixiang meng (1977) was produced by First Films; the other two, At the Side of Sky-Line/Ren zai tianya (1977) and Don’t Kiss Me on the Street/Buyao zai jieshang wen wo (1977) were produced by Pai’s Enterprises and distributed by First Films.

There’s No Place Like Home is the story of a daughter who goes to Italy to study, in order to meet her father for the first time. At the Side of Sky-Line is a Chiungyao film that deals with the tragic European romances of four male Taiwan students with two women who have sharply different personalities. Don’t Kiss Me on the Street, on the other hand, explores issues of cultural conflict and reconciliation in a mixed marriage between a Taiwan man and European woman.

Though flawed, one can still recognize Pai’s earnest deeper intentions in these melodramatic films. The films were appreciated by critics. At the Side of Sky-Line was awarded “Excellent Film,” “Best Actor” (Charlie Chin), and “Best Supporting Actress” (Terry Hu) at the 1977 Golden Horse Awards. However, the rather “serious” films were not accepted by the Taiwan audience. For this reason, Pai returned to making easier to take melodramatic wenyi pian and light comedy films.

Political censorship control over cinema in Taiwan was eased somewhat in 1978, after James Soong Chu-yu, former secretary of President Chiang Ching-kuo, was appointed minister of the Government Information Office (GIO). Images of Mao Zedong, as well as the national flag and anthem of the People’s Republic of China (PRC), were allowed to appear in films for the first time. Literary works of post-Cultural Revolution “scar literature,” which appeared on the Mainland after the Revolution, were allowed to be published and adapted into films in Taiwan. In this new political atmosphere, Pai Ching-jui was asked by the CMPC to direct an anti-communist propaganda feature, The Coldest Winter in Peking/ Huang tian hou tu (1980), which depicted conditions in China during the Cultural Revolution in a rather realistic, humanized way. Afterward, Pai directed an anti-violence, anti-gangster film, Offend the Law of God/Nu fan tian tiao (1980). His sincere purpose, unfortunately, was twisted and the film failed miserably, due to the entirely wrong publicity. The distributor advertised the film as yet another “violent female revenge” exploitation film, popular in Taiwan at the time. The audience felt deceived, unsatisfied, and even “blamed” by Pai’s honorable approach.

The Last Night of Madame Chin/Jin daban de zuihou yi ye (1984) was considered Pai’s most important film toward the end of his career. Based on renowned writer Kenneth Pai Hsien-yung’s short story of the same title, the film tells the story of Chin Zhao-li, a popular dance hostess at Shanghai’s infamous Paramount Dance Hall in the 1940s, and the three important men in her life. The film was the focus of attention in Taiwan’s literary world since its development stage. Moreover, the film gained free publicity when a dispute between the filmmakers and the GIO film censors broke out before the theatrical release.

Notwithstanding good reviews from local film critics, the timing of its release could not be worse. It came out at a time when films by Hong Kong New Wave filmmakers attracted most of the interest from audiences, and films from the Taiwan New Cinema were emerging as well. This highly neglected film only won for “Best Costume Design” (Wang Jung-sheng) and “Best Theme Song” (Chen Chih-yuen and Shen Chih) at the Golden Horse Awards in 1984.

A year before the making of Pai’s The Last Night of Madam Chin, another portmanteau film was released, The Wheel of Life/Da lunhui (1983), co-directed by Pai and older masters King Hu and Lee Hsing. The famous showdown between this film and Taiwan New Cinema’s celebrated portmanteau film, The Sandwich Man/Erzi de da wan’ou (also 1983, co-directed by Hou Hsiao-hsien, Wan Jen, and Tseng Chuang-hsiang/Zeng Zhuangxiang), marked the beginning of the decline of senior (more traditional) filmmakers and the rise of younger (less traditional) filmmakers.

The Wheel of Life did not do as well commercially and critically as expected. On the other hand, The Sandwich Man did very well at the box office, and was highly acclaimed in film reviews. During the remainder of his career, other than The Last Night of Madam Chin, Pai directed only three more films: an anti-communist national policy film for China Film Studio, The Sunset in Geneva/Twilight in Geneva/Rineiwa de huanghun (1986); a melodrama, Madame Ho/He yi shier jinchai (1987); and one of the earliest Taiwan-China coproductions, Forbidden Imperial Tales/Jia dao gonli de nanren (1990). None of these films was successful. Pai Ching-jui’s filmmaking career ended.

In 1988, at the invitation of Lee Hsing, chair of the Taipei Golden Horse Film Festival Executive Committee, Pai became general-secretary of the 1988 Golden Horse Awards. He would serve again in that position several years later. Pai died of Acute Myocardial Infarction, right before the 1997 Golden Horse Awards ceremony. A “Lifetime Achievement Award” was conferred, posthumously, on him by the Film Directors Guild of Taiwan in 1998 and by the Golden Horse in 1999.




PAN, LEI (Peter Pan Lei, Pan Chengde) (1927- ). Novelist, scriptwriter, and one of the most underrated film directors of the 1960s and 1970s in Taiwan and Hong Kong, Peter Pan Lei (real name Pan Chengde), an ethnic Chinese national, was born on 4 August 1927 in Haiphong, Vietnam. Pan’s father, who ran an inland shipping business in Vietnam, was a Chinese originally from Hepu County, Guangdong Province (now part of Guangxi Province), China. Pan’s mother was French- Vietnamese.

In August 1940, after Hong Kong fell into the hands of the Japanese military, Haiphong was in danger. Pan followed his father’s instructions and escaped to Kunming, the provincial capital of Yunnan Province, where he enrolled in junior high school. Two years later, in response to the call for young men and women to join the military to fight the Japanese invaders, Pan joined the Chinese Fifth Army stationed in India, led by General Joseph W. Stilwell, and trained at the Ramgarh Training Center in Bihar Province, India. Pan fought to keep the Burma Road clear in the Burma Theater of World War II.

After the Japanese surrendered unconditionally to the Allies in 1945, Pan, promoted to the rank of lieutenant, was discharged in Shanghai. He briefly stayed in Haiphong until the Franco-Vietnamese War/First Indochina War broke out in 1946. Pan went back to Shanghai and entered the National Jiangsu Medical College (now Nanjing Medical University), where he became interested in literature.

Pan moved to Taiwan in May 1949, before Shanghai fell to the Chinese Communists. In October that year, Pan founded and edited a literary journal Literary Treasure Island/Baodao wenyi. He continued to write novels after the journal was discontinued in 1950. While earning his living as a columnist for a literary magazine in Taipei, as well as teaching scriptwriting at a college, Pan also wrote 19 novels in 10 years. One of the most prolific writers of the 1950s, Pan won the Chinese Literary Award of the Nationalist Party, consecutively three times between 1955 and 1957.

Pan Lei started writing screenplays for Taiwanese-dialect films in 1957 – Woman with Leprosy/Mafeng nu (Li Chia, 1957), followed by The Fickle Heart of a Beauty/Zhenjia meiren xin (Li Chia, 1958), and Treasure Island Girl/Baodao gu’niang (Chen Huan-Wen, 1958). He also wrote scripts for Mandarin films, such as The Dawn/Ye jin tian ming (Wang Fang-shu and Tian Chen, 1957).

In 1958, Pan Lei made his debut film as writer-director, On Mount Hehuan/ Hehuan shan shang (1958), for the military-owned China Film Studio, celebrating completion of the most dangerous segment in the Central Cross Island Highway. (Pai Ching-jui was continuity supervisor, and played a bit part in the film.) He then wrote and directed Golden Era/Jinse niandai (1959), based on his own novel about love and friendship among rebellious, troubled youths.

When the Nationalist-owned Central Motion Picture Corporation (CMPC) bought adaptation rights to one of his novels, Pan was hired as writer-director. His first film at the CMPC was Typhoon/Taifeng (1960), which dealt with the near infidelity of a middle-aged housewife, an unusual (and courageous) subject for a studio affiliated with the government. Pan’s treatment of the female character’s inner emotions was influenced by the French New Wave/Nouvelle Vague. The film won “Best Supporting Actress” (Tang Bao-yun) and Special Award for a Child Actor (Tang Bao-yun) at the Film Festival in Asia.

Typhoon attracted Sir Run Run Shaw’s attention at the Festival. He wanted Pan to work for his Shaw Brothers. Pan, however, said he would not join Shaw Brothers until Tsai Meng-chien/Cai Mengjian left as general manager of the CMPC, because Tsai had taken a lot of risks and responsibility for letting Pan make Typhoon.

Pan eventually joined Shaw Brothers in 1963. As the first writer-director recruited by Shaw Brothers from Taiwan, Pan was authorized by Run Run Shaw to work independently in Taiwan. He founded a Taiwan subsidiary of Shaw Brothers, making a number of films – Lovers’ Rock/Qingren shi (1964), based on his own novel; Song of Orchid Island/Lanyu zhi ge (1965), the first film made on the offshore island southeast of Taiwan, home of the Yami/Tao indigenous tribe (see ABORIGINES AND FILM); Poisonous Rose/Du meigui (1966), a thriller; Downhill They Ride/The Highjackers/Shan ze (1966, written by King Hu), a Chinese-style “Western” filmed on location in the Central Mountain Range; The Purple Shell/Zi beike (1967), a Chiungyao film; Fallen Petals/Luo hua shijie (1968), a melodrama; and The Fastest Sword/Tianxia diyi jian (1968), a martial arts wuxia pian.

Afterward, Pan Lei left Shaw Brothers to found the Modern Film and Television Experimental Center, a film and television studio in Neihu, a suburb of Taipei. Pan wrote, directed, and produced The Wolf and the Angel/Lang yu tianshi (1968, codirected with Japanese director Tang Qian/Yuasa Namio), a melodrama; and produced films in several genres, including Black Wind Ridge/Heifeng ling (Wen Shi-Ling, 1968), martial arts wuxia; Young Flying Hero/Xiao feixia (1968, codirected with Tang Qian/Yuasa Namio), martial arts-fantasy; Lady Bodyguard/ Nu biaoshi (1968, directed by Li Kuan-hsi), martial arts; and Devil Fighter/Zhou yao zhan mo (1969, codirected with Tang Qian/Yuasa Namio), fantasy-adventure. However, the Modern Film and Television Experimental Center failed financially, and was sold in 1969 to distributor Chou Chien-kuang/Zhou Jianguang, who further expanded the studio, renaming it Huaguo Studio.

Subsequently, as an independent writer-director, Pan directed Tomorrow Is Another Day/Mingri you tianya (1969) for Shaw Brothers in Taipei and Purple Darts/Zi jing biao (1969), a coproduction of Shaw Brothers and Union Film Company. He went to Hong Kong in 1970 to write and direct Love Without End/ Xin buliao qing (1970), a remake of Love Without End/Buliao qing (Doe Ching, 1961), for Shaw Brothers, continuing to work for them on and off.

Pan’s non-Shaw Brother films include two sword-fighting films, The Merciful Sword/Bao en dao (1971, codirected with Li Chia), and The Sword/Jian (1971, codirected with Jimmy Wang Yu), which emphasized ancient warriors’ philosophy of swords and their feelings, rather than only swordplay, thus creating a new style of martial arts wuxia pian; Funny Girl/Sha da jie (1972), a romantic comedy; It All Started with a Bed/Hao meng lian chuang (1972), another romantic comedy; and Fly! Newborn Baby/Fei fei fei/Fei ba chizi (1974), a drama dealing with troubled youngsters. He also produced several films for Hong Kong directors, such as Cast Love/Yi luan qing zhen (Li Zhaoxiong, 1970) and Four Girls from Hong Kong/Qun fang pu (Lee Sun-fung, 1972).

In the mid-1970s, Pan Lei emigrated to Hong Kong and went back to Shaw Brothers as its staff writer-director. His directorial works during this period include Peony Lamp/Mudan deng (1975), a ghost film; Cuties Parade/Miao miao nulang (1975), romantic comedy with music and dance; Evil Seducers/Se zhong e gui (1975), horror; Love Lock/Qing suo (1975), melodrama; and The Crooks/Wen shi sanshiliu ji (1977), comedy. He wrote screenplays for other Shaw Brothers’ director as well, such as Girl with the Long Hair/Changfa gu’niang (Ho Fan, 1975), a romantic comedy. Pan also wrote martial arts kung fu scripts for Hong Kong action director Lo Wei, including New Fist of Fury/Xin jing wu men (1976) and Spiritual Kung Fu/Quan jing (1978), both starring Jackie Chan.

Pan left Shaw Brothers for the second time in 1978. His films during this period include Adventure of Heaven Mouse/Tongtian laoshu xia jiangnan (1978), a kung fu film; Strange Story of Crematory/Huozangchang chi an (1980), suspense; and The Tattoo/Wenshen de nuren (1984), R-rated suspense.

In the mid-1980s, Pan Lei wrote and published his big river novel, Outsiders Trilogy, about his drifting life from Vietnam to Shanghai, Taiwan, and finally to Hong Kong. He also published his autobiography, Antibiography. Pan’s novels are highly valued by literary scholars. One of his novels, The Devil’s Tree, was adapted into a television drama series for China Television System (CTS) in the late 2000s.








RENSAGEKI (Chain Drama). Rensageki (literally, “chain drama”) refers to a hybrid form of Japanese performance art that mixed film and theater. The exterior scenes of the drama were filmed and then inserted into scenes on stage by projecting onto a lowered screen between performances. It appeared as early as 1904, and became extremely popular in the mid-1910s, particularly among the lower classes in Japan.

Rensageki was soon introduced in Korea and Taiwan, colonies of Imperial Japan. In 1915, more than 30 members of theater troupe Mutsumi-dan arrived in Taiwan with several rensageki and regular stage plays in their repertoire. Mutsumi-dan also filmed exterior scenes in Taipei for two of its rensageki dramas, Ferocious Retribution/Kyū en and Big Crime/Dai hanzai. The performances were extremely popular in Taipei, lasting for more than a month before the group traveled to other major cities in Taiwan. The mass fervor for rensageki continued well into the mid-1930s.

Taiwanese theater troupes started to stage native rensageki in 1923. One of the first such plays, Liao Tian-ding, the Invincible Thief of the World/Shijie wudi zhi xiongzei liao tianding, was produced by the local theater group Baolaituan/ Hōraidan, which had been established by Japanese entertainment company Shimizu Industry/Shimizu kōgyō bu to promote rensageki in Taiwan. Films were shot in early September and on 7 November the rensageki drama was performed in Kiryū-za in the northern port city of Keelung/Kiryū to a full-house.

In 1928, Lin Chengpo, the owner of Jiangyun-she, a Taiwanese Opera theater troupe from Taoyuan/Tōen in northern Taiwan, asked Li Shu and his partners to shoot some footage to be used in two of his rensageki dramas, Circuit Detective Yang Guoxian and Jiang Yunniang Takes Off Her Boots. Audiences throughout Taiwan liked the effect of the films used in such rensageki dramas. The response boosted the morale of Li and his friends, who had lost confidence when their previous effort, Whose Fault Is It?, had met box-office failure. Encouraged, they founded Baida Film Productions with financial support from other partners later the same year.

Rensageki continued for a short while in Taiwanese Opera productions. However, due to the budget and equipment required for such a drama form, it was not popular among most theater troupes and was soon forgotten. After World War II, rensageki reappeared briefly in Taiwanese Opera. Ho Chi-Ming is one of the earliest directors to shoot rensageki in post-World War II Taiwan. He had produced several rensageki films for the renowned Gongyueshe Taiwanese Opera troupe before he cooperated with it and made the Taiwanese Opera film, Xue Pinggui and Wang Baochuan in 1955.

In 1958, based on a Taiwanese Opera drama, Chen Cheng-san, owner of Gongyueshe, produced, without Ho Chi-Ming’s help, a 16mm color film, Gold Kettle and Jade Carp/Jinhu yu li, and interpolated actors’ performances of scenes in the opera in-between scenes in the film, just the reverse of the traditional process of rensageki. The film/performance of Gold Kettle and Jade Carp was staged in Taipei for 20 days and all performances were sold-out. It then traveled to major cities around Taiwan. However, rensageki did not continue, nor did Chen and other owners of Taiwanese Opera troupes continue this new approach to traditional rensageki.



SHANG-KUAN LING-FENG (Shangguan Lingfeng, Xu Zhimei) (1949- ). One of the most renowned xianu/nuxia (swordswoman/female knight-errant) in martial arts action films – wuxia pian and kung fu films, Shang-Kuan Ling-feng/ Shangguan Lingfeng (aka Polly Kwan/Polly Shang Kwan/Polly Shangkuan) became an instant celebrity with her debut film – King Hu’s first film for Union Film Company (Lianbang), Dragon Gate Inn/Dragon Inn/Longmen kezhan (1967).

Born on “Double Ten Day,” 1949, in Pingtung/Bingdong, southern Taiwan, Shang-Kuan’s real name is Hsu Chih-mei/Syu Jhihmei/Xu Zhimei. Her father was a pilot, her mother a singer. Unfortunately, her parents divorced and both remarried when she was little, which may have contributed to her independent personality as an adult.

While still a student in Dong Fang Vocational High School, Shang-Kuan auditioned at Union Film Company during its actor recruitment campaign, and was selected by director King Hu to be his leading actress in Dragon Gate Inn. The unexpected tremendous success of the film, not only in Taiwan but throughout Southeast Asia, made Shang-Kuan an action film star, personifying the image of xianu/nuxia. For the next six years, she continued playing such swordswoman roles in Lianbang’s wuxia pian, before her contract expired in 1972. Other martial arts films she made during this period include The Swordsman of All Swordsmen/Yidai jian wang (Kuo Nan-Hong, 1968), The Grand Passion/Lie huo (Yang Shih-ching, 1970), Rider of Revenge/Wan li xiong feng (Hsiung Ting-wu, 1971), The Ghost Hill/Shi wan Jinshan (Ting Shan-hsi, 1971), The Bravest Revenge/Wulin long hu dou (Chien Lung, 1971), The Brave and the Evil/Hei bai dao (Jimmy Wang Yu, 1971), A Girl Fighter/Nu quanshi (Yang Shih-ching, 1972), and The Ghost Face/Gui mian ren (Yang Shih-ching, 1973).

After leaving Lianbang, Shang-Kuan Ling-feng appeared in a few more Taiwan fistfight kung fu films before moving to Hong Kong. Her performance in one kung fu action film coproduced by Lianbang and Hong Kong’s Golden Harvest, Back Alley Princess/Malu xiao tianshi (Lo Wei, 1973), won “Best Actress” at the 1973 Golden Horse Awards. She appeared in a similar Golden Harvest film made in the United States, Back Alley Princess in Chinatown/Chinatown Capers/Xiao yingxiong da nao tangrenjie (Lo Wei, 1974).

Her acting career reached its peak between 1975 and 1978. The 18 Bronzemen/ Shaolinsi shiba tongren (1975), directed by Kuo Nan-Hong, was very popular in Taiwan and Hong Kong, prompting her to star in a series of sequels/copies, such as Return of the 18 Bronzemen/Yongzheng da po shiba tongren (Kuo Nan-Hong, 1976) and Shaolin Death Squad/The Shaolin Kids/Shaolin xiao zi (Kuo Nan-Hong, 1977). She also starred in John Woo’s Golden Harvest kung fu film, The Hand of Death/Shaolin Men (1976). Shang-Kuan even appeared in a French action comedy, From Hong Kong with Love/Bons baisers de Hong-Kong (Yvan Chiffre, 1975), and a South Korean-produced kung fu film, Tigresses/Shaolinsi hei bao (Lee Hyuk-Soo, 1977). In 1977 alone, she appeared in 22 martial arts films, a record hard to break by any actor.

Shang-Kuan decided to retire from acting in 1978, and went to study theater and dance in the United States. She came back only two years later to star in Heroine of Tribulation/Kuhai nu shenlong (Hou Cheng, 1981) and Super Dragon/ Shaolin Super Dragon/Feng qi yun yong dou kuang lung (Paul Chang Chung, 1982). In 1981, she was also a leading actress in a Taiwan martial arts television series. Shang-Kuan became a singer, not only appearing on stage throughout Taiwan, but also in Southeast Asia.

Afterward, Shang-Kuan Ling-feng emigrated to California, running a Chinese restaurant and an American restaurant. During her 15-year acting career, Shang- Kuan appeared in more than 70 features, most of them martial arts wuxia pian and kung fu films.


SHAO LUO-HUI (Shao Shaouli) (1919-1993). A renowned Taiwanese-dialect film director, Shao Luo-hui/Shaw Luo-Hui (real name Shao Shaouli) was born on 15 October 1919 in Tainan City, southern Taiwan. After finishing elementary school, Shao went to Japan where he later studied playwriting and stage directing in a Tokyo theater school.

Upon returning to Taiwan in 1947, he started a theater troupe, which suffered heavy losses and was soon disbanded. Shao Luo-hui then joined Duma Taiwanese Opera Troupe and performed throughout Taiwan, during the same period that Xiamen-dialect films were competing with Taiwanese Opera for audiences. Envisioning the inevitable decline of Taiwanese Opera, Shao persuaded Duma Troupe’s owner to film a performance of their Taiwanese Opera drama, The Sixth Book of Gifted Scholars: Romance of the West Chamber/Liu cai tse hsi hsiang chi, after the last evening show. Despite inadequate equipment and insufficient technique, Shao shot the movie with a 16mm camera and available light, taking a month to complete it. However, he could not find any facilities to screen the film, because no movie theater in Taiwan was equipped with a 16mm projector. When Shao was finally able to find a projector for the film premiere on 13 June 1955 at the Grand View (Da Guan) Theater in Taipei, the auditorium was too big for the projected images to show clearly. The premiere screenings lasted three days, then the film was shelved.

The failure of The Sixth Book of Gifted Scholars did not deter Shao from making other Taiwanese-dialect films. In 1956, he made a contemporary drama, Flowers of the Raining Night/Yu ye hua, based on a stage play, into a box-office winner. Shao was a prolific director. Between 1956 and 1970, he directed nearly 50 Taiwanese-dialect films, many based on Chinese and Japanese folklore, such as China’s snake husband and Japan’s momotaro. In the 1960s, he ventured into making several Mandarin films. He also co-directed two Taiwan-Japan coproductions. One of them was actually an omnibus horror film, Okinawan Horror: Upside down Ghost – Chinese Horror: Breaking a Coffin/Upset Walking Ghost – Broken Coffin/Okinawa kaidan: Sakazuri yūrei – Shina Kaidan: Shikan yaburi (1962), in which Shao directed the Chinese part that was based on the Chinese folk legend, Zhuangzhi Tests His Wife. (The story had previously been made into a silent film in 1913 by Hong Kong director Li Minwei.)

After 1970s, Shao appeared in more than 50 Mandarin films as an actor, mostly martial arts kung fu films, half of them directed by former Taiwanese-dialect film director Joseph Kuo. Shao Luo-hui remained active until his death at age 74.


SHAW BROTHERS (Shaoshi Xiongdi Gongsi). Shaw Brothers (Singapore) was established on the small British colonial island in 1924 by Runme Shaw (1901-1985) and his younger brother, Run Run Shaw (1907- ), to distribute and exhibit films made by Tianyi (Unique) Studio, founded by their elder brother, Shaw Runje/Siu Chui-Yung/Shao Zuiweng (1896-1975). The brothers Runme and Run Run were film industry pioneers in Singapore and Malaya (which united in 1963 with Sabah, Sarawak, and for only two years with Singapore, to become Malaysia). Shaw Runje moved his Tianyi Studio from Shanghai to Hong Kong in 1934. Tianyi was renamed South Sea Films in 1937, and its management transferred from Shaw Runje to Shaw Runde/Shao Cunren (1898-1973).

In 1950, South Sea Films was renamed Shaw & Sons, and its studios called Shaw Studios. Shaw & Sons faced a serious challenge in 1957 from its main competitor, Motion Picture & General Investment Co. Ltd. (MP&GI). At that time, the performance at the Hong Kong and Southeast Asia box office of Shaw & Sons’ films was much worse then films from MP&GI. Shaw Brothers, the distribution arm of the Shaw Organisation in Southeast Asia, was forced to send Run Run Shaw to take over Shaw & Sons, which then stopped production and became only the distribution and exhibition arm of the Shaw Organisation in Hong Kong.

In 1958, Run Run Shaw founded Shaw Brothers (Hong Kong) and started building Shaw Brothers Studio in Clearwater Bay. It also began a ferocious competition with MP&GI.

Run Run Shaw hired Chang Cheh, who came from Taiwan in 1957 and became a writer of wuxia stories and film critic in Hong Kong, as “chief writer,” heading Shaw Brothers’ script department in 1962. Following the phenomenal success of Chang’s new-style martial arts wuxia pian, One-Armed Swordsman/Du bi dao (1967), Mandarin films became very popular in Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Southeast Asia. Shaw Brothers needed to produce a large number of films to fulfill theaters’ needs. Consequently, it recruited many talents from Taiwan. At its peak, there were over 100 Taiwan writers, directors, and actors working for Shaw Brothers in Hong Kong, some employed specifically to dub Shaw Brothers’ Cantonese-dialect films into Mandarin Chinese for the Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Southeast Asia markets.   

Taiwan director Pan Lei was highly appreciated by Run Run Shaw, who asked him to work for Shaw Brothers in 1960. However, Pan would not agree until his benefactor, Tsai Meng-chien/Cai Mengjian, left his position as general manager of the Nationalist-owned Central Motion Picture Corporation (CMPC). Pan eventually started working for Shaw Brothers in 1963. However, he was authorized by Run Run Shaw to work independently in Taiwan with his own crew. Pan emigrated to Hong Kong in the mid-1970s, writing and directing several films there for Shaw Brothers.

Top executives Raymond Chow Man-Wai/Zou Wenhuai and Leonard Ho Koon- Cheung/He Guanchang left Shaw Brothers in 1970 to found Golden Harvest. Run Run Shaw tried without success to recruit good producers from Taiwan, such as Sha Yungfong of Union Film Company (Lianbang), to fill the vacuum. However, he did attract a lot of creative talent from Taiwan, including writers and directors, such as Joseph Kuo Nan-Hong, Tsai Yang-Ming, Hsin Chi, Sun Chong/Sun Zhong, San Kong/Shen Jiang, Tien Fung/Tian Fong, Mou Dun-Pei, and Chiu Gan-Chien/Chiu Tai An-Ping/Yau Kong-kin/Yau Dai On-Ping/Qiu Gangjian. Among the Taiwan actors who starred in Shaw Brothers’ films in the 1970s, were Lily Ho Li-Li/He Lili, Shih Szu/Shi Si, Julie Yeh Feng/Ye Feng, Betty Ting Pei/Ding Pei, Ching Li/Jing Li, Cheng Miu/Jing Miao, Ngai Ping-Ngo/Wei Pingao, Fang Mian, Lam Chung/Lin Chong, and Gao Ming.

Former Shaw Brothers’ top director Li Han-hsiang, who had left them to start his own studio in Taiwan, was invited back by Run Run Shaw in 1972. Afterward, Chang Cheh, then the top director at Shaw Brothers, founded Chang’s Films with financial support from Run Run Shaw. Shaw persuaded Chang to base his company in Taiwan, in order to utilize capital Shaw Brothers earned from distributing its films, because the profits could not be sent back to Hong Kong due to the Nationalist government’s regulations. Chang used the money to make several films in Taiwan, which were then distributed by Shaw Brothers. However, Chang was not good at running a film production company. Within three years, he owed Shaw Brothers HK$2 million (US$250,000), forcing him to close Chang’s Films, and he returned to work for Shaw Brothers as an employee. 

Throughout his life, Sir Run Run Shaw (usually called simply, Run Run, both affectionately and not) remained supportive of the Nationalist government on Taiwan. It was pragmatic for him, as he discovered that the box-office of Shaw Brothers’ films increased sharply after winning at the Golden Horse Awards. He also supported Taiwan in joining the Film Festival in Asia/Asia Film Festival/ Asia-Pacific Film Festival, of which he was one of the cofounders. Run Run Shaw (known throughout the international film business as a tough negotiator) was instrumental in preventing the attempts of the People’s Republic of China (PRC or Mainland China) to stop the Republic of China (ROC or Taiwan) from participating in the Asia-Pacific Film Festival. Run Run Shaw also helped bringing international attention to the Golden Horse Awards by personally inviting important figures to participate in its award ceremonies.

Shaw Brothers’ films were originally distributed in Taiwan by Union Film Company. At one time, Shaw Brothers established a Taiwan branch office to distribute its own films, which proved too costly, so distribution rights were again given to Union Film. However, in 1963, when the Union Film Company refused to accept Shaw Brothers’ distribution arrangements for its huangmei diao masterpiece, The Love Eterne (1963), distribution rights for Shaw Brothers films was taken over by other Taiwan distributors. After the phenomenal success of The Love Eterne, Shaw Brothers (Taiwan) was established once again, and continued for a long period of time, until Shaw Brothers stopped film production in 1985.


SHIH, CHUN (Shi Jun, Zhang Shihua) (1935- ). A member and male star of renowned director King Hu’s stock company of fine actors, Shih Chun (real name, Chang Shih-hua/Zhang Shihua) was born in Wen’an County, Hebei Province, China. Shih moved to Taiwan with his family when he was nine years old. His father was a military-turned-civil servant, with the Nationalist government’s Taiwan Provincial Administrative Executive Office (TPAEO), who came to take over Taiwan. Shih graduated from the Department of Animal Husbandry at National Taiwan University, and also trained at the Republic of China Air Force Academy, where he learned to fly. Before joining Union Film Company (Lianbang) in 1965, Shih Chun worked selling agricultural machinery.

After King Hu cast him in Dragon Gate Inn/Dragon Inn/Longmen kezhan (1967), Shih became a regular member of Hu’s team, appearing in nearly all of Hu’s martial arts wuxia pian. Shih personified Hu’s iconic naïve intellectual in A Touch of Zen/Xia nu (1971), and in Sung Tsun-Shou’s fantasy film Ghost in the Mirror/Gu jing youhun (1974). In 1978, Shih reunited with Hu and Hsu Feng, his co-star in A Touch of Zen, in Hu’s duel Buddhist/Taoist contemplative films, Raining in the Mountain/ Kong shan ling yu (1979) and Legend of the Mountain/ Shan zhong chuanqi (1979), filmed back-to-back in the historic northern mountains of South Korea. During his six-year contract with Lianbang, Shih Chun became assistant director of A City Called Dragon/Longcheng shiri (Tu Chung- Hsun, 1970), in which he also starred with Hsu Feng.

Shih Chun is a man of principle, who, unlike many other sought-after stars, would not act in two films simultaneously, making him less prolific in Taiwan cinema. During his some 30-year film career, he made fewer than 30 films, half of them martial arts wuxia films or costume dramas. For his performance in Legend of the Mountain, Shih was nominated as “Best Actor” at the 1979 Golden Horse Awards. He won “Best Actor” at the 1984 Asia Film Festival for The Wheel of Life/Da lunhui (1983), a portmanteau film codirected by Lee Hsing, Pai Ching-jui, and King Hu. His last film before retiring from acting was Wang Tung’s Red Persimmon/Hong Shizi (1997).

In 2003 Shih was invited by Tsai Ming-liang to appear in Goodbye, Dragon Inn/Bu san (2003), Tsai’s homage to King Hu’s Dragon Gate Inn. In Goodbye, Dragon Inn, Shih appears with Miao Tien, one of Tsai’s regular actors, playing Shih’s counterpart character from Dragon Gate Inn. They meet at the last showing of Hu’s original Dragon Gate Inn, before the movie theater is closed permanently. Shih’s moving appearance in such an elegy to the golden days of Taiwan cinema is also symbolic of the closing of his acting career.


SHU, QI (Shu Chi, Lin Lihui) (1976- ). Considered one of the biggest stars in the Chinese regions, Shu Qi, the Taiwanese actress, was born and raised in Xindian, Taipei County (now New Taipei City). Shu Qi is the stage name of Lin Lihui. Lin moved to Hong Kong when she was 17, working as a model for adult magazines. After publishing several nude pictorials, she was discovered by writer-director- producer Manfred Wong, who became her manager and signed her to star in Sex and Zen II/Rouputuan er: yunu xinjing (Cash Chin Man-Kei/Qian Wenqi, 1996), and other ghost, action, comedy, and soft-core B-movies.

Her mainstream films started with Viva Erotica/Seqing nan nu (Yee Tung-Shing, 1996), about the sex film industry in Hong Kong, which won her “Best Supporting Actress” and “Best New Performer” at the 1997 Hong Kong Film Awards. She appeared in A Queer Story/Jilao sishi (Shu Kei, 1997), about being gay in Hong Kong, and in Bishonen…Beauty/Meishao nian zhi lian (Yonfan, 1998), produced by Sylvia Chang, and narrated by Brigitte Lin. (All four, Shu Qi, Yonfan, Chang, and Lin, were Taiwanese working in Hong Kong.) In City of Glass/Boli zhi cheng (Mabel Cheung Yuen-Ting, 1998), Shu Qi co-starred with Leon Dai and Eason Chan. In 1999, she played opposite Jackie Chan and Tony Leung Chiu-Wai in Gorgeous/Boli zun (Vincent Kok, 1999).

In six years, Shu Qi appeared in 45 films by many good Hong Kong directors, including Yee Tung-Shing, Ann Hui, Stanley Kwan, Mabel Cheung, and Andrew Lau Wai-Keung, among others. She won her first “Supporting Actress” award in Taiwan at the 1998 Golden Horse Awards, for Portland Street Blues/Hongxing shisan mei (Raymond Yip Wai-Man, 1998), and won again for the same film at the 1999 Hong Kong Film Awards.

Shu Qi’s first Taiwan films directed by a Taiwan director were Yeh Hung-Wei’s  Home in My Heart/From Ben the Bell Tolls/Xing yu xin yuan/Shanding shang de zhongsheng (1998) and Iron Sister/The Virago Hill/Luanshi qingyu/Yu nu/Tienu enchou ji/Hanfu gang (1997), followed by Chin Kuo-chao/Jin Guozhao’s Fly in Dance/Diyici de qinmi jiechu (2000, costarring Chang Chen), and Vivian Chang’s Hidden Whisper/Xiao bai wu jinji (2000). Working with Hou Hsiao- hsien on Millennium Mambo/Qianxi manpo (2001) was a turning point for her film career, which led to her international stardom. In Shu Qi’s second film for Hou Hsiao-hsien, Three Times/The Best of Times/Zui hao de shiguang (2005), she performed opposite Chang Chen again in three separate short films, playing different characters, set in different time periods. Her performance won “Best Actress” at the 2005 Golden Horse Awards. Soon after Millennium Mambo, Shu Qi appeared in the French action-thriller blockbuster, The Transporter (Louis Leterrier and Corey Yuen, 2002), cowritten and coproduced by famed director Luc Besson. She was also in the Korean action-comedy My Wife is a Gangster III/ Jopog manura 3 (Cho Jin-gyu, 2006).

Despite her involvement with soft-core sex films in Hong Kong during her early film years, Shu Qi managed to cast away any shadow of a bad reputation, gaining popularity and respect through her unique acting talent. She not only continued to win awards at film festivals in China and other parts of the world, but was invited to be a member of the juries at the 2008 Berlinale and 2009 Cannes Film Festival, an unprecedented honor indeed. See also WOMEN AND FILM.


SUNG, TSUN-SHOU (Song Cunshou) (1930-2008). Born ON 2 September 1930, Sung Tsun-Shou was the youngest of seven children in a family from Jiangdu County (known in Chinese history as Yangzhou), Jiangsu Province, China. His father ran a small department store. Sung was educated in Jiangdu until 1949, when his family moved to Hong Kong to avoid the Chinese Civil War.

From the time he was a child, Sung liked to watch Yangzhou Opera, especially the singing plays. He also liked to read Western and classical Chinese novels. While studying at night school in Hong Kong, Sung worked during the day as an apprentice at Ka Wah/Jiahua Printing, where he met and became good friends with King Hu. In 1955, Hu introduced Sung to actor-director Lo Wei’s film company, to write screenplays. His first film as scriptwriter was River of Romance/Dou qing he (Lo Wei, 1957). A year later, Li Han-hsiang introduced Sung to write for Shaw and Sons, where Sung discovered that he needed to learn filmmaking in order to write a good script.

Sung was veteran director Bu Wancang’s script continuity trainee for Queen of Folk Songs/Doufu xishi (1959), produced by Hsin Hwa Motion Picture Company, which was owned by former Shanghai actress Tung Yueh-Chuan/Tong Yuejuan. In 1960, he did script continuity for Yan Jun’s Briden Napping/Hua tian cuo (1962), written by King Hu and produced by Shaw Brothers. Sung joined Shaw Brothers soon after, first as assistant director on Wang Yue-ting’s The Fair Sex/Shenxian laohu gou (1961) and King Hu’s The Story of Sue San/Yu tang chun (1962), and later, as a screenwriter again when Li Han-hsiang summoned him. He wrote two scripts for Li, but they were not made into films. In 1963, when Shaw Brothers engaged in the unfair practice of making another version of Liang shanbo yu zhu yingtai to compete with a film by rival Motion Pictures and General Investment Co. Ltd. (MP&GI), Li Han-hsiang asked Sung to cowrite the screenplay with King Hu, Wang Yue-ting, and Siu Tung/Xiao Tong. The film, The Love Eterne (1963), a huangmei diao film, was a sensational success in Taiwan.

Sung Tsun-Shou followed Li Han-hsiang and moved to Taiwan in December 1963 to work in Li’s Grand Motion Picture Company (GMP). Sung was Li’s assistant director on Seven Fairies/Qi xiannu (1963), Trouble on the Wedding Night/Zhuangyuan jidi (1964, written by Sung Tsun-Shou), and Hsi Shih: Beauty of Beauties (1965), before directing his first film, A Perturbed Girl/Tian zhi jiao nu (1966, codirected with Liu Yishi), a Chinese Opera film starring GMP’s young actress Chen Chen.

Sung’s second film, The Dawn/Poxiao shifen (1968), caught everyone’s attention. Based on a novel by Chu Hsi-ning/Zhu Xining (father of scriptwriter Chu Tien-wen), the film shows the miscarriage of justice at an ancient Chinese court, through the eyes of a novice courtroom guard. Through depth of field, camera movement, and meticulously revealed details (sets, props, and especially in acting), the film represents a primitive, oppressive, suffocating feudal system. The Dawn was chosen as one of the best Mandarin films in 1968 by Taipei film critics.

After King Hu’s Dragon Gate Inn/Dragon Inn/Longmen kezhan (1967) became a phenomenal hit, Sung decided to try his hand at a martial arts film (wuxia pian). The result, Iron Petticoat/Iron Mistress/Tie niangzi (1969), was a failure and Sung never made another such film. Instead, he started making Chiungyao films, which became his expertise. His approach was unconventional, however. For example, in Outside the Window/Chuangwai (1973), Brigitte Lin Ching-Hsia’s debut, which is considered one of the best Chiungyao film, Sung builds a realistic world to immerse the audience and get them to empathize with the characters. This film is in sharp contrast with the stereotypes commonly created by filmmakers who treat Chiungyao film only as a genre. The film was not shown in Taiwan until after Sung’s death in 2008, however, due to a copyright dispute with novelist Chiung Yao. Nevertheless, the film did well in Hong Kong and Southeast Asia.

The Story of Mother/Muqin sanshi sui (1973) is Sung’s other masterpiece. The film was produced by Lee Hsing, who, being a director himself, understood a director’s desire to adhere to his vision. Lee allowed Sung much creative freedom and supported him about the budget. The Story of Mother follows the painful journey of a man’s emotional growth, from his childhood aversion to his mother, because of her debauched behavior, to acceptance and forgiveness in his youth. As in his other films, Sung successfully used a mixture of camera movement and detailed editing to explore the psychology and internalized emotions of the mother and son. It was voted the best 1973 Mandarin film by film critics in Taipei.

Even though Sung Tsun-Shou made a few masterpieces in his 27-year career, the quality of his 26 films is uneven. In the early 1970s, Sung took a detour into other genre films, such as fantasies Ghost in the Mirror/Gu jing youhun (1974) and Legend of the Parrot/Yingwu chuangqi (1978), and ghost film The Wind of Ghost/Ye ban guaitan (aka Gui chui feng) (1974). He was not good at these, and the results were miserable.

Most of Sung’s films were not box-office winners, making it difficult for him to secure better terms for his films. Sung was also not good at contention in competition, thus it was even harder for him to gain fame or make a profit. However, Sung’s exploration of the darker side of humanity, and the compassion in his films that criticized society and exhibited deep concern for the world, could hardly pass without being noticed. In March 2001, the Festival du Film Asiatique de Deauville paid tribute to Sung Tsun-Shou. In December of the same year, Sung was given a “Life Achievement Award” at the Golden Horse Awards.

Sung suffered from Parkinson’s disease. He died on 27 May 2008 in Taipei.




TAIWAN CINEMA STUDY ASSOCIATION (1925-1926). In April 1925, two bank clerks, Liu Xiyang (Ryū Kiyō, a Taiwanese) and Kishimoto Satoru (Japanese), launched a campaign to establish a film corporation in Dadaocheng/Daitōtei, a commercial center in northern Taipei City occupied predominantly by Taiwanese. Their goal was to raise ¥100,000 for 5,000 shares from local businessmen interested in the film business. In less than a month, they raised money for more than 2,000 shares, prompting them to start the Taiwan Cinema Study Association (Taiwan eiga kenkyū kai) in early May 1925, even before the founding of a film company. The Association was set up in advance, laying a foundation in preparation for the formation of their large filmmaking company. The Association’s charter stated that the purpose of the organization was “to study advanced theories and practice of filmmaking.” To fulfill such a goal, the Association created study groups in the fields of film production, exhibition, business management, and special effects.

The Taiwan Cinema Study Association was financially supported by Li Yanxu, member of a wealthy family in Dadaocheng. In fact, the preparation office of the Association was set up on the premises of Jianchang Industry Company, owned and operated by Li and his family. The Association was quickly approved by the colonial government. A total of 34 members, mostly local Taiwanese, which included two women, attended the inauguration ceremony held the evening of 23 May 1925. Li Yanxu was elected president and Kishimoto Satoru managing director. The Board of Directors consisted of wealthy businessmen, children of prominent families, artists, and young men and women interested in filmmaking, which included Liu Xiyang, Li Shu (Ri Sho), Zhang Sunqu (Chyo Sonkyo), and Chen Huajie (Chin Kakai), who were the core members of the Association.

Full members were to pay a monthly fee of ¥5 to attend the activities held several evenings each week. Central was studying the screenplay of Whose Fault Is It?, written by Liu. When the members believed they were ready to produce the film, they ordered 8,000 feet of raw film stock directly from Eastman Kodak in the United States. More than 20 members took part in location shooting, which commenced in early August 1925 at Beitou, Yuanshan, Jinja Boulevard, Taipei Bridge, New Park, and other areas in Taipei. Li Shu was cameraman, while Liu Xiyang shared directing with Zhang Sunqu and Huang Letian (Ko Rakuten), both actors in the film. Other actors included Lian Yunxian (Ren Unzen) and Liu Bizhou (Ryū Kishū).

Despite arguments about the best way to film the screenplay that constantly arose during production, the final result was quite acceptable, according to a newspaper report. The critic was especially impressed by the acting of Lian Yunxian, the first native Taiwanese to become a film actress. The critic wrote, “every move of hers was so realistic,” and that her acting skill was equal to, if not better than, film actresses in China.

The seven-reel action-romance opened in mid-September in Eraku-za, in the center of Dadaocheng, which catered to interests of local Taiwanese audiences. Despite being the first “purely Taiwanese” film completely made by local talent, Whose Fault Is It? failed miserably at the box office. The failure was a big blow to the Taiwan Cinema Study Association, which ceased to function soon afterward. Liu Xiyang’s ambitious plans of forming a film company to produce and exhibit films thus vanished as well. Some other members, including Li Shu and Zhang Sunqu, continued to pursue their filmmaking dreams, in spite of the disappointment of Whose Fault Is It?.


TAIWAN CULTURAL ASSOCIATION (1921-1931), MEI-TAI TROUPE (Mei Tai Tuan) (1928-1933). The Taiwan Cultural Association (TCA) was founded in October 1921 by Taiwanese from the social elite, to improve the cultural atmosphere in Taiwan through enlightening activities, such as newspaper readings, speeches, and theater performances. One of its executive directors, Tsai Pei-huo/ Cai Peihuo, had noticed the potential of film to popularize and elevate knowledge in the general populace. At its annual meeting in October 1925, the TCA’s directors agreed to establish a mobile film projection team.

In 1926, while in Tokyo to present, once again, the seventh petition asking for the establishment of a Taiwanese parliament, Tsai spent ¥6,000 on a film projector, and some educational films (including their film scripts), and brought them back to Taiwan. The films and screenplays passed censorship by the local governments in Taipei (Taihoku) and Tainan. Some young members in the TCA were trained to be both projectionists and benshi (narrators) who would comment on films during film exhibitions. In late March 1926, a mobile film projection team was formed, consisting of three benshi-projectionists. In early April 1926, the team already started to screen films at the Grand Stage (Dawutai) Theater in Tainan, followed by major cities and small towns across Taiwan, the first planned film screenings by an opposition organization.

The screenings were well received everywhere, especially in the urban areas. In fact, the team was so enthusiastically welcomed that Tsai quickly organized a second projection team in July. He went to Tokyo and Shanghai to purchase more than 10 films. By September, the second mobile projection team, with another three benshi-projectionists, started to tour Taiwan. The TCA projection teams held more than 130 screenings from 15 April 1926 to 23 January 1927, with audiences ranging from about 500 to more than 2,000. While the total attendance at the TCA’s touring exhibitions was less, when compared to the greater number of screenings with an average of 800-1,000 attendees at screenings held around the same time by the government-affiliated Taiwan Education Society (TES), some said that the TCA screenings seemed more attractive to the local Taiwanese populace.

Fiction and non-fiction films shown included educational, instructional, nature, drama, and comedy from abroad, among them, Exploration on an Unpopulated Island, Overture of Love, Mother and Son, Valor, Monsters of the North Pole, The Ecology of Animals in the North Pole, The North Pole Adventure, Farming Scenes in Denmark, Cooperative Enterprises in Denmark, and The Red Cross. According to Taiwan People’s Daily (Taiwan minhō), a fortnightly supporting social movements in Taiwan, Exploration in Unpopulated Island was a comedy, Overture of Love revealed the importance of women to men, Mother and Son was a tear-jerker, Valor was a western.

The content of the films might not have been so interesting or important, but the explanations by the narrators made a difference. The TCA’s benshi would often make irrelevant speeches criticizing colonial rule, using direct irony and indirect innuendo, during screenings of the educational films. Such exhibitions were always stopped by police during the events, and at times, narrators and/or organizers were detained.

The audiences’ overwhelming enthusiasm might be attributed to the criticism of Japanese rule made by the TCA narrators, using local Taiwanese language that was familiar to them. Taking chances while explaining the stories of the films, these narrators would allude to social injustices and the rampage of Japanese imperialism as well as advocate Taiwan nationalism. For example, one narrator compared the similarity between human and animal societies, lamenting that in some human societies, basic common needs are not being met. “Isn’t it sad?” asked the narrator. “Therefore, we should try to remedy it as soon as possible, otherwise the society may be totally in the dark,” the announcer concluded his comments. Police attending the screenings were certainly attentive to such language, which always incurred violent suppression.

The issuing of the “Motion Pictures Film Inspection Rules” in July 1926, and its strict enforcement, might have been specifically directed against such TCA projection team activity (see CENSORSHIP). In order to prevent the Taiwan Cultural Association from receiving “problematic” films and conducting “problematic” film screenings, the Japanese government closely monitored Tsai Pei-huo and his colleagues’ activities in Japan and China. On 25 July 1926, Tsai entered Shanghai with s fake identity. Through the YMCA, he purchased a reel of film about the “530 Shooting Incident,” that happened in Shanghai a year before. It was reasonably assumed that the film was confiscated by the police in Taiwan after Tsai returned. His activities in Shanghai were obviously monitored closely by the Japanese consulate general in Shanghai.

One year after the TCA started its mobile projection teams, the organization faced an ideological crisis that divided its radical and conservative members. In July 1927, Tsai Pei-huo and some other conservatives left the TCA to form the Taiwan Popular Party, the first Taiwanese political party. Tsai started a propaganda unit in the Taiwan Popular Party, refusing the demand to hand over projectors and films by those who remained in the Taiwan Cultural Association. Touring exhibitions by Tsai’s propaganda unit were still quite popular. A total of 94 screenings were held in 1927, reaching 35,000 viewers. However, by the end of the year, Tsai also left the Taiwan Popular Party after conflicts with another leader, Jiang Weishui, about the party’s political course.

Tsai then established his own touring film exhibition organization, Mei-Tai (Beautiful Taiwan) Troupe/Mei tai tuan, in February 1928. Mei-Tai Troupe intended to be more than just a projection team. It was also supposed to be a theater troupe, attempting to replace popular Taiwanese Opera, and it was going to establish a music section after film and theater operations were well-established. Three mobile projection teams from Mei-Tai Troupe traveled throughout Taiwan in 1928 and continued to be popular in rural areas.

Around the same time, a cultural movement advocated by Taiwan anarchist groups also involved themselves in traveling projection of films. By 1929, however, all the projection units had lost their audience, when Chinese films, especially martial arts wuxia pian, became very popular. Mei-Tai Troupe’s touring exhibition of films became less and less regular, and finally closed down in 1933. The last few months before closing, Mei-Tai Troupe’s projection teams were commissioned by the Taiwan New People’s Daily (Taiwan Shin Minhō) to show free movies to its subscribers. Films that were shown included The Scarlet Letter (Victor Sjöström, 1926) and The Sea Beast (Millard Webb, 1926).


TAIWAN EDUCATION SOCIETY (Taiwan Kyōiku Kai) (1901-1945). The Taiwan Education Society (TES)/Taiwan kyōiku kai was originally founded in March 1901 by a group of Japanese educators and administrators. In 1907 it became an administration-based organization, executing works commissioned by the colonial government’s Ministry of Educational Affairs. Its budget was allocated by the ministry, with the governor-general serving as its president and the minister of educational affairs as its director. The original purposes of the organization were to conduct scholastic research and investigations about educational issues, to hold educational seminars and conferences, and to publish a monthly journal on educational affairs. After the 1910s, other than publishing the journal, the major functions of the TES were shifted to more practical work, such as combining film screenings with popular education speeches to achieve more effective education for the general public.

By then, the colonial government had realized that the percentage of those among the local population with the ability to understand the Japanese language was less than desirable. Some Japanese officials believed that those Taiwanese who did not speak Japanese were limited by traditional Chinese ways of living, in their spiritual, professional, social, or family lives. Moreover, very few young Taiwanese were educated in schools or other organizations. Therefore, promoting Japanese for the local populace to learn and use continued to be a major objective of the colonial government from the 1910s on. The colonial government thought that film was important in the lives of the general public and could be used to influence them.

In 1914, a motion pictures unit was established in the TES’s popular education section. Educational films were purchased and screenings were held quite often in major cities, as well as in remote locations throughout Taiwan and the offshore islands, beginning in 1915. A total of 91 screenings were held in 1916 and 1917, with nearly 120,000 viewers. Even though most of the titles screened by the TES in the 1910s were in essence educational, such as Civilized Agriculture, Students in Sports, Automobiles Racing, Zoo, and Observatory and Astronomy, some films were used to promote patriotism to the emperor and Imperial Japan. This was actually one of the important functions of the TES.

The Taiwan Education Society was only able to screen films before August 1917 because it did not have its own in-house cameraman. This meant that the TES either had to purchase educational films from homeland Japan and the Western nations or its film productions had to be commissioned to outside filmmakers. Takamatsu Toyojirō’s company Taiwan Dōjinsha, for example, was hired by the TES to film the 1916 Taiwan Industrial Exhibition celebrating the 20th anniversary of Japanese colonial rule. This was the first major exhibition held in Taiwan by the Japanese colonial government since its rule over Taiwan began in 1895.

The great success of the screenings of educational and other non-fiction film in the early- to mid-1910s had obviously prompted the TES to produce films using its own crews. Such a major shift might have also been due to Takamatsu’s departure from Taiwan in 1917.

In August of that year, the cameraman Hagiya Kenzō was recruited from Tokyo to be a staff cameraman in the TES. He was a veteran cameraman working for the M. Kashī Company before being recruited by Takamatsu to shoot the 1916 Taiwan Industrial Exhibition film that had tremendously impressed the TES. By the end of the 1910s, the TES became the only Taiwan institution capable of producing films, some of which had been commissioned by various departments of the colonial government. The need to expand its capability to make and screen more films prompted the TES to hire new technicians. In 1922, cameraman Miura Masao was brought from Japan to work with Hagiya. Between October and December 1922, the two of them produced four non-fiction films, Hot Springs in Hokutō (Beitou), Hygiene Campaign in Taichū Shū (Taizhong prefecture), Motorized Military Maneuvering in Taichū Plain, and Fire Prevention Campaign in Takao Shū (Kaohsiung prefecture). Each year during the early 1920s, the TES produced about 25 films with its own cameramen and purchased another 20 or so Japanese and foreign educational films. By March 1924, a total of 84 films had been made by Hagiya, Miura, and their assistants.

Though most of those 84 films made by the TES were about topics related to Taiwan and homeland Japan, 14 of them (about 17%) were records of political events; 11 films (13%) depicted local agriculture and fishery products; 22 (26%) were about cities, off-shore islands, scenery, and transportation; five promoted good hygiene and prevention of epidemic diseases; and five showed sports events, mostly athletic meets. There were very few films representing cultural affairs, and only three films were directly related to education. It, therefore, clearly indicates that the use of film by the Taiwan Education Society was for political and propagandistic purposes rather than educational.

Actually, Hagiya’s arrival in 1917 coincided with Japan’s so-called “Taishō Democracy,” after Hara Kei became the first “commoner” prime minister. During this period, Taiwan had its first civil servant as governor-general in 1919, and the “extension of Japan proper policy” (naichi enchō shugi) ensued. This policy to rule Taiwan in the same fashion as homeland Japan was initiated earlier by Prime Minister Hara, and promulgated by Governor-General Den Kenjirō, who began large scale reform in Taiwan in order to better integrate the colony into Japan proper. To achieve the goal of Japanization of Taiwan and assimilation of the Taiwanese, Den Kenjirō’s colonial government started rural reform to improve the quality of local manpower. Film screenings were considered a vital part of the program.

Facilitating public education in rural areas by using film began in 1922. The Internal Affairs Bureau (Naimukyoku) used its social affairs budget to purchase educational films for the TES to screen throughout the island and also gave selected films to local governments to organize screenings by themselves. To achieve its goal, the TES began holding training sessions for the staff of these local governments that were responsible for such programs. As part of the government-general’s efforts, many local governments started their own film projection training after 1923, with assistance from the TES’s motion pictures unit. By the early 1930s, similar training sessions were held for employees from other government institutions, such as schools and the tax bureau.

Though most of the public screenings (and some special screenings for the governor-general and his civil servants) were still run by the motion pictures unit of the TES, starting in October 1922, some screenings were supported by local governments. By 1924, the majority of public education film screenings had already been taken over by projection units from local governments, and by 1930, screenings by local film associations were very common. For example, Taichu Shū Film Alliance held 538 screenings, with more than 220,000 in attendance (see HO CHI-MING).

A major shift happened in the Taiwan Education Society in January 1931. It became an independent incorporated association. The TES also expanded its internal structure, and a photography department was created. The mission of TES’s new photography department, which included still photography and motion pictures, was not restricted to making and showing social education films. From 1931 on, it was enthusiastically involved in the production of educational films to be used throughout Japan as supplementary material with textbooks. Ten new titles about homeland Japan’s scenery and venerable locations were planned in 1931. Such films were already being used for both school and social education after 1931. Schools in Taiwan would obtain these films from the TES, instead of buying them from film companies in Japan. Eighteen more titles were produced by the TES in 1936, among them 15 about Japanese scenic spots and ancient sites.

The TES not only produced and showed films about mainland Japan to Taiwanese adults and school children, it also produced and showed films about Taiwan to Japanese in their homeland. Beginning in 1920, the Taiwan Education Society started to promote positive images of Taiwan as one of its functions. In fact, the TES played a dual role in Taiwan – on the one hand, as an agent importing the content of Japan nationalism from mainland Japan; on the other hand, creating content that represented a favorable picture of Taiwan and exporting it to mainland Japan.

In 1920 and 1921, TES dispatched two separate groups to Japan for the purpose of presenting the real Taiwan. To prepare this “Current Situations of Taiwan” project, the motion pictures unit spent much time shooting beautiful spots and exotic scenery across Taiwan. In major cities throughout Japan, the TES representatives made speeches and screened films that included shots of Taiwan’s famous Phalaenopsis orchids, a spectacular logging scene on Mt. Alishan, gorgeous scenes at Sun Moon Lake, as well as grand buildings in several major cities, schools and parks, aboriginal children riding on small boats to attend school, etc. Similar efforts were made in 1929 when the government-general office held exhibitions in Tokyo and Osaka promoting Taiwan. Traveling Taiwan, a film produced by the TES, was screened at those occasions.

After the Manchurian Incident of 1931, the Taiwan Education Society was required by the colonial government to produce an educational film, Taiwan, to be used in homeland Japan’s elementary schools in conjunction with the textbook. The purpose was to clarify the misconception in Japan that Taiwan was a dangerous place, and that malaria was still widespread there. Taiwan was a three-reel (2,500 feet) educational film that comprehensively presented the geography, agriculture, animal husbandry, fisheries, forest products, minerals, as well as city and rural scenery, historic places, and modern ports. The negative impressions about Taiwan were so deeply rooted that efforts on the part of the colonial government to correct them seemed futile. According to actor Sawamura Kunitaro, as late as 1942, cast and crew of the national policy film Pirates of the Sea/Umi no gozoku still felt dread at going to Taiwan for location shooting because of their preconceptions – wild Aborigines, poisonous snakes, deadly malaria, etc.

The Manchurian Incident, and the following Shanghai Incident in January 1932, did not alter the focus of the TES’s photography department in making the supplementary films and engaging in film training programs. However, two years later, following the League of Nations’ condemnation of the invasion of Manchuria by Japan, the direction of filmmaking and attitudes towards film in Taiwan were strongly affected. Isolation from the world made the Japanese government and military more eager to use film for propaganda purposes. Films made by the TES after 1934 showed a stronger tendency towards promotion of patriotism, militarism, and Japanization in Taiwan. For example, Taiwan in the Current Situation/Jikyoku ka no taiwan, produced by the TES in 1937-38, depicted the situation in Taiwan after the Second Sino-Japanese War broke out. The film showed activities of Japanese soldiers, Taiwanese army porters, and those who remained in the home front (Taiwan), including native Taiwanese and Aborigines, expressing patriotism and loyalty to the state. It was a pure propaganda film, or “national policy film” as it was called at the time.

On behalf of the colonial government, the TES also purchased newsreels and other war-related documentary film made by Taiwan Nichi Nichi Shimpō (Taiwan Daily News), Osaka Mainich Shimbun, and Yomiuri Shimbun for loan to local governments for touring exhibitions in rural Taiwan. To the colonial government, film provided a way to cultivate the imperial national spirit and to arouse the virtuous morale of unaware audiences. “Utilizing recent documentary scenes of the war, together with the great Japanese spirit shown in the film, the national spirit would be instilled in the general rural population (especially in the aged local women),” proclaimed a report in Taiwan Education, the monthly journal published by the TES.

The Japanization policy of the 1930s and 1940s did significantly influence schools, but innovative implementation of that serious attempt to rapidly transform all Taiwanese into imperial subjects took place largely outside the formal education system. Targeted at Taiwanese who never attended elementary school, and thus, did not come into contact with the Japanization effort, new measures were designed to improve social and economic conditions. Campaigns were held to spread the Japanese language and culture and to increase school attendance. This “social education project,” using slogans such as “arousing the national spirit” and “advocating national defense,” was especially promoted in the countryside, with film screenings as one of the integral elements. The TES was instrumental in providing films about current situations to local touring exhibition organizations, which, on behalf of local governments, screened these films throughout Taiwan, including in fishing villages and remote mountain villages. In general, the number of such screenings, how many reels shown, audience attendance, and allotted budgets, all increased steadily from the early 1930s to the 1940s. By mid-1940, the number of viewers reached by film screenings in the “social education project” was estimated at 4 million, more than four times that of public education screenings across Taiwan in 1927. The TES assisted at many of these screenings.

In the eyes of the colonial government, however, these local screenings by various organizations lacked unified guidelines and were not integrated. Thus, they duplicated each other’s efforts and were a waste of resources. After the National Mobilization Law was passed by the Imperial Diet in April 1938, the colonial government started to ask all civilian film organizations to form one unified association to jointly procure and sell films. Consequently, film distributors established an association in 1940, followed by tour exhibitors and theater owners. Nonprofit local film organizations were the last to be unified and controlled by the Provisional Ministry of Information (Rinji jōhō bu) of the colonial government. In September 1941, all local film organizations were integrated into the newly established Taiwan Film Association (Tai’ei).

Toward the end of Japanese colonial rule in Taiwan, the TES’s motion pictures unit was one of only three film production organizations still functioning. By 1941, due to the imperial government’s strict control of raw film stock, filmmakers’ attitudes toward film production in Taiwan was rather suppressed and few films were made by the TES. Most of these were related to situations in Southern China, where TES sent Hagiya, who fell fatally ill. Finally, in September 1942, one year after Tai’ei was established, the TES’s motion pictures unit was taken over by the Taiwan Film Association, along with its personnel and facilities, which became the foundation of the Association. After losing its motion pictures department, Taiwan Education Society continued fulfilling its other functions until the end of World War II, with the exception of publishing its monthly journal, which ceased publication in 1943 due to government policy.


TAIWAN FILM ASSOCIATION (Taiwan Eiga Kyōkai/Tai’ei) (1941-1945). Taiwan was declared in a state of war by the colonial government on 15 August 1937, five weeks after the Second Sino-Japanese War broke out. The Provisional Ministry of Information (Rinji jōhō bu) was established in the Government- General Office to take charge of collecting and reporting information, implement national policy, and enlighten the natives, as well as to serve as liaison between related organizations and to make organizational changes. Thus, the colonial government directly involved itself in policy advocacy and content control of media, including film. When the National Mobilization Law (Kakka sōdōin hō) was passed by the Imperial Diet in April 1938, Taiwan Government-General Office began to require the automatic establishment of a unifying organization in each trade initially, and an association later, to collectively procure and sell commodities. Under pressure from such state control, distributors were the first in the film industry to establish a trade association in 1940, followed by tour exhibitors, and owners of stage theaters and cinemas. Local non-profit film organizations were the last to be controlled by the colonial government.

On 1 September 1941, the Taiwan Film Association (Taiwan eiga kyōkai, or Tai’ei) was established under the direction of the Provisional Ministry of Information. Membership in Tai’ei was comprised of local film organizations in the jurisdiction of each and every shū (prefecture) or chō (subprefecture) government. The secretary-general of the colonial government was designated president of Tai’ei, and the deputy minister in the Ministry of Information was vice-president, although this was soon changed. The revision made the directors of the Bureau of Culture and Education as well as the Bureau of Police Affairs two vice-presidents. In addition, the chief of each shū (that administered more developed areas) or chō (that administered marginal areas) government was assigned a position as consultant, and the representative of each local film organization became a councilor in Tai’ei.

The goals of the Taiwan Film Association were to promote production and distribution of quality films, develop the film industry, and utilize films for the enlightenment of the populace so as to advance culture on the island. By 1940, there were all types of local organizations involved in showing films, including some tour exhibition units formed to “educate” as well as to provide entertainment to villagers living in the remote mountains and fishing villages. In the eyes of the colonial government, previous local screenings lacked unified guidelines and duplicated each other, and thus, was a waste of resources. Tai’ei was established to provide such guidelines, serving as a liaison to monitor and coordinate screenings in each shū or chō. The (Provisional) Ministry of Information, which had had no affiliates when first established, was finally able to assert control across the island, now that all local film organizations were its subordinated institutions.

The main work of Tai’ei included: (1) producing films; (2) distributing films in Taiwan, Southern China and Southeast Asia; (3) recommending films and being the agent for them; (4) assisting and guiding its members; and (5) publishing an internal journal. The Taiwan Film Association set up its own projection teams to assist projecting 35mm films by its members in the five shūs and three chōs across Taiwan, following a 40-day schedule every two months. Each screening usually showed 12 to 13 reels of film, which included two to three reels of Japanese newsreels that had been shown earlier in cinemas throughout Taiwan, and two to three reels of bunka eiga/cultural films/documentary films, and/or enlightening informational films, as well as eight to nine reels of fiction films. The island- round screenings started on 21 October 1941, taking place twice in 1941, and five times the next year. Tai’ei regularly distributed four newsreels per month to each shū or chō for local screenings. It was also possible for members to borrow additional films. In 1942, 156 such individual loans were made. Film distribution was stopped after 1943, due to fewer films available caused by the implementation of the imperial government’s new frugal policy to distribute negative films only to film companies making “worthy” film projects. Thereafter, all film exhibition by local non-profit film organizations was taken over by three 35mm and two 16mm mobile projection teams from the Taiwan Exhibition Control Association, established in April 1942.

As for the production of film, Tai’ei was among three institutions capable of making films during the final period of Japanese rule; the others were the Taiwan Education Society (TES) and Taiwan Nichi Nichi Shimpō (Taiwan Daily News, or Tainichi). The main duty of Tai’ei was to enlighten native Taiwanese. Therefore, producing bunka eiga/documentary and enlightening informational film was Tai’ei’s responsibility, while making educational film was the responsibility of the TES, and current affairs film/newsreel that of Tainichi. As the control over film negatives was tightened after 1941, the attitude toward making such films became more cautious and standards more rigorous, causing Tainichi to stop film production completely and the other two institutions to produce only a few reels of films the following year. That was the reason behind Taiwan Film Association taking over of the film production units of both Tainichi and the TES in September 1942. Afterwards, production of non-fiction films resumed and flourished when negative film was allocated directly to Tai’ei by the Ministry of Information in the imperial government.

Most of Tai’ei’s personnel and production facilities came from the TES. To improve its capability in film production, Tai’ei acquired the warehouse of Tait & Co., Ltd. in Dadaocheng/Daitōtei, northern Taipei City, and turned it into a film studio with directing, cinematography, and film projection departments, as well as having its own film laboratory. Subsequently, Tai’ei became a self-sustaining film production organization capable of filming, sound recording, film processing, and printing. The first productions by Tai’ei were a dozen reels of documentary film showing civilian conditions on the island. As the Pacific War escalated and Taiwan became the southward base for the Japan Empire, Tai’ei began to produce films related to the war, such as Captive Life of Generals Who Lost in the War/ Yabureta shōgun tachi furyo no seikatsu. The 1942 film showed British officers and soldiers, from the Southeast Asia theater of the Pacific War, who were imprisoned near Taipei City.

Tai’ei was not capable of producing fiction films, however. To solve this problem, it implemented a coproduction policy. Before the Taiwan Film Association was founded, the Ministry of Information had coproduced Pirates of the Sea/Umi no gōzoku (Arai Ryōhei, 1942) with Nikkatsu. The national policy film, about a naval engagement between the Dutch and Japanese forces led by swashbuckler Hamada Yahei in the early 17th century, glorified the ambition and spirit of southward adventures. This was in line with the southward policy and building of the “Great East Asia Co-prosperity Sphere” advocated by the military and colonial government.

In 1942, Tai’ei coproduced Sayon’s Bell/Sayon no kane (Shimizu Hiroshi, 1943), with the Manchurian Film Association (Man’ei), starring Man’ei’s Ri Koran/Li Xianglan (aka Yoshiko Ōtaka/Shirley Yamguchi). The national policy film was written, produced, and directed by personnel of Shochiku. It was based on a true story about the tragic death of an aboriginal girl, Sayon, who was a devoted member of the youth corps. She fell into a turbulent river while carrying a heavy suitcase for her school teacher-policeman, who had been drafted into the army. Celebrating her “patriotic” deeds, the film was used by the colonial government both to promote patriotism and as an inspirational call for Aborigines to fight in battle for the empire.

In October 1942, Tai’ei hired two directors from mainland Japan – Kimura Jirō of Asahi Eiga and Teragawa Chiaki of Nikkatsu – to join the TES’s technicians, including director Takei Shigerujūrō, cameramen Aihara Shokichi and Kataoka Yuzuru, soundperson Togoshi Tokiyoshi, and editor/lab technicians Mr. and Mrs. Sasaki. By May 1943, after conditions had improved for its staff and organization, Tai’ei started to regularly produce a series of newsreels, Taiwan Film Monthly/Taiwan eiga geppō. Six separate editions of the “monthly” were actually issued each month – three regular editions and three special editions. A news documentary film was also released every two months. The newsreels, narrated in Japanese, were mainly reports of events on the island. The news documentary films, on the other hand, included Captive Life of Generals Who Lost in the War (Part 2)/Yabureta shōgun tachi furyo no seikatsu zokushū (1943); War and Training/Sensō atae kunren (1943), promoting achievements of the Japanization (kōminka) policy; Magic Soldiers of Tomorrow/Ashita no kamihei (1943), recording life inside the training center for special army volunteer soldiers; Forty-Eight Years of Drilling/Rensei yonjū hachi nen, representing various training in preparation for the war in Taiwan, made in commemoration of the 48th anniversary of Japanese rule in Taiwan; and Gratitudes from 6.5 Million/ Rokuhyaku gojū yorozu no kangeki (1944), publicizing how the Taiwanese “warmly welcomed” conscription. These news documentaries were considered immature by Japanese critics on the mainland due to the poor quality of the scripts and filmmaking technique. It was thought that the inconvenience of transportation in Taiwan made filmmaking inefficient, and the short time frame for completion of the films also contributed to the impossibility of quality control.

With deterioration of the situation on the battlefield, and constant bombardment by the United States Air Force, as well as the limited amount of negative film stock allocated to Tai’ei, the number of newsreels and news documentaries produced by Tai’ei declined rapidly in 1944. Soon after Japan surrendered to the Allies in August 1945, Taiwan Film Association stopped all its activities. Most of its Japanese staff was repatriated after the Nationalist government took over Tai’ei. A few technicians, including cameramen Aihara Shokichi and Kataoka Yuzuru, soundperson Togoe Tokikichi, and editor/lab technicians Mr. & Mrs. Sasaki and Asakawa, were temporarily retained and involved in producing additional newsreels, such as the arrival of Chief Executive Chen Yi, the surrender ceremony of the Taiwan theater, and people in Taiwan celebrating the end of the War.

Several Taiwanese technicians at Tai’ei, including lighting and lab technician Li Shu and camera assistant Chen Yubo, were retained by Bai Ke, an official in the Propaganda Committee of Taiwan Provincial Administrative Executive Office, sent in advance to take over the Taiwan Film Association and property related to film. These Taiwanese technicians, together with Tai’ei’s equipment and facilities, formed the backbone of the Taiwan Film Studio, the first film studio to function in post-World War II Taiwan.


TAIWAI FILM STUDIO (Taiwan Provincial Film Studio/Taiwan Film Culture Company) (1945-1999). After World War II ended, Taiwan was under the control of the Nationalist government. The Nationalists established a Taiwan Provincial Administrative Executive Office (TPAEO) and sent the first officers to take over Taiwan in September. Bai Ke, an official of the Propaganda Committee of TPAEO, came in October to take charge of the Taiwan Film Association (Tai’ei) and Japanese property related to film. Bai retained a few Japanese technicians, including two cameramen, one soundman, and three editors/lab technicians, as well as several Taiwanese technicians at Tai’ei, including lighting/lab technician Li Shu, and camera assistant Chen Yubo. The rest of the Japanese staff was repatriated.

Under Bai Ke’s leadership, a new Taiwan Film Studio (TFS)/Taiwan dianying shezhi chang was born, the first film studio to function in postwar Taiwan. The first film the studio produced was a newsreel on events that took place on 24-25 October 1945 – the arrival of Chief Executive Chen Yi at Songshan Air Base, the surrender ceremony of the war’s Taiwan theater held in Taipei City Public Auditorium (later renamed Taipei Zhongshan Hall), and people in Taiwan celebrating “retrocession” to the Chinese Republic of China (ROC) government.

In mid-1946, Taiwan Film Studio was moved from the warehouse of Tait & Co., Ltd. in Dadaocheng, which Tai’ei had acquired in 1942, to a more spacious location in central Taipei. It was equipped with a new soundstage, laboratory, screening room, and offices. TPAEO’s Film Censorship Board conducted film inspection there as well. Before the outbreak of the “228 Incident” in February 1947, the TFS had turned out seven editions of newsreels and four episodes of a documentary film, Taiwan Today/Jinri Taiwan (1946), that shows leaders of TPAEO, various government departments, Taipei cityscapes, the entertainment business, transportation, water resources, light industry, agriculture, and forestry.

After the “228 Incident,” the Propaganda Committee was abolished. The TFS was placed under the Department of Education before it was supposed to become a privately owned company in 1948. However, no one was interested, so instead, the TFS was transferred and become an agency of the Department of Information, in the Taiwan Provincial Government. In 1957, the official name of the studio was changed to Taiwan Provincial Film Studio (TPFS)/Taiwan sheng dianying zhipian chang, still under the Department of Information. In 1988, following orders from the government, it was turned into Taiwan Film Culture Company (TFCC)/Taiwan dianying wenhua gongsi, a government-owned company. In September 1999, just before it was going to become a public company, a 7.3 Richter-scale earthquake shook central Taiwan, destroying the facilities of the TFCC and forcing it to close for good.

Film production at the TFS after the “228 Incident” dwindled, due mainly to the social unrest caused by serious inflation. After the Nationalist (Kuomintang or KMT) government moved to Taiwan in 1949, and the outbreak of the Korean War in 1950, the TFS’s newsreels concentrated on reporting about United States support for the ROC government, accounting for 13 percent of the 280 news episodes made between 1949 and 1954. Taiwan became a close ally of the U.S. In 1957, the United States Information Service (USIS) began supplying World News, the newsreels it produced, to be screened with the TFS’s newsreels, called TFS Newsreels, in movie theaters. (Despite the “world” in its title, most episodes were about America, and America’s view of the world.)

Through an internal coordination and integration effort on the part of the KMT Party in 1950, each of the three government-affiliated film studios was assigned a separate mission. Taiwan Film Studio was to make newsreels and documentaries. Its regularly produced TFS Newsreels were shown in theaters throughout Taiwan before the features. The main focus of the TFS documentaries and newsreels in the 1950s were to emphasize: (1) Taiwan’s position as a base for international anti-Communism; (2) Taiwan’s implementation of democratic local self- government; (3) Overseas Chinese’s support of Taiwan; and (4) rapid development of the infrastructure in Taiwan. A series of documentaries was made, beginning in 1956, on industries, agriculture, education, transportation, police affairs, hygiene, civil affairs, social development, monopolies of utilities, and electricity.

Chiang Kai-shek revised the constitution in 1960 in order to legally run for his third term as president. To rally the public for Chiang’s reelection and constitutional revision, the TFS not only produced 10 newsreel episodes on the topic, but also made a documentary, President Chiang and Taiwan (1960). This approach became a routine afterward. A revised version of the documentary was screened four years later when Chiang was elected ROC president for the fourth time. It was revised again for the celebration of Chiang’s 80th birthday, three months later. The sixth edition (revision) was produced before Chiang’s birthday in 1970, and the seventh and last one in 1977, after Chiang’s death. For the next president, Chiang’s son Chiang Ching-kuo, the TFS produced only one documentary, Hello, President/Zongtong hao (1981).

The golden age of the TFS newsreels was 1957-71. Most of them were about positive, optimistic events. Documentaries made in the 1960s were similar to those in the 1950s, about public affairs and development in Taiwan, with the exception of cultural documentaries, such as Great Confusius/Dazai kongzi (1970) and Chinese Writing Brush/Maobi (1967). Special topics were also made, such as documentaries on little league baseball, Chiang Ching-kuo’s American visit (during which he survived an assassination attempt in New York), and heroes in the Second Sino-Japanese War. Propaganda films, such as Before and After the Retrocession/Guangfu qianhou (1965), Communist Bandits’ Riots in Hong Kong (1967), appeared as well. With the advent of Taiwan’s third television channel in October 1971, Chinese Television System (CTS), the final edition of Taiwan Film Studio’s TFS Newsreel was issued in June 1972.

The TFS continued to make “documentaries” in the 1970s and 1980s, some about the political activities of then Premiere Chiang Ching-kuo and Provincial Chairman Hsieh Tung-Min, while other topics varied, including Peking (Beijing) Opera, colleges and universities, infrastructure construction, development in different counties, social welfare, etc. There were three films about cinema – The Story of the Golden Horse Awards (1981), Monologues of a Camera (1982), and Where Does Cinema Go from Here? (1983).

As was mentioned earlier, according to a 1950 agreement between Taiwan Film Studio, China Film Studio, and Agricultural Education Film Studio (restructured into the KMT-owned Central Motion Picture Corporation in 1954), the TFS was not supposed to produce any narrative feature films. However, when Yuan Tsung-Mei/Yuan Congmei was appointed director of the TFS, he produced and directed an anti-communist spy feature, Poppies/Yingsu hua (1954). After Long Fang (Peter F. Long) became director of the TFS in 1955, he coproduced with Overseas Chinese investors Where There Is No Woman/Meiyou nuren de difang (Tang Shaohua, 1956), a comedy with a political message. His second feature film was Descendant of the Yellow Emperor/Huangdi zisun (Bai Ke, 1956), propagating reconciliation between native Taiwanese and the Mainlanders who came to Taiwan after the end of the Second Sino-Japanese War.

In his tenure as director of the TFS, Long ambitiously expanded the studio’s business. To help him produce quality feature films, Long Fang formed a research and development committee, hiring professional filmmakers as committee members, including directors Lee Hsing, Bai Ke, Chou Hsu-Chiang/Zhou Xujiang, Yang Wengan, and Yang Su, writers Wang Dachuan and Chen Wenquan, actor George Wang/Wang Jue, and cinematographer Zhuang Goujun. He was able to find projects outside the studio, and commissioned Lee Hsing to make a documentary about underground water. Long purchased many new cameras and sound recorders as well as building a soundstage, screening room, and vault. He also sent technicians to Hollywood and Japan to learn new film technology as well as hiring new talent, expanding staff from 31 in 1955 to 110 in 1963. After 1956, Long increased the production to include Cantonese, English, Spanish, and French versions of TFS Newsreels, for distribution to foreign countries. By 1960, Long produced five Mandarin version of TFS Newsreels per month, that screened in movie theaters across Taiwan.

To help raise the technical level of the TFS’s staff, Long requested Japan’s Toho Company, Ltd. to train its technicians, and asked Toho to send cameramen, lighting, and other technicians to help the TFS make No Greater Love/Wu feng (Bu Wancang, 1962). He also signed a contract with Toho Company, Ltd. to coproduce four films. For the first two, the TFS was to provide the actors and crews, and for the last two, the TFS was to finance half the films’ budgets. Through such an arrangement, Chang Mei-Yao got the chance to star in two Toho films, The White Rose of Hong Kong/Xianggang bai qiangwei/Honkon no shiroibara (Fukuda Jun, 1965) and Night in Bangkok/Mangu zhi ye/Bangkok no yoru (Chiba Yasuki, 1967).

When Li Han-hsiang left Shaw Brothers to establish Grand Motion Picture Company, Long Fang was the first Taiwan filmmaker to lend help to him, despite a request not to from Shaw Brothers. He coproduced Li’s blockbuster historical epic, Hsi Shih: Beauty of Beauties (1965). Before production of the film, Long died in a tragic plane crash. Fortunately, Long’s successor Yang Chiao continued the coproduction. However, the grosses for Hsi Shih were far from recovering the film’s cost, forcing the TFS to decrease feature film projects. Between 1967 and 1977, the TFS only produced five features, all of them low-budget films, mostly in the healthy realism style.

In 1974, Taiwan Film Studio was ordered by the Taiwan Provincial Government to relocate to Central Taiwan. Far away from Taipei, center of the film industry, the TFS remained quiet for a while, until Liao Hsiang-hsiung became director in 1980. Liao resumed the making of feature films. In his over four-year tenure, Liao made more than four features, including the portmanteau film, The Wheel of Life/Da lunhui (1983), codirected by older masters King Hu, Lee Hsing, and Pai Ching-jui. The film’s failure at the box office was considered to mark the start of the decline of senior (more traditional) filmmakers.

After Rao Xiaoming (aka Lu Chih-tzu/Lu Zhizi) succeeded Liao, he continued making expensive feature films, including Lee Hsing’s last film as a director, Story of the Heroic Pioneers/Heroic Pioneers/Tangshan guo taiwan (1986), a national policy film, and two commercial films by Ting Shan-hsi, Spirit Love/ Feiyue yinyang jie (1989), a fantasy film, and Magic Sword/Jiang xie shen jian (1993), a period action. Most of these films failed in the market. 

Taiwan Film Studio was restructured as Taiwan Film Culture Company in 1988, following implementation of the new Film Law. Rao Xiaoming, now general manager of the TFCC, was ambitious to transform the studio into a theme park, “Taiwan Studio City,” which opened in 1990. In the theme park, a 360-degree movie theater was built, showing The Dream Comes True/Meimeng chengzhen, the first 360-degree film ever made in Taiwan.

In 1996, Lee Hsing was appointed president of the TFCC. During his tenure, Lee actively promoted the transformation of the TFCC, turning it into a profitable public company. Unfortunately, before it was to be taken over by a private enterprise, the TFCC and Taiwan Studio City were nearly destroyed in the “921 Earthquake,” the 7.3 Richter-scale earthquake that shook central Taiwan on 21 September 1999. The studio/theme park was subsequently closed, by order of the central government. All its archives were transferred to the Chinese Taipei Film Archive the next year.


TAIWAN NEW CINEMA (1982-1987). Young, novice filmmakers in the early 1980s made a concerted effort to relate to the common experiences of individuals, and to Taiwan society as a whole, in contrast to “old” (traditional) cinema that they believed used films for propagandistic or “commercial” purposes, and were out of touch with the lives of the Taiwanese people. Taiwan New Cinema (sometimes called Taiwan[ese] New Wave) was a film movement similar to the French New Wave, New German Cinema, and Hong Kong New Wave, from the late 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s respectively.

Before the emergence of Taiwan New Cinema (TNC), the Taiwan film industry was in a serious crisis, losing market share due mainly to antipathy against its unimaginative remakes/copies of national policy films, kung fu films, romantic Chiungyao films, soft-core pornography, and violent gangster movies (self- proclaimed “social realist films”), as well as from the competition from entertaining movies from Hollywood (New Hollywood Cinema) and Hong Kong (Hong Kong New Wave).

The widespread circulation of pirated video copies of foreign (mainly Japanese and American) films and television programs (mainly from Japan and Hong Kong), as well as the broadcast of popular television serial dramas (mainly domestic and Hong Kong productions), also contributed to the decline of Mandarin films made in Taiwan during the late 1970s and early 1980s. Another major factor was the political and economic crises caused by the United States government’s severing of official ties with Taiwan’s Nationalist (Kuomintang/ KMT) government, and their official recognition of the People’s Republic of China as the legitimate representative of China in 1978.

In such a difficult situation, there were several attempts by young filmmakers to make “new” films (in style and content), such as Wang Chu-chin/Jo Jo Wang/ Wang Jujin’s The Legend of the Six Dynasty/Liuchao guaitan (1979), Yu Wei- Cheng/Yu Wai-Ching/Yu Weizheng’s The Winter of 1905/1905 nian de dongtian (1981, written by Edward Yang), Lin Ching-chieh’s films about high school students, Wang Tung’s If I Am for Real/Jiaru wo shih zhen de (1981), Lee Li-an’s The City/Shei shi wuye youmin (1982, written by Wu Nien-Jen), as well as Hou Hsiao-hsien’s and Chen Kun-Hou’s Cute Girl/Lovable You/Jiushi liuliu de ta (1980) and their other “commercial” works. However, the timing of these films was premature, and there was no support from either the industry or the press to create an impact.

It would have taken a major studio, such as the Central Motion Picture Corporation (CMPC) to have any real effect, but during the depressive and chaotic period, this leader of the Taiwan film industry was suffering huge losses and could only take a passive policy of making as few films as possible. In 1981, Ming Chi, the general manager since 1977, decided to hire young filmmakers to help revitalize the CMPC’s film production. Well-known scriptwriter and novelist Wu Nien-Jen was the first to be invited by Ming Chi, followed by Hsiao Yeh, another noted scriptwriter-novelist, and others.

At first, Wu and Hsiao Yeh took the conservative strategy of developing projects to be directed by internationally respected veteran directors, such as Sung Tsun-Shou’s A Lily in the Valley/Laoshi sikayeda (1982), a warm piece set in an aboriginal village, and King Hu’s All the King’s Men/Tianxia diyi (1983), a period satirical comedy. The two films failed miserably, forcing the CMPC to change to a “newcomer policy,” hiring young novices to write and direct low-budget portmanteau films. Out of some 15 candidates, Hsiao Yeh and Wu picked four – Edward Yang, Ko I-Cheng, Chang Yi, and Tao Dechen – to make In Our Time/Guangyin de gushi (1982), considered by many to be the pioneer work of Taiwan New Cinema. The realist style of In Our Time contrasted sharply with that of the “old” cinema, and the relatively successful box-office prompted the CMPC to support the four directors’ individual feature projects as well as a new omnibus film The Sandwich Man/Erzih de da wan’ou (1983).

Meanwhile, Chen Kun-Hou, veteran cinematographer-turned-director and partner of Hou Hsiao-hsien, was commissioned by the CMPC to make Growing Up/Xiao bi de gushi (1983). The story focuses on an adolescent, the illegitimate son of a Mainlander stepfather, and native Taiwanese mother who married him for convenience. The film, with its restrained, observational, and realist style, quietly reveals the undercurrents and their inner emotions. Based on Chu Tien-wen’s short story and scripted by Chu and Hou Hsiao-hsien, it marked the beginning of decades-long cooperation between Chu and Hou. It is believed that the film’s commercial and critical successes (winning “Best Adapted Screenplay,” “Best Director,” and “Best Film” at the 1983 Golden Horse Awards), was a catalyst for the Taiwan New Cinema movement.

The Sandwich Man (1983), directed by Hou Hsiao-hsien, Wan Jen, and Tseng Chuang-hsiang/Zeng Zhuangxiang, is considered by some scholars/film critics as the film that put TNC on the map of international art cinema. The film generated a lot of media attention and succeeded at the box office. Based on nativist novelist Huang Chun-ming’s short stories, the film made newspaper headlines for what was termed the “peeling of the apple” incident. An anonymous letter was sent to the KMT Central Committee “exposing” a “conspiracy” behind making (the third part of) The Sandwich Man, to sabotage the remaining relationship between the Nationalist government and the U.S. Rumors of the upper KMT Party echelon’s opposition against The Sandwich Man, because of the “leftist” label attached to the nativist literature movement, which Huang Chun-ming’s works belonged, was published in journals opposing the Nationalist’s rule. The subsequent (re)action of the Censorship Board – cutting out portions of the film – reported by the press, created an uproar in literati and intelligentsia circles. The Nationalist government finally gave in and the film was shown intact in theaters. The incident created great interest in the public to see the film, thus pushing its grosses higher than the CMPC could ever imagine.

The significance of The Sandwich Man and subsequent Taiwan New Cinema films was in their realistic representation of Taiwan, based on the solid foundation laid by nativist novelists. Huang Chun-ming became one of the most sought after novelists by producers who wanted to duplicate the success of The Sandwich Man, and also A Flower in the Raining Night/A Flower in the Rainy Night/Kan hai de rihzih (Wang Tung, 1983), another box-office winner, which received “Best Actress” (Lu Hsiao-Fen) and “Best Supporting Actress” (Ying Ying) at the Golden Horse Awards. However, what these producers did not realize was that the success of The Sandwich Man was not only due to its source, but also its filmmaking technique, down-to-earth realistic style, and the directors’ personal touches, all of which aroused the audience’s interest.

The success of The Sandwich Man helped its directors, and the directors of In Our Time, to find financial backing more easily for their subsequent films. Many were financed by the CMPC, such as Chang Yi’s Kendo Kids/Zhujian shaonian (1984) and Kuei-mei, a Woman/Wo zheyang guo le yisheng (1985), Tseng Chuang-hsiang’s Nature is Quiet Beautiful/Wu li de disheng (1984), Wang Tung’s Run Away/Ce ma ru lin (1984) and Strawman/Daocaoren (1987), Hou Hsiao-hsien’s A Time to Live and a Time to Die/Tongnien wangshih (1985) and Dust in the Wind/Lianlian fengchen (1986), Edward Yang’s The Terrorizers/The Terrorist/Kongbu fenzih (1986), Ko I-Cheng’s Reunion/Women doushi zheyang zhangda de (1986), and Lee You-ning’s The Two of Us/Fuzi guanxi (1986). These constituted the bulk of the Taiwan New Cinema films from 1982 to 1987.

There were many other important non-CMPC films that belonged to the Taiwan New Cinema movement. For example, Hong Kong’s Cinema City & Films (co)produced Edward Yang’s That Day on the Beach/Haitan de yitian (1983) and Ko I-Cheng’s Kidnapped/Dai jian de xiaohai (1983), because both films’ leading actress, Sylvia Chang, had been recruited as Cinema City & Films Company’s supervising director in Taiwan. Chang Yi’s first feature, Fly Robin Fly/Ye que gao fei (1982), was produced by Chia Yu Film Production, funded by Chang’s former classmate and president of the renowned Ming Hwa Yuan Taiwanese Opera Company. Wang Jen’s Ah Fei/You ma caizi (1983) and Hou Hsiao-hsien’s A Summer at Grandpa’s/Dongdong de jiaqi (1984) were made for Hou’s Marble Road Productions. Edward Yang’s Taipei Story/Qing mei zhu ma (1985) was financed by Hou’s Evergreen Films. Tseng Chuang-hsiang’s controversial film, Woman of Wrath/Sha fu (1984), was produced by Tomson Film (founded by actress Hsu Feng). Chang Yi’s Jade Love/Yu qing sao (1984) was produced by veteran director Lee Hsing for Tianxia Films (New City International Film Company). Chen Kun-Hou’s The Matrimony/Jiehun (1985) and Drifters/Liulang shaonian lu (1985) were made for Fei Tang (Feiteng) Production. Long Shong Entertainment produced Super Citizen/Chaoji shimin (Wan Jen, 1985), The Loser, the Hero/Guo si yingxiong chuan (Peter Mak Tai-Kit, 1985), and Farewell to the Channel/The Farewell Coast/Xibie haian (Wan Jen, 1987).

Films of the Taiwan New Cinema movement abandoned simple storytelling techniques, including dramatic plotting, as used by the traditional Taiwan cinema. The TNC favored observational realism and cinematic tools, such as long-takes, non-linear narrative, off-screen voice-overs, and off-screen sound. The “distancing” (or “engaging,” depending on different points-of-view) effect of such a mode of expression created obstacles for audiences accustomed to commercial entertainment, and they gradually shied away from watching the TNC films. By 1985, critical voices against the Taiwan New Cinema began to surface in the press. Directors of the TNC films were accused of losing the domestic and overseas market for “goupian” (domestically produced films) due to their self-indulgence and disregard of the general audience.

The attack on the Taiwan New Cinema extended to jury discussions for the 1985 Golden Horse Awards, in which critics and filmmakers who supported or opposed the TNC argued about the “virtue” of Taipei Story. In the end, it was only nominated for two awards for “Best Actor” (Hou Hsiao-hsien) and “Best Cinematography” (Yang Wei-han). A Time to Live, A Time to Die only won two out of its six nominations, for “Best Original Screenplay” (Hou Hsiao-hsien and Chu Tien-wen) and “Best supporting Actress” (Tang Ru-Yun).

By comparison, internationally, A Time to Live, A Time to Die won a FIPRESCI award in the 1986 “Forum of New Cinema” section at the Berlin Film Festival, as well as the “Special Jury Prize” at the 1986 Torino International Festival of Young Cinema in Italy, and “Best Non-American/Non-European Film” at the 1987 Rotterdam Film Festival. Taipei Story won a FIPRESCI award at the Film Festival Locarno in Switzerland and was invited to many international film festivals.

In 1986 and 1987, it became more and more difficult for Taiwan New Cinema directors to find investors or producers for their projects. The obvious discrimination against the TNC by the local (“old”) film industry and unfriendly popular film critics as well as the indifferent attitude taken by the Nationalist government (represented by the Government Information Office/GIO) facilitated the appearance of the “Taiwan New Cinema Manifesto” in 1987. Fifty-some filmmakers/supportive film critics/artists/literati criticized the press, government, and other critics. They demanded that the GIO put forward its film policy clearly, appealed to the press to raise its standards and report film as an art/culture, and urged film critics to play an “honest” and “meaningful” role. The Manifesto declared that the Taiwan New Cinema would rather be an “alternative” cinema than a “commercial” cinema. The Manifesto not only antagonized the GIO, film industry, press, and conservative film critics, but also, in many critics’ minds, ended the Taiwan New Cinema movement.

That being said, it does not mean that there were no more new films coming from the TNC directors after 1987. In fact, established directors, such as Hou Hsiao-hsien and Edward Yang, continued film productions despite the hostile environment. Their films, however, moved significantly in different directions after 1987. For example, Hou moved from the (auto)biographical films in his TNC period, to his “Taiwan history trilogy” after 1987. However, their films would need the aura from prestigious international film festivals, such as Cannes, Venice, and Berlin, to survive commercially. The animosity continued for awhile, forcing many directors to find financial backing abroad. In the extreme case, Edward Yang’s last film Yi Yi/A One and A Two… (2000), financed by Japanese film companies, totally renounced the Taiwan market and was never shown commercially. In stark contrast, it enjoyed international acclaims and wide release in the international art film market (including the U.S.).

In fact, Taiwan New Cinema was strongly tied to the international art cinema world from its inception. Film critics such as Tony Rayns (from the Great Britain), Marco Mueller (from Italy), Pierre Rissient and Olivier Assayas (both from France) were the earliest ones writing about the Taiwan New Cinema and strongly recommending it in the film culture world and to European film festivals. Through tactical alliances with them, Taiwan film critics, such as Peggy Chiao, Edmond Wong, and Chen Kuo-fu were able to help push the films of the TNC directors, especially Hou Hsiao-hsien and Edward Yang, into world cinema.

Of course, there must have been unique creative qualities in the Taiwan New Cinema films that would attract the interest of European film critics and international film festivals. Since the beginning, European (and many important American) film critics and festival juries have praised the creativity, sincerity, sensitivity, vision, and restrained realism of the films, as well as their challenges to conservative film culture and the Taiwan society/political system. Common themes in the TNC films are the experiences of growing up, female awakening, the urban/rural gap, and family relationships. This may have been a reflection of the shared experiences and ideology of the TNC filmmakers, which revealed their maturing in postwar Taiwan. In practive, these filmmakers chronicled the social changes Taiwan went through, from an agrarian to an industrial society, and the economic/material evolution of cosmopolitan Taipei. Some of them also showed the transformation from a woman’s point-of-view, such as That Day on the Beach, Ah Fei, and Kuei-mei, a Woman.

It must be noted, however, that there were lesser known Taiwan New Cinema directors. Law Wai-ming/Luo Weiming, Peter Mak Tai-Kit/Mai Dajie, and Li Qihua codirected The Gift of A-Fu/Afu de liwu (1984), an ambitious omnibus project comparing experiences in Taiwan, Hong Kong, and China in the 1970s. Liao Ching-Song, veteran editor and partner of Hou Hsiao-hsien, and Wang Shya-Jiun/Heinrich Wang Hsia-chun/Wang Xiajun, art director and partner of Chang Yi. Their debut films, Be My Lovely Child Again/Qidai ni changda (1987) and The Sea Plan/Dahai jihua (1987), both about children, were the first films made in the “new directors” project begun by the CMPC’s new administration five years after Ming Chi’s “newcomer policy.”

Ho Ping and Daw-Ming Lee codirected the portmanteau film, The Digger, the Suona Player/Yinjian xiangma chui guchui (1988), the fourth omnibus based on short stories by popular nativist novelist Wang Benhu, whose novel was also made into a CMPC feature, Autumn Tempest/Luo shan feng (Huang Yu-Shan, 1988). After Hsiao Yeh and Wu Nien-Jen left the CMPC in 1989, the next portmanteau film project was abandoned, thus ending the CMPC’s first efforts in cultivating new directors during the 1980s.

In the 1990s, after Hsu Li-kong was appointed the CMPC assistant general manager and manager in charge of film production, he resumed hiring new directors to make films. With the emergence of Ang Lee, Tsai Ming-liang, Lin Cheng-sheng, among others, Taiwan cinema continued to gain attention and critical recognition in international art cinema. Unlike Taiwan New Cinema, the new breed of directors and their films, though sometimes called the “Second New Wave” or “Second Wave Taiwan Cinema,” or even the “New New Wave of Taiwan Cinema,” varied significantly in style and subject matter as a group, thus, did not constitute an organic whole. However, their artistic achievements were comparable to, if not greater than that of Taiwan New Cinema, as the awards won in international film festivals by these second generation new directors attested.


TAIWAN NICHI NICHI SHIMPŌ (Taiwan Daily News). Taiwan Nichi Nichi Shimpō (Taiwan Daily News) or Tainichi was a semi-governmental newspaper, backed and for use by the government-general office. In late June 1923, to celebrate its 25th anniversary, at the suggestion of the interior minister of the colonial government and the Taipei mayor, Tainichi announced that it would spend ¥10,000 to establish a motion pictures department. Its purpose was to purchase and show films throughout the island, to enlighten common people and enhance their knowledge about the world. Ishihara, manager of the newspaper, set off for Europe and America in order to purchase the necessary equipment. Tainichi’s motion pictures department started production a year later. Most films made in the earlier years were about current affairs.

In 1925, Tainichi’s motion pictures department produced its first and only feature, God Is Merciless, considered the first feature made in Taiwan completely by local Japanese and Taiwanese residents. The film criticized the bad Taiwan custom of human trafficking. God Is Merciless premiered during five evenings in late April and early May 1925, to full-houses in Eraku-za, despite the bad weather. Some of the audience had never gone to a movie theater before seeing this “pure Taiwanese-style sad film.” The film was shown along with two newsreels, also produced by Tainichi, as well as Charlie Chaplin’s The Kid (1921) and other foreign short comedies.

The success of the film, both commercially and critically, however, did not prompt the motion pictures department to continue making fiction films. Instead, it concentrated on making newsreels and promotional films. The only fiction film it made after God Is Merciless was Tips for Preventing Cholera (1925), a dramatized film used in public health education.

During its 20-year history, the department was known for its ability to make documentaries about high mountains. Its first film, Shintakayama Mountain (1924), was about a team from central Taiwan who climbed the highest mountain in the territory of Imperial Japan, first called Mt. Morrison between 1857 and 1895 and later renamed Jade Mountain by the Nationalist government after World War II. Its next mountain-climbing film, Jikōzan (1925), was a record of mountaineering of a team of climbers from a Taipei high school at Mt. Sylvia, the second highest mountain in Taiwan named in 1867 by the captain of HMS Sylvia. The following year, another film was made about a group of women’s high school students and a few female elementary school teachers who climbed Shintakayama Mountain. The colonial government also commissioned Tainichi to make a film that same year about the development of forestry on Mt. Alishan, Mt. Taipingshan, and Mt. Basianshan, showing the world the value of Taiwan timber. Ten years later, Tainichi would make yet another mountain-climbing film, this time about the film team climbing Mt. Hehuan.

Tainichi was commissioned to make many promotional films. For example, in 1930 Kagi/Chiayi/Jiayi City Government asked it to make a documentary on the upgrading and restructuring of Kagi from township to municipality. The best of these films, however, was a promotional film about Tainichi itself. In May 1930, to commemorate the opening of its new building, the motion pictures department produced A Film About a Newspaper/Shinbun eiga, a feature-length documentary which showed the 24-hour activities of a newspaper – reporters at news scenes, writing and editing of articles, organizing international news, internal communication, typesetting and proofreading, designing layouts, rotary press printing, and delivery to homes and newsstands. Li Shu, the only native Taiwanese professional cameraman during colonial rule, was said to be one of those involved in shooting the documentary.

In addition to making newsreels to document activities of the imperial family in Taiwan, military drills, sports, and other current events, Tainichi’s motion pictures department actively produced films that were suitable for children. It was also one of the three major traveling exhibition organizations in Taiwan in the 1920s and 1930s (along with Taiwan Education Society and Taiwan Culture Association). Typical screenings in such traveling exhibitions lasted three to four hours, and would include newsreels or documentaries, a feature film or several short ones, and a couple of short comedies or cartoons. Audiences were estimated to vary from 1,000 to more than 10,000, depending on the occasion, venue, and location.

As the filmmaking unit of a major newspaper, the motion pictures department was bound to be recruited during all major news events. In April 1935, after a major earthquake shook central Taiwan, print reporters and film cameramen were immediately sent to the affected sites to check damages in the remote areas. Three special Tainichi reports on the earthquake were seen by large numbers of people at the time.

Tainichi began regularly producing a newsreel series, Tainichi Talkie News Film, in December 1936, after several modernized cinemas were (re)built and interest in the situation in China increased. The newsreels were first shown in four theaters in Taipei, and then in other major cities soon after. Tainichi hoped the newsreels would enhance the understanding of Taiwanese audiences about all the positive advancements being made within Japan. Released on 26 December, the first two editions of the newsreel included political and local news in Japan, sports, cultural activities, weekly topics, and international news. The third edition was a retrospective of the major happenings in Japan during 1936. Even though there was no event directly related to Taiwan in the first three editions of Tainichi Talkie News Film, the paper did keep its promise and put important events within Taiwan in subsequent newsreels, of which there were more than 50 editions per year, with additional special reports and special editions about major events.

After the eruption of the Second Sino-Japanese War on 7 July 1937, Tainichi Talkie News Film was expanded to include a “North China Incidents Special Edition,” later renamed “Sino-Japanese Incidents Special Edition,” besides the 50-some editions of regular newsreels, in which soft news, though still available, was minimized. All of the newsreels were shown throughout Taiwan by traveling exhibition teams from Tainichi’s motion pictures department and some local organizations that were instrumental in promoting the colonial government’s Japanization (kōminka) policy.

On 15 August 1937 Taiwan was announced as being at war by the Government-General Office. Subsequently, Tainichi adjusted policy and increased manpower in its newsreel department, including the number of personnel involved with production and exhibition. Rather than relying on films made about the war in China by other organizations, Tainichi decided to send its own reporter and cameraman to the battlefield. Army correspondent Sasamori Jihei and cameraman Fukuhara Masao went to North China, and when the war expanded to South China, army correspondent Hamanaka Hiroyuki and cameraman Nagai Saburōsuke were also sent.

To most audiences, each “Sino-Japanese Incident Special Edition” of Tainichi Talkie News Film was simply a source of information on the war in China. To some, however, it was the way to see missing friends and relatives. A woman from Tainan in southern Taiwan saw images of her husband, taken before he was later killed in action in Shanghai.

On 24 May 1940 Taiwan Nichi Nichi Shimpō announced that the 158th edition of the “Sino-Japanese Incident Special Edition” of Tainichi Talkie News Film would be the last issue. In line with the Japanese government’s “control (tōsei)” policy, Tainichi Talkie News Film had been taken over by Japan News Film Company (Nippon News Eiga Sha), a major production company established in April 1940 from the merger of four large news film companies – Asahi, Mainichi, Dōmei, and Yomiuri – following that same national policy. Tainichi continued to produce current affairs news documentaries until 1942, when it was no longer able to acquire any raw stock, tightly controlled by the wartime government since 1941.

The motion pictures department of Taiwan Nichi Nichi Shimpō remained active entertaining troops in Taipei after it formed an “Imperial Army Film Troop” in February 1942. It merged in September of that year with Taiwan Film Association.


TAIWANESE-DIALECT FILM. There were mainly two types of people living in Taiwan after World War II, namely, Han Chinese, originally from the Mainland, and the Aborigines, whose ancestors were said to have come from Southeast Asia, Indochina, or Southern China, thousands of years ago. Han Chinese account for the majority of Taiwan’s population, and Aborigines less than two percent. Among the Han Chinese, there were three types: descendants of Minnan (Southern Hokkien/Fujian) immigrants who came to Taiwan more than 100 years ago; descendants of Hakka immigrants from Guangdong who also came more than 100 years ago; and “visitors” (refugees) from Mainland China who came in 1945 and shortly thereafter (1949), and their descendants. The first group speaks Minnan dialects, the second Hakka dialects, and the third other Chinese dialects. However, when the Nationalist government moved to Taiwan after losing the Chinese Civil War in 1949, Mandarin (equivalent of Putonghua in the People’s Republic of China) was designated the national language, and all local dialects, especially Minnan, Hakka (together called Taiwanese-dialect), and Aboriginal languages, were banned in schools 

When the Nationalist government and the Kuomingtang (KMT/Nationalist) Party started making Mandarin films (guoyu pian or national language feature film) in Taiwan after 1950, they were not very popular because most of the films were propaganda, and also because more than half the population did not understand the national language. At the time, those who understood the Minnan (Southern Hokkien) dialect could enjoy watching films from Hong Kong with Xiamen (Amoy)-dialect, which is part of the Southern Hokkien dialect.

Xiamen-dialect film first came to Taiwan in 1947. They were made in Hong Kong mainly for Overseas Chinese audiences in Southeast Asia, by the same producers of Mandarin and Cantonese films, who hired actors from Minnan-dialect Opera troupes from Hokkien to perform in such films. In 1949, after the People’s Republic of China (PRC) was founded, many Xiamen-dialect and Chuanzhou-dialect Opera troupes moved their operations to Hong Kong. They made, with the help of Hong Kong filmmakers, many Xiamen-dialect films, some of which were imported to Taiwan, marketed as “Taiwanese-dialect film” through the publicity of local distributors. (In 1956, at its peak, 25 such films were exhibited in Taiwan, compared to only 10 Taiwanese-dialect films.)

The low quality of these imported films prompted Taiwan filmmakers to make their own films. Xiamen-dialect film also strongly affected the business of Taiwanese Opera troupes adversely, so the displeased owners of these troupes decided to make “genuine” Taiwanese-dialect film. (“Taiwanese-dialect film” is used here to actually mean Minnan-dialect film. Hakka-dialect film rarely had been made, therefore, the term “Taiwanese-dialect film” is commonly used in Taiwan to mean Minnan-dialect film.)

In 1955, Shao Luo-hui made the first Taiwanese-dialect film with a 16mm film camera. The film was actually a live recording of the performance of a Taiwanese Opera drama, The Sixth Book of Gifted Scholars: Romance of the West Chamber/Liu cai zi xi xiang ji. The film was a failed experiment, because no theater in Taiwan was equipped with a 16mm projector, and even when a 16mm projector was used, quality of the projected images and sound were very poor. Later that year, Ho Chi-Ming made another Taiwanese Opera film, Xue Pinggui and Wang Baochuan, starring Liu Meiying and Wu Biyu of the Gongyueshe Taiwan Opera Troupe from Mailiao, Yunlin in central Taiwan. Principal photography was completed in November, and the film premiered in January 1956 in two Taipei theaters to full-houses. It showed continuously for 24 days. The film cost NT$200,000 (about US$8,000) to make, and earned NT$1.2 million (about US$50,000) at the Taiwan box-office, which not only surpassed the top-grossing Mandarin film at the time, but also the Hollywood film, Land of the Pharaohs (1955).

After the success of Xue Pinggui and Wang Baochuan, Shao Luo-hui directed a contemporary drama, Flowers of the Raining Night/Yu ye hua (1956), based on a “new drama” stage play. It was also very successful, proving that the audience did not go to the Taiwanese-dialect movies only for Taiwanese Opera. From then on, contemporary drama and Taiwan Opera became the two major forms of Taiwanese-dialect film. The advent of Taiwanese-dialect film soon squeezed Xiamen-dialect film out of the Taiwan market.

The success of such Taiwanese-dialect films encouraged those who had failed in making (successful) Taiwanese films during Japanese colonial rule, including many directors from the “Taiwan New Drama Movement” before and after the Second Sino-Japanese War. Many film production companies were established in the production frenzy. Their biggest obstacles were the lack of sufficient talent, technology, and equipment. While the studio, technicians and equipment of the Nationalist-owned Central Motion Picture Corporation (CMPC) was made available to these filmmakers, many more new film studios were built to satisfy their insatiable needs. New talent was recruited and trained, though Taiwanese Opera and “new drama” actors were already busy working full-time in films. The number of days for production became shorter and shorter, as producers competed with each other to present films in cinemas around the island. In 1956 alone, 21 Taiwanese-dialect films were made, 15 of them either Taiwanese Opera or based on folk legends similar to Taiwanese Opera. The number of productions almost tripled the next year, in 1957.

Most of the actors from Taiwanese Opera, however, were not trained to perform in front of the camera, thus most Taiwanese Opera films were more like filmed records. The audiences soon dwindled, however, and by the beginning of 1958, the number of such Taiwanese Opera films had decreased significantly. (The number would increase sharply a couple of years later.) Notwithstanding the decline of these films, actors from Taiwanese Opera troupes continued to work in Taiwanese-dialect films. Directors, writers, and technicians from Mandarin film were also attracted to Taiwanese-dialect productions, as the opportunity for getting work was much greater. By the end of the 1950s, there were many quality actors, writers, directors, producers, and technicians in Taiwanese-dialect film.

In general, the development of Taiwanese-dialect film was divided into three stages: 1955-1959 was the exploration stage, and a frenzy of “catching up” – the fervor of making Taiwanese-dialect film to make big profits; 1960-1969 was the renaissance stage or golden age, in which the peak annual production of Taiwanese-dialect film reached more than 100; 1970-1981 saw the permanent decline of Taiwanese-dialect film.

Between 1955 and 1959, 220 films in Minnan dialect were made, more than one-third of them by only 11 directors. More than 50 percent of them were Mainlander directors speaking Mandarin Chinese, some of whom could not even understand the Minnan dialect. There were also some Japanese directors, cameraman, and lighting technicians working on Taiwanese-dialect film. Most native Taiwanese directors did not have any filmmaking experience. They learned the craft by doing. Filmmakers from Mainland China, though slightly experienced in film, were mostly from a theater background, which did not contribute much to the cinematic style that Taiwanese-dialect film needed. To train talent, acting classes and several film studios were established, among which Ho Chi-Ming’s Hwa Shing (Huaxing) Film Studios and Lin Tuan-Chiu’s Yufeng Pictures were the most ambitious. Many actors, directors, writers, cameramen, and other technicians as well as good quality films came out of the training classes at these studios. The genres of Taiwanese-dialect film gradually diversified during this stage. Other than films based on Taiwanese Opera, folklore, and contemporary drama, there were adaptations of novels by Taiwanese and foreign writers, films for children, romantic melodrama, anti-Japanese historical drama, and comedy.

The sudden decline of Taiwanese-dialect film in 1959 was due mainly to new competition from Japanese films, because of a shift in government policy to increase the quota for importing Japanese films as well as from rampant smuggling and illegal exhibition of Japanese movies, especially in rural theaters. Many film production companies were shut down.

What saved Taiwanese-dialect film in 1960 was the (temporary) freeze on importing Japanese films, and the crackdown on smuggling and illegal screenings of Japanese films by the Nationalist government. Without its main rival, the box- office for Taiwanese-dialect film increased, which again stimulated a new burst of activity to make these films, despite potential competition from Taiwan’s first television station, TTV, which was inaugurated in 1962. Between 1960 and 1965, on average, the yearly production of Taiwanese-dialect film reached near 100. During this second stage, many films were adapted from popular radio serial drama, often family melodramas that involved fighting for the custody rights to children by divorced parents, much like the Hollywood film Kramer vs. Kramer (Robert Benton, 1979).

Although importation of Japanese films resumed in 1964, Taiwanese-dialect film was less affected this time, perhaps due to the foundation built regarding audience taste during the 1960-1965 period. By this time, Taiwanese-dialect film had started exporting to Southeast Asia. There were also coproductions with Korea, Japan, Hong Kong, and Vietnam. With the rapid development of the populace’s ability in Mandarin after 1963, however, many production companies slowly switched to making Mandarin films and talent (predominantly directors and actors) was attracted to Mandarin film or television productions.

The last stage of Taiwanese-dialect film saw the effect on them from television broadcasting of Taiwanese-dialect and Mandarin serial dramas, hand-puppet dramas, and many old Mandarin movies from the archives of film companies in Hong Kong. To make things worse, more films were pre-sold to distributors and exhibitors than could properly be shown. A number of films were thus shelved, even before they were edited. Moreover, many were just vehicles for singers to sell their vinyl record copies of Japanese pop songs, which discouraged some of the potential film audience. Most detrimental was the shoddy soft-core and hard-core trend in Taiwanese-dialect film at the end of the 1970s. This added the last burden on the drowning Taiwanese-dialect film, which were shown in fewer and fewer theaters to smaller and smaller audiences.

By this time, most actors and technicians had switched to either Mandarin film, television, or video productions. Mandarin filmmakers, however, tried to have it both ways by dubbing their films and showing them to rural audiences as Taiwanese-dialect film. Such bilingual versions began in the early 1980s. The life cycle of Taiwanese-dialect film finally came to the end around 1982. Even though occasional individual Taiwanese-dialect films were made after 1982, very few of them still catered to native-speaking audiences’ wants and needs, that were mostly filled by broadcast television.


TAKAMATSU, TOYOJIRŌ (1872-1952). A social activist-turned-film entrepreneur, Takamatsu Toyojirō came to newly colonized Taiwan in 1901, at the request of Japanese Prime Minister Itō Hirobumi, to show films to Japanese immigrants and native Taiwanese. He became a tycoon in the Taiwan entertainment business during the first two decades of the 20th century.

Takamatsu’s father was the owner of a hot-springs hotel in Fukushima, northeastern Japan, in the early Meiji period. By age 17, Takamatsu was a textile worker, but only two years later he lost his left arm in an accident, prompting him to study law at the prestigious Meiji Law School in order to pass laws that could protect workers’ interests. While in college, he worked as apprentice to Sanyūtei Enyū, the famed Japanese lone storyteller (rakugoka), from whom he learned the art of comic monologues and used the stage name Nonkirō Sanmai. After graduating in 1897, Takamatsu was attracted by the activities of Katayama Sen, co-founder of Japan’s Trade Union Federation. He traveled in Japan with Katayama and other union leaders, advocating socialist concepts and the labor movement. In the early 1900s, Takamatsu started to first use verbal entertainment rakugo, and later, the phonograph and film projector as vehicles to carry labor movement messages to the public, circumventing constraints set by the Police-Security Act of 1900.

   Learning about his utilization of film to promote the labor movement, Prime Minister Itō Hirobumi, an advisor in Meiji Law School who already knew and liked Takamatsu, summoned the young pro-labor enthusiast to show films to him at a restaurant in Akasaka. Deeply impressed by Takamatsu’s eloquence as a film narrator (benshi), Itō persuaded him to hold film exhibitions to benefit colonial rule in recently annexed Taiwan, while developing Takamatsu’s show business career. Surprisingly, Itō promised to support Takamatsu, telling him not to worry about his socialist speeches.

Takamatsu was interested in the proposal and decided to take an exploratory trip. Beginning in October 1901, Takamatsu showed films depicting battles in Peking/Beijing (the Boxer Rebellion) by the Eight-Nation Alliance, as well as the Boer War, to local officials and the gentry in the major cities of Taiwan. Takamatsu’s first trip took him to remote areas, and he became well-informed about the real situations and needs of common people in Taiwan.

After the short exhibition tour, Takamatsu went back to Tokyo to start a career as writer-producer of social satire films (called “social puck films”) for his own Social Puck Motion Pictures Association. Meanwhile, he was also preparing for annual exhibition trips to Taiwan, which commenced in January 1904. In each of these regular half-year traveling exhibitions across Taiwan, Takamatsu would show mainly Taiwanese audiences several dozen titles about the power of science and progress of (Western) civilization, as well as films with scenery, humanities and culture, primarily of Japan, and elsewhere in the world.

Takamatsu’s 1904 exhibition trip to Taiwan coincided with the outbreak of the Russo-Japanese War. With his eloquent, humorous narration accompanying the silent films, Takamatsu was welcomed everywhere. Timely exhibition of films and slides of the war, such as the blockading of Port Arthur (Lushun) and sea battles, added to the interest in his presentations, during which Takamastu took opportunities to comment on the high prices of commodities caused by the war. He also criticized Japanese officials who abused their power by bullying and trampling on the rights of natives who did not understand the Japanese language. With the support of both Ito and his protégé Gotō Shimpei, governor for civil affairs in the colonial government, Takamatsu was able to get away with his socialist speeches.

The following year, Takamatsu brought more films about the Russo-Japanese War to Taiwan, showing the program in major cities and small towns throughout the island from mid-January to late May. It was estimated that in four months more than 160,000 people, mostly native Taiwanese, had seen the program in the 96 screenings. These screenings also raised over ¥15,000 for war relief, called comfort money (juppeikin), for the families of Japanese soldiers fighting, wounded, or killed during the Russo-Japanese War. The “achievement” of Takamatsu had certainly impressed the colonial government, which was encouraged to utilize film screenings for both fund-raising and “enlightening” the natives.

After 1906, Takamatsu became more ambitious. He brought in more and longer films, with subjects not limited to current affairs, but which also included entertaining comedies and dramas made in Japan and the West, such as Georges MélièsA Trip to the Moon/Le Voyage dans la lune (1902). He spent more time in Taiwan, too. On 17 March 1906, a 7.1 earthquake on the Richter-scale shook central Taiwan, causing 1,258 deaths and serious damage to property. Takamatsu was quick to respond, holding benefit exhibitions to collect relief funds. He was acclaimed by the local populace, and commissioned to make a documentary by the Government-General Office.         

The film, An Introduction to the Actual Conditions in Taiwan (1907), considered the first film in Taiwan cinema history, was made by Takamatsu’s company Taiwan Dōjinsha. Technicians and rented equipment came from Tokyo to film the actual conditions of the 12-year colonial rule in Taiwan. Shooting commenced in mid-February and took two months to film at some 120 locations using 20,000 feet of negative. After the Taipei premiere in mid-May and a short exhibition tour in major cities across the island, Takamatsu brought the film to Japan in June. He showed it at the 1907 Meiji Industrial Exposition in Ueno Park, Tokyo (held from March to July), and in a subsequent seven-month tour throughout Japan. Film showings were accompanied by traditional dances and music performances by five Tsou Aborigines from Mt. Alisan in central Taiwan, a five-man Taiwanese music band, and three native Taiwanese geishas, whom Takamatsu took with him. The climax of the tour was a reception for the Aborigines by Emperor Meiji at his residence in Aoyama, an unexpected great honor not only to the Aborigines, but also to the colonial government.

The success of An Introduction to the Actual Conditions in Taiwan encouraged the Government-General Office to continue commissioning films from Taiwan Dōjinsha that reflected colonial government policies. It also prompted Takamatsu into the decision to take his family with him in 1908, to live in Taiwan. He obviously saw a great opportunity to build an entertainment empire on the island, now that he had earned the colonial government’s trust. Takamatsu started working with local businessmen and construction contractors to build theaters in major cities across Taiwan. By the end of 1910, Takamatsu owned at least a theater in each of the eight major cities on the west coast. All the theaters were multi-functional, for both film projection and live performances, and were either managed directly by his company or leased to others. Takamatsu was not only owner of the first theater chain in Taiwan and film exhibitor, but also the first to sign distribution contracts with Japanese, European, and American film companies. He was also the only film producer, during the first decade of the 20th century associated with the Taiwan branch of the charity organization Patriotic Women’s Association (Taiwan PWA, Aikoku Fujinkai), a non-profit organization supporting policies of the colonial government.

Beginning in 1909, Takamatsu’s company was commissioned by Taiwan PWA to run exhibition tours throughout Taiwan to raise relief funds on its behalf. Much to the surprise of Taiwan PWA, seven months of screenings raised more than ¥23,500. It encouraged the organization to continue its relationship with Taiwan Dōjinsha, holding annual “Taishō motion pictures” screenings across the island, with support from the PWA’s local offices. Screenings in two major cities, Taipei and Tainan, were held daily, and elsewhere on a three-screening per month schedule. Five screening teams were formed to execute the busy schedules. Between 1909 and 1916, when the motion pictures unit of the PWA was forced to disband and screenings stopped to avoid competing with private distributors and exhibitors, six exhibition tours were held, yielding nearly ¥44,000 for relief funds.

In 1910, the Taiwan branch of the PWA also commissioned Takamatsu’s Taiwan Dōjinsha to make “documentaries” of the colonial government’s military operations against the Atayal Aborigines. In July and October, 1910, Takamatsu recruited famed cameraman Tsuchiya Tsunekichi to lead a crew to film the punitive expeditions and subsequent surrender ceremony in Taiwan’s deep northern mountains. These “documentaries” were shown first to Governor- General Sakuma and Civil Administration Director Uchida, and soon afterwards to soldiers, police, students, and the general public in Taiwan, for entertainment (“propaganda”) and fund-raising purposes. In February 1912, the films were shown to members at the PWA’s main office and to the press at the colonial government’s Tokyo branch. They were later exhibited in Takamatsu’s home town Fukushima, and from there went to small cities around Japan. Showing these films in Taiwan and Japan had obviously been aimed at enhancing local and national support for the suppression of Taiwan’s indigenous people by military means. In total, between 1910 and 1912, the Taiwan PWA completed three field shootings, ending up with 20 film titles. Tragically, Nakasato Tokutarō, one of the cameramen recruited from Japan, was killed during an action in October 1912, making him the first Japanese cameraman to die on the battlefield.

By 1909, Taiwan Dōjinsha was also involved in inviting various famed Japanese troupes to perform in its theater chain. These programs, such as magic and circus, attracted both Taiwan natives and Japanese, or specifically catered to the interest of the Japanese audience only. Moreover, starting in 1909, Taiwan Dōjinsha had organized a theater troupe to perform Taiwanese subjects in Taiwanese dialect by native actors. “Taiwan Drama,” as it was called at the time, was actually inspired by the “Western-style drama” advocated by Kawakami Otojirō, who had come to Taiwan in 1905 and 1909 to perform an adaptation of Shakespeare’s Othello, setting the story in the Pescadores Islands. After a year’s preparation and training, the theater troupe premiered its “Taiwan Drama” in August 1910 in Taipei, then traveled to Taiwan Dōjinsha’s theaters in other major cities, as well as performing on open stages in front of temples in several small towns. The performances were commercially and critically successful. In Takamatsu’s eyes, theater, storytelling, comic monologues, and motion pictures were entertainment, as well as important educational media, and should be regarded highly.

When his entertainment business reached its peak in 1911, Takamatsu owned and managed more than 10 theaters across Taiwan, either in direct competition in some cities with other show business entrepreneurs, or in other cities enjoying a monopoly of the entertainment business. His business also extended to real estate and public transportation, and so there were two more units added to Taiwan Dōjinsha’s many divisions that included film exhibition, theater management, stage production (both traditional Japanese theater and magic performed in theaters), and training schools.

The success in Taiwan soon encouraged Takamatsu to pursue his earlier dream of entering politics in order to pass laws that could protect workers’ interests as well as to enhance the relationship between the new colony and Japan proper. Despite three attempts at running for congress in his hometown of Fukushima, Takamatsu failed, costing him most of the fortune he had earned in Taiwan. He was brought to court by a debtor for the declaration of bankruptcy and charged with fraud. Beginning in 1915, Takamatsu sold most of the shares in nearly every company he was involved with.

In March 1917, Takamatsu left Taiwan to found a new production company, Motion Pictures Materials Research Association (Katsudō shashin shiryō kenkyū kai), and soon afterward, Takamatsu Productions. After that, he started a film production, distribution, and exhibition business in Japan. Takamatsu produced independent films, mostly “educational,” making him an important figure in the early period of Japanese cinema. In 1930, he was credited as inventor of a desk talkie projector, used in conjunction with a sound recorder.

Takamatsu Toyojirō died in Tokyo at the age of 80, survived by his wife, daughter, and three sons. Many of his offspring and his son-in-law were film producers, directors, or cameraman.


TAKESHI, KANESHIRO (Jincheng Wu) (1973- ). The Japanese and Taiwanese actor Takeshi Kaneshiro (aka Jincheng Wu) was born on 11 November 1973 in Taipei City to a Japanese father from Okinawa and Taiwanese mother. He studied in Taipei Japanese School and Taipei American School.

Takeshi began appearing in TV commercials when he was 15. He was signed by a television producer to star in Lin Fu-Di’s series drama, Grass Scholar/Caodi zhuangyuan (1991).

Takeshi Kaneshiro’s first appearance in a feature was Executioners/Heroic Trio 2/Xiandai haoxia chuan (Tony Ching Siu-Tung and Johnnie To Kei-Fung, 1993), a fantasy film made in Hong Kong. His appearances in Wong Kar-Wai’s internationally prestigious art films, Chungking Express/Chongqing senlin (1994) and Fallen Angels/Duoluo tianshi (1995), were the turning point in his film career.

Other than his many Hong Kong movies, Takeshi also appeared in Report to the Squad Leader III: No, Sir!/Baogao banchang 3 (Chin Ao-hsun, 1994), a comedy made in Taiwan. He starred in several comedy and drama films directed by Taiwan director Chu Yen-ping, including China Dragon/Zhongguo long (1995), Troublemaker/Labi xiao xiao sheng/Chou pi wang (1995), School Days/Xuexiao bawang/Xiaoyuan gansidui (1995), Young Policeman in Love/Xin za shixiong zhuinuzi/Taoxue zhanjing (1995), The Feeling of Love/Chongqing aiqing ganjue/ Paoniu zhuanjia (1996), Forever Friends/Si ge bupingfan de shaonian/Haojiao xiangqi (1996, written by Wu Nien-Jen), and Jail in Burning Island/Huoshaodao zhi hengxingbadao (1997). He also appeared in Sylvia Chang’s romantic film, Tempting Heart/Xin dong (1999).

Takeshi was cast in a Hong Kong-Japan coproduction, Sleepless Town/Fuyajo/ Bu ye cheng (Lee Chi-Ngai, 1998), and in many Japanese features, including Misty (Saegusa Kenki, 1996), a remake of Kurosawa Akira’s Rashomon (1950), Space Travelers/Supesu toraberazu (Motohiro Katsuyuki, 2000), Returner/Ritana (Yamazaki Takashi, 2002), Sweet Rain/Accuracy of Death/Suwito rein: Shinigami no seido (Kakei Masaya, 2008), and K-20: Legend of the Mask/K-20:Kaijin niju menso den (Sato Shimako, 2008).

He also starred in television series drama, such as The Miracle on a Christmas Night/Seiya no kiseki (1995), God, Give Me More Time/Kamisama mousukoshi dake (1998), AD 2000: Don’t Shoot Her/Love 2000/2000-nen no koi (2000), and Golden Bowl/Goruden bouru (2002). In 1998, Takeshi appeared in an American production, Too Tired to Die (Chin Wonsuk, 1998), costarring Mira Sovino.

After 2000, almost all of Takeshi’s films were epics either made in Hong Kong or China, such as House of Flying Daggers/Lovers/Shimian maifu (Zhang Yimou, 2004), a marital arts wuxia pian; Perhaps Love/Ruguo ai (Peter Chan, 2005), a musical; The Warlords/Tou ming zhuang (Peter Chan and Yip Wai-Man, 2007), an action-drama; Red Cliff/Chi bi (John Woo, 2008) and its sequel Red Cliff: Part II/Chi bi xia: Juezhan tianxia (John Woo, 2009), historical action dramas; and Dragon/Wuxia (Peter Chan, 2011), another martial arts wuxia pian. Takeshi Kaneshiro is scheduled to appear in 2012 in the long-awaited wuxia pian of Hou Hsiao-hsien, The Hidden Heroine/The Assassin/Nie yin niang.


TAN, FRED HAN-CHANG (Dan Hanzhang) (1949-1990). Fred Tan Han-chang/ Dan Hanzhang was born on 1 January 1949 in Shanghai, China. His family soon moved to Kaoshiung/Gaoxiong following the Nationalist (Kuomintang/KMT) government and, later that year, from Kaoshiung to Taipei City. His father was a senior manager of Taiwan Sugar Corporation. Fred Tan was raised in the Monga/ Mengjia area, where Taiwan Sugar’s headquarter was located. After he was admitted to the Affiliated Senior High School of National Taiwan Normal University in 1964, Tan started writing articles on film. His interest in film and film criticism would continue for almost three decades. Fred Tan graduated from the Department of Law at National Taiwan University in 1971, though he had little interest in law. After completing compulsory military service, the same year, 1972, he became a founding editor of a serious film journal, The Influence, writing passionately on both Mandarin film and international film, especially films from the West. Tan’s interest in film was not unique in his family, which was related to Dan Duyu, one of the first film directors in Chinese cinema.

Fred Tan made his first narrative film, Such a Charming Killer/Duoming jiaren (1973), a stylistic echoing of Alfred Hitchcock’s psycho-thriller (starring Chang Yi and Terry Hu), and used it for his application to the graduate program in the School of Theater, Film and Television at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). Before enrolling at UCLA, Tan became a writer for China Times, one of Taiwan’s two major newspapers, writing feature articles about film as well as film reviews. He also taught part-time in the Department of Motion Pictures at World Journalism College (now Shih Hsin University).

After entering the MFA program in film at UCLA in 1975, Fred Tan became China Times’ Los Angeles correspondent, and became a member of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association in 1977, voting each year on the Golden Globes. He attended the award ceremony of the Globes and the Oscars (Academy Awards) each year, writing first-hand stories about the events for his newspaper.

Tan directed The World of Cheng Pei-pei (1977), a documentary film celebrating the vibrant present life of the famous star who played female knight-errant/swordswomen in the martial arts wuxia pian of both King Hu and Chang Cheh in the 1960s. In 1978, Fred Tan was recruited by King Hu as his assistant director on Raining in the Mountain/Kong shan ling yu (1979) and Legend of the Mountain/Shan zhong chuanqi (1979), shot back-to-back in the historic mountains of South Korea.

Tan finally graduated from UCLA’s film program in 1983, after making his thesis film, Lovers/Seqing nannu, the understated story of a Hollywood gigolo who could not love. After graduation, Tan signed with a Hollywood agent to represent his future writing and directing projects in Hollywood. They were promoting Tan’s two projects, a Hitchcockian feature film to be shot in America, and an American thriller to be shot in Taiwan, when Tan received offers to direct feature films in Taiwan.

Tan returned to Taiwan for that purpose, but grew frustrated when a number of the expected projects were aborted because of creative and financial disagreements, including renowned writer Kenneth Pai Hsien-yung’s Jade Love/Yuqing sao and Crystal Boys/Nie zi, Wang Wen-Hsing’s Family Catastrophe/ Family Disorder/Jia bian, and Li Ang’s The Butcher’s Wife/Shafu.

Tan Han-chang finally made his debut feature-length film with Dark Night/An ye (1986), a psycho-thriller, one of the first Taiwan films shown commercially in art film cinemas in America. His second film, Split of the Spirit/Li gui chan shen/ Li hun (1987), a ghost film, did not do well commercially, although it won an award at the Figueira da Foz International Film Festival in Portugal.

Rouge of the North/Yuan nu (1988), based on renowned Chinese writer Eileen Chang’s short story The Golden Cangue/Jin suo ji, is a well-directed period film about the pain, struggles, and resentment of a woman suffocating in Chinese feudal society in the early 1900s. The film was invited as an official selection in “Un Certain Regard” at the 1988 Cannes International Film Festival, and was subsequently invited to “New Directors/New Films” at New York’s Lincoln Center and other international film festivals, including London, Toronto, Montreal, Hong Kong, and Tokyo.

Tan had been infected at birth with chronic hepatitis, during an epidemic in a Shanghai hospital, but never had a relapse. While preparing for his new film Snatched Love/Duo ai, Fred Tan Han-chang tragically died suddenly of hepatic coma on 7 March 1990 in Taipei at the age of 41. His goal of making an artistic Hollywood entertainment film in Taiwan, using primarily Taiwan actors and crew, while bringing in a large budget to help the ailing film industry, was unrealized.


TANAKA, EDWARD (EDDIE) KINSHI. In 1924, Tanaka Kinshi (Edward [Eddie] Tanaka) directed a feature film in Taiwan, making him the first fiction film producer and director in the history of Taiwan cinema.

In 1920, before returning to Japan at the invitation of the newly established Shochiku-Kamata Studio, to be its consultant and film director, Edward Tanaka had been in the United States for more than 10 years, the last seven of which he spent as Douglas Fairbanks’ valet, learning “from all angles” the way Hollywood made movies. Tanaka Kinshi made at least five features at Shochiku-Kamata, two of which he brought back to the U.S. in 1924. It was said they were highly praised by Charlie Chaplin and D.W. Griffith, who were impressed by the beauty of Japanese actors.

After leaving Shochiku, Tanaka established his own Tanaka Picture Corporation to produce feature films. He also formed the Oriental Newsreel Company and Japan Educational and Current Affairs Film Productions (Nippon kyōiku jiji eiga seisakusho) to make weekly newsreels in Japan for Pathé News and Kinograms.

In November 1923, Edward K. Tanaka came to Taiwan to conduct field research and location scouting for a feature film he intended to make. After the script had been written, he came to Taiwan again, this time bringing with him a crew and actors. According to Tanaka, the subject matter of the film was “the love of Buddha,” and the film hoped to promote such love to Western audiences. Set in the Chinese capital of Nanking/Nanjing in the 15th century, the story of Buddha’s Pupils (1924) centers on the revenge of an old man who is victim of the miscarriage of justice by a corrupt official. Location shooting took place in May 1924 at Taipei Buddhist temples and on the beach in Shinchiku (Hsinchu/Xinzhu), some 70 kilometers (43 miles) south of Taipei. Even though the main actors and all the crew came from Japan, the film did hire local talent for bit parts and extras. At least one of them, Liu Xiyang (Ryū Kiyō), was inspired to start making films after this first experience (see TAIWAN CINEMA STUDY ASSOCIATION).

When Tanaka came to Taiwan in March 1924 to produce Buddha’s Pupils, he also established an office in central Taipei for the Oriental Newsreel Corporation. There is no record of any other feature film made by Tanaka. Instead, he concentrated on making newsreels.

In January 1928, Eddie Tanaka was the representative of Metro-Goldwyn- Mayer Newsreels in Japan, and was assigned to produce a newsreel on Buddhism in Siam (Thailand) and India. The same year, when Nippon Denpō Tsūshin Sha (Dentsu) began supplying Dentsu News bi-weekly to cinemas throughout Japan, he became a contract cameraman on one of its newsreel teams.

In January 1930, Tanaka Kinshi brought a Fox Movietone News team, composed of an American cameraman, Eric Mayell, and a British soundperson, Paul E. Heyer, to Taiwan to make a talkie newsreel on the development of Taiwan. Among the scenes they shot were an English class at a girls’ high school, cityscapes, Aborigines, Sun-Moon Lake, and the newly completed Jia’nan Irrigation Canal in Southern Taiwan. The newsreel was seen by audiences in Western countries, as reported in the New Zealand Evening Post (August 23, 1930).

In 1934, Eddie Tanaka advertised himself as the Japanese agent for the American film equipment manufacturers Hollywood Motion Pictures Equipment Co. and Art Reeves Sound Equipment, as well as for Consolidated Amusement Co. in Honolulu and Pathé News in New York. That was the last filmmaking related activity of Tanaka reported in Japanese magazines and Taiwan newspapers.


TANG, ALAN KWONG WING (Deng Guangrong) (1946-2011). A renowned Hong Kong actor and producer, Alan Tang Kwong-Wing/Deng Guangrong appeared in more than 100 films in his 40-year film career. Born on 20 September 1946 in Shunde, Guangdong Province, China, Alan Tang moved with his family to Hong Kong in 1949. While studying at New Method College/Sun Fat College in 1963, Tang was chosen for producer Wong Cheuk-Hon’s Ling Gwong Pictures during casting for Student Prince/Xuesheng wangzi (1964). Alan Tang did well in the film, and won “student prince” as his nickname.

After finishing a year at prep school for college, Tang Kwong-Wing began his film career, acting in many Cantonese films, mostly about adolescence. After the decline in the market for Cantonese films, Tang developed his career doing Mandarin films in Hong Kong, eventually becoming very popular in Southeast Asia, including Indonesia, Malaysia, and Singapore.

In 1972, Alan Tang came to Taiwan at the invitation of the Central Motion Picture Corporation (CMPC) to star in Pai Ching-jui’s Love in a Cabin/Baiwu zhi lian, a romantic wenyi pian based on Hsuan Hsiao-Fo/Xuan Xiaofo’s popular novel with the same title. The film broke box-office records in Taiwan, making Tang Kwong-Wing a superstar of wenyi pian. Tang and co-star Chen Chen became a regular screen couple in more than 10 films, and were considered the top partners during the early 1970s, before the sudden rise of the “double Lins and double Chins” – Brigitte Lin Ching-Hsia and Joan Lin Feng-Chiao, Chin Han and Charlie Chin Hsiang-Lin.

After the success of Love in a Cabin, Tang’s film offers increased sharply. He began making Mandarin film in different genres, both in Hong Kong and Taiwan, including romantic wenyi pian, romantic comedy, and fantasy film. However, among the more than 30 films he made in Taiwan, with the exception of director Lee Hsing’s Land of the Undaunted/Wu tu wu min (1975), an anti-Japanese “patriotism film,” the vast majority of them were romantic wenyi pian, many of them Chiungyao film. He costarred not only with Chen Chen, but also Brigitte Lin, Lin Feng-Chiao, Sylvia Chang, and Kelly Tien Niu.

In 1980, Alan Tang founded Wing Scope Film Production in Hong Kong, producing and starring in his own films, which were mostly gangster movies. Thus, the romantic handsome young male star suddenly transformed himself into an action movie tough guy. Tang also founded a second production company, In-Gear Film, that produced Wong Kar-Wai’s As Tears Go By/Wangjiao kamen (1988) and Days of Being Wild/Afei zhengchuan (1990).

However, his production companies’ financial losses, during the downturn in the Hong Kong and Taiwan film industries in the late-1980s, forced Alan Tang to go into non-film businesses. When he return to the big screen, the role he played in most of these films, such as Gun ‘n’ Rose/Long teng sihai (Clarence Ford/ Clarence Fok Yiu-leung, 1992), was that of a respected gangster boss.

Alan Tang Kwong-Wing died suddenly at his home in Hong Kong on 28 March 2011, at the age of 64.


THE WINTER (1969). Hong Kong director Li Han-hsiang founded Grand Motion Picture Company (GMP) in 1963 and soon moved to Taiwan, where he directed and/or produced many critically acclaimed films, such as Hsi Shih: Beauty of Beauties (Li Han-hsiang, 1965) and The Dawn/Poxiao shifen (Sung Tsun-Shou, 1968). Notwithstanding the serious financial difficulties GMP was encountering, Li decided to direct a small-scale realistic film. Before The Winter/Dong Nuan, most of the films Li directed in Taiwan were high-budget films. His willingness to make a “small” film after many “big” films was not unprecedented, however.

In 1960, Li Han-hsiang made an intimate black & white family melodrama, Rear Entrance/Back Door/Houmen, immediately after the great success of his big-budgeted color huangmei diao films, Diau Charn (1958) and The Kingdom and the Beauty/Jiangshan meiren (1959). After that, Li made The Coin/Yi mao qian (1964) right after his successful high-budget huangmei diao film, The Love Eterne (1963). In some way, Li may have been influenced by leftist ideas in that he was always concerned about the lower classes, even while making popular movies for the capitalistic film market.  

The Winter, based on a short story set in a small town in northern Taiwan, written by Taiwanese female novelist Luo Lan, was about the quiet, tranquil love that extended for years between a young maid (Kuei Ya-lei) from rural Taiwan and an older man from Mainland China (Tien Yeh/Tian Ye) who had a small food stall. The style (art design, cinematography, dramatic treatment, acting) of the film is similar to that of many realism films made in Shanghai in the 1930s by leftist filmmakers. The subject matter of Li’s film, concerning the life of ordinary people at the bottom of society, especially those veterans fleeing from the Mainland with the Nationalists, and the relationship between native Taiwanese and the Mainlanders, was unusual at the time when Taiwan was still under Martial Law. Just like what he did in his Rear Entrance and The Coin, Li delicately and movingly handled the life of ordinary little people in The Winter (1969), considered by many as Li Han-hsiang’s great achievement and one of the important films in postwar Chinese cinema.


TING, SHAN-HSI (Ding Shanxi) (1936-2009). Though known in Taiwan mostly for his national policy films, such as Everlasting Glory/Ying lie qianqiu (1976), Eight Hundred Heroes/800 Heroes/Babai zhuangshi (1977), and The Battle for the Republic of China/Xinhai shuang shi (1981), made for the Nationalist Party’s Central Motion Picture Corporation (CMPC), Ting Shan-hsi/Ding Shanxi was actually a versatile and productive writer-director in Taiwan and Hong Kong from the late 1960s to early 1990s. The roughly 70 films he wrote and/or directed spanned many genres, from wenyi pian romantic melodrama, musical, comedy, ghost and fantasy, to martial arts wuxia pian, kung fu film, and war.

Born on 29 May 1936 in Qingdao, Shandong Province into a family from Jiangsu Province, China, Ting moved to Taiwan with his family with the Nationalist government in 1949. After graduating from the Department of Motion Pictures and Drama at the National Taiwan Academy of Arts (now National Taiwan University of Arts), majoring in writing and directing, Ting Shan-hsi worked as assistant director in the Nationalist-owned Central Motion Picture Corporation studio before enlisting as a soldier. Upon leaving the army in 1963, Ting volunteered to work for Shaw Brothers in Hong Kong as a contract writer and assistant director. One-third of his scripts, written under the pen name Erh Yang, were accepted. They were mostly in the wuxia pian genre, and included King Hu’s renowned Come Drink With Me/Da zui xia (1966), considered the pioneer work of new wuxia pian.

Returning from Hong Kong in 1968, Ting was invited to write and direct a wuxia pian film, Like Father, Like Son/Fei zei/Hu fu hu zi, at the recommendation of Li Han-hsiang. He learned the skills of filmmaking and acting during production, and his directorial debut went well. Afterward, Ting grasped every opportunity and made whatever films he was asked to write and/or direct. Some of these quick-and-dirty works were completed in less than a month.

Ting Shan-hsi’s first important breakthrough came in 1971 when he was invited to direct a wuxia pian for the CMPC. It took him more than three months to finish The Ammunition Hunters/Luo ying xia. Set in northern China in the early 1900s during the revolution years when the Nationalist army was fighting warlords, the film delivered a patriotic message, mixing wuxia pian and adventure genres. The critically acclaimed, commercially successful film won him “Best Director,” and Chen Sha-li “Best Supporting Actress” at the 1971 Golden Horse Awards.

After that, countless invitations for Ting to write and direct came from Taiwan and Hong Kong distributors, most of which he accepted, providing he had the time and energy. At the peak of his productivity, in 1972, Ting made three films at the same time. That was the high tide of kung fu production in Taiwan, and also of Ting Shan-hsi’s film career. In 1972 and 1973, he wrote and directed six movies, and wrote more than one script for other directors. It was not a coincidence that in 1972 Taiwan received from the overseas sale of 250 films, mostly kung fu, a record high US$10 million.

In 1972, Japan severed its diplomatic ties with the Nationalist government on Taiwan and recognized the People’s Republic of China (PRC) as the sole legitimate representative of China. This prompted a wave of anti-Japanese war films in Taiwan. In 1974, at the invitation of the CMPC General Manager Mei Chang-Ling, Ting wrote and directed Everlasting Glory. The war film was a very successful national policy film, arousing patriotism in the general population. It made the star, Ko Chun-hsiung, a national hero for his portrayal of General Chang Tsu-chung/Zhang Zhizhong, an anti-Japanese war hero killed in action in 1940. Ko was given “Best Actor” and Ting “Best Director” and “Best Screenwriter” awards in the 1974 Asia Film Festival.

Ting continued to make anti-Japanese, anti-Communist, pro-Nationalist national policy films for the CMPC, as well as popular genre films for it and for other production companies. Blood Reincarnation/Yin yang jie (1974), a ghost movie he made for actor Peter Yeung Kwan/Yang Chun/Yang Qun’s Fengming Film Company, was a box- office winner and was considered a horror classic in Taiwan. Some of the films that Ting invested in with his own money, however, failed miserably at the box office.

After completing the commercially successful national policy films, The Kinmen Bombs/823 Cannon War/Ba er san pao zhan (1986) and The Story of Dr. Sun Yat-sen/Kuofu chuan (1986), Ting Shan-hsi gradually phased out his work in the Taiwan film industry and emigrated to the United States. The last two productions Ting directed were exaggerated costumed fantasy films, a style in which he excelled. They did not attract much attention, however. His last screenplay, Yeung Yuet Lau Story/Yang yuelou chuan (1999), was a kung fu story written for his disciple, director Lee Tso-nam.

Ting died on 22 November 2009. At his funeral, the Central Committee of the Nationalist Party commended Ting for his contributions in making national policy films. In 2011, a “Lifetime Achievement Award” was conferred, posthumously, on Ting by the Golden Horse Awards.


TSAI, MING-LIANG (Cai Mingliang) (1957- ). One of the most prominent Taiwan directors in the post-Taiwan New Cinema era, sometimes called Second New Wave/Second Wave Taiwan Cinema, Tsai Ming-liang is actually a Chinese from Malaysia. Originally from Kityang/Jieyang, Guangdong Province in China, Tsai’s father emigrated to Sarawak at the age of 12 with Tsai’s grandfather. Born in 1957 in Kuching, capital of Sarawak, when it was still a colony in the British Empire, Tsai became a citizen of the Federation of Malaya in 1963.

Tsai had been living with his maternal grandfather and his second wife since the age of three. Spoiled by the grandparents, Tsai constantly went to see many movies, including films from Hollywood, India, as well as Cantonese films and Mandarin films from Hong Kong, and even Taiwanese-dialect films.

When Tsai was going into the fifth grade, poor grades in school finally forced his father to fetch Tsai back to live with his parents in a home far away from movies and other distracting attractions. Tsai’s grades improved, since movie-going could not be used as an excuse for not doing homework. Without movies, Tsai developed a new pastime, reading novels. Tsai’s father ran a noodle stall in suburb Kuching when not farming, in which he failed constantly. After spending three years living at home with his parents, when he was still in junior high school, Tsai moved back to his grandparents’ house in central Kuching. This time he had to take care of his grandfather, who had Alzheimer’s disease. Tsai’s childhood ended with the death of his grandfather. Tsai’s loving relationship with his grandfather had a strong impact on his films and stage plays.

When his grandfather died, Tsai Ming-liang moved once again to live with his parents, where he started writing essays and romantic novellas. He became a noted writer for a local newspaper supplement. After junior high, Tsai studied at Chung Hua Middle School No. 1 in Kuching, developing an interest in theater and founding the school’s first theater club. The students performed plays written by Taiwan writers found in the library. Tsai did not write a play for school. Instead, he wrote plays for the radio station.

After graduation, Tsai worked as a mason for two months, then became a salesman of newspaper obituary ads. He started to consider the possibility of studying theater abroad, such as in Taiwan, despite the fact that his father opposed his dream. On Mid-Autumn Festival Day in 1977, Tsai Ming-liang arrived in Taiwan to prepare for the college entrance examination. He was determined to study theater and was admitted to the Department of Cinema and Drama at Chinese Culture University the next year. During his college days, Tsai saw many art films in the Film Library (later renamed Chinese Taipei Film Archive), and at the Golden Horse Film Festival it held. However, even though he was interested in film, theater was still his greatest love. He acted in several plays and formed a theater troupe with classmates. Tsai (co)directed two plays Instant Noodle/Sushi zhajiangmian (1982) and Bougainvillea/Jiuchong ge (1982).

After graduation from the university, Tsai Ming-liang wrote and directed several plays. A Door That Won’t Open in the Dark (1983), considered the first stage play in Taiwan to explore homosexual subject matter, is about power, violence, and desire manifested in the relationship of two prisoners, and in some way, is similar to Tsai’s film The River/Heliu (1997). A Closet in the Room (1984) is a reflection of Tsai’s personal emotional experiences and relationship(s). Tsai wrote, directed, and acted in this one-man play that signified his loneliness and yearning for love, themes that would be in all his films.

   In 1982, Tsai started writing screenplays. He wrote six scripts in six years, including Windmill and Train/Fengche yu huoche (Chang Pei-cheng, 1982), a psycho-thriller like Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho (1960); Teenage Fugitive/Xio taofan (Chang Pei-cheng, 1983), a family drama-thriller; Run Away/Ce ma ru lin (Wang Tung, 1984), a realistic martial arts wuxia pian; Papa’s Spring/Yangchun laoba (Wang Tung, 1985), a comedy; Young Dragons: Kung Fu Kids III/Hao xiaozi disanji kuer liulang ji (Lin Fu-Di, 1987), a melodramatic slapstick comedy; and part-one of The Game They Call Sex/Huangse gushi (Wang Shau-Di, 1987), about the awakening of a young woman. While writing screenplays to make a living, Tsai Ming-liang continued his career in theater as writer-director and teacher.

Tsai turned his attention to television drama in 1987. In two years, he wrote 25 episodes of a drama series, Endless Love/Buliaoqing (1989). After its success, Tsai was involved in other drama series. He wrote and directed part of The Happy Weaver/Quan jia fu (1989, produced by Wang Shau-Di), and directed Far Away/Kuai le che hang (1989, produced by Wang Shau-Di). However, it was Tsai’s single-episode television drama that captured the most attention. All Corners of the Sea/Hai jiao tian ya (1989), a realistic drama about a family that sells scalped tickets for a living, was hailed by both local and international critics, prompting the Chinese Television System (CTS) to invite Tsai to produce a television serial drama. Tsai counter-proposed a series of single-episode dramas, and his proposal for The Sky of Ordinary People/Xiao shimin de tiankong (1990-1991) was accepted.

Tsai developed the project, writing and directing four of the 13 episodes, two of which won him “Best Director” consecutively in 1991 and 1992 at the Golden Bell Television Awards. My Name is Mary/Wo de yingwen mingzi jiao mali (1990), first in the series, directed by Tsai, is about a rural girl’s life working as a shampoo assistant in a hair salon. Li-hsiang’s Love Line/Lixiang de ganqing xian (1990) reveals a quiet story that follows the development of a love affair between an unmarried woman who is a factory worker, and the widowed factory manager. Ah-Hsiung’s First Love/A-Xiong de chulian qingren (1990), a pessimistic love story, is about a Japanese restaurant chef. A sociological drama, Give Me a Home/Ge wo yi ge jia (1991), focuses on a construction worker’s family who cannot afford a house of their own, even though the head of the family builds houses. Finally, before turning to filmmaking, Tsai wrote and directed an episode for another television single-episode series, The Kid/Xiaohai (1991). Starring Lee Kang-sheng, the drama explores the background behind an adolescent who extorts money from other adolescents. In his television works, Tsai Ming-liang reveals concern about ordinary people with his ability to observe and represent human emotions and deep feelings, qualities that are evident in his forthcoming films.

Rebels of the Neon God/Qinshaonian nuozha (1993), Tsai Ming-liang’s debut film, focuses on the loneliness and rebellion of a group of adolescents, who hang out in Ximenting, an entertainment district in central Taipei. Considered a pioneer film that ended the influence of Taiwan New Cinema, Rebels of the Neon God was produced by the Nationalist-owned Central Motion Picture Corporation (CMPC). Hsu Li-kong, assistant general manager and manager in charge of production, had known Tsai since Hsu was director of the Film Library. In 1991, Hsu approached Tsai and invited him to make a film for the CMPC. It took Tsai a year to finalize his project. Originally, Tsai wanted to make a suspense thriller centered around a group of “Yuppies,” but the project was quickly discarded. Based on previous experiences making All Corners of the Sea and The Kid, Tsai finally decided to make Rebels of the Neon God. He was fully supported by Hsu, who was confident enough to trust young directors after the great success of Ang Lee’s Pushing Hands/Tui shou (1991). The film was invited to the “Panorama” section of the 1993 Berlin Film Festival. It won “Best Film” in the International Feature Film Competition at the 1993 Torino International Festival of Young Cinema in Italy, and was given the “Bronze Award” at the Tokyo Film Festival the same year.

After successfully making his debut film, establishing a style of his own, Tsai did not go straight on to prepare another feature film. Instead, he directed a play, Apartment Romance/Gongyu chunguang waixie (1992), exploring loneliness and different conditions of individual solitude. This was considered a rehearsal for Tsai’s next film, Vive l’Amour/Aiqing wansui (1994). The emergence of the play was stimulated by an acting training class the CMPC had asked Tsai to teach. In Apartment Romance, the audience peeps into the secret lives of lonely souls in each room of an apartment building, who can, but do not communicate with each other. The play demonstrated Tsai’s intention of changing his focus from a sociological study to exploration of the dark inner worlds of humanity.

In Vive l’Amour, Tsai uses empty houses as a symbol to express the transformation in the meaning of “family” and “house” in contemporary Taiwan. In the film, lonely men and women search for love and sex, only to find more loneliness. Tsai forsakes using any dramatic elements in Vive l’Amour. Distinctively, he uses no music and very little dialogue in the “quiet” film, composed of long shots, forcing viewers to open their eyes/ears and hearts to the lonely men and woman on the screen. The artistic achievement of Vive l’Amour won Tsai Ming-Liang a Golden Lion (and FIPRESCI Award) at the 1994 Venice Film Festival, the second time for a Taiwan film after Hou Hsiao-hsien’s A City of Sadness, signifying the maturity of a new, totally different generation after Taiwan New Cinema. The film received “Best Film,” “Best Director,” and “Best Sound Effects” awards at the 1994 Golden Horse Awards, as well as “Best Asian Feature Film” and “Best Actress” (Yang Kuei-Mei) at the 1995 Singapore Film Festival.

In 1995, Tsai was invited to be a jury member at the Berlin Film Festival. That year he made a documentary film, My New Friends/Wo xin renshi de pengyou (1995), about the issue of AIDS in Taiwan. Tsai focuses his film on the double discrimination faced by gays who contract AIDS. Tsai’s “in your face” attitude of the documentary foreshadows the stand taken in his next dramatic feature, The River/Heliu (1997), which deals directly with the disintegration of the family relationship between husband and wife, father and son. The “incest” sex between father (Miao Tien) and son (Lee Kang-sheng) was an ordeal not only to the characters in the film, but to Tsai as well. The River won a Special Jury “Silver Bear” at the 1997 Berlin Film Festival and a “Special Jury Prize” at the 1997 Singapore Film Festival.

The Hole/Dong (1998) was an international coproduction of the CMPC, China Television Company (CTV), Peggy Chiao’s Arc Light Films, as well as La Sept-Arte and French distributor Haut et Court. As usual, even more than in his previous films, Tsai abandons most story elements in the minimalist film, relying mainly on images and the sounds of characters in their daily activities/behaviors to express his concept of alienation and solitude. In The Hole, Tsai started using old Chinese popular songs and dances as counterpoint, and to push his characters’ difficult situations into the foreground. The film was nominated for the Palme d’Or at the 1998 Cannes Film Festival, and won the FIPRESCI Prize for “its daring combination of realism and apocalyptic vision, desperation and joy, austerity and glamour.” It was also awarded “Best Asian Feature Film,” “Best Asian Director,” and “Best Asian Actress” (Yang Kuei-Mei) in the 1999 Singapore Film Festival.

Tsai Ming-liang’s reputation in the world led to a retrospective of his films, held at both New York’s Lincoln Center and Cinematheque Ontario in Canada. However, he was attacked for making films primarily for international film festivals and art cinema audiences, disregarding the local audience, and thus, causing the decline of Taiwan cinema. Though an absurd charge, after The River Tsai did have a hard time at the Golden Horse Awards, a film festival held in Taiwan catering to all Chinese-language films. In 1998, Tsai announced that he would never participate in the Golden Horse, angering many in the industry and the government. To think things through, Tsai postponed development of What Time Is It There?/Ni nabian jidian (2001), and returned to Malaysia, his home country, where he developed ideas for The Wayward Cloud/Tianbian yi duo yun (2005) and I Don’t Want to Sleep Alone/Hei yanquan (2006).

In What Time Is It There? Tsai used parallel plotlines to contrast two stories at separate times and locations (Taipei vs. Paris). The film seems to be an extension of Tsai’s past films, as characters/actors and elements of Rebels of the Neon God and The River continued their presence in What Time Is It There?. Water, as an important motif, appears in What Time Is It There? and would continue in Tsai’s forthcoming films. Dis-/mis-communication is once again featured in the film, as the cause of individual solitude. The film was nominated for the Palme d’Or at the 2001 Cannes Film Festival, and won the Technical Grand Prize (Tu Duu-Chih, for his soundwork in both What Time Is It There? and Hou Hsiao-hsien’s Millennium Mambo/Qianxi manpo). Despite his past grudge against the Golden Horse Awards, the film was nominated for “Best Film,” “Best Director,” “Best Original Screenplay,” “Best Supporting Actress” (Lu Yi-Ching), and “Best Sound Effects” at the 2001 Golden Horse, and won two Special Jury Prizes, one for the film and one for Tsai as director. It also received numerous awards throughout the world.

Goodbye, Dragon Inn/Bu san (2003) is both a homage to King Hu’s martial arts wuxia pian masterpiece, Dragon Gate Inn/Dragon Inn/Longmen kezhan (1967) and an elegy to the golden days of (Taiwan) cinema(s). It features a few of Tsai’s ensemble of actors – Chen Shiang-chyi, Lee Kang-sheng, and Yang Kuei-Mei, as well as Miao Tien and Shih Jun, two actors from the original Dragon Gate Inn. It was nominated for the Golden Lion and won the FIPRESCI Award at the 2003 Venice Film Festival. It was nominated for “Best Film,” “Best Director,” “Best Actress” (Chen Shiang-chyi), and “Best Sound Effects,” winning “Best Taiwanese Film of the Year” and “Best Editing” (Chen Sheng-Chang) at the 2003 Golden Horse Awards. Tsai received “Best Directing, Tribute to Jacques Demy,” and the “Young Audience Award” in the 2003 Festival des 3 Continents in France.

The Wayward Cloud/Tian bian yi duo yun (2005) is by far Tsai Ming-liang’s most controversial film, at least in Taiwan, as it deals explicitly with romantic love, sex, and pornography. Like The Hole, Tsai interpolates hilarious music/dance numbers between the eventless situations. The campy use of music and dance was less interesting to local audiences than its explicitness in the treatment of sex, and especially pornography. The calculated use of a genuine porn actress from Japan, and Tsai’s preemptive cry to prevent government censors from cutting his film, contributed to sensational reportage in the press, culminating in the film’s success at the box office. Some attributed the film’s success to the distribution deal with, and promotion backing of 20th Century Fox, despite the fact that earlier Tsai had severely criticized it (and other U.S. distribution companies) for blocking his (and other Taiwanese filmmakers’) chances to promote and exhibit films in Taiwan cinemas.

Notwithstanding the controversies, The Wayward Cloud was nominated as “Best Film” and “Best Director” at the 2005 Golden Horse Awards. However, its achievements were appreciated more in international film festivals. The Wayward Cloud garnered the Silver Bear for Tsai’s “outstanding artistic achievement,” as well as the “Alfred Bauer Award” and FIPRESCI Award at the 2005 Berlin Film Festival. Tsai received recognition once again by 2005 Festival des 3 Continents “Best Directing Award, tribute to Jacques Demy,” and leading actor Lee Kang-sheng received “Special Mention”.

I Don’t Want to Sleep Alone (2006), shot in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, marks Tsai Ming-liang’s first attempt at making a film in his home country. He used a mixed cast of amateur non-actors as well as his Taiwan regulars, Lee Kang-sheng and Chen Shiang-chyi. Set in a poor, run-down, racially mixed district in Kuala Lumpur, the air seriously polluted with haze, the film deals with Tsai’s usual subject matter of modernity syndrome, i.e., urban decay, collapse of the family, alienation, loneliness, dis-/mis-communication, incest, and craving for love. Water (and haze) is again a motif and symbol. The film is typically slow and hypnotic. Once again, Tsai’s film won recognition internationally, including a nomination for the Golden Lion at the 2006 Venice Film Festival. It was not nominated for any award at the 2006 Golden Horse, however.

Tsai’s most recent film, Face/Visage/Lian (2009), was commissioned by the Musée du Louvre, and coproduced by the Louvre, Tsai’s own Homegreen Films, and some other French production companies, with financial support from the Centre National de la Cinématographie (France), Région lle-de-France (France), Nederlands Fonds voor de Film (Netherlands), Eurimages (European Union), and the Government Information Office (Taiwan). The large cast, with many renowned stars, includes Tsai’s entourage (Lee Kang-sheng, Chen Shiang-chyi, Lu Yi-Ching, Chen Chao-jung, and Norman Bin Atun), French actor Jean-Pierre Léaud (star of François Truffaut’s The 400 Blows/ Les quatre cents coups, who also appeared in What Time Is It There?), as well as actresses Laetitia Casta, Fanny Ardant, Jeanne Moreau, and Nathalie Baye.

Self-referential, Face is about a Taiwanese director (Lee Kang-sheng) who travels to the Louvre to make a film that explores the story behind Bernardino Luini’s painting Salomé with the Head of John the Baptist. However, as can be expected with a Tsai film, the “plot” is merely a pretext for the film’s 138 minutes of vignettes. There are constant references to Tsai’s previous films, as well as to the film director he adores, François Truffaut, Truffaut’s actors – Léaud, Ardant, Baye, Jeanne Moreau – and Truffaut’s films, especially The 400 Blows. Visually astonishing, the film has been compared to art films such as Matthew Barney’s Cremaster series. However, the film was not well received at many film festivals, and probably appeals only to Tsai Ming-liang’s devoted fans. Nevertheless, Face was nominated for the Palme d’Or at the 2009 Cannes Film Festival. It won “Best Art Direction” and “Best Makeup & Costume Design” at the 2009 Golden Horse, as well as “Best Production Designer” and “Best Costume Designer” at the 2010 Asian Film Awards held in Hong Kong.

Tsai Ming-liang used to care very much that most Taiwan audiences did not accept his work. Tsai is one of the rare film directors (especially among the internationally renowned directors) who went out in the streets to promote his films. He would go from movie theater to movie theater, alone with a pile of DM, trying to interest the young teen audiences who came to see Hollywood studio entertainment to later come to see his “art film.” Tsai also traveled around Taiwan, from university to university, giving inspirational talks, with a lot of very pointed, sarcastic, and humanistic dry humor. Now he looked at it as an exercise of his “art in action” – “I have an art work difficult to approach, so I need to sell tickets to create (an opportunity for it to be approached).”

However, after 2003, he seemed to accept the fact that his art films would only be appreciated by a small group of cinéastes in Taiwan. Tsai decided to expand the arena, allowing his films/art works to also be seen in museum and galleries. He began accepting invitations from art museum to show his films and even commission art works. In 2004, noted Chinese artist and curator Cai Guoqiang invited Tsai, one of 18 artists, to create an installation for the Bunker Art Exhibition in Kinmen/Quemoy/Jinmen. Tsai named it Withered Flowers/Hua diao.

In July and August 2007, the National Palace Museum held an exhibition entitled “Discovering the Other: International Film Installations.” Tsai Ming-liang was asked by its curator Gertjan Zuihof, programmer of the International Film Festival Rotterdam, to participate in the exhibition with a video installation. Another of his installation art work, It’s a Dream/Shi Meng, was invited to be part of the Taiwan exhibition in Venice Biennial in 2007. It consisted of some old chairs from a Malaysian cinema set in a pure white space, and a 22-minute film, It’s a Dream, shown on a video screen. (Tsai had originally made the film for the 2007 Cannes Film Festival, one segment in a collected film of 33 shorts, To Each His Own Cinema/Chacun son cinéma.) The work became part of a permanent collection at the Taipei Fine Arts Museum in 2010, and was also invited to the Shanghai Art Museum, as well as the Aichi Triennale in Japan.

Tsai Ming-liang, as director and cameraman, made a 35-minute video Madam Butterfly in 2009 for the Centro Studi Giacomo Puccini in celebration of Giacomo Puccini’s 150th anniversary in Lucca, Italy. In the film, a free interpretation of Puccini’s famous opera, Tsai places a woman (Pearly Chua) in a busy Kuala Lumpur bus station, after being abandoned by her lover in a hotel. Composed of three long-takes, the film focuses on the woman in a hotel room, at the bus station and then follows her as she moves through a dense crowd amidst the stalls selling all sorts of things for the journey. It ends on a comic climax when she finds a hair in the bread roll she is eating, a remnant from her missing lover.

In 2010 Tsai was also invited by the National Taiwan Museum of Fine Arts to participate in its “Yes Taiwan! 2010 Taiwan Biennial.” Tsai created a new installation art work, Erotic Space, in which a 40-minute video piece with an image of a mattress was shown in each of the 30-some white rooms.

 Another installation, Moonlight on the River, consisting of 49 used chairs and Tsai’s oil painting of each chair, and a short film of the same title that Tsai had made seven years earlier, in which two dogs stride across the Tamsui/Danshui River, was another 2010 art work exhibited in a Taipei gallery.

Tsai Ming-liang’s versatile talent was courted by the National Theater & Concert Hall in 2011, which invited him to write and direct Only You/Zhi you ni, consisting of three one-man plays, as part of its Monodrama Series. Each play was performed by one of Tsai’s regulars – Yang Kuei-Mei, Lu Yi-Ching, and Lee Kang-sheng – and featured popular Chinese songs sung by the major stars of 1930s Shanghai.

In the future, audiences who want to watch Tsai Ming-liang’s work may have to go to museum, as Tsai has become more and more protective about showing his art films/art works. DVDs of his future creations are also likely to be collectors’ items only.


TSAI, YANG-MING, OUYANG CHUN (Yang Ming, Cai Yangming) (1939- ). Film director and actor Tsai Yang-Ming/Cai Yangming/Yang Ming (also known as Ouyang Chun/Ulysses Ouyang Chun/Ouyang Jun) was born in Beigang, Yunlin County in central Taiwan. After graduating from a commercial vocational high school in Taipei in 1958, Tsai became manager of a movie theater in Shuangxi, a small town in eastern Taipei County (now New Taipei City). When he had to leave the post for compulsory military service, after managing the theater for more than a year, his successor was Lin Fu-Di, who would later become a renowned director like Tsai. Tsai became interested in film acting after watching a Japanese movie, What is Your Name?/Kimi no na wa (Oba Hideo, 1953).

After discharge from the military, Tsai went to work for Lin Fu-Di, who, by then, had already directed his debut Taiwanese-dialect film, Twelve Astrologies/ Shier xingxiang (1961). Tsai was script supervisor on Lin’s second film. Gradually, he became scriptwriter, assistant director, and, occasionally, actor playing bit parts. People of the World/Shijian ren (Lin Fu-Di, 1963) was the first time Tsai appeared as an actor, using the stage name “Yang Ming.” He was also cast in two Taiwanese-dialect film, Joseph Kuo Nan-Hong’s, Edge of Sky and Sea/Tianbian haijiao (1963), and Lee Hsing’s Mirror Wife/Niitsuma kagami/Xin qi jing (1963), remake of a Japanese movie with the same name.

In 1964, Yang became a lead actor in Lin Fu-Di’s Golden Demon/Konjiki yasha/Jinse yecha (1964), which imitated a similar romantic Japanese film with the same title. Lin’s film was a major hit, with the box-office in Taipei anounting to 10 times its production cost. The film gained Yang Ming instant fame, building the foundation for future stardom. In seven years, Yang Ming starred in more than 200 Taiwanese-dialect films.

He also appeared in Mandarin film. In his first Mandarin film, also Lin Fu-Di’s first, The Oath/Haishi shanmeng (1964), Yang Ming costarred with Chiao Chiao, famous Mandarin star. This was followed by Heartbroken Man/Qin hai duanchang ren (Hua Hui-ying, 1966), The Young Lovers and the Escaped Prisoner/Xiao qingren taowang (Chang Yin, 1968), and Heartbroken Red/ Duanchang hong (Yan Zhong/Yi Ming, 1970).

Yang Ming wrote and directed Woman’s Heart/Furen xin (1966), but it did not attract much attention. His talent for directing was revealed in his next two films, Tears of the Flower/Lei de xiaohua (1969) and Wonderful Thief/Miao zei (1970). After directing his first kung fu film, The Beggar and the Rich Man’s Daughter/ Qigai yu qianjin (1972), Tsai Yang-Ming was invited by Shaw Brothers to direct Prodigal Boxer/Kung Fu Punch of Death/Fang shiyu (1972) in the same genre. Subsequently, he and Chang Cheh codirected Police Force/Jingcha (1973), the debut of action star Alexander Fu Sheng. The film’s good box-office take prompted Shaw Brothers to offer Tsai a better deal to work for the studio, which he accepted.

Tsai, however, uncomfortable working in the Hong Kong industry, was determined to return to Taiwan. He did. But afterward, Tsai had to use a new name for the credits, “Ouyang Chun,” in order to direct future films, because he broke his contract with Shaw Brothers.

Ouyang’s films made in the 1970s and 1980s covered many genres. These included kung fu – Valley of the Double Dragon/Taekwondo/Golden Leopard’s Brutal Revenge/Shuang long gu (1974, codirected with Chiu Kang-Chien, with Hou Hsiao- hsien as the script supervisor), Dragon Gate/Long men fengyun (1975, written by Lin Fu-Di), Thou Shall Not Kill…But Once/Shaolin Warrior/ Ferocious Monk from Shaolin/Shaolin sha jie (1975), The Ming Patriots/Revenge of the Patriots/Bruce Lee’s Big Secret/Dragon Reincarnate/Zhongyuan biaoju (1976); romantic wenyiwuxia pian based on the novels of Ku Lung/Gu Long – Big Land, Flying Eagles/Dadi feiying (1978) and Lover Beware/Be Careful Sweetheart/Qingren kan dao (1982); comedyThe Adventure of Three Crazy Boys/San sha chuang shijie (1976), Three Shaolin Musketeers/Hutu san xiake (1978), Somebody or Nobody/Wangzi chenglong (1981, written by Hsiao Yeh), and Happy Union II/Tiansheng bao yidui (1985, produced by John Woo); wenyi pian melodrama – A Misty Love/Xiaoyu sisi (1977) and Hurried Yesterday/Zuori congcong (1977); detective – Mysterious Cold Woman/Shenmi nulang bai ru shuang (1973); and crime.

His crime dramas, such as Gunshot at 6 in the Morning/Lingchen liudian qiang sheng (1979) and Never Too Late to Repent/Cuowu de diyi bu (1980), were big hits, prompting a fervor to make films in the self-proclaimed genre of “social realist film”… actually crime/gangster action films which exploited women’s bodies. Actress Yang Hui-Shan, who starred in both Gunshot and Never Too Late, continued to collaborate with Ouyang Chun and made several more such crime action films, including Nude Body Case in Tokyo/Woman Revenger/Nuxing de fuchou (1981), The Girl, Robber, and I/Xiaoniu dadao wo (1982), and Hero vs. Hero/Huiyan shi yingxiong (1982).

Ouyang Chun resumed using his real name “Tsai Yang-Ming” in the mid-1980s. Under the influence of Taiwan New Cinema, Tsai made several films based on nativist or pseudo-nativist novels, such as The First Stitch/Huanghua guinan/Zai shi nan (1984), Taste of Mercy/Cibei de ziwei (1985), The Woman and the Sea/ Echo of the Sea/Haichao de gushi/Wang hai de muqin (1986), and Flower Love/ Fangcao bi lian tian (1989). In a way, these films were reminiscent of Taiwanese- dialect films in the 1960s.

Tsai Yang-Ming’s directorial style underwent a drastic change in 1988, when he made Gangland Odyssey/Big Boss Big/Dage da/Datou zi (1988), about the rise of a gangster, and Fraternity/Fatal Recall/Dage da xuji/Xiongdi zhenzhong, about a former gangster’s change into a good man. Hong Kong actor Alex Man Chi- Leung and Taiwan actress Tien Niu, costars of both films, were given creative space to reveal their acting ability in these humanistic explorations of men in the underworld. Man Chi-Leung won “Best Actor” at the 1988 Golden Horse Awards for his performance in Gangland Odyssey. The film was the highlight of Tsai’s career.

His next film, Joe-Goody/Ah Dai/A dai (1992), starring Tsai’s own son, Tsai Yueh-Hsun, however, was uneven, mainly due to the combination of a detached style, similar to many Taiwan New Cinema films, with many gunfight action and melodramatic emotional scenes.

Tsai’s last film, Chivalrous Legend/Xiadao zhengchuan (1997), retells the story of Liao Tian-ding, a thief-knight errant, who robbed the rich to help the poor, like a Taiwanese Robin Hood. Afterward, Tsai founded Yang Ming Production Co., Ltd., to produce his son Tsai Yueh-Hsun’s television drama series, such as Friends/Ming yang sihai (2003), The Hospital/Baise juta (2006), and Black and White/Pizi yingxiong (2009), all which received high ratings and won of many awards. Black and White was made into a feature-length film in Spring 2012.


TU, DUU-CHIH (Du Duzhi) (1955- ). Tu Duu-Chih is an internationally renowned sound design artist and sound engineer. He has worked with some of the best directors in Taiwan and Hong Kong, such as Hou Hsiao-hsien, Edward Yang, Tsai Ming-liang, Wong Kar-Wai, Ann Hui, Stanley Kwan, among others.

Tu’s father was originally from Wuhu County, Anhui Province in China. In 1949, he came to Taiwan as a member of the youth army following Chiang Kai-shek’s Nationalist government. Born on 5 April 1955, Tu Duu-Chih, influenced by a neighbor, became interested in studying audio machines since he was a teenager.

In 1970, he enrolled in the electronic engineering department of Nanshan Business and Industry Senior Vocational School in Taipei. While in school, Tu was awarded an Invention prize. He also spent one and a half years studying in an electrical engineering workshop held by the Department of Social Welfare of Taipei City Government, which earned him a capability to run a business in electric engineering.

After graduating from Nanshan in 1972, Tu was hired by the Nationalist-owned Central Motion Picture Corporation (CMPC), working in the electric engineering department. Later, he was transferred to its sound recording department as assistant. In 1973, Tu Duu-Chih joined the CMPC’s film technicians training class to learn the techniques of audio recording engineering. He became a good sound editor in early 1970s and was a regular crew member in the films of melodramatic wenyi pian director Liu Chia-Chang. In 1979, when the CMPC coproduced Attack Force Z/Z zi tegongdui (Tim Burstall, 1981), with Mel Gibson, John Philip Law, Sam Neill, and Taiwan star Sylvia Chang, Tu learned the techniques of location synchronous sound recording, which he started to recommended to the Taiwan film industry, to no avail, however.

Tu’s debut feature film as a full-fledged sound designer and sound editor was The Winter of 1905/1905 nian de dongtian (Yu Wei-Cheng, 1981), a “new” style film before the emergence of the Taiwan New Cinema. Some of the creative members of the film were later tied up with the Taiwan New Cinema movement, such as Edward Yang, scriptwriter of the film. Subsequently, when Yang and other young directors directed In Our Time/Guangyin de gushi in 1984, Tu was their choice of sound designer/editor. Tu became Edward Yang’s and Hou Hsiao-hsien’s favorite sound designer/editor, and worked on most of their films.

Tu’s sound design and recording techniques were recognized in the 1984 Asia- Pacific Film Festival, which awarded him “Best Sound Effect” for Teenage Fugitive/Xio taofan (Chang Pei-cheng, 1983). In the following year, he won “Best Sound Recording” at the 1985 Golden Horse Awards for Super Citizen/Chaoji shimin (Wan Jen, 1985).

The realistic sound effects of Edward Yang’s The Terrorizers/The Terrorist/ Kongbu fenzih (1986) were all post-produced, making it a pseudo-sync sound film, and the techniques of Tu started to gain attention in the international film world. The first genuine location sync sound narrative feature in Taiwan is Hou Hsiao-hsien’s A City of Sadness/Beiqing chengshi (1989), which allowed Tu Duu-Chih to put into practice for the first time the techniques he had learned from Attack Force Z. Tu also learned from his experience of working with Japanese postproduction sound studio during sound mixing stage of A City of Sadness. Thus, Tu became the top sound designer/editor/mixer in Taiwan in the 1990s. Dust of Angel/Shaonian ye, an la! (Hsu Hsiao-ming, 1992) was the first Dolby Stereo film in Taiwan, which won him a Golden Horse award.

Tu left the CMPC in 1993. With financial support from Hou Hsiao-hsien, Tu established his own recording studio. As most of the films he worked on had been invited to or selected by international film festivals, Tu’s reputation soon attracted the attention of Hong Kong directors who requested his service, in location sound, sound effect, sound mixing, or even sound design. In 2004, Tu founded 3H Sound Studio and started training young sound engineers.

Tu was the recipient of “Technical Grand Prize” in 2001 Cannes Film Festival for Millennium Mambo/Qianxi manpo (Hou Hsiao-hsien, 2001) and What Time Is It There?/Ni nabian jidian (Tsai Ming-liang, 2001). In 2004, the 26th Festival des 3 Continents paid a tribute to Tu Duu-Chih with a program entitled “Tribute to Tu Duu-Chih: Films for Your Ears – Taiwan.” The same year, the National Culture and Arts Foundation presented Tu the National Award for Arts, one of the highest honors in Taiwan for artists.




UNION FILM COMPANY, LTD. (Lianbang) (1953-1978). Union Film Company was a major distributor of Mandarin films made in Hong Kong, mostly from Shaw Brothers and Motion Pictures and General Investment Co. Ltd. (MP&GI). In mid-1960s, it supported Li Han-hsiang in establishing his own production company, Grand Motion Picture Company. In the late 1960s, Union Film, with the help of King Hu, built a film studio with soundstages and backlot. At its peak, it became not only a film production company, but a vertically integrated trust, with its own contract directors, actors, staff, a film laboratory, a distribution network, its own movie theaters and a network of theater chains across the island.

Union Film was founded by four businessmen from Shanghai – Hsia Weitang, Zhang Jiuyin, Sha Yungfong/Sha Rongfeng/Richard Hsia, and Zhang Taoran. They were in the business of cotton yarn in Taiwan after 1945 until Chinese Communists took over China in 1949. After the sources of cotton yarn were cut off in China in 1950, the four started to learn the film business. After the establishment of Union Film Company, Hsia Weitang became its president, Zhang Jiuyin treasurer, Sha Yungfong in charge of distribution and publicity, and Zhang Taoran Hong Kong representative. After the tragic death of Hsia Weitang in a plane crash in 1964, Sha was elected president of Union Film (Lianbang).

The early business strategy of Lianbang was to form its own theater chain and expand its source of Mandarin film. In the 1950s, very few Mandarin-language films were made annually in Taiwan. Even though more Mandarin-language films were made in Hong Kong, with the ban from the Nationalist/Kuomintang (KMT) government on showing any film with actors or main creative talents supporting the People’s Republic of China, the available number of Hong Kong films was limited. (After 1960, Hong Kong films needed to register with the KMT-entrusted Hong Kong and Kowloon Cinema & Theatrical Enterprise Free General Association Limited before their distribution in Taiwan.)

To expand its film sources, Lianbang started to invest in Hong Kong films. Golden Phoenix/Jin feng (Yan Jun, 1956) was its first investment, followed by Nobody’s Child/Kuer liulang ji (Bu Wancang, 1960). Lianbang coproduced several films with Hsin Hwa Motion Picture Company, such as Sweet as a Melon/Cai xigua de gu’niang (Chiang Nan, 1956), Beauty of Tokyo (Evan Yang/Yi Wen, 1955), The Daring Gang of Nineteen from Verdun City/Qingcheng shijiu xia (Tu Guangqi, 1960), and Love Ditties on the Tea Hill/The Voice of Love/Chashan qingge (1962, co-written by Sung Tsun-Shou). It coproduced Li Han-hsiang’s Little Angel of the Streets/Malu xiao tianshi (1957) with San Tin Film Company as well.

In the 1950s, Union Film made its first film, Shen Changfu Circus/Shen Changfu mashituan (Tang Shaohua, 1956), which was shown in Mandarin/ Taiwanese-dialect versions across Taiwan, and was successful in the box office. In the 1960s, it invested in several Hong Kong Mandarin films – The Big Circus/Da mashituan (Chun Kim/Qin Jian, 1964), Lady with the Lute/Zhao wuniang (Bu Wancang, 1963), and How the Oil Vendor Won the Beauty Queen/Maiyoulang duzhan huakui (Tu Guangqi, 1964), as well as Liang Hongyu, the Patriotic Drummer-girl/Liang Hongyu (Bu Wancang, 1963), which was coproduced with the Central Motion Picture Corporation (CMPC), China Film Studio, and Taiwan Film Studio.

Union Film established the first Mandarin film theater chain in 1954, consisted of three movie theaters. Several years later, the chain was expanded to 10 movie theaters in Taipei. It needed at least 40 films (sometimes up to 80 films) annually to fill up the screening time. To provide more films to its theater chain, Lianbang started dubbing 15 to 30 Cantonese films into Mandarin annually. In 1957, Lianbang also established its Mandarin film movie chain across Taiwan in seven major cities. In certain areas, Lianbang built its own movie theaters, such as Letian Theater in Taoyuan and Chunghsing Theater in Makung. In other areas, it rented and renovated existing movie theaters. In the 1960s, Lianbang controlled over 80 movie theaters throughout Taiwan and offshore island.

Since its inception in 1953, Lianbang’s core business was film distribution, not only of Mandarin films, but also Japanese and British films. The first film it distributed was Lover Eternal/Wushan meng (Yan Jun, 1953), followed by an even more successful Singing Under the Moon/Cuicui (Yan Jun, 1953). In a few years, Lianbang became one of the most successful distributors in Taiwan. In 1956, after the establishment of MP&GI, Lianbang became its Taiwan distributor, for which Lianbang founded International (Guoji) Film Company to handle the business. By 1960, it also distributed MP&GI’s competitor Shaw Brothers’ films in Taiwan. In 1963, Lianbang lost it distribution right of Shaw Brothers’ films, resulting in its support of MP&GI’s plan in helping Shaw Brothers’ top director Li Han-hsiang to defect and form his own Grand (GUOLIAN) Motion Picture Company.

The name of the company, Guolian, was taken from part of both Cathay (GUOtai) Organisation, MP&GI’s parent company, and Union (LIANbang) Film Company. According to the agreement between Li Han-hsiang and Loke Wan-tho, chairman and general manager of MP&GI, MP&GI and Li’s Grand Motion Picture Company equally shared each film’s production cost. Li’s share of the cost would be paid by Lianbang, who, in return, owned the distribution right of the films in Taiwan. The first two films of Grand Motion Picture (GMP), Seven Fairies/Qi xiannu (Li Han-hsiang, 1963) and Trouble on the Wedding Night/ Zhuangyuan jidi (Li Han-hsiang, 1964), were box office hits. However, Hsi Shih: Beauty of Beauties (Li Han-hsiang, 1965) was too costly, resulting in the financial distress of the GMP.

According to the contract between the GMP and Lianbang, Li was to deliver six (later added to nine) films per year for Lianbang to distribute. However, the overhead of the GMP was too much (monthly salaries exceeded US$20,000) and the output was always delayed. On average, Lianbang would have to wait for at least a year before the film was delivered. The conflict eventually caused not only the premature termination of the contract between the GMP and Lianbang in 1967, but also litigation between the two, in which Li lost for lack of evidence that Lianbang had cheated him on the box office revenue of Grand Motion Picture’s first two films.

Before breaking up with Li Han-hsiang’s Grand Motion Picture Company, Lianbang had already initiated its plan of building a film studio in 1965. The construction of infrastructure started a year later. The building of the three soundstages and an office building was completed at the end of 1969. In 1966, before the soundstage was built, King Hu already built an outdoor set in the backlot to shoot Dragon Gate Inn/Dragon Inn/Longmen kezhan (1967). Construction of an open set, which included a manor house, a city wall, and a street, for Hu’s next film, A Touch of Zen/Xia nu (1971), began in 1967 and was not completed until one and a half years later. The first half of A Touch of Zen was released in 1970 and the second half in 1973. Unlike Dragon Gate Inn, grossing of A Touch of Zen was poor, partially due to Lianbang’s unauthorized cut of the film from three hours to two hours. The failure in box office and the misunderstanding over his share of the dividends from earnings of Dragon Gate Inn resulted in Hu’s leaving Union Film in 1971.

When King Hu was invited by Lianbang to become its manager in charge of the newly established production department, he recruited and trained many contract actors for Lianbang, including Hsu Feng, Pai Ying, Shang-Kuan Ling-feng, Hu Chin, and Tien Peng, etc. Lianbang also recruited new directors such as Hsiung Ting-Wu, Tu Chung-Hsun, Ting Shan-hsi, Hua Hui-Ying, Liu Chia-Chang, and Chen Hongmin and offered them chances to direct their debut films, such as A City Called Dragon/Longcheng shiri (Tu Chung-Hsun, 1969) and Rider of Revenge/Wanli xiongfeng (Hsiung Ting-Wu, 1971). Other melodramatic wenyi pian directors, including, Sung Tsun-Shou, Joseph Kuo Nan-Hong, and Yang Shih-ching, were given their first chance to make martial arts wuxia pian, such as The Swordsman of All Swordsmen/Yidai jianwang (Joseph Kuo, 1968). Union Film Company disbanded its production department in 1974, due mainly to the market recession caused by rampant piracy of film and other factors.

In 1973, Lianbang took over a pre-existing film laboratory in a suburb of Taipei. After renovation and adding new equipments, the International (Guoji) Film Laboratory was founded. However, most of the film productions sent their negatives abroad for development and printing, despite the existence of International Film Lab, which received less than one ninth of the films made in Taiwan, thus resulting in heavy losses. The film laboratory was finally sold to the CMPC in 1975.

In 1978, most of the shareholders of Union Film Company, with the exception of Sha Yungfong, having become disinterested in the film business, decided to sell the film studios and closed the film company. All of Lianbang’s film prints and negatives are deposited in the Chinese Taipei Film Archive now.




WAN JEN (Wan Ren) (1950- ). Born into a family originally from Jinjiang, Fujian Province in China, Wan Jen graduated from the Department of Foreign Languages (later split into the Departments of English Language and Literature, German Language and Culture, and Japanese Language and Culture), in Soochow University. Wan studied pubic administration in the graduate program, but later transferred to history at the University of Arkansas in the United States in 1976. In the Department of History, Wan Jen learned about cinema, which prompted him to study filmmaking at Columbia College in Hollywood, where he made Morning Dream/Chen meng (1979) and Perplexed/Mi wang (1981), both winners of “Best 16mm Film” prizes at the Golden Harvest Awards in Taiwan.

After returning from America, Wan taught filmmaking for two years in the Motion Pictures Department at World Journalism College (now Shih Hsin University) in Taipei. He was invited to direct The Taste of Apples/Pingguo de ziwei, a segment in the omnibus film, The Sandwich Man/Erzi de da wan’ou (1983), codirected by Wan, Hou Hsiao-hsien, and Tseng Chuang-hsiang/Zeng Zhuangxiang. It caused the now infamous scandal of the “peeling of the apple” incident, in which some “old” filmmakers sent an anonymous letter to inform the Nationalist Party/government about a “conspiracy” behind The Sandwich Man, considered one of the first films leading to the Taiwan New Cinema movement of the 1980s.

Wan Jen characterized himself as a “commercial” director and an intellectual. All his films deal with Taiwan history or current social issues. His first feature-length narrative, Ah-Fei/Youma caizi (1984), based on female writer Liao Hui-ying’s popular novel of the same title, reflected the fate of women in the first three-quarters of the 20th century, as well as the change of women’s positions in Taiwan from agricultural society in the 1950s to industrialized society in the 1980s. The film won “Best Adapted Screenplay” (Hou Hsiao-hsien and Liao Hui-ying) at the 1984 Golden Horse Awards.

In Super Citizen/Chaoji shimin (1985), Wan reflected about the lives of people at the bottom of society, undergoing all the dramatic social changes. Wan Jen used parody and satire to reveal the absurdity of society, a talent he first showed in The Taste of Apples, made a couple of years earlier. Wan Jen solemnly depicted the tragic situation of a former political prisoner turned social outcast, in Super Citizen Ko/Chaoji da guomin (1995), a rarely made political film in Taiwan.

Next, the director turned his attention to the issue of urban Aborigines in Connection by Fate/Chaoji gongmin (1998), in which the spirit of an executed aboriginal youth befriends a taxi driver. On the one hand, the socially maladjusted young Aborigine killed his boss out of anger at his exploitation and emotional abuse. On the other hand, the taxi driver and former social activist, is at a complete loss after the sudden death of his son. The film is reflective about the decade-long social activism in Taiwan, as well as the philosophy of life and death.

Both Super Citizen Ko and Connection by Fate are reminiscence of Greek director Theodoros Angelopoulos’ works. Wan Jen won “Best Script” for Super Citizen Ko at the 1998 Fajr International Film Festival in Iran. The Singapore International Film Festival gave Wan’s Connection by Fate its “Special Jury Prize” in 1999 for “its brilliant evocation of the urban malaise and modern man’s yearning to reconcile with his past.”

Wan Jen’s other works are less brilliant. The melodrama, Farewell to the Channel/Xibie haian (1987), is about the tragic fate of a young couple, also at the bottom of society. The Story of Taipei Women/Yanzhi (1991) deals with the complicated relationship between three generations in two families. Based on Hong Kong popular writer Yishu’s novel, the film is very different from all of Wan Jen’s other works. Sacrificial Victims/Da xuanmin (aka Angel/Tianshi or guilei tianshi) (2002, codirected with Liao Ching-Song) explores the election campaign culture in Taiwan, exposing the dirty world of politics and campaigning, as well as the duplicity of politicians.

   Beginning in 2003, Wan Jen directed two historical drama series for Public Television Service – Dana Sakura/Feng zhong feiying (2004), about the Wushe Incident/Musha jiken, in which the Seediq aboriginal tribe rebelled against cruel Japanese colonial rule and was violently suppressed, and The War of Betrayal 1895/Luanshi haomen (2007) dealing with the relationship between Taiwan and the Chinese Empire at the end of the 19th century.


WANG, HUI-LING (1964- ). A legendary writer in the television and film worlds in Taiwan, “Best Screenplay” Oscar nominee Wang Hui-Ling never formally studied screenwriting or filmmaking. She started writing teleplays when she was only an 18-year-old music student at Taipei Provincial Normal School. She became a professional teleplay writer at age 20. She met Hsu Li-kong and they cowrote a drama series, Four Daughters/Si qianjin (1984) that was nominated as “Best Writing for a Television Series” at the Golden Bell Television Awards.

In 1992, Hsu invited Wang Hui-Ling to adapt Four Daughters into a screenplay, which eventually became Eat Drink Man Woman/Yin shi nan nu (Ang Lee, 1994), cowritten with Ang Lee and James Schamus. It was nominated for “Best Screenplay” at the 1995 Independent Spirit Awards in the United States.

Wang went back to writing television series afterward. Among the dramas she wrote, she is best known for the TV mini-series April Rhapsody/Renjian siyue tian (2000, directed by Ding Ya-min), about the romance of famed Chinese poet Xu Zhimo, and another mini-series, The Legend of Eileen Chang/Ta cong haishang lai (2003, also directed by Ding Ya-min), about the internationally-acclaimed, legendary Chinese novelist.

Wang Hui-Ling cowrote Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon/Wo hu cang long (Ang Lee, 2000), again with James Schamus (from a first draft written by Tsai Kuo-Jung/Cai Guorong), and they were nominated for “Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material Previously Produced or Published” at the Academy Awards (Oscars), Writers Guild of America, British Academy of Film and Television Awards, and 2000 Golden Horse Awards, and as “Best Screenplay” at the Hong Kong Film Awards.

Wang cowrote, yet again, with James Schamus, Lust, Caution/Se, jie (Ang Lee, 2007), for which they were nominated for “Best Screenplay” at the 2008 Asian Film Awards, and winning “Best Adapted Screenplay” at the 2007 Golden Horse.

Wang Hui-Ling also cowrote the screenplay for Hsu Li-kong’s directorial debut, Fleeing By Night/Ye ben (2000, codirected by Yin Chi), and a film produced by Hsu, Migratory Bird/Houniao (2001), directed by Ding Ya-min, her director- partner on the mini-series April Rhapsody and The Legend of Eileen Chang. She cowrote Jackie Chan’s The Myth/Shenhua (Stanley Tong, 2005) with Li Hai-shu and director Tong. See also WOMEN AND FILMS.


WANG, SHAU-DI (Wang Xiaodi) (1953- ). Born in Taipei in 1953, Wang Shau-Di/ Wang Hsiao-Di/Wang Xiaodi’s father was a general in charge of political warfare, and a powerful member of the Nationalist Party (KMT). Her mother died when she was two years old. Wang was basically a wild child who loved to fool around, such as playing basketball and hiking, rather than studying. While in Tamkang High School, right before taking the college entrance exam, she was enlightened by a math teacher and began studying hard. She entered the Department of Cinema and Drama at Chinese Culture University, where she fell in love with drama, reading plays and acting on stage. After graduation, Wang enrolled at Trinity University in San Antonio, Texas, where she studied theater production. She attended a filmmaking program at the University of San Francisco after graduating from Trinity, but dropped out soon after the United States severed its ties with the Nationalist government on Taiwan and recognized the People’s Republic of China on the Mainland.

Wang Shau-Di’s first job back in Taiwan was as assistant director on The Bloody Battle of Da Er Dan/Xie zhan da er dan (Chang Pei-cheng, 1982). She also taught theater production at Chinese Culture University, writing and directing stage plays such as Dayu Controls the Flood/Dayu zhi shui (1981). She founded Min Shin productions in 1983 to produce television documentary programs and dramas. She was writer/director on 15 single-episode dramas (each 90-minutes, almost 23 hours worth), as well as a handful of television sit-com series.

Starting from the late 1980s, Wang Shau-Di began her career as film scriptwriter. She cowrote two films in Wang Tung’s “Taiwan trilogy,” Strawman/ Daocaoren (1987) and Banana Paradise/Xiangjiao tiantang (1989), with Sung Hung (Song Yingying), winning “Best Original Screenplay” at the 1987 Golden Horse Awards. In these two screenplays Wang Shau-Di showed her talent for depicting the sad and cheerful emotions of ordinary people. Wang’s directing debut was an episode in a portmanteau film, The Game They Call Sex/Huangse gushi (1987), written by Tsai Ming-liang, her protégé, and she also wrote another episode that was directed by Sylvia Chang.

In 1991, Wang established Min Shin Theater, the first community theater in Taiwan, with her partner (in business and in life) Huang Li-ming. Wang’s theater works included A Closet in the Room (1992, written by Tsai Ming-liang), and stage plays adapted from Shakespeare, Japanese Noh, and Peking Opera.

In 1992, Wang and Huang founded Rice Film International to produce film, TV movies, and television serial dramas. Other than Wang’s own directorial works, Rice Film also produced Tropical Fish (Chen Yu-Hsun, 1994). Wang’s first feature-length film was Accidental Legend/Fei tian (1996), a period action- adventure set in northern China 100 years ago. Yours and Mine/Wo de shenjingbing (1997) is a four-part screwball comedy reflecting the absurdity of society in four chapters, each dealing with an issue – automobile, house, human body, relationships. Afterwards, Wang turned her attention to an animation feature, Grandma and Her Ghosts/Mofa ama (1998), a combination of children’s fantasy and adult dark parody.

In late 2001, Wang Shau-Di was diagnosed with breast cancer. After medical treatment, she continued working on film and television projects. She made several single-episode TV dramas as well as serial dramas in the 2000s, including A Floating Love in the Lonely Heart/Qinmi yu gudu jian piaoliu de aiqing (2002, starring Richard Chen Yao-chi and Chen Shiang-Chyi). Her most recent films are TV movie Bear Hug/Yongbao da baixiong (2004), a tragicomedy focusing on a neglected child in a broken family, and feature film Fantôme où es-tu?/Ku Ma (2010), a salvation story about a young perpetrator of manslaughter and her victim, a young male distance runner who befriends her after becoming a ghost.


WANG, TUNG (Wang Tong, Wang Zhonghe) (1942- ). One of the most prominent Taiwan New Cinema directors, Wang Tung/Wang Toon/Wang Tong started in the filmmaking business in the mid-1960s as set dresser, became a director in early 1981, and is currently still working as a film director.

Wang Tung (real name Wang Zhonghe) was born in Taihe County, Anhui Province, China in 1942 in a family of 12 children. (Wang ranked six among his siblings.) His father graduated from Whampoa Military Academy and became a prominent general in the Nationalist (Kuomintang/KMT) army. His mother came from a family of scholars, and was a good Chinese painter. Wang was interested in the arts and literature since childhood. His mother taught him Chinese paintings and gave him a seal to inscribe on the paintings. On the seal was the name “Wang Tung,” meaning “a child of the Wang family,” which Wang took as his stage name when he started a film career. The first movie he saw at age five, The Spring River Flows East/Tears of the Yang-Tse/Yi jiang chun shui xiang dong liu (Cai Chusheng and Zheng Junli, 1947), touched him very deeply and he began his lifelong interest in cinema and theater. Before emigrating with his family to Taiwan in 1949, Wang saw and was impressed by many Chinese film classics, such as The Lights of Ten Thousand Homes/Myriad of Lights/Wanjia denghuo (Shen Fu, 1948).

Wang studied painting at the National Taiwan Academy of Arts (now National Taiwan University of Arts) between 1962 and 1965, where he excelled in Western painting and won awards in the national student painting competition. In 1963, while still a college student, Wang was hired as apprentice painter at a Central Motion Picture Corporation (CMPC) soundstage, for Shaw Brothers director Yuan Chiu-Feng’s Songfest/Shange yinyuan (1965). This first encounter with filmmaking aroused his aspirations as an art director. In 1966, after compulsory military service, Wang joined the CMPC, starting as an apprentice – cyclorama painter, artist, set dresser, and prop man, and later as art director in charge of art and costume design. Between 1966 and 1971, he worked on more than 30 films for renowned Taiwan directors, such as Li Chia, Lee Hsing, King Hu, Pai Ching-jui, and Richard Chen Yao-chi.

In 1971, Wang Tung went to study stage design at the East-West Center in Hawaii, an education and research organization established by the United States Congress in 1960 to strengthen relations and understanding among the people and nations of Asia, the Pacific, and the U.S. Wang participated in the stage design for Wulong Yuan, a stage play. After returning to the CMPC in 1973, Wang continued working as art director. His more renowned films during this period include The Life God/Yun shen buzhi chu (Hsu Chin-liang, 1975), Fantasies Behind the Pearly Curtain/Yi lian you meng (Pai Ching-jui, 1976), Everlasting Glory/Ying lie qianqiu (Ting Shan-hsi, 1976), and Eight Hundred Heroes/800 Heroes/Babai zhuangshi (Ting Shan-hsi, 1977). Wang won his first art director award in 1976 for a romantic wenyi pian, Forever My Love/Maple Tree Love /Feng ye qing (Pai Ching-jui, 1976), at the 1976 Golden Horse Awards.

In 1980, Taiwan’s Yung Sheng Motion Pictures wanted to make a couple of films based on literary works from post-Cultural Revolution “scar literature” in China. After searching in vain for a suitable director, Yung Sheng asked Wang Tung, art director on the project, to direct the first film. The tragicomedy film, If I Am for Real/Jiaru wo shih zhen de (1981), was an instant commercial and critical success, winning “Best Picture,” “Best Adapted Screenplay” (Chang Yung- hsiang), and “Best Actor” (Alan Tam) awards at the 18th Golden Horse in 1981. Taken from a banned stage play in the People’s Republic of China (PRC) that was written by Sha Yexin and two actors, loosely based on Nikolai Gogol’s The Government Inspector, the film explores the Chinese phenomenon of adoration of the privileged.

Following the success of his debut film, and two “light-hearted” commercial films, Wang took the directoral job for yet another project based on a literary work banned in the PRC. Portrait of a Fanatic/Unrequited Love/Ku lian (1982), rewritten by Hsiao Yeh from Bai Hua’s screenplay “Unrequited Love,” is about a painter who suffers physical and mental torture during the Cultural Revolution. The film won for “Best Cinematography” (Lin Hung-Chung) at the 1982 Golden Horse Awards.

His next film, A Flower in the Raining Night/A Flower in the Rainy Night/Kan hai de rihzih (1983), is hailed as the pioneer work of Taiwan nativist films. Based on Huang Chun-ming’s nativist short story of the same title, the film was a box-office winner, nominated for four Golden Horse awards (Best Picture, Best Actress, Best Supporting Actress, and Best Adapted Screenplay) and winning the two acting awards (Lu Hsiao-Fen and Ying Ying). Originally, Wang was asked by the CMPC to codirect The Sandwich Man/Erzih de da wan’ou (1983) with Hou Hsiao-hsien. However, Wang was already in the preproduction stage for A Flower in the Raining Night, and had to reject the offer from his employer, which infuriated the high echelon of the CMPC. Wang’s A Flower in the Raining Night is regarded as one of the Taiwan New Cinema films, even though he never collaborated with any other of them.

Despite the unpleasant situation caused by Wang’s rejection of The Sandwich Man, which was beaten at the box office by A Flower in the Raining Night, Wang was still considered a treasure of the CMPC, and the company supported him in making a new style wuxia pian, Run Away/Ce ma ru lin (1984, written by Tsai Ming-liang and Hsiao Yeh). A realistic martial arts film, Run Away shows Wang Tung’s efforts in integrating realistic cinematography, meticulous researched art design, and naturalistic acting to tell a humanistic story, very similar to what Akira Kurosawa did in his samurai films. The film won him, and his now deceased wife Ku Chao-shih/Gu Zhaoshi “Best Costume Design” at the 1985 Golden Horse Awards. He and two other partners also won for “Best Art Direction” at both the Golden Horse and the Asia Film Festival in 1985.

Wang started his “Taiwan contemporary history trilogy” in 1987 with Strawman/Daocaoren. In this dark comedy, Wang revealed the hardships that Taiwan people, especially poor rural tenant farmers, endured during Japanese colonial rule. It won “Best Film,” “Best Director,” and “Best Original Screenplay” (Wang Shau-Di and Sung Hung/Song Yingying) at the 1987 Golden Horse Awards, “Best Film” and “Best Supporting Actor” (Wen Ying) at the 1987 Asia Film Festival, as well as “Best Screenplay” and “Best Editing” (Chen Sheng-chang and Chen Li-yu) in the 1990 Festival de Cine de Bogotá.

The second in Wang’s trilogy, Banana Paradise/Xiangjiao tiantang (1989), is yet another satire that examines “The White Terror” practiced by the KMT, who viciously pursued anyone suspected of anti-KMT tendencies. The film was nominated for six awards and won “Best Supporting Actor” (Chang Shi/Zhang Shi) at the 1989 Golden Horse.

Wang Tung’s masterpiece, Hill of No Return/Silent Mountain/Wu yan de shanqiu (1992), the third in his Taiwan history trilogy, explores the greed, lust, love, and hope in Jinguashih, a gold mining town in northern Taiwan, during Japanese colonial rule. In this sad (especially in comparison with the first two films in the trilogy), involving three-hour film, Wang Tung calmly and realistically develops his characters, revealing through various episodes the hardship of life and the many faces of humanity. The film was the focus of the 1992 Golden Horse Awards, garnering “Best Picture,” “Best Director,” “Best Original Screenplay” (Wu Nien-Jen), “Best Art Direction” (Lee Fu-Hsiung), “Best Costume Design” (Lee Fu-Hsiung), and “Audience’s Choice” awards. It also won “Best Screenplay” and “Best Art Direction” at the 1993 Asia Film Festival, “Best Film” at the 1993 Shanghai International Film Festival, as well as “Special Jury Award” and “Best Actress” (Yang Kuei-Mei) at the 1993 Singapore International Film Festival.

Wang’s next film, Red Persimmon/Hong Shizi (1997), is an autobiographical film about his childhood when the family (mother, nine children, mother-in-law) fled to Taiwan and took refuge in a Japanese-style house, while his father and the other generals held strategy meetings in an attempt to recover the lost Mainland. The “personal” film is loosely structured, with vignettes from the ordinary lives of Nationalist military dependents in the 1950s – the need of the family to reestablish their lives and move forward, and the struggles about growing up or getting old.

Wang was appointed head of the CMPC film studios in 1997, until he retired in 2002. He made a film, A Way We Go/Ziyou menshen (2002) before leaving the CMPC. In 2002, Wang joined Wang Film Productions/Hong Guang Cartoon Company (aka Cuckoo’s Nest Studios). The animation company of his older brother James Wang, Wang Film Productions was one of the world’s largest animation studios, known for its work on Hanna-Barbera TV series, television specials, and cartoon movies between the 1980s and early 2000s. In 2004, Wang produced and directed his first animation feature for Wang Film Productions. Fireball/Honghaier juezhan huoyanshan (2005) won “Best Animation” in 2005 at both Golden Horse and Asia Pacific Film Festival. In 2007, the National Culture and Arts Foundation presented Wang Tung the National Award for Arts, one of the highest honors in Taiwan arts and culture. Wang was chairperson of Taipei Film Festival (2003-2006) and Taipei Golden Horse Film Festival (2004-2006).

Since 2008, Wang has taught in the Graduate School and the Department of Filmmaking at Taipei National University of the Arts and is now chairperson of the Department of Filmmaking. He is preparing his next film, tentatively titled Strait/Haixia. It is the story of three Nationalist soldiers who fled with the KMT government to Taiwan in 1949. Through the sweeping changes in Taiwan society during the past 60 years, and current new relationship between Taiwan and China, the story reveals the humanity of love, family and friendships amid the torrent of history. It is slated to start principal photography in 2012.


WEI, TE-SHENG (Wei Desheng) (1969- ). The best known film personality in Taiwan so far this century, Wei Te-Sheng was born in Hsin-shi/Xinshi, Tainan County (now Tainan City), and graduated from the Department of Electronics Engineering in Far East Junior College of Technology (now Far East University) there. While he was serving compulsory military service after graduation, an army colleague stimulated his interest in film. Wei’s first film job was production assistant for a company making television programs.

In 1993, Wei became script supervisor for veteran director Chin Ao-Hsun’s Top Cool/Determined to Soar/Xiang fei, ao kong shenying (1993), where he met one of director Edward Yang’s team, who invited him to join the film company. Wei became a production assistant in Yang’s Atom Films & Theater. When Yang helped Japanese director Hayashi Kaizo produce The Most Terrible Time in My Life/Waga jinsei saiaku no toki (1994) in Taiwan, he assigned Wei to be production assistant on the film, where he learned professional filmmaking craft, and experienced an international coproduction. During the making of Yang’s Mahjong/Shake and Bake/Majiang (1996), Wei was promoted from production assistant to assistant director, which was quite a jump in responsibility. The heavy load pushed Wei to quickly become a more than competent assistant, laying the foundation for his development as a hardworking filmmaker.

After leaving Yang’s film company, Wei began writing screenplays, and directed three shorts, all recognized in the Golden Harvest Awards. Wei’s first feature-length film, About July/Qiyue tian (1999), made in 16mm, won the Dragons and Tigers Award – Special Citation at the 1999 Vancouver International Film Festival. Afterward, Wei was invited by director Chen Kuo-fu to be associate producer of his forthcoming Double Vision/Shuang tong (2002), a horror-thriller, coproduced by Columbia Pictures Film Production Asia and Chen’s Nan Fang Film Productions. The experience taught Wei to expand his vision about his own future productions.

During this time Wei started to develop a dream project about the 1930 “Wushe Incident” (Musha jiken/Wushe shijian), the last large-scale Aborignes’ rebellion against Japanese colonial rule. Originally, Wei expected to make the film for NT$200 million (US$6.4 million), a very large budget for a Taiwan film. To raise funds, Wei used NT$2.5 million (US$80,000) of his own money for a pilot film to prove his ability and to show the project’s feasibility. Unfortunately, the fund-raising plans did not work out.

In 2008, Wei Te-Sheng wrote and directed his first 35mm feature, Cape No. 7/Haijiao qihao, which cost NT$45 million (US$1.4 million) to make and earned NT$530 million (US$12.3 million) at the box office, making it the top-grossing Taiwan film in history, and, even including Hollywood and international productions, the third highest grossing film in Taiwan, losing only to Avatar (James Cameron, 2009) and Titanic (James Cameron, 1997). Wei’s film won the “Grand Prix” at the 2008 Taipei Film Festival’s Taipei Film Awards, with an attached NT$1 million prize, as well as “Outstanding Taiwan Film,” “Outstanding Taiwan Filmmaker,” “Best Supporting Actor” (Ma Ju-Lung), “Best Original Music,” and “Best Original Song” at the 2008 Golden Horse Awards.

The success of Cape No. 7 finally won Wei Te-Sheng the chance to fulfill his dream of making Seediq Bale/Saideke balai (2011), which now cost over NT$700 million (US$25 million) to complete, making it the highest budget film ever made in Taiwan. Major investors included the government of the Republic of China, Wei Te-Sheng, who invested all his cash award (20% of the Cape No. 7’s total box-office) from the Government Information Office, and the Central Motion Picture Corporation, privately owned by Kuo Tai-chiang, president of Foxlink/Cheng Uei Precision Industry, a major electronics company that makes key parts for Apple’s iTablet and iPhone.

The final version of the epic film was edited into two parts, Seediq Bale: Flag of the Sun/Saideke balai shangji taiyang qi (2011), 144 minutes long, and Seediq Bale: Rainbow Bridge/Saideke balai xiaji caihong qiao (2011), 132 minutes. When the film was selected for official competition in the 2011 Venice International Film Festival, it was titled Warriors of the Rainbow: Seediq Bale, and a condensed 150-minute version was shown. Seediq Bale was awarded “Best Feature Film,” “Best Supporting Actor,” “Best Original Film Score,” “Best Sound Effects,” and “Special Award for Taiwanese Filmmaker of the Year.”

With these two films, Wei Te-Sheng not only proves that he is a unique filmmaker who knows how to tell a good story, he also singlehandly re-energizes Taiwan cinema, bringing the momentum from rock bottom to bloom, which is not a small achievement.


WENYI, WENYI PIAN (Wenyi Film). The term “wenyi” (literally, “literature and arts”) came from Japan in the early 1900s, and was soon frequently used in Chinese literature. By the 1920s, Chinese writers tended to call books adapted or translated from foreign literature, usually written by socialist writers, “wenyi” novels. However, popular romances written by Chinese writers, such as the great Eileen Chang/Zhang Ailing, were also called “wenyi” novels. Despite its early usage in Chinese literature, wenyi as a film genre did not appear in Chinese films made in Shanghai.

After Taiwan was taken over by the Republic of China (ROC), represented by the Nationalist government, in 1945, popular novels were usually divided into two categories: “wuxia” (martial arts) and “wenyi,” which usually meant romantic fantasy novels that were divorced from reality, but was also applied to translated foreign novels. It is through such a literary connection that the term wenyi pian or wenyi film started to appear in Taiwan and Hong Kong around the 1960s. In other words, wenyi pian is commonly used to refer to films adapted from wenyi, i.e., fantasized romantic novels written by popular writers. Wenyi, as a film genre, appeared after 1960 in Taiwan and Hong Kong, and is listed as such in the official category of film genres used by the Government Information Office’s Film Censorship Board. There is no exact definition, however.

Romantic wenyi novels of Jing Xingqi and Yu Qimin were popular from 1950 into the early 1960s. The works of Jing and Yu, among the lower quality of the 1920s-1940s Shanghai “Mandarin Duck and Butterfly School” fiction about love, crime, and scandal, were hardly ever adapted into films. Higher quality writers whose novels were frequently adapted into films after the 1960s, include Chiung Yao, Kuo Liang-Hui/Guo Lianghui, Yan Shen, John Yip (Yi Da), and Hsuan Hsiao-fo/Xuan Xiaofo.

Kuo Liang-Hui started to write wenyi novels in the early 1950s, but her novels often involved somewhat graphic extramarital affairs, a subject not as in-demand among film producers as Chiung Yao’s novels that avoided any descriptions of sex. Kuo’s controversial novel, The Locked Heart/Xin suo, was banned for “obscene” reasons in 1963, and was not adapted into the film, Desire/Xin suo (Ho Fan, 1987), until a quarter-century later. Joseph Kuo Nan-Hong’s The Lost Romance/ Yunshan meng hui (1971) was produced by Union Film Company. Two of her novels were made into films by veteran director Sung Tsun-ShouThirteen/Zao shou (1974) and Ask My Love from God/Ci qing ke wen tian (1978). Many other novels were made into Cantonese and Mandarin films by Hong Kong directors.

Yan Shen, a writer popular with Chinese readers in Southeast Asian countries in the 1970s, wrote over 180 novels, novellas, and collections of essays, more than 20 of which were adapted into films and television drama series, including, Morning Star/Chen xing (1975), He Loved Once Too Many/Shui yun (1975), The Story of Green House/Luse shanzhuang/Liuxia yi pian xiangsi (aka Yan shui han) (1978), all directed by Sung Tsun-Shou. Pai Ching-jui directed Yan’s Picking the Star/ Zhai xing (aka Touch of the Fairlady) (1979).

John Yip, a Hong Kong writer and actor, wrote popular romance wenyi novels that were adapted into films, mainly by Hong Kong directors Chor Yuen/Chu Yuan and Patrick Tse/Xie Xian. Another of his novels, Love is Smoke/Qing yan, was made into a Taiwan film in 1972, also by veteran director Sung Tsun-Shou.

More than five novels of Hsuan Hsiao-fo were produced as films, including Pai Ching-jui’s Love in the Cabin/Baiwu zhi lian (1972), and four films directed by Hsuan’s film business partner Yang Chia-yun – Walking in the Sunset/Cai zai xiyang li (1978), Misty Rain Knocking On My Window/Xi yu qiao wo chuang (1978), Morning Mist/Chen wu (1978), and The Unsinkable Miss Calabash/Xiao hulu (1981).

However, no other popular romance wenyi writer can compare with Chiung Yao, when it comes to the number of film adaptations. By 1986, she had published 42 novels and collections of short stories. From them, some 50 films were made in the 20 years between 1964 and 1983. Many important Taiwan directors made Chiungyao films during those years, such as Lee Hsing, Li Han-hsiang, Sung Tsun-Shou, Pai Ching-jui, Richard Chen Yao-chi, among others. Director Liu Lili hold the record of making the most Chiungyao films – 10 of the 13 films written and/or produced by Chiung Yao herself after she founded Super Star Motion Picture Company in 1976 for the explicit purpose of producing Chiungyao film.

By the early 1980s, Chungyao films had lost its audience. Chiung Yao was forced to close her Super Star Motion Picture Company and leave the Taiwan film industry. It was during this time when the Taiwan film industry was in serious crisis, losing market share due mainly to the antipathy against Taiwanese productions, including wenyi films, national policy films, kung fu films, soft-core pornography, and violent gangster movies. After the advent of Taiwan New Cinema – filmmakers who emphasized realistic representations of Taiwan, rather than a fantasized romantic world divorced from reality – wenyi pian and Chiungyao film would never return in Taiwan cinema.


WHOSE FAULT IS IT? (1925).  Considered the first feature film totally made by local Taiwanese talent, including director, producer, writer, film crew and actors, Whose Fault Is It?/Shei zhi guo was the first and only film made by members of the Taiwan Cinema Study Association.

The action-romance depicted the story of a young girl, played by Lian Yunxian, who was courted by a dandy, played by Zhang Sunqu (Chyo Sonkyo). Despite her opposition against the playboy’s proposal, the girl’s mother agreed to the marriage after receiving a great fortune as the “bride price.” The girl ran away from home and hid in her uncle’s mountain villa, where she met her Prince Charming. She was eventually forced to return home for the arranged marriage, but the playboy’s villainous attendant abducted her for ransom after the dandy refused to lend him money he urgently needed. The girl was finally rescued by her true love. They finally wedded after the girl’s mother came to her senses.

The script was written by Liu Xiyang, one of the founders of the Taiwan Cinema Study Association. He studied the script with members of the Association every evening in their spare time, trying to create the most effective way to present it with cinematography and acting. After a month of preparation, Liu believed they were ready to go into production. The 8,000-some feet of raw stock from Eastman Kodak in the United States arrived in early July. Principal photography commenced at Shin-Hokutō/Xinbeitou train station on 9 August 1925, attracting many tourists who had come to the famous hot springs. Nearly 1,000 feet of film were used during the first day of shooting; another 1,000 feet were used at other locations four days later.

Twenty members of the Association participated in the production, including two women, which was unusual at the time. Li Shu was the cameraman, while Liu Xiyang, Zhang Sunqu, and Huang Letian shared directing credit. Zhang and Huang also starred in the film, along with Lian Yunxian and Liu Bizhou. The press praised Li Shu for his cinematography, and Lian for her beauty and acting skills, which impressed audiences with her exuberant expressions and realistic performance, which was considered equal to that of actresses in Chinese films made in Shanghai.

The seven-reel social realism feature, publicized at the time as a “pure Taiwan-made film,” premiered in mid-September 1925 at Eraku-za in Dadaocheng/Daitōtei, a predominantly Taiwanese commercial center in northern Taipei City. The film did not attract much support from the local community, and its failure at the box office eventually caused the collapse of the Taiwan Cinema Study Association.


WOMEN AND FILMS. Women in Taiwan cinema during Japanese rule were less represented in the craft or business of film, because not many films were actually produced during this period, and very few women were involved in filmmaking. Of the less than 16 feature films made, only three were directed by native Taiwanese, all male.

Most major female characters in these few features were weak and at the mercy of bad men, until rescued by a good man, who eventually became her spouse. Buddha’s Pupils (Edward K. Tanaka, 1924), Whose Fault Is It? (Liu Xiyang, Zhang Sunqu, and Huang Letian 1925), Hero of Alishan (Tasaka Tomotaka and Mizoguchi Kenji, 1927), and Strange Gentleman/Kai shinshi/Guai shenshi (Chiba Yasuki, 1933) all have similar storylines. God Is Merciless (Fukuhara Masao[?], 1925) and Spring Breeze/Wang chunfeng (Andō Tarō and Huang Liangmeng, 1938) are tragedies, commonly seen later in Taiwanese-dialect films and television dramas, in which women were forced to become prostitutes, before deciding to sacrifice themselves for the happiness of their true loves. Blood Stains (Zhang Sunqu, 1930) is the only film in which a woman was an active heroine, who kills her father’s murderer for revenge, with help from her lover. However, women in Alas, Shisangan (Shizuka, Hachirō, 1936) are also active in helping a juvenile delinquent change his life for the good. Sayon, the main character in Sayon’s Bell/Sayon no kane (Shimizu Hiroshi, 1943) is yet another kind of role-model whom, as the colonial government tries to portray her, “sacrifices herself for the sake of the empire.” In essence, women in many of these films were stereotypically portrayed, either dying for the country or the man she loved, or rescued by the man she would marry.

Only a handful of women tried to get involved in filmmaking in the Japanese colonial period. Two women became members of the Taiwan Cinema Study Association. Of the two, Lian Yunxian, was the leading actress in Whose Fault Is It?, thus becoming the first native Taiwanese film actress. Her performance was praised by the press as “realistic,” “equal to, if not better than film actresses in China.” Lian was actually a geisha, as was Yi Chuan Zhu, the other member in the Taiwan Cinema Study Association, as well as Zhang Ruru, the star of Blood Stains. The main actress in Strange Gentleman, Hong Yu (real name Li Caifeng), was wife of the executive producer, while Chen Baozhu, principal actress of Alas, Shisangan and Spring Breeze, was actually famous waitress Nanako (nicknamed the “Five-Million Dollar Beauty”) at Oertel Restaurant. The film business was considered a degrading profession. Only women who were not from “decent” families would/could appear publicly in front of the spotlights. That explains why only geishas, a rich wife, and a waitress became actresses.

After World War II, Taiwan cinema entered a new era. Women were more educated, and working women became common. Most actresses in Taiwanese- dialect films, however, were either from theater or Taiwanese Opera troupes. Only a few were well-educated or trained in acting classes. Notwithstanding the fact that filmmaking was a man’s business, there was at least one female director of Taiwanese-dialect films. Chen Wenmin was a movie theater owner and investor in Taiwanese-dialect films. However, when she had a disagreement with a director, Shao Luo-hui, she fired him and became director herself. The two directors eventually made two separate films from a similar story. Chen’s film was as good as Shao’s, thus, establishing her reputation as a director. Though she was a director for only three years, making only seven films, Chen Wenmin is still one of the most prolific women directors in Taiwan cinema.

In the world of Mandarin film, most actresses in the 1950s and early 1960s came from Mainland China, following the Nationalist government to Taiwan. Some came before 1949 for location shooting, but were stranded in Taiwan after the Chinese Communists took over Shanghai. After the mid-1960s, some actresses were trained by Taiwan studios, including Grand Motion Picture Company (Chen Chen), and Union Film Company (Hsu Feng, Shang-Kuan Ling-feng, Hu Chin).

Kuei Ya-lei developed as a film actress at the National Taiwan Academy of Arts (now National Taiwan University of Arts). She won “Best Actress” at the 1966 Golden Horse Awards for her debut performance in Misty Rain/Yanyu mengmeng (Wang Yin, 1965), the first Chiungyao film. She was soon recruited by Li Han- hsiang’s Grand Motion Picture Company to star in Li’s masterpiece, The Winter (1969).

Tang Bao-yun was trained at the Central Motion Picture Corporation (CMPC) studio, and was awarded “Best Supporting Actress” for her debut in Typhoon/Taifeng (Pan Lei, 1960). However, it was Tang’s performance in a healthy realism film, The Beautiful Duckling/Yangya renjia (Lee Hsing, 1964) that made her an instant celebrity, the most popular star of the time. Tang made seven films in the next three years, before she abandoned her career after getting married. Her films included two Chiungyao films for the CMPC Lee Hsing’s Four Loves/Wanjun biaomei (1964) and Pai Ching-jui’s Because of Love/Di liu ge meng (1968), as well as Pai’s renowned wenyi pian melodrama, Lonely Seventeen/Jimo de shiqisui (1967). Tang’s performance in Lee Hsing’s masterpiece Autumn Execution/Execution in Autumn/Qiu jue (1971) was also impressive. Chang Mei-Yao, another major star in the 1960s, also quit acting after marrying actor Ko Chun-hsiung in the early 1970s, to the regret of her fans and most of those in the film business.

With the absence of both stars, Tang and Chang, Brigitte Lin Ching-Hsia and Joan Lin Feng-Chiao quickly became popular by appearing in melodramatic wenyi pian, especially Chiungyao films. They were formally untrained, learning acting techniques on the job.

Sylvia Chang Ai-chia began her acting career in the 1970s, starring in several Chiungyao films and romantic wenyi pian, winning “Best Supporting Actress” at the 1976 Golden Horse Awards, and a special award at the Asia Film Festival. However, it was in two other films, Li Han-hsiang’s huangmei diao, The Dream of the Red Chamber/Jinyu liangyuan honglou meng (1977), and King Hu’s martial arts wuxia pian, Legend of the Mountain/Shan zhong chuanqi (1979) that Chang gained the greatest recognition for her acting skill.

In the early 1980s, Loretta Yang Hui-Shan emerged from a handful of actresses famous for sexploitation films to become one of the most important stars. However, in 1987, after an affair with director Chang Yi, Yang exited the Taiwan film circle and became an internationally renowned glass artist. Other noteworthy actresses of the 1980s included Sue Ming-Ming/Su Mingming, who appeared in films by Taiwan New Cinema director Wang Tung’s A Flower in the Raining Night/A Flower in the Rainy Night/Kan hai de rihzih (1983), Wan Jen’s Ah-Fei/Youma caizi (1984), and in Fred Tan Han-chang’s debut film Dark Night/An ye (1986). After appearing in a couple of Wan Jen’s films, Su married him and quit her career to raise children.

Yang Kuei-Mei and René Liu Ruoying gained their status as film stars in the 1990s, the former for her appearance in Tsai Ming-liang’s Vive l’Amour/Aiqing wansui (1994) and The Hole/Dong (1998), as well as Ang Lee’s Eat Drink Man Woman/Yin shi nan nu (1994), the latter in Chen Kuo-fu’s The Peony Pavilion/Wo de meili yu aichou (1995) and The Personals/Zheng hun qishi (1998), as well as in Sylvia Chang’s Shiao Yu/Shaonu xiao yu (1995).

Chen Shiang-chyi trained in the Department of Theatre at Taipei National University of the Arts. She started her film acting career in Edward Yang’s A Confucian Confusion/Duli shidai (1994), but gained a reputation as a good actress with her performance in every Tsai Ming-liang’s film since What Time Is It There? (2001). Similarly, despite her performances in many Hong Kong films in the 1990s, Shu Qi became an important actress and superstar only after Hou Hsiao-hsien cast her in Millennium Mambo/Qianxi manpo (2001). She won “Best Actress” at the 2005 Golden Horse Awards for Hou’s Three Times/The Best of Times/Zui hao de shiguang (2005).

In the 2000s and 2010s, as young new directors emerged, many actresses came from modeling and the music business, first becoming dramatic television idols before entering the film world. Others, however, gained attention through brilliant performances in their debut films. Among the most notable young actresses during the last decade are Kwai Lunmei and Chang Yung-yung.

There were not many female writers or directors before the 1980s. Liu Lili, the popular female novelist Chiung Yao’s protégé, directed 10 of the 13 Chiungyao films produced by the writer between 1978 and 1983. Yang Chia-yun/Yang Jiayun was script supervisor and assistant director for Lee Hsing, Pai Ching-jui, and Richard Chen Yao-chi, before becoming a director. She began writing screenplays in 1978. The following year, she founded a film company with popular female novelist Xuan Xiaofo, and directed a film, Morning Mist/Chen wu (1978), based on Xuan’s romantic story. To avoid being pinned down as a melodrama wenyi pian director, Yang tried other kinds of genre films, including “social realist films” (aka “crime/gangster action”) Who Dare Challenge Me/Shei gan re wo (1981) and The Lady Avenger/Fengkuang nu shaxing (1981), as well as a military training drama, Women Warriors of Kinmen /Jinmen nubing (1983). Yang made nine films between 1978 and 1983.

Wang Ying, one of the few female graduates of an American university film school who was a working director, made two features in the 1970s – a military training drama for the military-owned China Film Studio, The Chinese Amazons/Nubing riji (1975, codirected by Li Chia), and a sports film to inspire young audiences for the KMT-owned Central Motion Pictures Corporation, A Little Reason/Jinbiao (1979).

In 1980, Li Meimi made her debut film, using an almost all-women cast and crew, on a film about unmarried mothers, literally called Unmarried Mothers/Wei hun mama. Many of her following films – Evening News/Wanjian xinwen (1980), Girls’ School/Nuzi xuexiao (1982), and Trial Marriage/Da qingren yu xiao genban (1985) – also explored women’s issues.

A few more female writer-directors appeared in the 1980s, including actress- turned-director Sylvia Chang, writer-turned-director Wang Shau-Di, and Huang Yu-Shan. Even by the 1990s, the number of female directors had not increased much. The only new woman director to emerge was Emily Liu Yi-Ming, a graduate of New York University’s MFA film program, who wrote and directed three films – Kangaroo Man/Daishu nanren (1995), a satire about a man giving birth; Woman Soup/Nu tang (2001), depicting four successful career women who find enough comfort from their friendships to get rid of their failed marriages or family lives; and Great Wall, Great Love/Zhui ai/Bang wo zhaodao zhang xiuqian (aka. Great Wall My Love) (2011), a comedy that deals with the sensitive issue of a clash of values between people (in this case, the films’ couple) who were born and raised in the two opposing systems across the Taiwan Strait.

After Taiwan cinema remained in a state of continued recession for more than a decade, a new generation of young filmmakers started to emerge in the 2000s: Alice Wang (Kung Fu Girls/Kongshoudao shaonu zu [2003]), Zero Chou/Zhou Meiling (Splendid Float/Yanguang si she gewutuan [2004]), Chen Ying-jung (Formula 17/17 sui de tiankong [2004]), Lee Yun-Chan (The Shoe Fairy/Renyu duo duo [2005]), Tseng Wen-Chen (Fishing Luck/Dengdai feiyu [2005]), Singing Chen (God Man Dog/Liulang shen gou ren [2007]), Christina Yao Shuhua (Empire of Silver/Baiyin diguo [2009]), Cheng Fen-Fen (Hear Me/Ting shuo [2009]), Kuo Chen-Ti (Step by Step/Lian lian wu [2009]), Fu Tien-yu (Somewhere I Have Never Travelled/Dai wo qu yuanfang [2009]), and Cho Li (Zoom Hunting/ Lie yan [2010]). Most of these young female filmmakers have only one or two films to their credit and will need time to develop their portfolios.

Among the new generation of female writer-directors, Zero Chou (Chou Mei-ling) is most prolific, concentrating on female, mainly lesbian, issues. After graduating from National Chenchi University with a BA in Philosophy in 1992, Chou became a documentary filmmaker before making her debut fiction feature, Splendid Float. The film mixed gay/transvestite subject matter with folk religion, and was eye-opening in the stagnant Taiwan cinema, even though it needed polishing. It won “Best Taiwanese Film of the Year” at the 2004 Golden Horse Awards, and was invited to screen in many film festivals throughout the world. Spider Lilies/Ci qing (2007), Chou’s next film, once again shot by her partner (in work and in life), Hoho Liu, was about the lesbian relationship of two young women. Drifting Flowers/Piao lang qingchun (2008), Chou’s third film, consists of three separate, yet somehow interconnected stories of five gay men and lesbians (see GAY AND LESBIAN FILMS).

There are not as many female writers as one would expect in Taiwan cinema. Among them, the best known are Wang Hui-Ling, for her screenplays cowritten with Ang Lee and/or James Schamus, and Chu Tien-Wen, famous for her screenplay written with and for Hou Hsiao-hsien.

Female producers used to be rare. Since the mid-2000s, their number has been increasing, however. Among them, Peggy Chiao is an internationally respected producer who not only produced films of world-renowned directors, such as Tsai Ming-liang and Lin Cheng-sheng, but also those of young directors in Taiwan and China.

In the last two decades, Yeh Ju-Feng has emerged as one of the most sought-after producers in Taiwan. She has worked with established directors, such as John Woo (Red Cliff [2008]), Tsai Ming-liang (The Wayward Cloud [2005] and What Time Is It There? [2001]), and Lin Cheng-sheng (Murmur of Youth [1991]), as well as young and novice directors. Other emerging female producers include Aileen Li, Michelle Yeh, Chien Li-Fen, Liu Wei-Jan, Li Ya-Mei, and Lee Lieh.

Aileen Li and Michelle Yeh are known for producing genre films, including gay comedy (Fomula 17, Chen Yin-jung, 2004); thriller (Heirloom/Zhai bian, Leste Chen, 2005); romantic-fantasy (The Shoe Fairy, Lee Yun-Chan, 2005); and action-comedy (Catch/Guo shi wu shuang, Chen Yin-jung, 2006). After the producer team split, Yeh went on to produce a science fiction-romantic-comedy, My DNA Says I Love You/Jiyin jueding wo ai ni (Lee Yun-Chan, 2007); horror, Invitation Only/Jue ming paidui (Kevin Ko, 2009); and a romantic-comedy, Love in Disguise/Lianai tonggao (Wang Leeholm, 2010). Aileen Li continued to produce Prince of Tears/Lei wangzi (Yonfan, 2009), In Case of Love/Jiejiao de xiao wangzi (Gavin Lin, 2010), and Mayday 3DNA/Wuyuetian 3DNA (Kung Wen- Yen, 2011), a 3D Stereoscopic film that mixes rock band Mayday’s concert tour with three fiction stories.

Chien Li-Fen has produced all the films directed by her husband Lee Chi Y. (Lee Chi-yuarn), including Chocolate Rap/Qiaokeli zhongji (2006), Beautiful Crazy/Luan qingchun (2008), and Blowfish/Hetun (2011). Liu Wei-Jan produced In Case of Love, as well as the Wim Wenders executive-produced action-comedy, Au revoir, Taipeh/Yi ye taibei (Arvin Chen, 2010). Li Ya-Mei is an associate producer on the phenomenal box-office success, Cape No. 7/Haijiao cihao (2008). Former actress-turned-producer Lee Lieh has become the top producer after making only three films, all of them box-office winners – Orz Boyz/Jiong nanhai (Yang Ya-che, 2008), Monga/Mengjia (Doze Niu, 2010), and Jump Ashin!/Fangun ba axin (Lin Yu-Hsien, 2011). She is recipient of the Presidential Culture Award in 2011, the highest honor given to Artists in Taiwan, for her achievement in attracting young audiences to cinema and lifting the morale of the Taiwan film industry, which had been depressed for almost two decades.

The stereotypical image of women in Taiwan cinema is considered by many as one that lacks independence and depth. This is very likely due to traditional Taiwan society and circumstances in Taiwan cinema. Before the mid-1950s, there were very few films made by Taiwan filmmakers that catered to the interests and needs of local audiences, until the emergence of Taiwanese-dialect film. Women, especially middle-aged women, were considered the basic audience for Taiwanese-dialect film. At the time, women were still treated unfairly in the patriarchal society. It is, therefore, not surprising to find that a relatively high proportion of Taiwanese-dialect films were sad tragedies about wronged women in dire situations. Many Taiwanese filmmakers tried to copy similar tragic stories found in films from Shanghai, Japan, and the West. “Unspeakably sorrowful about life’s vicissitudes” and “the woman’s bad luck touches your heart” were ideas constantly used to promote these films.

Mandarin film became popular in the mid-1960s. Healthy realism films with positive messages and political overtones portrayed women in typical Confucian images – virtuous, submissive, kind, and tolerant. While entertaining huangmai diao films based on traditional folklore always stressed Confucian ethics, asking women to hold fast to morality and repress their sexuality. Chungyiao films and wenyi pian romance melodrama, popular from the mid-1960s to 1970s, were the genres that dealt with women’s issues more often. Most of the genres’ films built their stories on the basis of differences in social class, economic status, or educational level, and the differences were eventually resolved by love. The image of women in these films was always supple, delicate, and helpless – objects of men’s desires. Such films probably provided outlets for young women, such as factory laborers and high school students, to fantasize.

By the late 1970s, “social realist film” (crime/gangster action film) used the plight of women being raped as a pretext to exploit women’s bodies and show terrible violent acts. It took Taiwan New Cinema (TNC) films to reverse the sick trend, and to begin seriously exploring concerns important to women. Many TNC filmmakers reshaped the image of Taiwan women, who were playing new roles in the industrialized society, after the traditional agricultural social system based on large family began to crumble. Chang Yi is especially well-known in this regard for his films Kuei-mei, a Woman/Wo zheyang guo le yisheng (1985) and This Love of Mine/Wo de ai (1986), both adapted from novellas written by Hsiao Sa, Chang’s wife at the time, and played by Loretta Yang Hui-Shan, his current partner in life and work.

Many of TNC directors, like Chang Yi, adapted nativist novels into films, including literary works of female writers. A Flower in the Raining Night/A Flower in the Rainy Night/Kan hai de rihzih (Wang Tung, 1983), which depicts a determined woman who, despite her miserable life as a prostitute, actively seeks her own better future. The Woman of Wrath/Sha fu (Tseng Chuang-hsiang, 1984), based on feminist writer Li Ang’s novel The Butcher’s Wife, revealed the psychological state of a woman who, under long-term abuses, killed her husband. In Ah-Fei/Youma caizi (1984), based on a novel written by another female writer Liao Hui-ying, Wan Jen was concerned with the predicament of traditional women in the past who could not decide their own lives.

Other films of note in this period dealing with women’s issues included Rouge of the North/Yuan nu (Tan Han-chang, 1988), based on Eileen Chang’s novel, and Osmanthus Alley/Guihua xiang (Chen Kun-Hou, 1988), based on female writer Shiau Li-Horng’s novel. Some of the TNC films represented the inner world of women’s desire and emotion. The faces of women in film are, thus, diversified. Some of them were even able to fight against men’s domination.

Renowned writer Kenneth Pai Hsien-yung’s short stories and novellas about women under the KMT-rule before and after 1949 were sources for adaptation by young and veteran directors alike. Pai Ching-jui’s The Last Night of Madame Chin/Jin daban de zuihou yiye (1984) reveals the diaspora experience of Mainlander women through the story of a popular dance hostess at Shanghai’s infamous Paramount Dance Hall in the 1940s. Jade Love/Yuqing sao (1984), directed by Chang Yi, depicts a passionate woman who dares to destruct everything to keep her lover, an image of woman rarely seen in Taiwan cinema.

Among all TNC directors, Edward Yang was extremely conscious of, and actively explored in his films, the issues of women. Yang focused on the dilemma faced by educated women in modern society in films such as That Day, on the Beach/Haitan de yitian (1983), Taipei Story/Qing mei zhu ma (1985), and The Terrorizers/Kongbu fenzi (1986). His approach, however, was more humanistic and sociological, and, therefore, did not present a unique female image.

Nevertheless, none of these films were made by female directors, who would not emerge until the late 1980s and early 1990s. Wang Shau-Di, in an omnibus project she developed called The Game They Called Sex/Huangse gushi (1987), depicted the growth and awakening of women, as well as a reflection on marriage and sex. Wang cowrote the film with Tsai Ming-liang, and codirected with Sylvia Chang and a male director, Chin Kuo-chao/Jin Guozhao.

Another woman director to emerge during this period was Huang Yu-Shan, a graduate student at New York University in the early 1980s. After receiving her MA degree in Cinema Studies, she began her directorial feature debut with Autumn Tempest/Luo shan feng (1988), based on popular nativist novelist Wang Benhu’s novel that deals with the issues of the heir system, extramarital affairs, and May-December love. The following year, Shaw Brothers invited her to direct The Twin Bracelets/Shuang zhuo (1991), a film set in a Chinese ethnic minority fishing village, explored the friendship (with lesbian overtones) between two young women and their circumstances in the patriarchal, restrictive society. Peony Birds/Mudan niao (1990) explores the relationship between a mother and her daughter, both of whom felt tortured by repressed lust and frustration. Huang is known to use symbols as motifs in her films, and explores the inner dark world of women. Spring Cactus/Zhen qing kuang ai (1999) focuses on the world of two rebellious teenage girls who suffer through drug abuse and prostitution in modern day Taipei. In 1993, Huang also founded the Women Make Waves Film & Video Festival in Taiwan.

Sylvia Chang constantly explores the awakening of women in modern society. Awakening/Meng xing shifen (1992) is about a Chinese women who becomes more aware of herself and decides not to pursue her dream of getting a Hong Kong identity card by marrying a Hong Kong jeweler; similarly, Siao Yu/Shaonu xiaoyu (1995), is also about a woman awakened from her pursuit to obtain a U.S. green card. However, the reason for her wanting the card to stay in America was not to improve her economic situation. It was pointed out that main female character in the film was awakening from her dependency on men. Her 20.30.40 (2004) explores issues a woman faces at different ages of her life.

Some films made in the 1990s and 2000s by male directors also touched on the subject matter of female (homo)sexuality. Tsai Ming-liang is well known for dealing with homosexuality in his films, some of which were related to women – Vive l’Amour/Aiqing wansui (1994), The Hole/Dong (1998), The Wayward Cloud/Tianbian yi duo yun (2005), and I Don’t Want to Sleep Alone/Hei yanquan (2006). Lin Cheng-sheng also explores (homo)sexuality in his films, including Murmur of Youth/Meili zai changge (1996) and The Moon Also Rises/Yueguang xia wo jide (2004).

In the 2000s, a number of other young male directors also openly dealt with the issue of homosexuality. Yee Chih-yen’s Blue Gate Crossing/Lanse damen (2002) depicts the delicate triangular relationship of young male and female students. This triangular relationships would be explored many times in other films by male directors, including My Whispering Plan/Sharen jihua (Arthur Chu Yu-Ning, 2005), Eternal Summer/Shengxia guangnian (Leste Chen, 2006), Miao Miao (Cheng Hsiao-tse, 2008), and Beautiful Crazy (Lee Chi-yuarn, 2008). It is interesting to note that young woman directors seemed not as interested in depicting lesbian relationships in their films, with the exception of Zero Chou.

Since the mid-1990s, female filmmakers have become active in non- commercial (fiction and documentary) cinema as well. These films became a focus at women’s film festivals in other part of the world, including Pusan, South Korea. Most nonfiction feminist films in Taiwan were less aggressive and apolitical in comparison to feminist films from other countries, however, and were more varied and diversified in style as well as in content. That being said, it needs to be pointed out that some women documentary filmmakers were more eager to explore native Taiwanese history with a feminist viewpoint than their male counterparts. Tsai Hsiu-nu, for example, produced a television documentary series, Taiwan: The Women of the Century (1999), interpreting historically important women from a feminist point-of-view. Other documentaries made by female directors, dealing with women in various historical circumstances, include, A Secret Buried For 50 Years – A Story of Taiwanese “Comfort Women” (Yang Chia- yun, 1998), that won for “Best Documentary” at the 1998 Golden Horse), Echoing with Women’s Voices/Huishou lai shi lu (Chien Wei-Ssu, 1997), Passing Through My Mother-in-law’s Village/Chuan guo pojia cun (Hu Tai-Li, 1997), and The Petrel Returns/Haiyan (Huang Yu-Shan, 1997).

It should be noted that the flourishing of non-commercial women’s films was partially attributed to the Women’s Film & Video Festival, established in 1993 and continuing to this day, dedicated to promoting women and film. The film festival, officially named “Women Make Waves Film Festival” in 1996, also introduced feminist films from abroad that included issues related to “women and work,” “gender and body,” “awakening and growth,” “ethnicity and media,” and “the Women’s Movement.” Discourses on women’s films and feminist films increased sharply thereafter. The existence of the Women Make Waves Film Festival encourages women of all ages to create their works, in either fictional, documentary, animation, or experimental genres.

Summing up, films made in the 1950s, primarily of Taiwanese-dialect film, catering to the tastes of its basic audience, mostly middle-age women, were full of tear-jerkers that emphasized the plight of women in patriarchal society. In the 1960s, films adapted from novels and short stories of popular romance writers, such as Chiung Yao, delved into the young women audience’s social conditions, and created fantasies about love that conquered class, economic, and education differences. In the 1970s, images of women were diminished, marginalized, and eroticized. By the 1980s, an image of independent women fighting against male supremacy was shown on the screen. Women’s images since the 1990s have been generally more varied, and lesbian images have been treated positively. Women’s films, fiction and nonfiction alike, flourished after the mid-1990s, and continue to this date. See also LU HSIAO-FEN; LU YI-CHING.


WU, NIEN-JEN (Wu Nianzhen, Wu Wenqin) (1952- ). A multi-talented figure, who has directed two feature films and written more than 70 filmed screenplays, Wu Nien-Jen/Wu Nien-Chen/Wu Nianzhen was one of the driving forces in the launching of the Taiwan New Cinema movement in the early 1980s. He appeared in several films directed by Taiwan New Cinema directors Edward Yang and Hou Hsiao-hsien. Today, he is a respected, beloved personality on Taiwan television, as well as an active director of stage plays.

Wu was named Wen-chin/Wenqin when he was born on 29 July 1952 to a coal miner’s family in Ruei Fang/Ruifang, a town in northern Taipei famous for its coal and gold mines. Wu’s father, originally from Min Shong/Minxiong, Chiayi/ Jiayi County in central Taiwan, came to Ruifang to work in the coal mine when he was young. After nine years in Houdong Elementary School and Provincial Keelung (Jilong) High School, Wu had to quit school and find work in Taipei. While working full-time in the day for two years, Wu continued his senior high education at night school. Wu also started writing novels in 1972 during this period, mostly about the lives of the lower- and middle-classes. He picked up a pen name, “Wu Nien-Jen,” and has been known by that name ever since.

At the end of 1975, after completing two years of compulsory military service, Wu enrolled in night school at Fu Jen Catholic University, in the Department of Accounting, while working as a librarian at the Taipei City Psychiatric Center. He attracted much attention after winning the United Daily News “Best Novel” awards consecutively for three years, 1977-1980. His work also received the 1981 prize for “Best Novel” in the prestigious Wu Cho-liu Literary Awards.

Wu Nien-Jen began writing screenplays in 1978, after two writer friends urged him to cowrite the script with them for Gone with Honor/Xiang huo (Hsu Chin-liang, 1979). He wrote several scripts about high school life, and was instrumental in popularizing the genre of “campus film” that dealt with high school students’ lives in a repressive, competitive school system. In 1980, Wu was invited to become creative supervisor at the Nationalist-owned Central Motion Picture Corporation (CMPC). He and Hsiao Yeh, another novelist-turned- scriptwriter, helped the CMPC General Manager Ming Chi implement a “newcomer policy,” giving young novices opportunities to direct episodes in portmanteau films, and, afterward, their own features. Under the new policy, Wu and Hsiao Yeh developed three projects – In Our Time/Guangyi de gushi (1982), directed by Edward Yang, Ko I-Cheng, Chang Yi, and Tao Dechen; Growing Up/Xiao bi de gushi (1983), directed by Chen Kun-Hou and written by Chu Tien- Wen and Hou Hsiao-hsien; and The Sandwich Man/Erzih de da wan’ou (1983), directed by Hou Hsiao-hsien, Wan Jen, and Tseng Chuang-hsiang/Zeng Zhuangxiang – three major pioneering works said to have started the Taiwan New Cinema movement.

Wu wrote many screenplays for Taiwan New Cinema directors, such as The Sandwich Man, Edward Yang’s That Day on the Beach/Haitan de yitian (1983), Tseng Chuang-hsiang’s Woman of Wrath/Sha fu (1984), and Hou Hsiao-hsien’s Dust in the Wind/Lianlian fengchen (1986, based on Wu’s personal story).

Wu left the CMPC in 1989 to protest against the change of policy by its new administration, ending funding for young directors’ films. Subsequently, Wu founded Wuyue (May) Productions with Hsiao Yeh and Ko I-Cheng. He continued to write screenplays freelance. Many of Wu’s screenplays were made into international renowned films, such as A City of Sadness (Hou Hsiao-hsien, 1989), Song of the Exile/Ke tu qiu hen (Ann Hui, 1990), The Puppetmaster/Xi meng rensheng (Hou Hsiao-hsien, 1993), and Hill of No Return/Silent Mountain/Wu yan de shanqiu (Wang Tung, 1992).

Wu Nien-Jen’s screenplays were nominated numerous times and have won five awards at the Golden Horse Awards, including Classmate/Tong ban tongxue (Lin Ching-chieh, 1981), Old Mo’s Second Spring/Laomo de di er ge chuntian (Lee You-ning, 1984), The Two of Us/Fuzi guanxi (Lee You-ning, 1986), Song of the Exile (nominated for “Best Screenplay” at the 1991 Hong Kong Film Awards, and also winning “Best Screenplay” at the 1990 Asia-Pacific Film Festival), and Hill of No Return.

In 1994, Wu directed his debut film A Borrowed Life/Dou sang (1994), an (auto)biographical portrayal of his father and family life during Wu’s childhood. The film won the “Silver Alexander” and FIPRESCI prizes at the 1994 Thessaloniki Film Festival in Greece, as well as “Best Film” in the International Feature Film Competition at the 1994 Torino International Festival of Young Cinema in Italy.

Wu’s second film, Buddha Bless America/Taiping tianguo (1996), was a dark comedy and political satire set in southern Taiwan during a 1960s joint military exercise, when the United States was still a military ally of the Nationalist government on Taiwan. The film was nominated for the Golden Lion at the 1996 Venice Film Festival.

Though never trained as an actor, Wu did cameos in several films, some internationally renowned, including Taipei Story/Qing mei zhu ma (Edward Yang, 1985), A City of Sadness, his own Buddha Bless America, Mahjong/Shake and Bake/Majiang (Edward Yang, 1996), Yi Yi/A One and a Two… (Edward Yang, 2000), and Island Etude/Lianxiqu (Chen Huai-en, 2006). Wu’s performances are intuitive and effective, especially in personifying humorous, wise, restrained middle-aged intellectuals. Only after Wu appeared in several commercials was his acting talent finally recognized.

After 2000, Wu Nien-Jen ran Wu’s Productions, producing commercials, television programs, serial and single-episode dramas, and occasionally, television documentary. He executive produced Pure Accidents/Chun shu yiwai, in 2000, the directorial debut of Hung chih-yu. Nine years later, he once again executive produced Somewhere I Have Never Travelled/Dai wo qu yuanfang, female scriptwriter Fu Tien-yu’s directing debut. Unfortunately, neither film succeeded commercially or critically.


WUXIA, WUXIA PIAN, WUXIA FILM. Wuxia, which literally means martial arts and chivalry, is a Chinese literary genre consisting of wu (martial arts), xia (chivalry, or the spirits of knights-errant), and folk legend. The genre can be traced back 2,000 years. The exemplary text of wuxia in a Chinese classic novel is Water Margin/Shuihu zhuan (aka Outlaws of the Marsh), written during the Ming Dynasty in the 14th century. In the mid-1800s, the popularity of wuxia novels suddenly surged.

In the 1920s, series of wuxia stories published daily in newspapers were extremely in demand then turned into serial illustrated books. By the mid- to late-1920s, wuxia films/wuxia pian (or wuxia shenguai pian, martial arts-magical spirit films, as they were called, because trick photography special effects were heavily used) based on these novels became a popular film genre. The genre began with films such as Four Heroes of the Wang Family/Wangshi si xia (Wang Yuanlong, 1927) and its sequels, which were said to be copies of the American Western genre. The films said to have created the frenzy for making wuxia pian was The Burning of the Red Lotus Temple/Huoshao hongliansi (1928-31), a series of 18 films. It was estimated that between 1928 and 1931, out of nearly 400 films made, 250 were wuxia pian… more than 60 percent. These films were exported to Taiwan, starting in 1930 with the first episode of The Burning of the Red Lotus Temple, which generated a mass fervor throughout the island, and is held responsible to be one of the reasons for the sluggish film production of Taiwanese filmmakers, as well as the lack of popularity of Mei-Tai Troupe’s mobile projection teams (see ERAKU-ZA).

In the mid-1960s, Shaw Brothers experimented with a new style of martial arts films in Hong Kong, to distinguish them from Cantonese wuxia pian, which used figurative kung fu action and were paced slowly. Originally, Sir Run Run Shaw, president of Shaw Brothers, had high hopes for Hsu Tseng-Hung, an action choreographer-turned-director, who was given the resources to make films that would fulfill Shaw’s expectations. Instead, to Shaw’s surprise, King Hu’s Come Drink with Me/Da zui xia (1966), made with an extremely low budget and few studio resources, was the one who created a fresh contemporary school of swordplay films in Hong Kong and Taiwan, called “new style” wuxia pian, to distinguish it from the Shanghai martial arts-magical spirit films of the 1920s, and the Cantonese wuxia pian of the 1950s and 1960s. Come Drink with Me was a big hit in Hong Kong and Taiwan. Its success was attributed to its action choreography directed by Han Ying-Chieh/Han Yingjie, who was trained in Peking (Beijing) Opera as a “wuchou,” a clown with martial arts skills. The martial arts moves and fights were realistic, pacing and movement fast, which made watching the film a feast for the audiences’ eyes.

In 1966, when King Hu was invited to join Lianbang (Union Film Company) (aka International Film Company) in Taiwan, he made another new style wuxia film, Dragon Gate Inn/Dragon Inn/Longmen kezhan (1967), starring Shang- Kuan Ling- feng, Pai Ying, and Shih Chun, all specifically trained by Hu for the film. This film was not only the top grossing film of the year, but also champion in Southeast Asia, enabling Taiwan to compete with Hong Kong in the Southeast Asia Mandarin film market. Hu subsequently made A Touch of Zen/Xia nu (1971), The Fate of Lee Khan/Ying chun ge fengbo (1973), The Valiant One/Zhong lie tu (1974), Raining in the Mountain/Kong shan ling yu (1977), and Legend of the Mountain/Shan zhong chuanqi (1977), which are not totally wuxia, but action-dramas with compact martial arts fighting scenes.

King Hu’s wuxia can be qualified as swordplay martial arts films, in stark contrast with films made by another Shaw Brothers director, Chang Cheh, whose wuxia pian excelled in realistic kung fu action (thus, called “kung fu martial arts films”) and slow-motion shots, rather than fast choreographed action created with editing and special effects. Chang’s martial arts films began with The Magnificent Trio/Biancheng san xia (1966), in which he experimented with the use of camera movement and choreographed action. Interesting characters with prominent personalities and scenes of fierce fighting excited the audience, leading to the film’s excellent box-office receipts. After The Magnificent Trio, Jimmy Wang Yu became the leading actor in Chan Cheh’s wuxia pian, among which, The One-Armed Swordsman/Dubei dao (1967), The Assassin/Da cike (1967), and Golden Swallow/ Jin yanzi (1968) broke Taiwan theater records by achieving the top three box- office positions in 1968. The One-Armed Swordsman won Chang Cheh the nickname of “million dollar director,” as the film was the first Hong Kong movie to reach a one-million Hong Kong dollar box-office record. Chang made 10 kung fu wuxia pian in the 1960s, before his transition to the Early Republic action film genre, aka kung fu films.

Led by King Hu and influenced by Chang Cheh, Taiwan cinema reacted with a fervor of producing wuxia films in the 1960s. More than 200 such films were made in Taiwan between 1966 and 1971, by directors such as Joseph Kuo Nan-Hong, Larry Tu Chung-Hsun/Tu Zhongxun, Yang Shih-Chin/Yang Shiqing, and Chin Sheng-en/Jin Shengen (aka Chin Chao-Pai/Jin Chaobai). Most of these followers, however, did not have the skill of Hu or Chang, and simply told nonsensical stories, emphasizing violence, in their films.

The trend of swordplay and kung fu martial arts wuxia pian was replaced by kung fu and other martial arts action films, led first by Bruce Lee’s The Big Boss/Tangshan da xiong (Lo Wei, 1971) and Fist of Fury/Jing wu men (Lo Wei, 1972), and later by Jackie Chan’s kung fu comedy, such as Snake in the Eagle’s Shadow/Shexing diao shou (1978) and Drunken Master/Zui quan (1978), both directed by action choreographer-turned-director Yuen Woo-ping/Yuan Heping.

In 1976, Hong Kong director Chor Yuen/Chu Yuan revived swordplay and kung fu wuxia pian by adapting wuxia novels written by Taiwan writer Ku Lung/Gu Long, to which he added Western “mystery solving” and Chinese romance, thus giving wuxia pian a new face. Films such as Killer Clan/Liuxing hudie jian (1976), The Magic Blade/Tianya mingyue dao (1976), Clans of Intrigue/Chu liuxiang (1977), Jade Tiger/Baiyu laohu (1977), and Swordsman and Enchantress/Xiao shiyi lang (1978), all produced by Shaw Brothers and starring Ti Lung, created a frenzy in Hong Kong and Taiwan, causing a hot demand for Ku Lung’s wuxia novels. This newest style of martial arts movies (called “romantic wuxia films” or “wenyi wuxia,” because most of the action scenes were shot like dialogue scenes) brought about a trend in Taiwan of adapting Ku Lung’s stories into films. Between 1977 and 1984, out of more then 60 such films produced in Hong Kong and Taiwan, about half were made by Taiwan directors, some well-known, such as Li Chia, Lin Fu-Di, Tsai Yang-Ming (aka Ouyang Chun), and Yu Kan-ping.

Around the same time, another trend developed in Hong Kong, producing wuxia films based on Jin Yong’s wuxia novels, most of them by Shaw Brothers. The trend had no followers in Taiwan, as Jin Yong was considered by the Nationalist government as a pro-People’s Republic of China leftist, therefore his novels were banned until 1979. Even after the ban was lifted, there was still no film based on Jin Yong’s novels made in Taiwan.

Hong Kong New Wave directors were instrumental in the revival of wuxia films during the 1980s and 1990s. They infused “art film” elements into the genre, designing and choreographing swordplay films in stylish ways. Patrick Tam Kar -Ming/Tan Jiaming’s The Sword/Ming jian (1980), action-choreographed by Ching Siu-tung/Cheng Xiaodong, is a good example. Other Hong Kong New Wave directors directed wuxia films as well, including John Woo/Wu Yusen, Ann Hui/Xu Anhua, Ronny Yu/Yu Rentai, Johnnie To/Du Qifeng, Ringo Lam/Lin Lingdong, Clara Law/Luo Zhuoyao, and Wong Kar-Wai/Wang Jiawei. However, among them, Tsui Hark/Xu Ke was the most prominent and important.

Tsui Hark’s debut film, The Butterfly Murders/Die bian (1979) experimented with the wuxia genre by adding fantasy elements, with relative success. He continued the experiment in Zu: Warriors from the Magic Mountain/Xin Shushan jianxia (1983), starring Brigitte Lin Ching-Hsia and Yuen Biao. Tsui applied up-to-date special effects to make the fantasy elements look real on screen. Tsui Hark continued to utilize special effects to create fantasy wuxia worlds in his “Chinese Ghost Story” and “Swordsman” series.

Ang Lee’s Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon/Wo hu cang long (2000) is a major contribution to martial arts wuxia films, because it introduced the genre to the Western mainstream audience, and was enjoyed by millions who might never have taken an opportunity to experience anything about martial arts, wuxia, or Chinese films. However, Crouching Tiger is untraditional, in the sense that Ang Lee added genuine emotions to the characters, making them more human, rather than simply killing machines. This creative decision was a risk, as it challenged audiences’ preexisting concepts and expectations from watching a wuxia film. (Similarly, Peter Chan/Chen Kexin’s Dragon/Wuxia [2011], which expanded the genre to wuxia-thriller, also took risk in challenging audiences’ expectations.)

Indeed, in spite of the film’s worldwide commercial and critical success, its reception in Hong Kong and China was rather cool. Lee was even accused of making a “fake” wuxia pian to please audiences in the West. However, other renowned Chinese directors like Zhang Yimou and Chen Kaige followed Lee’s steps and made similar types of wuxia films, courting the mainstream Western market. Zhang’s Hero/Yingxiong (2002) did relatively well in both the United States and international markets, although his House of Flying Daggers/Shi mian maifu (2004) did not do as well, and Chen’s The Promise (2005) did poorly in the U.S. Such results reveal that it still needs great effort to make wuxia into a genre accepted by audiences throughout the world.




YANG, EDWARD (Yang Te-Chang. Yang Dechang) (1947-2007). Considered one of the world’s most gifted filmmakers, Edward Yang Te-Chang was a prominent director to emerge from the Taiwan New Cinema movement of the 1980s. Yang was renowned for his formal experimentation within film narrative, as well as his use of film for social and cultural critique.

Edward Yang was born in Shanghai on 6 November 1947 to a middle-class Hakka family. Yang’s father was originally from Mei County in Guangdong Province, similar to Hou Hsiao-hsien’s family. However, Yang’s father moved to Canton/Guangzhou when he was 15, and then to Hong Kong, Shanghai, and Chungking/Chongqing, where he met Yang’s mother. In Chungking, both of Yang’s parents worked for Central Trust of China, a subsidiary of the Central Bank of China. Yang’s father worked in the printing division, which printed paper money, revenue stamps, postage stamps, paper securities, and government publications for the Ministry of Finance. After World War II, Yang’s parents moved with Central Trust back to Shanghai, where his father’s division became China Engraving & Printing Works in 1945, directly under the control of the Central Bank of China. When the Nationalist government was defeated by the Communists in 1949, Yang, only age two, moved with his family to Taiwan.

Yang entered the prestigious Taipei Mandarin Experimental Elementary School in 1953, and later transferred to another elementary school, due to his disappointing grades and poor relationships with teachers. During this period, Yang was fascinated by domestic and Japanese (particularly Tezuka Osamu’s) comic books. Despite Yang’s unenthusiastic studying, his father taught him to read Chinese classics and calligraphy. Yang managed to be admitted to the affiliated night school of the prestigious Chien Kuo (Jianguo) High School in 1959. A year later, Yang successfully transferred to regular daily classes at the same school, where he graduated in 1965. During junior high, Yang started drawing his own comic books for fun. In senior high, he was interested in basketball and music.

Yang enrolled in the undergraduate Department of Electrical and Control Engineering at National Chiao Tung University. During his college days, Yang learned methods of creative thinking, which was very helpful later in his filmmaking. After graduation, Yang was accepted into the graduate program at the University of Florida in 1970, where he studied electrical engineering in the Center for Infomatics Research, one of the first information science programs in the United States, receiving a master’s degree. Unlike most students, Yang did not pursue a Ph.D. degree. Instead, he enrolled in the filmmaking master’s program at the University of Southern California (USC) for one semester, before dropping out due to his disappointment with its stress on the Hollywood film industry style. By this time, Yang’s parents had emigrated to the U.S. and lived in Seattle, so Yang joined them there and found a job in a research laboratory at the University of Washington in 1974, designing marine defense information systems for the Defense Department. Despite his steady job as a technician, Yang was not satisfied, however. He still yearned for a career in filmmaking.

German director Werner Herzog’s Aguirre, the Wrath of God (1972) that he saw at a Seattle repertory theater inspired Edward Yang to pursue his dream. He was encouraged by the possibility of making quality films with limited budgets. Yang went back to Taiwan in 1980. His first filmmaking experience was writing a script for a friend he met while studying at USC. The Winter of 1905/1905 nian de dongtian (1981), starring Hong Kong director Tsui Hark/Xu Ke and Taiwan art director Wang Shya-Jiun/Heinrich Wang Hsia-chun/Wang Xiajun, was based on the story of renowned Chinese artist-turned-Buddhist monk Li Shutong/Bonze Hongyi (1880- 1942). The film was directed by Yu Wei-Cheng/Yu Weizheng. The producers were Yu’s younger brother Yu Wei-yen (who later became Edward Yang’s partner, producing all of his films after A Brighter Summer Day [1991]), and Chan Hung-chih, who later executive produced Yang’s A Brighter Summer Day and Hou Hsiao- hsien’s A City of Sadness/Beiqing chengshi (1989).

   When The Winter of 1905 was finished, Yang was invited by producer-actress Sylvia Chang to write and direct Floating Weeds/Fuping (1981), one episode in Eleven Women, an 11-episode dramatic TV mini-series made for Taiwan Television Enterprise (TTV). The series was originally conceived as a testing ground for young novice directors, similar to what Radio Television Hong Kong (RTHK) mini-series drama was for Hong Kong New Wave directors in the 1970s. Sylvia Chang directed one episode and other beginning directors were given their first chances to direct, including Yang and Ko I-Cheng, both of whom would later direct an episode of In Our Time/Guangyi de gushi in 1984. Some veteran directors, such as Sung Chun-Shou, also directed episodes in the series. The success of Yang’s Floating Weeds, a two-part TV drama exploring female emotions led him to look into the possibilities of having a directing career in Hong Kong film, or TV drama in Taiwan.

Hsiao Yeh and Wu Nien-Jen, two young writers responsible for project development in the Nationalist-owned Central Motion Picture Corporation (CMPC), approached Edward Yang and invited him to direct an episode for the portmanteau film the CMPC was planning. Yang grasped the chance, writing and directing Expectations/Desires/Zhiwang, one of the four episodes of In Our Time, considered one of the pioneer works of Taiwan New Cinema. Expectations is a short story about the puberty of a young girl. The film reflects Yang’s experience growing up in a closed, repressive society. Like the other three episodes, the realistic style, non-dramatic structure, and subject matter about growing-up, all characteristics of Taiwan New Cinema films in the 1980s, were also evident in Yang’s debut film.

The unexpected success of In Our Time was an encouragement to Yang and other young directors. Yang and the other three directors of In Our Time were offered a chance to make a feature for the CMPC. Yang’s new film, starring Sylvia Chang, was to be a coproduction of the CMPC and Hong Kong’s Cinema City & Films. Founded by a group of Hong Kong filmmakers, Cinema City’s debut genre films included slapstick kung fu, comedy, and thrillers. In 1981, after Yu Kan-ping stepped down, Sylvia Chang was recruited as Cinema City’s supervising director in Taiwan to develop the Taiwan market. Papa, Can You Hear Me Sing?/Da cuo che, a top-grossing tear-jerker in 1982 directed by Yu Kan-ping, was one of the Cinema City films made in Taiwan. However, Chang wanted to promote a new form of romantic wenyi pian, different from Papa, Can You Hear Me Sing?

Edward Yang’s That Day, on the Beach/Haitan de yitian (1983), a 167-minute feature, is not a melodramatic wenyi pian, however. Its scope covers contemporary Taiwan society from the 1950s to early 1980s, showing the social change in Taiwan. Through a rather complex narrative structure, with meticulously executed cinematography and lighting, the modernist film explores romantic love, marriage, family, and urban Taiwan women, in a daring way previously unseen in Taiwan cinema. That Day, on the Beach became the first of Yang’s “urban trilogy.” It is also the debut film of internationally renowned Australian cinematographer Christopher Doyle, whom Yang vigorously fought with the CMPC to hire. The Nationalist-owned film company insisted on using its own cameraman in a film it financed. The long length of the film was a major challenge to the Taiwan film industry and exhibitors as well. Fortunately, Yang was supported by Ming Chi, general manager of the CMPC, and was able to show the film in theaters intact.

Realizing his creativity was severely restricted by the film industry, Yang decided to forsake using established actors and crews in his second “trilogy” film, Taipei Story/Qing mei zhu ma (1985). The film, starring director Hou Hsiao-hsien and pop singer Tsai Chin, who later became Yang’s first wife, was produced by Hou’s Evergreen Films. In his third feature, Yang broke away from the complex narrative structure of That Day, on the Beach. This time he concentrated on the main story line about the gradual estrangement between a long-established fabric store owner in the older northwestern district of Taipei, conditioned by traditional values, and his girlfriend since childhood, who worked and lived in the city’s newly developed, more sophisticated eastern district, yearning for a bourgeois life. In Taipei Story, Yang imaginatively uses metaphor and counterpoint, as well as mise-en-scène, in which he meticulously frames his images (his famous frame-within-frame technique) and foreground environment. Through the use of such visual language, Yang wittingly reveals the loneliness and emptiness of modern men and women in a global urban environment, a common theme of his 1980s films. Taipei Story foretells the crisis of Taiwan society that began in 1985, caused by economic crimes, social disorder, and moral corruption. Ironically, audiences did not want to see the prophetic film, which was pulled from theaters after only four days. Yang and other Taiwan New Cinema directors were accused of self-indulgence. The phenomenal box-office failure of Taipei Story became the focus of intense arguments at the 1985 Golden Horse Awards, between critics and filmmakers who supported or opposed Taiwan New Cinema.

Despite the controversy in its homeland, Taipei Story won a FIPRESCI award at Film Festival Locarno in Switzerland, signifying that international film festivals were outlets for quality domestic productions. This also suited the political needs of the Nationalist government that was worried about the shrinking of Taiwan’s international visibility. The films of Edward Yang and Hou Hsiao-hsien were the most internationally renowned Taiwan directors at international film festivals in the 1980s. That may be the reason why the CMPC agreed to produce Yang’s last “urban trilogy” film, The Terrorizers/Kongbu fenzi (1986). According to Yang, the film was made under the worst possible production conditions. The result, however, was surprisingly outstanding. Its theatrical revenue was quite good, which was very unusual for such an art film in Taiwan. It was named “Best Film” at the 1986 Golden Horse, and won a Silver Leopard at Locarno in 1987.

The Terrorizers, a complex multi-narrative film, deals with issues of morality and uncertainty in urban life. It is a mature, modernist work of art, causing film critics to compare Yang with Italian director Michelangelo Antonioni. (Yang said that he had only seen Antonioni’s L’Avventura [1960] before becoming a filmmaker, and wasn’t inspired by it.) Such a comparison is not unfounded, since both directors explore urban landscapes and the alienation of individuals in contemporary society, using similar formal, structural elements. It is probably Yang’s propensity for using Western sensibilities and modernist aesthetics to deal with issues in urban Taiwan that made it easier for Western audiences to approach and understand his films.

In 1989 Edward Yang established his own company, Yang and His Gang Filmmakers (later changed to Atom Films and Theater), to prepare for his next film. No longer set in contemporary urban Taipei, A Brighter Summer Day/ Gulingjie shaonian sharen shijian (1991), loosely based its story on a homicide committed by a Taipei high school student in 1961. It marks a big step for Edward Yang, moving from detached observation of alienated individuals in capitalist society to emotional embracing adolescents caught in a repressive system. Instead of a nostalgic view of the incident, however, Yang extends the scope of the film to reveal the bitter experiences of the youngsters growing up in a closed, authoritarian, amoral political and social environment.

The film was a massive undertaking. There are nearly 100 characters and 92 locations in the four-hour feature, costing NT$27 million (US$1 million) to make, more than double its initial budget. Similar to Hou Hsiao-hsien’s A City of Sadness (1989), Yang’s A Brighter Summer Day attempts to carry out a grand historical narrative through the personal experience of a group of individuals, this time waishengren (post-1945 Mainlanders in Taiwan). Some consider A Brighter Summer Day the first film to ever redress the unfortunate conditions of misunderstood and oppressed Mainlanders who followed Chiang Kai-shek and remained stranded in Taiwan after 1949, separated from their beloved families on the Mainland. The overall atmosphere in A Brighter Summer Day is darkness and plainness, which is in stark contrast to the brightness and complexity seen previously in Yang’s urban trilogy. A Brighter Summer Day received “Best Film” and “Best Original Screenplay” (by Yang and students from National Institute of the Arts [NIA], Alex Yang/Yang Shunqing, Hong Hong/Yan Hongya, Lai Ming-tang) at the 1991 Golden Horse Awards. Edward Yang also received the FIPRESCI award and “Special Jury Award” at the 1991 Tokyo International Film Festival.

After the epic A Brighter Summer Day, Edward Yang decided to attempt a smaller-scale work. It was at this time, in the early 1990s, that he was invited to teach in the Theatre Department at NIA. In both 1992 and 1993 Yang wrote and directed two one-act plays at NIA, with an all-student cast. The experience seemed to arouse Yang’s interest in both theater and humor, which becomes evident in his two satiric dark comedies, A Confucian Confusion/Duli shidai (1994), and Mahjong/Shake and Bake/Majiang (1996). It was a sharp turn from the seriousness found in Yang’s earlier works.

Despite Yang’s hope to make a comedy like Woody Allen, A Confucian Confusion appears more like Jean Renoir’s The Rules of the Game/La Règle du jeu (1939) or Robert Altman’s Short Cuts (1993), in which multi-characters crisscross each other’s footsteps. On the one hand, the film is about responsibility for one’s own acts, which is essential for true independence, hence the Chinese title of the film, “The Age of Independence (Duli shidai).” On the other hand, rules or regulations, essential elements in the ethical structure of Confucian society, cause confusion in times of change, thus the English title of the film, “A Confucian Confusion.” The film aims to explore in depth the hard-to-resolve confusion in Taiwan caused by Confucianism.

Although the original concept may have been interesting, the execution is less than desirable. Yang said that he intentionally caricatured his characters, directing his actors to perform in exaggerated ways, which is contrary to the basic realistic style of the film. Yang uses inter-titles to create a frame of reference for the audience, which may or may not work. Although a (possibly) failed experiment, A Confucian Confusion signifies Yang’s restless creative mind. It was nominated for the Palme d’Or at the 1994 Cannes International Film Festival.

Mahjong once again portrays the decline and decadence of Taiwan society in the 1990s. The film reflects the farce experienced daily in contemporary Taiwan. Unlike the serious intentions of A Confucian Confusion, Yang said that he merely wanted to reveal the role that (dis)information plays in everyone’s life, the lack of self-awareness, and the confusion seen in Taiwanese people. It won “Honorable Mention” at the 1996 Berlin International Film Festival. In 1997, at the invitation of Hong Kong theater troupe Zuni Icosahedron (Zuni), Yang participated in a stage production of their Journey to the East 97, in collaboration with film director Stanley Kwan/Guan Jinpeng and Zuni’s founder Danny Yung/Rong Nianceng.

Edward Yang’s last feature film, Yi Yi/A One and a Two… (2000), is a masterpiece, winning “Best Director” at the 2000 Cannes Film Festival. The film was voted “Best (Foreign Language) Film” by many important American film critic organizations, including National Society of Film Critics, New York Society of Film Critics, Los Angeles Film Critics Association, and the online Film Critics Society. Beginning at a wedding, a party for a new baby in the middle of the film, and ending with a funnel, the nearly three-hour film tells the story of a middle- class Taipei family. Each of the members in its extended family struggles in their urban existence, trying to resolve their difficult (triangular) relationships. Through its multiple parallelisms, Yi Yi calmly reveals the undercurrent of life, and the common issues of humanity hidden in the surface appearance of life.

In 2000, Yang made an experimental drama, King Lear, for Zuni, co-directing with Danny Yung, Taiwan director Stan Lai/Lai Shengchuan, and Chinese theater director Meng Jinghui. He was invited to be a member of the jury at the Cannes Film Festival a year later. After 2000, Yang shifted his attention to animation. In 2001, he founded his own production company, Kailidoscope Studio (named after Yang’s second wife Peng Kaili), and created a website, “miluku.com,” to originate internet animation. He announced in 2002 a collaboration with Jackie Chan to develop an animated film, The Wind/Zhui feng, with the main character based on Chan. Yang also planned to develop TV animation and internet games projects. Soon, Yang moved to Shanghai to work with former director of Taiwan New Cinema Chang Yi and his partner, former actress, Yang Hui-Shan (aka Loretta Yang) on the animation, Zoo of Changjiang (later re-titled Little Friend). After production of The Wind was halted by Yang’s business partners, in 2005 he closed both Kailidoscope Studio and miluku.com, and moved to the United States. All that is left of The Wind are 20 minutes of footage and three versions of the trailer.

Yang was diagnosed with colon cancer in 2000. He died from complications of the cancer on 29 June 2007 at his Beverly Hills, Los Angeles home, at the age of 59. Before his death, Yang was still working on the synopsis and storyboard for Little Friend.

Several retrospective of Yang’s films were held since Yang’s death, including those in 2007 Pusan International Film Festival, 2007 Tokyo International Film Festival, 2008 Hong Kong International Film Festival, 2008 Melbourne International Film Festival, and 2008 New Zealand International Film Festival, as well as (almost) complete retrospectives held by La Cinémathèque Française in Paris, British Institute in London, The Film Society of Lincoln Center in New York, La Cinémathèque Québécoise in Montreal, and the National Museum of Singapore Cinémathèque in Singapore, since late 2010.


YANG, LORETTA HUI-SHAN (1952- ). Actress and glass artist Loretta Yang Hui- Shan was born on 16 July 1952 in Taichung, central Taiwan. Her father was a professor and expert in comparative literature and history of Western literature. She started acting in television drama series while enrolled in the Department of Foreign Languages (now Department of English Language, Literature and Linguistics) at Providence Junior College for Women (now renamed Providence University).

Yang acted in features beginning in the mid-1970s, mostly kung fu films and, occasionally, wenyi pian melodrama. Soon she became one of the busiest action film actresses. At the peak of her career, she starred in 22 films one year, at one time simultaneously making 11 films, a record hard to break.

   In her more than 10 years acting career, she made over 100 films, the most well-known being crime/gangster-action dramas directed by Tsai Yang-Ming, such as Gunshot at 6 in the Morning/Lingchen liudian qiangsheng (1979) and Never Too Late to Repent/Cuowu de diyi bu (1980). Both films were big hits, exploiting women’s bodies and prompting a fervor to make similar crime/ gangster-action films, in the guise of self-proclaimed “social realist film.” She starred in several such films, including Nude Body Case in Tokyo/Nuxing de fuchou (Tsai Yang-Ming, 1981), and Who Dare Challenge Me/Shei gan re wo (Yang Chia-yun, 1981).

At the time, Taiwan cinema was controlled by the underworld, and many films were either sexploitation or about gambling. Yang Hui-Shan, of course, made many such films. Another type of film Yang made during this period was Chu Yen-ping’s mixed-genre (sexploitation-fantasy-action) films, including Golden Queen’s Commando/Hongfen bingtuan (1982), and Pink Force Commando/ Hongfen youxia (1982) – starring Brigitte Lin Ching-Hsia, Yang Hui-San, as well as other Taiwan and Hong Kong female stars, playing strange and preposterous roles.

Yang’s film career had a sudden breakthrough when she was cast in Teenage Fugitive/Xiao taofan (Chang Pei-cheng, 1984), a family drama which won her “Best Actress” at the 1984 Golden Horse Awards. Subsequently, she was cast in more serious artistic films, such as in Chang Yi’s Jade Love/Yuqing sao (1984), Kuei-mei, a Woman/Wo zheyang guole yisheng (1985), and This Love of Mine/Wo de ai (1986). For her performance in Jade Love, Yang won “Best Actress” at the 1984 Asia-Pacific Film Festival, and for Kuei-mei, a Woman, another “Best Actress” award at the 1985 Golden Horse.

Yang Hui-Shan and Chang Yi developed an extramarital relationship during their collaboration on these films. The love affair was publicized by Chang’s wife in the form of a public letter, which was sensationized by the press, forcing Yang and Chang to relinquish their film careers and find another career in glassmaking.

In 1987, Yang and Chang founded Liuligongfang (Glass Workhouse) in Taiwan, with their good friend Wang Shya-Jiun/Heinrich Wang Hsia-chun/Wang Xiajun. He later left Liuligongfang to establish his own glassworks company, Tittot/ Liuyuan. Yang is now a world-renowned glass artist, creating art works using the technique of cire-perdue glass casting that she rediscovered.

In 2002, Yang founded A-hha Studio with Chang, producing animated shorts and animated feature films. Their shorts include Careless Little Monk/ Zizai xiao heshang (2005), Black Bum 2D/Hei pigu er di (2006), PP Home (2006), Almighty/Rui shuo (2007), Nüwa/Nuwa bu tian (2010), and Liuli Peonies/Liuli mudan (2010). Currently the company is working on a 3D animated feature film, Black Bum 3D (aka Tetralogy of Black Bum)/Hei pigu san di, slated to screen in Taiwan in 2013.


YANG, KUEI-MEI (Yang Guimei) (1959- ). Famous film and television actress Yang Kuei-Mei was born on 6 September 1959 in Monga/Mengjia district of Taipei City. She began her entertainment career after becoming a contract actor at Taiwan Television Enterprise (TTV) in 1979 as a singer, followed by acting in a Taiwanese-dialect drama series. She was good at playing women in dire straights, attracting TV audiences not only in Taiwan, but in China as well. Her film, Please Love Me Again, Mama/Mama zai ai wo yici, broke all box-office records in China in 1991, earning her the nickname “Taiwan Mama.”

Yang began her film career in 1980 with Everlasting Chivalry/Xia ying liu xiang (Li Chao-Yung, 1980), a martial arts kung fu film, followed by Lee Hsing’s melodramatic wenyi pian, Another Spring/Once Again With Love/You jian chuntian (1981). Subsequently, she made numerous films, playing diverse roles, such as an old woman, criminal, hooker, and lunatic. Yang’s acting style began to transform toward realism when Wang Tung cast her in Strawman/Daocao ren (1987). Yang was also in Wang’s masterpiece, Hill of No Return/Silent Mountain/ Wu yan de shanqiu (1992), for which she was nominated as “Best Actress” at the Golden Horse Awards, and won “Best Actress” at the 1993 Singapore Film Festival.

Consequently, Yan Kuei-Mei started to appear in internationally acclaimed films, such as Vive l’Amour/Aiqing wansui (Tsai Ming-liang, 1994), Eat Drink Man Woman/Yin shi nan nu (Ang Lee, 1994), The Hole/Dong (Tsai Ming-liang, 1998), Robinson’s Crusoe/Lubinxun piaoliu ji (Lin Cheng-sheng, 2002), Double Vision/Shuang tong (Chen Kuo-fu, 2002), Goodbye, Dragon Inn/Bu san (Tsai Ming-liang, 2003), The Wayward Cloud/Tianbian yi duo yun (Tsai Ming-liang, 2005), and Lin Cheng-seng’s The Moon Also Rises/Yueguang xia wo jide (2004), in which she played a traditional, divorced, repressed middle-age woman whose desire was stimulated after secretly reading love letters sent to her daughter by a boyfriend. The performance won her first “Best Actress” award at the Golden Horse. However, before her Golden Horse recognition, Yan had already won many awards, including “Best Actress” at the 1999 Singapore Film Festival for The Hole, and “Best Supporting Actress” at the 2003 Asia-Pacific Film Festival for Goodbye, Dragon Inn. She also received “Best Actress” at the 1999 Golden Bell Television Awards for her television work in God Sympathizes with Good People/ Tiangong teng haoren.

Besides the Taiwan productions, Yan Kuei-Mei also appeared in Hong Kong, China, and even Thailand films, including Sun Valley/Riguang xiagu (He Ping, 1995), A Little Life-Opera/Yi sheng yi tai xi (Allen Fong, 1998), Moonlight in Tokyo/Qingyi wo xin zhi (Felix Chong and Alan Mak, 2005), The Knot/Yun shui yao (Yin Li, 2006), and Pleasure Factory/Kuaile gongchang (Ekachai Uekrongtham, 2007). Yang is also active in TV single-episode drama in Taiwan.




YEH, HUNG-WEI (Ye Hongwei) (1963- ). Yeh Hung-Wei was born in 1963, to a family from central Taiwan who, appropriately, ran a film distribution business. He graduated from the Department of Cinema and Drama at Chinese Culture University in 1984. During his college days, Yeh made several 8mm fiction films that were recognized at the Golden Harvest Awards. After discharge from the two-year compulsory military service in 1986, Yeh began his film career as assistant director on The Return/Ninja Operation 4: Thunderbolt Angels/Huan xiang (Chang Chih-chao, 1987), and The Suona Player/Chui guchui (Daw-Ming Lee/Li Daoming, completed in 1987 and released in 1988). In 1987, he was employed by Hsu Feng’s Tomson Films, serving as scriptwriter and assistant director. He continued working as assistant director for veteran director Li Chia on his We Are in the Same Boat/Zanmen doushi Taiwan ren (1989), and as scriptwriter of King of Snakes/Da she wang (Hsu Yu-lung, 1988), a science-fiction film, and Young Dragons: Kung Fu Kids IV/Hao xiao zi di si ji chuanyue shikong de xiao zi (Chang Peng-I, 1987), part of Tomson Films’ “Kung Fu Kids” series. (Chang Tso-Chi, an important post-Taiwan New Cinema director, began his film career as apprentice camera assistant on this film.)

Yeh’s directorial debut film, Neverending Memory/Jiuqing mianmian (1988) was inspired by Japanese writer-director Yamada Yoji’s Final Take: The Golden Age of Movies/Kinema no tenchi (1986). The film paid tribute to the golden years of Taiwanese-dialect films in the 1960s. Neverending Memory was invited to the 1988 Singapore International Film Festival.

Sword Obsession/Dao wen (1989), adapted from a novel by Hsiao Yeh, was based on a romantic story that also dealt with the serious issue of election fraud by local political forces, colluding with the controlling Nationalist (Kuomintang/ KMT) Party. It was nominated for “Best Film,” “Best Director,” and “Best Actor” (Cho Sheng-li), winning “Best Adapted Screenplay” (Hsiao Yeh) at the 1990 Golden Horse Awards. The film was also screened in international film festivals, such as New Directors/New Films (New York), Toronto, Locarno, Nantes Three Continent (France), and Hong Kong.

Yeh wrote and directed Five Girls and a Rope/Wu ge nuzi he yi gen shengzi (1991) for Tomson films. Set in China during the early 20th century, the story concerns the tragic fate of five girls from a minority ethnic group in Fujian Province, who, as women, did not have the human right to decide their own destinies. The film won the Gold Montgolfiere at the 1991 Nantes Three Continent Festival, Silver Award at the Tokyo International Film Festival, FIPRESCI Prize at the 1992 Rotterdam International Film Festival, and Special Mention at the 1991 Torino International Festival of Young Cinema in Italy. Ironically, the film was banned in Taiwan for two years for the absurd reason that it used too many Mainland China actors, thus violating the Nationalist government’s law.

Yeh founded his own company in 1991, Yeh Hung-Wei Film Productions, and started making television dramas, commercials/advertising films, and music videos. He completed The Story of Langhong/Shao langhong (1992) for Li Chia, about the burning of unique ceramics in Jingdezhen, China. Afterward, he directed Iron Sister/The Virago Hill/Luanshi qingyu/Yu nu/Tienu enchou ji/Hanfu gang (1997), an anti-Japanese war film set in northeast China, and Home in My Heart/ From Ben the Bell Tolls/Xing yu xin yuan/Shanding shang de zhongsheng (1998), another anti-Japanese war film set in remote Yunnan Province, before the Japanese Empire unconditionally surrendered in 1945.

Subsequently, Yeh Hung-Wei directed several “commercial” films. These  included Sword Knight-Errant/The Horse Bandits/Dao xia/Qianlong dao xia (1999, codirected with Chen Muchuan), a martial arts wuxia pian coproduced by China’s Fujian Film Studio and Zhongdi Film Company, which Yeh founded in 1998, and A Matter of Time/Zhizun que sheng/Xin duguo choucheng (2000), a crime-thriller produced by Chu Yen-ping. He also wrote the screenplay for Freaking Spicy Killer/Mala zhizun, directed by Chen Muchuan.

Since 2000, Yeh has mostly worked in Mainland China, directing television drama series that are broadcast throughout China and Taiwan. In 2009, Yeh directed a feature film again, Will You Still Love Me/Ni shifou yiran ai wo (2009), produced in Mainland China. It played in Taiwan in mid-2011, unfortunately to a poor box-office.


YEH, JU-FENG (Ye Rufen) (1967- ). One of the most sought after producers in Taiwan during the past two decades, Yeh Ju-Feng/Ye Rufen has worked with both young and established directors. After graduating from Taipei Jingwen Vocational High School, Yeh opened a café, and made wedding videos as a side job. Later, she worked at a “MTV” video parlor that rented rooms for viewing tapes and discs, where she accumulated her cinema knowledge by doing research and writing introductions for each rented title. Yeh stepped into the world of filmmaking in 1993, when she applied and was accepted into the “Producing Workshop,” one of the activities of the “Cinema Year,” a project sponsored by the Government Information Office to help rescue the dying Taiwan film industry.

Soon after graduating from the workshop, Yeh got a job as a production assistant for director Sung Tsun-Shou’s single-episode television drama. She had to do everything from arranging housing to budgeting, enabling her to put what she learned in the two-month workshop into practice. When Lin Cheng-sheng invited her to be his script supervisor in his debut film, A Drifting Life/Chun hua meng lu (1995), Yeh took the job and started her film producing career. She was production manager for Lin’s Murmur of Youth/Meili zai changge (1996) and Sweet Degeneration/Fang lang (1997), and became the assistant producer on Wang Shau-Di’s Yours and Mine/Wo de shenjingbing (1997).

Afterward, Yeh Ju-Feng was hired by Hsu Li-kong to become staff producer for Hsu’s Zoom Hunt International Productions, where she produced The Candidate/Wei renmin fuwu (Peter Lee, 1998), Fleeing by Night/Ye ben (Yin Chi and Hsu Li-kong, 1999), Migratory Bird/Houniao (Ding Ya-min, 2000), Brave 20/Xian doujiang (Wang Ming-Tai, 2001) and La Melodie d’Helene/Xin lian (Yin Chi, 2004). She also produced three television mini-series for Hsu, April Rhaposody/Renjian siyue tian (1999, directed by Ding Ya-min), The Orange Rouged/Juzi hongle (2000, directed by Chinese director Li Shaohong), and The Legend of Eileen Chang/Ta cong haishang lai (2003, directed by Ding Ya-min). She was also hired by director Tsai Ming-liang as production manager on What Time Is It There?/Ni nabian jidian (2001) and The Wayward Cloud/Tian bian yi duo yun (2005).

Yeh Ju-Feng founded her own production company in 2004, Ocean Deep Films, which started producing feature narrative and documentary films, as well as single-episode television dramas by young directors, including, Fishing Luck/ Dengdai feiyu (Tseng Wen-Chen, 2005), God Man Dog/Liulang shen gou ren (Singing Chen, 2007), The Wall-Passer/Chuan qiang ren (Hung Hung/Yan Hongya, 2007), Winds of September/Jiu jiang feng (Tom Lin Shu-yu, 2008), Tea Fight/Dou cha (Wang Ye-Min, 2008), Miss Kicki/Nihong xin (Håkon Liu, 2009), Zoom Hunting/Lie yan (Cho Li, 2010), and The Next Magic/Xia yu ge qiji (Cho Li, 2011).

Meanwhile, Yeh also worked for studios and production companies on bigger budget productions, including associate producer of CMC Entertainment’s science fiction thriller Silk/Gui si (Su Chao-Bin, 2006), coproducer of CMC Entertainment’s action-drama Blood Brothers/Tiantang kuo (Alexi Tan, 2007), producer of Pandasia Entertainment’s science fiction thriller Brotherhood of Legio/Shen xuan zhe (Shao Li-shiou, 2007), and administrative producer for CMC Entertainment on John Woo’s Red Cliff/Chi bi (2008).


YIN, CHI (Yin Qi) (1950- ). Born in 1950 in Taipei, Yi Chi was enrolled at Tainan First Senior High School for a year, until his family moved back from southern Taiwan to Taipei City, where he finished high school at the prestigious Chien Kuo (Jianguo) Senior High School. Yin studied in the undergraduate Department of Electrics Engineering at National Chiao Tung University. After receiving his MS degree in electrical engineering from Ohio State University in the United States, Yin found work in the fields of space communication, satellite navigation, and other defense industry projects. In 1982, Yin moved back to Taiwan to develop research for computer games, with his classmates from Chiao Tung University. When the Taiwan New Cinema emerged in the early 1980s, Yin was moved by the restrained, realistic style of the films. He contacted, and was encouraged by, Edward Yang. By 1988, Yin finally decided to give up his electronics business, to seek filmmaking as a career. He enrolled in the graduate film program at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), to learn the filmmaking from scratch.

After graduating from UCLA, a graduation thesis film under his arm, L.A. Ajie (1992), Yin approached the Central Motion Picture Corporation (CMPC) with a screenplay, In a Strange City/Zai mosheng de chengshi, adapted from a short story. After the project received money from the Domestic Film Guidance Fund of the Government Information Office, the CMPC agreed to produce the film in 1996. The film is one of the few films from the 1990s that tries to expose what goes on behind the scene in political campaigns.

When Hsu Li-kong retired from his post as vice-chairman of the CMPC in 1997, establishing his own production company, Zoom Hunt International Productions, he continued to work with Yi Chi. Fleeing by Night/Ye ben (1999) is a triangular love story set in 1939 China, codirected by Hsu and Yin. In 2003, Yin directed a dark comedy for the CMPC, Black Dog Is Coming/Heigou lai le (2003), produced by Hsu Li-kong, followed by a romance, La Melodie d’Helene/Xin lian (2004). The following year, Yin made a thriller, Bad Moon/E yue (2005), codirected with Lu Willing/Lu Jincheng). Yin’s most recent film, also produced by Hsu, was Wind Rider/Feng zhong qishi (2010), a romantic lesbian story set in Beijing and Taipei.




YU, KAN-PING (1950- ). Renowned director of the 1980s and supporter of Aborigine culture in the 1990s and beyond, Yu Kan-ping was born on 1 July 1950 to a family originally from Jinyun County, Zhejiang Province, China. After graduating from the Department of Radio-Television at World Journalism College (now Shih Hsin University) in 1971, Yu started his film career as second assistant director for veteran director Li Chia on his two national policy films, Sergeant Hsiung/Da Motianling (1974) and The Chinese Amazons/Nubing riji (1975, codirected by female director Wang Ying). Yu was also first assistant director for several martial arts swordplay wuxia pian, including The Majestic Cat/Call Me Chivalry/Nan xia chanchao (Tien Peng, 1975), The Good, the Bad, and the Loser/ Yi zhi guanggun zou tianya (Karl Maka, 1976), and two based on famous wuxia writer Ku Lung’s novels Lost Samurai Sword/Yujian piao xiang (Li Chia, 1977, written for the screen by another famous wuxia writer, Ni Kuang) and Pai yu ching/Bai yu jing (Li Chia, 1977, written by Yu).

Yu Kan-ping’s directorial debut was Love and Sword/The Samurai/Yaoming di xiao fang (1979), a martial arts wuxia film based on another Ku Lung wuxia novel, which Yu wrote and codirected with Li Chia. His first film as sole director, Kung Fu Kids Break Away/The San Mao Little Vagabond/Sanmao liulang ji (1980), is a comedy for children.

In 1981, Yu became the Taiwan Supervising Director for Cinema City & Films Company (Cinema City Enterprises), and directed a horror-comedy, Spooky Kookies/Shen tai mao/Wanpi gui (1981). It was a big hit, establishing Yu’s status as director. His next film, Can’t Stop the War/Da zhuiji (1982, cowritten by Yu and Chang Yi), is a war-comedy.

Yu reached his career peak with Papa, Can You Hear Me Sing?/Da cuo che (1983), a tear-jerker melodrama with beautiful songs, that grossed over NT$40 million (US$1 million) and was rerun over seven times in Taiwan and Hong Kong movie theaters in half a year. The theme song of the film, “Are There Bottles for Sale?” became a popular song, and remains so even today. Papa, Can You Hear Me Sing? was also critically successful, winning five awards – Best Actor (Sun Yueh), Best Original Film Music (Chen Chih-yuen and Lee Shou-Chuan), Best Original Film Song (Lee Shou-Chuan), and Best Sound (Kao Fu-kuo) – and nominated for seven other awards (Best Film, Best Supporting Actress, Best Original Screenplay, Best Cinematography, Best Editing, Best Art Design, Best Costume Design) at the 1983 Golden Horse Awards. It also marked the successful transformation of actor Sun Yueh from the usual “bad guy” supporting roles he was cast as into “good guy” leading roles. Subsequently, Sun appeared in all of Yu’s films.

After Papa, Can You Hear Me Sing?, Yu Kan-ping produced John Woo’s comedy, The Time You Need a Friend/Xiao jiang (1984), then left his position as Cinema City’s Taiwan supervising director. He was succeeded by Sylvia Chang Ai-chia. Yu went on to direct Myth of a City/Taibei shenhua (1985, written by Wu Nien-Jen), another tear-jerker with music that tried to reproduce the formula of Papa, Can You Hear Me Sing?. However, it was not as successful, prompting Yu to return to a genre he was good at earlier – Sun Hsiaomao’s Adventure in the World of Spirits/Sun hsiaomao mojie lishian (1986), a children’s comedy.

Taiwan was on the brink of major social change in the mid-1980s. Activist groups began to hold demonstrations about various social issues. In this new atmosphere, Yu made the first Taiwan gay and lesbian film that openly deals with homosexuality and represents gay society in Taipei. The Outsiders/Outcasts/Nie zi (1986), based on renowned writer Kenneth Pai Hsien-yung’s novel of the same title, was adapted by Pai himself and his friend Sun Zhenguo. However, at the time Taiwan was still under Martial Law and anything dealing with homosexuality was strictly censored. Despite shifting its emphasis on the older characters’ friendship and young characters’ rebelliousness, rather than strictly on homosexuality, more than 20 scenes in The Outsiders were severely cut by the censorship board, hurting both its art and box-office.

After 40-years, Martial Law was finally lifted in 1987. Taiwan citizens were allowed to visit Hong Kong to meet their families from Mainland China. Yu was the first director to take advantage of the new situation, making a film about Nationalist veterans revisiting their families in Hong Kong. Third Bridge/People Between Two Chinas/Haixia liangan (1987, written by Wu Nien-Jen) is considered a well-made timely melodrama dealing with an important part of modern Taiwan history. The film won for “Best Supporting Actress” (Wang Lai), and was nominated for another four awards (Best Film, Best Actress, Best Original Screenplay, Best Costume Design) at the 1988 Golden Horse.

Yu Kan-ping’s last narrative feature, Two Painters/Liang ge youqi jiang (1989, also written by Wu Nien-Jen, based on nativist novelist Huang Chun-ming’s short story of the same name), deals with two other serious social issues, urban Aborigines’ identity crisis, and the sensationalized electronic media coverage of news events.

Since the mid-1980s, Yu has gradually turned his focus to research and the renaissance of the aboriginal culture. Between 1990 and 1992, he and Ming Li- kuo helped the Bunun, Amis, and Puyuma tribes stage their traditional songs and dances at the prestigious National Theater in Taipei. He also has documented indigenous culture and traditional ceremonies with over 700 tapes.

In the 1990s, Yu produced programs on commercial television stations, and directed documentary films for the Government Information Office (GIO). Many of his GIO documentaries, including A Dancing Feast – A Documentary on Taiwan Choreography (1995), Greeting the Lunar New Year on Taiwan (1997), Theater in the Palm of Your Hand – Glove Puppetry in Taiwan (2001), and The Music and Dance of Taiwan’s Aborigines: My Home, My Song (2006), have won awards at festivals in the United States, such as the Houston International Film Festival.