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ABORIGINES AND FILM. Aborigines account for only two percent of the population in Taiwan at present. The majority are Han Chinese, who started to emigrate to the island some 500 years ago, coming in several waves. Before Japanese colonial rule, most of the Plains Aborigines living on the west coast had already been assimilated by the Chinese and, thus, “disappeared.”

After the Japanese took over Taiwan from the Chinese Empire, the colonial government adopted Social Darwinism theory, dividing Taiwan indigenous peoples into three groups, based on their degree of “evolution” and “obedience” to Japanese rule – those who had evolved to the standard of the Chinese, lived in the Japanese-administrated area, and obeyed Japanese laws were “ripe aborigines” (jukuban); those who had evolved somewhat, lived outside the Japanese- administrated area, and obeyed Japanese laws, such as paying taxes, were “acculturated aborigines” (kaban); while “raw aborigines” (seiban) were those who had not evolved much, lived outside the Japanese-administrated area, and never obeyed the de-facto rule of Imperial Japan. Aborigines living deep in the mountains resisted Japanese rule vigorously, and were violently suppressed.

Since the arrival of the fifth governor-general, Sakuma Samata, in 1906, the policy of the Government-General of Taiwan had put the emphasis on wiping out the “raw aborigines.” Sakuma’s first five-year “Administrating Aborigines Plan” (1906-1910) used a carrot-and-stick policy, which failed miserably, thus forcing the second five-year “Administrating Aborigines Plan” (1910-1915) that moved toward fierce military suppression.

Most of the early films of indigenous peoples were “documentary” records about Japanese subjugation of the various tribes, tribal life, leaders visiting modernized Japan (termed naichi kanko, or mainland sightseeing), and Aborigine leaders visiting modernized cities in Taiwan (called banjin kanko, or Aborigine sightseeing). The purpose of mainland sightseeing or Aborigine sightseeing was to persuade indigenous peoples to accept the power of Imperial Japan. Filming sightseeing activities of their leaders in modern Japanese cities and visiting military facilities, then showing it to indigenous audiences who never would have such an opportunity, was considered an effective way of convincing Aborigines to accept Japanese rule.

Reports of the Aborigines’ first encounters with cinema abounded in newspapers during 1906 and 1907 when “Aborigine sightseeing” started to take place more often. Most articles described the Aborigines’ amazement and perplexity at the reproduction of images on a white screen from gas-powered projectors, and the Gramophone sound. For example, a report published in October 1910 described the reactions of over 50 Atayal Aborigines from the deep mountains in the Gaogan area of northern Taiwan, when they watched films about the subjugation of Aborigines by the colonial government, produced by Takamatsu Toyojirō only a few weeks earlier. Seeing familiar faces and actions on a screen, the initial reaction was fear, as if their ancestors’ souls had been taken from them.

Films similar to Nanook of the North (Robert J. Flaherty, 1922), showing the reaction of Aborigines’ first encounter with modern equipment, appeared in Taiwan in the 1910s. They signified that Japan was already a developed country, and that “raw aborigines” in the colony were subject to be “modernized,” just like the native Taiwanese were decades ago. Reports written about the first encounter with cinema by Aborigines attested once again to the superiority felt by the Japanese. Displaying the latest apparatus such as cameras, weapons like cannons and guns, the schools and museums Aborigines were taken to, showed the colonial government’s intention to “enlighten,” “educate,” and induce Aborigines to abandon their culture and live a modern life, as the Japanese did. Witnessing military exercises of the Japanese army, and showing footage of the subjugation of tribes, also clearly revealed the colonial government’s design to intimidate the Aborigines. This was in line with the “carrot and stick” aboriginal policy which the Government-General Office implemented during its early days.

In 1922, the Aboriginal Affairs section in the Bureau of Police Affairs started to make “documentaries” – films about the prohibition against tattooing and long hair, building new houses, toilets, and cemeteries – showing indigenous people the “progressive” or “modern” ways of living. In 1936, before the Second Sino-Japanese War erupted, the motion picture unit of the Aboriginal Affairs section made a film about current conditions in aboriginal tribal villages, as well as their mountain scenery. The following year, to celebrate the 40th year of administrating aboriginal affairs, it made a film using the Tsou tribe from Mt. Alishan as an example, to introduce their work, as well as Tsou traditions, customs, superstitions, and how aboriginal lives were “ improved.”

Other private Japanese film companies, such as Tokyo Asahi Newsreels, also shot documentaries in the deep mountains, such as Kalan (Hayashida Shigeo, 1936), about a mountaineering trip across the Central Mountain Range and life in an Atayal tribal village. Film was also used by Japanese anthropologists to record and study Aborigine customs and culture. Paiwan (1928), a film made by anthropologist Miyamoto Nobuhito, is about the Paiwan tribe’s five-year ceremony. This ceremony was filmed in another ethnographic film by anthropologist Hu Tai-Li, a half-century later.

Aboriginal culture was also a constant subject for travelogues and informational sightseeing films, such as Sketch of the Takasago Tribe/Takasago zoku egaku (1938), which depicted lives of the Atayal tribe and the harvest ceremony of the Amis tribe in Hualian in eastern Taiwan. The film was produced by the Railway Division of the Department of Transportation in the Government-General Office. Aboriginal culture, obviously constituted an attractive exotic element for promoting tourism and, thus, became a significant “other” in the eyes of the beholders. Even in the heat of World War II, Imperial Subject Takasago Tribe/Kōmin takasago zoku (Makino Shinzo, 1944), a documentary meant to introduce the Takasago Volunteer Corps, which fought for the Japanese Empire in the Southeast and Papua New Guinea jungles, the exotic customs of Aborigines were still represented,

The exoticism of the “raw aborigines,” especially their headhunting customs and “primitive” ways of living, proved to be an irresistible temptation to some Japanese filmmakers. The earliest Japanese narrative film to incorporate Taiwan indigenous culture was cameraman-turned-director Edamasa Yoshiro’s debut film, Songs of Sadness/Ai no kyoku (1919). Considered one of the more advanced Japanese films at the time, Songs of Sadness depicted an intriguing tragic story that involved abduction, slavery, tribal war, romance, and identity issues. The issue of class differences between the Japanese and indigenous peoples is briefly explored.

Hero of Alishan/Alishan no kyōji (Tasaka Tomotaka and Mizoguchi Kenji, 1927), based on Iwasaki Akira’s story, which was said to have been adapted from Famous Players-Lasky’s The Vanishing American (George B. Seitz, 1925), presented the education and “progress” brought to the Aborigines by devoted Japanese, who encountered resistance from vicious and jealous young aboriginals, resulting in war between the indigenous people and Japanese. The Japanese heroes were saved by a transformed young aboriginal. The young woman priest/teacher, playing a similar role as the female teacher in The Vanishing American, followed in the steps of her father (who followed in the steps of Wu Feng), and brought modern education, i.e., “civilization”/ “salvation,” to the indigenous people. The film revealed its basic premise, that Aborigines were subservient and had to be saved by the Japanese, a dominant colonial concept of the time.

In Blood Stains/Xie hen, the first native Taiwanese-made narrative film using indigenous culture as background, no attempt was made to reveal any significant ideas about Aborigines. In sharp contrast, Gohō, the Righteous Man/Gijin gohō (1932), made by the Japanese after Blood Stains, was in line with the policy of the Government-General Office. The story of Gohō (Wu Feng) took place in the Ching Dynasty, before the Japanese assumed control of Taiwan. The colonial government actively promoted the idea that Wu Feng sacrificed himself in order to successfully persuade Tsou tribespeople living on Mt. Alishan to forsake their headhunting practices. The intention of the colonial government was obviously to create an image similar to that of Wu Feng – savior of the indigenous peoples. The story of Wu Feng continued to be retold by the outside rulers and their followers, in films such as Storm Over Alishan Mountain/Happenings in Alishan/Alishan fengyun (Chang Cheh and Chang Ying, 1950) and No Greater Love/Wu feng (Bu Wancang, 1962), considered a national policy film produced by Taiwan Film Studio, owned and operated by the Taiwan Provincial Government.

To advocate the Japanese scenario of Imperial Japan’s southward advance and the important position of Taiwan, the Japanese colonial government made Clan of the Sea/Umi no gōzoku (Arai Ryōhei, 1942), a national policy film. Based on the story of the Japanese pirate Hamada Yahee, who took the Dutch governor Pieter Nuyts hostage during the conflict between the Japanese and the Dutch colonialists, the film made the pirate savior of local Sinkanese Plains Aborigines, leading them to victory over the Dutch. The film ended with the wedding of a Japanese samurai and the daughter of the Sinkan tribal chief. The Aborigines served only as a backdrop in this blockbuster, produced to promote the concept of Japan as a partner in co-prosperity in Southeast Asia. However, the film did not do as well as expected at the box office.

Sayon’s Bell/Sayon no kane (Shimizu Hiroshi, 1943), another national policy film, coproduced by the Government-General Office’s Taiwan Film Association, Shochiku Eiga, and the Manchurian Film Association/Manchū eiga kyōkai (Man’ei), disseminated the concept of sacrificing oneself to pay a debt of gratitude to the Japanese Empire. The film was part of a political campaign celebrating the patriotic deed of Sayon, a young aboriginal girl who died crossing rapids on a stormy night while carrying her school teacher-policeman’s luggage, in order to help him go to fight on the battlefield. The film’s focus was on how well-transformed the aboriginal girl was, from a “raw aborigine” to a “civilized,” “patriotic” subject of Imperial Japan.

Most significant was the location chosen for shooting the film – Sakurasha, where the Wushe Incident/Musha jiken took place just a decade before, in which the Seediq people, originally considered a model aboriginal tribe, revolted against Japanese colonial rule, resulting in a massacre. Using the same location and tribal characters, the film seemed to declare that even descendants from the Wushe Incident were willing to sacrifice their lives for Imperial Japan.

As in the other features made during colonial rule, all major roles of Aborigines were played by Japanese actors. The indigenous were simply a backdrop. Casting Ri Kōran/Li Xianglan/Yamaguchi Yoshiko (aka Yamaguchi Ōtaka/Shirley Yamaguchi) was also significant. Ri, as a singer and star from Man’ei, was passed-off as Chinese throughout the 1930s and 1940s. However, in Sayon’s Bell, she also projected an image of “Yamato Nadeshiko” – the personification of an idealized Japanese woman – an image the colonial government was happy to attach to Sayon, the “patriotic Aborigine.”

The “otherness” image of Aborigines continued from 1945 through the 1980s. It may be a coincidence that the first film made and distributed in Taiwan after the Nationalist government relocated to the offshore island was Storm Over Alishan Mountain, about Wu Feng, a Chinese mediator-translator appointed by the Ching government, who sacrificed his own life in order to “awaken” the Tsou tribe living on Mt. Alishan, so they would give up their custom of decapitation. Though not qualifying as a national policy film, because it was initiated by a private company in Shanghai, a similar film, No Greater Love, was made a decade later by Taiwan Provincial Government’s Taiwan Film Studio (TFS).

Taking the colonizer’s viewpoint in the interpretation of history, Storm Over Alishan Mountain and other comparable films implied that Tsou tribal culture and customs were “backward” and “savage,” and must be transformed by more “civilized” Han Chinese culture. This provided a rationale for the Nationalist government’s assimilation policy.

Comparing the two post-1945 Wu Feng films with their prewar precursor, Gohō, the Righteous Man, the major difference is their cultural inaccuracy. Gohō, the Righteous Man was shot on Alishan, with Tsou tribespeople playing non-essential roles. The two films made afterwards by Han Chinese were not made on Alishan, and were inaccurate in their content related to Tsou culture, including costumes, ceremonies, songs, dances, etc.

In a similar vein, the TFS’s national policy film, Story of the Heroic Pioneers/ Heroic Pioneers/Tangshan guo Taiwan (Lee Hsing, 1986), portrayed Wu Sha leading a group of Han Chinese across the mountains two centuries ago, overcoming extreme difficulties to turn the Lanyang Plain into fertile farmland. Wu was depicted as the incarnation of justice, who came to save and educate barbarians – the Kavalan plains tribe. However, this colonist discourse is disputed by the colonized Kavalan tribe. In their interpretation, Wu Sha and his followers deceived the Kavalan ancestors into lending their land, resulting in the tribe ultimately losing it all.

Other privately produced narrative films that featured indigenous culture and society constantly portrayed, and thus, promoted stereotypical images of Aborigines – backward, lazy, undisciplined, alcoholic, promiscuous, unorganized, no sense of time, no concept of saving, as well as simpleminded, honest, robust , romantic, humorous, optimistic, talented at song and dance, and close to nature. Liang Bu Liang Mei Guangxi/It Doesn’t Matter if the Light is On or Not (Chu Feng-kang/Zhu Fenggang, 1984) was one such film that made fun of the “exotic” culture and customs of the Tao/Yami tribespeople living on Orchid Island/Lanyu. Many of these films featured an indigenous girl falling in love with a Han Chinese man, resulting in either tragic death, such as in The Nightingale of Alishan/Alishan zhi ying (Wan Tianlin, 1957) and Winter Ritual/Dong zhi ji (Wang Shuai, 1991), or a happy ending, like Song of Orchid Island/Lanyu zhi ge (Pan Lei, 1968).

After the 1980s, more and more films explored indigenous issues, such as mercenary marriage between veterans and indigenous women (Old Mo’s Second Spring/Lao mo de di er ge chuntian [1984], directed by Lee You-ning), human trafficking and underage prostitution (Missing Persons/Shizong renkou [1987], directed by Lin Ching-chieh, and The Man From Island West/Xibu lai de ren [1989], directed by Huang Ming-chuan), and urban aboriginal identity crises and exploitation issues (Two Painters/Liang ge youqi jiang [1989], directed by Yu Kan-ping).

By the late 1990s, Aborigines in feature films are no longer simply a passive “subject” for the audience’s judgmental gaze, but the subjective narrator of his/her own story. In Connection by Fate (1999), directed by Wan Jen, famous for his works of Taiwan New Cinema in the 1980s, the spirit of an executed aboriginal youth befriends a former activist-turned-taxi driver. The film actually is more about the meaning of life and death, rather than about issues in life. The idea of a body-less aboriginal spirit sharing insights with a spirit-less native Taiwanese body is intriguing in the context of centuries of the colonized/ colonizer relationship between the two.

Cheng Wen-Tang’s “aboriginal trilogy” – Postcard (1999), Somewhere Over the Dreamland/Menghuan buluo (2002), and Badu’s Homework/Feng zhong de xiaomi tian (2003) are about dreams – dreams of returning to bygone nature, bygone love, and to the millet fields. Fishing Luck/Dengdai feiyu (Tseng Wen-Chen, 2005), a love story between a native Taiwanese girl and young Tao/ Yami aboriginal, not only reversed the traditional combination of mixed-ethnic couples seen in past films, but also got rid of the ideology that Han Chinese are bringing “progress” to “benefit” the “backward” Aborigines. Not only are Han Chinese-Taiwanese and the Aborigines equal in the relationship, but also the aboriginal young man helps the urban girl understand life, love, nature, etc. Such reflections can also be seen in The Song of Spirits/Xinling zhi ge (Wu Hung- hsiang, 2006), in which a soundman is enlightened by Bunun tribespeople about life and love.

The Sage Hunter/Shanzhu feishu sakenu (Tony Cheung, 2005), an unusual production from Hong Kong, concerns Paiwan indigenous writer Ahronglong Sakinu’s real life adventure. The core of the film reveals the indigenous’ relationship with the natural environment, their humor and culture. A similar film that shows traditional indigenous life is an animation feature, Kavalan/ Shaonian gamelan (Kang Jinhe, 1998), which depicts the traditional life of the Kavalan, a plains aboriginal tribe living in eastern Taiwan.

The most important feature about the indigenous, however, is Warriors of the Rainbow: Seediqu Bale (2011), by Wei Te-Sheng, director of Cape No. 7. The film recreates the 1930 Wushe Incident in which 134 Japanese men, women, and children, plus two native Taiwanese were killed, and 215 wounded in the violent rebellion against the Japanese by Seediq tribespeople in Wushe, in the deep mountains of central Taiwan. Japanese retaliation was swift and heavy-handed, resulting in 700 Seediq killed or committing suicide. Two hundred of the 500 Seediq who surrendered were massacred by rival tribes which sided with the Japanese. The film faithfully reenacts the incident, with a NT$725 million (US$25 million) budget, the highest ever in Taiwan cinema. The film was highly visible throughout Taiwan because of heavy media exposure. Warriors of the Rainbow was not the first narrative film to deal with Wushe Incident. Much earlier, Ho Chi-Ming had directed Green Mountain Bloodshed/Qing shan bi xie (1957), a Taiwanese-dialect film, which was successful both commercially and critically.

In the 1950s, the KMT discourse about its administration of aboriginal affairs emphasized saving aboriginal society from isolation, its cultural backwardness, difficult life, and the discrimination suffered from long-term Japanese rule. Similar to the Japanese colonialists, the Nationalists also looked down on the traditional lives of the Aborigines. They systematically attempted to wipe out the language, culture, social system, and customs of the Aborigines. Such an ideology was clearly revealed in “documentary” films and newsreels produced by the government-owned Taiwan Film Studio between 1945 and 1984. All of them emphasized the relocation (i.e., moving to an accessible location from their deep mountain home) and the improvement in the Aborigines’ daily lives. (Of course, in such “accessible” locations, the government could better control the Aborigines.)

Independent documentary films made in the 1980s and 1990s were mostly concerned with indigenous culture. Anthropologist Hu Tai-Li made several ethnographic films, including The Return of Gods and Ancestors: The Five Year Ceremony (1985), Songs of Pasta’ai/Airenji zhi ge (1989, codirected by Daw-Ming Lee), Voices of Orchid Island/Lanyu guandian (1993, coproduced by Daw-Ming Lee), Songs of Love and Sorrow/Ai lian paiwan di (2000). Daw-Ming Lee/Li Daoming produced and directed several films that dealt with the renaissance of traditional cultures, and disappearing social systems of indigenous tribes, including Sakuliu/ Paiwan ren saguliu (1994), The Last Chieftain/Modai toumu (1999), and Tsuenu, the Way/Lu (2001). 

Most documentaries about indigenous issues, however, were made for TV broadcast in the 1980s and 1990s. Public Television Service (PTS) programs on aboriginal culture, arts, and life began in 1984. Su Chiu/Su Qiu produced several such documentary series, including Green Mountains in Spring/Qingshan chunxiao, Mountain Trip/Gaoshan zhi lu, and Green Fields Journey/Luye youzong. Daw-Ming Lee produced the popular television documentary series, The Eternal Tribal Village/Yongyuan de buluo, in which the indigenous intelligentsia participated in both the development and the production of the program, voicing their concerns on aboriginal issues.

Since the mid-1990s, Aborigines have finally owned broadcast media, first in the form of Aboriginal News Magazine, a program independently produced by the PTS, which were documentaries on indigenous issues. It was followed by Indigenous Television (iTV) in 2005, which was commissioned to a commercial television channel for production and broadcast. In 2007, Taiwan Indigenous Television (TITV) was inaugurated, and became part of the Taiwan Public Broadcast Group. The indigenous staff of TITV can now produce their own documentaries exploring indigenous issues from the point of view of indigenous peoples.

However, independent indigenous documentary filmmakers are still active outside the “mainstream” indigenous media. Mayaw Biho and Lungnan Isak Fangas are two of the most prolific. Mayaw is particularly well-known for making a documentary series advocating the restoration of traditional indigenous names. Lungnan is a professional filmmaker who only occasionally works on documentaries related to indigenous issues.

The new generation of aboriginal filmmakers not only produced their own documentaries, they also held a film festival. The First “True PangcahAmis Film Festival” was held in 2000 by a group of young PangcahAmis tribespeople. Its purpose was to show Aborigine films to their people, following their own principles, in order to rebuild dignity and identification. The Festival was actually a dialogue between the filmmakers and tribal villages. By refusing to show aboriginal films in film festivals dominated by mainstream Han Chinese, i.e., refusing to be interpreted by “others,” indigenous people gained the right to interpret themselves and their own culture. See also AN INTRODUCTION TO THE ACTUAL CONDITIONS IN TAIWAN; TAIWAN EDUCATION SOCIETY.


ALL TAIWAN (1934). Commissioned by the Taiwan Military Headquarters and the Taiwan Government-General Office, All Taiwan/Ōru Taiwan was the first Taiwan “all talkie” sound film, made by Nippon Eiga’s Talkie News Productions. All Taiwan included seven chapters: governance, industries, education, national defense, nature and inhabitants, transportation and communications, cities and historical sites. The Government-General Office totally financed the ¥15,000 budget, in order to introduce the situation in Taiwan, as well as to propagate the concept of air defense, to audiences in Taiwan and Japan.

Nippon Eiga sent an 11-member production team, including two managers (Odaka and Hiroda), and three directors (Matsui Satoshi, Hattori, Umehara), cameramen (Uemura, Mochida, Sygiyama), soundmen (Umehara, Nakamura, Ueda), as well as actress Sawada Aiko. They were divided into three filming groups, each designated specific events, activities, areas, and sites to record. It took Nippon Eiga only three months to complete a final release print of the seven-reel film, which was test-screened in mid-September 1934 in Ginza, Tokyo, then shown in Taiwan in October.

In a way, All Taiwan is an updated talkie version of An Introduction to the Actual Conditions in Taiwan, the first film ever made in Taiwan. Similar films had also been made between 1907 and 1934. Such films signified the constant anxiety felt by Japanese living or working in Taiwan, who worried about the serious misunderstandings about conditions in Taiwan felt by their fellow countrymen in the homeland. The approaching war with China increased their concern about this.


AN INTRODUCTION TO THE ACTUAL CONDITIONS IN TAIWAN (1907). In 1907, 12 years after Japan annexed Taiwan, Japanese filmmaker Takamatsu Toyojirō’s company Taiwan Dōjinsha was commissioned by the Government- General Office to make a film about the actual conditions of the colonial rule in Taiwan. The film, literally titled An Introduction to the Actual Conditions in Taiwan/Taiwan jikkyō shōkai/Taiwan shikuang shao jie, is considered the first film ever made in Taiwan.

Takamatsu recruited crews and rented film equipment from Tokyo, starting the filming on 17 February. More than a hundred locations throughout Taiwan were used during the less than two-month shooting schedule. The negative was sent back to Tokyo for development, editing and printing.

The main purpose for the government in Taiwan to make the film was said to be to show it in the Japanese Imperial Diet (Teikoku gikai) in order to brief representatives during a budgetary subcommittee meeting. If this were the case, it was probably a film report used to substantiate that money the central government spent on its colonial adventure in Taiwan was well worth it. However, the film was most likely made for screening in the “Taiwan Hall” at the 1907 Tokyo Industrial Exposition, as proof of the modernization and progressive results of Japanese colonization in Taiwan.

Since its inception, the production of An Introduction to the Actual Conditions in Taiwan had been closely followed by the Taiwan press. Japanese living in Taiwan were frustrated by the lack of information about the newly acquired colony for their countrymen on the mainland. They hoped that Takamatsu’s film would be more effective than articles or paintings in representing actual conditions of the culture, customs, political system, products, and industrial development in Taiwan.

A major newspaper, Taiwan Nichi Nichi Shimpō (Taiwan Daily News), reported at length for several days in February 1907 about the content Takamatsu intended to film. When the film premiered on 8 May 1907, the newspaper devoted a lot of space to describing every shot in the film. Though the actual film has been lost, we know from this detailed newspaper account that there were 206 shots and 120 locations in the 20,000-foot film. Most of the locations were shot in long shots and close-ups. There was a staged scene depicting Japanese authority sending a punitive expedition against Aborigines living in deep mountains, forcing them to surrender. The unprecedented length of the film, more than 220 minutes, required the original one-night screening in Taipei’s Asahi-za Theater to be divided into two nights. The film was highly praised by the press in Taiwan.

When Takamatsu brought the film to Japan that year, showing it at the Tokyo Industrial Exposition, and in the seven-month tour exhibition throughout Japan, he took with him five Aborigines from Mt. Alisan in central Taiwan, three native Taiwanese geishas, and a five-man traditional Taiwanese music band who performed on stage.

While in Tokyo, Takamatsu and the Aborigines were received by Emperor Meiji at his residence in Aoyama (Goso Aoyama), together with high officials and foreign dignities who had an audience with the emperor. It was reported that the Aborigines were so taken by the grandiosity and solemnity of the reception that they lost their tongues and could only pay their respects to the emperor silently. When Takamatsu’s troupe returned to Taiwan at the end of the year, those Aborigines were summoned to the official residence of Governor-General Samata Sakuma to report on their impressions and thoughts about their trip.

The ‘success’ of An Introduction to the Actual Conditions in Taiwan encouraged the Government-General Office to continue commissioning and assisting cameramen from mainland Japan to produce newsreels and propaganda films about various administrative subjects in Taiwan. In March and April of 1920, the Taiwan Education Society (TES) dispatched a four-man team to Kyushu and Tokyo with the purpose of presenting, through film screening and live speeches, the actual state of affairs in Taiwan. The next year, the Current Situations of Taiwan project sent a second team to areas west of Nagoya (two cities and 11 prefectures) to promote favorable images of Taiwan and eliminate any misconceptions about the colony. A dual purpose of the project was to encourage mainland Japanese to come to Taiwan so they could contribute to the development in education and other fields, and to educate them about the relationship between Taiwan (a southern territory) and the power of the Japanese Empire. In April and May 1929, the government-general of Taiwan held exhibitions in Tokyo and Osaka to promote Taiwan. Traveling Taiwan, a film produced by the TES, was screened.

However, the real effectiveness of An Introduction to the Actual Conditions in Taiwan and similar films the colonial government made later, was dubious. Some blamed the government for overstressing Taiwan’s culture, aboriginal dances, exotic dangerous nature, and tropical produce (bananas, coconuts, betel nut, etc.), yet rarely mentioning modern industrial products, thus creating the misconception that Taiwan is essentially about Aborigines, poisonous snakes, malaria, and fruit.

Such a misconception was so deeply rooted in the minds of mainland Japanese that efforts by the colonial government to correct it seemed futile. As late as 1942, almost a half-century after Japan took over Taiwan, these perceptions still existed. According to actor Sawamura Kunitaro, the Japanese cast and crew of a national policy film, Clan of the Sea/Umi no gozoku (Arai Ryōhei, 1942), felt full of dread about going to Taiwan for location shooting, because of their stereotypes about Taiwan.


ANIMATION. Taiwan animation film began in the mid-1950s. Before that, only the Taiwan Film Association (Tai’ai) used animation for making film titles during Japanese colonial rule.

The first known animation film was the 10-minutes, black and white, Wu Song Kills a Tiger/Wusong da hu (1955-1956), made by Kuei Chih-Hung/Gui Zhihong and his brother. (Kuei was later an assistant director in the mid-1960s, and a writer-director at Shaw Brothers in the 1970s and 1980s.) The Kuei brothers further applied their animation techniques for commercial advertising films in the early 1960s. Other cartoonists and artists working in advertising agencies were also said to have completed animation shorts during the 1950s-1960s.

In 1959, with support from the Mutual Security Mission to China of the United States International Cooperation Administration, the Taiwan Provincial Government’s Department of Education sent Chao Tse-hsiu/Zhao Zexiu, Chen Shin-hui/Chen Xinhui, and Luo Hui-ming to Japan, to study the making of animation films at Toei Animation. They worked on Alakazam the Great!/Saiyūki (Shirakawa Daisaku, Yabushita Taiji, and Tezuka Osamu,1960), based on a great classical Chinese novel, “Journey to the West.” In 1963, once again with assistance from the U.S. Aid Mission to China of the Agency for International Development (formerly the Mutual Security Mission to China), Chao went to study cartoon animation in courses at the Walt Disney Studios, also undergoing practical training in scene design, directing, photographing, editing, and sound recording at Hanna-Barbera Productions.

After training in America one-and-a-half years, Chao returned to Taiwan in late 1964 with an Acme animation camera. He was hired by Kuangchi Program Service, a non-profit organization dedicated to making radio and television programs, established in 1961 by the Society of Jesus. Its founder, American Jesuit Fr. Phillip Bourret, SJ, brought in animation stands and invited Chao to start an animation department in 1965. The animation Chao produced during this period included one-minute shorts with central character “Wang Laowu” and four minor characters; Rein in at the Edge of the Precipice/Xuanai le ma (1965), a five-minute b/w animated social educational film; and two educational animation shorts about traffic safety, Little Aborigine/Xiao shanbao (1966) (8 minutes) and Going to School/Shangxiaoqu (1966) (12 minutes).

Chao did not stay in Kuangchi very long, however. He founded an animation production house in 1967 to practically train animators on the projects he solicited in Taiwan and from abroad. With some 20 staff animators under him, Chao produced animated educational, informational, and advertising films, such as Uncle Stone’s Letter/Shitou bo de shen (1968), a three-minute informational animation, and Race between a Tortoise and a Hare/Gui tu saipao (1969), a 12- minute animation promoting traffic safety. He also designed and produced the title sequence for a narrative feature film, The Bride and I/Xinniang yu wo (Pai Ching-jui, 1969). For his contributions to the development of animation in Taiwan, Chao was presented with a special award at the 1969 Golden Horse Awards. Chao Tse-hsiu is considered “the father of Taiwan animation” and “the Disney of Taiwan.” Ironically, after receiving the Golden Horse award Chao emigrated to Hawaii in late 1969, never returning to Taiwan nor working again in animation. 

Huang Mu-Tsun/Huang Mucun, a former student in Chao Tse-hsiu’s animation production house, was another renowned animator in the 1970s, who founded the China Youth Animation Development Company. Huang is known for social education animated shorts, such as Repair the House Before It Rains/Wei yu chou miao (1977), which was used in sex education to disseminate knowledge about contraception. Tsai Chih-chung/Cai Zhizhong, international renowned cartoonist, was inspired by Race between a Tortoise and a Hare, and learned to become an animator at the Kuangchi Program Service in the 1970s. His representative animation works during that period are title sequences for television drama series, such as Silly Son-in-Law/Sha nuxu.

Taiwan became a source of OEM (original equipment manufacturing) films for Japanese animation companies in the 1970s. The first such OEM company, Ying Ren Cartoon Production Center, was established in 1970 by Chen Shin-hui, who worked closely with Tokyo Movie/Tōkyō Mūbī (also known as Tokyo Movie Shinsha or TMS-Kyokuchi), a Japanese animation studio founded in 1946. Chen, who was among the first generation of animators trained in Japan by Toei Animation during the late 1950s, sent 13 of his employees to undergo rigorous training at Tokyo Movie, which had hired important Japanese animators, such as Kusube Daikichi, Ōtsuka Yasuo, and Shibayama Tsutomu as teachers. Among the noted OEM television animé series that Ying Ren produced was sports animé TV series, Star of the Giants/Kyojin no hoshi/Juren zhi xing (Tadao Nagahama, 1968-1971), and Attack No. 1/Atakku nanbā wan/Dongyang monu (Fumio Kurokawa and Eiji Okabe, 1969-1971).

However, Ying Ren was in operation for less than two years, probably due to the political factor after Japan severed diplomatic ties with the Nationalist government in 1972. Before disbanding, Chen Shin-hui and his colleagues at Ying Ren helped Wang Ming-Hui, one of their artists, make an independently- produced 10-minute 16mm animation, Zhou Chu (1972), about a legendary hero in third century China who “killed,” literally or figuratively, three “terrors” (a tiger, crocodile, and himself) that were plaguing people..

These well-trained animators were soon recruited by other companies, such as Chunghwa Cartoon Production Company, founded in 1971 by Teng Yu-li, who dreamed of producing original animation films. New Journey to the West/Xin xiyouji (1971) was Chunghwa’s first animation short feature, directed by Chu Ming-tsan/Zhu Mingcan, previously at Ying Ren. This original animation caught the attention of the press and television stations. Upon seeing New Journey to the West, film producer-director Chang Ying/Zhang Ying decided to produce Taiwan’s first feature-length animation, The Story of Chinese Gods/Fengshen bang (1975), using Teng’s Chunghwa Cartoon. Teng recruited novice animators Tsai Chih-chung (who designed all the characters and drew the first storyboards), Chang Chen-Tsung/Zhang Zhenzhong (who later joined Wang Film Production), and Hou Sheng-hui. However, these young directors/animators were inexperienced in both animation technique and film language. The screenplay, based on the famous Chinese epic fantasy novel Fengshen Yanyi (aka The Investiture of the Gods/The Creation of the Gods), written by renowned Hong Kong writer-director San Kong/Shen Jiang, was too long and had too many characters to make a good animation feature, considering the few resources the production team had. The film failed miserably in 1975.

Notwithstanding the failure of The Story of Chinese Gods, Teng obtained funding to produce his second feature animation, Romance of the Three Kingdoms/Sanguo yanyi (Tsai Ming-ching, 1978), a coproduction between Chunghwa Cartoon and a Japanese company, and later extended the project into a Japanese TV animé series. The film, based on a popular Chinese historical novel, was shown very successfully during the Chinese New Year holidays. However, due to the unreasonable box-office split and dishonest practices by theaters, Teng’s company did not get any money back to cover production costs, despite its over NT$10 million (US$270,000) box-office record. Thus, Chunghwa Cartoon Production Company wound up in financial distress.

Many of Chunghwa Cartoon’s staff soon transferred to the newly established Cuckoo’s Nest Studio (later renamed Wang Film Productions/Hong Guang Cartoon Company), established in 1978 by James Wang Chung Yuan/Wang Zhongyuan and his partners Hsu Chih-wei and Lu Kuang-chi. Wang, formerly an assistant animator drawing “in-betweens” for Raggedy Ann & Andy: A Musical Adventure (Richard Williams, 1977), made the acquaintance of William Hanna of Hanna-Barbera Productions, while working in Los Angeles after Raggedy Ann & Andy. With full support of William Hanna, Cuckoo’s Nest Studio became a workshop for Hanna-Barbera Productions.

The Cuckoo’s Nest Studio/Wang Film Productions quickly attracted animators from the former Ying Ren Cartoon, Chunghwa Cartoon, and Shang Shang, another animation company founded in 1974 that did OEM works for the Japanese during the 1970s. James Wang invited Don Patterson, the animator or animation director/supervisor of animation films produced by Disney, Walter Lantz/ Universal, and Hanna-Barbera, to train animation artists in animation action and storytelling, as well as the American animation pipeline system. With technical support and orders from Hanna-Barbera, Wang Film Productions quickly expanded from a company with 50 employees to over 300. The key animation artists of Cuckoo’s Nest were excellent and the production line was efficient, thus James Wang’s OEM company quickly built its reputation in the animation business. Soon the company was not only working on American and European TV cartoon series, but also on animation features, such as Walt Disney’s Tron (Steven Lisberger, 1982). By the mid-1980s, annual output from Wang Film Productions reached 170-190 titles, mostly TV animation series, and occasionally feature-length animations, such as The Wind in the Willows (Jules Bass and Arthur Rankin, Jr., 1987).

In the 1980s, Taiwan’s comic book censorship, implemented in the mid-1960s, was gradually loosened (and finally abolished in 1987, after the lifting of martial law), prompting a trend of adapting comics into animation features. The first such film appeared in 1981. Old Master Cute/Lao fu zi (Woo Shu-Yue/Hu Shuru, Tsai Chih-Chung, and Hsieh Chin-tu/Xie Jintu), was coproduced by Far Eastern Cartoon (renamed Far Eastern Animation Tech. Co., Ltd. in the 2000s), established by Tsai and Hsieh in 1968, and Hong Kong Film Services of producer-director Woo, who previously produced King Hu’s Raining in the Mountain/Kong shan ling yu (1979). Even though Alphonso Wong Chak/Wang Ze’s original comic books featuring “Old Master Cute” were very popular in Hong Kong (and Taiwan), there were no animators capable of making an animation feature in Hong Kong. That was the primary reason for the coproduction. The film was a phenomenal hit, and won the Best Cartoon award at the 1981 Golden Horse Awards.

Soon, Far Eastern Cartoon, and Dragon Animation Productions (founded by Tsai Chih-chung), produced two sequels, Old Master Cute II (Woo Shu-Yue, Alphonso Wong Chak, and Hsieh Chin-tu, 1982) and Old Master Cute III (Honda Toshiyuki and Tsai Ming-ching, 1983). However, the box-office for these two films was not successful.

Around the same time, Wang Film Productions produced an imitation of the hit Japanese animé Doraemon in 1982, called Doraemon’s War with Robots/Xiao dingdang dazhan jiqiren (Wang Yaquan, 1982). Subsequently, Wang Film was commissioned to make another adaptation from famous comic book author Niuge’s Uncle Niu and Sister Niu Busting the Diamond City/Niu bobo yu niu xiaomei dap o zhunshi cheng (Yu Wei-Cheng, 1983). James Wang’s expectation for nomination by the Golden Horse was shattered, and the film was shelved. The “Best Animation” winner that year was Super Animals/Bremen 4/Si Shenji (1983), which was actually developed in Japan by Tezuka Productions, and produced in Taiwan by Taiwei Cartoon Enterprise (aka Gideon Salvation Communication Association), an animation company with 150 employees, founded in 1982. Taiwei also produced Xiao Ping and Xiao An, a 13-episode TV series broadcast in 1985, before being disbanded due to financial difficulties. The last film made during the 1980s fervor of adapting comic books into animation features, Messy Temple/Wulong yuan (Tsai Chih-chung, 1987), produced by Dragon Animation, failed at the box office as well.

Working on Disney’s The Brave Little Toaster (Jerry Rees, 1987) was a great learning experience for James Wang and his staff at Wang Film Productions. Afterward, Wang Film Productions received more and more OEM orders throughout the world, expanding into a large studio with over 1,000 employees that handled 70 percent of the world’s animation. Thus, by the 1990s, it was not only the most successful animation company in Asia, but the largest animation studio in the world. Its business partners included Walt Disney, Hanna-Barbera, George Lucas, Warner Brothers, MGM, Universal, Paramount, Nickelodeon, Nelvana, as well as animation companies in France, Germany, Spain, Demark, Sweden, Norway, etc. By this time, Wang Film Productions needed to outsource some of its work to satellite animation studios in Taiwan. Some of the satellites, such as Hong Ying Animation, eventually became its rivals.

Wang Film Productions began working on original animation features in the early 1980s. Its first project was Zhang Yu Boils the Sea/Zhang yu zhu hai, to be directed by famed live-action feature director King Hu. Hu designed all the major characters, wrote the dialogue, and drew basic art designs for the project, which was based on a Chinese folktale. Unfortunately, the project was abandoned in 1984 due to a lack of funding and manpower, as the staff of Wang Film Productions was busy working on OEM projects from America and Europe. Almost a decade later, Wang Film did complete a short animation feature, The Quest of Magic/Xiao xian ji (Feng Yusong, 1992), which won a Special Jury Award for Animation at the 1992 Golden Horse.

By the early 1990s, with Taiwan currency sharply appreciating and wages rising significantly, the profit margin became too small for Wang Film Productions. It decided to expand its operations abroad. Its subsidiary in Thailand was called Thai Wang Film Productions/Thai Wang Film Animation Studios, and its Chinese operations, Hongguang Animation (Suzhou), started in 1996.

One of the first Taiwan animation companies to start operations in China was Chao Yang Animation, which set up a subsidiary in Shanghai in 1989. Hong Ying, one of Wang Film Productions’ satellite companies in Taiwan, moved to Suzhou, China in 1992 with the intention of being independent from Wang Film Productions. Gradually, Hong Ying grew into a big company, with hundreds of employees and subsidiaries in Shanghai, Beijing, Nanking/Nanjing, and Tokyo, as well as business offices in Paris and Los Angeles.

While many major Taiwan animation studios moved their operations to China because of lower wages and to have a larger base of workers, those that remained began, once again, making original feature animation, with government financial assistance through the Domestic Film Guidance Fund. The first such feature-length animation was Zen Taipei Ah-Kuan/Chan Shou Akuan (You Jingyuan, 1994). Based on Tsai Chih-chung’s comic story and written by renowned scriptwriter Hsiao Yeh, the film delivers positive messages using simple Zen in daily life. The film won the Special Jury Award for Animation at the 1994 Golden Horse. Box-office for the film was poor, however.

The second feature animation awarded by the Guidance Fund was Annie’s Magic Raccoon/Qingxiu shanzhuang (Yu Wei-Cheng , 1997), the story of a magic trip back to nature through the eyes of a little city girl, which contained environmental protection messages.

Grandma and Her Ghosts/Mofa ama (Wang Shau-Di, 1998) was awarded by the Guidance Fund a year later. Integrating folk religion with down-to-earth rural life, unseen in previous feature-length or short animation, Grandma and Her Ghosts is considered by many to be one of the best Taiwan animations. Nevertheless, it was not nominated by the Golden Horse, despite its artistic quality, for an absurd and controversial reason that “the film encouraged superstition.”

Before the Public Television Service (PTS) was officially founded in 1998, its Preparatory Committee, established in 1991, produced two feature-length animations. The Life of Confucius (1994) was a fully animated docudrama, coproduced by public television stations in Japan (NHK), South Korea (KBS), and Taiwan (PTS). The PTS invested a quarter of the budget, and received distribution rights for all formats in every Chinese-speaking territory. The project, led by NHK, was shelved in Taiwan after completion, however, due to political circumstances concerning the establishment of a public television station in the 1990s. The second film commissioned by the PTS, Kavalan/Shaonian gamelan (Kang Jinhe, 1998), was a feature animation from Wang Film Productions. Based on a novel, the film depicted the life of Kavalan Aborigines, a plains Aboriginal tribe (see ABORIGINES AND FILM).

The animations produced by the PTS were culturally relevant, yet commercially unsuccessful. In contrast, private production companies were more sensitive to “commercial” subjects. In the 1990s, one of the most popular comic books, Young Guns, was adapted into so-called “OVA” (original video animation). Young Guns was irregular in its mode of production: it was developed in Taiwan, and made in Japan through OEM. Unfortunately, the original plan to produce 13 episodes of the video animation series did not work out, due to a delay in the optimal distribution timing. Only two episodes were actually made.

The 1990s also saw the emergence of computer animation films. The Story of Never Giving Up/The Story of Little Sun/Xiao yangguang de tiankong (Cheng Fen-fen, 1995), one of the earliest 3D computer animations that appeared in Taiwan, was educational, using music and dance to attract a young audience. An OVA film, it was made by the Mico-Johnson Computer Graphics Corporation for the Sunshine Foundation, a NGO group lobbying on behalf of people with serious burning and scalding injuries.

By 1999, many Taiwan companies became foundries for 3D computer animation. The first such work was Nelvana’s Donkey Kong television series, made by Wang Film Productions in association with CGCG Inc., a 3D animation studio established in 1988 for making commercials and architectural simulations. In 2008, George Lucas became the biggest shareholder of CGCG, acquiring 43 percent of the company’s shares. CGCG became one of the production companies for Star Wars: The Clone Wars (2008). (The other two were Lucasfilm and Lucasfilm Animation Singapore.) Now, it is not only a studio with 180 employees, but also moving toward creating original animation, such as The Adventures of Dragon Fruit/Huolong guo da maoxian, a project to be directed by its vice-president, Cao Zhonghong. CGCG was awarded NT$12 million (US$370,000) from the Guidance Fund in 2006.

Flash animation became popular at the end of the 1990s. Many popular Taiwanese webtoon characters appeared, such as “A-kuei” and “Gan Giau Long/G.G. Long.” Picking Stars/Zhai xing, a melodramatic romantic mini-series, was a very popular flash animation on the web. So was SMEC Media & Entertainment Corporation’s East District Men’s Apartment (1998). 

3D computer animation TV series appeared in the 2000s. Ghenghis-Khan was a pioneer work produced by Apply Entertainment in 2000. Unfortunately, it failed to attract foreign distributors. It took several years for other 3D animation TV series to reappear, including Jamar Idea’s Tear of the Sun/Taiyang zhi lei (2007), based on legends of Taiwan indigenous tribes; Samiyam/Senlin zong dongyuan (2007), a children’s program produced by Eastern Television; Mumu Hug (2006), also a children’s TV program produced by SOFA Studio, seen in over 80 countries in the world; and The Adventures of Star Cat (2008), a popular TV animation series produced by Taiwan’s StarQ and broadcast in more than 10 countries, including China, Italy, Russia, Czech, and Hungary.

Taiwan animation studios also did well in 2D computer animation. TVbean’s PiPiPanda (2002) and PandaMonium (2004) are popular 2D series originated in Taiwan and produced by Japanese animation studios. So was Hero: 108/Shuihuo yi ling ba (2010), a 2D animation TV series originated by Taiwan’s Gamania and coproduced with the Cartoon Network (USA) and Moon Scoop.

Starting in 2002, the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) government, which replaced the over half-century rule by the Nationalists in 2000, promulgated a policy to promote production of animation films and computer games. Since then, feature animation has become one of the key film genres supported by the Government Information Office (GIO) and Ministry of Economic Affairs, regardless of its original format. Actually, A-kuei and His Magic Hammer/Agui chui ni o (2002), a flash animation transferred to 35mm film for movie theater screenings, was already awarded Guidance Funds in 2001 by the GIO, and a “prototype award” from the Industrial Development Bureau of the Ministry of Economic Affairs in 2002. Despite its theatrical box office failure, the film did not lose money because of government prize money and revenue from licensing on the web. Other feature animations receiving Guidance Funds include The Butterfly Lovers: Leon and Jo/Hudie meng liang shanbo yu zhu yingtai (Tsai Ming-ching, 2003), Fire Ball/Honghaier juezhan huoyan shan (Wang Tung, 2005), Mazu/Hai zhi chuanso mazu (Lin Shiren, 2007), Port of Return/Kao an (Zhang Rongui, 2010), and Memory Loss/Yi shijie da maoxian (Gao Jiaqi and Leng Zijian, 2011), among others. Most of these films failed at the box office, however.

Wang Film Productions’ Fire Ball won for Best Animation in 2005, at both the Golden Horse and Asia-Pacific Film Festival. Although its earlier animation, A Story About Grandpa Lin Wang/Daxiang linwang yeye de gushi, was awarded NT$10 million (US$ 380,000) from the Guidance Fund in 2003, the film is still waiting for more funding to complete it. Another incomplete project, Kotora on the Run/Haidao miling zuizhong de qiannian ji, a coproduction of Taiwan’s Portico Media and the Japanese animé studio Arms Corporation, known for Bleach: Memories of Nobody, was initially set to be released in 2010. Similarly, a feature animation project, The Little Sun/Xiao taiyang, also recipient of Guidance Funds in 2007, is still in production by director Chiu Li-wei, who graduated from the Graduate School of Sound and Image in Animation (renamed the Graduate Institute of Animation and Film Art), at Tainan National University of the Arts (TNNUA).

TNNUA’s MFA program in animation, the first in Taiwan, was established in 1998, and became the cradle for independent animators. Independent animation in Taiwan actually started appearing in the early 1980s, spurred on by the inception of the Golden Harvest Awards in 1978. The Awards were established to recognize and nurture the work of Taiwan’s independent and student filmmakers, in narrative fiction, documentary, experimental, and animated films, mostly shorts. Some past award winners went on to become professional animators, such as Chang Chen-Yi, character design supervisor of Disney’s Mulan (Tony Bancroft and Barry Cook, 1998). Some recipients went abroad to study animation in film schools.

Many independent animators utilize different materials and techniques for making animation, such as clay, sand, ink, painting, cut-outs, puppets, pixilation, stop-motion, and combinations of these. Though their personal and artistic works are considered more creative than most “commercial” animation features, and often recognized at the Golden Horse and international festivals, most independent animators did not join the animation industry. Even if some independent animators did find employment in the industry, most animation studios still complain about the lack of adequately trained animators. They have to conduct on-the-job training for most of their employees.

The technical ability and artistic achievement of 3D computer animation studios in Taiwan is capable of producing world-class films. This is attested to by Digimax Inc.’s Adventures in the NPM/Guobao zong dongyuan (Gerard Pires, Tom Sito, Teddy Yang, 2007), Grand Prize winner at the 2008 Tokyo Animé Awards. However, despite government support for feature animation during the past decade, Taiwan is still waiting for a film like the acclaimed narrative feature hit, Cape No. 7, to boost the confidence of potential investors, the morale of animators, and the box-office at movie theaters.




BAI, KE (1913-1964). The dramatic and tragic life of film director and teacher Bai Ke began on 1 February 1913 in Amoy/Xiamen. Bai’s family was originally from Guilin, Guangxi Province, China. After his father died when Bai was only 13, the boy was forced to work, as well as studying, until he enrolled in the Department of Education at Amoy University in 1933. After graduation, when he was 22, Bai briefly taught at the Xianan (Southern Amoy) Women’s School, before he was sent by the Guangxi Provincial Government to learn filmmaking at the Central Film Studio in Nanking/Nanjing, the Chinese capital at the time. After one year of training, Bai was admitted into China Film Studio, where he became an assistant director.

When the Second Sino-Japanese War broke out in 1937, Bai was summoned by General Pai Chung-hsi/Bai Chongxi (no relationship), a prominent Nationalist general also from Guangxi Province, and father of renowned novelist Kenneth Pai Hsien-yung, to work in the Culture Committee of the Fifth Chinese theater of war, where General Pai was commander. Bai Ke was responsible for anti-Japanese propaganda in film, theater, and culture. He was transferred to Chungking/ Chongqing in 1941 to promote the anti-Japanese movement there.

When Japan surrendered unconditionally to the Allies in 1945, Bai Kei was assigned to be representative of the Propaganda Committee of the Taiwan Provincial Administrative Executive Office (TPAEO), taking charge of Japanese property related to film, notably the Taiwan Film Association (Tai’ei). Bai retained a few Japanese and Taiwanese technicians at Tai’ei, to make newsreels recording the arrival of Chief Executive Chen Yi at Songshan Air Base, the Japanese surrender ceremony on 25 October in the Taipei City Public Auditorium (later renamed Taipei Zhongshan Hall), and the public celebration of Taiwan’s “retrocession” to the Chinese government. Tai’ei was renamed Taiwan Film Studio/Taiwan dianying sheying chang, and put under the Propaganda Committee of the TPAEO, with Bai Ke as its first director.

In 1946, Bai became general editor of People’s Guidance News/Renmin daobao, which was closed down in 1947 after the “228 Incident.” After the Nationalist government’s violent suppression of the rebellion by native Taiwanese, KMT leader Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek appointed General Pai Chung-hsi as minister of national defense, sending him to Taiwan to assess the tense situation. As his former staff member, Bai Ke, who was fluent in Taiwanese, Mandarin, as well as understanding Japanese and English, was assigned to be translator during Minister Pai’s two-week visit.

After the 228 Incident, the head of Taiwan Film Studio (TFS) was appointed directly by the central government. Bai Ke, thus, was appointed assistant director, and later demoted to lead writer and director. He made several documentary films in the late 1940s, such as Taiwan Today/Jiri zi Taiwan (1948). In 1955, when Bai’s Taiwanese-dialect film project fell apart, he was assigned to direct Descendant of the Yellow Emperor/Huangdi zisun (1956), which promoted reconciliation between native Taiwanese and the Mainlanders who came to Taiwan at the end of the Second Sino-Japanese War.

After the film was completed, Bai Ke left the TFS to become a Taiwanese- dialect film director. In six years, between 1956 and 1961, he directed 11 such films, all commercially successful, including Mad Woman/Fengnu shiba nian (1957), Master Tang San Zang Saves His Mother/Tan Sancang jiu mu (1957), Murder in the Foggy Night in Tainan/Tainan wuye da xiean (1957), Romance in May/Wuyue zhi lian (1960), Death in the South Seas/Hun duan nanhai (1958), Love Unto Death/Sheng si lian (1958), adapted from Alexandre Dumas’ “La dame aux camellias,” Backstage/Houtai (codirected with Lin Tuan-Chiu, 1959), and Romance at Lung Shan Temple/Longshansi zhi lian (1962).

Bai Ke was also adjunct lecturer, teaching writing and directing in the Departments of Motion Pictures and Theater at both the National Taiwan Academy of Art, and the Political Cadre School of the Ministry of National Defense. However, Bai and his wife were arrested in 1961 on the fabricated charge of receiving financial assistance from Overseas Chinese who were communists. He was jailed for two years without trial, during which time he suffered severe dermatitis, but was not given medical attention. Finally, Bai involuntarily confessed that he was an underground Communist Party of China member. He was sentenced to death, and executed by shooting. He died in 1964 at the age of 51. The injustice done to Bai Ke during the Nationalist government’s anti-communist “white terror” campaign in the 1950s and 1960s was finally redressed in 2002.

Bai Ke was not only a film director and teacher, but also a film critic and newspaper editor. He wrote film reviews, as well as publishing books on film. His premature death was considered a great loss for Taiwan cinema.


BAIDA FILM PRODUCTIONS (1928-1934). One of the earliest film production companies established by local Taiwanese, Baida Film Productions Company was founded by Li Shu, Zhang Sunqu, and other former members of the Taiwan Cinema Study Association, after the success of the films Li and Zhang produced for Jiangyun-she, a Taiwanese Opera theater troupe, which were used in its rensageki chain dramas. Li and his friends were encouraged by the audience’s favorable reactions to their films, which vividly created sad, near-death conditions. After finding financial support from other partners, Li and Zhang established Baida Film Productions in 1928.

Their first feature film, Blood Stains/Xie hen, was produced in October 1929. Zhang was the writer/director, and Li the cinematographer. It was shot mostly on location. The production was rather uncomplicated. During the three-week shooting schedule, Li Shu shot close to 10,000 feet of film with his very basic 1921 Universal 35mm camera. He processed and printed the films non-stop for three days and nights inside a small warehouse.

Blood Stains was a romantic action film, which attracted fullhouses, mostly local Taiwanese, when it premiered March 1930 in Eraku-za. In three days, the highly acclaimed film earned ¥950 at the box office, almost half its ¥2,000 production budget. Such a successful premiere certainly encouraged Li, Zhang, and their partners to produce more films.

Zhang Sunqu thought that Li’s cinematography was equal to that of most Shanghai films. The majority of acting in Blood Stains had improved greatly, in comparison to Whose Fault Is It?. Zhang and his friends came to the conclusion that there was no lack of talent for Taiwan cinema. They decided to produce more features and export them to China and Southeast Asia. To do so, they needed more capital investment. However, with the advent of sound film, the money needed to expand facilities was much more than Baida’s partners could afford. In addition, the rise of militarism in Japan in the 1930s prompted the colonial government to promulgate an assimilation/Japanization policy, discouraging local Taiwanese from making films not in line with the policy. Thus, Baida Film Productions could not attain its goal and was dissolved in 1934, becoming one of many “one-film” production companies in the history of Taiwan cinema, especially during the Japanese colonial period.


BENSHI. Before the arrival of sound in the late 1920s, films screened in movie theaters were silent. Movie theaters in Taiwan, which became a colony of Imperial Japan before the arrival of film, followed the Japanese way, employing a narrator/ commentator called benshi, who stands or sits next to the screen during film projection to either voice over characters’ dialogue, create sound effects, explain the plot, comment on the narrative, or say wisecracks to create the right atmosphere.

The first known benshi, sometimes called katsuben (katsudō benshi), was Matsuura Shōzō, a projectionist-benshi sent by the French Automatic Magic Pictures Association to Taiwan to show Lumières’ Cinématographe. At a sneak preview on 16 June 1900 in Tamsui-kan, a private club for government officials, Japanese businessmen, and their families, he was so enthusiastic in commenting on the films, that he was criticized by a local reporter for showing off.

The most famous benshi was probably Takamatsu Toyojirō, who was a rakugoka (lone storyteller) and eloquent benshi before coming to Taiwan at the invitation of Prime Minister Itō Hirobumi, to screen films that would benefit colonial rule. During screenings, besides explaining the films, he was also known to advocate socialist concepts and the labor movement, comment on the high prices of commodities caused by the Russo-Japanese War, as well as criticizing Japanese officials who abused their power by bullying and trampling on the rights of natives who did not even understand the Japanese language.

In 1915, two cinemas in Taipei, Niitakakan and Yoshinokan, competed to become the outlet for two major Japanese film companies, Tenkatsu (Natural Color Motion Pictures) and Nikkatsu (Japan Motion Pictures). According to a critic at the time, the difference in the tinted-color black and white prints of the two companies was not as important as the vocal achievements and speech skills of benshi hired to narrate the films. Niitakakan hired both Etō Nana, a Waseda University Bachelor in Literature graduate who was especially good with Japanese dramas, and Kiyokawa Mitsuhiro, trained in America and good with Western culture, as its primary benshi. Yoshinokan, however, did not have any qualified benshi to explain Western films. Its benshi in late 1915 included Yamada Shunhō, a former journalist, and Kimura Mitsuo, a former stage actor. When the competition became fierce, both theaters spent a lot of money hiring famous benshi from Japan, such as Nishimura Rakuten and Hayashi Tenpū.

However, in earlier days the position of benshi at many movie theaters, especially those in smaller cities, was held concurrently by the regular staff, resulting in great variations in the level and quality of narration and commentary. Many benshi did not have secondary education, and were not familiar with the English language or Western civilization, thus, were unable to correctly explain films from the West to the audience. Instead, they casually boasted or bluffed their way, to deceive unsuspecting audiences. Unsatisfied with the situation, one critic even called the profession of benshi “the social product of low-level artistic taste in modern society.”

Benshi was not a profession totally occupied by men. In 1913, Yoshinokan hired actress-turned-benshi Nomura Ritsuko to narrate foreign comedy and Japanese shinpa (new school) tragedy. In 1917, Taipei’s Sekaikan Theater (World Cinema) hired Maru Boshiya, former stage actress in the famous all-women troupe, Natano Joyūdan, as its benshi. Yoshinokan invited a female benshi from Japan in 1918, Shimomura Shizue, who was good at playing the biwa (lute).

By the early 1920s, benshi, in essence, had become actors in the movie theater, attracting audiences. All movie houses, and stage theaters showing films, had their own signature benshi, whose style and skill could affect the box-office take. However, the turnover rate of benshi at each cinema was very high. The public also heard about criminal acts committed by benshi. To raise the level of benshi, the Social Education Division in the Imperial government’s Ministry of Education began holding classes in 1921 to educate these narrators.

The main issue relating to benshi in Taiwan, however, was not only the quality of narration, but the political remarks made during screenings. It was known in 1926 that benshi in the mobile projection teams of the Taiwan Cultural Association (TCA) would often make “irrelevant” speeches criticizing colonial rule, using direct irony or indirect innuendo, during the exhibition of the educational films. Therefore, in 1927, the colonial government began issuing licenses for benshi, to control their remarks and behavior. The policy was contrary to that of the Motion Pictures Inspection Office in the Imperial government’s Ministry of Home Affairs, which had recently abolished such a licensing system for benshi nationwide in early 1926.

To be awarded a benshi license, applicants had to take a written and verbal test consisting of exams in their legal knowledge, composition (in Japanese, not Chinese or Taiwanese), and Japanese common sense, as well as giving live performances. Only those who were deemed “qualified” would be issued licenses. Anyone suspected of being ideologically dangerous was prevented from even taking the test. Anyone who had already been issued a benshi license in homeland Japan still needed to apply for a new license to perform in Taiwan.

At the time, not only films were subjected to censorship, but also the screenplays benshi used for narrating. Benshi were required to follow the screenplay closely. Anything said beyond the actual screenplay that authorities deemed a risk for either public security or morality was cause for the screening to be stopped and the theater fined.

The licensing system was especially unfair to Taiwanese benshi, as Japanese was their second language. However, some Taiwanese still managed to pass the test. Among the 22 who took the first test in Taihoku Shū (Taipei Prefecture) in February 1927, 16 passed, one of them Taiwanese. Such tests were held at the local level, and continued until the mid-1930s when the Sino-Japanese War broke out. Although the majority of benshi were Japanese, there were a few famous Taiwanese benshi in theaters across Taiwan. Zhan Tianma and Wang Yunfeng were among the best known Taiwanese benshi. There was also a Taiwanese woman, Xu Yuee, who passed the exam and was granted a license in 1936, becoming a star benshi at the Taiping Theater (Taihei-kan) in Dadaocheng/ Daitōtei, a predominantly Taiwanese area north of central Taipei. She would also occasionally perform at a local movie theater in her hometown, Pan Chiao/ Banqiao. With her bright voice expressing a wide-range of different emotions, Xu became very popular.

There was usually a live band accompanying benshi during the screenings of silent films. The five-musician band would play music that following the plot and the narration of benshi, as well as creating sound effects. (For tragedies, larger movie theaters would hire an extra violinist to play.) In August 1929, live bands were replaced by Western Electric amplifier and recording systems at several Taipei movie theaters. Other theaters mixed performances of live bands with prerecorded music during screenings.

Sound film arrived in Taipei in the late 1920s. A sound-on-disc system called “Vitaphone” was presented at a Taipei movie theater in 1926. Another sound system, “Phonofilm,” was introduced at Taipei’s Shinsekaikan (New World Cinema) in 1929. In September of the same year, Makino Film Productions’ sound-on-disc system for talkies made its debut at Yoshinokan Theater in Taipei, which showed a wild animal film and a couple of period dramas. By mid-1930, Shinsekaikan, the best cinema in Taipei dedicated to showing European and American films, began all-talkie screenings using the Fox Movietone sound-on-film system. However, Shinsekaikan owned only one sound projector, and early foreign films were shown without Japanese subtitles, therefore, a benshi was still required to fill-in narration when there was no character speaking as well as to provide commentary when the projectionist was changing reels.

As sound films gradually gained popularity, benshi started to disappear in cinemas catering to Japanese audiences. By 1937, all Japanese benshi were gone. However, benshi in movie theaters with Taiwanese audiences held onto their jobs until the end of Japanese rule in 1945, and some even worked well into the 1950s. This was mainly due to the unfamiliarity of Taiwanese audiences with the languages used in most films, whether Japanese, Mandarin Chinese, English, or European languages.




BUDDHA’S PUPILS (1924). Considered the first feature film made in Taiwan, Buddha’s Pupils/Butsuda no Hitomi was directed by Tanaka Kinshi/Edward (Eddie) Tanaka, a Japanese producer-director at Tanaka Picture Corporation in Tokyo. The plot centers on the revenge of an old man who is victimized and jailed by a corrupt official during a miscarriage of justice. His revenge is diverted by the love between his supposed daughter and the talented young sculptor of a Buddha statue. The artist saves her life, reversing a tragic fate, with help from the Buddha.

Tanaka said he intended to make the film an “atmospheric drama,” rarely seen in Japan. His failure in a previous attempt – a six-reel “atmospheric drama” of dance performance – led him to shoot on location for this new overture. His original plan was to use a Japanese cast and local extras to support a Taiwanese main actress. The film eventually starred famous Japanese actor Shimada Kashichi and an unknown actress, Kumono Kaoruko.

Edward Tanaka said that the film aimed at promoting the love of Buddha to Western audiences. There is no evidence of the film being shown in Taiwan. However, it might have been re-titled Merciful Eyes/Jigen (1925) and sold as an educational film in the educational market in Japan. It was also reported that Douglas Fairbanks had seen Buddha’s Pupils in its unedited form at his Beverley Hills home. Tanaka visited Fairbanks, his former boss, during a 1925 trip taken with Shochiku-Kamata’s actor Moroguchi Tsuzuya and studio manager Rokusha Osamu, to learn Hollywood methods of movie making. A Los Angeles Times article on 10 May 1925, reported that the film, titled The Trail of the Gods in English, had great costumes and used 1,500 extras.

The making of the film in Taiwan had an unexpected repercussion. Local actor Liu Xiyang (Ryū Kiyō), who had a bit part, decided to leave his bank job and become an actor/writer/director, thus making him the first native Taiwanese to become a professional filmmaker in Taiwan. See also TAIWAN CINEMA STUDY ASSOCIATION.




CAPE NO. 7 (2008). The top-grossing Taiwan film, until it was surpassed by the director’s own Warriors of the Rainbow: Seediq Bale (2011), Cape No. 7/Haijiao qi hao is a romance-comedy written and directed by Wei Te-Sheng. Originally budgeted at NT$15 million, Cape No. 7 eventually cost NT$50 million (US$1.56 million) to complete, three times the average budget of Taiwan films at the time. Wei's debut feature could not attract any capital investment. With only NT$5 million awarded by the Domestic Film Guidance Fund, Wei had to refinance his house, against the will of his wife, as well as get loans from his film crew, friends, and relatives to complete the film.

        It was shot primarily in Hengchun, the southernmost part of Taiwan. The main story follows Aga (Van Fan/Fan Yichen), a young man who fails to make it in Taipei as a band player and decides to return to his home in Hengchun. His stepfather, representative of a local council, gets him work as substitute postman, replacing injured Old Mao (Johnny C.J. Lin/Lin Zongren). Tomoko (Chie Tanaka), a Japanese model-turned-agent, is assigned to put together a local band as opening act at a concert on the beach featuring Japanese pop singer Kōsuke Atari. The hastily formed band is composed of Aga, the songwriter and lead singer, Old Mao, a liquor salesman, motorcycle mechanic, two Aboriginal policemen (father and son), and a 10-year-old girl who plays keyboard. As can be expected, against all odds, the band overcomes internal conflicts and external obstacles, performing successfully in the concert.

   A subplot includes two romances, one between Aga and Tomoko, the other between a Japanese school teacher and his former student who were forced to separate when all Japanese residents were repatriated to Japan after it surrendered to the Allies in 1945. The teacher's unsent love letters are found after his death by his granddaughter, who sends them to the old address in Hengchun where the girl he loved used to live. Her name is also Tomoko. The mail is undeliverable. Aga, with the help of his Japanese girlfriend Tomoko, tracks down the correct address of the girl (now an old woman), just before the band is to play at the concert.

   Even though the story seemed far-fetched and melodramatic, the film was popular and overwhelmingly accepted by the audience. Some credit the film's success to its honest portrayal of rural life and lively presentation of local characters, acted mostly by non-professionals. Old Mao, the injured elderly mailman, was a memorable character and became particularly popular. Johnny C.J. Lin, who had no previous acting experience, became an instant celebrity, and subsequently appeared in several TV dramas, before his sudden death in late 2011.

   The film premiered June 2008, opening the Taipei Film Festival. Its first weekend box-office of NT$5 million, though meager in comparison to major Hollywood productions, was among the best in decades for a Taiwanese production. Encouraged, distributor Buena Vista continued expanding the number of screens showing the film during the following weeks. Due to strong endorsements by celebrities such as Hou Hsiao-hsien and popular TV host Zhang Xiaoyan, word-of-mouth on the internet, as well as coverage in the media, followed by television talk shows, Cape No. 7 quickly attracted a wide audience, many of whom had not gone to movie theaters for decades. In one month, the film garnered more than NT$150 million (close to a half-million U.S. dollars) at the box office. It screened continuously in Taiwan for 113 days, earning NT$530 million, of which $300 million was from theaters outside of the Taipei area. Previously, all such theaters combined could earn, at best, an amount equal to theaters in the Taipei area.

   The unprecedented popularity of Cape No. 7 in areas outside Taipei, as well as the (unexpected) success of the following Seven Days in Heaven/Fu hou qi ri (2010) and Night Market Hero/Ji pai yingxiong (2011), both comedies catering to the interests of rural audiences, revealed that Taiwan (especially non-Taipei) audiences want entertaining films that deal humorously with the lives of ordinary people whom they can relate to. Thus, many similar films have appeared since 2009. However, some producers worry that such provincialism may hamper the chances for Taiwan films to reach international audiences, especially since Taiwan is too small a market to singularly support larger-scale quality productions.

   Despite its controversial nostalgic connotations toward Japanese colonial rule, Cape No. 7 was shown in Hong Kong and Singapore in 2008, and China in 2009, with relative success. It also played in South Korea, but was poorly received.

The film was awarded the million-dollar Grand Prix, Best Feature-Length Music, and Best Feature-Length Cinematography (Chin Ting-chang) at 2008 Taipei Film Festival’s Taipei Film Awards, as well as Outstanding Taiwan Film, Outstanding Taiwan Filmmaker, Best Supporting Actor (Ma Ju-Lung), Best Original Music, Best Original Song, and the Audience Award at the 2008 Golden Horse Awards.

In addition, Cape No. 7 won the Halekulani Golden Orchid Award for Best Narrative at the 2008 Hawaii International Film Festival, Grand Prize at the 2008 Asian Marin Film Festival in Makuhari, Japan, Best Cinematography at the 2008 Kuala Lumpur International Film Festival, and the Edward Yang New Talent Award (Wei Te-Sheng) at the 2009 Asian Film Awards in Hong Kong.




CENSORSHIP. When film screening began in the late 1890s, there were no regulations to control or manage it. A new “Rules Regulating Vaudeville Theater” was promulgated by Taihoku (Taipei) Prefecture in 1901, requiring theaters not to allow any act to disturb public order or make any political speech, or exhibit any program without prior permission.

The first regulation to supervise film exhibition appeared in 1916. Police headquarters issued a tsūchō (order) to each chōchō (chief of local government), asking them to inspect films before and during screenings and ban any film that showed brutal abuse, adultery, crime, or induced a criminal act. Three policemen, a keibu (police inspector), and two keibuho (lieutenants), were assigned to inspect films in each chō (local government).

By 1918, standards for film inspection were issued to each local government, which separately conducted censorship of films screened in the theaters under their jurisdiction. In 1922, the colonial government began drafting unified regulatory rules to be applied across the island. Methods for inspections were rather primitive, however, as most local government did not own any film equipment for inspection until 1924. Finally, in 1926, an island-wide “Motion Pictures Film Inspection Rules” (katsudō shashin firumu kenetsu kisoku) was promulgated by the Government-General Office. It was actually a copy of similar regulations issued by the Ministry of Home Affairs in the Imperial government a year before. The only difference was the requirement for every film to be inspected and pay its due, even if it had already passed inspection in Japan. In the rules, it was stipulated that the government can ban or limit the screening of films deemed harmful to public safety, customs, or health.

In effect, Japanese films from homeland Japan were subjected to inspection three times: by the Ministry of Home Affairs; by the Taiwan Government-General Office; and by police during screenings. Foreign films, including Chinese films from Shanghai, were inspected by Taiwan Customs first, followed by the colonial government, and police during screenings. A Film Inspection Office in the colonial government was created under the security division of the Bureau of Police Affairs.

Eighteen-hundred titles, or 8,172 reels (about 2 million meters) of film, were inspected in 1927. By 1930, the number remained close to 8,400 reels (2 million meters/over 6.5 million feet) of film to be screened in the 28 movie theaters, for approximately 3 million viewers. Among them were 807 reels (201,237 meters/660,226 feet) of Chinese films imported from Shanghai (increased from 496 reels, 127,649 meters/418,796 feet in 1929). The film inspection office cut 11,269 meters/36,972 feet of films in 1930, about 10 times of that in 1927. When Taiwan cinema was in its first golden era in the mid-1930s, the inspection office needed to process 45 reels per day (more than 10 kilometers/6 miles of film) at its peak.

Film censorship was particularly harsh against Chinese films, and any screening held by opposition Taiwanese organizations or their members. In 1924, the police in charge of film censorship had been instructed to pay special attention to films depicting poverty, lives of laborers, and social injustice, as well as comments made by benshi (narrators) criticizing capitalism or inciting class struggle. Screenings by the projection unit of the Taiwan Cultural Association (TCA), established in 1926, were particularly monitored by local police.

To control the remarks and behavior of benshi, the colonial government began issuing licenses for benshi in 1927. To be awarded a license, a benshi had to take a test, consisting of written exams about their legal knowledge, composition (in the Japanese language), and Japanese “common sense,” as well as a live performance. It was difficult for Taiwanese to pass the test, as Japanese was only their second language. However, some Taiwanese managed to get the license. (Twenty-two took the first test in Taihoku chō [Taipei Prefecture] in February, 16 passed; among them only one was Taiwanese.) Such tests were held at the local level and continued until the mid-1930s, when the Sino-Japanese War broke out.

Following the Film Law passed by the Imperial Diet in 1939, the Taiwan Government-General Office issued “Regulations for the Handling of the Motion Pictures Film Inspection Rule” (Katsudō shashin firumu kenetsu kisoku toriatsukai) in December of the same year. The Regulations specified 20 reasons to ban or cut a film, or to limit its screenings. These included:

*blasphemy of the Imperial Family

*damaging the dignity of the nation (Japan)

*advocating the concept of (or satirizing) political or constitutional disorder

*advocating the concept of (or satirizing) breaking the fundamental order of social life

* creating a risk of damaging diplomatic relations

*anything concerning military secrets or other matters related to political, economic, diplomatic, or national defense affairs that needed to be kept secret

*demonstrating means and methods of criminal acts, or creating the risk of imitating criminal acts

*disrupting the righteous virtues of worshiping gods or ancestors, or having a risk of harming good faiths

*involving cruelty or creating uncomfortable feelings

*involving obscenity, adultery, or disorder, in the sense of chastity

*involving vulgar plots of lovemaking

*involving delusions to pry into the secrets of others, or exposing family internal affairs

*having the risk of causing idleness in business, or ruining positive thought

*having the risk of preventing the development of prudence, or harmful to education

*having the risk of inciting children’s devilment, or hurting teachers’ prestige

*involving plots that oppose good family conduct

*having the risk of diminishing the effects of rehabilitation

*diverting oneself in the difficulties of handicapped people

*and others that were deemed harmful to the special circumstances in the colony

Chinese films were banned from importation and screening after mid-1937. Following the outbreak of the Asia Pacific War in December 1941, all films from Western nations, with the exception of Germany and Italy, Japan’s Axis allies, were banned. Part of the business of film inspection was delegated to the military, inspecting newsreels of the battles. The Government-General Office created the Provisional Ministry of Information (rinji jōhō bu) in 1937, to control media, including newsreels. The length of screening time for each film program was limited to two hours. The use of negative film was regulated by the government, the quantity limited, and the films had to be distributed through the governmental agency. Toward the end of World War II, only “national policy films” and newsreels made by companies/organizations controlled by the government were allowed.

When the war finally ended, Taiwan became a territory under the jurisdiction of Chiang Kai-shek’s Nationalist government. Film, as well as other cultural industries, was free from control for nearly a half-year. After the Taiwan Provincial Administrative Executive Office (TPAEO) took over Taiwan in October 1945, its initial rules for film inspection was not put into effect until the end of the year. “Measures for Inspecting Films in Taiwan Province” was aimed at controlling films from Japan, Germany, and Italy, as well as re-inspecting Chinese films and films from the West. The Measures mostly followed the regulations of the Central Film Inspection Office under the Ministry of the Interior in the Nationalist government, with some modifications to suit the special circumstances in Taiwan.

The Film Censorship Board was jointly controlled by the Department of Propaganda in the Taiwan Provincial Branch of the Nationalist Party, and the Propaganda Committee of the TPAEO. At first, its office was initially at Taiwan Film Studio. After the Propaganda Committee was abolished in late 1946, the Film Censorship Board was transferred to the Department of Education. Following the “228 Incident,” the TPAEO was transferred to the Taiwan Provincial Government and pre-screening inspections were stopped. Theaters could exhibit any film that received a permit issued by the Nationalist government on the Mainland. The work of the 40 staff members of the Film Censorship Board was changed to on-site inspections at movie theaters.

After the Nationalist government moved to Taiwan in 1949, the Film Censorship Office in the Ministry of the Interior established “Measures for Handling Domestically Produced Films during the Counter-Insurgency Period,” which was revised a year later. The Measures were meant to deal with any issues of films made in Mainland China and the filmmakers who stayed there. It stipulated that any film produced in Communist-controlled areas by companies affiliated with the Chinese Communists, and/or films that were written, directed, or acted in by pro-Communists would be banned and confiscated. Films in which any main member of the cast or crew had pledged loyalty to Mainland China, must edit out their names before being permitted to screen in Taiwan theaters. In two years, during 1950 and 1951, out of 43 banned films, 33 were prohibited based on those Measures, five for violating national policies, and one each for inciting class struggle or advocating class hatred.

In 1954, the Censorship Office was transferred to the Government Information Office (GIO), then merged into the Ministry of Education’s Culture Bureau in 1967. When the Culture Bureau was abolished in 1973, film censorship came under the film guidance section of the GIO’s Department of Motion Pictures. The “Film Censorship Law,” passed in 1955 by the Legislative Yuan, stipulated that films would be modified, cut, or banned if they damaged the interests of the Republic of China or its national dignity, disturbed public order, jeopardized good morals, or promoted superstitions or heresy. These rules were vague and were subjected to free interpretation by censors. For example, when Shirley McLaine visited the People’s Republic of China in the 1970s and criticized the Nationalists, all films in which she appeared were banned for several years, even those that had won Oscars. Shirley’s appearance on screen was obviously considered damaging to national dignity. 

The “Film Censorship Law” was abolished and replaced by the “Motion Picture Law (Motion Picture Act)” in 1984. The Film Censorship Board was authorized to censor films if they damaged the interests of the state or dignity of the nation, violated policies of the state or laws and decrees of the government, instigated others to commit crimes or violate laws and decrees, harmed the physical or mental health of teenagers or children, encumbered public order or virtuous custom, advocated ridiculous heresy or confused seeing and hearing, smeared ancient sages, or distorted historical facts.

Despite a new censorship board that incorporated community leaders to work with government officials, many films were still banned, cut, or modified, including the renowned Taiwan New Cinema films. The Sandwich Man (1983), and Hou Hsiao-hsien’s A Time to Live, A Time to Die (1985), Daughter of the Nile (1987), and A City of Sadness (1989). All had been obstructed by the Censorship Board, requiring the distributor to cut certain shots and scenes.

As of 1985, the KMT government began a movie rating system that classified films into four categories – General Audience (G), Protected (P), Parental Guidance (GP), and Restricted (R).


CENTRAL MOTION PICTURE CORPORATION (CMPC) (1954- ). The Central Motion Picture Corporation, a vertically integrated film studio, was a leading film production company in Taiwan between the 1960s and 1990s. The CMPC set three landmarks in the history of Taiwan cinema: creation of the healthy realism film genre in the 1960s; founding of the Taiwan New Cinema movement in the 1980s; and cultivation of Second New Wave directors in the 1990s.

The CMPC was founded in September 1954 in Taipei. The new studio was created by the Nationalist government from a merger of a film studio, Agricultural Education Film Studio (AEFS), and a theater chain, the Taiwan Motion Picture Corporation (TMPC). The Kuomintang/KMT (Chinese Nationalist Party/ Nationalists) was designated to take over management of the CMPC by the Nationalist government from its inception.

The Farmers Bank of China set up the AEFS in 1943 in Nanking/Nanjing, the Chinese capital, following the instructions of Dr. Chen Li-fu, minister of agriculture in the Nationalist government. Its original goal was to help develop education in rural China. However, no film was ever produced before the studio relocated to Taiwan in 1948. In view of the steadily deteriorating situation on the mainland for the Nationalist government in its war against the Chinese Communists, the AEFS instructed American vendors to ship its newly purchased film equipment directly from the United States to Taiwan. To utilize the equipment, the AEFS built a soundstage in Taichung City, in central Taiwan.

The TMPC was established in January 1947 by the Nationalist Party when the Taiwan Provincial Administrative Executive Office, the provisional government that ruled Taiwan after World War II, transferred to the KMT’s provincial branch 18 theaters it had confiscated in 1945 from the defeated Japanese. To secure print sources for its theaters, the TMPC signed a long-term contract with U.S. distributors that restricted the showing of limited non-American films.

In 1950, Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek’s son, Chiang Ching-kuo, president of the AEFS and chief of the Political Bureau at the National Defense Ministry, required the AEFS to coproduce its first feature with the Ministry’s China Film Studio (CFS). The anti-communist propaganda feature film, Awakening from a Nightmare/Emeng chuxing (Tsung You/Zong You, 1950), was followed by a similar feature, Never to Part/Yong bu fenli (Hsu Hsin-fu/Xu Xinfu, 1951), and a comedy, All Are Happy/Jie da huanxi (Tang Shaohua, 1952). However, the AEFS could not find any theaters available for exhibition. Moreover, after 1953 the AEFS could no longer afford to make any feature films, due to the lack of funds. In view of this situation, President and KMT Director-General Chiang Kai-shek ordered the merger of the AEFS and TMPC, hoping that the new CMPC could produce enough films for its own theaters, and that box-office revenue would be enough to fund further productions.

In its early days, the CMPC was the only sizable film studio in Taiwan, producing two to three anti-communist propagandistic features annually. It was also given the responsibility for rendering assistance to smaller private companies on the island as well as for drawing over and winning support from free (“right-wing”) filmmakers in Hong Kong. The CMPC’s first general manager, Li Yeh, paid a lot of attention to personnel training, establishing training programs for both actors and film technicians. Many young actors, cameramen, and sound technicians from these programs soon became principal players in the Taiwan film industry. Li even sent sound technicians to the United States to study Hollywood recording techniques, and sent cameramen Hua Hui-ying and Lai Cheng-ying to Japan to learn its approach to color cinematography.

By June 1956, the CMPC began cooperating with film producers in Hong Kong to make two films. One of them, Journey to Kwan Shan/Over the Rolling Hills/Guanshan xing (1956), was a musical directed by Hong Kong director Evan Yang (Yi Wen), starring Hong Kong actors, including Grace Chang (Ge Lan), Helen Li Mei, Chung Ching (Zhong Qing), Muk Hung (Mu Hong), Wong Ho (Wang Hao), and many Taiwan actors. Such cooperation increased the attractiveness of the CMPC’s propagandistic films in Taiwan and abroad.

Starting in 1957, the CMPC’s soundstages and equipment were leased to private production companies for making Mandarin film and Taiwanese-dialect film. Such arrangements not only increased the CMPC’s revenue, but also raised the number of private productions that became the mainstay of Taiwan cinema by the late 1950s.

Disaster struck the CMPC in July 1959 during the shooting of a private production, when fire razed the Taichung studio, destroying all the valuable equipment. In November, a special committee was formed to rebuild the CMPC. During the rebuilding, the company was streamlined. Three fully equipped Hollywood-standard soundstages were constructed in 1961 at Waishuangshi, on the outskirts of Taipei. Sound recording studios and a film lab were later added on the studio lot.

The following year, the CMPC, under its new General Manager Tsai Meng- chien/Cai Mengjian, began working with Japanese studios on films, including Daiei Studios’ The Great Wall/Shin shikōtei/Qin shi huang (1962, directed by Tanaka Shigeo, starring Katsu Shintarō) and Nikkatsu’s Rainbow Over Kinmen Strait/Kimumontō ni kakeru hashi/Jinmenwan fengyun (1962, directed by Matsuo Akinori, starring Ishihara Yūjirō). These “coproductions,” however, were actually produced by the Japanese, with only minor participation by some technicians and actors from the CMPC.

In 1963, James Shen, director of the Government Information Office (GIO), was concurrently assigned to be president of CMPC. He appointed his GIO assistant director, Kung Hong, as the CMPC general manager. During the reshuffle, the KMT increased the CMPC’s capital investment. Kung now had a great number of resources at his disposal. The question was, what to film? Although Kung admired Italian neorealist films, as an organ of the government, one of the CMPC’s responsibilities was to show the progress of Taiwan society. Consequently, Kung advocated a healthy realism film genre, reasoning that “one did not necessarily have to expose the dark side of society in realism; one could show in realism humanity that warmed the human heart.”

A young director, Lee Hsing, was recruited to make such films. His earlier realism film, Our Neighbor/Jietou xiangwei (1963), had greatly impressed Kung. Lee’s initial project at the CMPC was to codirect the first healthy realism film, The Oyster Girl/Ke nu (1963), with the company’s senior director Li Chia. The Mandarin film was very well received, domestically and abroad. In 1964, it won “Best Dramatic Feature” at the 1964 Film Festival in Asia. While the shooting of The Oyster Girl was still in progress, Kung asked Lee Hsing to direct the CMPC’s second healthy realism film, The Beautiful Duckling/Yangya renjia (1964). Once again, the film was successful both commercially and artistically. The quality of Taiwan films was thus recognized by Mandarin film audiences in Hong Kong and Southeast Asia. An overseas Mandarin film market was no longer only a dream for the Taiwan film industry.

Thereafter, Kung supported Lee Hsing’s idea about adapting popular Taiwan writer Chiung Yao’s romantic novels into the films – Four Loves/Wanjun biaomei (1964) and The Silent Wife/Yanu qingshen (1965), two of the earliest Chiungyao film. Box-office and critical success of the two films set off the first wave of Chiungyao film in Hong Kong and Taiwan, in the 1960s. Even Shaw Brothers and Grand Motion Picture Company (GMP), the two major production studios in Hong Kong and Taiwan at the time, could not stay out of this wave. Originally a sub-genre of wenyi pian (films based on popular romantic novels), Chiungyao film soon became a film genre in its own right, one of the most popular genres in Taiwan during the 1960s and 1970s. The image of the CMPC as a propaganda organ of the Nationalist government completely changed after Four Loves and The Silent Wife. Thus, along with Li Han-hsiang’s Grand Motion Picture Company, the CMPC was able to lead Taiwan cinema into its golden era in the 1970s. The CMPC became the undisputable leader of the Taiwan film industry until the end of the 20th century. 

In 1963, Pai Ching-jui was hired by Kung as one of the managers in charge of film project development, after he had graduated from the Centro Sperimentale di Cinematografia in Rome. Pai was deeply involved in the development, scriptwriting, and editing of healthy realism films. He codirected a historical costume epic, Fire Bulls/Huan wo heshan (1966), with Lee Hsing and Li Chia. Pai’s good work on the film earned him his solo directing debut, Lonely Seventeen/Jimo de shiqisui (1967), a wenyi pian. The film won for “Best Color Cinematography” and “Best Director” at the 1968 Golden Horse Awards, establishing his status as an important Taiwan director. Pai’s second film, Because of Love/Diliu ge meng (1968), was also successful commercially and critically. Afterwards, he ingeniously and successfully brought a commedia all'italiana style comedy to Taiwan cinema with two CMPC comedies, The Bride and I/Xinniang yu wo (1969) and Home Sweet Home/Home is Taipei/Jia zai Taibei (1970).

The variety of the CMPC productions multiplied during this period. Other than healthy realism, Chiungyao film, historical costume epic, wenyi pian, and comedy, there were also costume wenyi pian (Jade Goddess/Yu guanyin, Lee Hsing,1968), fantasy film (The Eight Immortals/Baxian duhai sao yaomo, Chen Hongmin, 1969), musicals (Stardust/Qunxinghui, Lee Hsing, 1969), etc.

Under Kung’s management, the CMPC seemed headed towards a bright future, when Lee Hsing and Pai Ching-jui suddenly decided to leave the company in 1969 because of a dispute over filmmaking ideas between Kung and the two directors. Lee and Pai founded Ta Chung Motion Picture Company, with CMPC cinematographers Lai Cheng-ying and Lin Chan-ting as well as Hu Cheng-ding, former manager of the CMPC project development department. In light of such a reshuffle of major filmmaking personnel, Kung began to promote young filmmakers, such as Liao Hsiang-hsiung, Chen Yao-chi, Liu Yi, Ting Shan-hsi, and Liu Chia-Chang. Together, they expanded the genres and subject matter of the CMPC productions. For example, Ting Shan-hsi’s The Ammunition Hunters/Luo ying xia (1971) is a wuxia pian (martial arts film) that mixes Chinese martial arts with a story about the KMT’s Northern Expedition, the Kuomintang military campaign to unify China in the late 1920s. The KMT messages were thus hidden in the entertainment. Richard Chen introduced screwball comedy to Taiwan cinema in Judy's Lucky Jacket/Wujia zhi bao (1972).

Kung Hong stepped down as general manager in October 1972, for health reasons. He was succeeded by Mei Chang-Ling, former chief of the China Film Studio. Just before Mei took office, Japan had severed diplomatic relations with Taiwan, recognizing Communist China as the only “legitimate” Chinese government, thus infuriating the Nationalists in Taiwan. Hence, Mei brought over to the CMPC a biopic project about General Chang Chih-chung/Zhang Zizhong that he had developed previously at the CFS. (Zhang was an anti-Japanese hero killed in action in 1940, during the Second Sino-Japanese War.) The film, Everlasting Glory/Yinglie qianqiu (1973), directed by Ting Shan-hsi, was welcomed by the Taiwan audience and awarded “Best Director,” “Best Screenwriting” (Ting Shan-hsi), and “Best Editing” (Wang Chin-chen) at the 1975 Film Festival in Asia.

Subsequently, Mei produced a series of anti-Japanese war films, including 800 Heroes/Babai Zhuangshi (Ting Shan-hsi, 1975,), Victory/Meihua (Liu Chia-Chang, 1975), Heroes of the Eastern Skies/Jianqiao yinglie zhuan (Chang Tseng-chai, 1976), and Spring Wind/The Operations of Spring Wind/Wan chunfeng (Hsu Chin-liang, 1977). All the films were well-received and won a slew of major prizes.

800 Heroes received “Best Dramatic Feature,” “Best Actress” (Bridget Lin), and “Special Actor” (Hsu Feng) awards at the 1976 Asia Film Festival. Victory won for Best Dramatic Feature, Screenplay (Deng Yukun), Color Cinematography (Lin Chan-ting), Sound Recording (Hsin Chiang-sheng), and Music (Liu Chia-Chang) at the 1976 Golden Horse. The following year, Heroes of the Eastern Skies won Best Dramatic Feature, Director, Screenplay (Ho Hsiao-chung), Cinematography (Lin Hung-chung), Sound Recording (Hsin Chiang-sheng), and Editing (Wang Chi-yang) awards at the Golden Horse Awards.

Mei highly valued Liu Chia-Chang’s ability, allowing him to direct and also write music for many stylized romantic music films, such as Love Begins Here/Ai de tiandi (1972), Falling Snowflakes/Xuehua pianpian (1974), Chun Chun’s Love/Chunchun de ai (1974), Prayer for Love/Shaonu de qidao (1975), A Girl’s Hope/Xiao nuer di xinyuan (1975), and others. These films attracted many adolescent girls. Other young directors also made a number of wenyi pian during Mei’s tenure at the CMPC, the most renowned being Hsu Chin-liang’s The Life God/Yun shen buzhi chu (1974), Liu Yi’s Long Way from Home/Chang qian wanlu (1975), and Richard Chen’s Didi’s Diary/Didi riji (1976).

Mei renovated the CMPC’s theaters, and built Zhenshanmei Theater, the first “art cinema,” and pioneer multi-screen cinema in Taiwan. He also aggressively established theater chains to exhibit Taiwan films in America and Hong Kong.

The CMPC’s next general manager, Ming Chi, was promoted in 1977 from his post as deputy general manager and studio head. The next year, the United States recognized the People’s Republic of China (PRC). The Nationalist government on Taiwan suddenly lost most, if not all, of its status as a recognized nation in the international community. That defining event helped promote the concept of Taiwan independence on the island. Under such circumstances, Ming Chi started to produce propagandistic features advocating a blood-relationship between Taiwan and the Mainland, in order to counter Taiwan independence movement ideology that claimed Taiwan had no connection to the PRC. These high-budget national policy films included Hsu Chin-liang’s Gone with Honor/Xiang huo (1978), Richard Chen’s The Pioneers/Yuan (1979), and Chang Pei-cheng’s A Man of Immortality/Dahu yinglie (1980). Some of the films, however, were not well-received at the box-office.

In the 1980s, to repel the PRC government’s peaceful reunification campaign, the direction of the CMPC’s national policy film shifted to exposing the chaos during the Chinese Cultural Revolution. Films made for this purpose included Pai Ching-jui’s The Coldest Winter in Peking/Huangtian houtu (1980) and Wang Tung’s Portrait of a Fanatic/Unrequited Love/Ku lian (1982), from Bai Hua’s screenplay “Unrequited Love” that was originally censored by the Communist Party of China. Other types of films produced by Ming Chi in the late 1970s and early 1980s included dramas depicting the struggles of Taiwanese youth living away from Taiwan (The Eternal Love/Yongheng de ai, Ting Shan-hsi, [1977] and A Title Re-won/A Little Reason/Jinbiao, Wang Ying [1978]), historical dramas (The Battle for the Republic of China/Xinhai shungshi, Ting Shan-hsi [1981]), dramas depicting military education (A Teacher of Great Soldiers/Huangbu jun hun, Chin Ao-hsun, [1977]), and action war adventures (Mission Over the Eagle Castle/Xie jian leng ying bao, Chin Ao-hsun [1980]), as well as an Australia- Taiwan coproduction, Attack Force Z/Z zi tegongdui (1981), directed by Tim Burstall, with Mel Gibson, John Philip Law, Sam Neill, and Taiwan star Sylvia Chang.

The most commendable thing Ming Chi did during his tenure at the CMPC, however, was hiring young novelists Hsiao Yeh and Wu Nien-Jen to develop and produce new films. Under Ming’s “newcomer policy,” they employed young novices to write and direct two portmanteau films, In Our Time/Guangyin de gushi (1982) , directed by Edward Yang, Ko I-Cheng, Chang Yi, and Tao Dechen, and The Sandwich Man/Erzih de da wan’ou (1983), directed by Hou Hsiao-hsien, Wan Jen, and Tseng Chuang-hsiang/Ceng Zhuangxiang. These films brought about what is now known as the Taiwan New Cinema movement that revitalized Taiwan’s film industry in the 1980s. Following the success of these and other films of the Taiwan New Cinema movement, such as Growing Up/Xiaobi de gushi (Chen Kun-Hou, 1983), many private production companies began to make films based on novels about native Taiwanese. Subsequently, the CMPC produced many films by young directors, which constituted the bulk of the Taiwan New Cinema films from 1982 to 1987.

The CMPC’s next general manager came from Chinese Television System (CTS), a military-affiliated television station. Obviously appointed for political reasons, Lin Deng-fei, who did not have any solid film background or film interest, had served at the CTS for 10 years as manager, then deputy general manager in charge of advertising sales before accepting his CMPC post in 1984.

In the beginning, Lin followed his predecessor’s “newcomer policy,” hiring young filmmakers to write and direct two omnibus films: The Gift of A-Fu/A fu de liwu (1985, directed by Peter Mak Tai-Kit, Law Wai-ming, and Li Chi-hua), and The Digger and The Suona Player/Yinjian xiangma chui guchui (1988, directed by Ho Ping and Daw-Ming Lee/Li Daoming). Lin also continued to produce films by Taiwan New Cinema directors, such as Osmanthus Alley/Guihua xiang (Chen Kun-Hou, 1988), as well as young director Tan Han-chang’s Rouge of the North/Yuan nu (1988).

In his three terms (six years) at the CMPC, Lin did his best to lower the risk of producing films by focusing on international coproductions and attracting capital investments from non-film enterprises. For instance, The Cave of Desire/Luo shan feng (1988, directed by Huang Yu-shan, starring Korean actress Kang Soo-yeon) was a Korea-Taiwan coproduction. However, most CMPC coproductions during this period were in cooperation with Hong Kong film companies, and were helmed mostly by Hong Kong directors: Immortal Story/Flowers of the Sea/Hai shang hua (Yonfan, 1986), Amnesty Decree/Devil and Angel/Mogui tianshi (Clifford Choi Kai-kwong, 1987), City Warriors/ Sha chu xiang gang (Wang Lung-wei, 1988), Song of the Exile/Ketu qiuhen (Ann Hui, 1989), Last Romance/Liujin suiyue (Yonfan, 1988), Lucky Star/Fu lu shuang xin (Leung Siu-wa, 1989), A Tale from the East/Manhua qixia (Manfred Wong Man-chun, 1990), A Woman and Seven Husbands/Fan mu an kao (Terry Tong Gei-ming, 1990), and The Real Me/Diexie bianyuan (Chow Wah-yu, 1990).

Lin expanded the CMPC’s sources for income, such as turning the studio backlot into a theme park, as well as building both a 4D-effect dynamic cinema and a 360-degree cinema. He partitioned huge classic older theaters, turning them into multi-screen cinemas. Lin also ventured into the videotape production and distribution business with Overseas Chinese business people. In contrast to his predecessor’s daring in allowing young filmmakers to experiment, Lin was conservative and reluctant to invest in new directors’ films. He preferred to rely on senior directors, such as Li Chia, Liu Chia-Chang, Ting Shan-hsi and Hsu Chin-liang. The reinstatement of senior directors and the discounting of young directors’ films infuriated the helmsmen of Taiwan New Cinema, Hsiao Yeh and Wu Nien-Jen, who left the CMPC under protest.

Lin Deng-fei was succeeded by Hsu Li-kong, who served first as deputy general manager, and later, general manager and vice-president of the CMPC. It was under Hsu’s command, between 1990 and 1996, that the CMPC once again gave another generation of young filmmakers a chance to prove themselves. The line-up of “Second New Wave” directors, included Ang Lee, Tsai Ming-liang, Chen Kuo-fu, Lin Cheng-sheng, Wang Shau-Di, Yee Chi-yen, and Chen Yu-hsun. During this period, films produced by the CMPC won many awards at international film festivals: “Special Jury Prize” at Tokyo Film Festival and “Best Dramatic Feature” at Asia-Pacific Film Festival for Edward Yang’s A Brighter Summer Day/Gulingjie shaonian sharen shihjian (1991), “Best Dramatic Feature” at Asia-Pacific Film Festival for Ang Lee’s Pushing Hands/Tui shou (1991), “Bronze Sakura Award for Young Director” at Tokyo Film Festival for Tsai Ming-liang’s Rebels of the Neon God (1992), “Best Film” at Shanghai Film Festival for Wang Tung’s Hill of No Return/Wuyan de shanciou (1992), “Golden Bear for Best Film” at the Berlinale for Ang Lee’s The Wedding Banquet/Xi yan (1992) and nominations for “Best Foreign Film” at both the Academy Awards and the Golden Globes for his Eat, Drink, Man, Woman/Yinshi Nannu (1994), “Golden Lion for Best Film” at the Venice Film Festival for Tsai Ming-liang’s Vive L’Amour/Aicing wansuei (1994). Meanwhile, the CMPC developed into an internationally-recognized production company, and Hsu Li-kong became a well-known producer due to the excellent box-office take and international critical success of The Wedding Banquet and Eat, Drink, Man, Woman.

After Chiu Shun-ching, the next general manager, took his post in 1996, the CMPC’s approach once again shifted back to the previous policy of Lin Deng-fei’s, i.e., sharing production costs and reducing risk by coproducing films with private Taiwan and foreign film companies. The CMPC invested in films made by senior directors, for example, Chin Ao-hsun’s Top Gear/Xiaozu Zhanjiang (1999) and the Last Salute/Baogao Zongsiling (2001). It also invested in films produced by former General Manager Hsu Li-kong’s own company, Zoom Hunt International Productions, such as: The Personals/Zhenghun qishi (Chen Kuo-fu, 1998), Love Go Go/Aiqing lai le (Chen Yu-hsun, 1997), Murmur of Youth/Meili zai changge (Lin Cheng-sheng, 1997), Fleeing by Night/Ye ben (Hsu Li-kong and Yin Chi, 2000), and Migratory Bird/Houniao (Ding Ya-min, 2001).

Since 1998, the CMPC has also been involved in producing television drama series, including a coproduction with Zoom Hunt, April Rhapsody/Renjian siyui tian (Ding Ya-min, 2000). In 1999, in celebration of its 45th anniversary, the  CMPC produced four films with its own financing: Bad Girl Trilogy/E nu lie zhuan (1999, directed by Chan Ying-yu, Lin Jing-jie, and Wen Yao-ting), Cop Abula/Tiaozi abula (1999, directed by Ang Lee’s younger brother, Lee Khan), Lament of the Sand River/Shahe beige (Chang Chi-yung, 2000), and Hidden Whisper/Xiao bai wu jinji (Vivian Chang, 2000).

The CMPC also coproduced three films with foreign film companies. Shadow Magic/Xiyang jing (1999, directed by Chinese female director Hu Ann), about the arrival of movies in China, was made in the PRC with money from Taiwan’s CMPC, and film companies from China, America, and Germany. Red Letter/Ang Yee: Luuk chaai phan mangkawn/Hong zi (2000, codirected by Thai director Nopporn Vatin and the CMPC director Lee You-ning), an action film, was coproduced with Thailand’s Five Star Productions. A Chance to Die/Genjitsu no Tsuzuki Yume no Owari/Xiang si chen xianzai (Chen Yi-wen, 2000) was coproduced with a Japanese company, Team Okuyama, in association with Taiwan’s City Films, and distributed by a Japanese film company.

However, after 2000, the CMPC steadily declined. To survive, Chiu tried hard to reduce expenditures and find new financial resources. Film productions continued, notwithstanding the difficulties. Films made during this period include Wang Tung’s A Way We Go/Zihyou menshen (2001), Wu Mi-sen’s Drop Me a Cat/Gei wo yizhi mao (2002), Chou Yan-tse’s Be My Valentine/Eryue shisi (2002), Lin Cheng-sheng’s Crusoe’s Robinson/Lubinxun piaoliu ji (2002) and The Moon Also Rises/Yueguang xia wo ji de (2004), Yin Chi’s Comes the Black Dog/Heigou lai le (2003), and Wu Hung-hsiang’s The Song of Spirits/Xinling zhi ge, made in 2003, but not shown until 2006.

In 2003, the Legislative Yuan of the ROC government revised the Radio and Television Act to stipulate that the government and political parties, as well as foundations established or commissioned by them, are not allowed to invest directly or indirectly in privately operated radio, television, and film companies. To abide by this new law, the Nationalist Party/KMT finally disposed of its film, radio, and television businesses before the deadline of 24 December 2005.

The CMPC was sold to the China Times Group, publisher of China Times, one of the major Taiwan newspapers, in a package deal that also included China Television Company (CTV) and Broadcasting Corporation of China (BCC). This marked the end of the KMT’s control over the Central Motion Picture Corporation. The CMPC was now a privately owned film production company.

In April 2006, the China Times Group sold the CMPC to Kuo Tai-chiang, president of Foxlink/Cheng Uei Precision Industry, a major electronics company that makes key parts for the Apple Tablet and iPhone. However, the CMPC’s business had been halted for a number of years, due to a serious legal battle among shareholders over the right to operate the company. In 2009, Kuo was finally able to become president of the new film company, which was once renamed Central Picture Corporation (CPC). The company (now resumes its English name, CMPC) resumed film production and exhibition in 2010. More than three films were released in 2011, including the long-awaited Aborigine epic, Warriors of the Rainbow: Seediq Bale/Saideke balai, directed by Cape No. 7’s Wei Te-Sheng, which is partially funded by the CMPC; a sport film, Jump Ashin!/Fangun ba axin, directed by Lin Yu-Hsien, based on his documentary on the interesting life of his elder brother, a gymnastics coach; and Pick the Youth/Pi ke qingchun, directed by novice director Chen Ta-pu.  See also CHANG MEI-YAO; CHEN CHEN; CHIN HAN ; CHINESE TAIPEI FILM ARCHIVE ; CHRISTOPHER DOYLE; GAY AND LESBIAN FILMS; KO CHUN-HSIUNG; LANG HSIUNG; LEE PING-BIN; LIAO CHING-SONG; MIAO TIEN; NATIVIST FILMS; OU WEI; PAN LEI; TANG KWONG WING; TU DUU- CHIH; WOMEN AND FILMS.




CHANG, CHEH (Zhang Che, Zhang Yiyang) (1923-2002). Born on 28 January 1923 in Hangzhou, Zhejiang Province, China to a warlord family, Chang Cheh/Zhang Che (real name Chang Yi-Yang/Zhang Yiyang) grew up in Shanghai. After junior high school, Chang left home to study in Chungking/Chongqing, where the Nationalist government was in exile, to participate in the anti-Japanese war efforts. Chang Cheh was admitted to the Department of Politics, National Central University in Chungking, but later dropped out to join a social education organization. Before the end of World War II, Chang joined the Culture Movement Committee (CMC), a bureau of the central government, and was appointed commissioner. After the war, he returned to Shanghai, and was appointed secretary of the new Shanghai Branch of the CMC, which was in charge of the KMT’s Cultural Hall, where films were screened when there were no meetings. Through such screenings, Chang began his association with the Shanghai film industry and started writing screenplays.

When the Civil War between the Chinese Communists and Nationalists worsened, Chang was commissioned by the head of Guotai Motion Pictures to bring film equipment, staff, and some capital to Taiwan to make a film there as well as to prepare for possible relocation of the company. Chang agreed to codirect Storm Over Alishan Mountain/Happenings in Alishan/Alishan fengyun, based on a script he had written earlier, and went to Taiwan in January 1949 with Chang Ying/Zhang Ying, a staff director at Guotai. When the KMT finally lost the war and moved its Nationalist government to Taiwan, Chang and his group were stranded there. After the completion of the film in 1950, Chang Cheh returned the film equipment to Hsu Hsin-fu/Xu Xinfu, a veteran director and Guotai’s Taiwan representative.

Chang Cheh met Chiang Ching-kuo, son of Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek, who was establishing a political surveillance department in the military to monitor the ideology and loyalty of officers and soldiers. At the time, there was also a power struggle between Chiang’s son and Madam Chiang Kai-shek. Chiang Ching-kuo recognized the worth of Chang Cheh and appointed Chang his personal secretary and later commissioner of the General Political Warfare Bureau (with the rank of colonel). Despite his busy schedule as commissioner, Chang still managed to write two screenplays, both for Hsu Hsin-fu, the executive producer of Storm Over Alishan Mountain. When the political power struggle became uglier in both the Bureau and the KMT, Chang Cheh decided to leave Taiwan for Hong Kong, under the pretext of directing a film at the invitation of Hong Kong actor-producer Helen Li Mei. After getting Chiang Ching-kuo’s approval to leave, Chang arrived in Hong Kong in 1957. However, due to unpleasant circumstances involving slanders about his integrity as a film director, Chang left Wild Fire/Yehuo (Chang Cheh, Helen Li Mei, and Yuan Chiu-feng, 1957) in the middle of production.

Chang made a living writing essays, wuxia stories, and film criticism for newspapers. His film criticisms caught the attention of the film industry. He wrote the screenplay for Tragic Melody/Taohua lei (Lo Wei, 1960), starring Lucilla You Min, who was obviously impressed with his talent and asked the Motion Pictures and General Investment Co. Ltd. (MP&GI) to invite Chang to write films that she could star in. Chang signed a one-year contract with MP & GI. Afterwards, Chang accepted Shaw Brothers’ offer to become their “chief writer,” heading the script department.

Shaw Brothers’ The Butterfly Chalice/Hudie bei, a huangmei diao film, was Chang’s directorial debut there, though he did not particularly like the film. (It was made in 1963, but was not released until 1965.) Before his phenomenal success with One-Armed Swordsman/Du bi dao (1967), Chang Cheh made three martial arts wuxia pian, in which he experimented with use of the camera and choreographed action as well as training the actors and martial arts directors. One-Armed Swordsman was hailed as a milestone in new-style wuxia pian, making Chang a “million-dollar director,” which inspired his ambition to lift the artistic level of wuxia pian. The Golden Swallow/Jin yanzi (1968) marked the peak of wuxia pian. Based on the main character from King Hu’s Come Drink with Me (1966), the film was shot on location in Japan by Japanese cinematographer Miyaki Yukio (aka Kung Mu-To/Gong Muduo).

Chang made 10 period wuxia pians in the 1960s, before his transition to the Early Republic action film genre (kung fu film). One of the first films in the subgenre, Vengeance!/Baochou (1970) won Chang “Best Director” and actor John (David) Chiang “Best Actor” at the Asia Film Festival in 1970. Bruce Lee’s Fists of Fury/The Big Boss/Tangshan da xion (Lo Wei, 1971) and The Chinese Connection/Jing wu men (Lo Wei, 1972) were obviously influenced by Vengeance!

The many subsequent films that imitated his Early Republic action films soon forced Chang to switch back to a period action drama, The Blood Brothers/ Dynasty of Blood/Chinese Vengeance/Ci ma (1973). From then on, Chang Cheh’s films alternated between the subgenres of Early Republic action film and period (mainly Qing Dynasty) action drama (wuxia pian and kung fu film), with occasionally excursions into contemporary action drama. In 1974, Chang began making his Shaolin kung fu series, including Heroes Two/Fang shiyu yu hong xiguan (1974), Men from the Monastery/Shaolin zidi (1974), Five Shaolin Masters/Shaolin wu zu (1974), and Shaolin Martial Arts/Hong quan yu yong chun (1974).

It was about this time that Chang Cheh established Chang’s Film Company. The Company was based in Taiwan because it needed to utilize the capital earned from distribution of Shaw Brothers films that could not be legally sent back to Hong Kong due to the Nationalist government regulations. Chang planned to use the money to make films in Taiwan, which would then be distributed by Shaw Brothers. On the one hand, having his own company gave Chang more creative freedom; on the other hand, he took more risk by being responsible for going over-budget. Five Shaolin Masters was the first film of Chang’s Film Company, made in Taiwan. The most important film during this period was Disciples of Shaolin/Hongquan xiaozi (1975), starring Alexander Fu Sheng, which established the xiaozi (brat) series and influenced Jackie Chan’s Drunken Master/Zui quan (Yuen Woo-ping, 1978). Chang Cheh also made several mixed genre films in his short stay in Taiwan between 1974 and 1976, including period fantasy action, period historical martial arts kung fu, and war films.

At the same time Chang was in Taiwan, Chiang Kai-shek had just died and his son, Chiang Ching-kuo, was consolidating his status as the de-facto head of the KMT, the military, and the government. Chang’s timely presence in Taiwan and his friendship with Chiang Ching-kuo made some of Chiang’s subordinates uneasy, fearing for Chang’s possible re-joining Chiang’s inner circle. Thus, when Chang made Boxer Rebellion/Pa kuo lien chun (1976), political interference from these subordinates used the excuse that the subject of the film was an insult to the national dignity and forced Chang to substantially reedit his original version before releasing the film in Taiwan, causing the box-office of the disunited film to be much lower than expected (see CENSORSHIP). The film was also banned in Hong Kong. To pass censorship, Shaw Brothers had to edit out scenes depicting either the allied forces or the Boxers and change the title to Spiritual Fists/Shen quan san zhuangshi, making the film total nonsense.

At the time, Chang was not only trusted by Shaw Brothers, he was also financed by a young producer in Taiwan. Despite poor returns from the producer’s investment in Boxer Rebellion, he continued his support of Chang to make other films in Taiwan. Alerted by the situation, and weighing the complex political conditions, Run Run Shaw, president of Shaw Brothers, came to Taiwan in 1976 and successfully persuaded Chang Cheh to go back to work directly under Shaw Brothers in Hong Kong.

Chang’s important films after returning to Shaw Brothers included The Brave Archer/She diao yingxiong zhuan (1977) and Legend of the Fox/Fei hu wai zhuan (1980), two adaptations from Jin Yong/Louis Cha/Cha Liang-Yung/Zha Liangyong’s popular wuxia novels. The Five Venoms/Wu du (1978) and Crippled Avengers/Canque (1978) are also impressive works from this period.

In 1983, during the depression in the Hong Kong film industry, Chang Cheh left Shaw Brothers once again to form his second company, Chang He Motion Pictures Company. He made three films in Taiwan, and one each in Thailand and New York before moving to China where he made six films, all coproductions with Chinese film studios. Chang said that through these coproductions, he contributed to training Chinese talent, including cinematographers and assistant directors, in making action films.

Throughout Chang’s nearly 30-year career as a film director, he was best known for the ensembles of male actors appearing in his action films. Between 1966 and 1981 there were four such groups (or fighting teams): Jimmy Wang Yu, Lo Lieh and/or Tien Feng (1966-1969); John (David) Chiang, Ti Lung, Chan Koon-tai and/or Wang Chung (1969-1976); Alexander Fu Sheng, Chik Kun-kwan (1974-1978); Kuo Chui, Sun Chien, Lo Meng, Chiang Sheng, and Lu Feng (1978-1981).

Chang used several martial arts directors after 1968. The first generation (1968-1975) included Tong Kai, Yuen Cheung-yan, Lau Kar-leung, and Lau Kar-wing; the second generation (1975-1977), Xie Xing and Chen Xinyi; the third generation (1978-1982), Leung Ting, Dai Qixian, Chu Lufeng (aka Lu Feng), Chiang Sheng, Kuo Chui, Zhu Ke, and Ching Tien-chee.

Chang Cheh’s relationship with Taiwan was mostly tied to his relationship with the Nationalist Party. Before going to China in 1985, to extend his film career, Chang remained loyal to the Nationalist government, even though he was not a party member. Nevertheless, the attraction of the market in Mainland China was too strong to resist. Like Li Han-hsiang before him, Chang was blacklisted by the Nationalist government until 1992. His contributions to Taiwan cinema were not regarded as great as Li Han-hsiang. In contrast, his achievements in Hong Kong cinema were recognized and respected, for which Chang was given a “Life Achievement” award at the 2002 Hong Kong Film Awards. Two months after the ceremony, Chang Cheh passed away in Hong Kong. See also ABORIGINES AND FILM; CHINA FILM STUDIO; MANDARIN FILM; TSAI, YANG-MING.


CHANG, CHEN (Zhang Zhen) (1976- ). Actor Chang Chen was born on 14 October 1976 in Taipei into a family of actors. His father, Chang Kuo-Chu/Zhang Guozhu, and elder brother, Chang Han/Zhang Han, are both actors. He made a cameo appearance in Fred Tan Han-chang’s Dark Night/An ye (1986), in which his father played the lead role. At the age of 14, Chang Chen started his acting career when he was cast by Edward Yang to play the lead role in A Brighter Summer Day/Gulingjie shaonian sharen shijian (1991), in which his real father played the character’s father. His fine performance was nominated for “Best Actor” at the 1991 Golden Horse Awards, a great honor for someone so young.

Chang subsequently appeared in Edward Yang’s Mahjong/Shake and Bake/ Majiang (1996), attracting the attention of Hong Kong director Wong Kar-Wai, who chose him for a role in Happy Together/Chunguang zhaxie (1997), starring the late Leslie Cheung and Tony Leung Chiu-Wai. He was also selected by Ang Lee to play a supporting role in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon/Wo hu cang long (2000).

Chang Chen played the leading role in Taiwan director Chin Kuo-chao/Jin Guozhao’s directorial debut, Flying Dance/Diyici de qinmi jiechu (2000), costarring Shu Qi and Hong Kong star Jordan Chan Siu-Chun/Chen Xiaochun. Chang would act with Shu Qi again in Hou Hsiao-hsien’s Three Times/Zui hao de shiguang (2005).

So far, in Chang’s acting career, he has been fortunate to work with some of the best directors in Taiwan, Hong Kong, and China, including Wong Kar-Wai (2046 [2004], Eros [2004], and The Grandmasters/Legend of Yip Man [2012?]), Lin Cheng-sheng (Betelnut Beauty [2001]), Jeffrey Lau Chun-Wai/Liu Zhenwei (Chinese Odyssey 2002 [2002]), Tian Zhuangzhuang (The Go Master/Wu Qingyuan [2006]), Su Chao-Pin/Su Zhaobin (Silk/Gui si [2006]), Chung Mong- Hong/Zhong Menghong (Parking [2008]), John Woo (Red Cliff [2008] and Pacific Steamer/Sheng si lian [2012]), Tsui Hark (Missing/Shenhai xunren [2008]), Kam Kwok-Leung (Love Island [2010]), Lu Chuan (The Last Super/Wang de shengyan [2011]), Frankie Chan Fan-Kei (The Legendary Amazons/Yang men nujiang [2011]), and Hou Hsiao-hsien (The Hidden Heroine/The Assassin/Nie yin niang [2012?]).

In addition, in 2007, Chang Chen acted in both internationally renowned Korean director Kim Ki-duk’s Breath/Soom and Japanese director Yukisada Isao’s Into the Faraway Sky/Toku no sora ni kieta.

Chang Chen has been nominated for “Best Actor” or “Best Supporting Actor” in several film festivals, including the Golden Horse. His first “Best Actor” award was for his performance in The Go Master, presented at the Osaka Film Festival in Japan.


CHANG, MEI-YAO (Zhang Meiyao, Zhang Fuqi) (1941- ). Prolific talented actress and star in the 1960s and 1970s, Chang Mei-Yao/Zhang Meiyao was born 1941 in Puli, Nantou County, central Taiwan. Her original name was Chang Fu-Chi/Zhang Fuqi. In 1957, she joined Yufeng Pictures, established by Lin Tuan-Chiu, who cast her in all the films he wrote and directed, including Brother Asan Running for Election/Asan ge chu ma (1959), A Sigh for Prostitutes/Tan yanhua (1959), An Intricate Love Affair/Cuo lian (1960), and another unfinished Taiwanese-dialect film. The founding of Yufeng Pictures was untimely, as the market for Taiwanese- dialect films crashed in 1959. All of Lin’s films failed at the box office, forcing him to discontinue production.

Subsequently, Chang Mei-Yao worked for an advertising agency as a radio broadcaster and calendar girl, which caught the attention of Long Fang (Peter F. Long), director of Taiwan Film Studio (TFS), who signed Chang as a studio actor in 1962. Chang’s first appearance in a Mandarin film was in the TFS’s No Greater Love/Wu feng (Bu Wancang, 1962), a national policy film advocating and providing a rationale for the Nationalist government’s assimilation policy toward the Aborigines. Chang’s appearance in this early color film attracted a great deal of audience attention, and she was selected as one of the top ten stars of Taiwan cinema in 1964.

Subsequently, the TFS “loaned out” Chang to Hong Kong’s Motion Pictures and General Investment Co. Ltd. (MP&GI), to star in a spy-war film, Four Brave Ones/Diehai si zhungshi (Tang Huang and Wang Liuzhao, 1963); a costume epic, The Imperial Lady/Xitaihou yu zhenfei (Evan Yang/Yi Wen, 1964); and second war film, The Crisis/Land of the Brave/Sheng si guantou (Yi Wen, 1964). Afterward, she starred in An Unseen Triggerman/Leibao fengyun (Li Chia, 1964), yet another war film, coproduced by the Nationalist-owned Central Motion Picture Corporation (CMPC) and the TFS.

In 1962, when Peter Long Fang signed a contract with Japan’s famed Toho Company, Ltd. to coproduce four films, the TFS agreed to provide actors and crews for the first two. Thus, Chang Mei-Yao, who had become the top actress at the TFS, was given 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), as well as doing a cameo appearance in We Will Remember/Senjo ni nagaseru uta (Matsuyama Zenzo, 1965), a war drama.

After returning from Japan, Chang was cast in the CMPC’s Bridge/Qiao (Chang Tseng-chai, 1966), in which she played opposite star Ko Chun-hsiung. The two became lovers between 1966 and 1971, when she married Ko and quit the film business.

Chang Mei-Yao starred in over 25 films, from a great many different genres, including: Chiungyao film (Her Puzzle/Chun gui he chu [1967], directed by Chou Hsu-Chiang, costarring Ko Chun-hsiung); national policy film (Men of the Skies/Zhuangzhi ling yun [1967], costarring Ko, produced by China Film Studio, owned and operated by the military, and Call of the Mountain/Lishan chun xiao [1967], again costarring Ko, produced by the TFS ); melodrama (Fallen Petals/ Luo hua shijie [1968], directed by Pan Lei, produced by Shaw Brothers, and The Wolf and the Angel/Lang yu tianshi [1968], codirected by Pan Lei and Tang Qian/Yuasa Namio); martial arts wuxia pian (Greatest Fight/Qing long zhen [1968], directed by Li Chia); spy-thriller (Storm over the Yangtse River/An Inch of Ground, an Inch of Blood/Yicun shanhe yicun xie [1969], directed by Li Han- hsiang); ghost-fantasy (Man, Ghost, Fox/Ren gui hu [1969], directed by Chou Hsu-Chiang); melodramatic wenyi pian (The Melody of Love/Qingren de yanlei [1969], directed by Lee Hsing); and ghost-horror (The Enchanting Ghost/Guiwu liren [1970], directed by Chou Hsu-Chiang).

Chang’s last films before retiring were produced by Ta Chung Motion Picture Company, founded by directors Lee Hsing, Pai Ching-jui, and others. Chang starred in Pai’s most ambitious film, Goodbye Darling/Zaijian alang (1970), in which she appeared with Ko Chun-hsiung, who played a reckless hoodlum, Ah Lang, one of the most memorable characters in Taiwan cinema. Afterward, Chang starred in two films by Lee Hsing – Life with Mother/Mu yu nu (1971), a family drama, and Love Style XYZ/Aiqing yi er san (1971), a romantic melodrama consisted of three shorts. In both films she played opposite Ou Wei, a good friend and rivals of Ko Chun-hsiung.

Chang married Ko in 1970. She gave birth to two daughters, but her married life was not happy. She was separated from Ko for nearly three decades, until they finally agreed to divorce in early 2000s. During her retirement, Chang only appeared briefly in Liu Chia-Chang’s two films – Taipei 77 (1977), a musical, and A Teacher of Great Soldiers/Huangbu junhun (1978), a national policy film produced by the CMPC. She reemerged in 2002 to perform in television drama series. Her performances were nominated several times for Golden Bell Television Awards. In 2008, she played a supporting role in director Chung Mong-Hong/Zhong Menghong’s debut feature, Parking/Ting che (2008).


CHANG, SYLVIA AI-CHIA (Zhang Aijia) (1953- ). A versatile personality active in the entertainment world in Hong Kong and Taiwan as film and TV director, actor, writer, producer, television personality, program producer, and singer, among many other professions, Sylvia Chang Ai-chia was born on 22 July 1953 to a Mainlander family living in Chiayi/Jiayi in central Taiwan. Chang’s father, an Air Force officer, was killed in a military exercise when Chang was one year old. After that, she moved to Taipei with her mother and brother. Her maternal grandfather was a former minister of the Government Information Office (GIO).

Chang began her career as a singer in high school, first in radio and later on television. After graduating from the Taipei American School, she went to study for three years at a university in the United States. Afterward, she went to Hong Kong to pursue a career in television and film. Her debut as an actress was a kung fu film, The Tattooed Dragon/Long hu jingang (Lo Wei, 1973). Her next kung fu movie, The Flying Tiger/Feihu xiao bawang (Tong Sang, 1973), was made in Taiwan, but was banned there for 10 years because of its violent scenes.

Chang worked briefly for Golden Harvest Film Company, famous for the films of Bruce Lee and Jackie Chan, and appeared in its two action films made in America, Back Alley Princess in Chinatown/Chinatown Capers/Xiao yingxiong danao tangrenjie (Lo Wei, 1974) and Slaughter in San Francisco/ Karate Cop/ Yellow Faced Tiger/Huang mian laohu (Lo Wei, 1974). She then acted in another two action films, directed by Ting Shan-hsi for producer Huang Cho-han/Wong Cheuk-Hon’s First Film Production, before returning to Taiwan to star in Chiungyao film and other romantic wenyi pian. Her performance in Posterity and Perplexity/Bi yun tian (Lee Hsing, 1976) won “Best Supporting Actress” at the 1976 Golden Horse Awards and a special award at the Film Festival in Asia. Chang also appeared in several national policy films in the 1970s, including Victory/Meihua (Liu Chia-Chang, 1975), and 800 Heroes/Babai Zhuangshi (Ting Shan-hsi, 1975).

Sylvia Chang went to America briefly to study acting and also studied acting under Li Han-hsiang when she was cast in Li’s huangmei diao film, The Dream of the Red Chamber/Jinyu liangyuan honglou meng (1977), in which Chang played Lin Tai-Yu/Lin Daiyu opposite Brigitte Lin’s Chia Pao-Yu/Jia Baoyu. She appeared in an episode of the popular American television series M*A*S*H, titled Ain’t Love Grand (Mike Farrell, 1979), before being cast in King Hu’s Legend of the Mountain/Shan zhong chuanqi (1979). During the making of the film, Chang learned techniques of writing, directing, and editing from Hu.

Despite a successful career in film acting, Chang continued to pursue her singing career. She funded a record company in Hong Kong in the late 1970s, putting out several popular records. In the early 1980s, she also founded a film company with Selina Chow and others, Unique Films Ltd., to produce films for Hong Kong New Wave directors, such as Crazy Disaster/The Secret/Feng jie (Ann Hui, 1979), in which Chang also starred.

In 1981, Sylvia Chang returned to Taiwan to become a television drama producer for Taiwan Television (TTV), where she created an 11-episode dramatic TV mini-series, Eleven Women. Edward Yang started his directing career in the series, with Floating Weeds/Fuping, a two-part TV drama exploring female emotions. The series was originally conceived as a testing ground for young novice directors, similar to what Commercial Television (CTV) and Radio Television Hong Kong (RTHK) mini-series drama did 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/Guangyin de gushi in 1984, the Central Motion Picture Corporation (CMPC) film said to started Taiwan New Wave movement. Some veteran directors, such as Sung Chun-Shou, also directed episodes in the series..

In 1983, Chang’s acting and producing achievements won her the position of Taiwan Supervising Director of Cinema City & Films Company (Cinema City Enterprises), producing many successful box-office films, such as Cabaret Tears/Taishang taixia (Lin Ching-chieh, 1983). During this period, Chang coproduced two films with the CMPC that she also starred in – Edward Yang’s That Day on the Beach/Haitan de yitian (1983) and Ko I-Cheng’s Kidnapped/Dai jian de xiaohai (1983), both from Taiwan New Cinema directors she had previously worked with in her television drama series Eleven Women. However, Chang’s role as supervising director was too much of a physical burden for her. She soon resigned and returned to acting and directing.

Sylvia Chang’s directorial debut film, Once Upon a Time/Mou nian mou yue mou yitian/Jiu meng bu xu ji (1981), was actually completed for director Tu Chung-Hsun, who died in a car accident during production. Chang was disappointed with the film and did not direct again for six years.

As actress in her own directorial work, Passion/Jui ai (1986), a romantic film, won Chang “Best Actress” (and Hong Kong actress Cora Miao, “Best Supporting Actress”) at the Golden Horse, as well as “Best Actress” and “Best Original Film Song” at the 1987 Hong Kong Film Awards. Chang’s next film, The Game They Called Sex/Huangse gushi (1987), was a portmanteau film which she starred in and codirected with Wang Shau-Di and Ching Kuo-chao/Jin Guozhao.

After the 1990s, Sylvia Chang concentrated on directing, but still appeared in other directors’ films, such as Ang Lee’s Eat Drink Man Woman/Yin shi nan nu (1994) and Derek Yee Tung-Sing’s C’est La Vie, Mon Chéri/Xin bu liao qing (1993). Many of the films she directed were entertaining comedy that also, at the same time, delivered feminist messages. These included, Sisters of the World Unite/Shasha Jiajia zhan qi lai (1991, codirected with Tsui Maisy), Conjugal Affairs/In Between/The New Age of Living Together/Xin tongji shidai (1994, codirected with Chiu Leung-Chun and Yonfan), Tonight Nobody Goes Home/Jintian bu huijia (1996), and 20.30.40 (2004).

Some of the other films she directed were “serious” drama, dealing with the human dilemma, such as Awakening/Meng xing shifen (1992), about a Mainland Chinese woman awakened from her dream of getting a Hong Kong identity card and marrying a Hong Kong jeweler; Siao Yu/Shaonu xiaoyu (1995), originally to be directed by Ang Lee, about another young woman awakened from her dream about getting an ID card – this time a Green Card – to live and work legally in America. Afterward, Chang directed many romantic films, including Tempting Heart/Xing dong (1999), a story about first love, and Princess D/Xiang fei (2002), a sci-fi romance, codirected with Alan Yuen. Sylvia Chang’s more recent film, Run Papa Run/Yi ge hao baba (2008), a bit different from her past films, depicts a Triad gang father who tries to hide his real life from his daughter.

Sylvia Chang has been cast in many international productions and coproductions. Besides M*A*S*H, she appeared in Attack Force Z/ Z zi tegongdui (1981), an Australia-Taiwan coproduction war film, directed by Tim Burstall, with Mel Gibson, John Philip Law, and Sam Neill; Soursweet (1988), a British feature drama, directed by Mike Newell, with Danny Dun and Jodi Long; Killer Lady (1995), an American thriller, directed by Cheung Ren-Jie, with Melissa Sue Anderson and Mariel Hemingway; The Fragile Heart (1996), a British television drama series, directed by Patrick Lau, with Dearbhla Molloy, Hellen McCrory, and Marian McLoughlin; The Red Violin/Le violon rouge (1998), a Canadian drama, directed by François Girard, with Carlo Cecchi, Jean-Luc Bideau, and Christoph Koncz; and American Fusion (2005), an American independent romantic-comedy, directed by Frank Lin, with Esai Marales and Collin Chou.

Sylvia Chang is best remembered by audiences in Hong Kong for her role as Superintendent Nancy Ho, a tomboyish inspector, playing opposite Karl Maka and Sam Hui in the madcap Aces Go Places/Mad Mission/Zuijia paidang (Eric Tsang Chi-Wai, 1982) and its three sequels. Chang has won many awards, including two for “Best Actress” at the Golden Horse, two for “Best Actress” and one for “Best Screenplay” (shared with Cat Kwan) at the Hong Kong Film Awards, one for “Best Film” and two for “Best Screenplay” (one shared with Ang Lee, the other with Ang Lee’s younger brother Lee Khan) at the Asia-Pacific Film Festival. Her 20.30.40 was selected into competition at the 2004 Berlinale. Throughout her nearly 40-year filmmaking career, Sylvia Chang has made more than 100 films, working in numerous creative capacities.

Chang Ai-chia’s achievements in acting have been recognized since the late 1980s. The National Theater in London held a retrospective of her films and television dramas in 1987. The 1992 Toronto Film Festival did a special showcase featuring her films, showing a dozen of them. She was also invited in the same year, separately, by the Toronto and Berlin Film Festivals, to be a member of their juries. In 2004, the Hong Kong Film Archives held a retrospective of Chang’s career, “A Tribute to Sylvia Chang,” showcasing 13 of Chang’s works. See also WOMEN AND FILMS.


CHANG, TSENG-CHAI (Zhang Zenze) (1931-2010). Born in 1931 in Qingdao, Shandong Province in China, Chang Tseng-chai/Zhang Zenze graduated from the Political Warfare Cadres Academy in the early 1950s, and became a theater director in the military. He was admitted into the military-owned China Film Studio (CFS) in the mid-1950s, where he worked for 13 years, first as film editor on over 200 films, then as script supervisor, assistant director, and finally, director of more than 20 military educational films and documentariy films.

After the resurgence of Taiwanese-dialect films in the 1960s, Chang made several such films, including Maiden/Zai shi nu (1961), Desire of an Orphan/Gunu de yuanwang (1962), and A Real Man is One Who is Afraid of His Wife/Jin mou dazhangfu (1963). In 1962, he directed his first Mandarin film, Love and Hate on the Ranch/Muye enchou (1962) for the CFS, attracting the attention of Li Han-hsiang, who invited Chang to be a contract director at Li’s Grand Motion Picture Company.

Chang Tseng-chai made Dodder Flower/Tu si hua (1965), a Chiungyao film. The film was relatively successful commercially, but received mixed reviews critically. Actually, Chang was better at making films about rugged subjects, such as From the Highway/Luke yu daoke (1969), a martial arts action film, and Heroes of the Eastern Skies/Jianqiao yinlie zhuan (1975), a war-adventure film.

After Dodder Flower, Chang went back to China Film Studio to direct Hometown Plunders/The Country Calamity/Guxiang jie (1966), an anti- communist national policy film about the aftermath of the “Three Red Banners” movement in Mainland China during the 1950s. The film built up Chang’s status as a Mandarin film director. Subsequently, Chang made Bridge/Qiao (1966) for a privately owned company, and two films for Nationalist-owned Central Motion Picture Corporation (CMPC), Years of Joy and Sorrow/Beihuan suiyue (1967) and Coral Forever/Shanhu (1968), all three melodramatic wenyi pian.

In 1969, Chang started working for the Cathay Organisation (Hong Kong) in Taiwan, writing and directing Blues in the Dream/Lanse de meng (1969), a wenyi pian, and From the Highway, a martial arts film, a genre rarely made by Cathay. He then directed another wuxia martial arts action film, Redbeard/Hong huzi (1971), for Shaw Brothers, Cathay’s archrival in Hong Kong. Though the box-office for Redbeard was not satisfactory, the artistic achievements of the film convinced Shaw Brothers to allow Chang to direct six films in three years for them, including two kung fu films The Fugitive/Wangming tu (1972) and Rival of Fury/Drug Gang/Jianghu xing (1973); three gambling films – The Casino/ Jixiang dufang (1972), Gambling Syndicate/eba (1975), and Queen Hustler/Da laoqian (1975); and a wenyi pian, based on popular Hong Kong novelist John Yip/Yi Da’s book, Sex for Sale/Mianju (1974), banned in Taiwan due to its homosexual content (see CENSORSHIP; GAY AND LESBIAN FILMS). Chang then established his own company and collaborated with Yi Da once again for Bar Girl/Jiuba nulang (1975).

Chang returned to Taiwan in 1975 to direct Heroes of the Eastern Skies for the CMPC. The war-adventure film is one of the anti-Japanese films made by the Nationalist-affiliated film studio, after Taiwan was thrown out of the United Nations in 1971 and Japan severed its diplomatic ties with the KMT government in 1972. Chang would make another such national policy film, The Battle of Kuningtou/The Battle of Guningtou/Guningtou dazhan (1979), for China Film Studio several years later. He also made Heroes from the Sky/Tian jiang shen bing (1981), a film about coming-of-age as a military cadet during military education, written by Hsiao Yeh. The film was produced by Chang’s own company, which had also produced several of Chang’s “commercial” films, such as The Perils of Chu Lao-San/Zhu laosan xiaotan (1979), a period comedy, and Tiger Force Baby Soldiers/Laohu budui baobei bing (1981), a comedy about military training, one of the popular subgenres in Taiwan since Hsiao Yeh had written the screenplay for Off to Success/Chenggong ling shang (Chang Pei-cheng, 1979).

When the film industries in Hong Kong and Taiwan began their downturn in the early 1980s, Chang Tseng-chai moved into producing television drama series as well as single-episode dramas. He won “Best Director” at the Golden Bell Awards for television programs in 1988. He also won “Best Director” twice at the Golden Horse Awards, for From the Highway and Heroes of the Eastern Skies. The latter was also awarded for “Best Film,” “Best Screenplay” (Ho Hsiao-Chung), “Best Color Cinematography” (Lin Hung-Chung), “Best Editing” (Wang Chi-Yang), and “Best Sound Effects” (Hsin Chiang-Sheng), nearly sweeping all the major non-acting award categories.


CHANG, TSO-CHI (Zhang Zuoji) (1961- ). Born in 1961 in Chiayi, central Taiwan, Chang Tso-Chi/Zhang Zuoji graduated from the Department of Electronic Engineering at Hsin-pu Junior College of Industry (now St. John’s University) in 1982. After serving his two-year compulsory military service, Chang enrolled in the Department of Cinema and Drama at Chinese Culture University, because of his strong interest in filmmaking. After graduating in 1987, Chang started working his way up, as apprentice camera assistant on Thomson Films’ Young Dragons: Kung Fu Kids IV/Hao xiao zi di si ji chuanyue shikong de xiao zi (Chang Peng-I, 1987), produced by Hsu Feng, then second assistant director on Third Bridge/Haixia liangan (Yu Kan-ping, 1988). In 1988, Chang was also second assistant director on the acclaimed Hong Kong film, King of Chess/Qi wang (Yim Ho and Tsui Hark, 1991)¸and first assistant director for Hou Hsiao-hsien’s masterpiece, A City of Sadness/Beicing chengshih (1989), Yu Kan-ping’s Two Painters/Liang ge youqi jiang (1989), as well as female director Huang Yu-Shan’s Peony Birds/Mudan nial (1990).

In 1990, Chang Tso-Chi started directing TV movies for Public Television Service. His script, Midnight Revenge/Anye qiangsheng, won a “excellent screenplay” prize in 1991, awarded by the Government Information Office (GIO). It was chosen by Hong Kong producer-director Jacob Cheung Chi-Leung/Zhang Zhiliang to become Chang’s debut feature in 1993. Chang did not have “final cut” rights on the film, and after a disagreement about editing, it was disowned by him.

Chang’s break-out second film, Ah-chung/Zhong zi (1996), was awarded NT$4 million (US$146,000 ) by the GIO’s Domestic Film Guidance Fund. The story is about a young man who joins the gang-controlled “Ba Jia Jiang” (Eight Generals) religious ceremonial performance troupe, and struggles to live his life, despite the conflict between rival gang fights and his disintegrating family. Chang shot the film with a mostly non-actors, using an alienating style – long shots and long takes – similar to that of Hou Hsiao-hisen. Chang also created his own unique “magic realism” style, which he continued in most of his films. The film won “Best Director” at the 1996 Thessaloniki International Film Festival in Greece and “Special Jury Prizes” at both the 1996 Asia-Pacific Film Festival and 1996 Pusan International Film Festival’s “New Currents.” Ah-chung was also invited to the Toronto, Mannheim-Heidelberg, Nantes Three Continents (France), Rotterdam, New Directors/New Films (New York), Hong Kong, and other film festivals.

In Darkness and Light/Heian zhi guang (1999), about the turbulent summer of a 17-year-old girl – her blind father’s sudden death, and the abrupt end of her first love with the violent death of her boyfriend, Chang once again mixed realism and naturalistic performances by nonprofessional actors in his story about youth, life, and family. The film won an unprecedented three top prizes at the 1999 Tokyo International Film Festival – Tokyo Grand Prix, The Governor of Tokyo Award, and Asian Film Award. It also received “Best Original Screenplay” (Chang Tso-Chi), “Best Editing” (Chen Po-wen), “Special Jury Prize,” and “Audience’s Choice” awards at the 1999 Golden Horse Awards as well as “Best Asian Feature Film” and “FIPRESCI” prizes at the 2000 Singapore International Film Festival. Darkness and Light was invited to screen in “Directors’ Fortnight” at the 1999 Cannes Film Festival, as well as film festivals in Toronto, Vancouver, Vienna, Hamburg, London, Rotterdam, Fribourg (Switzerland), Paris, Hong Kong, San Francisco, Munich, Moscow, and Nantes Three Continents.

After Chang’s triumphant success in the 1999 Tokyo Film Festival, NHK Enterprises 21, the film company affiliated with Japan’s public television station Nippon Hoso Kyokai (Japan Broadcasting Corporation, NHK), coproduced Chang’s next film, The Best of Times/Meili shiguang (2001) with Chang’s own film company, Chang Film/Chang Tso-Chi Film Studio. Chang Tso-Chi was awarded NT$10 million (US$ 308,000) from the Domestic Film Guidance Fund for the “magic realism” film, yet another story about youngsters growing up in a dysfunctional family and an underworld full of adventures and violence, the difference this time being that they found an outlet from this reality in their fantasy world. It won “Best Film,” “Best Taiwanese Film of the Year,” and the “Audience’s Choice Award” at the 2002 Golden Horse and “Best Asian Feature Film” and “Best Asian Actor” (Fan Chih-Wei) at the 2003 Singapore International Film Festival. The film was selected into official competition in the 2002 Venice International Film Festival, and invited to film festivals in Fukuoka (Japan), Pusan (South Korea), Hong Kong, London, Rotterdam, Vancouver, Chicago, and San Francisco.

After the critical success of The Best of Times, Chang switched his focus to producing a TV drama series, Holy Ridge/Sheng ling de xiangguang (2005), shot on location in the high mountains of central Taiwan. The series won “Best Series Drama” and “Best Camerawork” at the 2006 Golden Bell Awards for television. However, it cost too much to produce, seriously hurting the financial situation of Chang’s production company.

With capital investment from CMC Entertainment, Chang was able to complete his next film project, Soul of a Demon/Hudie (2008), which took him five years to produce. The film continued Chang’s investigation into the fate of the underprivileged in a disintegrated family as well as the violent underworld. Despite being invited into the 2008 Berlinale’s “Panorama” section, and selected as the opening film of both the 2008 Hong Kong International Film Festival and Taipei Golden Horse International Film Festival, it received mixed reviews, failed to be nominated in any category at the Golden Horse Awards, and did poorly at the box office. The making of Soul of a Demon also cost Chang his marriage and health. His father died during production. All these failures caused Chang to make a swift change in his style of filmmaking, and the focus of his subsequent films.

How Are You, Dad?/Ba…ni hao ma (2009), was a film composed of 10 short stories, each showing a different father/son relationship. Realizing the meaning of his father in his own life, Chang made the film as a tribute to him. It was selected as closing film of the 2009 Taipei Film Festival. When Love Comes/Dang ai lai de shihou (2010) continued Chang’s exploration of family relationships, this time between a father and his daughter, and the father’s traditional expression of “love.” The film also deals with important issues of teenage pregnancy, cultural conflicts, and generation gaps. The film was nominated for 14 awards at the 2010 Golden Horse, winning four – Best Film, Best Cinematography (Chang Chan), Best Artistic Design (Peng Wei-min), and Audience’s Choice Award. It was awarded “Best Film,” “Best Screenplay” (Chang Tso-Chi), and “Best New Actor” (Li Yijie) at the 2011 Chinese Film Media Awards held in Macao as well as “Best Narrative Feature,” “Best Screenplay”, “Best New Actor”, and “Best Supporting Actress” (He Zihua) at the 2011 Taipei Film Awards held during the Taipei Film Festival.

For his artistic achievements, in 2011 Chang Tso-Chi became the third director, following Hou Hsiao-hsien and Wang Tung, to receive the National Award for Arts, one of the highest honors in Taiwan, from the National Culture and Arts Foundation. 


CHANG, YI (Zhang Yi) (1951- ). Award-winning film director and internationally- acclaimed glass artist, Chang Yi, was born on 14 December 1951 in Taipei to a Mainlander family that moved from China with the Nationalist government in 1949. Chang graduated from the Department of Motion Pictures at World Journalism College (now Shih Hsin University) in Taipei in 1974 where he met Richard Chen Yao-chi, who briefly taught there. Chang’s first job in the film industry was as script supervisor for Chen’s comedy, The Graduate from the Country/Xiangxia biyesheng (1975). Afterward, Chang worked as copywriter in an advertising agency, before concentrating on writing novellas and editing of a film journal, The Influence. In 1978, Richard Chen asked him to write a novel about the discovery and building of the first oil well in Taiwan, by Han Chinese. Chen subsequently adapted the novel into an epic national policy film, The Pioneers/Yuan (1979). The film won Chang and cowriter Chang Yung-hsiang “Best Screenplay” at the Asian Film Festival (renamed from Film Festival in Asia, and later renamed once again Asia-Pacific Film Festival).

Subsequently, Chang joined classmates from World Journalism College to start Chia Yu Film Production Company. He wrote the screenplays of The Call of Duty/ Re xie (Chiu Ming-cheng, 1981), Streamrolling/Renrou zhanche (Wang Mingcan, 1981), and Magic Box (Wang Mingcan, 1983), and both wrote and directed his own debut film, Bird’s Fly/Yeqiao gao fei (1982). Chang also wrote the screenplay for Yu Kan-ping’s Can’t Stop the War/Da zhuiji (1983), produced by Hong Kong’s Cinema City & Films Company (Cinema City Enterprises), and for Chu Yen-ping’s The Great Surprise/Yijiubasan da jingchi (1983).

In 1983, when the Central Motion Picture Corporation (CMPC) started a “newcomer policy,” the project developers Hsiao Yeh and Wu Nien-Jen chose four out of some 15 candidates to write and direct low-budget portmanteau short films for In Our Time/Guangyin de gushi (1982), Chang Yi was one of the young novice directors selected. Afterward, Chang directed Kendo Kids/Zhujian shaonian (1984), an inspirational sports film, and Jade Love/Yuqing sao (1984).

Jade Love, based on renowned writer Pai Hsien-yung’s novella of the same title, was produced by Lee Hsing, who originally asked Tan Han-chang to direct. After Tan left the project, due to a dispute with his friend Pai, Chang Yi picked it up and finished production, despite continuing disagreements with Pai. Set in a repressive traditional Chinese society, Yuqing, protagonist of the tragic love story, is a female domestic worker who falls in love with a younger man. She wanted to be firmly in control of her lover, but it doesn’t work out. When she finds out that the lover has betrayed her, she kills him, then commits suicide. The film was sensationalized at the time for the bold performance in lovemaking scenes by Yang Hui-Shan (aka Loretta Yang). The Chang Yi and Yang Hui-San pair have continued to work together until the present time.

During the making of his next film, Kuei-mei, a Woman/Wo zheyang guo le yisheng (1985), Chang had a serious conflict with the CMPC’s new general manager, who knew and cared only about financial affairs and little about filmmaking. Nevertheless, the film was critically and commercially successful, winning “Best Film,” “Best Director,” “Best Adapted Screenplay” (cowritten by Chang and his then wife, Hsiao Sa), and “Best Actress” (Yang Hui-San, now Chang’s partner in business and life) at the 1985 Golden Horse Awards as well as “Best Director” in the Asia-Pacific Film Festival.

Kuei-mei, a Woman centers on 30 years in the life of a woman who married a widower, father of three children. Kuei-mei, after giving birth to twin babies, has to work hard to support the family, because her husband is fired from work for gambling. She goes to work in Japan for awhile, before returning to Taiwan to open a restaurant. When the family’s income is finally stabilized, family problems emerge one after the other – her husband’s extramarital affairs, her unmarried daughter’s pregnancy, her suffering from cancer, and her childrens’ dispute over property.

On the one hand, the film recognized the contributions of women to the family and society, as Taiwan “evolved” from an agricultural society in the 1950s to an industrial society in the 1980s. On the other hand, the film reflected that women in Taiwan no longer silently endured the shackles of traditional culture, were no longer submissive, and no longer yielded easily to fate.

Han-sheng, My Son/Wo erh hansheng (1986), a film about the relationship between a mother and her son, was once again cowritten by Chang and his wife Hsiao Sa. The couple also wrote his next film, This Love of Mine/Wo de ai (1986), during which Chang continued to work with Yang Hui-San. It was based on Hsiao Sa’s tragic novella about a woman who loses her identity while her husband is having an extramarital affair. Ironically, the film was also reflective, as Chang was having an extramarital affair with Yang. After the film was completed, Hsiao wrote an open letter in the media exposing Chang’s affair with Yang. The sensational news reports forced Chang to split with his wife, and the Chang-Yang couple left the film industry to find a new career in glass art.

Liuligongfang (Glass Workhouse) was founded in 1987 by Chang, Yang, and their good friend Wang Shya-Jiun/Heinrich Wang Hsia-chun/Wang Xiajun. Wang left Liuligongfang in 1994 to establish his own glass works company, tittot, after a dispute with Chang and Yang, who are now internationally renowned glass artists based in Shanghai. Liuligongfang is a contemporary glass studio known in Asia for its outstanding artistic endeavors and devotion to Chinese glassware.

Chang Yi and Yang Hui-San founded A-hha Studio in 2002 to develop 2D and 3D animation shorts and long features as well as high-tech app games. Before his death in 2007, Edward Yang was working with A-hha on his animation feature, The Wind/Zhui feng. A-hha’s first animation shorts included 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). Its first app product is the Ocean Rabbit game. Currently A-hha’s production team 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. See also WOMEN AND FILMS.


CHANG, YUNG-HSIANG (Zhang Yongxiang) (1929- ). The celebrated scriptwriter Chang Yung-hsiang/Zhang Yongxiang was born on 26 October 1929 in Shandong Province, China, and came to Taiwan as a student, after the Nationalist government lost the Civil War with the Chinese Communists in 1949. Chang graduated from the Political Warfare Cadres Academy and became a member of the Military Artistic Service Group. He later became a lecturer and, finally, chair of the Department of Cinema and Drama at the Political Warfare Cadres Academy.

Chang Yung-hsiang’s first screenplay was The Beautiful Duckling/Yangya renjia (Lee Hsing, 1964), which started his long-term collaboration with both Lee Hsing and Lee’s partner Pai Ching-jui. In 1969 and 1970, Chang also tried his hand at directing From Home with Love/Jinggao taoqi (1970), a comedy, and Unforgotten Ones/Yi feng qingbao baiwan bing (1970), a war-adventure set in the Sino-Japanese War in the 1930s and 1940s. A decade later, Chang made Confused Woman Chauffeur/The Sexy Lady Driver/Lengyan jiaowa/Hutu nu siji (1982), a comedy-adventure in which famed cinematographer Christopher Doyle played a role, and Those Were the Days/Jinye weiyu (1985), a wenyi pian based on Liao Hui-ying’s popular novella of the same title.

However, Chang only directed on the side. Writing screenplays was his main occupation in the film industry. Throughout his over 20-year film career, from 1965 to 1986, Chang wrote more than 125 scripts that were made into films. (Few writers, if any, can equal that achievement.) He collaborated with almost all major directors of the 1960s and 1970s. He was awarded five “Best Screenplay” awards at the Golden Horse AwardsIndebted for Life and Love/Huan jun mingzhu shuang lei chui (Liu Yi, 1971), Land of the Undaunted/Wutu wumin (Lee Hsing, 1975), He Never Gives Up/ Wangyang zhong de yi tiao chuan (Lee Hsing, 1979), The Story of a Small Town/Xiaocheng de gushi (Lee Hsing, 1980), and If I Were for Real/Jiaru wo shi zhen de (Wang Tung, 1981). He also won four “Best Screenplay” awards at the Film Festival in Asia (later renamed Asia Film Festival, then Asia-Pacific Film Festival) – The Beautiful Duckling (1964), Home Sweet Home/Jia zai taibei (Pai Ching-jui, 1970), Fragrant Flower versus Noxious Grass/Xianghua yu ducao (Hsu I-kung, 1975), and The Pioneers/Yuan (Chen Yao-chi, 1980, cowritten with Chang Yi).

Chang Yung-hsiang was appointed manager of the Programming Department at the military-owned Chinese Television System (CTS) in the 1980s. Later, he was promoted to the position of supervisor. During his tenure at the CTS in the 1980s and 1990s, Chang produced several commercially and critically successful drama series.


CHEN, CHEN (Zhen Zhen, Zhang Jiazhen) (1950- ). Born on 17 July 1950 to a Kuomintang (KMT) military family from Hangzhou, Zhejiang Province, Zhang Jiazhen grew up in Tokyo until age five, when her father was transferred back to Taipei from his military attaché post at the Republic of China (ROC) Embassy in Japan.

In 1964, while still a sophomore in Taipei Private Taibei High School, Zhang Jiazhen was accepted into Li Han-hsiang’s Grand Motion Picture Company (GMP) during an actor recruitment campaign that attracted thousands of applicants. As a contract player at the GMP, Zhang Jiazhen (taking the stage name Chen Chen) studied acting there. A Perturbed Girl/Tian zhi jiao nu (Sung Tsun-Shou and Liu Yishi, 1966), a Chinese Opera film, was Chen Chen’s acting debut, which received some attention. Her performance in the next film, Many Enchanting Nights/Ji du xiyang hong (Yang Su, 1966), a Chiungyao film, was outstanding, prompting director Li Han-hsiang to promote her to leading actress in yet another Chiungyao film. When Is the Dream Come True/Mingyue jishi yuan (Joseph Kuo, 1967) was famous for the kiss between her and leading actor Liu Weibin, which was sensationalized by the press, signifying how conservative Taiwan society was at the time. Other Chiungyao films in which Chen Chen starred during her tenure in the GMP included The Distant Smiling Mountains/ Deep in the Mountains/Yuan shan han xiao (Lin Fu-Di, 1967), and The Stranger/ Mosheng ren (1968, Yang Su). By then, Chen Chen had become a real star. When Li Han-hsiang lost the GMP in 1967, production companies in Taiwan competed with each other to sign her to a contract. The Central Motion Picture Corporation (CMPC) came out on top.

The first two films Chen Chen made at the CMPC were director Pai Ching- jui’s commedia all'italiana comedy, The Bride and I/Xinniang yu wo (1969) and Home Sweet Home/Home is Taipei/Jia zai Taibei (1970). The vivacious, lively images of Chen Chen in those films made her even more popular and won her the nickname, “little naughty.” Thence came a series of non-CMPC “little naughty films,” including The Naughty Beauty/Taoqi gongzhu (Chen Tung-Sheng and Chiang Yang, 1972), The Naughty Couples/Taoqi fuqi (Yang Su, 1972), and The Naughty Maidens/Taoqi san qianjin (1972, Liang Che-fu).

Chen Chen’s other important films at the CMPC were Stardust/Qun xing hui (Lee Hsing, 1970), The Ammunition Hunters/Luo ying xia (Ting Shan-hsi,1971), Four Moods/Xi nu ai le (in Happiness episode directed by Pai Ching- jui), Love in a Cabin /Bai wu zhi lian (Pai Ching-jui, 1972), and Everlasting Glory/Yinglie qianqiu (Ting Shan-hsi, 1976). The Story of Ti Ying (Li Han-hsiang, 1971) won Chen Chen “Best Actress” award at the 1971 Film Festival in Asia.

After winning the award, invitations for her to act in non-CMPC pictures kept coming in. Chen Chen appeared in nearly 30 films in two years. From 1973, Chen Chen became an idol in Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Southeast Asia after working with Alan Tang Kwong-Wing/Deng Guangrong, Patrick Tse/Tse Yin/Xie Xian, and Charlie Chin Hsiang-Lin/Qin Xianglin in Chiungyao film directed by Lee Hsing and Pai Ching-jui. The Young Ones/Cai yu fei (Lee Hsing, 1973) began a second wave of Chiungyao film in Taiwan. In 1973, the box-office take for The Young Ones was second highest among all Mandarin film shown in Taipei, bested only by Bruce Lee’s Way of the Dragon/Meng long guo jiang. The box- office of her subsequent Chiungyao film, such as The Heart with a Million Knots/Xin you qian qian jie (Lee Hsing, 1973), Where the Seagull Flies/Haiou fei chu (Lee Hsing, 1974), and Fantasies Behind the Pearly Curtain/Yi lian you meng (Pai Ching-jui, 1976), set new records each time one of them premiered in Taipei, making Chen Chen the superstar of Mandarin wenyi pian in Taiwan during the first half of the 1970s.

In 1973, Patrick Tse founded Tse Brothers’ Motion Pictures Production Company. A year later, Chen Chen married Patrick Tse. The couple, along with Alan Tang Kwong-Wing, became an “iron triangle” in Mandarin film. After 1973, Patrick Tse directed Chen Chen and Alan Tang in several films, including If Tomorrow Comes/Mingri tianya (1973), The Splendid Love in Winter/Dong lian (1974), One Year’s Fantasy/Love in a Cubicle/Dou shi (1974), Born Rich/Dafu renjia (1976), and Love in Hawaii/Ai zai Xiaweiyi (1976). The marriage did not last long, however. Soon after, Chen Chen married director Liu Chia-Chang. Henceforth, most of her films were directed by Liu, such as Sunset in Beijing/ Riluo beijing cheng ((1977) and Autumn Memories/Feng lin xiao yu (1978). By the second half of the 1970s, nevertheless, Chen Chen’s momentum had slowed, surpassed by the “double Lins and double Chins,” the new idols of Chiungyao film.

After completing A Teacher of Great Soldiers/Huangbu jun hun (Liu Chia-Chang, 1978), Chen Chen left the Taiwan film industry and emigrated to the United States with her husband. She returned briefly in 1983 to act in a few Taiwan and Hong Kong films. In the mid-1990s, the couple moved their non-film business first back to Taiwan and then, after 2000, to Mainland China.

During the course of her film career that spanned more than 20 years, Chen Chen made more than 80 films, most of them between 1966 and 1977, making her one of the most prolific and successful actors in Taiwan film history. See also WOMEN AND FILMS.


CHEN, KUN-HOU (1939- ). One of the most famous cinematographers, the least mentioned Taiwan New Cinema director, and the former partner of Hou Hsiao-hsien, Chen Kun-Hou was born on 25 July 1939 into a prestigious family in Taichung, central Taiwan. Despite his family background, after graduating from Taiwan Provincial Taichung First Senior High School, Chen did not enter college. Rather, after completing his compulsory military service, he started working at the Nationalist-owned Central Motion Picture Corporation (CMPC) in 1962 as an apprentice cameraman, learning the techniques of cinematography from his uncle Lai Cheng-Ying, a staff cameraman at the CMPC.

After training 10 years as camera assistant, Chen was finally promoted to cameraman in 1969. His first film was Silver Maid/Yin gu (Fu Nan-Tu, 1969), a martial arts wuxia pian, which he shot with another cameraman Hsu Mu-yi. Chen made several other such low-budget action films, including Vengeance of Snow-Maid/A Daughter’s Vengeance/Xueling jiannu (Chou Hsu-Chiang, 1970), in which he was the cameraman for veteran cinematographer Lin Hung-Chung; Woman Guerilla with Two Guns/Shuangqiang wang bamei (Li Fei-Meng, 1971), in which he operated camera for Lai Cheng-Ying; and The Decisive Battle/Yuefei qiang tiao xiao liangwang/Jing zhong bao guo (1972), as camera operator for another veteran cinematographer, Hua Hui-Ying.

Chen Kun-Hou’s first film on his own as a cinematographer was director Pai Ching-jui’s six-part portmanteau film, Four Winds/Dong nan xi bei feng (1972). Subsequently, Chen worked for many important directors of the 1970s, including Lee Hsing (The Young Ones/Cai yun fei, 1973), Hsu Chin-Liang (Fury in Storm/Dadi long zhong, 1974), and Richard Chen Yao-chi (Come Fly with Me/Wo shi yi shaou, 1976).

The films Chen shot encompassed many genres and cinematic styles: ghost (Blue Lamp in Winter Night/Han ye qing deng, directed by Yao Feng-pan, 1974); gangster (The Big Raid/Da tongqi ling, directed by Ou Wei, 1974); wenyi pian melodrama (A Saturday Date/Xingqiliu yuehui, directed by Li Rong-tze, 1976); screwball comedy (Come Fly with Me); and slapstick (Making It/Zhui gan pao tiao peng, directed by Richard Chen, 1978).

It was during the making of First Come, First Love/Jinshui loutai (1974), directed by Li Rong-tze, former assistant director of Lee Hsing, that for the first time Chen Kun-Hou teamed up with Hou Hsiao-hsien, who was the film’s assistant director. The two then worked together for Chen’s uncle, Lai Cheng-Ying, who had been directing since 1975. Hou had written the screenplay and had worked as assistant director on Lai’s directorial debut film, shot by Lai himself. Chen was cinematographer, and Hou, once again, was writer-assistant director, on Lai’s new film, Matchmaker/Yue xia laoren (1976). The Lai-Hou-Chen team continued to work together on many films, Love in the Shadow/Ai de yingzi/Ai you mingtian (1977, written by Chang Yung-hsiang), The Glory of the Sunset/Yan shui han (1977, written by Chang Yung-hsiang), The Spring Lake/Cui hu han (1978, written by Chang Yung-hsiang), The War of the Sexes/Nanhai yu nuhai de zhanzheng (1978, written by Hsiao Yeh), Love on a Foggy River/Yan po jiang shang (1978, written by Hou Hsiao-hsien), The Misty Rain of Yesterday/Zhori yu xiao xiao (1979), A Sorrowful Wedding/Bei zhi qiu (1979), and Autumn Lotus/Chu lien/Qiu lian (1979). Chen was cameraman and Hou assistant director on the films.

Other than shooting the wenyi pian directed by Lai Cheng-Ying, Chen was also hired as cameraman by Lee Hsing to do Chiungyao film in the mid- to late-1970s. These included Painted Waves of Love/Lang hua (1976), Love Rings a Bell/ Fengling fengling (1977), and Melody from Heaven/Baihua piao xuehua piao (1977). Chen also shot Lee Hsing’s films of native Taiwanese stories at the end of the 1970s – He Never Gives Up/Wangyang zhong de yi tiao chuan (1978), Good Morning, Taipei/Zaoan taibei (1979), and The Story of a Small Town/Xiaocheng gushi (1979). Chen won the “Best Cinematography” award for He Never Gives Up at the 1978 Golden Horse Awards, and was nominated for the same award a year later for The Story of a Small Town.

In 1978, Chen Kun-Hou and Hou Hsiao-hsien started their collaboration as a director/cinematographer or director/writer creative team. They would make seven films together, with Hou writing all the scripts and directing three, and Chen, shooting all the films and directing four. Through his experience working with Lee Hsing, Lai Cheng-Ying, and Richard Chen, it seems that Chen Kun-Hou learned the skills necessary to tell a Chiung Yao-like romantic story with a comical approach, much like Richard Chen did. It was exactly the style used in Chen’s debut film as director, Lover on the Wave/Wo ta lang er lai (1978), written by Hou Hsiao-hsien and starring Joan Lin Feng-Chiao and Chin Han. Subsequently, Chen shot and directed Spring in Autumn/Tian liang hao ge qiu (1980), Bouncing Sweetheart/Beng beng yi chuan xin (1981), and Six is Company/ Qia ru cai die fei fei fei (1982). These romantic comedy films were welcomed in movie theaters.

It was right at this time that the CMPC implemented its “newcomer policy,” inviting the Hou-Chen team to make a film for the declining Nationalist-owned company. Hou and Chen founded a new company, Marlboro, with their partners, producer Chang Hwa-kun and writer Hsu Shu-chen. They decided to adapt young writer Chu Tien-wen’s novella about a young boy into the film Growing Up/Xiaobi de gushi (Chen Kun-Hou, 1983), which became a hit in the market, and won for “Best Film,” “Best Director,” and “Best Adapted Screenplay” at the 1983 Golden Horse Awards. The film laid the foundation for the Taiwan New Cinema movement.

Chen then worked as cinematographer on The Sandwich Man/Erzi de da wanou (1983), not only for Hou Hsiao-hsien’s segment, but also those of the two other young directors. Chen’s expertise in cinematography helped Wan Jen and Tseng Chuang-hsiang/Zeng Zhuangxiang resolve their problems with telling their stories with images and also unified the style of the omnibus film. Chen and Hou became leaders in the New Cinema during its early days.

Afterward, Chen shot and directed Out of the Blue/Xiao baba de tiankong (1984), written by Wu Nien-Jen and Chu Tien-wen, My Favorite Season/Zui xiangnian de jijie (1985), written by Hou, Chu, Hsu Shu-chen, and Ding Ya-min, and The Matrimony/Jiehun (1985), written by Hsu Shu-chen, Ding Ya-min, and Chu Tien-wen. Chen continued to be Hou’s cinematographer on The Boys from Fengkuei/Fenggui lai de ren (1983) and A Summer at Grandpa’s/Dongdong de jiaqi (1984). However, Hou made a drastic change in his film style, using long takes (time) and long shots (distance), which was unacceptable to Chen. Therefore, after 1985, Chen Kun-Hou and Hou Hsiao-hsien went their separate ways. Each found new partners.

Chen teamed up with Hsu Shu-chen and Ding Ya-min. They made Drifters/Liulang shaonian lu (1986), based on Chu Tien-wen’s story; Osmanthus Alley/Guihua xiang (1988), written by Ding and Wu Nien-Jen, with Hsu Shu-chen working as assistant director; and My Mother’s Tea House/Chunqiu cha shih (1990), written by Ding, with Hsu Shu-chen and Mickey Chen Chun-Chih as assistant directors.

In 1989, at the invitation of Feiteng Films, Chen Kun-Hou went to Mainland China to become general manager of its new studios in Huairou, Beijing. Since then, Chen has stayed in China most of the time. Later in the 2000s, Chen started making television drama series, such as The Story of Confucius/Kongzi de gushi, for Chinese TV channels. After not directing for 15 years, in 2005 Chen directed Twin Daggers/Shuang biao, an action film coproduced byAmerican and Chinese companies, shot totally in China.

Still active in his seventies, Chen made Colorful Mind/Haizi de tiankong (2010), a remake of a popular children’s film, The Dull-Ice Flower/Lu bing hua (Yang Li-Kuo, 1989). Chen Kun-Hou’s most recent film is Triangular Land/Sanjiao di, a story about the decline and rebuilding of a family, through the great efforts of its five children. Shooting of the film commenced in Miaoli, central Taiwan, in April 2011. It is slated to screen in Taiwan in 2012.


CHEN, KUO-FU (Chen Guofu) (1958- ). One of the most significant prime movers behind Taiwan New Cinema in the 1980s and an important adviser to China’s Huayi Brothers Media Corporation in the 21st century, Chen Kuo-fu/Chen Guofu was born in 1958 in Taichung, Taiwan’s third largest city, in central Taiwan. His family sold shoes. Chen dropped out of school in the first semester of his senior high school year, transferring and graduating from Kuang-Hwa Vocational High School of Technology in Taichung. Although he had a difficult adolescence, Chen changed from being a hoodlum after witnessing his best friend’s violent death. Afterward, Chen taught himself to appreciate film through reading and translating essays about cinema. He started writing film criticism in 1980. By 1981, he was invited to curate the Golden Horse International Film Festival, held by the Motion Picture Development Foundation through The Film Library (now Chinese Taipei Film Archive). During this period as a film critic/scholar, he wrote/translated/edited several books on film directors (Alfred Hitchcock and Robert Bresson), film theory, and Taiwan film history.

Chen became a supporter of Taiwan New Cinema in the early 1980s, when he was writing film reviews for newspapers. He became good friends with Hou Hsiao-hsien and Edward Yang, regularly offering them his views about their projects. Occasionally, Chen directed television documentary series. In 1985, Chen founded Era Films, Ltd., with the support of producer Chiu Fu-Sheng. Then in 1987, he formed the Film Cooperative/Hezuoshe Dianying, along with Hou Hsiao-hsien, Edward Yang, and Chan Hung-Chih (with Barbara Robinson, expert in Chinese cinema and, later, president of Columbia Pictures Film Production Asia, serving as its secretary). The Cooperative supported Hou in making A City of Sadness/Beicing chengshih (1989) and Yang on his A Brighter Summer Day/ Gulingjie shaonian sharen shihjian (1991) as well as helping in preparations for Chen’s film project about hoodlums. The Cooperative soon fell apart, however.

Dangerous Choice/Guozhong nusheng (1989), Chen Kuo-fu’s directorial debut, is about the relationship between two rebellious junior high school girls. Even though the film was not satisfactory to Chen, as many things were beyond his control as director, it did gain favorable reviews and established him as a director who specialized in exploring women’s issues. Dangerous Choice was shown at the 1990 Toronto International Film Festival, 1990 Munich Film Festival, and 1990 Hong Kong International Film Festival.

Chen’s second film, Treasure Island/Zhiyao wei ni huo yitian (1993), produced by Hou Hsiao-hsien, was a thriller about the treacherous underworld. The film was in official competition at the 1993 Locarno International Film Festival and was invited to film festivals in Toronto, Montreal, Rotterdam, and the Festival of the Three Continents in Nantes, France.

The Peony Pavilion/Wo de meili yu aichou (1995) is a fantasy film mixing modern drama with scenes from a traditional Chinese Opera, “The Peony Pavilion.” The film was screened at the Toronto International Film Festival. Meanwhile, Chen also became director of the newly founded Taipei Film Festival, sponsored by the Taipei City Government, between 1997 and 1999. He also taught part-time in the Department of Theatre at the National Institute of the Arts (now Taipei National University of the Arts), where he directed a stage play.

During this time, Chen made The Personals/Zhenghun qishi (1998), based on female novelist Chen Yu-hui’s novella of the same title, starring René Liu. It is a clever anti-romantic comedy, which won nominations for “Best Film,” “Best Director,” “Best Actress,” “Best Supporting Actor,” “Best Adapted Screenplay,” and “Best Editing” at the 1998 Golden Horse Awards. For her performance in The Personals, René Liu won “Special Jury Prize” at the Golden Horse, and “Best Actor” at the 1998 Taipei Film Awards during the Taipei Film Festival. The film was screened in “Un Certain Regard” at the 1999 Cannes Film Festival, as well as film festivals in Singapore, Chicago, Shanghai, Rotterdam, Manila, Toronto, Calcutta, and Pesaro in Italy.

In 1998, when Columbia Pictures established Columbia Pictures Film Production Asia in Hong Kong, to produce Asian films, Chen Kuo-fu was invited by its president, Barbara Robinson, to be the producer responsible for Chinese- language films. Chen thus produced and directed his own Double Vision/Shuang tong (2002), a horror-thriller starring Hong Kong star Tony Leung Ka-Fai, American actor David Morse, and, again, Taiwan actress René Liu. Even though the film grossed NT$40 million (US$1.1 million) at the box office, the highest for a Taiwan film at the time, it was not enough to fully recover its production cost, and the film lost money due to its lack of marketability outside Taiwan.

During this period, Chen also produced, through his own Nan Fang Production Company, young Taiwanese writer-turned-director Su Chao-Pin’s debut film, Better Than Sex (B.T.S.)/Aiqing lingyao (2002), a comedy which did not quite work.

Sylvia Chang’s 20:30:40 (2004) was also produced by Columbia Asia, with Chen Kuo-fu serving as its executive producer. Chen was also executive producer of Chinese directors He Ping’s Warriors of Heaven and Earth/Tiandi yingxiong (2003), an action-adventure, and Lu Chuan’s The Montain Patrol/Ko ko si li (2004). He also produced Chinese director Feng Xiaogang’s Big Shot’s Funeral/ Da wan (2001), a comedy that was a big hit in China.

After 2004, through Feng Xiaogang’s introduction, Chen Kuo-fu started working for China’s first privately-owned production studio, Huayi Brothers Media Corporation. Chen’s credits as a producer at Huayi included A World Without Thieves/Tianxia wu zei (Feng Xiaogang, 2004); The Matrimony/Xin zhong you gui (Teng Hua-Tao, 2007), a ghost film; Assembly/Jijie hao (Feng Xiaogang, 2007), a war film; The Equation of Love and Death/Li mi de cai xiang (Cao Bao-Ping, 2008); If You Are the One/Fei cheng wu rao (Feng Xiaogang, 2008), a remake of Chen’s own The Personals, which was a big hit in China; Aftershock/Tangshan da dizhen (Feng Xiaogang, 2010), another of Feng’s box-office winners in China; If You Are the One 2/Fei cheng wu rao er (Feng Xiaogang, 2011), a sequel to the successful If You Are the One; and Tai Chi/Taiji (Stephen Fung Tak-Lun, 2012), a martial arts kung fu film, with superstar Jet Li Lianjie.

In 2009, Chen Kuo-fu and Chinese director Gao Qunshu codirected an espionage-thriller for Huayi, The Message/Feng sheng, which was a great hit in China. Chen also cowrote the screenplays for Forever Enthralled/Mei langang (Chen Kaige, 2008) and Detective Dee and the Mystery of the Phantom Flame/Di renjie (Tsui Hark, 2010), both blockbusters. Chen was instrumental in making Starry, Starry Night/Xing kong (Tom Lin Shu-Yu, 2011), based on renowned Taiwan illustrator Jimmy Liao’s book of the same title, another successful Taiwan- China coproduction.

With so many box-office triumphs, Chen Kuo-fu is now a highly respected filmmaker in China. It is expected that, with Chen’s good connections in both China and Taiwan, more coproductions between Huayi and Taiwan will be realized. See also WOMEN AND FILMS.




CHEN PO-WEN (Chen Bowen) (1953- ). Born in a rural area in southern Taiwan, Chen Po-wen/Chen Bowen became a continuity supervisor for veteran director Li Chia after graduating from the Department of Radio and Television at National College of Arts (now National Taiwan University of Arts) in Taipei County (now New Taipei City) in 1974. In two years he was promoted to the position of first assistant director. Afterward, he was an apprentice editor under veteran editor Huang Chiou-guei/Huang Qiugui, with whom he edited nearly 200 films in seven years, most of them kung fu films. The first film he edited as an editor in his own right was The Winter of 1905 (1981, directed by Yu Wei-Cheng/Yu Wai-Ching, written by Edward Yang, and starring Tsui Hark).

Chen became an independent editor in 1985, when the Taiwan New Cinema movement just started. Through Yu Wei-Cheng, Chen edited Fred Tan Han- chang’s three films, Dark Night/An ye (1986), Split of the Spirit/Li gui chan shen/ Li hun (1987), and Rouge of the North/Yuan nu (1988). As the editor, he was impressed by the complex structure of Edward Yang’s masterpiece A Brighter Summer Day/Gulingjie shaonian sharen shihjian (1991). The experience strongly influenced his sense of structure in editing ever since, and all of Edward Yang’s later films were edited by him. Chen Po-wen has not limited himself to only editing art films. His clientele ranges from veteran directors (such as Kevin Chu Yen-ping and Liu Chia-Chang), B-movie directors, Taiwan New Cinema directors, Second New Wave directors, and emerging new directors. His filmography reads like the catalogue of Taiwan cinema since 1985, encompassing different genres and styles.

He also began editing feature documentary in 1999, and has supported short features by young film students since the turn of the century. He has received two “Best Editing” awards from the Golden Horse Awards, and one for “Best Taiwan Filmmaker.” In 2009, the National Culture and Arts Foundation awarded him the National Award for Arts, one of the highest honors in Taiwan art and culture.


CHEN, RICHARD YAO-CHI (Richard Chen, Chen Yaoqi) (1938- ). Richard Chen Yao-chi/ Chen Yaoqi was born 1938 in Chengdou, Sichuan Province, China, to a family from Peiping/Peking/Beijing. They moved to Taiwan in 1945, after the Nationalist government took over the island. Chen’s grandfather was a renowned Christian priest. His father, who graduated from Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, was an agriculture specialist employed by the Sino-American Joint Commission on Rural Reconstruction. The Commission was an independent entity funded by the United States government following the China Aid Act that supervised land reform, agricultural improvement, and education projects in Taiwan.

Chen went through elementary and middle schools in Taipei, and was admitted to the Department of Architecture at National Cheng Kung University in Tainan, southern Taiwan, when he was only 17. Two years later, Chen emigrated to the United States with his parents. After graduating from The Art Institute of Chicago, he entered the Film and Television MFA program at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA).

Richard Chen studied documentary and animation at UCLA, returning to Taiwan after graduation. In 1965, Chen briefly joined the avant-garde journal Theatre Quarterly as a contributing editor, where he published the first article on “cinema vérité” in Taiwan. He also directed an experimental stage play, Prophet/Xianzhi (1965), written by Huang Huacheng. In December 1967, Chen held a film exhibition in Taipei, showing all his student films made while at UCLA – his documentary shorts Liu Pi-Chia (1965) and To the Mountain/ Shangshan (1964?), an animated film, Houyi (1963?), and an experimental narrative film, Years Gone, Years Come/Nian qu nian lai (1963?).

That same year, Chen was hired by the Nationalist-owned Central Motion Picture Corporation (CMPC) to develop projects. The CMPC General Manager Kung Hong also insisted he first play a lead role in Lee Hsing’s The Jade Goddess/Yu guanyin (1968), before allowing him to direct a film. During the production of The Jade Goddess, Chen was arrested by the Nationalist government for participating in a socialist study group. Though acquitted soon after the arrest, Chen was obviously affected by his “white terror” experience, and never participated in any political activity thereafter.

In 1970, the CMPC finally allowed Chen to direct his debut feature, A Test of Love/San duo hua, a romantic melodrama. The film was a failure, both critically and commercially. Disappointed, Chen went to teach filmmaking in the Department of Motion Pictures at World Journalism College (now Shih Hsin University) in Taipei, where he met three students and future filmmakers – Chang Yi, Chiu Ming-cheng, and Wang Ming-tsan/Wang Mingcan.

At this time, he started making documentary films for the “Faces of Change” series, produced by American Universities Field Staff, Inc. Chen codirected five films in Taiwan (with Frank Tsai) and five in Hong Kong (all codirected with George Chang and Norman Miller): A Chinese Farm Wife (1974, codirected with both Tsai and Norma Diamond), People are Many, Fields are Small (1974), The Rural Cooperative (1974), They Call Him “Ah Kung” (1974), Wet Culture Rice (1974), China Coastal Fishing (1974), Hoy Fok and the Island School (1974), The Island Fishpond (1974), Island in the China Sea (1974), and Three Island Women (1974). Chen made another documentary, Seven Chinese Festivals (1972), for the Ministry of Transportation’s Tourism Bureau, that won “Best Documentary” at the 1972 Film Festival in Asia.

Afterward, Chen was again invited by the CMPC general manager Kung to direct a film for the studio, Judy's Lucky Jacket/Wujia zhi bao (1972), a project turned down by three other directors. Roughly based on 12+1 (Nicolas Gessner, 1969), a slapstick comedy coproduced by Italy and France, Chen made Judy's Lucky Jacket into a mixture of slapstick and screwball comedy, with actor Judy Ongg/Weng Qianyu chasing after a supposedly “priceless” jacket with her boyfriend in the movie. Chen’s talent at comedy was thus discovered.

After directing Come Rain or Come Shine/Dongbian qing shi xibian yu (1974), a romance said to be adapted from a Broadway stage play, Richard Chen began making films for Yung Sheng Motion Pictures Company. The Graduate from the Country/Xiangxia biyesheng (1975), though failing commercially, established Chen’s status as a good comedy director. Subsequently, he made several such films for Yung Sheng, including Run Lover Run/Aiqing changpao (1975), The Chasing Game/Zhuiqiu zhuiqiu (1976), and Come Fly with Me/Wo shi yi shaou (1976), all of them screwball comedy starring Brigitte Lin and Charlie Chin/Alan Tang.

Chen Yao-chi worked for the CMPC for the third time in 1977. Didi’s Diary/ Didi riji (1977), a melodramatic wenyi pian based on Hua Yen’s popular romantic novel, was successful both at the box office and Golden Horse Awards, where it won “Best Actress” (Tien Niu) and “Best Supporting Actress” (Kuei Ya-lei), and was nominated for “Best Feature Film” and Chen as “Best Director.” When Hong Kong’s Golden Harvest Company was promoting Hong Kong stars Kenny Bee and Alan Tam’s English pop/cantopop band, The Wynners,” its top choice as director was Chen Yao-chi. He made Making It/Zhui gan pao tiao peng (1978), and the film was very successful. Chen later directed a similar film, Going Up Anybody/Dong zhui xi gan pao tiao peng (1980), for Yung Sheng Motion Pictures. Both films were take-offs on Richard Lester’s The Knack… and How to Get It (1965) and Help! (1965).

Another romantic comedy by Chen, First Kiss, First Goodbye (1978), was said to have impressed Chiung Yao, who asked him to directed Misty Moon/Yue menglong niao menglong (1978), starring Brigitte Lin and Charlie Chin, for her Super Star Motion Picture Company. The film was a big hit. Afterward, Chen made another romantic wenyi pian in America, A Journey of Love/Wuqing huangdi youqing tian (1978), one of the earliest Taiwan sync-sound narrative films.

Richard Chen’s next film for the CMPC was a national policy film, The Pioneers/Yuan (1979), which took more than a year to complete. It was made right after the Nationalist government on Taiwan became politically isolated in the world, when the U.S. government severed official ties with Taiwan. Based on Chang Yi’s novel of the same title, the story was about the discovery of the first oil well in Miaoli, and depicted the pioneering spirit of the Han Chinese ancestors in Taiwan. In a way, The Pioneers has a similar meaning with two other national policy films made in the 1960s, Fire Bulls/Huan wo he shan (Lee Hsing, Li Chia, and Pai Ching-jui, 1966) and Hsi Shih: Beauty of Beauties (Li Han-hsiang, 1965), both made to glorify the determination of a loser not to give up, despite their extremely difficult situations. The epic film cost NT$ 60 million (US$1.6 million) to make, and another NT$ 40 million (US$1.1 million) for publicity – one of the highest budget films ever made in Taiwan. The director’s cut lasted 3-1/2 hours. The CMPC edited a 110-minute version for distribution, which failed very badly at the box office and with film critics. Nevertheless, the film won “Best Actress” for Hsu Feng at the Golden Horse Awards, and “Best Screenplay” for Chang Yi and Chang Yung-hsiang at the Asian Film Festival.

In late 1970s and early 1980s, when Taiwan cinema was in its downturn, a number of movies about the underworld and gambling, as well as violent sexploitation movies, were made, Chen was not able to escape the trend. He directed a horror movie, Devil Returns/Xiong jie (1982), before making violent female revenge films, such as The Anger/Shi jie (1982), Girl With a Gun/ Shengyong nu shaxing (1982), Kill for Love/Chiqing nuzi (1982), and Temptation/ You huo (1983), most starring the sub-genre’s queen bee, Lu Hsiao-Fen.

Afterward, Chen left the mainstream film industry and made a documentary revealing the stories of several Catholic priests, before starting a production company, to produce television programs and informational films, such as More Than a Miracle (1984), for the Government Information Office (GIO), A Song of Chinese Landscape (1985) for the Tourism Bureau, and Taiwan Experience: The Modernization of China (1988), again for the GIO.

Chen Yao-chi resumed directing features again in 1988 with two of his best narrative films, Spring Swallow/Wanchun qingshi (1989) and Autumn Moon/Ming yue ji shi yuan (1990), both starring Lu Hisao-fen. He made several more informational films for the GIO afterwards, including Reflections of Modern Chinese Culture in Taiwan/Chuantong yu xinxiang (1993) and Confucianism and the Taiwan Experience (1994). Chen was named assistant general manager of the Taiwan Film Culture Company (formerly Taiwan Film Studio) in 1993, and general manager in 1994. Subsequently, he was invited to help plan the new graduate documentary film institute at the newly established Tainan National College of the Arts (now Tainan National University of the Arts), but he left soon after.

Since 1995, Chen has appeared as lead actor in theater productions and single- episode television dramas. For his performance in A Floating Love in the Lonely Heart/Qinmi yu gudu jian piaoliu de aiqing (Wang Shau-Di, 2002), Chen Yao-chi was nominated as “Best Leading Actor in a Single-Episode Drama” at the 2002 Golden Bell Television Awards. He is said to be an uncredited writer on Wang Shau-Di’s Fantôme où es-tu/Ku Ma (2010). Richard Chen is also working as creative director for Chang Yi’s animation studio A-hha Studio, founded in Shanghai in 2010.


CHEN, SHIANG-CHYI (Chen Xiangqi) (1969- ). One of world-renowned director Tsai Ming-liang’s ensemble actors, Chen Shiang-Chyi/Chen Xiangqi was born in Kaoshiung County (now Kaoshiung City) in southern Taiwan. After graduating from Kaoshiung Girls’ Senior High School, Chen enrolled in the Department of Theatre at National Institute of the Arts (NIA, now Taipei National University of the Arts).

Chen was the script supervisor on Edward Yang’s A Brighter Summer Day/ Gulingjie shaonian sharen shijian (1991), and also played a bit part (Little Doctor’s fiancée). Later, she was cast in the leading role in Yang’s A Confucian Confusion/Duli shidai (1994), playing a natural, cute office worker. The performance in her debut film made Chen a sought-after actress in Taiwan. However, determined to study acting in New York, she turned down all the offers.

Chen graduated from the Educational Theatre MFA program in the Department of Music and Performing Arts Professions at New York University. While studying there, Chen also took acting classes at the famed HB Studio and at the Saratoga International Theatre Institute.

After returning to Taiwan, Chen taught at the NIA, while also acting in several feature films, including Yours and Mine/Wo de shenjingbing (Wang Shau-Di, 1997), Sweet Degeneration/Fang lang (Lin Cheng-sheng, 1997), and an episode in Motel Erotica/Zhou jian (1997) directed by Ho Ping.

Since 1997, with the exception of The Hole/Dong (1998), Chen Shiang-Chyi has appeared in every film directed by Tsai Ming-liang – The River/Heliu (1997), What Time Is It There?/Ni nabian jidian (2001), Goodbye, Dragon Inn/Bu san (2003), The Wayward Cloud/Tianbian yi duo yun (2005), I Don’t Want to Sleep Alone/Hei yanquan (2006), and Face/Visage/Lian (2009).

Chen also performed in female American director Jule Gilfillan’s romantic comedy, Restless (1998), a coproduction of Beijing Youth Film Studio (China)- Celestial Pictures (Hong Kong)-Scitech Culture Company (U.S.A.), perhaps one of the first between the United States and China. She also appeared in Half of Heaven/La moitié du ciel (Alain Mazars, 2000), a French production about the issue of interracial adoption in China.

In 2003, Chen was cast in Lin Cheng-sheng’s Robinson’s Crusoe/Lubinxun piaoliu ji. She also was in Wang Shau-Di’s single-episode television drama, A Floating Love in the Lonely Heart/Qinmi yu gudu jian piaoliu de aiqing (2002), and Wang’s TV movie, Bear Hug/Yongbao da baixiong (2004).

For her performance in A Floating Love in the Lonely Heart, Chen received a “Best Actress” nomination at the 2002 Golden Bell Awards for television programs. She was also nominated twice as “Best Actress” at the Golden Horse Awards, in 2003 for Goodbye, Dragon Gate Inn, and in 2005 for The Wayward Cloud. See also WOMEN AND FILMS.


CHENG, WEN-TANG (Zheng Wentang) (1958- ). Writer, director, and producer of feature-length narrative films, as well as a documentarian, Cheng Wen-Tang/ Zheng Wentang was born in Yilan, on the northeast coast of Taiwan in 1958. Chen graduated from the Department of Cinema and Drama at Chinese Culture University in Taipei. He became an assistant cameraman after graduation, followed by script supervisor, assistant director, and production manager. He was assistant director on Nature is Quiet Beautiful/Wu li de disheng (1984), the first feature-length narrative film of Taiwan New Cinema director Tseng Chuang-hsiang/Zeng Zhuangxiang.

In 1984, Cheng gave up his career in the commercial film industry to become a social activist, making documentary videos for the anti-government opposition movement. He first joined the “Green Team” (luse xiaozu), then soon founded his own organization, “Cultural Taiwan.” Before its disbandment of 1987, Cheng used Cultural Taiwan as a base for organizing workers, and made promotional and educational documentaries for the labor movement. His documentaries include, Days Without Government/Zai meiyou zhengfu de rizi li (1986), concerning an anti-pollution community-based protest in Hsinchu; Writing History with Steering Wheels/Yong fangxiangpan xie lishi (1988), which recorded the complete process of a bus strike in Taoyuan; and Taiwan Spirit/Taiwan hun (1989), about the democratization movement after Cheng Nan-jung’s self-immolation. In 1989, Taiwan Legal Aid for Labor recruited Cheng as a union organizer. During his time as an organizer, Cheng not only promoted the labor movement throughout Taiwan, but also documented numerous labor disputes.

By 1996, after devoting himself to social activism for over a decade, Cheng returned to independent filmmaking, first writing screenplays, then becoming involved in film producing, and finally, directing single-episode television dramas as well as feature-length narrative films. His screenplay The Poet and A-De won an Excellent Screenplay award in 1997 and was picked up by Wan Jen, who made Connection by Fate/Chaoji gongmin (1998), based on it. He also was producer of Ko I-Cheng’s Blue Moon/Lan yue (1997).

Cheng Wen-Tang made several movies for Public Television Service, including his “river trilogy” – Lanyang River Youth/Lanyangxi shaonian (1998), Choshui River Contract/Zhuoshuixi qiyue (1999) and Vanity Tamsui/Fanhua danshui (2000), as well as his “tribal village trilogy” – Abas, the Youth/Shaonian abashi (2001), Maya’s Rainbow/Maya de caihong (2001), and Wadan’s Wine Bottle/ Wadan de jiuping (2002). In-between these trilogies, Cheng made a TV movie adapted from writer Li Ang’s novel, Hsilien/Xilian (2000). Most of these television movies/short narratives were about marginal people in society who coped with difficult situations through their dreams and friendship. This subject matter can also be found in Cheng’s later TV movies, such as Hamster/Dishu (2007) and Seaside People/Haibian de ren (2007).

Cheng made a 16mm narrative short, Postcard/Mingshinpian in 1999, about a young Aborigine who could not adjust to the hostile, discriminatory, hard labor environment. It won “Special Award” at the 1999 Taipei Film Festival’s Taipei Awards, and “Best Narrative Short” at the 2000 Golden Harvest Awards. His feature-length narrative directorial debut, Somewhere Over the Dreamland /Menghuan buluo (2002), a remake of Wadan’s Wine Bottle, both consisted of three separate, yet connected stories. It won “Best Taiwan Film of the Year” at the 2002 Golden Horse Awards, and International Critics’ Week “Best Film” at Venice Film Festival in 2002. Afterward, Cheng made a 16mm short, Badu’s Homework/ Feng zhong de xiaomi tian (2003), which extended the subject of Somewhere Over the Dreamland, in which both male and female aboriginals were searching for a millet field they had seen when they were young. In Badu’s Homework, it is a group of teenagers in search of a rarely seen millet field. Together, Postcard, Somewhere Over the Dreamland, and Badu’s Homework, constitute Cheng’s “aboriginal trilogy.”

The Passage/Jingguo, Cheng’s next project, was commissioned by the National Palace Museum. The film reveals that art can help one’s life become tranquil, through its three characters – a man tries coping with the loss of his love interest, a woman dreams of touring the restricted vault of the Palace Museum, a Japanese tourist comes to the Museum specifically to see one artwork. The film was selected into competition at the 2004 Tokyo International Film Festival and won “Best Sound Effects” at the 2004 Golden Horse Awards.

In 2003, Cheng directed a TV mini-series, Wintry Night II/Hanye xuqu based on nativist writer Lee Chiao’s big river novel about the history and sadness of the Hakka people. The drama focuses on the political struggle of the Hakka against Japanese colonial rule in the 1920s and 1930s, and their participation in the Pacific theater of World War II in the 1940s. In 2005, he also directed The Scar of 228, a documentary about the “228 Incident” of an uprising against the Nationalist government in Taiwan, and its brutal suppression. That same year, Cheng directed two episodes of Taiwan: A People’s History (2007), a reenacted television historical documentary series. Both were produced by the Public Television Service.

Blue Cha Cha/Shen hai (2005) is a character study about a mentally unstable woman, who lives day-to-day without knowing, or wanting to know, her future. Lu Yi-Ching, who played the bar owner and supporter of the lead character, was nominated at the Golden Horse, and won “Best Supporting Actress” at the 2006 Asia-Pacific Film Festival.

Summer’s Tail/Xiatian de weiba (2007), a youth film that Cheng worked on with his daughter Cheng Enno, the cowriter and music composer, who also played a lead role, was an unusual detour for Cheng Wen-Tang from his more serious, solemn works. In the film, a group of teen school dropouts are finally free to love, sing, rebel, and stand up for social justice.

In his most recent work, Tears/Yan lei (2009), Cheng seriously explored the use and consequences of police torture in gaining suspects’ “confessions,” an unusual subject in Taiwan cinema. The film, which ends with forgiveness and reconciliation, seems a plea to Taiwan society, which has been split into fiercely opposing political camps for more than a decade. Cheng won “Best Director” at the 2010 Taipei Film Festival’s Taipei Film Awards.

Since August 2010, Cheng Wen-Tang has been director of the Cultural Affairs Bureau for the Yilan County Government. He expects to serve in the position for two years, during which time he wants to show international film classics to Yilan students.


CHIAO, PEGGY HSIUNG-PING (Jiao Xiongbing) (1953- ). Peggy Chiao Hsiung- Ping is a multi-faceted and distinguished Taiwanese filmmaker – a film scholar, critic, educator, and producer. Most importantly, Chiao Hsiung-Ping is considered one of the pushing hands behind the Taiwan New Cinema (TNC) movement in the 1980s.

Peggy Chiao was born in 1953 in Taiwan. Before retiring in 1969, her father was a secretary in the Ministry of the Interior in the Executive Yuan (equivalent of the State Department in the United States) of the Nationalist government. Chiao graduated from Taipei First Girls High School in 1971. Thereafter, she enrolled in the Department of Journalism at National Chenchi University, graduating in 1975. Between 1978 and 1981, Chiao studied in the Department of Radio-Television-Film’s graduate program at the University of Texas in Austin, where she earned an MA degree. She entered the Cinema Studies Ph.D. program at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) in 1983.

In 1981, while working at the United Daily News (one of the two leading newspapers in Taiwan at the time), Chiao Hsiung-Ping began writing essays and criticism in newspapers and magazines. The film reviews she and her young critic friends, Edmond Wong and Chen Kuo-fu, wrote in the United Daily antagonized film distributors, forcing the paper to eliminate the review column, thus galvanizing Chiao and other critics to boost a new Taiwan film industry.

When the Nationalist-owned Central Motion Picture Corporation (CMPC) made In Our Time/Guangyin de gushi in 1982, Chiao and others supported the film. They wrote criticism and created events to promote In Our Time and the films of the young Taiwan New Cinema directors that followed, thus making the movement known inside and outside Taiwan. After 1985, when many TNC films failed at the box office, criticism against Taiwan New Cinema started to appear in newspapers. The struggle between supporters and opponents among critics and filmmakers extended into meetings of the jury at the Golden Horse Awards in 1985. A film industry boycott against the TNC directors, hostile film criticism of the TNC films, and the government’s unsupportive film policy toward Taiwan New Cinema, resulted in their “Taiwan New Cinema Manifesto” in 1987. The Manifesto severely criticized the industry, press, and critics for not supporting the TNC, as well as the Government Information Office, in charge of film affairs. Peggy Chiao and her critic friends were instrumental in drafting the Manifesto. After Taiwan New Cinema as a movement ended in 1987, Chiao edited a book on the TNC in 1988, which became an important reference book on the subject.

In 1987, with support from China Times Express, an evening newspaper published by China Times, one of the two most prestigious newspapers in Taiwan at the time, Peggy Chiao and her colleagues there created the China Times Express Film Awards, which became an important venue for “independent” commercial films and “alternative” non-fiction films to gain recognition, in addition to a forum for reviewing films and the film industries of Taiwan and Hong Kong. (In 1994, the China Times Express Film Awards changed into the Taipei Film Awards, supported by the Taipei City Government, and in 1998 was integrated into the Taipei Film Festival.)

In 1993, the GIO’s new minister, eager to promote a new Taiwan cinema, appointed Peggy Chiao director of “Cinema Year,” a year-round project aimed at rescuing the dying Taiwan film industry. Activities included 16 retrospective exhibitions of Taiwanese and Chinese cinema, held around the world to promote Taiwan cinema internationally; professional filmmaking workshops conducted by international experts in the fields of producing, directing, sound engineering, animation, and make-up; an international conference on Taiwanese cinema; and publication of reports about the Taiwan film industry and Taiwan film history. Afterwards, many young directors, producers, and film technicians trained in the workshops became central figures in the industry.

Chiao founded Taiwan Film Center in 1994, to promote Taiwan cinema internationally. It helped many international film festivals present Taiwanese film programs. Chiao is constantly invited to attend and represent Taiwanese cinema at global film festivals.

Chiao started to involve herself in film production around early 1990s. She wrote the story for Hong Kong director Stanley Kwan’s Centre Stage/Ruan Lingyu (1992). Chiao produced Kwan’s and Ann Hui’s documentary films (together called “Personal Memoir of Hong Kong”) about the imminent return of Hong Kong to Chinese rule in 1997, Still Love You After All These Years/Nian ni ru xi (Stanley Kwan, 1997) and As Time Goes By/Qu ri ku duo (Ann Hui, 1997). She also produced two other documentaries, HHH: Portrait of Hou Hsiao-Hsien/ HHH – Un portrait de Hou Hsiao-Hsien (Olivier Assayas, 1988) and Home Sick Eyes/Wang xiang (Hsu Hsiao-ming, 1997), the later winning many international awards.

Her production company, Arc Light Films, founded in 1997, was behind many acclaimed international coproductions, such as Tsai Ming-liang’s The Hole/Dong (1998). Chiao’s most noted achievement in Arc Light, however, was the “Tale of Three Cities” project, which recruited directors from Taiwan, Hong Kong, and China to make films about the current situations in the three places. These films included Chinese director Wang Xiaoshuai’s Beijing Bicycle/Shiqi sui de danche (2001, cowritten by Peggy Chiao), and Taiwan directors Lin Cheng-sheng’s Betelnu Beauty/Ai ni ai wo (2000), Yee Chih-yen’s Blue Gate Crossing/Lanse damen (2002), and Hsu Hsiao-ming’s Love of May/Wuyue zhi lian (2004). (The original planned Hong Kong film, to be directed by Nelson Yu Lik-Wai, failed to materialize.)

In the award ceremony of the 2001 Berlin Film Festival, Peggy Chiao’s Arc Light won an unprecedented five “Silver Bear” awards for its two films Beijing Bicycle and Betelnut Beauty, including “Jury Grand Prize,” “Best Director,” “Piper Hidsieck New Talent Award for Best Young Actress,” and two “Piper Hidsieck New Talent Award for Best Young Actor.” In the 2000s, Chiao also produced many films by Chinese and Overseas Chinese directors that won many international awards.

In 2000, she set up Trigram Films to produce popular, youth-oriented films, Hear Me/Ting shuo (Cheng Fen-fen, 2009), Love You 10,000 Years/Ai ni yiwan nian (Kitamura Toyo, 2010), Me, 19/Wo shijiu sui (Frank Cheng, 2010), and Tempest of First Love/Chulian fengbao (Chiang Feng-hung, 2010).

Besides producing and writing, Chiao Hsiung-Ping was also busy serving the film industry. She was appointed and served two years, 2007 and 2008, as chair of the Taipei Golden Horse Awards, one of the best well-known, most prestigious film festivals in the Chinese-speaking world. She is currently a professor in the Department of Filmmaking at Taipei National University of the Arts.

Peggy Chiao Hsiung-Ping has written or edited over 70 books and served as jury member in more than 50 international film festivals throughout the world. She was selected by the major American trade paper, Variety, as one of the 20 most influential women in Chinese cinema in 2006. Osian Cinefan International Film Festival in India awarded her a “Life Achievement Award” the same year.


CHIN, CHARLIE HSIANG-LIN (Qin Xianglin) (1948- ). Born on 19 May 1948 in Nanking/Nanjing, China, Charlie Chin Hsiang-Lin moved with his family to Hong Kong in 1949 as a refugee of the Chinese Civil War. After graduating from elementary school in the Tiukengleng refugee camp, Charlie Chin went to Taiwan at the age of 12 to enter the Department of Peking Opera in National Fu Hsing Chinese Opera School, where he studied for eight years to be a martial role (wusheng) actor. When Chin returned to Hong Kong after graduation, the skills he learned helped him get an acting job at Motion Pictures and General Investment Co. Ltd. (MP&GI), where he appeared in more than 20 films from 1968 to 1973, including romantic wenyi pian and martial arts wuxia pian. At the time, however, MP&GI was in decline and Charlie Chin found it difficult to advance in the company’s low-budget films.

It was right at this time that director Lee Hsing was looking for an actor to replace Alan Tang Kwong-Wing in his new Chiungyao film, after the unexpected success of The Young Ones/Cai yun fei (1973). Tang was tied up in Hong Kong preparing to establish his own production company. Charlie Chin volunteered and won the part. The success of the film The Heart with Million Knots/Xin you qian qian jie (1973), and the subsequent Fantasies Behind the Pearly Curtain/Yi lian you meng (1974, directed by Lee Hsing’s partner Pai Ching-jui), changed Chin’s fate, and he became a superstar.

Charlie Chin, with Chin Han, Brigitte Lin Ching-Hsia, and Joan Lin Feng- Chiao, became the “double Lins and double Chins,” the icon and guarantee of box-office of romantic wenyi pian in mid- to late-1970s. Between 1974 and 1981, Charlie Chin made near 100 films. At the peak of his career, he was making 3 to 4 films per day! Most of these films were romantic wenyi pian. However, he did appear in some comedy, costumed drama and anti-communists national policy film. Most of the renowned female actors of the 1970s co-starred with him in these pictures. He won two “Best Actor” awards in the Golden Horse Awards, one in 1975 for Long Way from Home/Changqian wan lu (Liu Yi, 1975) and the other in 1977 for Far Away from Home/At the Side of Skyline/Ren zai tianya (Pai Ching-jui, 1977).

During this period, Ching Hsiang-Lin also made some (genre) films directed by Hong Kong directors, such as Hiroshima 28/Guangdao erba (Patrick Lung Kong, 1974), and The Girl with the Dexterous Touch/Jinfen shenxian shou (Lo Wei, 1975). However, it was his performance in Love Massacre/Ai sha (Patrick Tam Kar-Ming, 1981), a thriller, and The Imp/Xiong bang (Dennis Yu Wan-Kwong, 1981), a horror, that made him successfully break away with the image of a girly young male actor. From then on, he shifted his center of filmmaking from Taiwan to Hong Kong, and tried to perform various kinds of roles in different genres. Charlie Chin retired from acting and moved to the United States in1989.


CHIN, HAN (Qin Han, Sun Siangchong) (1946- ). Son of General Sun Yuen-Liang, renowned warrior in the Second Sino-Japanese War, Sun Siangchong was born 10 July 1946 in Shanghai. After the outbreak of the Chinese Civil War, he fled with his grandmother first to Guangzhou, then to Hong Kong, where he reunited with his father in 1950. After moving to Taiwan, his father retired.

After graduating from Kai-Ping High School in Taipei, Sun Siangchong enrolled in an acting class started by the Nationalist-owned Central Motion Picture Corporation (CMPC). When he finished training, he was accepted by Li Han-hsiang’s Grand Motion Picture Company (GMP) and given the stage name “Kang Kai.” The only GMP film he appeared in, however, was Deep in the Mountain/Yuan shan han xiao (Lin Fu-Di, 1967), a Chiungyao film in which he costarred with Chen Chen. Right before he was to appear in director Sung Tsun-Shou’s The Dawn/Poxiao shifen (1968), Kang Kai was drafted into the army for three years.

After discharge, Kang Kai played bit parts in television dramas before returning to films. The film industry was in its golden era, dominated by kung fu film and romantic wenyi pian. Kang Kai’s early films during this period were mostly kung fu action. In order to become a star, Sun Siangchong went to study martial arts and changed his stage name to a more macho “Sun Ge.” (Ge is a dagger ax.) Despite this, his career in kung fu movies did not pick up.

Around 1973 Sun Siangchong took a new stage name, Chin Han/Qin Han. When Lee Hsing’s Ta Chung Motion Picture Company was in pre-production for Sung Tsun-Shou’s Story of Mother/Muqin sanshi sui (1973), Chin Han tried out to appear in the film and was accepted. His accomplished performance won him many more chances to act in Chiungyao films, which had a resurgence as a mainstream genre in Taiwan. Chin Han quickly joined Charlie Chin Hsiang-Lin, who along with Brigitte Lin Ching-Hsia, and Joan Lin Feng-Chiao, became the so-called “double Lins and double Chins,” extremely popular wenyi pian screen couples that attracted audiences in Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Southeast Asia, and were a box-office guarantee. Chin Han made more than 60 such films in the 1970s.

Actually, Chin did not believe that he was the best actor for the lead male characters in Chiungyao films. However, Chiung Yao herself preferred Chin Han and cast him in the main roles of Chiungyao films she produced for her Super Star Motion Picture Company, and, later, in television serial dramas based on her novels. In 1989, at the age of 43, Chin was still dating young women, and running on beaches with his female stars in Chiung Yao’s television dramas.

Chin Han decided to return to film, this time as a mature middle-aged man. He costarred with Brigitte Lin in Hong Kong director Yim Ho’s Red Dust/Gungun hongchen (1991). It was based on renowned Chinese writer Eileen Chang’s autobiographical novel, adapted by renowned Taiwan writer San Mao, and produced by star actress Hsu Feng. The film reunited Chin Han and Brigitte Lin as a couple, both on screen and in real life. (The couple broke up a couple of years later.) Other memorable performances of Chin Han in the 1990s included Hong Kong director Stanley Kwan’s Centre Stage/Ruan Lingyu (1992), in which Chin played the lover of Ruan Lingyu, famous Chinese actress of the 1930s, and Chinese director Wu Ziniu’s Nanjing 1937 (1996), about Japanese atrocities during the Second Sino-Japanese War.

In 1995, Chin Han reappeared in television serial dramas, mostly produced by production companies in China, with some coproductions between China, Hong Kong, and/or Taiwan. Among them, Hao men jing meng (literally means members of a wealthy family awakened from their dream) by renowned Chinese director Xie Fei, costarring Chinese actress Siqin Gaowa, was probably the best known.


CHINA FILM STUDIO (Hanwei Pictures) (1933-1995). China Film Studio originated from a filmmaking/projecting unit established in 1933 under the political department in Chiang Kai-shek’s military command post in Nanchang. In 1936, the unit was expanded and became Hankou (or Wuhan) Film Studio, making only newsreel specials and military educational films. After the Second Sino-Japanese War broke out in 1937, it produced several newsreels about the war.

In 1938, Hankou Film Studio was expanded once again into China Film Studio (CFS), under the direct control of the Political Department in the Military Commission. Many left-wing writers and directors were hired by the CFS during this anti-Japanese coalition period between the KMT (Kuomintang, the Nationalist Party) and CPC (Communist Party of China). At this time, the CFS made several narrative films, along with several dozen newsreels. In September 1938, before Hankou fell into the hands of the Japanese, the CFS moved with the Nationalist government to Chungking/Chongqing. It expanded into a large 500-employee studio, with two soundstages, two cinemas (each with more than 1,000 seats), as well as a theater troupe, choir, juggling group, 40 mobile projection teams, and crews capable of making two films simultaneously.

Between 1939 and 1941, the CFS made 12 anti-Japanese narrative features and a documentary feature. It also set up a film production company, Great Earth (Dadi) Pictures in Hong Kong, making anti-Japanese films for the overseas market, but closed down after Japan took over Hong Kong in late 1941. The CFS also started distributing its own films in domestic and international markets. However, the CFS underwent an anti-communist purge between 1941 and 1943, causing all film production to halt until the end of 1943. After 1944, China Film Studio produced only a few narrative films before moving to Nanking/Nanjing in early 1946, where it became subordinate to the Information Bureau in the Ministry of National Defense. The CFS made many anti-communist films after the war, including newsreels, animation, and fiction.

In early 1949, following orders from the Defense Ministry, the CFS moved its equipment and personnel to Gangshan in southern Taiwan. By 1950, China Film Studio was put under the jurisdiction of the General Political Warfare Bureau in the Ministry of National Defense. The next year the CFS resettled in Beitou, a suburb of Taipei. After internal coordination and integration of the three government-affiliated studios by the KMT in 1950, the CFS’s mission was designated as the making of newsreels, documentaries, and military educational films. That same year, however, Chiang Ching-kuo, head of the General Political Warfare Bureau, instructed the CFS to coproduce an anti-communist propaganda feature film, Awakening from a Nightmare/Emeng chuxing (Tsung You/Zong You, 1950), together with Agricultural Education Film Studio (restructured into the KMT-owned Central Motion Picture Corporation in 1954).

In 1952, the CFS made its first color military educational film, Blue Sky, White Sun, and Red on Earth/Qingtian bairi mandihong, depicting life in a military camp. After building a soundstage in Beitou, in 1954 the CFS made a Chinese Opera film, Luo Shen, and anti-communist narrative films a year later. However, a fire in 1956 destroyed its facilities and valuable archives. The CFS went back to its designated mission, making mainly newsreels and military educational films.

When Mei Chang-Ling became director of China Film Studio in 1966, he purchased more film production equipment, producing weekly newsreels and military educational narrative shorts, and once again expanded the scope of his studio into narrative films. He invited Li Han-hsiang to write and direct the commercially-oriented Storm over the Yangtze River/An Inch of Ground, An Inch of Blood/Yicun shanhe yicun xie (1969) and The Story of Ti Ying/Tiying (1971), both winners in the Golden Horse Awards. He also recruited famous writers and directors to make narrative films with political messages.

After Mei became general manager of the CMPC in 1972, his successor at the CFS continued making documentary as well as narrative entertainment films, some coproductions financed by distributors, with the CFS providing the staff, facilities, and technical knowhow. However, the studio’s most notable film during this period was an exception. The Naval Commandos/Haijun tuji dui (1977), a war film the CFS coproduced with Chang Cheh’s Chang’s Film Company, was actually directed by Chang and his protégés, with a cast that came largely from Shaw Brothers. In the mid-1970s, China Film Studio started to produce television drama series as well. Cold Front/Hanliu (1975), a 68-episode anti-communist series, shown right after the United States lost the Vietnam War, was among the highest-rated TV programs at the time.

Despite constant changes in leadership during the late 1970s and early 1980s, China Film Studio continued to produce big-budget military films, including The Battle of Guningtou (Chang Tseng-chai, 1980) and The Bloody Battle of Da Er Dan/Xie zhan da er dan (Chang Pei-cheng, 1982, cowritten by Wang Shau-Di and Hsiao Yeh), as well as “commercial” narrative films with political/military overtones. Some of them, such as Off to Success/Chenggong ling shang (Chang Pei-cheng, 1979, written by Hsiao Yeh), were box-office winners, prompting a series of comedy films about military training in the 1980s.

After the mid-1980s, China Film Studio gradually shifted its focus to internal military education, through broadcast TV programs. Occasionally, the CFS (co)produced narrative films with either anti-democratization messages, such as Finding the Way/Xi yu chun feng (Lee Hsing, 1984), or anti-communist messages, such as 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). The Sunset in Geneva, however, was a box-office bomb, showing in cinemas for only two days, thus marking the end of  such “national policy films.”

In 1986, following the revised Film Law, China Film Studio was turned into a registered film company, Hanwei Pictures, which produced entertainment-oriented films from time to time, such as Dragon’s Troop/Tian long di hu (Ting Shan-hsi, 1989). Similar to Off to Success, the film depicts the training of military “frogmen.” In 1993, Hanwei made a fiction feature about the air force, Top Cool/Determined to Soar/Xiang fei: ao kong shen ying (Chin Ao-Hsin, 1993), to celebrate the 60th anniversary of China Film Studio. Heroic Pride/Gandan hao qing (Yang Li-kuo, 1994), a drama set in the military cadets school, was the last film made by Hanwei before it was merged with the General Political Warfare Bureau’s Recreation Corps in 1995.


CHINESE TAIPEI FILM ARCHIVE (The Film Library) (1979- ). The concept of establishing a national film archive did not appear until 1967 when film was under the authority of the Cultural Bureau of the Ministry of Education. The Cultural Bureau began writing a Film Archive Establishment Act in mid-1969. The plan to establish the film library was terminated when the Cultural Bureau was abolished in 1973. Afterwards, voices promoting the founding of a film archive/library continued, especially at a film conference held by the Government Information Office (GIO), the authority in charge of film affairs since 1973. Finally, through the Motion Picture Development Foundation, established in 1975 with donations from the GIO and the Taipei Film Business Association, the GIO announced planning for the Film Library in early 1978. The Film Library of the Motion Picture Development Foundation was officially inaugurated on 19 January 1979.

The first director of the Film Library, Hsu Li-kong, was originally a section chief in the Department of Broadcasting Affairs of the GIO. An early focus of the Film Library was holding the Golden Horse International Film Festival, started in 1980, which was extremely popular. Starting from 1982, film critics and scholars, such as Edmond Wong, Chen Kuo-fu, Lee You-hsin, Huang Yu-Shan, Daw-Ming Lee/Li Daoming, etc., were invited to be curators of the Festival. By introducing international “art cinema” to Taiwan audiences, the Film Library played an important role in elevating the general public’s ability to appreciate good films, especially college and university students. Films shown in the Festival opened the eyes and minds of many young cineastes, some of whom became international renowned filmmakers themselves, such as Tsai Ming-liang and Lin Cheng-seng.

Hou Hsiao-hsien admitted that he was strongly influenced by Jean-Luc Godard’s Breathless/A bout de souffle (1960) which he saw in the Film Library. So was editor-director-producer Liao Ching-Song, who was also inspired by Breathless as well as Alain Resnais’ Hiroshima mon amour (1959) and Last Year at Marienbad/L’année dernière à Marienbad (1961).

The Film Library was renamed the National Film Archive in 1989, before Hsu left. His position was taken over by Ray Jing Yingruei, who decided to switch the direction of the Film Archive from educating the public and raising their level of film appreciation to archiving Taiwan film and film related materials. During his tenure, Jing stopped holding the Golden Horse International Film Festival and concentrated on collecting old film prints and material, especially Taiwanese-dialect film, as well as promoting the concepts of film (print) conservation and film as important historical artifacts. Jing also transformed the Film Archive from a subsidiary of the Motion Picture Development Foundation into an independent organization in July 1991.

Officially established in 1992, the National Film Archive Foundation was founded and controlled by the GIO’s Department of Motion Picture Affairs, which was responsible for budgeting and supervising the Archive. The first 15-member Board of Directors included the deputy minister of GIO, who was president of the Film Archive Foundation, the secretary-general of the GIO, director of the Department of Motion Picture Affairs, and other government high officials, as well as seven filmmakers and scholars, such as Hsu Li-kong, Hou Hsiao-hsien, Richard Chen Yao-chi, and Edmond Wong. Out of the eight government representatives, four were from the GIO, which meant that the director of the Film Archive was responsible primarily to the GIO.

The National Film Archive applied to be a member of the International Federation of Film Archives/Fédération Internationale des Archives du film (FIAF) in 1992, but the application was strongly opposed by the China Film Archive. The Film Archive finally became an official member in 1995, under the name “Chinese Taipei Film Archive.” With the support of the FIAF, Chinese Taipei Film Archive raised the level of its staff’s technical ability in the conservation and restoration of film prints and related materials.

The Chinese Taipei Film Archive now preserves over 14,000 titles of Chinese-language films, including Taiwanese-dialect films, films from Union Film Company (Lianbang) and Hsin Hwa Motion Picture Company (Mandarin Films made in Shanghai before 1949 and in Hong Kong after 1949), as well as all the films of famed directors King Hu and Lee Hsing. Some small-gauge amateur films and home movies made under the Japanese colonial rule are also preserved. In addition, about 2,900 foreign film titles, 5,000 Taiwan film posters, 5,500 foreign film posters, and 2,000 production stills of Taiwan films are also preserved in the Archive.

Ray Jing was replaced by Edmond Wong in 1996. Wong’s most urgent work was to find safe film vaults for the 7,000 to 8,000 collected prints. The vault was established in 1997 at an industrial park in suburb Taipei. He also started oral history projects with Taiwan documentary and newsreel filmmakers, and began studying the film policies implemented in Europe and North America. In 1999, Taiwan Film Culture Company (aka Taiwan Film Studio) was destroyed in a 7.3 Richter-scale earthquake. The film prints (about 3 million feet), equipment, and other film-related materials that were not destroyed were sent to Chinese Taipei Film Archive vaults.

In 2000, the Ministry of National Defense turned over all the films made by China Film Studio to the Archive, requiring the new director of the Archive, Winston Lee, who had served as deputy director for almost a decade before becoming director in 2000, to expand its vaults. The Central Motion Picture Corporation (CMPC) also deposited its 947 titles (including 244 feature films and documentaries) in the Chinese Taipei Film Archive in 2009. The Archive can now claim that it owns all of the films produced by the three major government-affiliated film studios in post-World War II Taiwan.

Chinese Taipei Film Archive began digitizing films, posters, production stills, and other material in 2007. In 2011, a total of 1,300 hours of films and 66,000 posters and production stills are expected to be digitized and available for use. The Film Archive also held two international conferences on film preservation/ restoration and digital restoration in 2006 and 2009 respectively, to exchange digitization experiences with its foreign counterparts.

As of July 2011, Chinese Taipei Film Archive has its fifth and first female director, Chang Ching-pei/Zhang Jingbei, known for writing biographies of Taiwan filmmakers, including Ang Lee, Tu Duu-Chih, Liao Ching-Song, Tsai Ming-liang and Lee Kang-sheng, as well as Hou Hsiao-hsien.


CHIUNG YAO (Qiong Yao, Chen Zhen) (1938- ). Originally called Chen Zhe, Chiung Yao/Chiungyao/Qiong Yao was born on April 30 1938 in Sichuan, China to an intellectual family of good background from Hengyang in Hunan Providence. The family later moved with the Nationalist government in 1949 to Taiwan, where her father became a Chinese literature professor, and her mother a Chinese literature teacher in high school. Chiung Yao’s novels began to be published in the newspaper’s supplement while she was still attending Provincial Taipei Second Girls High School (later renamed Taipei Municipal Zhongshan Girls High School). After graduation, instead of going for a university education, she continued writing at home. The autobiographical novel, Outside the Window, was published when she was only age 24. After that, Chiung Yao wrote an average of two novels per year. By 1986, she had published 42 novels or collections of short stories.

All her novels centered on romance between men and women, and involved love/hate relationships between parents and their children. Her writing style was delicately beautiful, and the stories full of twists and turns. The novels became bestsellers because they satisfied the tastes of young female students and female laborers. Almost all of her novels were reprinted 20 times. They were loved by readers, not only in Taiwan, but throughout Southeast Asia. Many were also translated into English, Japanese, and Korean. Most of the short stories and novels were first printed in daily newspapers’ supplements and/or in Crown Magazine, a comprehensive periodical catering to the interests of young female readers. Afterwards, collections of her short stories and novels would be published by Crown Culture Corporation, publisher of the magazine. Ping Xingtao, owner of Crown Culture Corporation, later became Chiung Yao’s husband.

There were three phases in the adaptation of Chiung Yao’s novels and short stories into feature films in Taiwan. The first phase involved famous directors, namely Lee Hsing, Li Han-hsiang, and Wang Yin. Misty Rain/Yanyu mengmeng (1965), Wang Yin’s film adapted from Chiung Yao’s novel was the first to release in Taiwan. Kuei Ya-lei, new actress to star in Misty Rain, won “Best Actress” at the 1966 Golden Horse Awards, and veteran actress Lu Bi-Yun “Best Supporting Actress.”

In contrast to Wang Yin, who established his own company to film his Chiyungyao film, Lee Hsing had to convince the Nationalist-owned Central Motion Picture Corporation General Manager Kung Hong to let him adapt Chiung Yao’s romantic novels into Four Loves/Wanjun biaomei (1964) and The Silent Wife/Yanu qingshen (1965).

Not to be outdone, Li Han-hsiang’s Grand Motion Picture Company (GMP) was more aggressive in buying the film rights to more than eight of her novels. Eight Chiungyao film were made by the GMP between 1965 and 1968, mostly by young directors such as Chang Tseng-chai, Yang Su, Joseph Kuo, and Lin Fu-Di. The GMP’s Chiungyao films were especially careful about visual effects, created through cinematography, art design, and costume design. Many Enchanting Nights/Ji du xiyang hong (Yang Su and Li Han-hsiang, 1966) was a two-part film depicting the grudges and animosities between two generations. Young actress Chiang Ching was able to convincingly play the protagonist from the age of 18 through middle age, which won her “Best Actress” at the 1966 Golden Horse Awards.

At the same time, there were also other Chinese melodramas, wenyi pian, adapted from romantic novel writers other than Chiung Yao. A wave of wenyi pian in Taiwan and Hong Kong in the mid-1960s was stimulated by both the heat of such romantic stories and support from the Nationalist government, which was implementing a “national language movement” in which Mandarin film was encouraged, while local-dialect films, predominantly Taiwanese-dialect film was discouraged. Following the tide, Hong Kong’s Shaw Brothers also bought the rights to several Chiung Yao novels and adapted them into movies, including The Purple Shell/Zi beike (1967) directed by young director Pan Lei, My Dream Boat/ Chuan (1967) by veteran director Doe Ching, and Mist Over Dream Lake/Han yan cui (1968) by another veteran director, Yen Chun (Yan Jun). Location shots for these films were all in Taiwan.

By 1966, even Chiung Yao and Ping Xingtao were enticed to start a film production business, Huoniao (Firebird) Film Company, to produce their own Chiungyao films. However, only two films, The Moonlit Villa/Yue man xi luo (Liu Yi, 1968) and Four Leaf Clover/Xinyun cao (Gao Shanlan, 1970), were made by Huoniao. The frenzy over Chiungyao films calmed down quickly in 1970, due to the new frenzy in Hong Kong and Taiwan over wuxia martial arts films.

The second phase in the adaptation of Chiung Yao’s writings began in 1973, after Lee Hsing had failed miserably with one of his films Love Is an Elusive Wind/Feng cong nali lai (1972). It occurred to him that turning Chiung Yao’s novels into films might be a good idea. Indeed, The Young Ones/Cai yun fei (1973) was not only a great success at the box office, it made Alan Tang Kwong-Wing and Chen Chen instant stars. The excellent box-office of the Chiungyao films directed by Lee Hsing, such as The Heart with Million Knots/Xin you qian qian jie (1973) and Where the Seagull Flies/Haiou fei chu (1974) was even more surprising. Lee’s business partner Pai Ching-jui also directed a Chiungyao film. His Girl Friend/Nupengyou/Xibian taiyang dongbian yu (1974) was based on a story written by Chiung Yao, who later wrote a novel based on the film. Considered one of Pai’s best works, the film received awards for Best Feature, Best Supporting Actress (Josephine Siao), and Best Color Cinematography (Lin Chan-ting) at the 1975 Golden Horse Awards in 1975. Pai continued to direct three more films based on Chiung Yao’s works.

Phase 3 in the adaptation of Chiung Yao’s novels and short stories into feature films was the founding of Super Star Motion Picture Company by Chiung Yao, Ping Xingtao, and their associates. The 13 Chiungyao films made by Super Star were all written and executive-produced by Chiung Yao; the directors and main actors were chosen by Chiung Yao herself. However, the Taiwan film industry was going into a recession around 1980, resulting in the box-office failure of many of these films. Finally, after the completion of Last Night’s Light/Zhoye zhi deng (Liu Lili, 1982), Chiung Yao announced her exit from the film industry, ending the wave of Chiungyao film in Taiwan.

Since then, Chiung Yao has turned her attention first to television in Taiwan, and later in Mainland China. The television serial dramas produced and/or written by her sparked a viewership boom in both Taiwan and China. Some of the series, such as Princess Pearl/My Fair Princess/Huan zhu ge ge, were shown not only across the Chinese-speaking regions – China, Hong Kong, Macau, Taiwan, Singapore – but also in Japan, South Korea, Southeast Asia, India, Australia, and Russia.


CHIUNGYAO FILM.  Originally a sub-genre of romantic melodrama wenyi pian (films based on popular romantic novels), Chiungyao film soon became a genre in its own right, one of the most popular film genres in Taiwan during the 1960s and 1970s. A total of 50 films based on Chiung Yao’s novels and short stories were made in the 20 years between 1964 and 1983. Many important Taiwan directors made Chiungyao film during those years. Some of them received “Best Film” awards at the Golden Horse Awards, and a number of them were on the list of top-grossing films.

The development of Chiungyao film could be divided in three phases. In the first and second stages, between 1965 and 1976, writers and directors were able to freely adapt Chiung Yao’s novels and short stories into their own films. The style of these films, thus, was more varied and more interesting. In the third stage, when Chiung Yao founded her own Super Star Motion Picture Company in 1976 to produce Chiungyao film, she stopped granting permission to other filmmakers to adapt her works. The 13 films from Super Star (written and/or produced by Chiung Yao, and directed mostly by Chiung Yao’s protégé Liu Lili) lacked creative diversity and, consequently, felt less original to audiences.

A common feature in Chiungyao films was their attractive male and female actors, who were adored by fans and became stars from these films. Alan Tang Kwong-Wing, Chen Chen, and the “double Lins and double Chins” – Bridget Lin Ching-Hsia, Joan Lin Feng-Chiao, Chin Han, Charlie Chin Hsiang-Lin – started to appear as regular couples both in the films and in real life in the mid-1970s, consolidating the empire of Chiung Yao’s films. In the 1980s and 1990s, her television series also boosted the careers of many young actors from Taiwan and China, such as Chinese actress Vicky Zhao (Zhao Wei).

Chiungyao film was also famous for using many theme songs and musical interludes. Most of the composers and singers of these songs became very popular in Mandarin pop music during the 1970s and 1980s. For example, vinyl records of the title theme song in Cloud of Romance/Wo shi yipian yun (Chen Hung-Lieh, 1977), composed by Tso Hung-Yuen (Zuo Hongyuan), with lyrics by Chiung Yao herself, performed by Feng Fei-Fei, sold more than 300,000 copies. It was Feng’s most successful record.

The earlier novels of Chiung Yao mostly depicted love affairs which were unacceptable in traditional Chinese society, while her later novels told stories of complicated love among multiple male and female characters. Films based on these later stories were full of dramatic conflicts. Love was determined by coincidences and interrupted by interventions. Protagonists (male or female) were two-dimensional and stereotypical, however. They were extremely emotional and sentimental – crying a lot and breaking down often. Feelings were shown overtly through physical actions. Audiences, mostly young female students and female laborers, easily identified and empathized with the characters.

At the time when it was popular, Chiungyao film was deemed sentimental escapism that fed female audiences with fantasies of crossing the class divide with the prospect of higher social status. More recent scholastic studies, however, view the melodrama genre as reflective of the more serious political/social issues of the time and not just girls’ fantasies.

Among the 50 films that belonged to the genre of Chiungyao film, 11 were nominated for Golden Horse Awards and five won for “Best Film.” Ten acting awards were given to eight films, including Best Actress (2), Best Actor (1), Best Supporting Actress (4), Best Supporting Actor (1), Best Child Actor (1), and Special Excellent Acting (1).It is significant, given the genre, subject matter, and target audience, that the majority of awards went to women, not men.


CHOU, JAY (Chou Chieh-Lun, Zhou Jielun) (1979- ). Superstar singer/ composer/ actor Jay Chou Chieh-Lun was born on 18 January 1979 in Linkou, Taipei County (now New Taipei City). Both his parents were high school teachers who divorced when Jay was 14 years old. He was raised by his single-parent mother. Chou started to learn piano at age three. He began composing at age 16, when he was studying at Taipei Municipal Chin Hwa Junior High School, and graduated from Tamkang Senior High School in Tamsui (Dansui), near Taipei, majoring in piano, with a minor in cello.

Jay Chou began releasing his own R&B-rock-pop albums in 2000. Since then, he has become one of the most popular singers in China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, and throughout Asia, selling over 28-million albums, and winning the World Music Award four times. He composes his own songs for himself and other singers, and runs his own company, JVR Music, where he is a music producer.

Chou began his film acting career doing a cameo role in Hidden Track/Xunzhao zhou jielun (Aubrey Lam Oi-Wa, 2003), a romance based on one of Chou’s albums. His debut film as a lead actor was Initial D/Tou wenzi D (Andrew Lau Wai-Keung and Alan Mak Siu-Fai, 2005), a Hong Kong action-crime drama adapted from a Japanese comic book of the same name. Chou won “Best New Performer” at both the 2005 Golden Horse Awards and 2006 Hong Kong Film Awards.

Since then, Chou has appeared in several blockbusters in China, including Curse of the Golden Flower/Man cheng jin dai huangjin jia (Zhang Yimou, 2006), an action drama adapted from Chinese playwright Cao Yu’s “Thunderstorm,” for which he was nominated as “Best Supporting Actor” at the Hong Kong Film Awards; Kung Fu Dunk/Gongfu guanlan/Da guanlan (Chu Yen-ping, 2008), a sports comedy; The Treasure Hunter/Ci Ling (Chu Yen-ping, 2009), an action-adventure; and True Legend/Su qier (Yuen Woo-ping, 2010), a kung fu film.

In 2007, Jay Chou made his directorial debut with Secret/Buneng shuo de bimi (2007), a romantic-fantasy, in which he costarred with Taiwan actress Kwai Lunmei (Gui Lunmei) and Hong Kong actor Anthony Wong Chau-Sang (Huang Qiusheng). The film was a sensational hit in Taiwan and won Jay Chou the “Outstanding Taiwan Filmmaker” and “Best Original Film Song” at the 2007 Golden Horse Awards. His second film as director was Heroic Detective/Shentan liao (2010), an action-fantasy film in 3D.

Chou also produced-directed-performed in a children’s television drama series, Pandaman/Xiongmao ren in 2010. The series was not well-received in Taiwan and China, either critically or commercially.

Jay Chou Chieh-Lun’s film career reached a new high when he was invited to appear in the role of “Kato” in The Green Hornet (Michel Gondry, 2011), costarring with Seth Rogen and Cameron Diaz. He was nominated as “Best Breakout Star” at the 2011 MTV Movie Awards. His most recent film as an actor is The Viral Factor/Ni zhan, directed by Hong Kong director Dante Lam, costarring Hong Kong star Nicholas Tse (Xie Tingfeng) and Chinese actress Bai Bing. The film was premiered in early 2012. 


CHU, TIEN-WEN (Zhu Tianwen) (1956- ). Born in 1956 to a literary family – her father a writer and mother a translator of Japanese novels – Chu Tien-wen/Zhu Tianwen started writing when she was 16, while studying in Taipei Zhongshan Girls High School. After graduating from the Department of English at Tamkang University, Chu became a professional writer and editor of literary journals, and publisher.

Chu’s screenwriting career began when one of her short stories was chosen by Hou Hsiao-hsien and his creative partner Chen Kun-Hou. Hou invited Chu to cowrite the script for Growing Up/Xiao bi de gushi (Chen Kun-Hou, 1983), a realistic film about the experiences growing up of an illegitimate son, Xiao Bi. The film was a a box-office winner, and is considered one of the pioneering films that started the Taiwan New Cinema movement in the 1980s.

Since then, Chu (co)wrote all of Hou Hsiao-hsien’s films, with the exception of Flight of the Red Balloon/Le voyage du ballon rouge/Hong qiqiu (2007). She also (co)wrote screenplays for other new directors, including, Out of the Blue/Xiao baba de tiankong (Chen Kun-Hou, 1984, cowritten with Wu Nien-Jen), Taipei Story/Qing mei zhu ma (Edward Yang, 1985, cowritten with Hou Hsiao-hsien), My Favorite Season/Zui xiangnian de jijie (Chen Kun-Hou, 1985, cowritten with Hou Hsiao-hsien, Ding Ya-min, and Hsu Shu-chen), and The Matrimony/Jiehun (Chen Kun-Hou, 1985, cowritten with Ding Ya-min and Hsu Shu-chen). Chu won 3 awards in the Golden Horse Awards – “Best Adapted Screenplay” for Growing Up in 1983, “Best Original Screenplay” for A Time to Live and A Time to Die/Tongnian wangshi (Hou Hsiao-hsien, 1985), and “Best Adapted Screenplay” for Good Men, Good Women/Hao nan hao nu (Hou Hsiao-hsien, 1995).

Besides her screenplays, Chu Tien-wen is most famous for her novels. She is considered one of the most prominent writers in contemporary Taiwan, author of numerous collections of short stories, novels, and essays. She received several “best novel” awards in the 1980s and 1990s. In 1994, her Notes of a Desolate Man/ Huang ren shou ji won the “China Times Best Novel Award,” with an NT$1 million (US$38,000) prize attached.


CHU, YEN-PING (Kevin Chu, Zhu Yanping) (1950- ). The most renowned director of comedy films in the 1980s and 1990s, and producer-director of many high budget films in the 2000s, Chu Yen-ping/Kevin Chu/Zhu Yanping was born in December 1950. He dropped out of Taiwan Provincial Hsinchu Senior High School before graduating, but later enrolled in the Department of Foreign Languages (later split into the Departments of English Language and Literature, German Language and Culture, and Japanese Language and Culture), Soochow University.

Chu’s film career started when he was a freshman at Soochow University. He was hired as an extra in a martial arts kung fu film, which was being made on the exterior set of the Central Motion Picture Corporation (CMPC) studio, located next to the University. In his junior year, Tsai wrote the screenplay for Never Too Late to Repent/Cuowu de diyi bu (Tsai Yang-Ming, 1980), winning a screenplay award at the Asia-Pacific Film Festival.

When he was 30, Chu was given a chance to direct a feature. Copying Charlie Chaplin’s films, Chu made The Clown/Xiao chou (1980), starring Hsu Pu-liao. To everyone’s surprise, the film was a remarkable success. Hsu became a very popular comedian, and Chu received constant offers to reproduce the hit. The two worked together on nearly 40 films during the next five years, until Hsu died in 1985. Other than these comedies, Chu occasionally strayed and experimented with mixed genres, such as the iconoclastic, “boundary crossing” films – Golden Queen’s Commando/Hongfen bingtuan (1982), Pink Force Commando/Hongfen youxia (1982), and Fantasy Force Mission/Dragon Attack/Mini tegong dui (1982) – starring Brigitte Lin Ching-Hsia, Yang Hui-San, as well as other Taiwan and Hong Kong female stars, playing weird and absurd roles.

In 1986, Chu and Chang Mei-Chun/Zhang Meijun codirected Young Dragons: Kung Fu Kids/Hao xiao zi for Hsu Feng’s Tomson Films, thus beginning the “Kung Fu Kids” series, which was very popular in both Taiwan and Japan. Chu later created the “Naughty Cadet/Bighead Brigade” series, comedy films imitating Police Academy (Hugh Wilson, 1984), about the lives of soldiers, as well as a new version of the “Kung Fu Kids” series, mixing kung fu comedy together with the usual children’s film genre. In the 1990s, Chu created the “Shaolin Popey” series, this time mixing Shaolin kung fu and the children’s genre.

During the almost terminal box-office slump of the Taiwan film industry in the late 1990s and early 2000s, Chu set a record in 2004 for the lowest box-office, with a total of less than 10 viewers for his new comedy film in Taipei movie theaters. Amazingly, Chu was able to make a come-back in 2007 with a high-budget film, Kung Fu Dunk/Gongfu guan lan (2008), a takeoff of Stephen Chow’s sports comedy, Shaolin Soccer/Shaolin zuqiu (2001). The film became a big hit in Mainland China, and was relatively successful in Taiwan. However, The Treasure Hunter/Ci ling (2009), an action-adventure set in Genghis Khan’s Mongolia, starring Jay Chou and Lin Chiling, failed in Taiwan and China. Just Call Me Nobody/Daxiao jianghu (2010), a comedy starring China’s superstar Zhao Benshan and his disciple Xiao Shen-Yang, was a big hit in China, but did not do well in Taiwan. Chu’s most recent film, Happy Union/A Match Made by Heaven/Tiansheng yidui (2012), is a high-budget remake of Chu’s comedy of the same title some 25 years ago.

Considered a box-office attraction as a “commercial” film director, Chu Yen-ping’s record is unmatched in Taiwan and was second only to Jackie Chan among all directors among directors in Hong Kong and Taiwan. In the 15 years between 1980 and 1995, 18 films of his films were on the top-ten lists of highest grossing films (including domestic and foreign productions) in Taipei. Eleven of the 18 grossed more than NT$100 million (roughly US$ 3 million). Chu survived the end of mainstream filmmaking from the golden age of Mandarin film in the 1970s. Chu’s recent films were produced in China, signifying that the new trend of China-Taiwan coproduction may well be the primary path for successful “commercial” filmmaking in Taiwan in the future.


COMEDY. Narrative feature films were rarely made during Japanese colonial rule. Among the few (less than 16) made, there was no comedy. By the early 1950s, about six years after the Nationalist government took over Taiwan, the first comedy film appeared. Agricultural Education Film Studio (later restructured into Central Motion Picture Corporation, or CMPC) produced All Are Happy/Jie da huanxi (Tang Shaohua, 1952), which mixed song and dance into its simple, nonsensical plot. The numbers were performed by the General Political Warfare Bureau’s Recreation Corps in the National Defense Ministry, led by Long Fang (Peter F. Long). When Long was appointed director of Taiwan Film Studio (TFS), the first film he made was Where There Is No Woman/Meiyou nuren de difang (1956), a Mandarin-language comedy with a political message. The CMPC’s first comedy was One Heart Forever/Yong jie tong xin (Tian Chen, 1958), a romantic comedy, which preceded the triangular romantic comedy Womanizer/Yanfu qitian (Yang Shih-ching, 1959), the first Mandarin film comedy produced by a private company.

Comedy in Taiwanese-dialect film began with Chang Shen-Chieh/Zhang Shenqie’s Chiu Wang-she/Qiu Wangshe (1957). Chang participated in the “Taiwan New Drama Movement” before the Second Sino-Japanese War. He went to Shanghai in 1932, but his two screenplays were rejected and he could not get into the film business there. In 1957, Chang and a group of elite-businessmen established the Yilin Film Enterprise Company, producing only one film, Chiu Wang-she, which failed commercially. The story of legendary character “Chiu Wang-she,” however, would be presented in films and on television time and again. In 1959, Lee Hsing began the trend of slapstick comedy in Taiwanese-dialect film. Based on Laurel and Hardy comedy, The Misadventures of Two Idiots/Brother Wang and Brother Liu Tour Taiwan/Wang ge Liu ge you Taiwan (Lee Hsing, Fang Zhen, and Tian Feng, 1959) was a box office hit, which prompted a fervor to make similar slapstick Taiwanese-dialect films. Lee subsequently made more than 10 sequels and similar comedies between 1959 and 1963.

In the early 1960s, the CMPC produced a comedy imitating the style of The Greatest Civil War on Earth/Nan bei he (Wang Tian-lin, 1961) and The Greatest Wedding on Earth/Nan bei yi jia qin (Wang Tian-lin, 1962), two of the “north- south” series written by respected writer Eileen Chang for Hong Kong’s Motion Pictures and General Investment, Co. Ltd. (MP&GI), creating humor from daily life discord between native Cantonese and Chinese immigrants who moved to Hong Kong after 1949. The CMPC’s Making a Harmonious and Orderly Home Breathe/Yu Shi Yi Jia, directed by Zong You, followed suit, to disseminate a message of closing the gap between the waishengren (Mainlanders in post-1945 Taiwan) and native Taiwanese. Using actors from Mandarin and Taiwanese-dialect films, the story created comic effects from the differences in their language and culture. Making a Harmonious and Orderly Home Breathe was followed by Lee Hsing’s Good Neighbors/Liang xiang hao (1962), which further developed the contrasts and conflicts between waishengren/native Taiwanese, man/woman, Chinese/foreigner, and elder generation/younger generation.

After Kung Hong became general manager of the CMPC, he allowed Pai Ching-jui to make two comedy films in the style of commedia all'italiana, The Bride and I/Xinniang yu wo (1969) and Home Sweet Home/Home is Taipei/Jia zai taibei (1970), both romantic comedy. When Pai left the CMPC, Kung made Richard Chen Yao-chi an important CMPC director, allowing him to introduce screwball comedy in Judy's Lucky Jacket/Wujia zhi bao (1972), which was moderately successful at the box office. Chen left the CMPC after Henry Kung Hong stepped down, but continued making screwball comedy films, such as Come Rain or Come Shine/Dongbian qing shi xibian yu (1974), The Graduate from the Country/Xiangxia biyesheng (1975), Run Lover Run/Aiqing changpao (1975), The Chasing Game/Zhuiqiu zhuiqiu (1976), and Come Fly with Me/Wo shi yi shaou (1976), all produced by Yung Sheng Motion Pictures Company, thus making him one of the most prolific directors of comedy films. Chen added song and dance elements to the romantic comedy style. His later films, such as Making It/Zhui gan pao tiao peng (1978) and Going Up Anybody/Dong zhui xi gan pao tiao peng (1980) are take-offs on Richard Lester’s The Knack… and How to Get It (1965) and Help! (1965).

By the end of the 1970s, Taiwan cinema began its downturn. Many films made in the 1980s failed at the box office. Chu Yen-ping was one of the few directors whose films survived in the market. Chu started his directorial career copying Charlie Chaplin’s films, and made The Clown/Xiao chou (1980), starring Hsu Pu-liao. The film was a big hit. Hsu became so popular that he and Chu received constant offers. They made nearly 40 films together in the next five years, before Hsu died in 1985 as his last film, The Clown and the Swan, was showing in movie theaters across Taiwan. Afterwards, Chu made the “Naughty Cadet/Bighead Brigade” series, comedies on the life of soldiers, as well as a “Kung Fu Kids” series, mixing kung fu comedy with the children’s film genre. In the 1990s, Chu created the “Shaolin Popey” series, once again mixing kung fu (only this time, specifically Shaolin kung fu) and the children’s genre.

In 1979, writer Hsiao Yeh wrote a screenplay about military training for China Film Studio. The script was made into Off to Success/Chenggong ling shang (Chang Pei-cheng, 1979). Its great success at the box office prompted a series of comedies about military training. In 1987, Yes, Sir: Report to the Squad Leader/Baogao banzhang revitalized the comedy sub-genre, and a total of six films in the “Yes, Sir” series were made.

Comedy was not solely territory for “commercial” filmmakers. Wang Tung, a Taiwan New Cinema director, made Strawman/Daocaoren (1987), a dark comedy revealing the hardships poor rural tenant farmers endured during Japanese colonial rule. The film won “Best Picture,” “Best Director,” and “Best Original Screenplay” (Wang Shau-Di and Sung Hung/Song Yingying) at the 1987 Golden Horse Awards, and other awards at international film festivals. In a similar vein of dark comedy, post-Taiwan New Wave director Chen Yu-Hsun directed Tropical Fish/Redai yu (1995), in which Lin Cheng-sheng played an unsophisticated kidnapper, worried about the kidnapped child’s middle-school entrance examination. Around the same time, Wang Shau-Di, Chen Yu-Hsun’s teacher, directed Yours and Mine/Wo de shenjingbing (1997), a screwball comedy reflecting the absurdity of society in four chapters.

Among all the younger directors, Ang Lee’s comedies during this period are the most known internationally. Pushing Hands/Tui shou (1992), The Wedding Banquet/Xiyan (1993), and Eat Drink Man Woman/Yin shi nan nu (1994), films that Lee was especially good at creating, were acclaimed throughout the world.

By the 2000s, many new directors tried their hands at comedy, including writer-director Su Chao-bin’s B.T.S. (Better Than Sex)/Aiqing ling yao (2002), a nonsensical parody, and Yin Chi’s Black Dog Is Coming/Heigou lai le (2003), a dark comedy. Gay comedy also started to appear in the mid-2000s, such as Formula 17/Shiqi sui de tiankong (Chen Yin-jung, 2004) and Go Go G-Boys/ Dang women tong zai yiqi (Yu Jong-jong, 2006).

A couple of woman directors, rare in Taiwan during the 20th century, were interested in the comedy genre, such as Emily Liu Yi-Ming, who made Kangaroo Man/Daishu nanren (1995), a satire about a man giving birth. In the 21st century, Chen Yin-jung, following the unexpected success of Formula 17, directed an action comedy, Catch/Guoshi wu shuang (2006). Lee Yun-Chan directed a science fiction-romantic comedy, My DNA Says I Love You/Jiyin jueding wo ai ni (2007). Emily Liu Yi-Ming made Great Wall, Great Love/Zhui ai/Bang wo zhaodao zhang xiuqian (aka. Great Wall My Love) (2011), a romantic comedy about the clash of values between people born and raised in Taiwan and China, the two opposing systems.

Romantic comedy is a favorite genre, not only for female, but also for male young filmmakers. Wang Leeholm, the popular singer-turned-director, made his directorial debut with Love in Disguise/Lianai tonggao (2010). Arvin Chen’s directorial debut is also an action-romantic comedy, Au revoir Taipeh/Yi ye taibei (2010), executive-produced by Wim Wenders.

Taiwan cinema has been on its way to recovery since the phenomenal success of Cape No. 7 (Wei Te-Sheng, 2008), a romantic comedy. The tremendous success of Night Market Hero/Jipai yingxiong (Yeh Tien-lun, 2011) and You Are the Apple of My Eye/Na xie nian, women yiqi zhui de nuhai (Giddens Ko, 2011) show that comedy is the mainstream genre in early 2010s.




DOCUMENTARY. Documentary film in the forms familiar to today’s audience did not appear in Taiwan until the mid-1960s. Liu Pi-chia (1967), considered the first “modernistic” documentary film in Taiwan, is about a veteran working in a farmland development project in eastern Taiwan, shot and directed by Richard Chen Yao-chi, a filmmaker trained at film school in the United States. Most nonfiction films before it were either in the style of 1930s and 1940s British documentaries, i.e., real events reenacted according to a pre-written script, and told by voice-over narration accompanied by music, or propaganda films and educational films made by the government and its agencies to “teach” viewers.

The first such film in the traditional documentary style before Chen was An Introduction to the Actual Conditions in Taiwan (1907) produced and directed by Takamatsu Toyojirō, who was commissioned by the Taiwan Government- General Office to show the real situation in Taiwan after a decade of colonial rule. The film was long (over 220 minutes), exhaustively recording cityscapes, education, hygiene, basic infrastructure, sea ports, industry, mining, agriculture, fisheries, transportation, railway travel, ancient sites, beautiful scenery, cultural activities, lives of native Taiwanese and Aborigines, and also re-enacting scenes of the subjugation of the Aborigines.

Similar films about conditions in Taiwan were repeatedly made by the Taiwan Education Society (TES), a government-affiliated organization, including two films that were specifically made to show in major Japanese cities in exhibitions held by the TES in 1920 and 1921, in the context of the “Current Situations of Taiwan” project. In 1929, when the Government-General of Taiwan held exhibitions in Tokyo and Osaka promoting Taiwan, Traveling Taiwan, another film produced by the TES, was screened on those occasions. The TES’s 28-minute short, Taiwan (1931), used in Japan’s elementary schools, comprehensively presented the geography, agriculture, animal husbandry, fisheries, forest products, minerals, as well as city and rural scenery, historic places, and modern ports. All Taiwan (1934) was the first “all talkie” sound film made by Nippon Eiga’s Talkie News Productions, commissioned by the Taiwan Military Headquarters and the Taiwan Government-General Office. It included seven chapters, i.e., governance, industries, education, national defense, nature & inhabitants, transportation & communications, cities & historical sites, introducing the situation in Taiwan, as well as promoting the concept of air defense, to audiences in Taiwan and Japan.

In 1906, Governor-General Sakuma Samata began his decade-long large-scale military actions against the Atayal Aborigines living in the northern deep mountains. Some of the military activities were recorded in films produced by Takamatsu, shot by famous cameraman Tsuchiya Tsunekichi and others recruited from homeland Japan. Between 1909 and 1912, Takamatsu produced 20 such film titles on behalf of the Taiwan chapter of the Patriotic Women’s Association (PWA), a Japanese women’s group helping the colonial government with war relief. The films were shown not only to the governor-general and other government officials, soldiers, police, students, and the general public in Taiwan, but also to the PWA members and the press at the PWA main office in Tokyo, as well as to officials of the imperial government and congressmen, to win support for the suppression of the Aborigines.

Takamatsu made a documentary following the activities of a group of 53 Taiwan Aborigines who visited Japan during his 1912 Tokyo trip to show films he made on behalf of the Taiwan PWA. This new documentary film about them was later shown to their fellow Aborigines in Taiwan, who were astonished. The film helped the colonial government promote its “mainland sightseeing” (naichi kankō) policy, inviting leaders of Taiwan’s indigenous peoples to visit modernized Japan. The purpose of “mainland sightseeing” or “Aborigine sightseeing” (banjin kankō), which could also be related to Aborigine leaders visiting modernized cities in Taiwan, was to persuade Aborigines to fear (and not fight against) the mighty military power of great Imperial Japan. Many of the sightseeing activities of their leaders in modern Japan, in the city and visiting military facilities, were filmed and shown to indigenous audiences, who never would have had such an opportunity. The filmed record and testimony of their leaders in Japan to mountain tribes was considered an effective way of convincing the Aborigines to accept Japanese rule.

The Aboriginal Affairs section in the Bureau of Police Affairs started making its own documentaries about the lives of Aborigines in 1922. Many of these films are educational/propaganda films aimed at persuading the Aborigines to change from their “semi-primitive” ways of living to “progressive” or “modern” ways. For example, a demonstration film was made for the Aborigines about how to grow rice, showing the entire process from sowing, planting, weeding, and cutting rice, to threshing, shelling, and the final harvest. Such filmmaking was not only executed by the Government-General Office, but also on a local level.

The Taiwan Education Society started making films in 1917. By early 1924, a total of 84 films had been made by the TES, an average of 12 per year. Not all of these films were educational, however. About 17 percent were records of political events, 13 percent were about farm produce and fisheries, and 26 percent focused on transportation, visiting cities, off-shore islands, and other scenery.

In the 1920s, many agencies in the Government-General Office began making their own films to disseminate messages regarding the businesses they were in charge of. For example, the Special Product Section in the Bureau of Colonial Production (Shokusankyoku) produced films to sell farm produce, such as the titles: Taiwan Tea, Taiwan Granulated Sugar, Pineapple and Canned Pineapple, Banana, and Taiwan Citrus. The Communication Section in the Bureau of Transportation made Actual Condition in the Post Office. The Transport Division of the Railway Department in the Bureau of Transportation shot Sakura of Alishan Mountain, Along the Tamsui Line, Xiahai Chenghuang Temple Festival, Across the Southland by the North-South Way, Touring Along the Ridges of Taiwan Mountains, etc. Starting from mid-1936, the Transportation Division issued newsreels called Taiwan Pictorial, probably the first regularly produced newsreels in Taiwan.

Later the same year, Taiwan Nichi Nichi Shimpō (Taiwan Daily News, or Tainichi) also began regularly producing a newsreel series, Tainichi Talkie News Film. Tainichi founded its motion pictures department in 1923. The department made two fiction films, before switching to nonfiction filmmaking. It produced many documentaries about high mountains and mountaineering during its 20-year history, such as Shintakayama Mountain (1924) and Jikōzan (1925). To commemorate the opening of its new building, Tainichi made A Film About a Newspaper/Shimbun eiga, a feature-length documentary which shows 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. After the China Incident broke out in 1937, Tainichi’s motion pictures department started issuing “North China Incidents Special Edition,” later renamed “Sino-Japanese Incidents Special Edition,” to report on battlefield situations in Mainland China. However, following the Imperial government’s new policy, the Special Edition was merged in mid-1940 with Japan News Film Company (Nippon News Eiga Sha).

After the Government-General Office announced on 15 Augus, 1937 that Taiwan was in a state of war, the TES began concentrating its filmmaking on topics relating to the war. Taiwan in the Current Situation/Jikyoku ka no Taiwan, produced by the TES in 1937-38, depicted the situation in Taiwan after the Sino-Japanese War started. The TES sent a cameraman to battlefields in Southern China to make documentaries in 1940. Its motion pictures unit, personnel, and facilities were taken over by the Taiwan Film Association (Tai’ei) in late 1942.

Tai’ei’s original responsibility was to produce bunka eiga (documentaries) and enlightening informational films. Its first productions were a dozen reels of documentary films showing civilian conditions on the island. As the Pacific War escalated and Taiwan became the southward base for the Japanese Empire, Tai’ei began to produce films related to the war. For example, Captive Life of Generals Who Lost in the War/Yabureta shōgun tachi furyo no seikatsu (1942) shows the lives of imprisoned British officers and soldiers from the Southeast Asia theater of the Pacific War, held at a prison camp near Taipei City. In May 1943, Tai’ei started to produce a regular newsreel series, Taiwan Film Monthly/Taiwan eiga geppō, and documentary news films. The newsreels were mainly reports of events on the island. The news documentary films, promoted achievements of the Japanization (kōminka) policy, showed life inside a training center for special army volunteer soldiers, revealed different training in preparation for the war in Taiwan, or boasted how Taiwanese “warmly welcomed” conscription. Japanese critics at the time considered these news documentaries of poor quality.

Although nonfiction filmmaking during the colonial rule seemed to be solely produced by government agencies or government-affiliated organizations, such as the Taiwan PWA, TES, Tai’ei, and even Tainichi, there was an amateur cine-club filmmaking fad in the decade between the mid-1920s and mid-1930s. Amateur filmmakers used their small-gauge (17.5mm, 16mm, 9.5mm, and 8mm) movie cameras not only to make home movies, but also documentaries, science films, essay film, etc. The camera technique of some amateurs was so impressive that they were commissioned by Taiwan Military Headquarters to make a 9.5mm documentary film, Taiwan Special Exercises, in the early 1930s. One amateur documentary of note was made by a Japanese photography shop owner about the funeral of Jiang Weishui, leader of the Taiwan Popular Party, the first Taiwanese political party.

Among all Taiwanese amateur filmmakers in the 1930s, Deng Nanguang was the most prolific, winning many awards in Japan. Deng, a professional photographer trained in Tokyo, made a dozen films in the 1930s, among them, Fishing Trip/Ryō yū/Yu you and The Zoo/Dōbutsu en/Dongwu yuan, which won an “Honorable” award in a festival held by the Japan 8mm Film Association. His Sudden Shower is a short poem about the city during a sudden shower, reminiscent of Joris Ivens’s masterpiece, Rain/Regen (1929). For Insect/Chong, Deng even used time-lapse photography to record the process of a cicada casting off its skin.

Ho Chi-Ming, an official at the Department of Education in the Taichū Shū government, was one of the few native Taiwanese who had made newsreels and documentaries during the colonial period. He was in charge of making and screening educational films for schools in the Taichū Shū area. Occasionally, Ho also was required to make newsreels about events, such as sports games. Such activities were stopped after the Taiwan Film Association was established in 1941.

After Japan surrendered in August 1945, the Nationalist government took over Taiwan. Taiwan Film Studio (TFS) was established in October, based on the foundation of Tai’ei. The early newsreels and documentaries made by the TFS were very much like those of Tai’ei, probably attributable to the fact that many of these films were made or assisted by Japanese cameramen, a soundman, editors, and their Taiwanese assistants retained by Bai Ke, the first director of the TFS.

From that time until the lifting of Martial Law in 1987, Taiwanese documentaries were limited to journalistic reportage, political propaganda, and educational films. Most of the films were produced by film studios owned and managed by the government (i.e., the TFS and China Film Studio) or the ruling Nationalist Party (i.e., Central Motion Picture Corporation).

Other than Taiwan Film Studio and China Film Studio (CFS), the Government Information Office (GIO) was the only government agency that maintained a regular staff for making documentaries. In 1960, Visit to a City of Cathay (1960), a film about the panoramic scroll painting by Song Dynasty artist Zhang Zeduan, called “Along the River During the Qingming Festival/Qingming shanghe tu,” is the first documentary produced and directed by the GIO’s own staff. (Kung Hong was the producer.) The favorable reaction it received prompted the GIO to include making documentary films as one of its responsibilities. Since 1976, the GIO produced four documentaries annually. These films were targeted at foreign audiences, and, therefore, were mostly about culture, arts, folklore, scenery, and developments in science, agriculture, etc.

Since the 1970s, the GIO began to hire well-known fiction and documentary film directors, such as Richard Chen Yao-chi, Chang Chao-Tang/Zhang Zhaotang, Wang Chu-chin/Wang Jujin, and Hsu Chin-liang to make documentaries. The strategy of the GIO’s documentary filmmaking changed in the 1990s. The annual four productions were commissioned to private production companies, which would hire their own directors to do the work. The quality of most these GIO- commissioned films was good, attested to by the awards they won at international film festivals.

Although most documentaries were produced by government-affiliated organizations before 1970, a few private individuals did manage to make documentary films in the 1960s. They were a group of young filmmakers from the avant-garde film/theater magazine Theatre. The magazine emerged at a time when Taiwan began to liberate itself from the total control of arts and literature by the anti-communism ideology of the Kuomintang (KMT), the root of which could be traced back to the Korean War. The ROC government on Taiwan became an important ally of the United States government after the eruption of civil war on the Korean Peninsula, receiving ample economic and military aid from America annually. American culture and arts soon prevailed in Taiwan. Modernism in literature, fine arts, and music soon became popular among the cultural elite. The concept of modernist filmmaking and the works of modernist filmmakers were quickly introduced to Taiwan, first in publications, later in movie theaters.

Richard Chen Yao-chi, one of Theatre magazine's editors, published articles introducing cinéma vérité in 1965. This was followed by the showing of his film school MFA thesis documentary, Liu Pi-chia, that focused on the life of a veteran from China, and other of his works in Taipei the following year. Chen’s modern approach directly affected only a few privileged individuals who had the opportunity to produce independent documentaries in the 1960s, because the control of the film medium was still tight under Martial Law. However, by the 1970s, the fruition of Chen’s innovatiion was finally seen in television documentaries made by Chang Chao-Tang and others.

The early television documentaries made by Chang were characterized by his stylized collages of footage from real events, accompanied by folk music (both Western and Taiwanese), very much akin to music videos popular much later in the 1980s. In contrast, the television documentary series, Fragrant Treasure Island/Fenfang baodao (1974), produced by nativist writer-turned-documentarist Huang Chun-ming, and directed by Huang and some young filmmakers, including Chang, Wang Chu-chin, Wang Ying, among others, were traditional observational films with voice-over and pre-recorded music. These films were much more lively and interesting than documentaries produced by the government-affiliated studios – the TFS and CFS – most of which were pre-scripted, didactic, and sometimes reenacted. The films in Fragrant Treasure Island series explored and revealed subjects, such as folk beliefs and festivals, fishermen’s lives, the life and philosophy of a snake catcher, one day in a fresh food market, etc.

In 1976, China Television (CTV), owned and operated by the KMT, started 60 Minutes/Liushi fenzhong, an imitation of the famed American news magazine program on the CBS network. Cameraman Chang Chao-Tang teamed up with writer Lei Shiang/Lei Xiang, journalist Guo Guanying, and young novice cinematographer Christopher Doyle, to work on Taiwan’s 60 Minutes, mixing news reports of social events with interesting human characters. The emergence of the CTV’s program coincided with the nativism movement in Taiwan literature, which advocated that writers should be concerned with local issues and realities. However, none of the television documentaries made during this period dared to explore social issues, not to mention the darker side of reality. Restrained by censorship, Taiwanese documentary makers learned to steer clear of politically or socially sensitive issues. Their works remained within safer bounds, inhibited from explicitly expressing an independent consciousness or any censure of society. For documentarists to tackle political or social issues would take another decade and the emergence of a younger generation of filmmakers who involved themselves in the democratization movement.

By the 1980s, after the mass arrest and open trials of opposition leaders involved in the 1979 “Formosa Incident,” the anti-government opposition movement finally coalesced in the formation of the first opposition party in 1986, the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP). A riot erupted near Taoyuan International Airport on the 30th of November. Government-controlled mass media, including television news and the printed press, accused the opposition of inciting the riot and being responsible for the 49 injuries of police and civilians. To dispel the misleading news report orchestrated by the Nationalist government, a video camera team siding with the opposition movement, named the “Green Team” (luse xiaozu), quickly put together a documentary on the incident, called “The Taoyuan Airport Incident,” and showed it on video monitors in the headquarters of the DPP candidates running for seats in the Legislative Yuan during the first election held after the establishment of the DPP. The influence of the documentary was obviously great, as the opposition party won a landslide victory in the election, unaffected by the KMT’s disinformation campaign.

After that, independent documentary makers such as the “Green Team” managed to break down the state media monopoly. They acted as a forceful check on the government-version of truth. Documentaries became, in many ways, weapons of the weak and marginalized, against the dominant social forces. Portable video camcorders became the tool used by the “Green Team” and other minority groups to make documentaries, so that alternative voices could be heard. Such video documentaries developed hand in hand with the political and social movements surging in the late 1980s and continuing well into the 1990s, coming perhaps coincidentally with similar development of anti-government political movements in Nicaragua, El Salvador, Korea, and the Philippines.

Independent documentary films appeared before the emergence of the alternative video movement of the late 1980s. Kuangchi Program Service, a production company owned and operated by the Society of Jesus, made a 16mm feature documentary, The Love and Death in the Himalayas/Ximalaya de ai yu si (1985), directed and shot by its staff director Chen Songyong, about the tragic death of members in a Himalayan climbing team from Taiwan. Beyond the Killing Fields: Refugees on the Thai-Cambodian Border/Shalu zhanchang de bianyuan (Daw-Ming Lee, 1987), also a Kuangchi feature documentary, was the first totally sync-sound 16mm documentary film, and was made on location in Thailand and Cambodia. The film shows life inside refugee camps and explores the predicament of Cambodian refugees and Vietnamese refugees of Chinese descent who risked their lives crossing Cambodia to reach Thailand. The film won “Best Documentary” and “Best Documentary Director” at the 1987 Golden Horse Awards.

Ethnographic films also started to appear in the mid-1980s. Hu Tai-Li, an anthropologist with some filmmaking training, made her first ethnographic film, The Return of Gods and Ancestors: The Five Year Ceremony/Shen zu zhi ling gui lai – paiwan zu wu nian ji (1985). Undertaken with very little financial or human resources, it is the first reflexive documentary in Taiwan that reveals the concepts of the filmmaker as well as the process of filmmaking, a new documentary aesthetic. Hu continued to direct similar ethnographic films well into the 2000s. She won “Best Documentary” at the Golden Horse for Voices of Orchid Island/Lanyu guandian (1993, coproduced by Daw-Ming Lee). Her film Passing Through My Mother-in-Law’s Village/Chuanguo pojia cun (1997) became the first feature documentary to be screened in a commercial movie theater, with moderate box-office. Stone Dream/Shitou meng (2004) follows the story of Liu Pi-chia, left untold since Richard Chen Yao-chi finished his own film Liu Pi-chia. For the last quarter of a century, Hu Tai-Li remained the only ethnographic filmmaker in Taiwan. All other anthropologists use film or video simply as a means to assist them in field research, never as an artistic end.

Much has changed since 1987. Propelled by freedoms unleashed by the lifting of Martial Law, Taiwanese documentary makers vigorously reinvented their medium. With inspired breakthroughs, both stylistic and intellectual, numerous Taiwanese documentarists, equipped with the speed and efficiency of professional Betacam and amateur video camcorders, focused on the unprecedented social and political changes brought on by Taiwan's accelerated democratization. Their unrelenting efforts captured the vitality and chaos of contemporary Taiwan, exposing its contradictions and conflicts in a stream of historical and current topical footage.

The most notable examples are works of the Full Shot Foundation. Led by Wu Yi-feng, the documentary group committed itself to making documentaries about the underprivileged and marginalized, as well as training novice documentary makers, and promoting the viewing and appreciation of documentary works. Two of the most notable documentaries to come from Full Shot are Wu’s Moon Children/Yueliang de xiaohai (1990), about the social ostracism of albinos, and Gift of Life/Shengming (2004), which chronicles the lives of the surviving members in four families after the 1999 earthquake that caused severe damage and killed nearly 2,500. Gift of Life was part of a larger project at Full Shot, documenting the aftermath of the earthquake and the reconstruction process. Four documentaries in the project, including Gift of Life, were shown at a Taipei movie theater in 2004. Gift of Life did extremely well, and was eventually shown in theaters across Taiwan. Its NT$10 million (US$300,000) box-office take made the documentary the top-grossing Taiwan film in 2004.

“Prosumer” video camcorders, and later, the semi-professional digital video cameras, as well as computer editing software, became increasingly popular in the 1990s. Documentary subjects began extending into more private domains, to voice inner feelings of the self, the family, and the community. Since the 1990s, more than a score of personal documentaries by independent, as well as government- funded filmmakers, have employed observational and participatory methods to further probe into the relationship between the documentarist and subject. A good example is Swimming on the Highway/Zai gaosugonglu shang youyong (Wu Yao-tung, 1999), which chronicles the conflicts and struggle between the documentarist and his subject, who was a suicidal graduate school classmate. It won the prestigious “Shinsuke Ogawa Award” at the 1999 Yamagata Documentary Film Festival in Japan. New questions have been raised about formerly-prescribed social conventions and cultural mindsets. For some works, bold experimentation with aesthetics and theories became the central concern. Floating Islands/Liuli daoying (2000), a documentary film project initiated by Zero Chou to document life on 12 offshore islands of Taiwan, is considered a milestone for both its scale and the experimental approach taken by most of the 12 individual directors.

Since the late 1990s, documentaries have captured the attention of Taiwanese audiences. Documentary filmmaking became a new trend. This may be partially attributed to Full-Shot Foundation’s efforts since 1991, running documentary road shows presenting their own documentaries to community groups all over Taiwan. Their loyal audience numbers in the tens of thousands, constituting the support base for many other documentaries in Taiwan.

Documentaries have also become a tool for people on the fringe to present their concerns and feelings to the society at large. The Community Documentary Makers' Training Program, organized by the Full-Shot Foundation, has trained hundreds of documentary makers from all walks of life and every corner of Taiwanese society, not only school teachers, social and cultural activists, but also indigenous peoples, the hearing-impaired, and other minority groups. This was in line with the “Integrated Community Development Project,” initiated in 1993 by the Council for Cultural Affairs (CCA), a central government agency, meant to stimulate a new wave of social projects, and to call for the preservation of the country's disappearing cultural heritage. Under the banner of the Project, the promotion, making, and viewing of documentaries became the business of the CCA.

The Council for Cultural Affairs has been the biggest catalyst behind the recent documentary movement. Besides supporting the Community Documentary Makers' Training Program, encouraging trainees to make documentaries about community affairs, the CCA also established the Documentary Video Awards, as well as an island-wide touring program, presenting Taiwan's best works. To help promote domestic and international documentaries, the CCA established the biannual Taiwan International Documentary Festival (TIDF). The first TIDF, held in 1998, gave evidence of the growing Taiwanese interest in documentary films. In contrast to the continuously dwindling domestic audience for Taiwanese-made feature films in the 1990s, the enthusiastic passion expressed by audiences for documentaries is phenomenal.

Other governmental agencies also play a pivotal role in the near past documentary movement. Through central and local government programs, such as the Short Film and Feature Documentary Film Fund, National Culture and Arts Fund, Media Arts Fund of Taipei City Government, and sometimes by contract with the state-funded Public Television Service, documentary makers can receive funding of up to US$80,000 for making feature and short documentary videos and films. Print and electronic media also sponsor the making of documentary videos. There are now over four documentary awards given each year. The best works are given cash awards of up to US$30,000.

In the mid-2000s, some documentary films and videos were shown in cinemas to rather large crowds, garnering box-office results better than that of most Taiwanese feature films. Documentary film and video made their commercial cinema debuts in 1997 and 1999. Both Passing Through My Mother-in-Law’s Village and Boys for Beauty/Meili shaonian (Mickey Chen, 1999) were well-received. In 2004, Gift of Life ranked number one among domestic productions in box-office (and ranked 51st at the box office among all domestic and foreign feature films shown in Taipei). Viva Tonal – The Dance Age/Tiaowu shidai (Chien Wei-Ssu and Kuo Chen-Ti, 2003) and Burning Dreams/Gewu zhongguo (Wayne Peng, 2003) ranked fifth and sixth the same year. The Last Rice Farmer/Wu mi le (aka Let It Be) (Juang Yi-tzeng and Yen Lan-chuan, 2005) and Jump! Boys/Fangun ba nanhai (Lin Yu-hsien, 2005), ranked fourth and fifth in 2005. My Football Summer/Qiji de xiatian (Yang Li-chou, 2006) and Doctor/ Yisheng (Chung Mong-Hong/Zhong Menghong, 2006), also ranked fourth and fifth in 2006.

This positive trend did not continue after 2007, however. Commercial exhibition of documentaries has aroused debate among documentarists about the spirit and ethics of documentary making. Only emotionally-touching stories seemed able to attract a wide audience, which affected the direction of documentary making, thus marginalizing “serious” documentaries, which received much less attention from mainstream media. However, in the bigger picture, very few documentaries actually received any attention at all. It was estimated that among the nearly 200 documentary films and videos made annually, only one percent had the opportunity to be shown in commercial cinemas, and only 10 percent even got to be shown at film festivals or on television. Documentaries exploring environmental issues, migrant workers, the indigenous, and other social concerns are among those that could only be seen on Documentary POV, a program on the Public Television Service (PTS) channel, in addition to some film festivals.

Among the documentary makers of such films during the 1990s and 2000s, Daw-Ming Lee/Li Daoming is known for his films on the indigenous culture, such as Songs of Pasta’ay/Airen ji zhi ge (codirected with Hu Tai-Li, 1989), Sakuliu/Paiwan ren saguliu (1994), The Last Chieftain/Modai toumu (1999), and Tsuenu, the Way/Lu (2001). His Voice of the People/Renmin de shengyin huanbao pian (1991), about environmental issues, won “Best Documentary” at the 1991 Golden Horse.

Director Tsai Tsung-lung has made documentaries on social issues such as human rights and Taiwan’s foreign brides, among other subjects. His Formosa Homicide Chronicle 3: The Sweet Taste of Freedom (2009) explores the Su Chien-ho case, known internationally as the “Hsichih Trio.” Su and his two friends were accused and convicted of double murder, and it became one of the most controversial and political cases in Taiwan history, taking a series of legal twists and turns between 1991 and 2011. Successive justice ministers from 1996-on have refused to allow their execution.

Mayaw Biho, an indigenous independent filmmaker, has made a series of independent films since graduation from college, all from an indigenous perspective. Two of his films, As Life, As Pangcah/Ru shi banzha (1998) and Dear Rice Wine, You Are Defeated/Qinai de mijiu ni bei wo dabai le (1998) were selected for screening by the prestigious Margaret Mead Film and Video Festival.

Documentaries were made not only by independent filmmakers, but also by the print and broadcast media. Three documentary series on Taiwan history were produced in the past quarter-century. Taiwan in Transition: Go Through the Past Together/Yitong zouguo congqian: xishou taiwan sishinian (Chang Chao-Tang, 1988), produced by CommonWealth Magazine, tells postwar history from the historical points-of-view of the Nationalists and capitalist entrepreneurs. In Search of Taiwan’s Animating Spirit/Xunzhao taiwan shengmingli (Fu Chang-feng, 1993), produced by another financial magazine, Global Views Monthly, tries to find out what it meant to be Taiwanese in a time of social turbulence. Taiwan: A People’s History/Dapin: taiwan renmin de lishi (Fu Chang-feng, Chen Li-kuei, and Cheng Wen-Tang, 2007), produced by the Public Television Service, uses reenactment and reconstruction methods to recreate the past on film. The PTS also produced documentary series on the lives of Chiang Ching-kuo, Mme. Chiang Kai-shek, General Sun Li-Jen, and Lee Teng-hui, among others. It also made documentary series on various micro-histories of Taiwan, including epidemic diseases, baseball, animation, and the student movement.

The development of the modern documentary in Taiwan took only about a quarter of a century, correlating with its political development, especially the lifting of Martial Law and the democratization of Taiwan society. The documentary’s progress, in a way, can be compared with the development of Taiwan cinema from the emergence of Taiwan New Cinema to the appearance of Cape No. 7 (Wei Te-Sheng, 2008). Documentary films in the 1980s and early 1990s were “serious” in content and “formal” in style, thus establishing a paradigm. However, after the emergence of a new generation, the paradigm was soon overturned, and scores of documentaries with freer, more approachable style, and less “serious” content appeared. After the phenomenal success of Gift of Life, many films vied for audiences in commercial cinemas and succeeded. However, these films, though energetic, were never able to replace fictional films as the mainstream mode of expression in Taiwan. After the commercial success of Cape No. 7, documentaries were no longer favored, and quickly disappeared in movie theatres. Though many documentaries are still being made these days, few stimulate strong reactions or passionate discussions.


DOMESTIC FILM GUIDANCE FUND (Guidance Fund). In the late 1980s, after a chronic deterioration of the domestic market for Taiwan films, the director of the Department of Motion Picture Affairs in the Government Information Office (GIO), Liao Hsiang-hsiung, himself a film director active in the 1960s and 1970s, made a proposal that was accepted by the central government, to establish a program to conceptually guide domestic film productions and to financially assist them with government money.

The Domestic Film Guidance Fund, or Guidance Fund, started in 1989, was originally administered through the Motion Picture Development Foundation, established in 1975 with donations from the GIO and the Taipei Film Business Association. The GIO took over operations in 1990. Sources of financing for the Guidance Fund came from surcharges on imported foreign films (enacted in 1985-1986), the GIO’s donation, and income from auctioning a special quota for importing Japanese films (in 1984-1991). Between 1990 and 1991, the Nationalist government collected a surcharge on each movie ticket sold, specifically for the Guidance Fund.

Initially, 10 films with budgets over NT$10 million (US$360,000) were each awarded NT$3 million (US$109,000). The number of awarded films, the amount awarded to each film, and the sum in the Guidance Fund varied year by year. In 2009, 10 films were given NT$8-10 million (US$25,000-$32,000) each, and NT$4-5 million (US$12,500-16,000) was awarded to each of 24 new directors’ films. The GIO also subsidizes the print cost of any film not receiving money from the Guidance Fund, as well as costs to replace film projectors with Digital Cinema projectors in theaters and production/postproduction facilities, for the purpose of making Digital Cinema films.

In 2010, special funding was also allocated for making “flagship” and “strategic” films, with budgets exceeding NT$100 million for flagship films and NT$60 million for strategic films. Each qualified film would be awarded up to 30 percent of the film budget. Even foreign films partially made in Taiwan (preproduction, production, or postproduction) are qualified for some financial benefits from the Guidance Fund.

The Guidance Fund was considered a life-saving pill for the dying Taiwan film industry. It also contributed to internationally award-winning Taiwan films. Without support from the Guidance Fund, many of these films might not have been made.

Films by a number of internationally renowned Taiwan directors were also recipients of the Fund. These included: Ang Lee’s Pushing Hands/Tui shou (1992), The Wedding Banquet/Hsi Yen/Xiyan (1993), and Eat Drink Man Woman/Yin shi nan nu (1994); Edward Yang’s A Brighter Summer Day/Gulingjie shaonian sharen shijian (1991) and Mahjong/Shake and Bake/Majiang (1996); Hou Hsiao- hsien’s The Puppetmaster/Xi meng rensheng (1993); Good Men, Good Women/ Hao nan hao nu (1995); Goodbye, South Goodbye/Nanguo zaijian, nanguo (1996); Flowers of Shanghai/Hai shang hua (1998); and Three Times/The Best of Times/ Zui hao de shiguang (2005); Wang Tung’s Hill of No Return/Silent Mountain/Wu yan de shanqiu (1992), and Red Persimmon/Hong shihzih (1997); Tsai Ming- liang’s Rebels of the Neon God/Qinshaonian nuozha (1993), Vive l’Amour/Aiqing wansui (1994), The River/Heliu (1997), The Hole/Dong (1998), The Wayward Cloud/Tianbian yi duo yun (2005), and I Don’t Want to Sleep Alone/Hei yanquan (2006); Sylvia Chang’s Siao Yu/Shaonu xiaoyu (1995) and 20.30.40 (2004); Wu Nien-Jen’s A Borrowed Life/Dou sang (1994) and Buddha Bless America/Taiping tianguo (1996); Lin Cheng-sheng’s A Drifting Life/Chun hua meng lu (1995), Murmur of Youth/Meili zai changge (1996), Robinson’s Crusoe/Lubinxun piaoliu ji (2003), and The Moon Also Rises/Yueguang xia wo jide (2004); Wang Shau-Di’s Yours and Mine/Wo de shenjingbing (1997), Grandma and Her Ghosts/Mofa ama (1998), and Fantôme où es-tu/Ku Ma (2010); Hsu Li-kong’s Fleeing By Night/Ye ben (codirected with Yin Chi, 1999); Wei Te-Sheng’s Cape No. 7 (2008); Doze Niu’s Monga/Mengjia (2010), and others. It is indeed a long list. It seems as if almost all of the important Taiwan films made in the past 20 years are included.


DOYLE, CHRISTOPHER (Du Kefeng) (1952- ). World renowned, award-winning Australian cinematographer Christopher Doyle started his film career in Taiwan, then moved to Hong Kong to work with directors there. Though occasionally invited to work in Hollywood, Australia, and other parts of the world, throughout most of Doyle’s career, he worked with directors in Taiwan, Hong Kong, and China. He is especially known for his camerawork on Hong Kong director Wong Kar-Wai’s films. Christopher Doyle likes to call himself “a Chinese who contracted skin disease.”

Chris Doyle was born on 2 May 1952 in suburban Sydney. His father was a doctor. At the age of 18, he studied literature at the University of Sydney for a year, before dropping out to become a sailor. He traveled the world, working as an oil driller in India, a cow herder in Israel, and studied Chinese medicine in Thailand. Doyle returned to school briefly, studying art history at the University of Maryland, and around 1976, studying Chinese language in New Asia College at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, where he acquired a Chinese name, “Du Kefeng.”

Chris Doyle moved to Taiwan after studying two semesters in New Asia College. He made the acquaintance of Stan Lai, a singer in a piano bar at the time, and through him, many young artists in theater, dance, and the art world. In the late 1970s, Doyle participated in an experimental Taipei theater group, wrote articles about films, helped edit a film magazine, The Influence, and made experimental films that won awards. He also began shooting and editing reports for 60 Minutes, a news magazine program in a Taiwanese television station CTV, and television documentaries that won some awards. By the late 1970s, Chris Doyle or Du Kefeng, as he is known in the Chinese world, was already a familiar face in Taipei’s small arts and literature community. He was invited by Cloud Gate Dance Theatre, later internationally acclaimed, to be its photographer.

However, Doyle was more interested in cinema, and became an assistant of cinematographer Chen Kun-Hou. His first professional experience was as assistant cameraman on Lee Hsing’s The Story of a Small Town/Xiaocheng gushi (1979). Doyle quickly became known in the Taiwan film world, too. He even appeared as actor in films, Confused Woman Chauffer/Hutu nu siji (1982), written and directed by famous writer Chang Yung-hsiang, and a national policy film Flag of Honor/Qi zheng piao piao (Ting Shan-hsi, 1987).

In 1983, when Edward Yang prepared to direct his feature-length debut film, That Day on the Beach/Haitan de yitian (1983), he fought vigorously to use Christopher Doyle as the cinematographer, against the will of the film’s production company, Central Motion Picture Corporation (CMPC). The CMPC insisted on using its own staff cameraman. Hsiao Yeh, producer of the film and on their staff, deftly solved the problem by inviting Hong Kong’s Cinema City & Films to coproduce the film. Sylvia Chang, leading actress of Yang’s film, had been recruited as Cinema City’s supervising director in Taiwan. The backing of Sylvia Chang and Cinema City for using Doyle was a good reason for the CMPC to back down. Doyle won “Best Cinematography” for That Day on the Beach at the 1983 Asia-Pacific Film Festival. Subsequently, he shot Law Wai-ming’s segment in the CMPC’s omnibus film The Gift of A-Fu/A fu de liwu (1985).

Doyle had self-doubts about his instant success, and moved to Paris to indulge himself in the art of photography. He was soon asked to be one of the four cinematographers on a French film, Noir et blanc (Claire Devers, 1986). When Hong Kong critic-turned-director Shu Kei asked Doyle to be the cinematographer for Soul/ Lao niang gou sao (1986), Doyle happily accepted the offer. After the film won “Best Cinematography” in the 1987 Hong Kong Film Awards, Doyle stayed on in Hong Kong.

Chris Doyle’s work with Wong Kar-Wai on Days of Being Wild/A-Fei zhengzhuan (1990) not only won him “Best Cinematography” again in the Hong Kong Film Awards, the film also began their decade-long cooperation, that lasted until 2007 when Wong made an English-speaking film, My Blueberry Nights.

In 1990s, between his projects with Wong Kar-Wai, Christopher Doyle accepted invitations from old acquaintances in Taiwan to be cinematographer on their productions. He worked on Stan Lai’s The Peach Blossom Land/Anlian taohua yuan (1992) and The Red Lotus Society/Fei xia a da (1994), and Chen Kuo-fu’s The Peony Pavilion/Wo de meili yu aichou (1995), which is the last film Chris shot for a Taiwanese director.

Christopher Doyle has directed two feature-length films and a short – Away with Words/San tiao ren (1999), the “Porte de Choisy” segment in Paris, je t’aime (2006), and a polish film, Warsaw Dark/Izolator (2008). He also appeared in films occasionally. He was the English teacher in Comrades, Almost a Love Story/Tian mi mi (Peter Chan, 1996), starring Leo Lai and Maggie Cheung, “Soccer” in the Japanese film Andromedia/Andoromedia (Miike Takashi, 1998), “BBQ man” in McDull, the Alumni/Chuntian hua hua tongxuehui (Leung Chun Chiu, 2006), and “Uncle Tommy” in Paranoid Park (Gus Van Sant, 2007).

Christopher Doyle/Du Kefeng has won countless awards during his film career. He was nominated 10 times for “Best Cinematography,” winning four times at the Golden Horse Awards. In the Hong Kong Film Awards, he was nominated 14 times and won six times for “Best Cinematography.” Doyle also won the “Best Cinematography” Golden Osella Award at the 1994 Venice Film Festival for Ashes of Time/Dung che sai duk (Wong Kar-Wai, 1994). In 1999, the Hawaii International Film Festival awarded him its “Excellence in Cinematography Award.” Doyle received the “Technical Grand Prize” (shared with Mark Lee Ping-Bin and William Chang) at the 2000 Cannes Film Festival for In the Mood for Love/Hua yang nianhua (Wong Kar-Wai, 2000).




ERAKU-ZA (Yongle Theater) (1924-1960). Though there were many theaters and cinemas in the City of Taipei (Taihoku) during the colonial rule, only a few catered to the interests and needs of native Taiwanese audiences. Eraku-za/ Yongle-zuo, located in the Dadaocheng/Daitōtei district north of central Taipei, where native Taiwanese accounted for over 80 percent of the population, was one of the first such theaters in the area that presented both films and stage performances. Before Eraku-za opened, there was only New Stage (Shinbutai)/ Xinwutai Theater, acquired in 1916 by a wealthy local businessman who renamed it from its original “Tamsui Playhouse,” built in 1909. New Stage Theater, mainly used for live performances of Peking Opera, with occasional film screenings, was narrow and small, and its facilities dated.

In June 1920, soon after his return from a trip in China, Umetani Mitsusada, commissioner (chōchō) of Taipei Subprefecture (Taihoku Chō), summoned leading figures from the Dadaocheng area for consultation in his office. He felt that Taiwan was on its way to becoming developed, and Taipei, as the capital, would be visited by important figures from Southern China and Southeast Asia. However, there was no big hotel, big restaurant, or big theater to receive these figures. He proposed the establishment of a large company, with capital investment of 1.5 to 3 million Yen, to run those three areas of business. In view of unstable finances and the deteriorating economy, there was no one daring enough to assume such a great responsibility. The proposal was shelved soon after a restructuring of the government, during which Taipei Subprefecture was changed to Taipei Prefecture (Taihoku Shū), and Umetani left his post to travel abroad.

A proposal to build a large theater was again raised at the end of 1921 by area businessmen, envious of the 60-70,000 Yen profit earned in only 11 months since the January 1921 opening of the New World Cinema (Shinsekai-kan), located between central and western Taipei. They yearned for greater profits that could be earned with a larger theater in Dadaocheng, whose population was bigger than that of central and western Taipei combined. After obtaining permission from the local authority, a dozen Dadaocheng businessmen began to raise a half-million Yen to establish a public company, Taipei Grand Stage Co., Ltd. (Kabushikigaisha Taihoku daibutai), which would invest a quarter of its capital in building a theater called Taipei Grand Stage (Taihoku daibutai). The company was to operate two businesses: renting theater space and exhibiting films. The style of the theater was to be a copy of the New Stage (Xinwutai) in Shanghai and the Imperial Theater (Teikoku gekijō) in Tokyo. Originally, the theater, with a capacity of 2,000, was to be a cinema showing films from Japanese studio Taikatsu (Taishō katsuei) and American studio Universal Pictures. Negotiations with the two studios about sending new prints directly to Taiwan was said to be in progress. The Taipei Grand Stage company also planned on training its own native Taiwanese benshi (narrator).

As the economic situation was still in the doldrums, raising capital shares did not go smoothly, and all the plans had to be revised six months later. The project’s initiators decided to reduce their target of raising capital down to ¥150,000. Finally, a small public company Eraku-za Co., Ltd. (Kabushikigaisha eraku-za), was founded in 1923 to build the Eraku-za Theater. Of the ¥150,000 capital, one-third was used to construct the theater, and ¥20,000 for decoration, equipment, and related expenses. The company was established as an institution for social entertainment, rather than for profit, because major shareholders considered their investments to be in the interest of the public, rather than their own. In their minds, the theater could be used for public gatherings, as there was no town hall in Dadaocheng at the time and all public meetings had to take place in the auditorium of a local hotel’s restaurant.

Construction of the Eraku-za Theater commenced in May 1923 and was completed before the next Chinese New Year. The four-story brick building, whose interior structure was an imitation of the Imperial Theater in Tokyo, included a café, gymnasium, and dressing rooms. The 732 square-meter theater was able to accommodate 1,505, including 592 VIP and first-class seats, 529 second-class seats, and 384 third-class seats.

The theater space of Eraku-za Co., Ltd. was first rented for three years to Yongle Youli Entertainment Company, represented by Zheng Shuisheng. Annual rental was ¥72,000, with an additional ¥29,000 for tea services in the theater. In 1926, the net income of Eraku-za Co., Ltd. was ¥1,200, which was used to make up for losses of the previous year. By 1930, net income increased to ¥6,411, which, however, was much less than the shareholders had envisioned.

Watching Peking Opera and enjoying being an amateur Peking Opera actor were the hobbies of upper-class native Taiwanese during the early period of Japanese colonial rule. Therefore, at the end of 1923, Zheng Shuisheng decided to form his own Lesheng Peking Opera Troupe in Shanghai by recruiting actors, musicians, and backstage technicians. The hundred-member troupe performed Tan-style Peking Opera at the inauguration ceremony and opened the program at Eraku-za in February 1924. The success of Lesheng Peking Opera Troupe in Eraku-za and its subsequent performances throughout theaters in Taiwan prompted many Peking Opera troupes to travel from China and perform in the colony. At its peak, different troupes would compete with each other simultaneously in the New Stage and Eraku-za theaters. The frenzy finally ended a couple of years later when theater began doing miserable business, and even had losses.

Three months after its grand opening, Eraku-za started showing films. The first films in May 1924 included Charlie Chaplin’s The Champion (1915), a Hollywood adventure-detective story Their Dark Secret (William Beaudine, 1916), and a Tarzan film (perhaps one of those played by Elmo Lincoln). The famed Japanese magic/music/dance troupe Shōkyokusai Tenka performed in Eraku-za the following month.

Stage play performances started to appear there the following year. These plays included Shipwreck/Nanpase, advocating the assimilation of Japanese and native Taiwanese, Rebirth Day/Saisei no hi, propagating the idea of self-governing, Governor-General Sakuma/Sakuma sōtoku, action drama about the history of subjugating the Taiwan Aborigines, and Tei Seikō, a 17th century story about Koxinga/Zheng Chenggong, the first Han Chinese leader to hold political power in Taiwan. Such “entertainment” plays were actually staged for “educational” and propaganda purposes. In April 1926, modern drama performed by native Taiwan theater troupes appeared in Eraku-za. Box-office returns were a failure, however. On the other hand, performances by Taiwanese Opera (Gezaixi) troupes were enthusiastically welcomed by female audiences. Nevertheless, Gezaixi was soon superseded by Chinese films imported from Shanghai, because the theater management quickly discovered that profits from screening Chinese films were much better than staging Taiwanese Opera. The trajectory of Eraku-za’s programming, thus, moved from Peking Opera to Taiwanese Opera, and finally to Chinese film.

Chinese films were not highly valued in the early stage of Erakuza’s programming. The first Chinese film screened in Taiwan was The Widow Wants to Remarry/Gujing zhong po ji (Dan Duyu, 1923), shown on 14 October 1924 at the Grand Stage/Dawutai Theater in Tainan, in conjunction with several actuality films depicting famous sites and ancient places in China. A Tainan native who had emigrated to Luzon to run a business, brought back second-hand prints of the films from the Philippines. A similar program finally reached Eraku-za a month later. In late March 1925, representatives of a film company in Amoy/Xiamen imported second-hand prints of Yan Ruisheng (Ren Pengnian, 1921), the first Chinese docudrama, Curses’ Poison Arrows/Zhou zhi dushi, and other films from Southeast Asia, showing them at Taiwan Kinema-kan Theater in Dadaocheng. The first Chinese film imported directly from Shanghai, My Younger Brother/Didi (Dan Duyu, 1924), distributed by Li Shu’s Far East Shadowplay, was first screened at New Stage Theater in Dadaocheng two months later. Sins/Nie hai chao (Chen Shouyin, 1924), brought to Taiwan by two Chinese distributors, as well as Orphan Rescues Grandfather/Gu’er jiu zu ji (Zhang Shichuan, 1923) and Realization/Juewu (Ling Lianying, 1925), both distributed by Tristar Films, were also initially shown at Taiwan Kinema-kan Theater in June 1925, before their Eraku-za screenings. When Taiwan Kinema-kan Theater was bought in 1926 by the owner of New World Cinema (Shinsekai-kan) to show second-run Japanese and foreign films, Eraku-za gradually became the primary choice of local distributors for screening Chinese films. For example, Li Shu’s Far East Shadowplay screened Connected by Water and Fire/Shui huo yuanyang (Cheng Bugao, 1925) at Eraku-za first, in June 1926.

A year later, after acquiring the distribution rights of several Shanghai films in the areas of Fujian, Taiwan, and Southeast Asia, Qiming Films from Amoy failed to rent Eraku-za for showing The Cave of the Spider Spirit/Pansi dong (Dan Duyu, 1927), Meng Jiangnu (Shao Zuiwen and Qiu Qixiang, 1926), and other fantasy films, because the theater had already been booked by other programmers. The films were later shown at Monga Playhouse in southern Taipei for six days, before finally screening in late June 1927 at Eraku-za. The films were sensationally successful there, which not only aroused local audience interest in Chinese films, but also caused an importing frenzy for similar films from Shanghai. The result was that many Japanese or foreign films faked being Chinese films. Audiences were deterred by such impostures, and genuine Chinese films were hurt commercially.

Afterward, Eraku-za resumed screening of authentic Japanese and foreign films, as well as presenting stage performances of Peking Opera. It was not until May 1928, when a Peking Opera troupe refused to perform, that Eraku-za was once again rented to distributors of Chinese films. In 1930, Liangyu Pictures booked Eraku-za for showing the first episode of The Burning of the Red Lotus Temple/Huoshao hongliansi (Zhang Shichuan, 1928), imported from Shanghai. The great success of the film prompted the screening of another six episodes of wuxia serial martial art films, creating great mass fervor throughout Taiwan for more films of that genre. When Liangyu’s contract with Eraku-za expired in August 1930, Qingxiu Pictures acquired the right to exhibit its wuxia films, including six episodes of Qianlong Emperor’s Travels in South China/Qianlong you jiangnan (Jiang Qifeng, 1929), and films from other distributors, such as Mulan Joins the Army/Mulan congjun (Hou Yao, 1924). The screening of Chinese films continued, though programmers/exhibitors changed ownership every five or six months, illustrating the difficulties the movie business encountered during the early 1930s, obviously affected by the economic downturn in Taiwan and the world.

In 1934, the colonial government started to set barriers for the importation and exhibition of Chinese films by doubling inspection fees and creating other tariffs, thus, causing the disappearance of Chinese films from Eraku-za during the Chinese New Year holidays. The number of Chinese films soon increased again, however, signifying that enthusiasm for Chinese films by native Taiwanese was unaffected by such barriers. Eraku-za continued exhibiting Chinese films until the outbreak of the Second Sino-Japanese War in July 1937, after which all Chinese films were banned, and Eraku-za was forced to show either Japanese or films from Europe and America.

The first local feature film production was God Is Merciless (1925), produced by the Motion Pictures Department of Taiwan Nichi Nichi Shimpō, a Taipei newspaper. The short film premiered in Eraku-za at the end of April 1925, screening in conjunction with newsreels produced by the same newspaper and a couple of Hollywood comedy shorts, such as Buster Keaton films. After that, Eraku-za became the showcase for Taiwanese films. All subsequent local productions premiered at Eraku-za, including the Taiwan Cinema Study Association’s Whose Fault Is It (Liu Xiyang, Zhang Sunqu, and Huang Letian, September 1925), Baida Film ProductionsBlood Stains (Zhang Sunqu, March 1930), and Liangyu Pictures’ Strange Gentleman (Andō Tarō, February 1933). The box office for most of these films was successful. The biggest hit was Spring Breeze/Wang chunfeng (1937), codirected by Andō Tarō and the manager of First Theater (Daiichi Gekijō), Huang Liangmeng (Kō Ryomu), and produced by Taiwan First Film Productions, which was established by Wu Xiyang (Go Suzuyō) when he was the representative of First Theater. By the time Spring Breeze was completed in 1938, however, Wu had left First Theater and became the owner of Eraku-za. The film premiered in Eraku-za in March 1938 to a full house.

1935 marked the beginning of Eraku-za’s downturn. Taiping Theater (Taihei- kan), a new cinema, was inaugurated in Dadaocheng at the end of 1934, showing primarily quality films from Hollywood and Europe, as well as Chinese films from Shanghai. In January 1935, Three Modern Women/San ge modeng nuxing (Bu Wancang, 1933) and The Red Egg/Yi ge hong dan (Cheng Bugao, 1930) premiered at Taiping Theater, creating great pressure on Eraku-za. To add salt to the wound, around the same time, one of Eraku-za’s own big shareholders built a modern, fully-equipped, air-conditioned theater near Eraku-za. First Theater, with a capacity of 1,632 seats, was inaugurated in August 1935. It was not only an excellent theater for watching movies and stage performances, but also for other entertainment, such as ballroom dancing and snooker pool, as well as for shopping, dining and drinking. In comparison, Eraku-za, though overhauled and re-equipped several times between 1931 and 1934, became a second-rate theater whose ticket price had to be lower than both Taiping Theater and First Theater. In response to the change in their situation, Eraku-za re-directed its approach to become a cinema showing mainly Japanese films, and occasionally Chinese and foreign films. Its main rival became Third World Cinema (Daisan sekai-kan, originally called Taiwan Kinema-kan), which was built by Imafuku Toyohei in 1923 to show foreign films, and later Chinese films, to native Taiwanese audiences.

In 1938, Eraku-za, publicized as a “high-class cinema,” was managed by Wu Xiyang’s First Exhibition Company (Daiichi kōgyō kōshi), and mostly screened films from Tōhō (Tokyo Takarazuka) and the West. In the middle of 1939, while the Japanization movement was in full swing in Taiwan, Wu Xiyang withdrew from the business of film exhibition. The management of Eraku-za was taken over by Zhang Qingxiu of Japan-Manchuria Exhibition Company (Niman kōgyō kōshi). With the advent of the “Taiwan New Drama Movement” on the island, the direction of Eraku-za, under the management of Zhang and his manager Chen Lianzhi, started to switch to promoting this new form. Eraku-za was publicized as the “temple of new drama.” In May 1939, Ruiguang Theater Troupe from Ruifang in northern Taipei Prefecture premiered its own “new drama,” which was actually Taiwanese Opera performed in modern costumes. It was severely criticized for the absurd reason of attempting to evade the prohibition on performing traditional Taiwanese Opera after implementation of the government’s 1937 Japanization policy. The stage performances of “new drama” continued, despite negative criticism, however, before the “new drama movement” fever finally subsided in 1940.

Meanwhile, Eraku-za continued screening Japanese and foreign films. In November 1939, it became solely devoted to showing films distributed by Taiwan Film Distribution Company (Taiwan eiga haikyū kaisha), which was distributor for Paramount Pictures, 20th Century Fox, RKO, and Gaumont. After the Pacific War broke out, all foreign films, with the exception of those from Germany and Italy, were banned. Eraku-za had no other choice but to show Japanese films or present stage performances. The genuine new drama theater troupe Public Welfare Theater Study Association (Kōsei engeki kenkyū kai) /Housheng yanju yanjiu hui courageously performed Capon/Yanji, Takasago Kan/Gaosha guan, and a few other plays to raise Taiwanese consciousness in 1943, in the middle of the Pacific War (World War II) fervor. The plays were directed by Lin Tuan-Chiu, and were welcomed at Eraku-za by sold-out audiences.

After the end of World War II, Eraku-za was renamed Yongle Stage/Yongle wutai. All 16 episodes of The Burning of the Red Temple were shown once again, and Peking Opera, Taiwanese Opera, as well as “new drama” were all staged during the short “power vacuum” period, before the Chinese Nationalists began their rule of Taiwan. In 1946, the name of the theater was changed again to Yongle Theater/Yongle xiyuan. The new manager, Chen Shoujing, was a famous playwright in Taiwanese Opera, which became the program staple during its early days.

When Liu Zhengming became programmer, he went to Shanghai and invited famous Peking Opera actress Gu Zhengqiu and her fellow actors to perform at Yongle Theater. Gu Troupe commenced performances in November 1948. The great success of its initial one-month run resulted in continued postponements of Gu Troupe’s return schedule. When Shanghai fell into the hands of the Chinese Communists, Gu and her associates decided to stay in Taiwan. At the time, Liu Zhengming had financial difficulties and was no longer able to run the theater. Thereafter, Gu Zhengqiu signed a performance contract with Chen Qingfen, one of Yongle Theater’s big shareholders. Chen hired Li Linqiu, famous as the lyricist for the popular song Spring Breeze and writer of the screenplay with the same title, to help manage performance issues. Though the box-office of Gu’s troupe was very successful, she and her colleagues were living a difficult life due to the currency reform after the declaration of Martial Law in 1949. The operations of Yongle Theater were, thus, seriously affected.

After Gu got married and disbanded her Peking Opera troupe in 1953, various theatrical performances were staged in Yongle Theater, including Fuzhou Opera, Traditional nanguan music, musicals, new drama, Taiwanese Opera, Peking Opera, and even variety shows. In October 1954, Yongle Theater became a “mixed theater,” with both films and stage performances. It screened Amoy-language films from Hong Kong, Taiwanese-language films, Mandarin films, as well as films from the United States and Europe.

In the mid-1950s, Yongle Theater was the main outlet for Amoy-language films, The rise of Taiwanese-dialect film started in 1955 when Xue Pinggui and Wang Baochuan (directed by Ho Chi-Ming, written by Chen Shoujing) made its unexpected successful debut across Taiwan. Yongle Theater, however, was not the main outlet for Taiwanese-dialect films. At that time, it was still mainly a theater for theatrical stage performances, with occasional film screenings in which second-run features were exhibited.

Soon, because of its rundown facilities and lack of sufficient business, Yongle Theater, as a second-run cinema, was at a crossroad. The theater was in a local Taiwanese business center north of Taipei City. In view of its high real estate value, shareholders decided to sell the theater. Yongle Theater became history at the end of May 1960 when it closed forever.








GAY AND LESBIAN FILMS. To many outsiders, the general public in Taiwan deals with homosexual issues rather tolerantly in comparison with many countries in the world. Gay and lesbian films and novels are well received, some even awarded rather than being stigmatized. Homosexual activities, such as the annual gay pride parade, Taiwan Pride, are openly and cheerfully joined by the local lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered (LGBT) community, and are moderately covered in the electronic and printed media. Scholarly research on LGBT topics is legitimized in the universities. Even politicians express their support of the gay and lesbian rights movement. Some consider Taiwan the undisputed capital of gay and lesbian rights in the Chinese-speaking world.

The willingness of Taiwan society in general to positively look at the issue of human rights for the LGBT community did not come easily. Before 1990, homophobia or opposition to gay people, gay rights, and homosexual relations prevailed. LGBT people had to hide “in the closet.” Little is known about LGBT life under Japanese colonial rule. Some scholars said that in the early 1900s, Taipei already saw the activities of transgendered male street prostitutes in the brothel areas, catering to the needs of Japanese rōnin. Such male prostitution activities continued until after World War II, when the Nationalists took over Taiwan in 1945, and later moved the government of the Republic of China (ROC) to Taiwan when it lost the Civil War with the Chinese Communists in 1949.

Since heterosexual monogamy was (and still is) the only legally accepted institution for marriage in the ROC, same-sex sexual behavior and cross-dressing were socially unacceptable, considered either a criminal act or pathological illness (termed “sexual orientation disturbance”), except in novels, plays and films. Gay behavior remained a taboo in Taiwan society until the 1980s, and media reports on gay activities were always negative, if reported at all. As homosexual activities were tied to misdoing by the society in general, police constantly used Indecency Laws to harass homosexuals. By the mid-1980s, when news about AIDS started to surface in the media, AIDS was intentionally tied to same-sex sexual behavior by the government, prompting media reports on homosexuality and the gay, lesbian and transgendered subculture. Humanistic “concerns” and more “positive” reports started to surface in popular and professional journals.

Description of same-sex love began to appear in novellas in the late 1960s with Lin Huai-min’s Andre Gide’s Winter/Andelie jide de dongtian (1966), in which a gay artist is in love with a male adolescent, followed by another Lin novella, Cicadas/Chan (1974), which briefly touched on the subject of gay relationships. (Lin is acclaimed as the founder, dancer, and director of internationally-renowned Cloud Gate Dance Theatre, which he has led since 1973.)

In the mid-1970s, eminent author Kenneth Pai Hsien-yung started writing novellas exploring homosexual sexual passion. His most celebrated gay-themed novel is Crystal Boys/Nie zi (1983), which vividly portrays the gay subculture, especially gay hustlers who cruised late nights in Taipei’s New Park (now called 228 Park) for love, one-night stands, and/or money. The novel was made into The Outsiders/ Outcasts/ Nie zi (Yu Kan-ping, 1986). Considered the first gay-themed Taiwan film, The Outsiders was adapted by Pai himself and his friend Sun Zhenguo. Unfortunately, the film was severely cut by the censorship board, due to its “sensitive” homosexual content, despite the filmmaker’s preemptive action in shifting emphasis from portraying homosexual activities to the relationship between an elderly gay and his female partner. The novel was later made into a critically and popularly acclaimed 20-episode television serial drama in 2003, directed by Tsao Jui-Yuen/Cao Ruiyuan. (Tsao also directed Love’s Lone Flower/ Gu lian hua [2005], a film based on Pai’s short story about a popular dance hostess’ lesbian feeling for two female singers – one in 1940’s Shanghai before the Chinese civil war erupted, and the other in 1950’s Taipei after the Nationalist government retreated to Taiwan.) Even though Kenneth Pai never officially “came out,” most people consider him one of the most accomplished contemporary Taiwan gay writers (see PAI CHING-JUI; LIN CHING-CHIEH).

The Taiwan gay rights movement began in 1986, when the first gay couple intentionally challenged the legal ruling against same-sex marriage that cited homosexuality was perverse, purely for the satisfaction of individual desire, and violated good social morals. The ruling was denounced by LGBT people as “heterosexual authoritarianism.” It was in the 1990s, however, that the gay and lesbian rights movement in Taiwan really moved forward, following other social movements which gained energy after the 1987 lifting of Martial Law. Among Us/Women zhi jian, Taiwan’s first lesbian group, was established in February 1990. The group published a journal, Girlfriend/Nu pengyou, sponsored seminars, conducted research on lesbian history in Taiwan, and published homosexual discourse and lesbian criticism. Through the journal, Among Us led the fight for gay and lesbian rights, and became one of the foremost homosexual activist organizations in Taiwan. It also actively participated in international gay and lesbian networking, such as the Asian Lesbian Network, and Asia and Pacific Islands Lesbian and Bisexual Network. Gay and lesbian social clubs on university campuses began to surface in 1991. By 1995, a nationwide Campus Gay and Lesbian Organizations Alliance was established.

It was against such a background that Ang Lee’s The Wedding Banquet/Xiyan (1993) was made in the United States and screened in Taiwan. Originally, Lee had wanted to make the film in the 1980s, but was turned down by Central Motion Picture Coporation (CMPC), which considered the homosexual subject too sensitive. The Wedding Banquet was received very enthusiastically in Taiwan, perhaps due to Lee’s skillful handling of the controversial gay theme, disguising it in the genre of family comedy-drama, and his sympathetic portrayal of the homosexual relationship between a Taiwanese Chinese and a Caucasian American. The film realistically represents the father figure, the father-centered Chinese family system, as the most difficult challenge a gay man from Taiwan must confront in “coming out.” It is the most well-known gay-themed film in Taiwan, and may have contributed to the significant change in social attitudes toward homosexuals in the 1990s, from hostility or, at best, indifference, to tolerance. The critical and box-office success of The Wedding Banquet may also have prompted the 1993 Taipei Golden Horse International Film Festival to establish its now annual “queer cinema” section, with the help of Hong Kong writer/theater director/critic Edward Lam, who introduced the Chinese term for homosexual – “tongzhi” (comrade) – to Taiwan.

In 1993, a public hearing on the issue of homosexual human rights was held in the Legislative Yuan, Taiwan’s national congress. After the hearing, several participating gay and lesbian organizations urged society to safeguard the human rights of LBGT. Two years later, the Taiwan Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Association (TGLHRA) was founded to fight for the legal rights of same-sex marriage, and to discuss other homosexual issues. The struggle for same-sex marriage reached its first climax in 1996 when writer Hsu You-sheng and his Caucasian partner Gray Harriman held a public marriage ceremony in Taipei. Though the wedding was sensationalized in media coverage, it was also featured in a more serious and positive documentary video, Not Simply a Wedding Banquet/Buzhiahi xiyan (1997), in which Mickey Chen Junzhi and his female directorial partner, Chen Ming-Hsiu, enthusiastically tell the deeper story of the first public wedding of a gay couple.

Mickey Chen, who “came out” in 1997 at age 30, continued making gay-themed documentaries and became an activist fighting for gay rights. His next documentary video, Boys for Beauty/Meli shaonian (1998), is a joyful celebration of gay adolescents’ lives and passions in and outside school. The work was the first gay documentary video shown in commercial theater chains, and was successful at the box office. Chen’s other documentary works include The War of Roses/Meigui de zhanzheng (2001), about sexual harassment in Taiwan; Memorandum on Happiness/Xingfu beiwanglu (2003), about the ups and downs in a lesbian couple’s relationship; My Friend with AIDS/Wode aizi pengyou (2003), documenting the lives and feelings of a group of HIV-infected people; Scars on Memory/Wu ou zhi jia, wangshi zhi cheng (2005), that deals with homosexuality, AIDS, and death in the lives of a few middle-age and elderly gay people; and The Rose Boy/Meigui shaonian (2008), that explores the tragic death of a young boy who was bullied by classmates simply because of being a “sissy.” In 2011, Chen published his long-awaited autobiography, Taipei Father, New York Mother/ Taibei baba, niuyue mama, that was adapted into a play and staged the next year in Taipei. Chen plans to make it into a film, which he will direct.

Tsai Ming-liang, another well-known gay director, deals with the issue of homosexuality in many of his films. In Vive l’Amour/Aiqing wansui (1994), a gay character, played by Lee Kang-sheng, appeared for the first time in Tsai’s films. Despite it not being a gay-themed film, Vive l’Amour reveals the sexual desire of a lonely gay. In his next film, The River/Heliu (1997), Tsai questions the father- centered family system through a sex scene between a father and his son. In Tsai’s most recent film to deal with a gay theme, I Don’t Want to Sleep Alone/Hei yanquan (2006), a homeless Chinese itinerant (Lee Kang-sheng) is brutally beaten in Kuala Lumpur, and saved by a Bangladeshi man, (Norman Atun). His rescuer carries the Chinese home, nurses him back to health, and sleeps next to him in a make-shift abode for laborers, like a gay lover.

Lin Cheng-sheng, a “straight” director, explores the ambiguous relationship between two young women in his second feature, Murmur of Youth/Meili zai changge (1996), considered by some as the first lesbian film in Taiwan. (Taiwan female director Huang Yu-Shan’s The Twin Bracelets/Shuang zhuo (1991), which explores the lesbian-like friendship between two young women in a Chinese ethnic minority fishing village, was produced by Shaw Brothers, and is thus considered a Hong Kong film.) Hsu Li-kong, producer of the debut films of both Tsai Ming-liang and Lin Cheng-sheng, co-directed Fleeing By Night/Ye ben (1999) with Yin Chi, which deals with multiple layers of relationships between man and man, as well as man and woman.

Police harassment and prosecution for obscenity of gay public gatherings in streets, parks, gay bars, gyms, saunas, and even private homes continued throughout the late 1990s. Despite this, such setbacks did not hamper the increasing social acceptance, and support from politicians (including all major presidential candidates in the 2000 election), of gays and lesbians, especially after 2000. In June 2000, Taiwan Tongzhi Hotline Association (TTHA), founded two years earlier, became the first national LGBT organization recognized by the ROC government. TTHA was a permanent organization, established from four previous LGBT groups, to provide members a channel for recognition and emotional support, offering AIDS, gender and queer education, as well as advocating human rights for LGBT people.

Gay-themed feature films started to gain a position in mainstream Taiwan cinema after 2000. With the success, both commercially and critically, of Blue Gate Crossing/Lanse damen (Yee Chih-yen , 2002), there was a sudden surge in Taiwan of gay and lesbian films made by young directors, many of which no longer automatically put their LGBT characters in a sorry plight. In Blue Gate Crossing, a young girl wanders between relationships with a young boy and her girl classmate, trying to figure out her sexual identity. This type of light story about youth and sexual identity continued in other features, such as Eternal Summer/Sheng xia guang nian (Leste Chen, 2006) and Miao Miao (Cheng Hsiao-tse, 2008), as well as in countless short fiction directed by film school students.

Romantic gay comedy, a new genre in Taiwan, emerged in the 2000s with Formula 17/Shiqi sui de tiankong (Chen Yin-jung, 2004), followed by Go Go G-Boys/Dang women tong zai yiqi (Yu Jong-jong, 2006). Formula 17 is a wild romantic romp with completely male-leads. Directed by a straight female director, the film tells a story about gay love, which, like heterosexual romance, is full of sweet and sour emotions. Go Go G-Boys is a take-off on Hollywood’s hit, Miss Congeniality (Donald Petrie, 2000). The film employs a gay beauty contest as a pretext to show off male muscles and uses a bomb threat from anti-gay terrorists to indulge in slapstick.

The change from the dark, depressing tone of gay-themed films in the 1990s to a lighter, brighter tone in the 2000s coincides with the transformation of Taiwan society in general. Starting from 2003, a gay pride parade, Taiwan Pride, has been held annually in Taipei. Several dozen LGBT organizations and over 2,000 people joined the first parade. By 2009, the parade attracted 20,000 participants. More than 30,000 attended in 2010. And it was estimated that 50,000 joined in 2011. Some estimated that almost a million people (4%) out of Taiwan’s population of 23-million might be gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgendered.

The ever-increasing numbers of participants in Taiwan Pride, however, alerted the anti-homosexual camp. In October 2009, right after the gay pride parade, hundreds of religious protestors held the first anti-gay demonstration in Taipei. Though the number of anti-gay participants seems meager, their power against LGBT people cannot be underestimated. For example, an anti-gay feature, I Saw a Beast/Wo kanjian shou, was made in 2007 by Liu Yi-Hong, who takes an orthodox Christian stand that homosexuality is a sin. Even though the poorly- made film did not attract much attention, it does represent the hostile views of many people in Taiwan toward homosexual behavior and culture.

At present, hostility against homosexuals is still visible throughout Taiwan, and discrimination against LGBT people in the workplace and schools remains omnipresent, even though the Gender Equality in Employment Act and Gender Equity Education Act have been promulgated since the early 2000s. The time and social condition for LGBT people to easily and safely “come out” of the closet is still premature. Many film directors and actors, therefore, have been unwilling to declare their sexual identity publicly. One of the few brave ones to come out is Zero Chou (Zhou Meiling), a lesbian director. Chou began her film career making documentary videos. Corners/Si jiaoluo (2001), shot by her partner in work and in life, Hoho Liu, poetically represents the sexuality and love of a lesbian couple. It gazes directly into the lonely, yet comforting home-like atmosphere of Corner’s, a popular gay-bar forced to close by authorities after filming was completed. Chou’s feature films, including Splendid Float/Yanguang si she gewutuan (2004), Spider Lilies/Ci qing (2007), and Drifting Flowers/Piao lang qingchun (2008), all deal with issues LGBT people face in life.

Other gay-themed features in the 2000s and 2010s include, My Whispering Plan/Sharen jihua (Winnie Qu You-Ning/Arthur Chu, 2002), Love Me, If You Can/Feiyue qinhai (Alice Wang, 2003), Free as Love/Fusheng ruo meng (Alice Wang, 2004), Reflections/Ailisi de jingzi (Yao Hung-i, 2005), Candy Rain/Hua chi liao na nuhai (Chen Hung-I, 2008), Beautiful Crazy/Luan qingchun (Lee Chi Y., 2008), Somewhere I Have Never Travelled/Dai wo qu yuanfang (Fu Tien-yu, 2009), and Make Up/Mingyun huazhuangshi (Lien Yi-chi, 2011). There were several gay-themed TV movies made in the 1990s and 2000s as well. Among them, Forbidden Love/Ni nu (Ko I-Cheng, 1998), Dance of the Virgin/Tong nu zhi wu (Tsao Jui-Yuen/Cao Ruiyuan, 2002), and Artemisia/Ai Cao (Chiang Hsiu- Chiung, 2009) are the most notable ones.

Several gay-themed documentaries were also of interest, including Tsai Ming-liang’s My New Friends/Wo xin renshi de pengyou (1995), about the issue of AIDS in Taiwan, and Lesbian Factory/T po gongchang (Susan Chen, 2010), about  lesbian migrant worker couples from the Philippines who fight for their rights, while struggling for love. Advanced film students also made several serious documentary shorts with gay and lesbian themes/subtexts in the late 1990s and 2000s, such as Mixed Fruit Banana Split (Wu Ching-Yi, 2000) on romantic problems and friendship between two female clerks in Hsimenting, an entertainment quarter for youth in Taipei, and The Way He Is (Liou Jia-Quai), in which a male transsexual becomes female.


GOD IS MERCILESS (1925).  (Almost) completely made and performed by Japanese and Taiwanese talent residing in Taiwan, God Is Merciless is one of the earliest feature films in Taiwan cinema. The five-reel film was described by the press at the time as “painstakingly made” and “full of savor.” The film was a production of the Motion Pictures Department of Taiwan Nichi Nichi Shimpō (Taiwan Daily News), created in 1923 by the newspaper to celebrate its 25th anniversary. The tragic story of God Is Merciless is set at an inundated area in northern Taiwan, and was based on the terrible Taiwan traditional practice of human trafficking. It sharply illustrated conflicts between religion and ideology. The primary purposes of producing the film were “to rid Taiwan of bad traditions” and “to enhance Taiwan’s culture” as well as “to promote the scenery of the island.”

The “pure Taiwan-made” film premiered for five evenings at the end of April and beginning of May 1925 in Eraku-za in Taipei’s Dadaocheng/Daitōtei area, to a predominantly Taiwanese audience. It was advertised as “a story of hatred and sadness” and was shown in conjunction with Charlie Chaplin’s The Kid (1921) and other short comedy films, and included two newsreels produced by Taiwan Nichi Nichi Shimpō. According to a newspaper report, despite bad weather during these screenings, the film was welcomed by the full-house audience, many of whom had never before gone to see a movie. The highly acclaimed film was considered “useful” to the society.

After the successful premiere screenings, the film was shown without charge to community audiences through Dōfūkai and other non-governmental organizations, whose main goal was to change Taiwan customs in preparation for the eventual assimilation of Taiwanese into Japanese society.


GOLDEN HARVEST AWARDS (1978- ). The Golden Harvest Awards for Outstanding Short Films are film/video awards established in 1978 by the Government Information Office (GIO) to encourage independent, non- mainstream filmmakers making short narrative, documentary, animation, and experimental films and video works.

Since its inception, GIO has delegated the responsibility for holding the Awards to the Film Library (renamed National Film Archive/Chinese Taipei Film Archive in the 1990s), regardless of the parent organization of the Film Library/ Film Archive, which originally was established under the auspices of the Motion Picture Development Foundation first and GIO’s Department of Motion Picture Affairs later.

Originally called “Golden Harvest Awards for Experimental Film,” the name, awards, categories, prize money, and regulations of the Golden Harvest Awards have been modified several times throughout its more than 30 years existence. The Awards currently include three categories: “general works,” “student works,” and “individual achievements,” each with subcategories.

Golden Harvest Awards are considered important prizes in fostering young filmmakers. Many world-renowned filmmakers, including Ang Lee, Tsai Ming- liang, as well as Taiwan New Cinema directors Ko I-Cheng and Wan Jen, and young directors Wei Te-Sheng, Zero Chou, and Tom Lin Shu-yu, have been recognized by Golden Harvest awards, before going on to become feature directors.


GOLDEN HORSE AWARDS (1962- ). One of the most prestigious film awards in the Chinese-speaking film world, the Golden Horse Awards was started in 1962 during a peculiar circumstance. After the Chinese Communists took over the Mainland, many filmmakers fled from Shanghai to Hong Kong, a British colony. Some producers established studios to continue making Mandarin-speaking films. To induce management and filmmakers of these film companies to support Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek’s Republic of China (ROC) government on Taiwan, the Nationalist Party promised them that Hong Kong-made Mandarin film would be given the status of “national film” – films made by the ROC nationals – and treated equally with domestically-produced Mandarin film.

In the early 1950s, Mandarin-speaking films and Xiamen-dialect films made in Hong Kong were very popular in Taiwan. However, at the time, all imported feature films were subjected to a heavy import duty, including films from Hong Kong.

In 1953, when a group of Hong Kong filmmakers organized a troupe to visit Taiwan and pledged allegiance to the Nationalist government, producer-director Wong Cheuk-Hon/Huang Zhuohan requested the Kuomintang (KMT) government not to charge such import duties, which was about one-tenth to one-fifth of the distribution fee of an average Hong Kong Mandarin film. Wong also asked the Nationalists to waive the import and export taxes that Hong Kong production companies, which were making films in Taiwan, had to pay when they brought raw stock from Hong Kong into Taiwan and took the exposed film out of Taiwan.

At the time, the ROC government had signed a treaty with the United States allowing American businessmen to enjoy equal rights with Taiwan businessmen. Therefore, if Mandarin-speaking films from Hong Kong (treated as “national films”) were to enjoy no import duty, it would mean that American films had to be given the same waiver as well, which would be a great loss for the Nationalist government. Thus, a mechanism was devised for distributors of Hong Kong films to apply for a drawback of the duties they paid at the year’s end.

Such a practice of disguised subsidies continued until 1955, when the ROC government changed its exchange rate policy, causing heavy losses for pro-Nationalist members of Hong Kong and Kowloon Cinema & Theatrical Enterprise Free General Association Limited (HKCTEFGA, or Free Association). To financially assist such members of the Free Association, in 1956 the KMT government allocated NT$2-million (US$50,000) from the collected import duties to each distributor of a Hong Kong Mandarin film.

The subsidy was revised again in 1959 to become an awards process, which extended payments to Mandarin films (and their main casts and crews) that were made by domestic film companies, or any overseas company recognized by either the Free Association or the ROC embassy. Criteria for fiction and documentary films to receive a subsidy included those that (1) conformed to national policies, (2) were educational in morality, and (3) were technically of high quality. These films had to be Mandarin-speaking, or other Chinese-dialect films dubbed into Mandarin.

This subsidy scheme continued until 1962, when the Government Information Office (GIO) promulgated a new “Rules for Best Mandarin Film Awards,” which was modified from previous subsidy rules, with the exception of the Golden Horse trophies awarded to “Best Picture” and runner-ups, but no money awards. The name “Golden Horse” was derived from two outlying islands off the coast of Fujian Province, China – Kinmen (golden gate) and Matsu (from the name of a Chinese sea goddess, pronounced like the Chinese character for “horse”).

The rules of the Golden Horse Awards were kept pretty much intact for several years, until 1981, when all trophies and money awards for runner-ups were abolished, and the main criterion for making an award was the film’s artistic achievements. Beginning in 1982, the GIO had been expecting to transfer all the work of holding the Golden Horse Awards to the film industry itself, without much success, until 1990, when the “Taipei Golden Horse Film Festival Executive Committee” was finally established.

The non-governmental, non-profit organization was soon placed under the Motion Picture Development Foundation. Part of the budget for the Golden Horse is covered by the GIO. The Foundation and the Film Festival Executive Committee were responsible for raising funds to make up the rest of the budget that included utilizing the box office earnings from the annual Taipei Golden Horse International Film Festival.

Beginning in 1996, the Golden Horse expanded its scope to include films made by Chinese internationally. The Golden Horse is now an international film festival for Chinese-speaking films from Taiwan, Hong Kong, China, Singapore, Malaysia, America, Canada, Australia, and the rest of the world. However, a Taiwan Award or Special Award was also established to specifically award Taiwan productions, separate from competition with films from all other countries.

The Golden Horse now includes 23 categories, including “Best” awards for: Feature Film, Short Film, Documentary, and Animation Feature. Individual “Best” awards are given for: Director, Leading Actor/Actress, Supporting Actor/Actress, New Director, New Performer, Original Screenplay, Adapted Screenplay, Cinematography, Visual Effects, Art Direction, Makeup & Costume Design, Action Choreography, Original Film Score, Original Song, Sound Effects, Editing, and Special Award for Taiwanese Filmmaker of the Year.

Besides holding the annual Golden Horse Awards, which culminate in an Oscar-like award ceremony, the Golden Horse Film Festival Executive Committee now annually runs three other activities, including the (1) Taipei Golden Horse International Film Festival (TGHFF), (2) Golden Horse Film & TV Film Project Promotion (FTPP), and (3) Golden Horse Film Academy. The TGHFF is a non-competitive showcase for cinema from around the world. The FTPP is a platform for Chinese-language film project development in the Asian market. The Film Academy is a two-week hands-on training class for young Chinese filmmakers to work with outstanding invited directors, who serve as both instructors and advisors.


GOVERNMENT INFORMATION OFFICE (GIO) (1947- ). In 1947, after the government of the Republic of China (ROC) was moving toward constitutional rule, the Government Information Office was established, with three departments to oversee domestic and international publicity, media industry guidance, and news analysis. After the central government of the ROC relocated to Taipei, Taiwan at the end of 1949, the Information Department, which had replaced the GIO six months earlier, was abolished, and replaced by the Government Spokesman Office in March 1950. The GIO, with its original structure, was reactivated by the central government in 1954, in response to changes at home and abroad after the Korean War.

Between 1954 and 1967, the only business the GIO had relating to motion pictures was film censorship, operating under the Department of Film Censorship that was transferred from the Ministry of the Interior. The Department of Film Censorship was placed under the new Cultural Bureau established by the Ministry of Education in 1967. In mid-1973, the GIO established departments of publication affairs, motion picture affairs, and broadcasting affairs, to handle mass media guidance and regulation.

The Department of Motion Picture Affairs enforced legislation pertaining to the film industry, provided subsidies and awards, licenses, rates, and conducted on-site inspection of films shown in cinemas. It is consisted of three sections: Section One was responsible for regulations, guidance, awards, licensing of filmmakers, analyzing statistical data, as well as formulating policies; Section Two conducted film censorship and ratings, as well as handling the importation and export of domestic and foreign film prints; and Section Three handled film publicity material and on-site inspection of film screenings. Between 1962 and 1989, the GIO was responsible for the Golden Horse Awards. Starting from 1989, the GIO established a Domestic Film Guidance Fund. Even though controversies and arguments regarding awarding the funds constantly erupted over the next two decades, the results have been generally considered effective in nurturing young filmmakers and helping Taiwan films gain recognition at international film festivals.

After the GIO started a movie rating system in 1985, transferring responsibility for holding the Golden Horse Awards to the film industry in 1990, the core of the GIO’s film affairs has been the formulation of film policies to boost the financial foundation of the Taiwan film industry. There are various mechanisms for encouraging project development, film production subsidies, investment incentives, domestic and international marketing and exhibition subsidies, awards for winning international film festival prizes, as well as assistance in upgrading film equipment, technologies, on-the-job training, etc.

Since 1960, the GIO itself has also been producing documentaries and informational films. Before that time, the GIO’s informational films, aimed at publicizing Taiwan’s development, were commissioned to the Hamilton Wright Organization, an American company that excelled in public relations, including documentaries, for foreign countries. The first film the GIO produced was under the supervision of Kung Hong, then a consultant and its secretary-general. The documentary, Visit to a City of Cathay (1960), was about a panoramic painting by Song Dynasty artist Zhang Zeduan (1085-1145) called “Along the River During the Qingming Festival/Qingming shanghe tu.”

By 1968, an office for audio-visual materials was established, later expanded into the Department of Audio-Visual Materials in 1981. One of the responsibilities of that office was making documentary films and newsreels. After 1976, the GIO produced four documentaries and two newsreels annually about political issues as well as cultural and art subjects, targeted for foreign audiences. Well-known fiction and documentary film directors, such as Richard Chen Yao-chi, Chang Chao-Tang, Wang Chu-chin/Wang Jujin, and Hsu Chin-liang, were hired to direct some of the documentaries. In the 1990s, the four documentaries were commissioned to private production companies that would hire their own directors. Most of these GIO-commissioned films won awards at international film festivals. It is estimated that more than 150 documentaries were made by the GIO between 1962 and 2010.


GRAND MOTION PICTURE COMPANY (1963-1970). In 1963, director Li Han- hsiang tore up his contract with Shaw Brothers and established his own Grand Motion Picture Company (GMP) in Hong Kong, with the support of the Cathay Organisation in Singapore and the Union Film Company in Taiwan. The Grand (Guo Lian/Guolian) Motion Picture Company, taking its name from Cathay (Guo Tai/Guotai) and Union (Lian Bang/Lianbang), was supposed to be a satellite of the Cathay (Guo Tai) Organization, just as its other two satellite companies’ names, Guo Xi/Guoxi and Guo Feng/Guofeng, suggested.

The main impetus behind Li’s decision was the fierce rivalry since the 1950s between the two competitors, Motion Pictures and General Investment Co. Ltd. (MP&GI), Cathay Organisation’s subsidiary in Hong Kong, and Shaw Brothers (Hong Kong). In the film distribution and exhibition business, both in Singapore and Malaysia, Shaw Brothers (Singapore), which had been established there since the mid-1920s, was a major competitor of the newer Cathay Organisation, established in Singapore in the mid-1930s. After acquiring Hong Kong’s Yung Hwa Studio in 1955, Cathay established International (Guo Ji/Guoji) Films, later renamed Motion Pictures and General Investment Company, Ltd. in 1957. With many first-rate directors and actors, its rigorous attitude towards film production, and the willingness to spend money on good films, MP&GI soon became the major force in Hong Kong for Mandarin film production. By comparison the leading competitor, Shaw & Sons, was conservative, resulting in its films performing worse at the Hong Kong and Southeast Asia box office. Shaw Brothers, the distribution arm of the Shaw Organisation in Southeast Asia, was forced to send Run Run Shaw to take over production at Shaw & Sons, which became simply a distribution and exhibition arm of the Shaw Organisation in Hong Kong. Run Run Shaw launched a vicious competition by making similar films to MP&GI and by effectively headhunting creative talent away from it.

In 1963, in collaboration with director Yan Jun, MP&GI was preparing a huangmei diao film called Leung shan pak yu chuk ying toi/Liang shanbo yu zhu yingtai. When Shaw Brothers learned of the production, Run Run Shaw ordered Chu Mu/Zhu Mu, Tien Feng/Tian Feng, King Hu, Liu Yishi and Sung Tsun-Shou to help Li Han-hsiang make an almost identical competing film, finishing principal photography in only two weeks and releasing it in Taiwan before MP&GI’s project. Though completed very quickly, Li Han-hsiang’s The Love Eterne (1963) became a smash hit in Taiwan. This outcome seriously worsened the rift between the two rivals. The Cathay Organisation decided to avenge its loss by luring away major players from Shaw Brothers, to prevent it from duplicating the success.

Li Han-hsiang was the first Shaw director to be enticed by Cathay Organisation, which promised to support Li’s dream of having his own production company that could compete with both Shaw Brothers and MP&GI. Though founded in Hong Kong, Grand Motion Picture Company was under pressure to leave the territory due to the contract dispute between Li Han-hsiang and Shaw Brothers. With the support of Peter F. Long/Long Fang, director of Taiwan Film Studio, a production company owned by the provincial government there, Li Han-hsiang moved his GMP operations to Taiwan in October 1963. With him came Shaw Brothers’ actors Chiang Ching/Jiang Qing and Wang Ling, writers-directors Chu Mu, Sung Tsun-Shou, Liu Yishi, and Wang Yue-Ting, producers Wong Sun-Fu and Kuo Ching-Chiang, music composer Chou Lan-ping/Zhou Lanping, and some technicians.

Li Han-hsiang’s Seven Fairies/Qi xiannu (1963), a huangmei diao film, was the company’s debut film. Principal photography on the soundstage of Taiwan Film Studio took a short 20 days. The film competed head-on in Taiwan with Shaw Brothers’ A Maid from Heaven/ Qi xiannu (1963, directed by Yan Jun, Chan Yau-San/Chen Youxin, Ho Meng-Hua, and King Hu). Though the box-office of both films was about equal, Li’s Seven Fairies successfully promoted the GMP’s top actress Chiang Ching, who was also cast in Li’s next huangmei diao film, Trouble on the Wedding Night/Zhuangyuan jidi (1964, written by Sung Tsun- Shou), Taiwan’s top grossing film in 1964, that was also successful in Hong Kong.

In June 1964, there was a tragic plane crash in Central Taiwan, causing the untimely deaths of MP&GI’s chairman and general manager, Loke Wan-tho, the president of Lianbang, Hsia Wei-tang, and Taiwan Film Studio’s director Long Fang. This event was a major blow to Li Han-hsiang, who was planning to expand the GMP operations and coproduce a historical costume epic film (also a national policy film) with Taiwan Film Studio, Hsi Shih: Beauty of Beauties. The successors at MP&GI and Lianbang were less enthusiastic in supporting Li, which greatly affected the subsequent development of the GMP.

Fortunately, Li was supported by Yang Chiao, the successor of Long Fang as director of Taiwan Film Studio, to continue production on Hsi Shih: Beauty of Beauties (1965). The scale of the film was comparable to Hollywood epics such as The Ten Commandments (Cecil B. DeMille, 1956), Ben-Hur (William Wyler, 1959), or Spartacus (Stanley Kubrick, 1960). The budget and amount of time spent on Hsi Shih: Beauty of Beauties was never surpassed by any Taiwan production until 2008. The film was successful both commercially and critically when it was released in October 1965.

A total of 23 films were made by Grand Motion Picture Company between 1963 and 1970. Subject matters and genres varied, including melodramatic Chinese Opera films like Lady Sun/The 14th Daughter of the Hsin Family/Xin shisi niang (Chu Mu, 1966), A Perturbed Girl/Tian zhi jiao nu (Sung Tsun-Shou, 1966), and Flower Drums of Fung Yang/Fengyang hua gu (Chu Mu, 1967); historical epic, Hsi Shih: Beauty of Beauties (shown in two parts); costumed wenyi pian, The Dawn/Poxiao shifen (Sung Tsun-Shou, 1968); spy film, The Commander Underground/An Army of One-Hundred Thousand Men/Shi wan qingnian shi wan jun (Li Han-hsiang, 1967); martial arts wuxia pian, Si jue nu (aka Jiu xie mo nu) (Chu Mu, 1967); folk legend, Black Bull and White Snake/Hei niu yu bai se (Lin Fu-Di, 1969); and fantasy, A Tale of Ghost and Fox/Gui hu wai zhuan (Li Han-hsiang, 1970).

However, contemporary melodramatic wenyi pian, adapted from popular romantic novels, accounted for half of the GMP’s films, including eight Chiungyao films: Dodder Flower/Tu si hua (Chang Tseng-chai, 1965), Many Enchanting Nights/Ji du xiyang hong (Yang Su, 1966), When Is the Dream Come True/Ming yue ji shi yuan (Joseph Kuo, 1966), The Whirl/Chuang li chuang wai (Lin Fu-Di, 1967), The Distant Smiling Mountains/Deep in the Mountains/Yuan shan han xiao (Lin Fu-Di, 1967), The Stranger/Mosheng ren (Yang Su, 1968), Nuluocao (Lin Fu-Di, 1968), and Love Is More Intoxicating Than Wine/Shen qing bi jiu nong (Joseph Kuo, 1968). The GMP’s Chiungyao films excelled in their use of cinematography, costuming, and art design in telling their intriguing stories.

However, the best achievement of Li Han-hsiang during his GMP period was The Winter (1969), a wenyi pian adapted from Luo Lan’s short story. Li spent a great deal of money in pursuit of realism in the film, insisting on quality at whatever cost, artistic integrity that caused the GMP to go over-budget and over-schedule. The inability to deliver films on time resulted in the lack of working capital for the GMP, and eventually led to Li being seriously in debt.

Nevertheless, Li Han-hsiang still wanted to pursue his dream of building a studio of his own. He used distribution rights to all his films as collateral, acquiring land in suburban Taipei to build soundstages and a backlot. This infuriated Cathay Organisation and Lianbang, who refused to settle accounts with Li for revenues from the distribution of the GMP films in Taiwan and Southeast Asia. To add salt to the wound, Li was accused of being a spy for the People’s Republic of China (PRC) and suffered much.

Deteriorating conditions finally forced the Nationalist government to create an ad hoc committee to help the GMP. The solution it decided on was to invite overseas investors to be guarantors and help the GMP out of its financial distress, then give them bank loans. Eventually, Li’s power was undermined and he lost control of his company, including the studio, soundstages, equipment, facilities, and even his own office.

Afterwards, Li worked as an independent filmmaker in Taiwan, first directing a spy film, Storm over the Yang-Tse River/Yangzijiang fengyun (1969), followed by The Story of Ti-Ying/Ti Ying (1971), for China Film Studio, owned and operated by the Taiwan military.

In eight years, Li Han-hsiang’s Grand Motion Picture Company had strongly affected the Taiwan film industry in several important ways. He brought actors, writers, directors, music composers, and art designers from Hong Kong, and they rised the technical and artistic level of film productions in Taiwan. Though there were only four films credited to Li as director among all the GMP films, he actually helped many young directors behind the scenes, when he was planning director or executive director for Sung Tsun-Shou, Chang Tseng-chai, Yang su, Chu Mu, Lin Fu-Di, Joseph Kuo, and Wang Hsing-Lei, most of them important directors in Taiwan cinema during the 1970s. In addition, Li founded an actors’ training class, and promoted the “star system” through publicity in the media, thus directly contributing to the vitality and success of the Taiwan film industry in the 1960s. Finally, through coproductions and independent contract work, Li also helped raise quantity and quality of feature film production at Taiwan Film Studio, China Film Studio, and the Central Motion Picture Corporation, which were all connected with the Kuomintang (KMT) Party and Nationalist government.






HAGIYA, KENZŌ (?- 1941). Since 1912, veteran cameraman Hagiya Kenzō had worked for Japanese production company M. Pathé (1906-1912) and M. Kashī (1915-1916), both funded by Umeya Shokichi. Takamatsu Toyojiro hired him to shoot the 1916 Taiwan Industrial Exhibition, produced by Takamatsu’s Taiwan Dōjinsha on behalf of the Taiwan Education Society (TES). The film greatly impressed the TES. When Takamatsu left Taiwan for personal reason in 1917, the TES established its own motion pictures department to produce and exhibit educational films.

In August 1917, Hagiya was recruited from Tokyo to be staff cameraman for the TES. In mid-September, he was already busy filming things in the Taipei area, such as military training, children practicing swimming at the Kote Shō (Kuting chuang/Guting zhuang) swimming site next to the Shinmise (Hsintien/Xindian) River, and scenes in the Taipei zoo. By the end of 1917, Hagiya had filmed important events, including a Imperial visit in October by HRH Prince Kitashirakawa-no-miya Narihisa and his wife, and the November hygiene exhibition in Taichu (Taichung/Taizhong).

He was staff cameraman continuously for 24 years. In 1941, when he was sent to Southern China theater in the Pacific War, Hagiya became seriously ill during a mission and passed away soon after returning from the battlefield. Though not recognized in any writings, Hagiya was probably the most prolific filmmaker in Taiwan during the period of Japanese rule.




HEALTHY REALISM. An important sub-genre of both family drama and national policy film that emerged in the 1960s, and may have extended into the 1970s, healthy realism was named by Kung Hong, general manager of Nationalist- owned Central Motion Picture Corporation (CMPC) between 1963 and 1971.

When Kung was appointed to the position, only a handful of Mandarin films were made in Taiwan annually. The domestic market was taken over by Taiwanese-dialect film and Mandarin-language films imported from Hong Kong, particularly huangmei diao opera films and family melodramas. After a few months, Kung realized that the CMPC, as a propaganda organ of the Nationalist government and Kuomintang (KMT) Party, was neither suited for, nor capable of making any huangmei diao film comparable to Shaw Brothers’ extremely popular The Love Eterne (Li Han-hsiang, 1963). Instead, Kung was inspired by Lee Hsing’s Our Neighbor/Jie tou xiang wei (1963), about the small vices, gossip, misunderstandings, and mutual caring support of tenants in a Taipei slum warren. The film was obviously influenced by realist films made in China during the 1930s and 1940s.

Kung was also impressed by Italian neorealist films shown in Taiwan in the 1950s, such as Open City/Roma, città aperta (Roberto Rossellini, 1945), The Bicycle Thief/Ladri di biciclette (Vittorio De Sica, 1948), The Earth Trembles/La Terra Trema (Luchino Visconti, 1948), Bitter Rice/Riso amaro (Giuseppe De Santis, 1949), Bread, Love and Dreams/Pane, amore e fantasia (Luigi Comencini, 1953), and The River Girl/Woman of the River/La donna del fiume (Mario Soldati, 1954), which aroused attention and discussion among Taiwan film critics.

“Realist film” was seen as a direction for the CMPC’s future productions. But Kung realized that a true realist film could not avoid exposing the dark sides of society, be it poverty, crime, or social inequality, common in Chinese leftist realist films of the 1930s and 1940s. Astonishingly, this type of film was conveniently attributed by the Nationalists as one of the reasons for the KMT’s defeat in the Civil War with Chinese Communists.

Kung, therefore, advocated making healthy realism films – films (partly) shot on location to create the “realistic” look of common people’s lives, like Italian neorealist films, but which changed their focus to extolling Confucian values, propriety, and traditional virtues, such as compassion, loving care, forgiveness, humanity, and altruism. Such films were, thus, “healthy” in leading the audience toward doing good deeds, while at the same time displaying the achievements and development under the KMT rule. Lee Hsing’s Our Neighbor proved to Kung that making a good “healthy” realist film was indeed feasible.

With such a mindset, Kung asked Lee Hsing to work with CMPC’s staff director Li Chia, as codirectors of The Oyster Girl/Ke nu (1963), depicting the hard-working life of oyster farmers/fishermen who have to fight the ocean to make a living. A couple of years earlier, Li Chia had completed his first Mandarin film, Spring Tide on the Reclaimed Land/Haipu chunchao (1961), a romance used to promote the achievements of Nationalist veterans who reclaimed land from the ocean. Li was experienced in effectively using beautiful seaside scenery, a good reason for his being selected as codirector of The Oyster Girl, which won “Best Dramatic Feature” at the 1964 Film Festival in Asia.

While still shooting The Oyster Girl, Lee Hsing was asked by Kung Hong to direct the second healthy realism film, The Beautiful Duckling/Yangya renjia (1964), following the lives of duck farmers, about the love between parents and children. Both healthy realism films were commercially and critically successful, opening the Southeast Asia market to Taiwan-made Mandarin films.

When Pai Ching-jui was hired by the CMPC in 1963, Kung held high expectations for him, as he graduated from the Scuola Nazionale di Cinema in Italy, a film school that trained students in the neorealism tradition. Kung instructed Pai to help edit The Oyster Girl, and to help Lee Hsing develop and write The Beautiful Duckling. Pai, however, never directed any film that could be called healthy realism.

A few years after The Beautiful Duckling was released, the CMPC produced The Road/Lu (1967), yet another healthy realism film directed by Lee Hsing. Using the life of a worker born in Mainland China who builds roads in Taiwan as its background, the film depicts the conflict between a father and his son, caused by the Chinese tradition of expecting a son to be “successful,” and the son’s yearning for motherly love. The film failed commercially, but was praised as one of Lee’s best works. It won “Best Feature Film” and “Best Actor” (Tsui Fu-sheng/Cui Fusheng) at the 1968 Golden Horse Awards.

Subsequently, Taiwan Film Studio, owned and operated by the Taiwan Provincial Government and responsible for advocating government policies, took after the CMPC and produced similar healthy realism films, such as Call of the Mountain/Lishan chun xiao (Yang Wen-gan, 1967, starring Chang Mei-Yao and Ko Chun-hsiung), and Gaining Sons, Not Losing Daughters/Xiaozhen chun hui (Yang Wen-gan, 1969, also starring Chang Mei-Yao), the later winning “Best Feature Film,” “Best Screenplay” (Wu Huan), and “Best Color Cinematography” (Cheng Chieh/ Zheng Jie) at the 1969 Golden Horse Awards. Both films were also successful at the box office.

The success of these healthy realism films in the market prompted private film companies to follow suit in making similar films, such as The Salt Paddy Girls/Yan nu (Joseph Kuo, 1968), even though they did not have the responsibility to use the sub-genre to propagate government policies. Li Han-hsiang’s realist film, The Winter (1969), about the quiet love between a young maid from rural Taiwan and an older man from Mainland China who ran a small food stall, was considered by some scholars as a healthy realism film as well, even though it was obviously influenced by Chinese realist films of the 1930s and 1940s.

In retrospect, there may not have been many actual healthy realism films made during the 1960s. It is also hard to determine when healthy realism films completely disappeared. In the later stages of his tenure as general manager at the Nationalist film company, Kung Hong expanded healthy realism to include healthy variety/jiankang zongyi, which diversified the genres and styles of the CMPC’s films to include musical, action, melodramatic wenyi pian, war, historical epic, and comedy.

In the 1970s, Lee Hsing regularly returned to making realist films after directing his “commercial” projects, such as those of Chiungyao film genre. Yet works such as He Never Gives Up/Wangyang zhong de yi tiao chuan (1978), The Story of a Small Town/Xiaocheng gushi (1979), Good Morning, Taipei/Zaoan taibei (1979), and China, My Native Land/Yuan xiang ren (1980), though all called “nativist realist film” by film scholars, because they were either based on nativist novels or were shot on location in small towns, are still directly linked to his earlier healthy realism films of the 1960s.

In general, most films regarded as healthy realism by the majority of film scholars are characterized by the following: (1) they were shot partly on location, and partly in studio soundstages and on backlot sets, with artificial lighting and props; (2) they dealt primarily with idealized relationships, rather than genuine human conditions; (3) their depictions of common people’s lives were far from real; and (4) most had a happy endings, which contradicted the genuine lives of the populace.


HO, CHI-MING (Ka Kimē, He Jiming) (1916-1994). Born in Taichū/Taichung/ Taizhong City in central Taiwan, Ho Chi-Ming/Ka Kimē/He Jiming was a maker of educational/informational films during the last years of Japanese colonial rule and a pioneering director of Taiwanese-dialect film in the 1950s.

Coming from a wealthy family background, Ho had many chances to watch films projected at his home since childhood, as his father’s younger brother owned a 9.5mm film camera and projector. He even shot several rolls of home movies. When Ho was 16, his father sent him to Tokyo to study in high school. Attracted by the glamorous world of cinema after visiting the PCL Studios in Tokyo, Ho enrolled in Tokyo College of Photography (now Tokyo Polytechnic University), against the will of his family, who expected him to become either a physician, teacher, or government official.

Ho spent three years at the college studying filmmaking techniques, before concentrating on writing and directing. After graduation in 1935, he found a job in the Film Division of JEUGIA Corporation, Inc. (Kubushikigaisha jūjiya eiga bu) in Ginza, Tokyo. His experience at JEUGIA was mainly in making films used as educational material in the classroom. During his three-year employment there, Ho also learned the skills of maintaining 16mm equipment as well as processing 9.5mm and 16mm reversal film.

In April 1935, a 7.1 Richter-scale earthquake shook central Taiwan, causing record-breaking damage. Ho happened to be visiting his family in Taichū at the time, so he was summoned by the Taiwan Government-General Office to make filmed records of the earthquake’s destruction. After Ho returned to Tokyo, the Government-General Office requested that the Ministry of Education of the Imperial government send a film technician to help it conduct disaster relief work. An Education Ministry official persuaded Ho to go back Taiwan.

Upon returning from Japan in September 1937, Ho was given a mission by the Government-General Office to promote using audio-visual material for school education in the Taichū area. With the money for relief work, Ho set up the Film Alliance of Schools in Taichū Shū (prefecture), and purchased some 30 film projectors and many reels of educational films for schools in disaster areas. Some of the films were shot by Ho, and others purchased from Japan. He also organized the Taichū Shū Film Alliance in helping to facilitate social education in the area (See DOCUMENTARY; TAIWAN EDUCATION SOCIETY). Ho assisted the police department in screening animation shorts, newsreels, documentaries, and fiction films for policemen and their families assigned to posts located deep in the mountains, as well as for the Aborigines living there. Occasionally, Ho also needed to make newsreels about events, such as sports games.

At the end of World War II, Ho Chi-Ming briefly stayed on at the Department of Education in Taichung County, in charge of filmmaking and screenings. After the “228 Incident,” in which the Nationalist army violently suppressed local Taiwanese rebels, Ho resigned and worked freelance making informational films for major companies in industries.

In 1950s, in view of the sharply declining box-office of Taiwanese Opera in Taichung theaters, Ho Chi-Ming proposed to theater owners to produce rensageki films – shooting outdoor action scenes and inserting the filmed images into the stage performance. This aroused audiences’ interest, prompting many Taiwanese Opera troupes to follow suit. Ho produced a handful of such rensageki films before Chen Cheng-san, owner of the Gongyueshe troupe, asked him to make a filmed record of its complete performance. Instead, Ho persuaded Chen to let him make a narrative film performed by the troupe’s actors.

Ho’s Xue Pinggui and Wang Baochuan (1955), coproduced by Gongyueshe and Ho’s Hwa Shing (Huaxing) Studio, was not only the first 35mm Taiwanese-dialect feature, it was overwhelmingly welcomed throughout Taiwan, grossing NT$1.2 million (almost US$50,000), six times its production cost, thus starting a frenzy of Taiwanese-dialect filmmaking that lasted for the next quarter-century. The next year, Ho continued to making similar period costumed opera films, as well as contemporary drama, such as Double Suicide in the Canal/Yunhe xunqing ji (1956), based on a true story.

In the early days, most Taiwanese-dialect films had to rent equipment and soundstages from the Agricultural Education Film Studio (AEFS) in Taichung, as well as hiring their technicians to complete their productions. High rental fees and the filmmaker’s insatiable need prompted Ho to build his own studio and soundstage. Ho sold his houses to raise money and build them on his lot in Taichung. He also trained his own actors.

The first film of Ho’s to be made by his own Hwa Shing Studio was Green Mountain Bloodshed/Qing shan bi xie (1957), a historical drama based on the Wushe Incident/Musha jiken, in which the Seediq Aborigines rebelled against cruel Japanese rule. (The subject was made by Wei Te-Sheng into another film Warrior of the Rainbow: Seediq Bale in 2011.) Ho Chi-Ming’s younger brother, Ho Ling-Ming/He Lingming was the cameraman who shot most of the films made by Hwa Shing Studio. Business was quite good for Hwa Shing in the beginning. It even established a distribution department in Taipei to distribute Ho’s films. However, there seem to have been internal problems between the production and distribution departments, finally causing Ho Chi-Ming to close down Hwa Shing Studio in 1959.

In total, Ho Chi-Ming made about 10 Taiwanese-dialect films between 1955 and 1958, half of them Taiwanese Opera films, and two based on historical events. His Studio trained some good actors, especially Ou Wei, later praised for his performance in Lee Hsing’s healthy realism film The Beautiful Duckling/Yangya renjia (1964), and Ho Yu-Hua/He Yuhua, who appeared in Lee Hsing’s Our Neighbor/Jie tou xiang wei (1963).

Ho left Taiwan in 1960 to learn new film technologies and to make educational films in Japan. In the 1960s, Ho occasionally made Taiwanese-dialect films when he was in Taiwan, including Lover’s Tear/Qingren de yanlei (1964), and Darling Daughter and Precious Monk/Qianjin xiaojie wanjin heshang (1965?). He also codirected Foggy Night in Hong Kong/Wu ye xianggang (1967) with Japanese director Nanbu Taizō.

When China Television (CTV) launched broadcasting in Taiwan in October 1969, Ho Chi-Ming was invited to direct a Taiwanese-dialect serial drama, Magnolia/Yulanhua, which became a big hit in 1970. Subsequently, Ho became a television drama director until the 1980s. In 1990, Ho was a consultant to the Chinese Taipei Film Archive, helping it to preserve Taiwanese-dialect film material. For his contributions to Taiwan cinema, Ho Chi-Ming was given the “Life Achievement Award” at the 1992 Golden Horse Awards. Ho died of diabetes in August 1994.


HO, PING (1957- ). Born in in 1957 in Hsinchu, northern Taiwan, Ho Ping/He Ping (not to be confused with the Chinese director of the same name) studied Chemical Engineering in Tunghai University before going to study filmmaking in the United States at Syracuse University, in the College of Visual and Performing Arts’ Film Program.

After graduation in 1987, Ho returned to Taiwan to work on his debut film – the “Digger” episode in the portmanteau film The Digger, The Suona Player/Yinjian xiangma chui guchui (1988), codirected with Daw-Ming Lee/Li Daoming. Based on a short story by popular nativist novelist Wang Benhu, Ho’s episode was awarded a “Special Jury Prize” at the 1988 Golden Horse Awards. He was then commissioned by the Centrl Motion Picture Corporation to make Honor Thy Father/Gan’en de suiyue (1989), a biopic about the childhood of renowned Japanese baseball player Oh Sadaharu/Wang Zhenzhi.

Ho’s next film 18/Shiba (1993) is a visually stylized, structure-wise confusing, and disturbing experimental narrative film about the identity crisis facing waishengren (Chinese Mainlanders, or their offspring, who came to Taiwan after 1945, following the takeover of Taiwan by the Nationalist government). The film won a FIPRESCI Award at the 1994 Thessaloniki International Film Festival in Greece. It was also invited to the “Forum” section of the 1994 Berlin Film Festival. Ho’s following two feature-length films, Wolves Cry Under the Moon/ Guodao fengbi (1997) and The Rules of the Game/Wa dong ren (2002) were also invited to the “Forum” at the Berlinale in 1998 and 2002 respectively.

Wolves Cry Under the Moon is a “road movie” with multiple characters, each representing a different social class and cultural background. It was awarded “Special Jury Prize” at the 1997 Golden Horse Awards. Shortly after, Ho directed the Motel Erotica/Zhuo jian episode in Sexy Story/Zhuo jian, jiang jian, tong jian (1997), another portmanteau film. His next feature film, The Rules of the Game, is a dark comedy reflecting Ho’s anxiety about his identity as a waishengren in Taiwan. It won a “Don Quixote Prize of the International Federation of Film Societies” at the 2002 Berlinale, and “Best Screenplay” at the 2002 Deauville Asian Film Festival in France.

In 2002, Ho Ping directed Princess in Wonder/Gongzhu cheye weimian, based on a novel. The humorous drama follows the interlaced stories of numerous characters. Afterwards, Ho worked on television serial dramas and 10-60 second ads. Ho Ping’s most recent film, Sweet Revenge/Jisheng ren (2007), a thriller, is the first time he worked for a Chinese film company, using actors from China and Hong Kong. The film failed critically and at the box office in China and Hong Kong.

Ho Ping is known to be fond of Hollywood crime drama and films by French director Jean-Pierre Melville. Elements of such crime dramas can easily be found in his films. He is also influenced by Polish director Krzysztof Kieslowski, Japanese director Terayama Shuji, and Spanish director Luis Buñuel. Thus, there is always a bitter tone of absurdity in his films.

Ho Ping is now teaching full-time in the Department of Cinema at National Taiwan University of Arts.


HONG KONG AND KOWLOON CINEMA & THEATRICAL ENTERPRISE FREE GENERAL ASSOCIATION LIMITED (HKCTEFGA), HONG KONG CINEMA & THEATRICAL ASSOCIATION LIMITED (1956- ). In 1947, former Shanghai movie tycoon Zhang Shankun helped Li Zuyong establish Yonghua (Yung Hwa) Film Company, to make Mandarin-speaking films in Hong Kong. Zhang left Yonghua in 1948, over creative differences with Li about running the company, and subsequently cofounded Great Wall Film Production Company, the second production company making Mandarin-speaking films in Hong Kong. After the Communist Party of China took over Mainland China in 1949, Yonghua lost its major market and fell into financial difficulties. Its employees, unable to receive their salaries, started a strike. At the same time, after a reshuffle, Great Wall turned left markedly, forcing Zhang Shankun to leave the company in 1950 to form Far East Company.

In the late 1940s and early 1950s, several film studios were funded by leftist filmmakers, such as Feng Huang (Phoenix) Film Company and Union Film Enterprises Ltd./Zhonglian Film Company Ltd. In the midst of this evolving pro-communist film world, many anti-communist filmmakers, who had fled from Shanghai earlier, were excluded from working. Consequently, they sought assistance from the Nationalist government on Taiwan, which sent intelligence officers to infiltrate and work inside the leftist studios, in order to instigate a rebellion or try to win the loyalty of filmmakers to the Kuomintang (KMT) Party. Some of these filmmakers joined a troupe organized by Wang Yuen-lung/Wang Yuanlong, Zhang Shankun, Hu Jinkang, Fen Mingyuan, and Yan Youxiang. In October 1953, the troupe went to entertain Nationalist troops in Taiwan, marking the first time an overseas film team pledged allegiance to the KMT government on Taiwan, led by Generalissimo Chiang Kai- shek.

Subsequently, Wang Yuen-lung and his team took over the Hong Kong Temporary Actors Guild, using it as their base. In 1956, the Guild was renamed the Hong Kong and Kowloon Filmmakers Free General Association Limited, formally established in May 1956. Wang was its first chair. The following year it was renamed again as the Hong Kong and Kowloon Cinema & Theatrical Enterprise Free General Association Limited (HKCTEFGA, or Free Association). The Free Association had close ties with the Nationalists on Taiwan, and became the center for rightist (anti-communist) filmmakers in Hong Kong. The film circle in Hong Kong was thus divided into segregated “left” and “right” camps. With assistance from Sir Run Run Shaw, president of Shaw Brothers, the Free Association bought an apartment building on Nathan Road in Kowloon as its permanent headquarters. Each “Double-Ten Nationalist Day,” the Free Association would hold a celebration meeting there.

In 1960, the Association was officially recognized by the Overseas Chinese Affairs Commission of the Republic of China (ROC) government as an overseas Chinese society that represented right-wing workers and film companies in the Hong Kong film business, serving as a liaison between its members and the KMT government. Subsequently, all Hong Kong-made films distributed in Taiwan had to first register with the Association, and their crews and actors had to be members of the Free Association. Two major Mandarin film producers, Shaw Brothers and its competitor Motion Pictures and General Investment Co. Ltd. (MP&GI), were members of the Free Association, forcing many leftist directors and actors to switch political camps and work for rightist film companies, such as Betty Loh Tih/Le Di, Guan Shan, and Chun Kim/Qin Jian. At its peak, the Association had more than 3,000 members. Through the Free Association, the KMT was able to impose its control over the Mandarin film world in Hong Kong.

Despite losing their status of “national film” (guopian) after 1997, Hong Kong (and Macau) films were given a special status by the KMT government, different from that of foreign films, and the Nationalists allowed them to enjoy certain benefits. The task of determining the true identity of Hong Kong films was also delegated to the Association, which was renamed yet again in 1996, as the Hong Kong Cinema & Theatrical Association Limited, adapting to the new political situation after Hong Kong was turned over to the People’s Republic of China in 1997.


HOU, HSIAO-HSIEN (1947- ). Considered one of the great masters of international cinema by all respected film critics, Hou Hsiao-hsien was a prominent leader of the Taiwan New Cinema movement of the 1980s. In fact, Hou’s name was synonymous with the movement for European and North American film critics.

Hou was born on 8 April 1947 in Mei County, Guangfong Province, China to a Hakka family. Hou’s father graduated from Sun Yat-sen University/Zhongsan University majoring in education. After graduation, he went to Swatow/Shantou to run a newspaper, but he caught tuberculosis and had to return to Mei, where he became head of the education bureau in the county government. In May 1947, at the invitation of a classmate, who had been appointed mayor of Taichung/ Taizhong in central Taiwan by the Nationalist government, Hou’s father came over to Taiwan to take the job as secretary-general in the Taichung City government. When he arrived, Hou was only four-months old. Hou’s mother was a teacher at the elementary school in Mei County. After moving to Taiwan, she was too far away to get support from her friends and relatives, and became depressed. Taiwan was very humid and unsuitable for Hou’s father, because of his asthma. The family finally had to move to Fengshan in southern Taiwan, where Hou’s father was hospitalized in a sanatorium.

The family was stranded in southern Taiwan when the Chinese Communists took over Mainland China in 1949. Like most waishenren (outer province people), Mainlanders who came after the Nationalist government took over Taiwan in 1945, Hou’s family took Taiwan as a temporary shelter and believed they would soon return to the mainland, as was promised by Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek, president of the Republic of China. Hou’s father, mother, and grandmother all died when Hou was young. He became a hoodlum on the streets of Fengshan, addicted to gambling. When he was conscripted into the army as a military policeman, Hou decided to quit gambling and took an interest in film, sometimes watching four films a day in the cinema. He was impressed by a British film, Up the Junction (Peter Collinson, 1968), and became more seriously interested in film.

After discharge from the military in the late 1960s, Hou enrolled in the Department of Cinema and Drama at National Taiwan Academy of Arts. Hou said he did not learn much about filmmaking there, due to its lack of equipment and facilities. He watched many Hollywood and Hong Kong movies at the time. He saw some European art films, but could not really appreciate them.

After graduation, Hou worked as a calculator salesman for eight months, before being offered a job as continuity person (script supervisor) for Lee Hsing, who was directing a Chiungyao film, The Heart with Million Knots/Xin you qian qian jie (1973). After working as script supervisor on the martial arts kung fu film, Kung Fu of Tae Kwon Do/Valley of the Double Dragon/Shuang long gu (Chiu Kang-Chien/ Chiu Tai An-Ping and Ouyang Chun/Tsai Yang-Ming, 1974), Hou was promoted in 1975 to the position of assistant director. He worked on 10 films, eight of them melodrama wenyi pian, directed by veteran cinematographer turned director Lai Cheng-Ying. Hou also wrote many of the screenplays for these films.

In 1978, after writing the screenplay for Lee Hsing’s Good Morning, Taipei/ Zaoan taibei (1979), Hou Hsiao-hsien began to direct films. Hou teamed up with cameraman Chen Kun-Hou, with whom he had worked as assistant director for Lai Cheng-Ying, and with editor Liao Ching-Song, who later edited almost all of Hou’s films and produced his more recent ones. The director-writer/ cinematographer/editor team made seven films and help create the Taiwan New Cinema (TNC) movement. Hou wrote all seven screenplays, directing three of them, Cute Girl/Lovable You/Jiushi liuliu de ta (1980), Cheerful Wind/Play While You Play/ Fenger tita cai (1981) and The Green, Green Grass of Home/Zai na hepan qingcao qing (1982). (Chen Kun-Hou directed the other four films.) Considered an effective blend of healthy realism with romantic melodrama wenyi pian, Hou’s three pre-TNC films are basically romantic comedy with a lot of musical interludes, starring such popular singers as Hong Kong’s Kenny Bee (Chung Chun-To/Zhong Zhentao) and Anthony Chan (Chen You), as well as Taiwan’s Feng Fei-fei. All the films were box-office winners. During this period, suffice it to say that Hou still abided by the conventions of the industry, using film/music industry stars and songs.

What caused Hou to transform from a technically competent director into a film auteur was probably the acquaintance Hou made with writer Chu Tien-wen. One of Chu’s novellas was purchased by Hou’s company and made into the film Growing Up/Xiaobi de gushi (Chen Kun-Hou, 1983). Chu wrote the screenplay with her writer friend Ding Ya-min, Hsu Shu-chen, and Hou. Since then, with the exception of Le voyage du ballon rouge/Flight of the Red Ballon/Hong qiqiu (2007), Chu cowrote all of Hou Hsiao-hsien’s films. Chu introduced Hou to the world of literature and aesthetics. Through Chu, Hou became acquainted with many writers and literati who advocated modernism in writing poems, novels, and filmmaking.

Around the same time in the early 1980s, there were also Edward Yang Teh-Chang, Ko I-Cheng, Hsiao Yeh, and Wu Nien-Jen, who had just made In Our Time/Guangyin de gushih (1982). There were also respected film critics, such as Peggy Chiao Hsiung-Ping and Edmond Wong, who strongly supported the emerging Taiwan New Cinema filmmakers. Most of these people had just returned from filmmaking or film studies in the United States. From them, Hou learned film theory and aesthetics that he was able to absorb into his own filmmaking techniques that he intuitively executed.

Hou was invited by Hsiao Yeh and Wu Nien-Jen, project developers of the Central Motion Picture Corporation (CMPC), to codirect an omnibus film, similar to In Our Time. The other two directors were originally Wang Tung and Lin Ching-chieh, new directors with a lot of experience in the film industry as art directors and writers. However, Wang was already in preproduction with A Flower in the Raining Night/A Flower in the Rainy Night/Kan hai de rihzih (1983), based on nativist writer Huang Chun-ming’s novel.(Wang made his debut film If I am for Real/Jiaru wo shih zhen de in 1981, very successful at the box office. His subsequent film, Portrait of a Fanatic/Unrequited Love/Ku lian [1982], failed in the box office.)

Huang Chun-ming’s short stories were also the basis for the CMPC’s portmanteau film The Sandwich Man/Erzi de da wanou (1983), in which Hou was finally put together with two first-time directors, Wan Jen and Tseng Chuang-hsiang/Zeng Zhuangxiang, who had just graduated from film schools in the U.S. To Hou Hsiao-hsien, the experience of working with Wan and Tseng confirmed that the aesthetics he instinctively practiced in his previous films were actually in line with established film theories, prompting him to experiment further in his subsequent films. Thus, the Taiwan New Cinema movement was born.

Starting with Hou’s next film, The Boys from Fengkuei/Fenggui lai de ren (1983), Hou entered his first stage as a modernist auteur, making (auto)biographical (or self-referential) films, which included The Boys from Fengkuei (based on his own adolescent experience), A Summer at Grandpa’s/ Dongdong de jiaqi (1984) (based on Chu Tien-wen’s childhood experience), A Time to Live and A Time to Die/Tongnian wangshi (1985) (Hou’s self-portrait of his own childhood), and Dust in the Wind/Lian lian fengchen (1986) (based on Wu Nien-Jen’s personal story). Some definitely consider that these four films represent Hou’s Taiwan New Cinema works, before the movement ended in 1987. Some of Hou’s later films about Taiwan history are also based on biographies or recollections of genuine historical actors, real people, such as The Puppetmaster/Xi meng rensheng (1993), based on life under Japanese colonial rule of Li Tianlu, the puppet master, and Good Men, Good Women/Hao nan hao nu (1995), a biography of a left-wing Taiwanese couple Chung Hao-Tung and Chiang Bi-yu during the 1940s and 1950s.

Throughout this period, Hou Hsiao-hsien consciously developed his distinctive cinematic style, characterized by long-takes and contemplative static cinematography used to maintain the integrity of space and time, as well as his famous landscape shots with no visible people, and loose causality. His unique film aesthetics gained him international recognition, beginning in 1984 with The Boys from Fengkuei, which won “Best Film” (Golden Montgolfiere) at the Festival des 3 Continents (Nantes Three Continents Festival). A year later, A Summer at Grandpa’s again won for “Best Film” at the same Festival. The film also was awarded an Ecumenical Jury “Special Mention” award at Film Festival Locarno. From then on, every film by Hou won awards at various international film festivals, culminating in the Golden Lion at the 1989 Venice Film Festival for A City of Sadness/Beiqing chengshi (1989), the first time a Taiwanese film ever won for “Best Film” in a “first-tier” international film festival.

A City of Sadness marks Hou’s movement towards exploring Taiwan history in his films. As the first in Hou’s “Taiwan history trilogy,” A City of Sadness deals with the transition from Taiwan’s 50-year Japanese colonial rule, to a predatory takeover by the Nationalist government and the subsequent “228 Incident” in 1947, an anti-government uprising that was violently suppressed by the KMT army. The subject matter was the greatest taboo that no film had ever dared explore before Hou. Other than his trademark aesthetics of long-takes, elliptical editing, and landscape shots, Hou also utilized multi-layered sound (language, music, sound effects) to create a detailed subtext, to suture gaps between scenes, and to tighten tension in each sequence. However, despite the film’s great success critically and commercially (earning more than NT$100-million [US$4-million] in Taiwan), Huo is not satisfied with his artistic treatment and does not like the film. Hou’s depiction of the “228 Incident” aroused criticism on the island. Some accused Hou of evading his “political responsibility” to condemn the KMT. The Nationalists were, of course, not pleased with the film, but could do nothing after the sensational media response about the film winning the Golden Lion in Venice.

In the second film of his Taiwan trilogy, The Puppetmaster (1993), Hou Hsiao- hsien tells the story of the real-life puppet master Li Tianlu as a young man during Japanese colonial rule. He continues utilizing multi-narratives, i.e., using memories of witnesses of historical events, or observations of bystanders, to write/ explore the “national portrait/biography, ” told as usual with static distancing long takes.

In Good Men, Good Women (1995), Hou uses three different angles (a historical actor’s life story, an actor’s experience in acting out the life of the historical actor, and the life of the actor) to tell a 1950s story of the “White Terror.” Unlike his other films, Hou puts too much of the focus on the structure of this film and not enough on the substance. The casting may also be another (weak) element that the director is responsible for. The film disappointed Hou, notwithstanding its selection into competition at Cannes International Film Festival, as well as winning many awards at other international film festivals, and at the 1995 Golden Horse with “Best Director,” “Best Adapted Screenplay” (Chu Tien-wen), and “Best Sound Effects” (Du Du-Chih) awards.

In Goodbye, South Goodbye/Nanguo zaijian, nanguo (1996), Hou tries for the first time, after his first three films, to deal with contemporary Taiwan. Instead of a script, outline, or pre-determined structure, Hou relies on his intuition in directing actors and mise-en-scène, as he did previously in The Boys from Fengkuei. Hou said that after seeing Jean-Luc Godard’s Breathless/A bout de souffle (1960), he was inspired about the way to edit Goodbye, South Goodbye. In the film, Hou continues his new trend of moving the camera, begun in Good Men, Good Women. Most of the camera movements are continuous and overt. 

Flowers of Shanghai/Hai shang hua (1998) is the first time Hou made a film that had no relationship to Taiwan. The film, set entirely in a Shanghai brothel in the late 19th century, uses the film technique of combining long-takes and dissolves to represent and structure individual separate events (things happening in the same space at different time, or happening concurrently in different places). This style captures the spirit of the diary form used by the novel upon which the film is based. Unlike Hou’s other work, the film was shot completely in enclosed studio sets and was non-realistic. The film was hailed by some international critics as “best film of the year,” for its mise-en-scène, fine pacing, lighting and cinematography. Flowers of Shanghai was shown in Paris for two months. However, it earned only NT$2.7 million (less than US$84,000) in Taipei. Many suspected that the film was not intended for Taiwan audiences. Some even accused Hou of catering to “exoticism” for foreign consumption. The film’s financial backing from Japan was used as a proof for such suspicion.

Hou, on the other hand, complained that his audience in Paris was larger than in Taiwan. In fact, since 1995, Hou’s films were mostly (co)produced by film companies outside of Taiwan, including Shochiku Eiga Company (Japan) and Océan Films (France). It is a dilemma and paradox faced by Hou (and many new young directors) in the new millennium – whether to make art films for international audiences, or to communicate with local audiences through films dealing with the land and people he cares about most. In view of Café Lumière/ Kōhī jikō/Kafei shiguang (2003) and The Voyage of the Red Balloon/Le voyage du ballon rouge (2007), two of the four films he made after the 2000s, Hou obviously opted for the international art audience.

In the new millennium, so far, Hou has made four films. Other than the two made in/for the two countries that favored him most, i.e., Japan and France, Hou directed two films set in Taiwan, relating to contemporary or old Taiwan. In Millennium Mambo/Qianxi manpo (2001), the voice of a woman from 10 years in the “future” tells her own story as a nightclub hostess, and her relationship with a live-in boyfriend – a slacker who does drug and beats her. Hou’s camera lingers on the restless, aimless couple’s wasted life at the club and in their apartment. Hou continues using mobile long-takes, following the characters, then lingering on, to observe the environment. Originally, this film was to be part of Hou’s ambitious, yet aborted project for which he planned to make up to 10 films, capturing changes in Taiwan as they happen.

Three Times/The Best of Times/Zui hao de shiguang (2005) consists of three separate short films, each set in a different time. Both (main) characters in each of the three stories are played by Shu Qi and Chang Chen. The three shorts evoke Hou’s three categories of films: A Time for Love (set in 1966 at a billiard hall) reminds one of his four Taiwan New Cinema films; A Time for Freedom (a 1911 brothel) recalls Hou’s films that are set in the not-so-distant past, such as A City of Sadness, The Puppetmaster, and Flowers of Shanghai; while A Time for Youth (set in 2005 modern Taipei) is reminiscent of Hou’s films dealing with contemporary subjects, i.e., Daughter of the Nile; Good Men, Good Women, Goodbye, South Goodbye, and Millennium Mambo. Despite such similarities, Three Times is not simply a return to Hou’s earlier filmmaking style, as his moving camera and much quicker pace in editing attest. The film was nominated for the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival in 2005, but Hou was disappointed that it did not win any prize.

In honor of the 100th anniversary of the birth of Yasujiro Ozu, Shociku Company commissioned Hou Hsiao-hsien to make a film, Café Lumiere, shot in Japan with Japanese actors. Instead of a static camera, Hou uses a moving camera and reframing, techniques hardly used by Ozu, as well as Ozu-style long-takes, to tell the story of a woman pregnant with the child of her Taiwanese boyfriend (whom we never see). Instead of being a homage to Ozu, the film is a typical Hou’s film, with little resemblance to Ozu.

Commissioned by the Musée d’Orsay to remake Albert Lamorisse’s The Red Balloon/Le ballon rouge (1956), Hou’s The Red Balloon is the first film in which he ventured outside Asia. Notwithstanding its French cast (starring Juliette Binoche) and Paris setting, the film still looks very much like a Hou Hsiao-hsien film. With a moving camera and long-takes, Hou distances himself in observing a foreign culture, and successfully makes an “outsider’s film.”

Hou Hsiao-hsien is known for helping novice or lesser-known directors make their films. Hou was the executive producer of China director Zhang Yimou’s Raise the Red Lantern (1991); Taiwan experienced directors Hsu Hsiao-ming’s Dust of Angels/Shaonian ye, an la! (1992) and Heartbreak Island/Qunian dongtian (1995), and Wu Nien-Jen’s A Borrowed Life/Dou sang (1994); Taiwan new directors Hsiao Ya-chuan’s Mirror Image/Ming dai zhuizhu (2001) and Taipei Exchanges/Di 36 ge gushi (2010), Yao Hung-i’s Reflections/Ailisi de jinzi (2005), Teng Yung-Shing’s made-in-China film Return Ticket/Dao Fuyang liubai li (2010), and Hou Chi-jan’s One Day/You yi tian (2010).

Hou also executive produced several documentary features, including Kuan Hsiao-jung’s Why Don’t We Sing?/Women weisheme bu gechang (1996), about victims of the KMT’s “White Terror” policy; Boderline/Guojing bianchui (1997), about the life and philosophy of people from the offshore island of Lanyu; and Yao Hung-i’s Hometown Boy/Jincheng xiaozi (2011), about Chinese painter Liu Xiaodong’s art.

In 1989, Hou also helped Du Du-chih, his long-time partner in sound recording, set up his recording studio, which has been popular among directors in Taiwan and Hong Kong since 1990. He also helped Liao Ching-Song, his long-time partner in editing and producing, establish an independent editing studio.

Hou is currently in production for his next film, The Hidden Heroine/The Assassin/Nie yin niang, a high-budget martial arts wuxia pian, slated to screen in 2012.


HSI SHIH: BEAUTY OF BEAUTIES (1965). A 220-minute, two-part historical epic, Hsi Shih: Beauty of Beauties/The Eternal Beauty of Hsi-Shih/Xi shi was directed by Li Han-hsiang, co-produced by Li’s Grand Motion Picture Company (GMP) and government-owned Taiwan Film Studio (TFS). Part One is sub-titled, The Epic of Wu and Yueh/Wu yue chunqiu; Part Two, Beauty of Beauties: Part Two/Gou jian fuguo/ Xi shi, xiaji. The film was based on a true story that took place in China some 25 centuries ago.

Hsi Shih (Chiang Ching) was a beautiful spy in the Kingdom of Wu. She was sent as an offering to become a concubine to King Fu Cha (Zhu Mu) of Wu, by King Gou Jian (Zhao Lei) of Yue, a small kingdom that had been defeated by Wu’s army. Hsi Shih’s charm and allure seduced King Fu Cha, earning his trust. Subsequently, she was able to frame loyal general Wu Zixu as a traitor, by using flattery with treacherous court officials. After General Wu Zixu’s execution, there was no one to warn King Fu Cha against leading his entire army to seize the throne of the Middle Kingdom. The Kingdom of Wu was left defenseless, giving King Gou Jian the golden opportunity to attack and conquer Wu’s capital, avenging his shameful loss to King Fu Cha a decade before. After Fu Cha’s defeat, Hsi Shih was torn between loyalty to her mother country and true love for King Fu Cha, her supposed enemy.

The total budget of Hsi Shih was more than NT$26 million s (around U.S.$6.5 million by today’s standard), an amount never surpassed by Taiwan filmmakers until some 40 years later. It was estimated that the film used 48 main actors, 2,258 bit parts, 120,000 extras, 5,400 horses, 800 chariots, 42 interior sets, 5,400 costumes, and 30,000 props. Cast and crew worked 334 days, and took 15 months to complete principle cinematography. The scale of the epic is similar to The Ten Commandments (Cecil B. DeMille, 1956), Ben-Hur (William Wyler, 1959) and Spartacus (Stanlely Kubrick, 1960).

Director Li Han-hsiang was an expert in art design and historical research. With a huge production budget and enormous manpower at his disposal, Li was able to recreate a colorful and spectacular ancient world. His composition and smooth camera movement helped him construct a complex, realistic vision of the past. Dramatic story development and performances in Hsi Shih were highly successful, and the film won “Best Awards” in Dramatic Feature, Director, Leading Actor (Zhao Lei) and Color Cinematography (Wang Chien-han) categories at the 1966 Golden Horse Awards. Hsi Shih earned NT$5 million (US$1.25 million, adjusted by today’s standard) at the domestic box office, a great success at the time. However, it still failed to recoup its large production cost, leading to serious financial difficulties at Li’s film company GMP and the government-owned studio TFS.


HSIAO YEH (Lee Yuan, Li Yuan) (1951- ). Hsiao Yeh is the pen name of Lee Yuan/Li Yuan, a novelist, scriptwriter, and most importantly, one of the driving forces in the launching of the Taiwan New Cinema movement in the early 1980s.

Born on 30 October 1941 in Monga/Mengjia, Taipei to a Hakka family, Lee Yuan’s father arrived in Taiwan in 1949, after the Nationalist government moved there. Lee’s father was originally from Wuping, southwest of Fujian Province in China. After graduating from the Department of Biology at National Taiwan Normal University, Lee went on to study in the graduate program in microbiology at State University of New York in Buffalo. When he returned to Taiwan with an MA degree in microbiology, Lee was hired as teaching assistant at National Yang Ming University.

Lee started writing novels when he was still a college student. In 1974, Lee, using the pen name “Hsiao Yeh,” published his first novel, The Birth of a Chrysalis/Yong zhi sheng, which became a bestseller, making him an overnight success. Subsequently he wrote a couple more bestselling novels, and was awarded the United Daily “Best Novel Award” in 1980.

In 1981, Hsiao Yeh was invited by Ming Chi, general manager of the Nationalist-owned Central Motion Picture Corporation (CMPC), to lead its project development unit. With the help of Wu Nien-Jen, another novelist-turned- scriptwriter who was hired to help the CMPC reverse its decline, Hsiao Yeh implemented the “newcomer policy” at the CMPC, hiring young inexperienced directors to direct episodes in portmanteau films, before giving them the opportunity to make feature-length films. Two of these omnibus films, In Our Time/Guangyin de gushi (1982) and The Sandwich Man/Erzih de da wan’ou (1983), as well as a feature, Growing Up/Xiao bi de gushi (Chen Kun-Hou, 1983), were regarded as three films that pioneered the Taiwan New Cinema movement. The box office success of these films prompted the CMPC and other film production companies to commission other young directors to make realist-style films dealing with the genuine human conditions of people in Taiwan. Edward Yang, Ko I- cheng, Chang Yi, and Tao Dechen, who made In Our Time, as well as Hou Hsiao-hsien, Wan Jen, and Tseng Chuang-hsiang/Zeng Zhuangxiang, who made The Sandwich Man, and, of course, Chen Kun-Hou, all went on to make more mature features.

Hsiao Yeh left the CMPC in 1989 and founded Wuyue (May) Productions with Wu Nien-Jen and Ko I-Cheng. He continued to write screenplays, essays, and children’s stories, receiving several awards for his books. Hsiao Yeh began working in television in the 1990s as program host, writer, consultant, and finally, in administration. He was manager of the programming department at Taiwan Television (TTV) between 2002 and 2004 and general manager of Chinese Television System (CTS) between 2006 and 2008.

Hsiao Yeh wrote more than 30 filmed scripts, including box-office winners Off to Success/Chenggong ling shang (Chang Pei-cheng, 1979), Reunion/Women doushi zheyang zhangda de (Ko I-Cheng, 1986), and animation feature Zen Taipei Ah-Kuan/Chan shou akuan (1994). He was awarded “Best Screenplay” at the 1987 Asia Pacific Film Festival for Edward Yang’s The Terrorizers/Kongbu fenzih (1986, cowritten with Yang). Hsiao Yeh also won twice at the Golden Horse Awards, for “Best Original Screenplay” (Reunion, 1986) and “Best Adapted Screenplay” (The Story of a Gangster/Dao wen, 1990, directed byYeh Hung-Wei).


HSIN, CHI (Xin Qi, Xin Jinchuan) (1924-2010). Born in 1924 during the Japanese colonial period, in the Monga/Mengjia area of Taipei, Hsin Chi/Xin Qi (real name Hsin Chin-chuan/Xin Jinchuan) became interested in theater when he was in high school. In 1942, Hsin enrolled in the Department of Drama at Japan’s Nihon University, where he learned techniques of theater writing, directing, stage design, lighting, and makeup, participating in theater productions. He returned to Taiwan from Tokyo in 1944, and joined Japanese propaganda theatrical performances led by Matsui Toru.

After Japan unconditionally surrendered to the Allies in 1945, Hsin continued in theater, forming his own theater troupe, and later joining others. Some of the plays were banned by the Taiwan Provincial Administrative Executive Office (TPAEO), causing Hsin Chi to take temporary refuge in Amoy/Shamen, on the coast of Mainland China. He was hired as a staff member by Taiwan Film Studio, owned and operated by the TPAEO, after the violent “228 Incident” in 1947. However, his participation in a stage performance later that year came to the attention of the government’s secret agents, forcing him to seek refuge in Amoy once again. His attempts to find a job in the Shanghai film circle failed.

Hsin Chi was enlisted by the Nationalist army in Amoy in 1949, and returned to Taiwan. He joined the army’s political task force as an actor in its military theater troupe, meeting many other actors who later were active in Taiwan cinema and television. In 1950, he left the army, and went back to theater work as stage manager. A few years later, in 1954, Hsin started editing as well as writing for a journal on traditional theater, using the pen name, “Hsin Chi,” which he continued to use until he died in 2010.

When Taiwanese-dialect film became popular in 1955, Hsin Chi began working on a screenplay, Flowers of the Raining Night/Yu ye hua (1956), for director Shao Luo-hui. Hsin’s directorial debut film was Gan Guobao Coming to Taiwan/Gan guobao guo taiwan (1957), a Taiwanese Opera film. Subsequently, he made about four dozen Taiwanese-dialect film between 1957 and 1971, half of them melodramatic wenyi pian, such as Unforgettable Train Station/Nanwang de chezhan (1965), and including 10 comedy films like Silly Wife, Foolish Husband/Sanba xinniang han zixu (1967). Starting from the mid-1960s, Hsin even experimented with genre films – musical, gangster, science fiction-spy (an obvious take-off of the “007” series), horror, thriller, martial arts wuxia pian, and youth film.

Hsin’s The Night an Earthquake Shook the World/Tianzai dibian di yi ye (1965) was the first disaster (earthquake) film made in Taiwan. The same year, Hsin made Double Valentine/Shuangmian qingren, an imitation of “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde,” in which special makeup and morphing techniques were used for the first time in Taiwan cinema.

Bride in Hell/Diyu xinniang (1965), an adaptation of “Mistress of Myllen,” a novel of Victoria Holt (aka Eleanor Hibbert), was considered Hsin’s best work, as well as one of the best Taiwanese-dialect film. However, Hsin believed Backstreet Life/Houjie rensheng (1966), a satiric comedy, was his best film.

Hsin Chi began making Mandarin film in 1966. Ice Point/Bing dian (1966) was based on Japanese female novelist Miura Ayako’s popular novel of the same title. His second Mandarin film, Drunken Knight’s Ghostly Sword/Zui xia shen jian (1968) was a martial arts wuxia pian. In 1970, Hsin Chi was recruited by Shaw Brothers in Hong Kong to write and direct another wuxia pian, Shadow Girl/Yinshen nuxia (1971), which was followed by Sorrowful to a Ghost/Gui jian chou (1970) and The Seizure Soul Sword of a Blind Devil/Mangnu gou hun jian (1971), both wuxia films written by Hsin and codirected by Hsin and Kuo Nan-Hong. He then directed his own wuxia film in Taiwan, The Professional Killer/Da shaxing (1971), starring martial arts superstar Jimmy Wang Yu.

Hsin Chi became director of television drama series after 1971, and made many popular dramas based on folk tales, wuxia stories, and melodramatic novels. He also produced cultural and social education programs for television stations in the 1970s and 1980s.

Hsin’s last film as director was Drunk Fish, Drunk Frog, Drunk Crab/Zui yu zui sha zui pangxie (1973), a kung fu martial arts comedy, which Hsin disowned following a dispute between himself and the producer. He appeared as actor in two TV drama series directed by Lin Fu-Di in 1996, and organized a theater troupe in 1998, performing two stage plays. Hsin Chi was given a “Life Achievement Award” at the 2000 Golden Horse Awards. He died of colorectal cancer in Taoyuan, south of Taipei, on 22 October 2010, at the age of 87.


HSU, FENG (Xu Feng) (1950- ). Star actress and successful film producer Hsu Feng/ Xu Feng was born in August 1950 in Yuanlin, Changhua Country, central Taiwan, to a Mainlander family originally from Jiangsu Province. Hsu’s father, a staff member in the tax authority, died when she was only three years old. Her mother, an elementary school teacher, remarried a businessman when Hsu was six. They moved to Taipei, and Hsu adopted the surname of her stepfather. Hsu had a difficult life after the remarriage. Since age eight, she had to do the family chores, cook meals, and take care of her step-brothers and sisters.

After graduation from junior high school when she was 15, Hsu tried hard to find a day job, while going to night school. She was hired both as a contract actor at the Union Film Company (Lianbang), and at an electronics factory. (Fortunately, she received the notification from Lianbang first, and did not work in the factory.) Martial arts wuxia pian director King Hu, manager of Lianbang’s production department at the time, chose Hsu Feng from over 1,000 applicants, because of her expressive cold eyes and strong personality, even though she was underage. After a half-year of acting training together with Shih Chun, Pai Ying, Shang-Kuan Ling-feng, and others, Hsu was offered a six-year contract and given a minor role in King Hu’s Dragon Gate Inn/Dragon Inn/Longmen kezhan (1967).

Hsu was a leading actress in King Hu’s next wuxia masterpiece, A Touch of Zen/Xia nu (1971), which commenced shooting in December 1967, but was not completed until 1971. In A Touch of Zen, Hsu played a heroine with a dual temperament, both civil and militant. Her performance won praise from international critics, and A Touch of Zen won “Technical Grand Prize” at the 1975 Cannes International Film Festival. After A Touch of Zen, Hsu Feng appeared in other King Hu martial arts films, including The Fate of Lee Khan/Ying chun ge fengbo (1973), The Valiant One/Zhong lie tu (1975), Raining in the Mountain/ Kong shan ling yu (1979), and Legend of the Mountain/Shan zhong chuanqi (1979), all of them classic wuxia pian.

Hsu Feng won “Most Hopeful New Actress” at the 1971 Golden Horse Awards for Lianbang’s martial arts film, A City Called Dragon/Longcheng shiri (Tu Chung-Hsun, 1970). For her acting in the anti-communist national policy film Sergeant Hsiung/Da Motianling (Li Chia, 1974), Hsu was received a “Best Actress” award at the 1974 Asia Film Festival. She won “Best Actress” at the 1976 Golden Horse for her performance in Assassin/Ci ke (Tu Chung-Hsun, 1976). She won the award again in 1980, for The Pioneers/Yuan (Chen Yao-chi, 1979). For her performance in Eight Hundred Heroes/800 Heroes/Babai zhuangshi (Ting Shan-hsi, 1977), Hsu was given the “Special Acting Award” at the 1977 Asia Film Festival.

Hsu made about 50 films during her over a decade acting career (only five were made at Lianbang under her six-year contract), at least 25 of which were martial arts wuxia pian. Her first melodramatic wenyi pian was Shaw Brothers’ Sex, Love and Hate/Wuyi (Chor Yuen, 1974). However, wenyi pian was not especially her genre. Other than her female knight-errant (swordswoman or nuxia) characters in most King Hu films, Hsu is also famous for some of her roles in national policy film, such as Sergeant Hsiung (1974), The Chinese Amazons/Nubing riji (Wang Ying and Li Chia, 1975), Everlasting Glory/Ying lie qianqiu (Ting Shan-hsi, 1976), Eight Hundred Heroes (1977), The Pioneers (1979), and The Battle of Guningtou/Guningtou da zhang (Chang Tseng-chai, 1980).

In late 1980, Hsu Feng retired from film acting. Several years later, with the support of her second husband David Tong, a real estate developer, Hsu founded Tomson Films in 1986, producing films first in Hong Kong and Taiwan, and later in China. Her earlier films included “art” films, such as Soul/Laoniang gousao (Shu Kei, 1986) and Woman of Wrath/Sha fu (Tseng Chuang-hsiang, 1986), as well as “commercial” films, such as the “Kung Fu Kids” series that included Young Dragons: Kung Fu Kids/Hao xiao zi (Chu Yen-ping and Chang Mei-Chun, 1986), which was very popular not only in Taiwan, but in Japan as well.

However, Hsu’s two wenyi pian, Desire/Xin suo (Ho Fan, 1987), adapted from Kuo Liang-Hui’s banned novel The Locked Heart, and The Portrait of a Beauty/Meiren tu (Chang Mei-Chun, 1985), adapted by nativist novelist Wang Chen-Ho/Wang Zhenhe from his own novella, were controversial and failed at the box office. Afterwards, Hsu Feng gave young directors the chance to make their debut films. She produced The Game They Called Sex/Huangse gushi (1987), directed by Sylvia Chang, Wang Shau-Di, and Chin Kuo-chao/Jin Guozhao, cowritten by Wang Shau-Di and Tsai Ming-liang, but the film did not arouse any interest.

Hsu’s following productions began gaining recognition. Hong Kong director Ann Hui’s Stary Is the Night/Jinye xingguang xanlan (1988) received a “Best Director” nomination at the 1988 Golden Horse. Red Dust/Gungun hongchen (1990) was nominated for 14 awards and won nine at the 1990 Golden Horse, including “Best Film,” “Best Director” (Hong Kong director Yim Ho), “Best Actress” (Brigitte Lin), and “Best Supporting Actress” (Hong Kong star Maggie Cheung).

Five Girls and a Rope/Wu ge nuzi he yi gen shengzi (1991) won several international awards for its young Taiwanese director Yeh Hung-Wei, including the Gold Montgolfiere (for “Best Film”) 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. Nonetheless, the film was banned in Taiwan for two years because it violated the Nationalist government law by using too many Mainland China actors.

Hsu Feng’s producing career reached its peak when her film Farewell My Concubine/Bawang bie ji (1993) won the prestigious Palme d’Or at the 1993 Cannes Film Festival. Director Chen Kaige was also awarded the FIPRESCI Prize. Subsequently, the film won a Golden Globe as Best Foreign Language Film, BAFTA award for Best Film not in the English Language, Best Director at the 1993 Asia-Pacific Film Festival, and received two Oscars nominations for Best Cinematography (Gu Changwei) and Best Foreign Language Film, as well as numerous awards given by film critic societies in America, Europe, and Japan.

Hsu produced Chen Kaige’s next film, Tempress Moon/Feng yue (1996). Tempress Moon was once again selected into competition for the Palme d’Or at the 1996 Cannes Film Festival. For her achievements as producer, the Nantes Three Continent Festival presented a “Tribute to Hsu Feng” program in 1991. Hsu received the Profession Producteur Award at the 1998 Cannes Film Festival. The Film Society of Lincoln Center in New York also honored her work with a tribute in 1992.

After not producing for five years, Hsu Feng produced Shanghai Story/Meili Shanghai (directed by female Chinese director Peng Xiaolian) in 2003, which won “Best Film,” “Best Director,” “Best Actress” (Zheng Zhenyao), and “Best Supporting Actor” (Feng Yuanzheng) at the 2004 Golden Rooster Awards in China, and “Best Actress” (Josephine Koo) at the 2004 Shanghai International Film Festival.

Hsu Feng was invited to be a member of the jury in the 2004 Venice International Film Festival. Her husband died the same year, forcing Hsu to fully take over management of the Tomson Group. Hsu now resides in Shanghai with her family.


HSU, LI-KONG (Xu Ligong) (1945- ). One of the most important producers in contemporary Taiwan cinema, Hsu Li-kong was instrumental in fostering the so-called Second New Wave or Second Wave Taiwan Cinema. All the first feature films of Ang Lee, Tsai Ming-liang, Lin Cheng-sheng, Wang Shau-Di, Chen Yu-hsun, Yee Chih-yen, and Yin Chi were (executive) produced by him.

Hsu was born on 27 December 1945 in Fujian, China, to a family from Luoshan County, Henan Province. Hsu’s father was a professional serviceman. His elder brother, Hsu Li-the/Xu Lide, was vice-premier of the Executive Yuan (equivalent to the U.S. State Department) in the Nationalist government under Premier Lien Chan/Lian Zhan, between 1993 and 1997. Hsu studied in the Department of Drama at National Taiwan Academy of Arts in Taipei, a three-year vocational school. However, the entertainment business was considered a degrading profession, therefore, at the urge of his family, Hsu entered the Department of Philosophy in Fu Jen Catholic University, where he founded its drama club and was active on campus as director. Hsu became an amateur television playwright in 1966 when he was still a senior student. After graduating with an MA degree from Fu Jen Catholic University, rather than becoming a professional playwright, Hsu pursued a public servant career in the central government.

In 1978, when he was a section chief in the Department of Broadcasting Affairs, Hsu Li-kong was assigned to be director of the Film Library (now renamed the Chinese Taipei Film Archive), thus beginning his decades-long relationship with the Taiwan film industry. He was instrumental in founding the Taipei Golden Horse International Film Festival, starting in 1980. After leaving the Film Library in March 1989, Hsu served briefly in the Cultural Affairs Department of the Nationalist Party’s Central Committee, before being made assistant general manager and manager in charge of production in the Nationalist-owned Central Motion Picture Corporation (CMPC). He became general manager of the CMPC in 1995. After recovering from a serious stroke in 1996, Hsu was appointed vice-chairman of the CMPC. Soon after his resignation in 1997, Hsu founded his own production company, Zoom Hunt International Productions, which briefly worked closely with the CMPC.

During Hsu’s tenure at the CMPC, he “executive produced” many notable films, including, A Piggy Tale/Wawa (Ko I-Cheng, 1991), Pushing Hands/Tui shou (Ang Lee, 1992), The Wedding Banquet/Xiyan (Ang Lee, 1993), Rebels of the Neon God/Qinshaonian nuozha (Tsai Ming-liang, 1993), Eat Drink Man Woman/Yin shi nan nu (Ang Lee, 1994), Vive l’Amour/Aiqing wansui (Tsai Ming-liang, 1994), Kangaroo Man/Daishu nanren (Emily Liu Yi-Ming, 1995), Tropical Fish/Redai yu (Chen Yu- Hsun, 1995), Siao Yu/Shaonu xiao yu (Sylvia Chang, 1995), The Peony Pavilion/Wo de meili yu aichou (Chen Kuo-fu, 1995), In a Strange City/Zai mosheng de chengshi (Yin Chi, 1996), A Drifting Life/Chun hua meng lu (Lin Cheng-sheng, 1996), Accidental Legend/Fei tian (Wang Shau-Di, 1996), Tonight Nobody Goes Home/Jintian bu huijia (Sylvia Chang, 1996), Murmur of Youth/Meili zai changge (Lin Cheng-sheng, 1997), Red Persimmon/Hong Shihzih (Wang Tung, 1997), The River/Heliu (Tsai Ming-liang, 1997), Sweet Degeneration/Fang lang (Lin Cheng-sheng, 1997), and others.

After founding Zoom Hunt International Productions, Hsu Li-kong has produced, The Personals/Zhenghun qishi (Chen Kuo-fu, 1998), Love Go Go/ Aiqing lai le (Chen Yu-Hsun, 1998), Fleeing By Night/Ye ben (Hsu Li-kong and Yin Chi, 1999), Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon/Wo hu cang long (Ang Lee, 2000), Migratory Bird/Houniao (Ding Ya-min, 2000), Human Comedy/Renjian xiju (Hung Hung, 2001), Brave 20/Xian doujiang (Wang Ming-Tai, 2001), Black Dog Is Coming/Heigou lai le (Yin Chi, 2004), La Melodie d’Helene/Xin lian (Yin Chi, 2004), Fall…in Love/ Lianren (Wang Ming-Tai, 2005), My So-Called Love/Ai de fasheng lianxi (Leading Li, 2008), Detour to Paradise/Qilu tiantang (Rich Lee, 2008), Great Wall, Great Love/Great Wall My Love/Zhui ai/Bang wo zhaodao zhang xiuqian (Emily Liu Yi-Ming, 2011), and Eat Drink Man Woman – So Far, Yet So Close/Yin shi nan nu er (Hsu Li-kong and Tsao Jui-Yuen/Cao Ruiyuan, 2012), some of which were partially financed by the CMPC. Hsu also produced a feature documentary, Forgotten Time/Bei yiwang de shiguang (Yang Li-chou, 2010), about Alzheimer’s disease.

Zoom Hunt not only (co)produced feature-length films, it also made a dramatic mini-series for television, April Rhapsody/Renjian siyue tian (1999, directed by Ding Ya-min), written by Wang Hui-Ling, famous for her screenplays Eat Drink Man Woman and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. The series was a coproduction between Zoom Hunt, the CMPC, and a Chinese company in Beijing. Hsu produced a second mini-series, The Orange Rouged/Juzi hongle (2000, directed by Chinese female director Li Shaohong). Two years after their first television series, the “triangular team” of Hsu, Ding, and Wang would get together again to make another mini-series, The Legend of Eileen Chang/Ta cong haishang lai (2003), about the internationally-acclaimed, legendary Chinese novelist.

Multi-talented, Hsu Li-kong is also a freelance writer. He began writing single- episode television dramas and drama series at the young age of 23. His most recent screenplays include La Melodie d’Helene and Eat Drink Man Woman – So Far, Yet So Close, which he codirected with Tsao Jui-Yuen. Hsu made his directorial debut with Fleeing By Night (2000), codirected with Yin Chi.

Hsu Li-kong was awarded an “Excellent Producer Special Award” in 1994 at the Golden Horse. Sixteen years later, in 2010, Hsu was given a “Lifetime Achievement Award” by the same organization, in recognition of his great contributions to Taiwan cinema.


HU, KING CHIN-CHUAN (Hu Jinquan) (1932-1997). A pioneer and innovator in Chinese cinema, especially in martial arts films (wuxia pian), King Hu (Hu Chin-chuan) was a filmmaker based in Hong Kong before 1966, and in Taiwan after 1967.

Born on 29 April 1932 in Peking (Beijing) to a scholar family, King Hu’s parental grandfather was a Juren scholar in the Qing Dynasty, his father a mining engineer who studied at Kyoto Imperial University in Japan, and his mother a housewife and gifted Chinese painter. Hu was interested in Peking Opera, especially its martial arts dramas, since he was a child. He said that most of the elements he used in his wuxia pian were from Peking Opera, such as choreographic moves, music, and character types.

Hu’s mother excelled in meticulous Chinese figure painting. He was said to have learned to appreciate arts and acquired art literacy from her. His home had a rich collection of books, including Sinology, literature, science and arts, all of which Hu loved to read. This hobby in reading made him an informed, erudite scholar, which helped his filmmaking tremendously.

King Hu received primary and secondary education at Peking Huiwen Middle School (aka Peking Academy), founded by the Methodist Episcopal Church in 1871. Originally, after graduating from Huiwen, he intended to study in the United States. Unfortunately, before graduation, the Chinese Civil War worsened. After the 1949 Communist takeover of Peking, Hu managed to flee to Hong Kong in 1950. At first, he earned his living as a proofreader and assistant accountant in a printing house. He met Sung Tsun-Shou there, and they became lifelong friends. Later, Hu tutored English, and also painted postcards and billboards.

King Hu never dreamed of becoming a filmmaker until the parent of his student, a producer at Great Wall Film Production Company, saw a billboard and introduced him to Great Wall as a props and set decorator. Hu befriended Li Han-hsiang at the Company. Hu soon moved to Yung Hwa Motion Picture Studios, not only as props and set decorator, but also as actor in veteran director Yan Jun’s Humiliation for Sale/Laughter and Tears/Xiao sheng lei ying (1954). (However, Yung Hwa closed down in 1955 and the film was not released until 1958.) From then on, King Hu built a career as an actor, appearing in more than a handful of Mandarin film, often playing naive roles. Hu learned the skills of acting, directing, screenwriting, and editing during this period. He also studied Chinese and English books on film theory and filmmaking.

Acting was not a stable source of income, as many film companies disbanded even before film productions were completed. Hu had to seek employment in radio stations, first at Radio Rediffusion, and later Voice of America (VOA), as producer of its Mandarin programs. Hu’s good performance at the VOA won him an offer from the VOA’s headquarter in the United States. Before Hu’s departure for Washington, D.C. in 1958, Li Han-hsiang urged him to stay in Hong Kong and work with him at the newly built Shaw Brothers’ studio. Hu signed a contract with Shaw Brothers as an actor/scriptwriter, with an option of becoming a director.

The opportunity was not offered for six years, until 1963, when Li Han-hsiang (then Shaw Brothers’ premiere director) gave Hu a huangmei diao film project to direct, The Story of Sue San/Yu tang chun. The production was delayed for nearly a year, and most of the film was actually directed by Li. Therefore, the film was said to have been disowned by King Hu. However, the project did prompt Hu to study the dramatic structure of traditional Chinese Opera. Afterwards, Hu, along with Sung Tsun-Shou and other writer-directors, were ordered by Shaw Brothers’ President Run Run Shaw to be second-unit directors assisting Li Han-hsiang on his huangmei diao film, The Love Eterne (1963). Hu was responsible for directing transition sequences and sequences in the classroom. His directorial skill was revealed in these witty, playful scenes, which are cinematic and accessible.

King Hu’s first film as a full-fledged director was Sons of the Good Earth/Dadi ernu (1965), a large-scale anti-Japanese drama depicting Chinese guerrilla activity against the Japanese during the Sino-Japanese War. Shaw Brothers cut the film from its original three hours to 124 minutes, due to new anti-racial laws passed in Singapore and Malaysia, and the film did not do well at the box office. Hu’s next project, Heroes of the Underground/Ding yishan (1964), a follow-up anti-Japanese drama designed to recoup production expenses by re-using the same set pieces, costumes and props, was called off in the middle of production when problems arose over Sons and Daughters of the Good Earth. (The film was later completed by Pao Hsueh-Li, and Hu was credited as screenwriter.) Consequently, Hu was told to make “a simple film that cost nothing.”

The “simple” period action film, Come Drink with Me/Da zui xia (1966) eventually established King Hu’s reputation as a filmmaker. In Come Drink with Me, the classic of wuxia pian that started a trend of the new school of swordplay films in Hong Kong and Taiwan, Hu mixes Japanese samurai film tradition with Peking Opera conventions, such as in characters’ entrances and exits, as well as with the choreography of movement and music. The film was an instant hit at the box office. During production of Come Drink with Me, however, Hu was not fully supported or respected by Shaw Brothers, which prompted his desire to leave the company, despite the success of the film.

When Taiwan’s Union Film Company (Lianbang) learned of King Hu’s intentions, it decided to support Hu, although his contract with Shaw Brothers had not yet expired. In 1966, Hu Chin-chuan moved to Taiwan and became manager of Lianbang’s newly established production department responsible for hiring and training actors (including Hsu Feng, Pai Ying, Shang-Kuan Ling-feng, Hu Chin, and Tien Peng, who subsequently rose to prominence in the Taiwan and Hong Kong film industries). Hu also help Lianbang build a film studio from scratch, in order to produce its debut film (and the first of Hu’s “inn trilogy”), Dragon Gate Inn/Dragon Inn/Longmen kezhan (1967). The film was a phenomenal hit, breaking all box-office records in Taiwan, Hong Kong, Korea, Thailand, and even the Philippines. (Union Films did not make much money out of the film, however, due to its deal with Shaw Brothers, in which distribution rights of Dragon Gate Inn and three other King Hu’s films in Hong Kong and Southeast Asia were traded in exchange for termination of King Hu’s contract.) Hu cleverly pushed Dragon Gate Inn’s simple story into a complex battle of wits between protagonists and antagonists, building-up suspense the way Hollywood films commonly did. The film is even more impressive in its use of many elements borrowed from Peking Opera, as mentioned earlier. Hu Chin-chuan won for “Best Screenwriting” at the1968 Golden Horse Awards.

Dragon Gate Inn was remade in 1992. Also called Dragon Inn/Xin longmen kezhan (produced by Tsui Hark, directed by Raymond Lee), the remake excels in the passion between man and woman, but lacks Hu’s historical and cultural consciousness. Second New Wave director Tsai Ming-liang’s Goodbye, Dragon Inn/Bu san (2003), on the other hand, draws parallels between clips from Hu’s Dragon Gate Inn, a modern audience watching the original film (including two of the actors from Dragon Gate Inn, Shih Chun and Miao Tien), and the staff working in a run-down cinema which is to be closed down forever after the last screening of the classic film. Tsai pays tribute to King Hu, and also seems to sadly insinuate that King Hu’s legacy is succeeded by no one in Taiwan cinema.

Immediately after the success of Dragon Gate Inn, King Hu threw himself into making the second of his “inn trilogy.” Based on a ghost story in Ming Dynasty scholar Pu Sung-ling’s book, “Strange Tales of Liaozhai,” A Touch of Zen/Xia nu (1971) took some four years to complete. The main set required nine months to build and another six months to age convincingly, a typical example of King Hu’s painstaking working methods and high standards of authenticity. In 1970, in Hu’s absence, the film was cut from three hours to two hours, and it (regrettably) failed at the box office. Fortunately, King Hu was able to recut his complete 200-minute version, which premiered at Cannes International Film Festival in 1975, where it was nominated for the Palme d’Or and won the “Technical Grand Prize,” the first time a Chinese film ever won at a prestigious film festival. King Hu’s ambition in A Touch of Zen was to make not only a wuxia action-drama, but one with cultural substance, mixing Zen Buddhism with his unique sense of Chinese aesthetics. The Buddhist high priest (Roy Chiao Hung/Qiao Hong) was added at the last moment, thus the English title, “A Touch of Zen.” A Touch of Zen was famous for its poetic bamboo forest fighting sequence, which inspired Ang Lee to design a similar “bamboo balance act” in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon/Wo hu can long (2000).

In 1970, Hu contributed one episode, “Anger,” in the portmanteau film Four Moods/Xi nu ai le (1970), codirected with Li Han-hsiang, Lee Hsing, and Pai Ching-jui. The film was made to raise money in order to help Li Han-hsiang out of financial distress. Considered a footnote to the “inn trilogy,” Anger was also set in an inn where complex alliances were formed, broken, and exploited. The film, with Hu’s meticulous mise-en-scène, smooth pacing, quiet humor, impressive character types, and beautiful choreography of movements, is a successful trial in the combining of Peking Opera elements with those of cinema.

King Hu left Union Film after the completion of A Touch of Zen, mainly due to the misunderstanding with the Company over his share of the dividends from earnings of Dragon Gate Inn. In 1971, he founded his own King Hu Productions in Hong Kong, and signed a distribution deal with Shaw Brothers’ new rival Golden Harvest. Hu started to work on his third inn film, The Fate of Lee Khan/Ying chun ge fengbo (1973). Fusing conventions of the Hollywood spy film with Chinese operatic elements that he excelled at, The Fate of Lee Khan is a masterpiece, full of suspense, tension, wit, and fast action.

Hu financed the next film himself, The Valiant One/Zhong lie tu (1974), a costume war drama disguised as martial arts wuxia pian. The story is about the battles to repel the invasion by Japanese pirates on the coast of southern China, led by General Yu Dayou, a historical figure in the Ming Dynasty. The plot is of little importance, since the film pieces together several long sequences of fighting, interpolated with humorous vignettes. The choreography of fighting is, as usual, unique and well-structured. The mise-en-scène is meticulously executed; costumes and sets are carefully researched and recreated.

In 1977, King Hu signed a contract with Hong Kong producers Law Hoi-Muk and Woo Shu-Yue to make Raining in the Mountain/Kong shan ling yu, and another contract with Wong Cheuk-Hon to make Legend of the Mountain/Shan zhong chuanqi. The two films were shot back-to-back in South Korea in 1978. Both films are ambitious works. In Legend of the Mountain, Hu incorporates the aesthetics of Chinese landscape scroll painting and Chinese music within a ghost story. The slow pace of the film is a contrast with Hu’s previous films. The director’s cut of this film was three hours. However, the producer shortened the film to 100 minutes for exhibition, and it failed miserably. Nevertheless, the film was highly acclaimed in international film festivals and by Western film critics and scholars. It also won Hu “Best Director” and “Best Art Direction” at the 1979 Golden Horse Awards.

Raining in the Mountain, in comparison with Legend of the Mountain, has stronger plotlines and more wuxia choreographed action. On the surface, it is about a power struggle at a Buddhist temple. What Hu actually wanted to express in the film, however, was chanji, allegorical Zen gestures and words that need to be understood by the audience, without being clearly revealed outwardly. It was considered one of King Hu’s masterpieces, an artwork that fuses images, language, music, and dance.

In 1981, Hu self-financed and directed a comedy film in Taiwan, Juvenizer/ Zhongshen dashi, starring Sylvia Chang, Sun Yueh, and Sibelle Hu Hui-Zhong. Though it may have seemed to be out of character for him to make such a film, King Hu was actually witty and humorous, and had appeared in many Hong Kong comedies in the 1960s. Nevertheless, the first comedy film Hu directed failed both commercially and critically. Hu would not admit that he was unable to make a successful comedy film, so he embraced the opportunity to do another one when Central Motion Picture Corporation asked him to make All the King’s Men/Tianxia diyi in 1982. The film was to be screened during the golden week of Chinese New Year, the following year. Cowritten with Hsiao Yeh and Wu Nien-Jen, All the King’s Men is a costume satire set during the Five Dynasties in 10th Century China. Though all costumes and settings were again meticulously researched and executed, the film failed both artistically and commercially because of its poor modeling of characters and loose structure.

King Hu’s next film was a portmanteau film, The Wheel of Life/Da lunhui (1983), in which he once again co-directed with Lee Hsing and Pai Ching-jui, as he did in Four Moods. The Wheel of Life revolves around romance between two men and a woman that repeats itself in several generations. Hu was responsible for the story of the first generation, set in the Ming Dynasty that he was most familiar with. It is an intriguing romantic story involving a secret service agent, daughter of the governor, and leader of the anti-government army who is plotting vengeance. Hu directed the episode well. This film, too, failed at the box office.

Hu emigrated to the U.S. in 1984, hoping to find funding for his project about the contributions and fate of Chinese workers building the transcontinental railway across America. After many years of struggle, the proposed project, The Battle of Ono/I Go, Oh No, finally secured financial backing in 1996 through the help of John Woo and his producing partner Terence Chang. Unfortunately, Hu died in Taipei during heart surgery in January 1997, at the age of 65.

Among many incomplete or abandoned projects of King Hu, the most ambitious was a feature animation, Zhang Yu Boils the Sea/Zhang yu zhu hai, to be produced by Wang Film Productions/Hong Guang Cartoon Company (aka Cuckoo’s Nest Studio). The character design, dialogue script, and basic art design had already been completed by King Hu, but the project, based on a Chinese folktale, was abandoned in 1984 due to a lack of funding.

Hu adapted and directed a stage play in 1986, Dream of the Butterfly, starring Miao Tien and Hu Chin, but the plan to turn the play into a film was abandoned. In 1989, at the invitation of Hong Kong director-producer Tsui Hark, King Hu was to direct Swordsman/Xiao ao jiang hu, assisted by Yeung Wah and Ann Hui. However, soon after production started, Hu left the project due to irreconcilable disagreements with producer Tsui. The film was completed by Ching Siu-Tung, Raymond Lee, and Tsui Hark himself. Despite what happened, the film’s visual design and style followed Hu’s original ideas. That may be the reason why King Hu was still credited as director in the credits. Hu returned to Los Angeles afterwards.

King Hu’s last film, Painted Skin/Hua pi shi: Yin yang fa wang (1993), completely made in China, was written by Hu and renowned Chinese novelist Ah Cheng. The film, starring Joey Wang, Sammo Hung Kam-Bo, and Adam Cheng, was made at a Beijing film studio in only three months, very fast by Hu’s standards, due to the tight budget. The film was a disappointment commercially and critically.

Hu was awarded a “Life Achievement Award” by the Hong Kong Film Directors’ Guild in 1993, for his contributions in uplifting wuxia kung fu films to a philosophical level, and for gaining international recognition for them.


HUANGMEI DIAO FILM. Huangmei diao is a form of traditional Chinese Opera that was popular in central China provinces. Huangmei diao as a film genre started in China in the 1950s, and was originally a simple form of filmed opera performance on stage. Li Han-hsiang transformed huangmei diao into a new form of Chinese musical, with his Diau Charn (1958), The Kingdom and the Beauty/Jiangshan meiren (1959), and The Love Eterne (1963), adding camera movement that followed the singing and dancing actors through extravagant sets. A feast for the eyes, these films of the huangmei diao genre from Shaw Brothers were very well-liked in Taiwan.

After moving operations of his Grand Motion Picture Company (GMP) to Taiwan in late 1963, Li Han-hsiang directed two more huangmei diao film, Seven Fairies/Qi xiannu (1963) and Trouble on the Wedding Night/Zhuangyuan jidi (1964, written by Sung Tsun-Shou). The great success of these films prompted a wave of making such films in Taiwan. The GMP produced another one a couple of years later, A Perturbed Girl/Tian zhi jiao nu (Sung Tsun-Shou, 1966).

The two-part The Story of Ping Gui/Wang Baochuan (Yang Su, 1967), starring Peter Yang Kwan/Yang Qun and Peking Opera actress Elizabeth Wong Fook-Yung/ Wang Furong, was one of the earliest responses from other Taiwan producers to the winning genre, and one of the best locally produced huangmei diao film. Its two parts were the fourth- and seventh-highest grossing Mandarin films in Taipei in 1967. Several other huangmei diao films were locally produced in the late 1960s, but unfortunately, none of the prints apparently exist.

By the end of the 1960s, with the trend in Mandarin films and popular songs continuing to change rapidly, huangmei diao film gradually disappeared in Hong Kong, but some films were still made by independent production companies in Taiwan. Before the collapse of the GMP in the late 1960s due to his mismanagement of the company, Li Han-hsiang directed a huangmei diao film, originally called Flowers in All Seasons/Siji hua kai, starring Chen Chen and Hu Chin. The film was banned in Taiwan for “copying the film made by Communist bandits,” because it directly used music from the original Chinese Opera stage performance. Years later, after rewriting the music and renaming the film Flower is the Matchmaker/Fugui hua kai (1974), Li’s film was finally allowed to show in Taiwan. Similarly, director Yen Chun/Yan Jun’s Jin Yu Man Tang (aka A Phoenix and A Chicken/Yi zhi fenghuang yi zhi ji), originally planned as a coproduction with Li Han-hsiang, was also adapted from a Mainland Chinese Opera, and therefore banned by the Nationalist government in 1968. The ban on Yen’s film was finally lifted in 1971. The film, starring Yen Chun’s wife Li Li-Hua, was finally released during the Chinese New Year holiday to only fair box-office, signifying the audiences’ taste for huangmei diao film had changed in Taiwan.

In the mid-1970s, after her contract with Shaw Brothers expired in Hong Kong, huangmei diao film icon, actress Ivy Ling Po, moved to Taiwan with her husband, director/actor Chin Han/Jin Han (not related to the other Chin Han, famed for his roles in Chiungyao film). Together, they made Dream of the Red Chamber/Xin hong lou meng (1978), which was successful commercially, re-establishing Ivy Ling Po’s iconic status. Two years later, the couple produced Imperious Princess/Jin zhi yu ye, another huangmei diao film.

New West Chamber/Xin xi xiang ji (aka The Romance of the West Chamber) (directed by Liao Hsiang-hsiung) was released in 1979, starring renowned Taiwanese Opera actor Yang Li-Hua and singer/actress Judy Ongg. Despite its stars, the film did not receive much interest. Another such film, The Prince Love Story/Fengliu renwu (directed by Yao Feng-Pan), starring Zhao Lei, appeared a year later. Finally, in late 1982, Yang Li-Hua and Ivy Ling Po, both famous for their gender-bending roles in the past, appeared together in Matchmaker/ Zhuangyuan Mei (Pao Hsueh-Li, 1982). This film, a box-office failure, ended the quarter-century history of huangmei diao film in Hong Kong and Taiwan.