Historical Dictionaryof Taiwan Cinema

Written and Edited by Daw-Ming Lee

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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 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). 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 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 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.






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 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 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). 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, 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 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 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-his, 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. 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 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. 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 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 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 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 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 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, 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, 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 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 film 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. 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 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 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., 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 – 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 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 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 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. 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 (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). 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 (Tsao Jui-Yuen/Cao Ruiyuan, 2011), 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. 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.




KO, CHUN-HSIUNG (Ke Junxiong) (1945- ). Prolific actor Ko Chun-hsiung was born in southern Taiwan, in Kaoshiung. Ko became a contract actor in a company making Taiwanese-dialect film when he was only 18 years old. Soon, he starred in 30 films in two years. Throughout his film career, Ko Chun-hsiung acted in more than 200 films, a quarter of them Taiwanese-dialect films.

When Motion Pictures and General Investment Co. Ltd. (MP&GI) held an open call for actors in Taiwan in the early 1960s, Ko was the only actor signed. Even though Ko could not join MG&GI due to his military service restriction that prevented him from leaving the country, the publicity about MP&GI’s taking such an interest in him prompted other companies that made Taiwanese-dialect film to fight for him. Ko took an opportunity to join the Mandarin film camp by acting in Lee Hsing’s early Chiungyao film, The Silent Wife/Yanu qingshen (1965), produced by the Nationalist-owned Central Motion Picture Corporation (CMPC). Afterward, He acted in both Taiwanese-dialect and Mandarin films, such as The Monument of Virtue/Zhenjie paifang (Lee Hsing, 1966) and Lonely Seventeen/Jimo de shiqi sui (Pai Ching-jui, 1967), another CMPC Mandarin film, for which Ko received the “Best Actor” award at the 1967 Film Festival in Asia. Subsequently, he appeared in many of Pai’s comedy films. He also starred in many early Chiungyao films, but was not very popular in that genre. Li Han-hsiang cast him in a spy drama, Storm over the Yangtze River/An Inch of Ground, an Inch of Blood/Yicun shanhe yicun xie (1969).

Ko’s acting was critically recognized again in Pai’s ambitious work, Goodbye Darling/Zaijian alang (1970), in which he played Ah Lang, a hoodlum who sponges off women yet remains a principled man. Until this day, Ah Lang remains one of the most memorable characters in Taiwan cinema. Unfortunately, Ko’s performance, along with Pai’s directing, was not acknowledged by the Golden Horse Awards. In the early 1970s, Ko Chu-hsiung appeared in many wenyi pian melodramas, directed by renowned directors including Lee Hsing, Pai Ching-jui, Sung Tsun-Shou, as well as Hong Kong directors Lung Kong, Chor Yuen, and Lo Wei.

Ko’s other memorable performances included several national policy films produced in the mid-1970s, such as Everlasting Glory/Ying lie qianqiu (Ting Shan-hsi, 1973) and Eight Hundred Heroes/800 Heroes/Babai zhuangshi (Ting Shan-hsi, 1975). Ko was awarded “Best Actor” for Everlasting Glory in 1974 Asia Film Festival. He won “Best Actor” award in the 1979 Golden Horse Awards for another national policy film, A Teacher of Great Soldiers/Huangpu jun hun (Liu Chia-Chang, 1979). (Ko won a special award for acting for a wenyi pian, Love in the Shadow/Ai you mingtian [1977], directed by Lai Cheng-Ying, at the 1977 Golden Horse.)  

Ko’s screen image of the Nationalist army officer was so unforgettable that he became the personification of the army. Even the military education films made in the 1970s and 1980s, such as Yes, Sir!/Report to the Squad Leader/Baogao banzhang (Chin Ao-hsun, 1988), cast him as a leader in the military.

In late 1970s, when the gangster film genre was very popular, Ko was cast as the big boss of the Taiwanese mafia. This was probably due to Ko’s ability to portray the evil personality of a character, as well as military heroism. Ko Chun- Hsiung’s directorial debut was also a gangster film, Big Brother/Xiang dage xiashou (1974), in which he costarred with Hong Kong action choreographer-actor Sammo Hung Kam-Bo. Ko’s most well-known antagonist character was in Jackie Chan’s Black Dragon/Jiji (1989). Following that, Ko co-directed a film with Wu Ma, and won a second Golden Horse “Best Actor” award for Generation Pendragon/Yidai xiaoxiong caocao, playing another villainous character, Tsao Tsao/Caocao, a notorious hero from Chinese history.


KO, I-CHENG (Ke Yizheng) (1946- ). Ko I-Cheng was born in 1946 in Chiayi/Jiayi, central Taiwan. After graduating from the Department of Motion Pictures at World Journalism College (now Shih Hsin University) in Taipei, Ko went on to study filmmaking at Columbia College in Hollywood. He made two experimental films there, Lost in the Woods/Mi lin (1980), and Edge of Water/Shui zhi jue (1980), both winners at the 1981 Golden Harvest Awards. In 1980, after returning to Taiwan, Ko I-Cheng was invited by Sylvia Chang to work on her 11-episode dramatic TV mini-series, Eleven Women, that she produced for Taiwan Television (TTV). Ko directed two episodes – Happy Single Women/Kuaile danshen nulang (1981) and Last Summer/Qunian shatian (1981). (Edward Yang directed an episode.) Subsequently, when Hsiao Yeh and Wu Nien-Jen were looking for young novice directors to helm an omnibus film made under the “newcomer policy” of Central Motion Picture Corporation (CMPC), Ko was chosen from 15 candidates. In Our Time/Guangyin de gushi (1982), considered by many to be one of the pioneer works of Taiwan New Cinema, was codirected by Ko, Edward Yang, Chang Yi, and Tao Dechen. Ko directed Jumping Frog/Tiao wa, the third part of In Our Time, in which he criticized absurd social phenomena utilizing an obscure style.

After the success of In Our Time, Sylvia Chang, now in charge of Taiwan productions of Hong Kong’s Cinema City & Films, invited Ko to direct Kidnapped/Dai jian de xiaohai (1983), with Sylvia Chang playing a successful fashion designer whose son is mistakenly kidnapped. Ko continued to explore children’s issues in his subsequent films, with the exception of I Love Mary/Wo ai mali (1984), based on nativist writer Huang Chun-ming’s novella, which is a satiric representation of a slavish comprador character. Reunion/Women doushi zheyang zhangda de (1986) traces the experiences of elementary school classmates growing up. Last Train to Tansui/Wo men de tiankong (1986) explores the simple need of an old man and his young friend to escape daily routine and either rediscover their past feelings or find new fun in life. A Piggy Tail/Wawa (1991) is a family drama about a little girl’s adventures in the city while searching for her lost playmate, a mini-pig. Blue Moon/Lan yue (1997) is an experimental narrative composed of five reels – red, orange, yellow, green, and blue. The film can be projected in any combination of the five reels, ending up with 120 possible versions of the story about a young woman’s uncommitted love affairs with several men whom she loves.

Ko I-Cheng did not make any film after Blue Moon. However, he appeared as an actor in many films. He played a playboy father in Ah-Fei/Youma caizi (Wan Jen, 1984), an executed political prisoner in Super Citizen Ko/Chaoji da guomin (Wan Jen, 1995), a dirty politician in Sacrificial Victims/Da xuanmin (Wan Jen and Liao Ching-Song, 2002), father of the lead female character in Betelnut Beauty/Ai ni ai wo (Lin Cheng-sheng, 2000), and an old man making a home video about his old acquaintances in a short film, End Cut/Lao xu de wanjiepian (Liao Chi-hua, 2009). Other important films in which Ko appeared include Edward Yang’s That Day on the Beach/Haitan de yitian (1983), Taipei Story/Qing mei zhu ma (1985), and Mahjong/Shake and Bake/Majiang (1996); Hong Kong director Shu Kei’s Soul/Lao niang gou sao (1986); Stanley Kwan’s Full Moon in New York/Ren zai niu yue (1990); and Taiwan director Chang Chi- Yung’s Such a Life/Yi zhi niao zi xiao jiu jiu (1997) and Lament of the Sand River/Sha he beige (2000).

Ko I-Cheng also directed several single-episode television dramas, such as Forbidden Love/Ni nu (1998), a rare lesbian film about forbidden lesbian love between two teenagers. Ko won “Best Director for Single-Episode Drama” in 2001 Golden Bell Television Awards. Other television dramas Ko directed included Hotspring Hometown/Wenquan jiaxiang (1995) and People’s Mistress/Wanren qingfu (2000) for Public Television Service’s “Life Story” series.

Ko is also involved in theater directing, writing, and performance. In 1992, he founded Paper Windmill Theater Company, a children’s theater group, and Greenray Theatre Company in 1993, with Wu Nien-Jen, Lee Yung-feng, and others.


KUEI, YA-LEI (Gui Yalei) (1941- ). A celebrated actress in Taiwan and China, known especially for her performances in Ang Lee’s films, Kuei Ya-lei was born on 2 June 1941 in Changsha City, Hunan Province, China. She moved to Taiwan in 1949 with her family after the Nationalists relocated their Republic of China government there. Her acting talent was discovered by her father as early as four years old, and he encouraged her to pursue acting as a career. 

After graduating from the Department of Drama at National Taiwan Academy of Arts (now National Taiwan University of Arts) in 1964, Kuei was selected to be the leading actress in director Wang Yin’s Chiungyao film, Misty Rain/Yanyu mengmeng (1965), which won her “Best Actress” at the 1966 Golden Horse Awards. In 1966, Kuei became a contract actor in director Li Han-hsiang’s Grand Motion Picture Company. She was the main actress in Li’s masterpiece, The Winter (1969), which further enhanced her reputation as an excellent actress.

When Grand Motion Picture Company ended its business in Taiwan in 1970, Kuei Ya-lei became a free agent, acting in films from many different genres, including Chiungyao film, wenyi pian melodrama, fantasy, historical epic, romantic comedy, national policy film, adventure, thriller, and even kung fu film in the 1970s and 1980s. She made around 70 films during this period. She is known for her roles as a good wife and mother. Since 1974, she has been cast as older woman as well. Kuei was awarded “Best Actress” for Home Sweet Home/ Home is Taipei/Jia zai taibei (Pai Ching-jui, 1970) at both the Film Festival in Asia and Golden Horse Awards in 1970. Her performance in Didi’s Diary/Didi riji (Chen Yao-chi, 1978) won her “Best Supporting Actress” at the 1978 Golden Horse.

Since the mid-1980s, Kuei’s career became versatile, and expanded from Taiwan to China in the 1990s. She was a singer in Singapore in 1983. She also performed in (and produced) many television drama series, until Ang Lee cast her in The Wedding Banquet/Xiyan (1993) and Eat Drink Man Woman/Yin shi nan nu (1994). Kuei won another “Best Supporting Actress” award at the 1993 Golden Horse, as well as at the Independent Spirit Awards in the United States.

Since the mid-1990s, she has appeared in many internationally renowned films directed by Taiwan, China, and Hong Kong directors. She was recipient of the “Best Actress” award at the 1995 Karlovy Vary Film Festival in the Czech Republic, for her performance in China director Xie Yan’s Maiden Rosé/Nuer hong (1995), and “Best Supporting Actress” for the Chinese film, The Knot/Yun shui yao (2006), at the Hundred Flowers Awards in China.


KUNG FU FILM (Martial Arts Action Film). Kung fu, by definition in the Chinese dictionary, means efforts. Used in martial arts, it refers to the Chinese art of combat and self defense, including fistfighting and fighting with weapons that require specific routines and exercises.

Chinese kung fu started to be known to the rest of the world only after Bruce Lee’s films became popular around the globe in the 1970s. However, kung fu film as a genre emerged back in the 1920s, in Chinese films made in Shanghai. By the 1950s, it flourished in Cantonese films made in Hong Kong with a series of films about martial arts master Wong Fei-Hung/Huang Feihong. Around 80 such films were made in the 1950s and 1960s, and more than 100 by 2010.

Bruce Lee invented “Jeet Kune Do” or JKD, mixing the techniques of Wing Chun/Yongchun, boxing, and fencing, and demonstrated it in his starring roles in the early 1970s, i.e., Fists of Fury/The Big Boss/Tangshan da xiong (Lo Wei, 1971) and The Chinese Connection/Jing wu men (Lo Wei, 1972). After the international success of Bruce Lee’s films, including films made after The Chinese ConnectionThe Way of the Dragon/Meng long guo jiang (Bruce Lee, 1972), Enter the Dragon/Long zheng hu dou (Robert Clouse, 1973), and The Game of Death/Siwang youxi (1978) – many terrible look-alikes and cheap rip-offs appeared in Hong Kong and Taiwan, turning the genre into a fad that quickly replaced swordplay wuxia pian. However, by 1973, kung fu action films were overproduced and unable to be digested by the domestic market, while the Southeast Asian market for Taiwan-made wuxia and kung fu films dwindled due to those countries’ regulations against the importation of such films. Nevertheless, the international market for kung fu films expanded to 53 countries. A total of 250 films, the majority of them kung fu action, sold for US$10 million, a record high. These golden days would be soon over, as more and more countries either banned or set barriers to the importation of kung fu films from Taiwan.

Chang Cheh started making kung fu wuxia films before the sudden rise of Bruce Lee. His Vengeance!/Baochou (1970) was an “early Republic (of China) action film,” a sub-genre full of fistfights. The film not only won Chang “Best Director” and actor John (David) Chiang “Best Actor” at the Asia Film Festival in 1970, but also influenced Bruce Lee’s Fists of Fury and The Chinese Connection. When Chang Cheh established Chang’s Film Company, which was based in Taiwan between 1974 and 1976, he brought his fighting teams with him and made several mixed-genre films, including period fantasy action, period historical martial arts kung fu, and war films, all of them variations of his kung fu fistfighting films. Chang’s influence on Taiwan cinema was prominent, as the hundreds of copies of his style made in the mid-1970s by the Taiwan film industry attested. These films were poorly made, however, and could not find distribution or exhibition. It was reported that more than 100 such films were shelved and unreleased in Hong Kong in 1975.

   During some 10 years’ development of kung fu genre film, two sub-genres emerged, i.e., Shaolin kung fu film and kung fu comedy. Most Shaolin kung fu films, many of them made in Taiwan, explored the secrets of the almost mythic Shaolin school of martial arts, while adding a lot of imaginative fantasies about such training and skills. The 18 Bronzemen/Shaolinsi shiba tungren (Joseph Kuo, 1976) emphasizes the hardship of learning and practicing routines and exercises in Shaolin martial arts. Chang Cheh’s series films on the Shaolin Temple, including Men from the Monastery/Shaolin zidi (1974), Heroes Two/Fang shiyu yu hong xiguan (1974), and Shaolin Martial Arts/Hong quan yu yongchun (1974), all starring Alexander Fu Sheng, demonstrated the techniques of Shaolin martial arts.

Lau Kar-leong/Liu Jialiang, a practitioner of “Hung quan” martial arts, which originated from Shaolin and was passed on to him by Wong Fei-Hung and Lau’s father, directed many films that invoked or referred to the techniques of Shaolin or Wudang schools of martial arts. Executioners from Shaolin/Hong xiguan (1977) and The 36th Chamber of Shaolin/The Master Killer/Shaolin sanshiliu fang (1978) showed the Shaolin fighting style, and were followed by a series of films about Shaolin martial arts. Lau proved himself a master action choreographer as well as filmmaker, excelling in using the camera to capture and represent actions.

Kung fu comedy began with action choreographer-turned-director Yuen Woo- ping’s debut film, Snake in the Eagle’s Shadow/She xing diao shou (1978), followed by Drunken Master/Zui quan (1978). In both films, Yuen teamed up with Jackie Chan, who became an overnight star, and is considered the only Chinese actor ever to rival Bruce Lee internationally. Yuen and Chan blended physical comedy with kung fu action that eventually became Chan’s signature style, welcomed by enthusiasts everywhere. Kung fu comedy came at a time when kung fu action films were on the wane, thus extending the fervor for the kung fu genre around the globe. These kung fu comedies and Lau Kar-leong’s kung fu action films soon took over the Taiwan market.

Sammo Hung Kam-Bo/Hong Jinbao, Jackie Chan’s classmate at Peking Opera School in China Drama Academy, brought kung fu comedy into a new direction with The Prodigal Son/Bai jia zai (1981), Carry on Pickpocket/Tifang xiaoshou (1982), as well as Winners and Sinners/Qi mou miao ji wo fuxing (1983), and the subsequent “lucky stars” series. The trio of Sammo Hung, Jackie Chan, and Yuen Biao, another classmate at the Academy, created some of the most memorable kung fu comedies, including Project A/A jihua (1983) and its sequel Project A, Part II/A jihua xuji (1987), both directed by Chan.

By 1990s, Tsui Hark conducted experiments with stylizing the kung fu genre in his “Wong Fei-Hung Series” films, beginning with Once Upon a Time in China/ Wong Fei-Hung/Huang Feihong (1991), which, in its way, replaced kung fu comedy.

The trend of kung fu comedy and kung fu action certainly had their followers in Taiwan. However, by 1979, restrictions by foreign governments, as well as changes in appetites, finally decreased the overseas market for Taiwan’s martial arts kung fu films. Taiwan filmmakers started to expand the genre of kung fu comedy and action films. One variation can be seen in Chu Yen-ping’s rather iconoclastic, mixed-genre, ‘boundary crossing’ films – Golden Queen’s Commando/Hongfen bingtuan (1982), Pink Force Commando/Hongfen youxia (1982), and Fantasy Force Mission/Dragon Attack/Mini te gong dui (1982), all starring Brigitte Lin, before she emigrated to Hong Kong. In the mid-1980s, Chu also began a “Kung Fu Kids Series,” mixing kung fu comedy with the children’s film genre. The success of Young Dragons: Kung Fu Kids/Hao xiaozi (1986) soon prompted a series of sequels, and by 1989, the production company, Thomson Film Company, owned by former action star Hsu Feng, had made its sixth film in the series, Kung Fu Kids Part VI: Enter the Young Dragon/Hao xiaozi liu Xiao long guo jiang. But by the 1990s, all private Taiwan film production companies either produced low-budget films for the videotape market, or invested in Hong Kong films made by directors from Hong Kong or China. Very few films were actually made by Taiwan filmmakers. With the domestic film market continuing to go down for Taiwan productions, Taiwan-made kung fu action films ceased to exist after 1990.


KUNG, HENRY HONG (Gong Hong) (1915-2004). Henry Kung Hong is known for his contributions to the Taiwan film industry during his tenure as general manager of Central Motion Picture Corporation (CMPC) between 1963 and 1971. It was after his advocating “healthy realism” that Mandarin films by Taiwan filmmakers picked up momentum in the 1960s and were welcomed in Southeast Asia.

Kung Hong was born on 9 December 1915 on Chongming Island, Jiangsu Province in China. In 1933, he was admitted to the Kuomintang’s (KMT’s) Central Political School in Nanking/Nanjing, majoring in journalism. He was appointed general manager of the KMT’s printing company in Chungking/ Chongqing in 1941. Three year later, he was assigned chief writer of India Daily News, a Chinese newspaper published in Calcutta/Kolkata by the KMT. A year later he was promoted to head of the newspaper. He was then transferred to Hong Kong as correspondent for the KMT’s Central Daily News, and was also responsible for organizing an overseas press for the KMT. Two years later, Kung was appointed general manager of the KMT’s Chinese Culture Publishing in Shanghai.

When the Mainland fell into the hands of Chinese Communists, Kung and his family were trapped in Shanghai. A year later, they managed to flee to Hong Kong, where Kung got a job as an art editor at Swen Publications, an external agency of the State Department of the United States government. Kung emigrated to Taiwan with his family in 1951. He continued to draw anti-communist cartoons for Swen Publications, which had also moved to Taiwan that year. A year later, after Swen Publication was incorporated with the U.S. Information Agency of the State Department, Kung became an employee of Taipei U.S. Information Service, where he was responsible for editing a weekly pictorial. On the side, he drew anti-communist cartoons for the KMT’s Central Daily News.

In 1956, Henry Kung was invited to be a consultant and secretary-general of the Government Information Office (GIO), where he produced a documentary, Visit to a City of Cathay (1960), about a panoramic painting by Song Dynasty artist Zhang Zeduan (1085-1145), called Along the River During the Qingming Festival/Qingming shanghe tu. In 1962, Kung was promoted to the GIO deputy minister, responsible for the first Golden Horse Awards ceremony. When the GIO Minister James Shen was given a concurrent post as the chairman of CMPC in 1963, he appointed Kung Hong general manager, Kung’s official entry into the Taiwan film industry.

Hong Kong-made Mandarin films had dominated the Taiwan film market for many years, and continued to win major prizes at the Golden Horse Awards. The wave of huangmei diao film that followed the success of Shaw BrothersThe Love Eterne (Li Han-hsiang, 1963) prompted Kung to consider which type of films the CMPC should make. After seeing Our Neighbor/Jie tou xiang wei (1963), a realism film directed by Lee Hsing, he invited Lee to work for the CMPC. Kung Hong’s concept was to copy the style of Italian neorealism in the CMPC films meant to promote the progress in Taiwan society under Nationalist government rule. In Kung’s mind, realism does not necessarily have to expose the dark side of the society. It can also be used to show the human touches that warm the human heart. This is the essence of Kung’s healthy realism.

The Oyster Girl/Ke nu (1963), the first healthy realism film made in the CMPC, was codirected by Lee Hsing and the CMPC’s senior director Li Chia. The film, showing the hard, diligent life of fishermen who cultivate oysters, was the first color cinemascope film totally made by Taiwan filmmakers. Before it, the cinematography of both Shaw Brothers’ The Love Eterne and Taiwan Film Studio’s No Greater Love/Wu feng (1962) was by Japanese cameramen and their assistants. The prominent camerawork in The Oyster Girl, under the direction of cameraman Hua Hui-ying, led Taiwan films into the era of color cinematography.

While Lee Hsing was still in production of The Oyster Girl, Kung asked him to direct the second healthy realism film, The Beautiful Duckling/Yangya renjia (1964). Using the lives of duck farmers as background, the film depicts the love between parents and their children. Both The Oyster Girl and The Beautiful Duckling were commercially and critically successful, earning the trust of Hong Kong and Southeast Asia audiences, thus opening the overseas market to Mandarin films made in Taiwan.

After the success of these two healthy realism films, Kung supported Lee Hsing in adapting popular romance novelist Chiung Yao’s works into films. Four Loves/Wanjun biaomei (1964) and The Silent Wife/Yanu qingshen (1965) were two of the earliest Chiungyao film. This created the first wave of Chiungyao film in Taiwan and Hong Kong, in conjunction with director Li Han-hsiang’s Grand Motion Picture Company, which made more than a handful of such films after 1964. In Four Loves and The Silent Wife, Lee tried to add some positive educational elements in the otherworldly romantic love stories, thus the films were able to support the CMPC’s role as the government agency whose purpose was to guide the film industry. The commercial and critical successes of Four Loves and The Silent Wife also solidified the leading position of the CMPC in the Taiwan film industry.

During his tenure, Kung began using new directors, including Pai Ching-jui, Liao Hsiang-hsiung, Richard Chen Yao-chi, Liu Yi, Ting Shan-hsi, and Liu Chia-Chang. Most of their film careers began at the CMPC. For example, Pai Ching-jui came to the CMPC in 1963, after graduating from the Centro Sperimentale di Cinematografia in Rome. Kung first appointed him as manager of the Production Department, to let Pai become familiar with the process of film production, and to help develop healthy realism films. After he codirected a historical costume epic, Fire Bulls/Huan wo he shan (1966), Kung gave Pai his solo debut film, Lonely Seventeen/Jimo de shiqi sui (1967), which established him as an important director in Taiwan. Due to the success of Lonely Seventeen, Kung let Pai bring the commedia all'italiana style of comedy to Taiwan, making two CMPC comedies, The Bride and I/Xinniang yu wo (1969) and Home Sweet Home/ Home is Taipei/Jia zai taibei (1970). Once again, they were successful both commercially and critically.

However, after the two popular Chiungyao film, the more “serious” films that Lee Hsing directed did poorly at the box office. Kung advised Lee to make a popular musical with a number of movie stars. The vast lively scenes in Stardust/Qunxinghui (1969), never seen before in Taiwan movies, opened the audiences’ eyes and was commercially very successful. Lee not only regained his confidence, but it also pushed him in the 1970s to move closer to popular commercial cinema.

After his years of experience as general manager of the CMPC, enjoying the glory of its commercial and critical film successes, Henry Kung Hong started to make decisions about the subjects and writing of the CMPC films. At one point, he even pondered becoming a director himself. His shift in attitude led Kung into direct conflict with Lee Hsing and Pai Ching-jui. They left the CMPC with their partners, cinematographers Lai Cheng-yin and Lin Chan-ting, and former manager of the CMPC’s Project Development Department Hu Cheng-ding, to form Ta Chung Motion Picture Company. After their departure, Kung used many young directors, such as Ting Shan-hsi, who directed the critically acclaimed The Ammunition Hunters/Luo ying xia (1971). The Ammunition Hunters delivered patriotic messages in an action plot, following the mixed conventions of both the martial arts wuxian pian and adventure genres.

In 1971, after suffering from hepatitis and long-term struggles with the CMPC Chairman Hu Chien-chung/Hu Jianzhong, appointed in late 1965, Henry Kung decided to leave the CMPC. He was made chair of the Department of Mass Communications at Chinese Culture University in 1972. Three years later, Kung was invited by Lu Yi-cheng, head of the Information Division at the GIO’s New York branch, to head the Chinese newspaper Americas Daily/Meizhou ribao, partially financed by the KMT. When the paper closed a year later, Kung retired and remained in New York. He was invited to head the jury of the 1988 Asian Film Festival, held in Taipei. Kung was awarded a “Life Achievement Award” at the 1999 Golden Horse Awards. Henry Kung died in New York in 2004, at the age of 90.

During the nine years that Kung Hong was general manager of the CMPC, he produced 35 feature films, most of them not propaganda film in the traditional sense. Kung not only pioneered healthy realism films, he also produced Chiungyao films, melodramatic wenyi pian (both contemporary and costume), historical costume epic, commedia all'italiana comedy, musical, martial arts wuxia pian, fantasy film, and even horror and spy films. He was able to cleverly hide propagandistic messages in these entertaining films, most of which were winners both at the box office and in film festivals.

During his tenure, the CMPC films were exported to the Chinese film markets in Hong Kong, Southeast Asia, and the Americas. The CMPC’s status as leader in the Taiwan film industry was established during Kung’s time, and continued until the end of the 1990s. Henry Kung Hong also made an enormous contribution by training many young directors, cameramen, art directors, and actors, who became the pillars of Taiwan cinema in the 1960s and 1970s.


KUO, JOSEPH NAN-HONG (Guo Nanhong) (1935- ). Taiwan director Joseph Kuo Nan-Hong was born on 20 July 1935 in rural Tainan County in southern Taiwan. When he was three years old, Kuo’s family moved to urban Kaohsiung City, Taiwan’s second largest city, where he was educated, graduating from Kaohsiung Industrial Junior College. Afterwards, he went to Taipei to learn scriptwriting for a half-year at Asia Film Company (AFC). He adapted his own novella into a film script that was bought by the AFC and made into a Taiwanese-dialect film. Subsequently, he was asked by the AFC to direct his debut film, Ghost Lake/Gui hu (1955). In 1956, another film company invited Kuo to write and direct Lament of the Ancient Palace/Gu cheng hen (aka Romance at Chikan Tower/Chikanlou zhi lian), which won him a “top-ten director award” at the First Taiwanese-dialect Film Festival in 1958.

Kuo Nan-Hong went into the army in 1959-1960. After completing his military service, he founded a company to write and direct several films, one of which, The Night in Taipei/Taipei zhi yue (1961), was modeled after Japanese actor Kobayashi Akira’s film in which the star played a wataridori (wandering guitarist). Kuo’s version The Night in Taipei, starring renowned Taiwanese composer-singer Wen Hsia, was a box-office winner. Following this hit, a series of similar films were made, with Wen Hsia in “wandering guitarist” roles.

In 1965, two years after Li Han-hsiang moved his Grand Motion Picture Company (GMP) to Taiwan, Li invited Kuo Nan-Hong to join the GMP and direct two Chiungyao films, When Is the Dream Come True/Ming yue ji shi yuan (1966) and Love Is More Intoxicating Than Wine/Shen qing bi jiu nong (1968). Kuo was also asked by Union Film Company (Lianbang) to make a wenyi pian (melodrama based on popular novels), The Last Romance/Yunshan menghui (1971), but he preferred to make a wuxia pian (martial arts film). Lianbang allowed him to direct The Swordsman of All Swordsmen/Yidai jian wang (1968) before doing The Last Romance. The Swordsman of All Swordsmen turned out to be a turning point in Kuo’s career. The film was a box-office winner, not only in Taiwan, but also in Korea. Thus, Kuo Nan-Hong became a swordplay wuxia pian director.

In 1970, Kuo founded Hong Hwa Film Company in Hong Kong, to produce kung fu martial arts action movies. The same year, he was invited by Shaw Brothers to direct Mission Impossible/Jiannu youhun (1971) and The Mighty One/Tongzi gong (1971). Kuo also used a pseudonym, “Chiang Sui-han,” to make Sorrowful to a Ghost/Gui jian chou (1970), a top-grossing film in Hong Kong, co-directing with former Taiwanese-dialect film director Hsin Chi. Afterward, the two made The Seizure Soul Sword of a Blind Devil/Mangnu gou hun jian (1971). Kuo directed another very popular kung fu film in 1976, The 18 Bronzemen/Shaolinsi shiba tongren, which was shown commercially in Japan in 1983.

In the 1980s, Kuo was active in both the Taiwan and Hong Kong film industries. He was director of the Film Producers’ Association of the Republic of China (ROC), 1980-1985; secretary–general of the Golden Horse Awards Executive Committee in 1984; and chairman of the Hong Kong Production and Distribution Association from 1985 to 1996.




LANG, HSIUNG (Lang Xiong, Lang Yisan) (1930-2002). Veteran actor Lang Hsiung (real name Lang Yisan) was born on New Year’s Day, 1 January 1930, to a family which operated a dyeing and weaving factory in Suqian City, Jiangsu Province, China. He grew up in Yangzhou City during a time of continuous war between the Japanese army, Chinese puppet government army, anti-Japanese forces, and the New Fourth Army controlled by the Chinese Communists.

In 1949, Lang Hsiung joined the Youth Corps in Shanghai, and moved with Nationalist General Sun Li-jen’s army to Taiwan. He started his career in entertainment as part of a military theater troupe, on stage in musicals and stage plays. After retiring from the army, Lang joined the Nationalist-owned China Television Company (CTV) and military-owned Chinese Television System (CTS), performing in television drama series between 1970 and 1975. His most famous role was as Emperor Qin Shi Huang in The Dynasty of Tyrant/Yidai baojun (1974).

Lang’s acting debut in a feature film was Dream Lake/The Unforgettable Lake Dream/Meng hu (Wang Shi-Chen, 1975), a melodramatic wenyi pian. His second film, The Venturer/Lang ya kou (Chang Pei-cheng, 1975), a martial arts kung fu film, won “Best Supporting Actor” at the 1976 Golden Horse Awards. Subsequently, he appeared in many films produced by the KMT-owned Central Motion Picture Corporation (CMPC), including Eight Hundred Heroes/800 Heroes/Babai zhuangshi (Ting Shan-hsi, 1977), a national policy film; Didi’s Diary/Didi riji (Richard Chen Yao-chi, 1977), a wenyi pian; He Never Gives Up/ Wangyang zhong de yi tiao chuan (Lee Hsing, 1978); and The Coldest Winter in Peking/Huang tian hou tu (Pai Ching-jui, 1980), another anti-Communist national policy film. Other important films Lang appeared in were Chen Yao-chi’s wenyi pian, A Journey of Love/Wuqing huangdi youqing tian (1978), as well as Lee Hsing’s Good Morning, Taipei/Zaoan taibei (1979) and Story of the Heroic Pioneers/Heroic Pioneers/Tangshan guo taiwan (1986).

Lang Hsiung also was in several “commercial” action films, such as Report to the Squad Leader/Baogao banzhang (Chin Ao-hsun, 1980); Young Dragons: Kung Fu Kids IV/Hao xiaozi di si ji: kuayue shikong de xiaozi (Chang Peng-I, 1987); Hong Kong director Jacob Cheung Chi-Leung’s China’s Last Eunuch/Zhongguo zuihou yi ge taijian (1988); and two films by Taiwan director Chu Yen-ping, the war film A Home Too Far/Yi yu (1990) and gangster-thriller Requital/Wu hu si hai (1991).

Lang appeared off and on in television drama series between 1980 and 1991, until he retired as contract actor at the CTV in 1991. Even at the age of 60, he was soon cast as the lead in Ang Lee’s Pushing Hands/Tui shou (1991), which won him “Best Actor” at the 1991 Golden Horse Awards, a highlight in his career. Subsequently Lang was in two other films in Ang Lee’s “father trilogy” – The Wedding Banquet/Xiyan (1993), for which the Golden Horse awarded Lang “Best Supporting Actor,” and Eat Drink Man Woman/Yin shi nan nu (1994). These films gave Lang Hsiung renown as an actor famous for portraying Chinese father figures. Several years later, Lang worked with Ang Lee once again in the internationally acclaimed martial arts wuxia pian masterpiece, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon/Wo hu cang long (2000).

After working with Ang Lee on the first three films, Lang Hsiung appeared in Li Han-hsiang’s Lover’s Lover (1994), starring Hong Kong actors Cheng Pei-pei and Tony Leung Ka-Fai; Sylvia Chang’s Tonight Nobody Goes Home/Jintian bu huijia (1996), in which Lang costarred again with Kuei Ya-lei; Chinese veteran (“Fourth Generation”) director Xie Jin’s epic war film, The Opium War/Yapian zhanzheng (1997); Hong Kong director Michael Mak’s gangster-thriller, Island of Greed/Hak gam/Qingyi zhi xixili dao/tanlan zhi dao (1997), starring Andy Lau and Tony Leung Ka-Fai; and Hong Kong director Lee Chi-Ngai’s Sleepless Town/Fuyajo/Bu ye cheng (1998), based on Japanese writer Seishu Hase’s novel of the same title, starring Taiwan-Japan star actor Takeshi Kaneshiro.

After Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, Lang acted in Taiwanese director Chen Kuo-fu’s epic thriller, Double Vision/Shuang tong (2002), starring Tony Leung Ka-Fai, René Liu, and David Morse. Lang Hsiung’s final film appearance was in The Touch/Tian mai chuanqi (2002), directed by renowned cinematographer Peter Pau (of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon), starring Michelle Yeoh, Ben Chaplin, and Richard Roxburgh.


LEE, ANG (Li An) (1954- ). The first Asian to receive a “Best Director” Oscar in the Academy Awards, Ang Lee (Lee is his family name) is recognized as a leading film director in world cinema.

Born in Chao-Chou/Chaozhou Township, Pingtung/Bingdong County in southern Taiwan, Ang Lee is the first son of parents who were teachers (his father in high school and mother in elementary school). Originally from De’an County, Jiangxi Province, China, Lee’s father was a county magistrate in 1945, and later secretary-general of the Ministry of Education in the Nationalist government. Following major loses in the Chinese Civil War, Chiang Kai-shek’s government retreated to Taiwan in 1949. Lee’s father made his way to Taiwan a year later.

When Lee was seven months old, his father was appointed principal of Taitung (Taidong) Girls’ High School in southeastern Taiwan. After more than a year there, Lee’s family moved north to Hualian when his father was transferred to the eastern city as principal of Hualian Teachers’ School. Lee spent eight years of a happy childhood in Hualian, predominantly around waishengren (Mainlanders in post-1945 Taiwan) in the military, public office, and education professions. He saw stage performances by military entertainment troupes, and watched many movies, including Li Han-hsiang’s The Love Eterne (1963), which impressed him and stimulated Lee’s gift for creativity.

Lee’s carefree childhood ended when he was 10, after his father was appointed principal of Tainan Second Senior High School, and four years later, Tainan First Senior High School. Lee’s school life in the southern city of Tainan was miserable. He stayed there until 1973, when he enrolled in the Theater and Film Program at National Taiwan Academy of Arts (NTAA, now National Taiwan University of Arts) in Taipei, a three-year vocational school. This dismayed his father, who, like other traditional Confucians, emphasized good education and conformity rather than the arts and creativity. The entertainment business was considered a degrading profession.

Lee felt quite at home in the NTAA, and was delighted with his experiences in theater there. He soon became lead actor in the NTAA stage productions, appearing in more than 15 plays in three years. He won “Best Actor” in a national competition in 1974. Lee wrote and directed one-act plays, as well as adapting and directing many foreign plays at the NTAA. Ang Lee also began to understand film as an art during college. Mike Nichols’ The Graduate (1967) was the first Hollywood film that influenced him. His art film experiences began with Ingmar Bergman’s The Virgin Spring/Jungfrukällan (1960), Vittorio de Sica’s The Bicycle Thief/Ladri di biciclette (1948), and Michelangelo Antonioni’s L’éclisse (1962).

In his third year at the Academy, Lee made an 8mm film, Indolence on a Saturday Afternoon/Xingqiliu xiawu de lansan (1976), based on a short novel. Lee wanted to express in this 18-minute silent film the struggles and frustration of an artist, like himself, when facing the gap between ideals and reality. He later used the film to apply for the film program at Tisch School of the Arts in New York University (NYU) after attending undergraduate program in Theatre Studies at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. Lee also wrote a short story based on his experience making the super-8.

At Illinois, he studied theater and drama theories as well as exploring East/West cultural differences. He concentrated on theater directing, rather than acting, though he acted in three professional stage plays, as well as directing Eugene Ionesco’s The Chairs. In 1980, after graduating from the Department of Theatre with a BFA in Theatre/Theatre Direction, Lee was accepted into NYU’s graduate film program. Lee directed five shorts there, which were his first experience in filmmaking. He married Jane Lin, fellow Taiwan student majoring in microbiology at the University of Illinois, in New York in 1983. In 1985, right before Ang Lee was to move back to Taiwan, his graduation film, Fine Line/Fenjie xian (1985), won “Best Film” and “Best Director” in the NYU Film Festival. This caught the attention of the William Morris Agency, the top American film agency, which convinced Lee to stay in the United States to pursue scriptwriting and directing opportunities.

Lee’s chances as a writer or director in the U.S. were slim, however. All of the countless projects Lee developed and pitched between 1985 and 1990 were either rejected or fell apart. He spent the six years as a house-husband, cooking and taking care of his children, while looking for a chance to break into the film industry. Finally, Lee’s luck made a turn for the better in November 1990, when two of his screenplays won the top two prizes in a competition held by the Taiwan government. He was approached by the Central Motion Picture Corporation (CMPC) to turn one of the scripts into a film. The timing of Lee winning screenplay prizes was perfect, because Hsu Li-kong, the newly appointed CMPC vice-president and manager in charge of production, was willing to give new directors their first film directing opportunities. Lee signed a NT$12 million (under US$450,000) contract with the CMPC to make Pushing Hands/Tui shou (1992) in the U.S.

Ang Lee sought help from Good Machine, a new production company in New York, to produce the film in “the Big Apple.” (Thus began decades-long cooperation between Ang Lee and James Schamus, President of Good Machine.) All cast and crew, except the two leading actors and two main crew members (cameraman Jong Lin, and production manager-second unit director Emily Liu Yi-Ming), were American. Pushing Hands won “Best Actor” (Lang Hsiung), “Best Supporting Actress” (Wang Lai), and a “Special Jury Prize” at the 1991 Golden Horse Awards, which helped drive the box-office of Pushing Hands to a height unimagined by the CMPC. Pushing Hands became the third-highest grossing Mandarin film of 1991 in Taipei. The story of the film centers on an aging Tai Chi master, forced to adjust his life while living with his son who is married to a Caucasian woman. The East-meets-West cultural conflict/dialectic central to Pushing Hands, would be a formula used again in Lee’s next film, The Wedding Banquet/Xiyan (1993), second in his “father trilogy.”

Following the success of Pushing Hands, the CMPC offered Lee a small budget to make The Wedding Banquet, a film it shunned in the 1980s because of its sensitive subject matter and sympathetic treatment of the homosexual relationship between two men, a Chinese and an American (see GAY AND LESBIAN FILMS).  Lee cooperated with Good Machine once again, only this time James Schamus co-wrote the script and co-produced the film. The film is self-referential as Lee put many non-homosexual elements from his own experiences, including his own wedding and the relationship with his father, in this family melodrama/situation comedy. The Wedding Banquet was awarded a “Golden Bear” at the 1993 Berlin Film Festival and nominated for “Best Foreign Language Film” in the Academy Awards. Its very impressive success at the box office was even more surprising to everyone. The film was shown continuously for eight weeks in Taiwan, grossing NT$120 million (US$4.5 million). Total box-office in the global market was estimated at US$32 million, while its production budget was only US$ 750,000, meaning the revenue of The Wedding Banquet was nearly 43 times its cost, the best film investment in the world in 1993. Thus, the film opened the international market for Ang Lee. To Taiwan and Asian audiences, Lee’s films represent quality mainstream commercial productions. In the other international markets, his films belong to art cinema.

The tremendous success of The Wedding Banquet prompted Ang Lee, Good Machine, and the CMPC to work together once again on Eat Drink Man Woman/ Yin shi nan nu (1994), a story that mixes Chinese cooking with the relationship between a widower father and his three grown daughters. In Eat Drink Man Woman, Lee also tried for the first time to deal with multiple plotlines. Originally written by Wang Hui-Ling, who later would work again with James Schamus on the screenplay of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon/Wo hu cang long (2000), Eat Drink Man Woman also marks the first time Lee worked on a film project not initiated by himself. It was his third family drama and the last film in his “father trilogy.” The final script was co-written by Wang, Lee, and Schamus.

The film was an experiment for Ang Lee, who tried to balance the tastes of Asian audiences and international art cinema viewers. In a way, Lee was like characters in his previous films, needing to find a solution for the conflict in the East-West divide. The experiment failed in a way. (Lee would come back to such an experiment later with his Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.) While enthusiastically accepted in the West, including a nomination for “Best Foreign Language Film” in the Academy Awards, and a gross of more than US$7 million in the U.S. alone (the film cost US$1.5 million to make), Eat Drink Man Woman did not do as well as was expected in Taiwan, both theatrically and critically. Lee used a mixed local (Taiwanese) and American crew during production, which was the first time Lee made a film in his home country. Postproduction was done in New York. Such a combination of local and American crews, and the work flow of production, would become the norm in Lee’s following films.

The success of Eat Drink Man Woman, at least in the West if not in Taiwan, paved the way for Ang Lee’s English-language films, including Sense and Sensibility (1995), a period drama based on Jane Austin’s novel with a completely English cast; The Ice Storm (1997), an exploration of suburban culture in post-Watergate America; and Ride with the Devil (1999), which deals with the transformation and liberation of marginal ethnic groups during the Civil War in America.

Ang Lee had dreamed of making a martial arts wuxia pian ever since he was a child. In fact, after the success of Pushing Hands, Lee wanted to immediately make a wuxia film, Stealing Fists/Tou quan, about a disciple trying to steal kung fu skills from his master. The project was rejected by the CMPC, however.

After Lee established his status as a world-class film director, the transformation of China from a rigid dictatorship to a relatively open and semi-capitalistic country, as well as improvements in the infrastructure of the Chinese film industry, all contributed to making Lee’s dream of filming a wuxia pian in the People’s Republic of China a reality. Ang Lee wanted to elevate the level of wuxia pian, from pure action/sensation, to one that was culturally relevant and reflected genuine emotions. In other word, he wanted to make a martial arts film rich in humanity. To Lee, every martial arts move was an extension of the character’s personality. However, such an experiment was a big risk, as it challenged the audience’s preexisting concept of what a wuxia or kung fu film was supposed to be. It also created a problem between him and his experienced action director Yuen Wo-Ping, whose concept of martial arts movement and ways of presenting them on film were constantly challenged by Lee. The most astonishing fight scene, in the treetops of a bamboo forest, was an example in which actors were suspended from wires to appear flying through the air, a homage Lee paid to King Hu’s A Touch of Zen/Xia nu (1971).

The initial script was written by James Schamus (from a first draft written by Tsai Kuo-Jung/Cai Guorong), followed by the participation of Wang Hui-Ling. The story of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon focuses on the relationships between a kung fu master (Chow Yun-Fat) and two women, one he loves (Michelle Yeoh) and the other he is forced to fight against (Zhang Ziyi). It was financed by Lee’s own money, with an additional financial investment from Hsu Li-kong, former general manager of the CMPC, and Hong Kong producer- exhibitor Bill Kong. Preproduction and production in China took eight months. Postproduction was done in New York. Key creative personnel were from Hong Kong and the production crew from China.

Lee’s experiment in introducing wuxia to a mainstream Western audience paid off. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon is the most popular subtitled Mandarin film ever shown in the West and the highest-grossing foreign-language film ever released in the U.S. The budget was US$15 million, one of the highest for a Chinese film. Its NT$101 million (US$3 million) gross in Taiwan broke all records. Nearly 24 million tickets were sold in North America, creating US$128 million in box office revenue. The total box-office worldwide exceeded US$200 million, making it the champion of non-English film in the world in 2001 and one of the top non-English films of all time at the box office.

The film won four Oscars, including “Best Foreign Language Film,” “Best Cinematography” (Peter Pau), “Best Art Direction/Set Decoration” (Tim Yip), and “Best Music” (Tan Dun) at the 2001 Academy Awards. Lee was recipient of the Directors Guild of America “DGA Award” for outstanding directorial achievement in motion pictures. At the Hong Kong Film Awards, it won eight awards in the categories of “Best Picture,” “Best Director,” as well as “Best Supporting Actress” (Zhang Ziyi), “Best Cinematography,” “Best Action Choreography” (Yuen Wo-Ping), “Best Original Film Score” (Tan Dun), “Best Original Film Song,” and “Best Sound Design” (Eugene Gearty).

In Taiwan, however, it only won “Best Film” and five technical awards (editing, music, sound effects, visual effects, action direction) at the 2000 Golden Horse Awards. Commercially, the reception of the film in Hong Kong and China was much cooler. Lee was even accused of making a “fake” wuxia pian to please audience in the West. Nevertheless, such a “trend” was soon followed by Chinese directors, such as Zhang Yimou’s Hero/Yingxiong (2002) and House of Flying Daggers/Shi mian maifu (2004), and Chen Kaige’s The Promise/Wu ji (2005).

Ang Lee’s subsequent projects were two diverse American films: the big-budget Hulk (2003), costing US$150 million, and the low-budget Brokeback Mountain (2005), that cost less than one-tenth of Hulk. Hulk failed critically and commercially, while Brokeback Mountain won Lee “Best Director” at the 2006 Academy Awards, but lost out to Crash (Paul Haggis, 2004) as “Best Film,” hence creating a controversy.

In 2007 Ang Lee returned to making a film in Mandarin, Lust, Caution/Se jie, based on a novella by renowned Chinese novelist Eileen Chang/Zhang Ailing. The 157-minute film focuses on a Nationalist secret agent (Tang Wei) who is supposed to seduce and kill the puppet government’s Chief of Intelligence (Tony Leung Chiu Wai) during the Sino-Japanese War, but instead, falls in love with him. Lust, Caution is Lee’s first venture into the thriller/noir genre, written once again by the Wang Hui-Ling/James Schamus writing team. The film won the Golden Lion at the 2007 Venice Film Festival. It also garnered seven awards at the Golden Horse the same year, including, “Best Film,” “Best Director,” “Best Actor” (Tony Leung Chiu Wai), “Best Adapted Screenplay,” “Best Makeup and Costume Design” (Pan Lai), “Best Original Film Score” (Alexandre Desplat), and “Best New Performer” (Tang Wei). It did not do well internationally, however. The international gross was only US$4.6 million, less than one-third of its budget, perhaps partially due to the severely restrictive “NC-17” rating it received in the U.S., as well as the historical background and subject matter which did not seem to interest non-Asian audiences. The “NC-17” rating was based on three love-making scenes between its two main characters, which was sensational news in Asian countries, due mainly to Tony Leung’s stardom and acting reputation.

After Lust, Caution, Ang Lee directed a comedy in the U.S., Taking Woodstock (2009). The film was nominated for the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival. Lee’s latest film is an adventure drama, Life of Pi, based on Yann Martel’s best-seller about the magical adventures in the Pacific Ocean of an Indian boy and his animal friends. The film was mostly shot on a soundstage built specifically for making the film, out of an abandoned hangar in central Taiwan. The film is slated for international release in 2012.

Though proudly revered in Taiwan as its native son, Ang Lee was, in most instances, not considered a Taiwanese or Chinese director in books about Taiwan or Chinese cinema published in the West. Indeed, Ang Lee is a filmmaker who transcends national as well as film-genre boundaries. His first three films made him the most prominent director of the post-Taiwan New Cinema era (sometimes called the Second New Wave or Second Wave Taiwan Cinema directors), along with Tsai Ming-liang and some others. Ang Lee, like Hou Hsiao-hsien, Edward Yang, and Tsai Ming-liang, helped gain international recognition for Taiwan cinema, and all of Chinese Cinema for that matter. Lee, however, moves just as easily, or perhaps more easily, in Western cinema as well.

Many people have contributed to Ang Lee’s success in Taiwan and the world. Among them, Hsu Li-kong was the producer who gave Lee his first chance as a director. However, the most significant is James Schamus who works with Lee, initially as producer and publicist, and later, as co-financier and (co)writer of all his recent films. It is fair to say that without Schamus there probably would be no Ang Lee, or at least not the Ang Lee as he is now – one of the most internationally respected and influential Chinese directors.


LEE, HSING (Li Xing, Li Zida) (1930- ). One of the most important directors in Taiwan cinema after World War II, Lee Hsing’s filmmaking career spans nearly four decades, from the late 1950s to mid-1980s. He led the trends of comedy in Taiwanese-dialect film, healthy realism film, Chiungyao film, and films depicting rural realities. Nearly all important figures in the second half of the 20th century are either his comrades, such as Li Han-hsiang, King Hu, Pai Ching-jui, and Sung Tsun-Shou, or his protégés, like Taiwan New Cinema directors Hou Hsiao-hsien, Wang Tung, Chang Yi and Liao Ching-Song. Since the end of the 1980s, Lee founded the Directors Guild of Taiwan, chaired the executive committee of the Golden Horse Awards, and became the highly respected leader of the Taiwan Film Industry. In recent years, Lee has devoted himself to promoting Taiwan films in Mainland China, and to cross-straight exchange programs between Taiwan and Hong Kong, as well as between Taiwan and the Mainland.

Lee Hsing, whose real name is Li Zida, was born on 20 May 1930 in Shanghai. During his adolescence, Lee was deeply interested in theater. He also watched many movies, including popular Chinese films of left-wing filmmakers, such as The Spring River Flows East/Tears of the Yang-Tse/Yi jiang chun shui xiang dong liu (Cai Chusheng and Zheng Junli, 1947), Eight Thousand Li of Cloud and Moon/Baqian li lu yun he yue (Shi Dongshan, 1947), and The Lights of Ten Thousand Homes/Myriad of Lights/Wanjia denghuo (Shen Fu, 1948). In 1948, Lee was admitted to the Theater Section in the Department of Art Education, Soochow National College of Social Education (now Soochow University). After seeing Fei Mu’s Spring in a Small Town/Xiao cheng zhi chun (1948), Lee became determined to be involved in theater and filmmaking.

Due to the Chinese Civil War, his university education was delayed a half-year, during which time he worked in theater and watched many performances of stage plays by renowned actors. Later that year, Lee emigrated to Taiwan with his family, where he enrolled in the Education Department at Taiwan Provincial Teachers College (TPTC, now National Taiwan Normal University). Lee was active on campus as actor and director of Anton Chekhov and Xia Yan plays, which were produced by the college’s drama club. Lee also acted in a professional theater troupe and appeared in several films, where he took his stage name Lee Hsing. All the plays and films Lee was involved in at this stage of his life were, in essence, anti-communist.

After graduating from the TPTC, Lee was drafted and served in the army for a year. In 1954, Lee Hsing decided not to seek a career in teaching. Instead, he became an entertainment reporter for Independence Evening News, which was published by his father. Soon after, he became an actor and assistant in veteran Mandarin film director Tang Shao-hua’s film Remote Love/Life and Love of a Horse-Cart Driver/Mache fu zhi lian (1956). It was around this time that Taiwanese-dialect film became popular, and Lee was given the chance to direct. While most Taiwanese-dialect films were period dramas and Taiwanese Opera, Lee and his partners decided to try comedy. Based on Laurel and Hardy comedies, Lee codirected, with two other directors, his debut film, The Misadventures of Two Idiots/Brother Wang and Brother Liu Tour Taiwan/Wang ge liu ge you taiwan (1959), which was a box office hit. Lee made more than 10 sequels and similar comedies between 1959 and 1963, giving him camera experience and essential directing skills.

At the time, Taiwanese-dialect film budgets were small, and most film companies quickly disappeared. Therefore, a film director’s pay was unstable. For awhile, Lee, who was a new father, was not able to pay the rent and considered quitting films. Fortunately, Long Fang, head of Taiwan Film Studio, approached Lee in 1960 and commissioned him to make two documentary films, both of which were well received.

Lee actually wanted, more than anything, to work for the Central Motion Picture Corporation (CMPC), but it took no interest in him. He applied three times in eight years, and was turned down each time. Lee’s father decided to help his son realize his dream by establishing a film production company in 1961, Independent Pictures. Its debut film, Good Neighbors/Liang xiang hao (1962), was a copy of The Greatest Civil War on Earth/Nan bei he (Wang Tianlin, 1961) and two other films in the “North-South” trilogy produced by Motion Pictures and General Investment Co. Ltd. (MP&GI) in Hong Kong. Good Neighbors using actors from Mandarin and Taiwanese-dialect films, creating comic effects from their differences in language and culture. The mixed-dialect film was well received in Taiwan, and Lee gained confidence in his directing abilities.

Lee’s first Mandarin film, Our Neighbor/Jie tou xiang wei (1963), obviously influenced by the realist films made in China in the 1930s and 1940s, is a story about small vices, gossip, misunderstandings, and the mutual caring support of tenants in a Taipei slum warren. Lee Hsing uses emotions of the underclass to express confidence in the goodness of human nature, to call for solidarity and mutual help, and to emphasize traditional ethics.

The artistic achievement of Our Neighbor caught the attention of the newly appointed CMPC General Manager Kung Hong, who invited Lee to be a director on its staff. Lee turned down the offer, but agreed to work for the CMPC. His initial film for it was the first healthy realism film, The Oyster Girl/Ke nu (1963), codirected with the company’s senior director, Li Chia. Through the love story of a girl who works cultivating oysters, the film depicts the hard-working life of oyster farmers/fishermen who have to fight the ocean to make a living. It was the first cinemascope color film completely made by the CMPC technicians and was both commercially and critically successful.

While still working on The Oyster Girl, Lee was asked by Kung to direct the second healthy realism film, The Beautiful Duckling/Yangya renjia (1964), about the lives of duck farmers in a small village near Taipei. Once again, the film was a box-office winner as well as being critically acclaimed. It was considered the year's best film, and marked the beginning of starlet Tang Pao-yun/Tang Baoyun's rise to fame. The Beautiful Duckling won awards for “Best Supporting Actor” (Ou Wei), “Best Screenplay” (Chang Yung-hsiang), and “Best Art Direction” (Chou Chih-Liang/Chow Chi-Leung) at the 1964 Film Festival in Asia, and “Best Picture,” “Best Director,” “Best Actor” (Ko Hsiang-ting), and “Best Color Cinematography” (Lai Cheng-Ying) at the Golden Horse.  

After two healthy realism films, Lee Hsing decided to make films adapted from Chiung Yao’s romantic novels, which became popular among adolescents and young adults. Four Loves/Wanjun biaomei (1964) and The Silent Wife/Yanu qingshen (1965) were among the earliest Chiungyao films, and their success set off a wave of Chiungyao film in Taiwan and Hong Kong lasting nearly 20 years. Four Loves tells of three boys, who are cousins, falling in love with the same girl, also a cousin, when she takes refuge in her aunt’s home after being orphaned. The film enhanced Tang Pao-yun’s screen image, and the child actors received praise, among them Tse Ling-Ling/Xie Lingling, who was awarded “Best Child Actor” at both the Film Festival in Asia and the Golden Horse Awards.

The Silent Wife tells the story of a mother and her daughter who are speech-impaired. Lee Hsing added disabilities education to the romantic story, thus enriching the otherwise conventional Chiungyao film. Wang Mochou, who rose to fame in The Oyster Girl, gave an impressive performance, winning her special awards also at the Film Festival in Asia and Golden Horse Awards. The film was also awarded “Best Screenplay” (Liu Yi) and “Best Cinematography” (Lai Cheng-Ying) in the Film Festival in Asia in 1966.

After The Silent Wife, Lee directed several serious dramas that were critically acclaimed, but commercial failures. The Monument of Virtue/Zhenjie paifang (1966) portrays the struggle of a widow to restrain her lust within traditional Chinese widowhood conventions. Ai Li won a special “new actor award” at 1966 Film Festival in Asia. The Road/Lu (1967), yet another healthy realism film, depicts the conflict between a father and his son, caused by the Chinese tradition of expecting a son to be “successful.” The Jade Goddess/Yu guanyin (1968), a CMPC film, starred Richard Chen Yao-chi, an actor/director who received a MFA filmmaking degree from the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA), as a sculptor of the Jade Guanyin (Bodhisattva, goddess of compassion). Based on a stage play, the film depicts the sculptor’s calamity when he falls in love and gets married to his cousin. It was awarded “Best Film” at the Film Festival in Asia.

Though all these films won awards in film festivals, they were nevertheless commercial flops, which caused Lee Hsing to lose confidence in his directing. He decided to make a popular genre film – a musical. Stardust/Qun xing hui (1969) was based on a popular novel and a real news event about an abused singer. The film was a box-office hit, and Lee entered his most successful decade in commercial filmmaking. 

In 1969, to help Li Han-hsiang resolve his debts, Lee codirected an omnibus film Four Moods/Xi nu ai le (1970), with Li, King Hu, and Pai Ching-jui, in which each director was responsible for one segment. Lee directed the “Sadness” segment, which was based on stories in Strange Tales of Liaozhai. The film was praised for its resolution of complex ethical conflicts of hatred, cleverly contrasting strong and weak, as well as contradictions between men and women.

After Four Moods, Li Hsing and Pai Ching-jui left the CMPC in 1969 to found their own Ta Chung Motion Picture Company with the CMPC cinematographers Lai Cheng-ying and Lin Chan-ting, and Hu Cheng-ding, former manager of the the CMPC project development department. During this period, Lee directed musical film, family melodrama, and comedy, all commercially successful, which inspired him to turn a long-standing idea into a costume wenyi pian film, Autumn Execution/ Execution in Autumn/Qiu jue (1971). Autumn Execution explores the Chinese patriarchal tradition that attached enormous importance to the continuation of the family lineage. This “serious” film not only won praise from Taiwan’s arts and cultural communities, it was shown continuously at first-run theaters in Taipei for over two months. It is definitely the peak of Lee Hsing’s film career.

After proving that he was capable of making “art” films, Lee turned to making popular entertainment movies that catered to audience tastes. Love is an Elusive Wind/Feng cong nali lai (1972), starring Ou Wei as a cowboy and Tang Pao-yun as his beloved, was considered out of character for Lee Hsing, who at the time was just in the mood for having fun as director. It, however, did poorly theatrically.

Lee returned to making Chiungyao film. The record-breaking grosses of both The Young Ones/Cai yun fei (1973) and The Heart with Million Knots/Xin you qian qian jie (1973), indicated that the combination of Lee and writing partner Chang Yung-hsiang, as well as actors Chen Chen, Joan Lin Feng-Chiao, Chin Han, Charlie Chin Hsiang-Lin, and Alan Tang Kwong-Wing were the best team for making Chiungyao films. In these films, Lee tells popular love stories with lovely images and beautiful songs. They were also very successful in Southeast Asia, making Chiung Yao and her novels popular there. Lee’s Chiungyao film period came to an end in 1977, when Chiung Yao founded a film production company to make her own Chiungyao film.

He Never Gives Up/Wangyang zhong de yi tiao chuan (1978) marked a return to realism for Lee Hsing, and another peak in his career. Based on a true story, the film portrays a handicapped boy who, despite his disability, goes to school everyday by crawling. With a strong will and desire to learn, the main character manages to enter the university and find true love. He Never Gives Up was not only the top-grossing film of 1978, it won five prizes at the 1978 Golden Horse Awards, including, “Best Picture,” “Best Director,” “Best Screenwriter” (Chang Yung-hsiang), “Best Actor” (Chin Han), and “Best Cinematography” (Chen Kun-Hou). It also won for “Best Director,” “Best Actor,” and “Best Actress” (Joan Lin Feng-Chiao) at the Film Festival in Asia.

Lee’s films after He Never Gives Up were mostly based on native Taiwanese stories, such as China, My Native Land/Yuan xiang ren (1980), from the autobiographical novel of native writer Chung Li-he/Zhong Lihe. Lee also combined native elements and love stories of young adults, together with popular campus folk songs, in The Story of a Small Town/Xiaocheng gushi (1979), Good Morning, Taipei/Zaoan taibei (1979), and Once Again with Love/Another Spring/ You jian chuntian (1981). These are accomplished films, and the first two won consecutively “Best Picture” awards at the Golden Horse.

Land of the Brave/Long de chuan ren (1981), Finding the Way/Xi yu chun feng (1984), and Lee’s final film, Story of the Heroic Pioneers/Heroic Pioneers/ Tangshan guo taiwan (1986), were all national policy film made respectively for the CMPC (owned by the KMT Party), China Film Studio (owned by the Ministry of National Defense), and Taiwan Film Studio (owned by the Taiwan Provincial Government). Land of the Brave, produced after the United States severed ties with the Nationalist government on Taiwan, advocated patriotism. Finding the Way was made to help the military propaganda department by diluting anti-Nationalist sentiment, and stopping the democracy movement on campus. Heroic Pioneers tried to propagate historical and kinship ties between Taiwan and the Mainland, and thus, was used to assist the “anti-Taiwan Independence” policy of the Nationalist government. The emergence of such national policy films was tied to the serious diplomatic predicament the Nationalist government encountered internationally, and the challenge of democratization that it was facing domestically.

The early 1980s was an era when the entertainment functions of film were gradually replaced by television and videotapes. The Taiwan film industry was also in transition, due to the rapid shift in film genres accepted by local audiences, which was probably stimulated by rampant copycat filmmaking and the vicious competition in making similar films. The CMPC produced an omnibus film in 1983, The Sandwich Man/Erzhi de da wanou, by three young directors – Hou Hsiao-hsien, Wan Jen, and Tseng Chuang-hsiang/Zeng Zhuangxiang. By coincidence, Taiwan Film Studio also produced an omnibus film the same year, The Wheel of Life/Da lunhui, directed by Lee Hsing and veteran directors, Pai Ching-jui and King Hu. The Wheel of Life lost the competition at the box office, and positive criticism of The Sandwich Man marked a generational shift in Taiwan cinema. The emergence of Taiwan New Cinema marked the end of Lee Hsing’s film career as a director. Before bowing out, however, Lee gave his support to young filmmakers, and even produced Chang Yi’s Jade Love/Yu qing sao (1984). It would take 20 more years for Lee Hsing to produce another young director’s film, Dragon Eye Congee: A Dream of Love/Longyan zhou (Allen Chang Kou-fu/Zhang Guofu, 2005).

Lee reveals traditional family ethics and relationships in his films. He also likes to focus on native Taiwanese characters, using native landscapes and music. In a way, Lee Hsing is an inheritor, who passed on the traditions of Chinese films from 1930s and 1940s Shanghai to the new generations of Taiwan New Cinema and Second New Wave Cinema. Ang Lee, like Hou Hsiao-hsien, Chang Yi, Wang Tung, and Chen Kun-Hou before him, admitted that Lee’s 1960s films were nourishment for their own work, containing the roots of Chinese culture.


LEE, KANG-SHENG (1968- ). Tsai Ming-liang’s muse, and perhaps “alter-go,” Lee Kang-sheng, known to the world’s art cinema audience as “the” actor most often seen in Tsai’s films, was born in 1968 in Taipei to a family originally from Hunan Province, China. Lee was “discovered” by Tsai Ming-liang in 1991 at a video game parlor in Hsimenting, the entertainment district in central Taipei, when Tsai was casting for his television drama, The Kid/Xiaohai (1991). When Tsai directed his debut feature film for the Central Motion Picture Corporation (CMPC), he wrote a script based on Lee’s personality and history.

When they met, Lee had just failed the college entrance examination and needed to earn a living, probably as an insurance salesman or waiter. He spent most of his leisure time at the video game parlor. Tsai found in Lee Kang-sheng a young rebel full of obsessions, yet sad, confused, lonely, helpless, and withdrawn. In Rebels of the Neon God/Qinshaonian nuozha (1993), Lee plays exactly such a character, who hates yet worships/loves his opposite, played by Chen Chao-jung.

In Vive l’Amour/Aiqing wansui (1994), Tsai Ming-liang’s second film, Lee plays a gay salesman who sells niches in a columbarium where people put their relative’s ashes. Though Lee never had acting training, he was nominated “Best Actor” for his restrained performance in Vive l’Amour, at the 1994 Golden Horse Awards, and won an acting award at the 1994 Festival des 3 Continents (Nantes Three Continents Festival) in France.

Lee appeared in all of Tsai Ming-liang’s subsequent films, almost all in the role of “Hsiao Kang,” Lee’s real nickname – The River/Heliu (1997), The Hole/Dong (1998), 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). He won “Special Mention” for The Wayward Cloud, at the 2005 Nantes Three Continents Festival.

Occasionally, Lee Kang-sheng appears in other directors’ films, including A Drifting Life/Chun hua meng lu (Lin Cheng-sheng, 1995), Sweet Degeneration/ Fang lang (Lin Cheng-sheng, 1997), Ordinary Heroes/Qianyan wanyu (Ann Hui, 1998), Sunny Doll/Qingtian wawa (Chen Yi-hsiung/Chen Yixiong, 2000), and A Way We Go/Ziyou menshen (Wang Tung, 2002). In most of these films, Lee plays similar types of character – melancholy, alone, shut-up inside himself, yet rebellious.

Lee Kang-seng’s debut film as a director was The Missing/Bu jian (2003), a simple film depicting a grandmother looking for her grandson, and a teenager for his grandfather. The film won “Best Film” at the 2004 Cinefan – Festival of Asian and Arab Cinema, “City of Athens” award at the 2004 Athens International Film Festival, “Best Cinematography” (Liao Pen-jung) at the 2003 Golden Horse, “New Currents” award at the 2003 Pusan International Film Festival, as well as the “Tiger,” “NETPAC,” and “KNF” awards at the 2004 Rotterdam International Film Festival.

Help Me Eros/Bang bang wo aishen (2007), Lee’s second feature as writer- director, focuses on a young man who sinks into drugs and sex. It was selected into competition at the 2007 Venice Film Festival and won “Best Feature” at the 2007 Gijón International Film Festival in Spain, “Special Jury Award” at the 2007 World Film Festival in Bangkok, and “Best Cinematography” (Liao Pen-jung) at the 2008 Asian Film Awards. Lee wrote and directed a short film in 2009, Rotation/Zi zhuan, starring Tsai Ming-liang and Lu Yi-Ching, for Public Television Service’s portmanteau film Taipei 24H/Taibei yixiang. The plotless, actionless film was shot in the coffee shop that Tsai, Lee, and Lu cofounded, in which Tsai and Lu reminiscence about one of the most talented modern dancers, Luo Man-Fei.

Lee Kang-seng and Tsai Ming-liang are also business partners, starting Home Green Films, the production company for almost all of Tsai’s and Lee’s films.


LEE, MARK PING-BIN (Li Bingbin) (1954- ). Internationally renowned cinematographer Mark Lee Ping-Bin has worked with master directors Hou Hsiao-hsien, Wong Kar-Wai, Ann Hui, Tian Zhuangzhuang, Jiang Wen, Tran Anh Hung, as well as international directors Yukisada Isao, Koreeda Hirokazu, Gilles Bourdos, and has also helped many young director shoot their first films, including Jay Chou, Wang Leehom, Xu Jinglei.

Born in 1954 in Fengshan, Kaohsiung (Gaoxiong) City, southern Taiwan, Lee’s father, a high-ranking military officer of the Nationalist army, died when Lee was four or five years old. Lee enjoyed going to the movies often, rather than studying, when he was a child. At age 10, Lee was sent to study and live at a special school for children of military personnel killed in action in Taipei, far from home. Lee was not a good student. He liked to play truant, forcing his mother to move to Taipei to take care of him and his two brothers.

Lee studied at Keelung (Jilong) Maritime Vocational High School. After graduation, he served in the navy as assistant engineer, responsible for fixing engines and power generators during the three-year compulsory military service, skills very useful in his career as cinematographer. After discharge from the military, Lee took part in a training program held by the Nationalist-owned Central Motion Picture Corporation (CMPC), majoring in cinematography. In 1977, he became assistant cameraman at the CMPC’s studios, working his way up for four years, until 1981, when Hong Kong director Taylor Wong Tai-Loi hired him to shoot a martial arts kung fu film, Return of the Deadly Blade/Feidao, youjian feidao. Thereafter, Lee worked with Taiwan New Cinema directors Chang Yi, on Kendo Kids/Zhujian shaonian (1983), and Tao Dechen, on Bicycle and I/Danche yu wo (1984). His breakthrough came when Wang Tung, the CMPC’s veteran art director, then a new director, hired him for Run Away/Ce ma ru lin (1984). The realistic cinematography in this realistic martial arts masterpiece impressed many, and won “Best Cinematography” at the 1984 Asia-Pacific Film Festival.

Hou Hsiao-hsien used Lee for his self-portrait film, A Time to Live and A Time to Die/Tongnian wangshi (1985), a subdued, restrained film shot mostly in low light or available light conditions. Afterwards, most of Hou’s films were shot by Mark Lee, who learned from the director how to capture “feelings,” “smells,” and “atmosphere.” Lee developed an unplanned, intuitive style of cinematography, a challenge for any cinematographer.

In 1987, at the age of 34, Lee married. He had acquired a good reputation after A Time to Live, A Time to Die and Dust in the Wind/Lian lian fengchen (Hou Hsiao-hsien, 1986). In 1988, Lee was invited to shoot crime dramas in Hong Kong, such as Runaway Blues/Biao Cheng (David Lai Dai-Wai, 1989) and Hero of Tomorrow/Jianghu jieban ren (Poon Man-Kit, 1988). The CMPC was not pleased with his working in Hong Kong, however, prompting his resignation, thus starting Lee’s 10-year film career in Hong Kong. Most of the films Lee shot in there were fast-paced action and martial arts kung fu films. Through such experiences, Lee learned how to be quick, daring, and precise.

Lee’s film career spans more than 25 years, and includes more than 60 films. He has won many international awards, including “Technical Grand Prize” (shared with Christopher Doyle and William Chang) for In the Mood for Love/ Hua yang nian hua (Wong Kar-Wai, 2000) at the Cannes Film Festival, “Best Cinematography” for Dust in the Wind at the 1987 Festival des 3 Continents in Nantes, “Best Cinematography” for Norwegian Wood/Noruwei no mori (Tran Anh-Hung, 2010) at the 2011 Asian Film Awards, and many other awards in the People’s Republic of China and the United States.

In Taiwan, Lee has won five times at the Golden Horse Awards, for The Puppetmaster/Xi meng rensheng (Hou Hsiao-hsien, 1993), Summer Snow/Nuren sishi (Sylvia Chang, 1995), In the Mood for Love (Wong Kar Wai, 2000), Millennium Mambo/Qianxi manpo (Hou Hsiao-hsien, 2001), and Three Times/The Best of Times/Zui hao de shiguang (Hou Hsiao-hsien, 2005). Lee received three “Best Cinematography” prizes at the Hong Kong Film Awards, for Eighteen Springs/Ban sheng yuan (Ann Hui, 1997), In the Mood for Love, and After This Our Exile/Fu zi (Patrick Tam, 2006).

In 2008, the National Culture and Arts Foundation presented Mark Lee Ping-Bin with a “National Award for Arts,” one of the highest creative honors in Taiwan, a year after Lee’s mentor, Wang Tung, received the same award.


LEE, YOU-NING (Li Youning) (1951- ). Born in Taipei on 10 January 1951, director Lee You-ning grew up in a military dependents village. After graduating in 1975 from the Department of Educational Technology at Tamkang University, and completing the required two-year military service, Lee learned TV directing at the Chinese Television System (CTS). Subsequently, he went to the United States to study filmmaking at Columbia College in Hollywood, then communication technology and management in the Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism at the University of Southern California. While studying in the U.S., Lee worked as assistant column writer for a Taiwanese newspaper, and television program producer for a Taiwanese TV station. Lee returned to Taiwan in 1984, after finishing his studies in Los Angeles.

Lee You-ning’s first film, Elegy for a Killer/Shashou wange (1984), used a “stream of consciousness” style to represent the subjective view of a psycho killer. The film was a moderate success commercially and received mixed reviews from critics. His second film, Old Mo’s Second Spring/Lao mo de di er ge chuntian (1984), about the “marriage of convenience” between a veteran, who followed Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek to Taiwan in 1949, and an aboriginal woman, was awarded “Best Film” and “Best Original Screenplay” (Wu Nien-Jen) at the 1984 Golden Horse Awards, and was successful commercially.

Lee’s next film, Spring Outside of the Fence/Zhuliba wai de chuntian (1985), produced by former actress Hsu Feng’s Tomson Films, focused on life in a military dependents village, much like the one he grew up in. The Two of Us/Fuzi guanxi (1986), made for the Central Motion Picture Corporation (CMPC), was a Kramer vs. Kramer kind of story about the relationship between a failed, divorced father and a son he hardly knew. It was a box-office success, winning “Best Adapted Screenplay” (Wu Nien-Jen) at the 1986 Golden Horse. Cold/Nayinian women yiqi qu kan xue (1987) was a national policy film portraying and promoting nationalistic patriotism among youth after the American government severed diplomatic ties with the Nationalist government on Taiwan.

The Last Fall of Lao Ke/Lao ke de zuihou yi ge qiutian (1988) was based on a true story about a veteran-turned-bank robber and murderer. Trying not to sensationalize the story, the film was intentionally slow in tempo and difficult to watch. Lee’s other films included The Rules of the Game/Youshi guize (1989), a romantic melodrama; American Passport/Meiguo huzhao (1990); Wonder Seven/Qi jingang (1994); Formosa Sisters/Liulang wutai (1995); Red Letter/Ang Yee: Luuk chaai phan mangkawn/Hong zi (codirected with Nopporn Vatin, 2000), a CMPC coproduction with Thailand’s Five Star Productions; and Grandpa’s Home/Yeye de jia (2003).

   In 1990, Lee became a television producer, and an adjunct professor teaching film directing and screenwriting in universities and workshops held by non-profit organizations or non-governmental  organizations. He was appointed general secretary of the Taipei Golden Horse Film Festival Executive Committee, 1992-1994 and 1996-1999. As manager of the CMPC’s Film Development Department between 1997 and 2001, Lee was producer or associate producer of many CMPC films made during that period, including Cop Agula/Tiaozi abula (1999), directed by Ang Lee’s younger brother Lee Khan; The Cabbie/Yunzhuanshou zhi lian (Chen Yiwen and Zhang Huakun, 2000); Lament of the Sand River/Shahe beige (Chang Chi-yung, 2000); Hidden Whisper/Xiao bai wu jinji (Vivian Chang, 2000); Shadow Magic/Xiyang jing (Ann Hu, 2000); An Ocean Too Deep/Shen shen taipingyang (Pan Guan-yuan, 2001); A Way We Go/Ziyou menshen (Wang Tung, 2001); A Pinwheel Without Wind/Tingche zan jie wen (Liu Te-kai, 2001); and Be My Valentine/Eryue shisi (Chou Yan-tse , 2002).

   Lee You-ning directed a new film in 2011, Four Hands/Mian yin zi, mostly shot at a Chinese film studio. The story is about the tragic divide of the Taiwan Strait, between Chinese on the Mainland and their relatives in Taiwan who fled to Taiwan followed Chiang Kai-shek’s Nationalist government, after it lost the Civil War with the Chinese Communists in 1949.


LI, CHIA (Li Jia) (1923-1994). Born on 23 September 1923 in Amoy/Xiamen, Fujian Province in China, Li Chia graduated from the Department of History at Xiamen University. He was a reporter, editor, and copy editor at a newspaper in Amoy before moving to Taiwan after the Nationalists took over in 1945. Li first worked at the Taiwan Provincial Agricultural Cooperatives in 1947, but by 1951, transferred to the Agricultural Education Film Studio (AEFS). The studio had been established in 1943 by the Nationalist government’s Ministry of Agriculture, and merged with the Taiwan Motion Picture Company (TMPC) in 1954 to become the Central Motion Picture Corporation (CMPC), controlled by the Kuomintang (KMT)/Nationalist Party. Li’s initial responsibility at the AEFS was writing scripts for documentary films to be used in agricultural education. He soon became supervising director of screenplays, and then director of production development at the newly established CMPC studio.

Beginning in 1955, the CMPC allowed Li and others to work for the flourishing privately-owned film companies that produced Taiwanese-dialect film. Li made more than a handful of such films, such as The Fickle Heart of a Beauty/Zhen jia meiren xin (1958), before being given a chance to direct a Mandarin film. Spring Tide at the Reclaimed Land/Haipu chunchao (1961), a romance used to propagate the achievements of Nationalist veterans who reclaimed land from the ocean, was Li Chia’s debut Mandarin film, which won him a chance to codirect with Lee Hsing the first healthy realism film made in the CMPC, The Oyster Girl/Ke nu (1963), which was successful domestically and won “Best Dramatic Feature” at the 1964 Film Festival in Asia.

Li Chia’s Orchids and My Love/Wo nu ruolan (1966), a melodramatic wenyi pian, won him “Best Director,” “Best Film,” and three other technical awards at the 1967 Golden Horse Awards. Later, Li’s The Evergreen Mountains/Gaoshan ching (1970) won “Excellent Film” and “Best Actor” (Ko Hsiang-Ting) Golden Horse awards.

Besides melodramatic wenyi pian, Li Chia was also known for his epic/war films, such as Fire Bulls/Huan wo heshan (codirected with Lee Hsing and Pai Ching-jui, 1966), a historical costume drama representing Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek’s determination to recover Mainland China; and Sergeant Hsiung/Da Motianling (1974), about a Nationalist army victory in battle with Communists in Northeast China (former Manchuria).

Li Chia was a director with the same status as Lee Hsing and Pai Ching-jui in the 1960s. He codirected with them once again in 1974, a portmanteau film, The Three Tales/Da san yuan, in which Li’s story concerned a boxer who found confidence in himself. Li codirected a military training drama with young female director Wang Ying, The Chinese Amazons/Nubing riji (1975), for the military-owned China Film Studio (CFS).

Li was also active in television series drama in the early- to mid-1970s, directing several popular martial arts serials. He also directed many wuxia films, such as Lost Samurai Sword/Yujian piao xiang (1977), based on famous wuxia writer Ku Lung’s novel and written for the screen by another famous writer, Ni Kuang; Pai yu ching/Bai yu jing, based on a second Ku Lung wuxia novel; Love and Sword/The Samurai/Yaoming di xiao fang (1979), adapted from a third wuxia novel by Ku Lung, and codirected with young director Yu Kan-ping, who wrote the screenplay of Pai yu ching for Li; and A Sword Named Revenge/Ming jian fengliu (1981), yet another wuxia pian based on a Ku Lung novel and again adapted by Ni Kuang.

One of Li Chia’s last films before retiring as a film director was Impending War/Zhanzheng qianxi (1984). The story depicts people’s anxiety caused by the Japanese invasion and Communist rebellion, as well as the difficult decisions faced by the general population in China during a time of dramatic turbulence in the 1920s and 1930s. This national policy film had a high budget, but was very unsuccessful at the box office.

The failures of Impending War and other national policy films in the mid-1980s marked the end of an era of government-affiliated studios making propaganda films, such studios included the CMPC, CFS, and Taiwan Film Studio (TFS), owned and operated by the Taiwan Provincial Government. At the same time, the CMPC started to implement its “newcomer policy,” fostering young novice directors who eventually created the Taiwan New Cinema movement in the mid-1980s.

The last stage in Li Chia’s career was primarily as a television series drama director. He died in Taipei of cardiopulmonary failure on 25 December 1994, at the age of 71. Before his death, Li was working on The Story of Langhong/Shao langhong (1992), which was completed by his protégé Yeh Hung-Wei.


LI, HAN-HSIANG (Li Hanxiang) (1926-1996). Director Li Han-hsiang was born in Jinxi County, Fentian (now Liaoning) Province in China. In 1946 Li enrolled in the National Peiping Academy of Arts, studying oil painting, where he was also active in theater performances. Because of his role in the student movement, Li was suspended and later expelled. He briefly studied at the Shanghai Experimental Drama School, before moving to Hong Kong in late 1947.

Li started his film career playing bit parts in productions of the Great China Film Company. In 1949 Li enrolled in the actors training class at Yung Hwa Motion Picture Studios, but was soon expelled again. He continued to perform small roles in Yung Hwa productions, before joining Great Wall Film Production Company and Grandview Studios, painting billboards, dressing sets, as well as acting in bit parts, and dubbing voices in foreign films. Li wrote the screenplay for Yan Jun’s Singing under the Moon/Cuicui (1953) and was assistant director.

Li’s directorial debut at age 30, Blood in Snow/Red Blood in the Snow/Xue li hong (1956), was a well-crafted film that earned him an invitation to join Shaw & Sons Ltd. When Shaw Brothers replaced Shaw & Sons, transforming into the foremost Hong Kong studio, Li became one of its finest directors. He directed 23 films for Shaw & Sons and Shaw Brothers, before establishing his own production company in 1963. Among these films, Diau Charn (1958), The Kingdom and the Beauty/Jiangshan meiren (1959) and The Love Eterne (1963) set off a wave of huangmei diao genre films in Hong Kong and Taiwan.

The Love Eterne was based on one of the most admired Chinese folktales. The tragic love story played for 186 days in Taiwan movie theaters, breaking all records. It was estimated that the number of tickets sold equaled 90 percent of Taipei’s population. When the film’s lead actress, Ivy Ling Bo, came to thank the audience a half year after the film premiered in Taiwan, she was literally surrounded by a frenzied crowd that extended from the Taipei airport to the cinema. Taipei was described as “a city of madness” by the Hong Kong press.

In 1963, Li Han-hsiang established his own Grand Motion Picture Company (GMP) in Hong Kong, and soon moved its operations to Taiwan under pressure from Shaw Brothers. GMP was established with financial backing from the Cathay Organisation, and the Union Film Company (Lianbang), a Taiwan film distributor of Motion Pictures and General Investment Co. Ltd. (MP&GI), Cathay Organisation’s subsidiary in Hong Kong. Lianbang sided with MP&GI because of a business dispute over the distribution right of The Love Eterne in Taiwan with Shaw Brothers.

Li brought with him to Taiwan some other directors, writers, film technicians, and a few actresses from Shaw Brothers. The GMP made many quality films in its five-year history in Taiwan. However, the company lost a lot of money due to Li’s lack of business and financial management abilities. Li’s financial situation deteriorated after a tragic plane crash that claimed the lives of MP&GI’s chairman and general manager, Loke Wan-tho, and the president of Lianbang, Hsia Weitang, as well as other delegates to the 11th Film Festival in Asia, held in Taipei in 1964.

After losing the two major supporters of the GMP, Li was less and less able to maintain a smooth cash flow, and had problems making ends meet. To make matters worse, Li borrowed money in 1966 to built soundstages and a backlot in suburban Taipei, in order to realize his grand scheme of establishing a film empire. Eventually, the GMP was not able to pull itself out of the financial morass, and Li lost both his film company and studio.

Afterward, Li stayed on in Taiwan working as a freelance director, developing and directing film projects for other film companies. His major works during this period included Storm over the Yangtse River/An Inch of Ground an Inch of Blood/Yicun shanhe yicun xie (1969) and The Story of Ti Ying/Tiying (1971), two popular films with political overtones that were produced by the military-operated China Film Studio.

In order to raise money to help Li out of his financial distress, directors Lee Hsing and Pai Ching-jui decided to produce a portmanteau film Four Moods/Xi nu ai le (1970). Lee Hsing, Li Han-hsiang, Pai Ching-jui and King Hu, considered the four major Taiwan directors at the time, were each to direct an episode expressing one of four moods – joy, anger, sorrow, and happiness – using actors and technicians from the Hong Kong and Taiwan film industries. Four Moods is considered an extraordinary film in Taiwan cinema history. Li directed the “Happiness” episode to look like a widescreen Chinese landscape painting, a visual masterpiece in which ghosts and humans, in separate ying and yang spaces, were positioned on the same plane. Foreground and background on the plane were used to switch between the states of null and full. Li’s aesthetics of poetry and painting contained symbolic meanings and philosophy of life.

However good their original intentions were, each of the directors of Four Mood tried his best to outshine the others, thus making the production costs too high to earn any significant profit meant to benefit Li Han-hsiang. Li was trapped in yet deeper water after being falsely accused of being a spy for the Mainland Chinese Communists. He was put under “island arrest” and prohibited from leaving Taiwan. Li was finally able to return to Hong Kong in 1971, using the pretense of working in Japan on a music score for the military-produced film, The Story of Ti Ying.

During his 8 years in Taiwan, Li Han-hsiang produced and directed many film classics, among the most important being Hsi Shih: Beauty of Beauties (1965) and The Winter (1969). Li was instrumental in promoting the development of Taiwan film genres, such as huangmei diao, historical costume drama, and spy drama.

The GMP had purchased the rights to adapt many Taiwanese popular romantic novels, and helped to create another film genre, wenyi pian. Among the wenyi pian films produced in Taiwan in the 1960s, those adapted from Chiung Yao were the most in demand. By the 1970s, the tremendous box-office success for films adapted from her romantic novels made Chiungyao film a unique genre of its own. Li was instrumental in promoting the genre in Taiwan.

After his dejected return to Hong Kong from Taiwan in 1971, Li Han-hsiang started “indulging in vices” and created yet another new genre, “cheating film.” His cheating trilogy about con games and everyday deceptions was a big hit, and Li received an invitation to rejoin Shaw Brothers. The profitability of his cheating films, fengyue films (erotic pictures or “softcore” sex films set in historical times), and warlord series, had won Li the trust of Sir Run Run Shaw, who approved him to direct The Empress Dowager/Qing guo qing cheng (1975) and The Last Tempest/Ying tai qi xie (1976), two historical epic dramas about the Qing imperial court.

Li began his plan to make films in China as early as 1979 and was finally able to realize his mainland projects in 1982. He directed The Burning of the Imperial Palace/Huo shao yuanmingyuan (1983) and Reign Behind a Curtain/Chui lian ting zheng (1983), another two historical drama epics that again dealt with the Qing Imperial Court of Empress Dowager Cixi. This time, however, Li shot the films at authentic locations in China, rather then on Hong Kong soundstages and studio backlots.

Li was also appointed a member of the National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, a patriotic united front organization led by the Communist Party of China. Li’s collaboration with the Communist government infuriated the Nationalist government in Taiwan, which was still in a hostile state with the Mainland Chinese. The Nationalist branded him a filmmaker affiliated with “the communist bandits.” Li was prohibited from entering Taiwan, and his films banned from public screenings there. The ban was finally removed after Taiwan lifted Martial Law in 1987. He was invited by Lee Hsing to attend the 1993 Golden Horse Awards, returning to Taiwan for the first time since his grand failure at running the GMP.

In 1997, at the Golden Horse Awards ceremony, Li was awarded a Life Achievement Award posthumously, a year after his death in Beijing while shooting a 40-episode historic epic television series Fire Burns the Efang Palace/Huo shao efanggong (1997).

During his long career, Li proved that he was still a master at historical research and art direction. In his epic drama films, using luxurious sets and props, Li is surpassed by no one in his ability to represent nuances of traditional Chinese ways of life.

Many classics produced and/or directed by Li Han-hsiang in the 1960s and early 1970s are among his great contributions to Taiwan cinema. The talent and knowledge Li brought to Taiwan had elevated both the techniques and standards of Taiwanese filmmakers. He set up training programs for actors and promoted the star system, facilitating the vitality and prosperity of the Taiwan film industry in the 1960s. He also developed many new genres, which boosted the quantity and variety of Taiwan films. Therefore, it is fair to say that a significant part of the foundation for Taiwan’s golden era of cinema in the 1970s was laid in the 1960s by Li Han-hsiang and his Grand Motion Picture Company.


LI, SHU (Ri Sho, Li Songfeng) (1904-2003). Among all those involved in the filmmaking business during the Japanese colonial rule, Li Shu (Ri Sho in Japanese, or Li Songfeng, as sometimes called by his friends) was the only native Taiwanese cinematographer. Li was born and raised in Shinchiku (Hsinchu/Xinzhu) City in Northern Taiwan. Graduating from Hsinchu First Common School (Shinchiku daiichi kōgakkō) in 1917, he enrolled in the Taiwan Commerce and Industry School (Taiwan shōkō gakkō), founded the same year by the Taiwan branch of Tōyō Kyōkai (Eastern Society), an organization set up by the Japanese government to help manage its colonies of Taiwan, Korea, and Manchuria.

After training four years at the vocational school, Li was admitted to Hsinchu Electric Light Company (Shinchiku dentō kaisha), and years later the Government-General Office’s Bureau of Colonial Production (Shokusankyoku), where he studied techniques of making movies by reading cinematography books in English and Japanese. He befriended and learned from Miura Masao, one of the cameramen from Japan proper hired by the Taiwan Education Society.

In order to put his new cinematography skills into practice, Li purchased a Universal 35mm film camera by mail order from Parker James Company in Chicago. Li was reported to be on the production team of God Is Merciless (1925), one of the earliest fiction films made in Taiwan by the Motion Pictures Department of Taiwan Nichi Nichi Shimpō (Taiwan Daily News), a local newspaper with strong ties to the colonial government.

When the Taiwan Cinema Study Association was established in 1925, Li was appointed a member of the board of directors, and was the cameraman for its debut film, Whose Fault Is It? (1925), a short fiction film made totally by members of the Association. He shot his debut film with the help of Miura Masao, who served as its consultant. The box office failure of the film was a big blow to Li and his friends in the Taiwan Cinema Study Association.

The same year, Li Shu also established a distribution company, Far East Shadowplay/Jidong yingxi gongsi (1925-1937), with Li Weiyuan, a friend from his home town, and some others. Their intention was to first distribute films from China and Western countries, and later to produce, exhibit, and rent films, a goal he and his partners was never able to achieve.

Li Shu was one of the earliest Taiwan distributors of Chinese films from Shanghai. In 1925 he went to Shanghai to arrange film distribution deals as well as to study techniques of film printing at Shanghai’s Pathé Studio. Chinese films imported by Far East Shadowplay included My Younger Brother/Didi (Dan Duyu, 1924) and Connected by Water and Fire/Shui huo yuanyang (Cheng Bugao, 1925).

Three years after the failure of Whose Fault Is It?, Li and some co-workers from the Taiwan Cinema Study Association were commissioned to shoot location scenes to be used in rensageki dramas performed by Jiangyun-she, a theater troupe from Taoyuan in northern Taiwan. The films were used to express intense feelings such as sad near-death situations. Such visual effects garnered applause throughout Taiwan, boosting the morale of Li and his group. They quickly established Baida Film Productions in 1929, with financial support from new partners.

Their first film, Blood Stains, an action-romance directed by Zhang Sunqu (Chyo Sonkyo), one of the directors of Whose Fault Is It?, premiered in early 1930 in Eraku-za to local Taiwanese audiences, was very successful at the box office. This inspired Li and his associates to start ambitious film projects that would be distributed to China and Southeast Asia. Even though Li’s camera was rather simple and crude, his camerawork was considered not inferior to that of Shanghai cameramen. Baida began recruiting actors and actresses in March 1930. However, Baida was incapable of adapting to the new era of sound films and rising militarism. Baida Film Productions was eventually disbanded in 1934.

Notwithstanding the difficulties encountered by Baida Film Productions, Li Shu continued his career as a cameraman, making films for all types of occasions, even funerals. He was commissioned in 1930 by Taiwan Nichi Nichi Shimpō to shoot newsreel footage of its correspondents, many branch offices and cityscapes near those branches. It was to be part of a documentary, A Film about a Newspaper/Shimbun eiga, compiled from footage shot by different cameramen during various stages of newspaper production and distribution. The documentary was made to celebrate completion of their new newspaper building.

Sound film was finally introduced to Taiwan in 1936 by the Taiwan Production Office of Kokusui Sound Film Productions, who came from Japan to produce an educational fiction film, Alas Shisangan. Li was in the camera crew. But after the Second Sino-Japanese War broke out in July 1937, there was no more camera work available. However, from May 1938 until the end of that year, Li was hired by Taiwan Film Industry Co., whose business mainly involved selling, renting, and maintaining 16mm and 35mm film equipment and supplies, as well as traveling exhibitions of films. In January 1939 Li transferred to a similar company, Nanhō Film Industry Co., in charge of cinematography and clerical work in its production department.

The Provisional Department of Information of the Government-General Office founded Taiwan Film Association (Tai’ei) in 1941, to regulate entertainment. This included all film activity, such as production, theatrical and non-theatrical distribution, and exhibition of both fiction and non-fiction films, island-wide, in Southern China, and in Southeast Asia. Li joined Tai’ei soon after it was established, as technician in charge of film lighting.

After Japan was defeated in the Pacific War, Taiwan was taken over by the Republic of China. The Propaganda Committee of the Taiwan Provincial Administrative Executive Office in the Nationalist government dispatched Bai Ke to take over Tai’ei in October 1945. Li Shu, and a few other Taiwanese who worked for Tai’ei, were retained in their original positions in the new organization based at Tai’ei’s facility, which would later be called Taiwan Film Studio, in which Li was hired as a technician in the film laborarory.

In 1953 Li left Taiwan Film Studio and established a shop in Ximenting, central Taipei, to run a film equipment rental business leasing cameras, lenses, and lighting equipments, as well as processing films. Three years later, when Taiwanese-dialect film became popular, Li was a cinematographer once again. Taohua Takes a Ferry/Taohua Guodu (Kuo Po-Lin/Guo Bolin, 1956) was one of the few films with Li’s camerawork that are still available. Afterward, Li Shu was active in the film circle for a while. He died in 2003 at the age of 99.




LIAO, CHING-SONG (Liao Qingsong) (1950- ). Nicknamed “caretaker of Taiwan New Cinema,” Liao Ching-Song/Liao Ching-Sung is an editor, director, writer, and producer, who was involved in most of the important Taiwan New Cinema (TNC) films and all of the post-Taiwan New Cinema films of Hou Hsiao-hsien, Wan Jen, and Peggy Chiao Hsiung-Ping.

Liao was born in Taipei’s Monga/Mengjia area. His home was close to a movie theater, where he frequently went to see movies “free,” since his neighbor was the projectionist. After watching a movie, Liao often told the story in the evening to his grandfather and children in the neighborhood. Thus, Liao’s interest in storytelling and films began when he was still in elementary school. After the death of his father, however, Liao withdrew from social communication, indulging in his own fantasy world. When he studied at Taipei Cheng Kung Senior High School, he became an enthusiastic cineaste, reading film books and drawing storyboards of the American TV war series Combat! (1962), rather than preparing for his college entrance exam. Consequently, Liao failed the exam and did not take it again, nor did he find a job. Instead, Liao attended the Central Motion Picture Corporation (CMPC)’s film technicians training class in 1973 to learn the techniques of film editing.

After graduating the same year as the top student in the training class, Liao was hired by the CMPC. His first job was assistant editor of a blockbuster film, Everlasting Glory/Ying lie qianqiu (Ting Shan-hsi, 1976). By the next film, also a blockbuster national policy film directed by Ting, Eight Hundred Heroes/800 Heroes/Babai zhuangshi (1977), Liao was promoted to co-editor. He edited three films directed by Lee Hsing, He Never Gives Up/Wangyang zhong de yi tiao chuan (1978), My Native Land/Yuan xiang ren (1980), and Land of the Brave/ Long de chuan ren (1981), as well as a dozen other traditional commercial films, before teaming up with Hou Hsiao-hsien and Chen Kun-Hou. Liao edited Hou’s three pre-TNC films, Cute Girl/Lovable You/Jiushi liuliu de ta (1980), Cheerful Wind/Play While You Play/Fenger ti ta cai (1981), and The Green, Green Grass of Home/Zai na hepan qingcao qing (1982).

The technique of film editing at the CMPC changed abruptly in the 1970s, from editing with upright Moviola to flatbed editing in 1976. When the CMPC and an Australian production company coproduced Attack Force Z/Z zi tegongdui in 1981 (directed by Tim Burstall, with Mel Gibson, John Philip Law, Sam Neill, and Taiwan star Sylvia Chang), Liao learned the techniques of editing sync sound from the Australian editor.

When the CMPC began its “newcomer policy,” hiring young, inexperienced directors to make the omnibus film, In Our Time/Guangyin de gushi (1982), Liao was the editor. Since then, Liao was editor of nearly all the films of the new directors. He participated in their films from preproduction, through editing, sound editing/mixing, color timing, and final printing, thus becoming a good friend and “caretaker” of these young directors.

During the Taiwan New Cinema period, Liao edited more than 10 films a year. Through interacting with them, he learned film aesthetics, and began studying many aspects of humanities, such as philosophy and literature. To Liao, editing became not only a profession, but an art.

Liao Ching-Song’s concept of editing experienced a ground-breaking change when Hou Hsiao-hsien made The Boys from Fengkuei/Fenggui lai de ren (1983), in which traditional, linear narrative logic was replaced by collage-style “jumping” emotional narrative logic.

Due to profession burnout from working too hard on editing too many films, Liao left the position as editor in 1984, when Hou was preparing his self-portrait film, A Time to Live and A Time to Die/Tongnian wangshi (1985). Though he tried to develop a new career in business, Liao could not resist Wan Jen’s invitation to cowrite Super Citizen/Chaoji shimin (1984). Liao went back to the CMPC only a year after his resignation. He became writer-director of Be My Lovely Child Again/Qidai ni zhangda (1987) and When the Ocean is Blue/Haishui zheng lan (1988), his only films as writer-director. In 2001, Liao codirected with Wan Jen Sacrificial Victims/Da xuanmin (aka Angel/Tianshi or guilei tianshi) (2002), which exposes the secrets of political maneuvering and election campaigns as well as the duplicity of political figures.

Liao’s working relationship with Hou Hsiao-hsien was, and is still, like wrestling, constantly fighting with each other to get the best out of a film. Sometimes the result was surprisingly good, while other times it was disappointing to Liao, although most often not to Ho. To Liao, A City of Sadness/ Beiqing chengshi (1989) was a pleasant surprise; The Puppetmaster/Xi meng rensheng (1993) a disappointment; Good Men, Good Women/Hao nan hao nu (1995) miserable; Goodbye, South Goodbye/Nanguo zaijian, nanguo (1996), an unexpected amazing success; and Flowers of Shanghai/Hai shang hua (1998), eye-opening.

Liao Ching-Song started producing with Wan Jen’s Super Citizen Ko/Chaoji da guomin (1994). Four years later, he began producing (as well as editing) Hou’s films, including Flowers of Shanghai, Millennium Mambo/Qianxi manpo (2001), Café Lumière/Kōhī jikō/Kafei shiguang (2003), Three Times/The Best of Times/Zui hao de shiguang (2005), and The Voyage of the Red Balloon/Le voyage du ballon rouge/Hong qiqiu (2007).

In the 2000s, Liao both produced and edited films by Taiwanese and Chinese young directors, including Somewhere Over Dreamland/Menghuan buluo (Cheng Wen-Tang, 2003), Reflections/Ailisi de jinzih (Yao Hung-i, 2005), and Judge/ Touxi (Liu Jie, 2009). He also helped Kawaguchi Hirofumi produce the Japanese director’s debut film, Rail Truck/Torocco (2010), a Japanese film shot in Taiwan.

In addition, Liao edited other young Taiwanese and Chinese directors’ films, such as Blue Gate Crossing/Lanse damen (Yee Chih-yen, 2002), Liao’s first encounter with post-Second New Wave directors; Love at 7-Eleven/7-Eleven zhi lian (Teng Yung-Shing, 2003), Drifters/Er di (Wang Xiaoshuai, 2003), Karmic Mahjong/Xiezhan daodi (Wang Guangli, 2006), Rain Dogs/Taiyang yue (Ho Yuhang, 2006), Courthouse on Horseback/Mabei shang de fating (Liu Jie, 2006), The Road in the Air/Danche shang lu (Isaac Li Zhi-Chiang, 2006), Island Etude/ Lianxi qu (Chen Huai-en, 2006), The Most Distant Course/Zui yaoyuan de juli (Lin Jing-Jie, 2007), God Man Dog/Liulang shen gou ren (Chen Singing, 2007), Orz Boyz/Jiong nanhai (Yang Ya-che, 2008), Detour to Paradise/Qilu tiantang (Rich Lee, 2008), Beautiful Crazy/Luan qingchun (Lee Chi-Yuan, 2008), Deep in the Clouds (Liu Jie and Ni Cai, 2010), One Day/You yi tian (Hou Chi-jan, 2010), and My Blind Uncle (George Hsin, 2010).

The many varied films that Liao Ching-Song has edited, written, and/or produced have won countless awards in film festivals around the world. In the 2002 Golden Horse Awards, he was the recipient of the “Best Taiwanese Film Professional of the Year” award. The National Culture and Arts Foundation presented Liao in 2007 the prestigious National Award for the Arts, in recognition of all his achievements as an artist.


LIAO, HSIANG-HSIUNG (Liao Xiangxiong) (1933- ). Born in the Japanese concession in Shanghai in 1933, director Liao Hsiang-hsiung was considered to be of Japanese nationality until 1945, when Japan surrendered unconditionally to the Allies. Liao moved to Taiwan with his family after World War II and began learning Mandarin. He entered the National Taiwan Teachers’ College (NTTC, now National Taiwan Normal University) in the early 1950s. After graduation, Liao briefly worked in the NTTC’s audiovisual department before he was sent by the government to study broadcasting at Japan’s public radio station, Nippon Hōsō Kyōkai (NHK) in 1959. Two years later, Liao was hired by San Francisco State University to edit Chinese-language textbooks, where he also received his MA degree in Radio-TV-Film after concurrently studying for three years in the graduate school.

After Liao Hsiang-hsiung returned from the United States in October 1964, he worked for four years at the Experimental Educational Television Broadcasting Station, owned and operated by the Ministry of Education, before he finally got a chance to direct his first feature film, General Kuan/Wusheng guangong (1969), a costume drama. With a feature under his arm, Liao was hired by Kung Hong, general manager of the Nationalist-owned Central Motion Picture Corporation (CMPC), as a contract director. His three-year, six-picture contract was completed in two years. The six films he made in 1970 and 1971 for the CMPC were mostly romantic costume dramas and romantic comedy, such as Love Can Forgive and Forget/Zhen jia qianjin (1971), which won Judy Ongg/Weng Qianyu an award for “Best Actress” at the 1972 Golden Horse Awards.

After leaving the CMPC before his three-year contract expired, Liao was hired by Taiwan Television Enterprise (TTV) as head of its programming department, then by Chinese Television Service (CTS) which employed him as programming consultant for five years. In 1980, Liao was appointed Director of Taiwan Film Studio (TFS). In his nearly five-year tenure at the TFS, Liao produced several feature films, including a portmanteau film, The Wheel of Life/Da lunhui (1983), codirected by older masters King Hu, Lee Hsing, and Pai Ching-jui, which failed badly at the box office, marking the emergence of Taiwan New Cinema.

Liao Hsiang-hsiung became director of the Department of Motion Picture Affairs (DMPA) in the Government Information Office (GIO) in 1987. As the only director of the DMPA who actually came from the film indusry, Liao was able to propose effective measures to help the industry, which began a two-decade downturn in the late 1980s. Such measures included starting the Domestic Film Guidance Fund, the exchange of films between Mainland China and Taiwan, and the lifting of restrictions so Taiwan productions could shoot on location in China.

Liao was assigned to a GIO post in Japan in 1989. After his five-year diplomatic service abroad, he was appointed general manager of a telecommunications company owned and operated by the Kuomintang Party (KMT), which started a satellite television channel in 1994 under Liao’s two-year leadership. In 1996, in preparation for Taiwan’s first democratic presidential election, Liao was assigned a post in the KMT as assistant publicity officer. He remained in the position for six years, until retiring in 2002.

During his 10-year career as a film director, Liao made at least 22 features, many of them romantic comedy films, but including melodramatic wenyi pian, thriller, and huangmei diao film as well. New West Chamber/Xin xi xiang ji (aka The Romance of the West Chamber) (1979), starring Judy Ongg, Ko Chun-hsiung, and renowned Taiwanese Opera singer Yang Li-hua, was Liao’s only huangmei diao film, and is considered the last such film made in Taiwan.


LIN, BRIGITTE CHING-HSIA (Lin Qingxia) (1954- ). Acting in over 100 films during a 20-year film career, Brigitte Lin Ching-Hsia (aka Lam Ching-ha/Venus Lin) was a superstar in both Taiwan and Hong Kong from the mid-1970s to mid-1990s. Lin was born on 3 November 1954 in Sanchung/Sanchong, near Taipei City. Her father was originally a soldier from China’s Shandong Province, who moved to Taiwan in 1949 when the Nationalists lost the Civil War there. While still a 17-year-old student at Ginling (Jinling) Girls’ High School in 1972, Lin was “discovered” by a talent scout on a street in Ximenting, an entertainment district in central Taipei.

Lin was introduced to director Sung Tsun-Shou, who was casting his Chiungyao film Outside the Window/Chuangwai (1973), based on Chiung Yao’s autobiographical novel of the same title. After persuading her parents, Lin starred in the film based on the novel of an author she adored. Though her debut performance was quite accomplished, it was never appreciated by the general audience in Taiwan, because the film was banned from showing in Taiwan until 2008 due to a copyright dispute between the filmmakers and the novelist. However, the film was very successful in Hong Kong and Southeast Asia.

The following year, Lin starred in Liu Chia-Chang’s wenyi pian, Gone with the Cloud/Yun piao piao (1974). The excellent box-office for this film prompted producers to try and sign a contract with her, but she was reluctant to be tied down and remained a freelance actor throughout her career. Lin appeared in 50 such romantic films. On average, Lin made five to six films per year during what she termed “unhappy Taiwan period” (1973-1984), and at her peak, 12 films in one year.

In those years, Brigitte Lin was most memorable for her roles in many Chiungyao films. She and Joan Lin Feng-Chiao, Chin Han and Charlie Chin Hsiang-Lin appeared regularly as couples in Chiungyao films during the mid-1970s, consolidating Chiung Yao’s “empire.” Thus, at the time, they were called the “double Lins and double Chins.” In fact, when Chiung Yao founded a production company, Super Star Motion Picture Company, to make her own Chiungyao film in 1977, Brigitte Lin was her top choice to star in the films. Lin was in nine of the 13 Super Star productions. Nevertheless, Lin’s triangular romantic affairs with Charlie Chin and Chin Han finally forced her to move to Los Angeles, where she made Love Massacre/Ai sha (1981), a thriller directed by Hong Kong New Wave director Patrick Tam Ka-Ming. This was a turning point in her career. After that, she was able to play more mature roles.

Before Love Massacre, besides the romantic films, Lin had occasionally appeared in other types of films, including Sung Tsun-Shou’s Ghost in the Mirror/Gujing youhun (1974), a costumed ghost movie, Richard Chen Yao-chi’s Taiwanese screwball comedy Run Lover Run/Aiqing changpao (1975), and national policy film such as Ting Shan-hsi’s Eight-Hundred Heroes/800 Heroes/ Babai zhuangshi (1977) and The Magnificent 72/Bixue huang hua (1980). The most important work of Lin during this period, however, was Li Han-hsiang’s film based on a classic Ching dynasty novel, The Dream of the Red Chamber/ Jinyu liangyuan honglou meng (1977), in which she played the leading male role, Chia Pao-yu/Jia Baoyu. The tradition of females playing males was not unusual in Chinese Opera, and Lin was happy to get rid of her “romantic feminine look.” The film foreshadowed Brigitte Lin’s gender-bending roles in Hong Kong director Tsui Hark’s Peking Opera Blues/Daoma dan (1986) and Swordsman II/Xiao ao jianghu zhi Dongfang Bu Bai (1992, produced by Tsui Hark, directed by Ching Siu-tung and Stanley Tong).

Before moving to Hong Kong, Lin appeared in three of Chu Yen-ping’s rather iconoclastic, mixed-genre, “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) – playing weird and absurd roles. Lin was obviously trying different genres, in an attempt to change her limiting superstar persona and find more challenging roles for herself. In 1983, she played a distinctive role in Tsui Hark’s Zu: Warriors from the Magic Mountains/Xin shushan jianxia. This experience, and her good working relationship with Tsui Hark, attracted Brigitte Lin to relocate to Hong Kong in 1984.

However, it took her awhile before she could get a satisfying role in Hong Kong. Like Maggie Cheung in Jacky Chan’s Police Story/Jingcha gushi (1985), Lin’s characters were also merely decorative. Her other disappointing roles included Ringo Lam’s The Other Side of Gentleman/Junzi haoqiu (1984) and Karl Maka’s The Thirty Million Rush/Hengcai san qianwan (1987). It was Tsui Hark’s Peking Opera Blues and Swordman II that finally offered the breakthrough roles that Lin was searching for, transforming her into a martial arts “movie goddess.”

In 1991, Lin Ching-Hsia accepted Taiwan film/theater writer-director Stan Lai’s invitation to perform in his play, Secret Love in Peach Blossom Land/Anlian taohua yuan, first on stage and a year later as a film. It was her last appearance in any Taiwanese film. Three years later, Lin got married and retired from acting. Among all the films she appeared in before retirement, Brigitte Lin’s performance in Wong Kar-wai’s Ashes of Time/Dong xie xi du (1994) and Chungking Express/ Chongqing senlin (1994) were the most memorable.


LIN CHAN-TING (Lin Zanting) (1930- ). Famed cinematographer Lin Chan-ting/ Lin Tsan-Ting was born on 22 March 1930 in Shengan, Taichung/Taizhong, in central Taiwan. After graduating from Taiwan Provincial Taichung First Senior High School in 1949, Lin became an apprentice in cinematography at the Agricultural Education Film Studio (AEFS) in Taichung. He was a camera assistant for Awakening from a Nightmare/Emeng chuxing (Tsung You/Zong You, 1950), the first anti-communist propaganda feature film made there. In 1954, when the AEFS merged with Taiwan Motion Picture Company (TMPC) to become Central Motion Picture Corporation (CMPC), Lin was promoted from apprentice to the position of technician, but still worked as a camera assistant.

At the time, CMPC did not make more than two films annually. Therefore, when Taiwanese-dialect film became popular in 1956, the CMPC allowed Lin Chan-ting and other technicians in the cinematography and editing departments, as well as directors and writers, to also work for private companies on their Taiwanese-dialect films. Thus, Lin made his first film as cameraman for a Taiwanese-dialect film, Love at Crossroads/Aiqing shizilu (Lu Su-shang, 1957). Lin shot many such films, until he was drafted into two-year compulsory military service, between 1958 and 1960. After discharge from the army, Lin continued as cameraman for Taiwanese-dialect films. He was a technician in the cinematography department in both The Great Wall/Shin shikōtei/Qin shi huang (1962, directed by Tanaka Shigeo, starring Katsu Shintarō), a CMPC-Daiei Studios coproduction, and Rainbow Over Kinmen Strait/Kimumontō ni kakeru hashi/Jinmenwan fengyun (1962, directed by Matsuo Akinori, starring Ishihara Yūjirō), a CMPC-Nikkatsu coproduction. To prepare the CMPC technicians for the two coproductions, the Japanese film companies trained Lin and other technicians for a short period in Japan, on the technology of color cinematography.

Lin became officially a cameraman in the CMPC in 1964. His first color Mandarin film was Bloodshed on Wedding Day/Xinhun da xiean (Wang Yin, 1965), a thriller. Lin won “Best Color Cinematography” in 1968 for Lonely Seventeen/Jimo de shiqi sui (Pai Ching-jui, 1967) at both the 1968 Golden Horse Awards and 1968 Film Festival in Asia, for his use of moving camera and color. Subsequently, Lin Chan-ting became cinematographer for most of Pai Ching-jui’s features. Lin won his second Golden Horse for “Best Color Cinematography” in 1973 for Love Begins Here/Ai de tiandi (Liu Chia-Chang, 1973), and again in 1975 for Girl Friend/Nu pengyou (Pai Ching-jui, 1974), and yet another in 1976 for Victory/Meihua (Liu Chia-Chang, 1975). He won his second “Best Cinematography” award at the Film Festival in Asia in 1974 for Falling Snow Flakes/Xuehua pianpian (Liu Chia-Chang, 1974), a takeoff on Doctor Zhivago (David Lean, 1965).

Liu Chia-Chang, whose films relied heavily on beautiful songs and excellent cinematography, counted on Lin Chan-ting’s camerawork. Other young directors of the 1970s and 1980s, such as Richard Chen Yao-chi and Wan Jen, also depended on Lin’s expertise in cinematography.

After Lin retired from the CMPC in early 1980s, he established Yifeng Studio to produce commercials/advertising films. He was also Taiwan producer for the commercials/advertising films of Dentsu Inc., Japan’s largest advertising agency.

Lin was president of ROC Cinematographers Association between 1994 and 1999.

Throughout Lin Chan-ting’s career as cinematographer, he made more than 130 feature films.


LIN CHENG-SHENG (Lin Zhengsheng) (1959- ). One of the prominent directors in the Second New Wave/Second Wave Taiwan Cinema, Lin Cheng-sheng is famous for his legendary ascent from bread baker to internationally renowned filmmaker.

Lin was born to a farming family in 1959, in Guanshan, a small town in rural Southeastern Taiwan. Lin’s father had been prevented by Lin’s grandfather from attending Japanese-run school, leading to lifelong resentment about the “snuffing out” of a brighter future, and constant quarreling between the father and grandfather. Lin’s mother died when he was very young, so his older sister had to drop out of elementary school to take care of him. Lin’s father wanted him to attend vocational school, instead of an academic high school, against his son’s will. Lin attended neither school and, at age 16, ran away to Taipei, where he became an apprentice at a bakery, working there on and off for 10 years.

After Lin Cheng-sheng completed the required military service, as much as he did not want to, he felt he had no option other than going back to baking. Whenever he was tired of the work, Lin would go home to Guanshan, and when things deteriorated, even steal money from his father.

Such a miserable life was unexpectedly changed by a sign announcing a film writing-directing workshop. Lin attended it and learned the basics of film aesthetics and screenwriting. He met his future wife, Ko Shu-ching/Ke Shuqing, in the workshop, and they made the acquaintance of Hsu Li-kong, director of the Film Library. Hsu later became the general manager of Central Motion Picture Corporation (CMPC), and thus, was in a position to help Lin realize his dream of being a film director.

After finishing the training courses in the workshop, Lin and Ko married when they both were 29. Lin concentrated on writing screenplays, occasionally working as a hired hand at an orchard run by friends in Lishan, deep in the mountains in central Taiwan. Eventually, the couple rented an orchard to grow apples. They unfortunately lost their investment, which prompted Lin to buy a video camera and made a feature documentary on the lives of fruit farmers in Lishan. Old Chou, Old Wang, A-Hai and Their Four Farm Hands/Lao zhou lao wang ahai han ta de si ge gongren (1990) won top prize in the China Times Express Awards.

Next, Lin shot another documentary on video, Murmur of Youth/Meili zai changge (1991), tracing the life of a neighbor’s daughter who loved to sing, from adolescence to adulthood. Lin’s third short video documentary, Peacock Land of A-Feng and A-Yen/Afeng ayan de kongqiao di (1992), was about the farmers’ relationship to the land in Lishan. Both films again won awards at the same competition held by the China Times Express, an evening newspaper published by the China Times, a prestigious newspaper in Taiwan. Lin’s style of documentaries was straightforward and unpretentious, something one also finds in Lin’s feature films.

The Nationalist government declared 1993 “Cinema Year,” to help rescue the dying Taiwan film industry. A competition for short narrative film grants was started, and Lin’s proposal was selected. Lin’s first narrative film, Family Heirloom/Chuan jia bao (1994), was based on his own family. The short would become the blueprint for his debut feature-length narrative film, A Drifting Life/Chun hua meng lu (1995), which received a NT$4 million (US$150,000) government grant from the Government Information Office’s Domestic Film Guidance Fund, and was partially financed by the CMPC.

A Drifting Life is set in eastern Taiwan, where the tragic lives of a man and three generations of women unfold, as the four seasons change. Emotionally falling apart after his beloved wife dies in childbirth, the man (Lee Kang-seng) takes to the road, leaving his daughter and new-born son with his mother. He drifts around, working from place to place, and only comes home occasionally to visit his family. The film, reminiscent of Hou Hsiao-hsien’s early Taiwan New Cinema works, was also rooted in Lin’s memories of childhood and imaginings of his mother. It moves slowly, showing life as it is. A Drifting Life won a “Silver Award” at the 1996 Tokyo Film Festival’s Young Cinema Competition. It was invited to Section Parallèle (International Critics’ Week) at the 1996 Cannes Film Festival, winning “Special Mention Prize of the Ecumenical Jury,” and also received “Special Jury Award” at the Fribourg Film Festival in Switzerland.

Lin’s second narrative feature, Murmur of Youth/Meili zai changge (1996), unrelated to his 1991 documentary feature of the same title, was coproduced by the CMPC and Zoom Hunt International Productions, founded by Hsu Li-kong after he left the CMPC in 1996. It portrays the relationship between two young women selling tickets in a Taipei movie theater box office. The film, one of the earliest Taiwan films to deal with lesbian romance in a sympathetic manner (see GAY AND LESBIAN FILMS), won both leading actresses, René Liu and newcomer Tseng Jing, “Best Actress Awards” at the 1997 Tokyo Film Festival, and screened in the Directors’ Fortnight at the 1996 Cannes Film Festival. The film established Lin’s presence on the international film festival circuit.

With Lin’s consecutive successes in the Tokyo Film Festival, his next film, also produced by Hsu Li-kong, attracted investment from Japanese public television station Nippon Hoso Kyokai (Japan Broadcasting Corporation, NHK). Sweet Degeneration/Fang lang (1997) tells the story of a directionless young man, troubled by the forbidden love between him and his older sister. Lin drew on his own life, once again, to construct the main character. The film was selected into competition at the 1998 Berlin Film Festival.

Set against a background of power transition from Japanese colonial rule to the Nationalist takeover of Taiwan, Lin’s next film, March of Happiness/Tianma cha fang (1999), incorporates the “Taiwan New Drama Movement” (see ERAKU-ZA; LIN TUAN-CHIU) and the “228 Incident” (in which the Nationalist army violently suppressed protesters and innocent bystanders, causing more than 20,000 deaths and casualties). The film, a (melo)dramatic, tragic love story, was actually adapted from a television drama series with the same title, commissioned by Formosa TV, owned and operated by a relatively small group who support the opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP). March of Happiness was selected to screen in “Un Certain Regard” at the 1999 Cannes Film Festival. It was fairly well received in Taiwan, but was not successful with critics locally or internationally.

Betelnut Beauty/Ai ni ai wo (2000), a France-Taiwan coproduction, was the second film in producer Peggy Chiao’s “Tale of Three Cities” project, which included Chinese director Wang Xiaoshuai’s Beijing Bicycle/Shiqi sui de danche (2001), as well as Taiwan directors Yee Chih-yen’s Blue Gate Crossing/Lanse damen (2002) and Hsu Hsiao-ming’s Love of May/Wuyue zhi lian (2004). Praised for its “fluid, almost jazz-like approach to film grammar,” the film was awarded the “Silver Bear for Best Director” and the “Piper Hidsieck New Talent Award” for the best young actress (Angelica Lee Sinje) at the 2001 Berlinale.

Following the great success of Betelnut Beauty, Lin did not go straight into making another film. Instead, he did a TV movie for Taiwan’s Public Television Service (PTS), The Man Who Lives in the Hotel/Yige zhu fandian de nanren (2001), about a lonely real estate broker who aspires to own a small island in the Caribbean, called “Crusoe,” in order to start a new life. Two years later, it was remade into Lin’s next feature film, Robinson’s Crusoe/Lubinxun piaoliu ji (2003), which was once again selected by “Un Certain Regard” at the 2003 Cannes Film Festival. The film was praised for its astute precision of the performances, subtle script, and understated mise-en-scène.

The Moon Also Rises/Yueguang xia wo jide (2004), currently Lin’s most recent narrative feature film, is a family drama set in the mid-1960s, in which a divorced mother’s (Yang Kuei-Mei) tattered, desolate heart and passion is reawakened when she intercepts and secretly reads love letters sent to her daughter by a boyfriend teaching on an offshore island. Lin continues his style of using calm, contemplative images and carefully constructed domestic scenes, to contrast with intertwined complex political, social, and moral issues, and human relationships. The film received the “Best Screenplay” award and a special award for actress Yang Kuei-Mei at the 2005 Asia-Pacific Film Festival. Yang also won for “Best Actress” and Lin for “Best Adapted Screenplay” at the 2004 Golden Horse Awards.

Lin Cheng-sheng resumed making documentaries after 2005. Our Children/ Women de haizi (2007) explores the differences in quality between rural and urban schools. My Ocean/Haiyang lianxi qu (2008) follows the making of a 14-seat traditional Tao Aboriginal boat, then the historic voyage of these tribesmen, rowing the boat that was handmade from 60 indigenous wooden planks, from their home on Taiwan’s offshore Lanyu Island (Orchid Island), northward along Taiwan’s east coast, and their arrival in Taipei. Lin’s next documentary, Twinkle Twinkle Little Stars/Yi shan yi shan liang jing jing (2010) explores the lives of four mothers and their children with autism.

Before directing his debut narrative feature film in 1996, Lin Cheng-sheng acted in a dark comedy, Tropical Fish/Redai yu (Chen Yu-Hsun, 1995), playing an unsophisticated kidnapper. Short and pot-bellied, Lin has an earthy appearance, making him the choice of many directors to play Taiwanese rural characters. In Buddha Bless America/Tai ping tian guo (Wu Nien-Jen, 1996), Lin was cast as a villager who was caught in the middle of a conflict caused by the misunderstanding between fellow villagers and the United States army that was carrying out a military exercise there. In Yours and Mine/Wo de shenjingbing (Wang Shau-Di, 1997), Lin plays an unkempt man with wild frizzy hair, who doubts his sexual abilities. Even though he was praised for his talent in acting, Lin said that, actually, he was just playing himself, and wouldn’t seek an acting career.

Lin’s legendary baker-to-director story will no doubt follow him throughout his life. Despite humble upbringing, however, Lin’s films prove that he is a talented filmmaker with his own unique style. That being said, most of his films since 2000 have failed at the box office. Unfortunately, Lin, unlike Hou Hsiao-hsien and Tsai Ming-liang, does not have a large contingent of cineasts following him in Europe, so his work is not very marketable in art cinemas. Consequently, it has been difficult for him to find financial backing for new projects. That may explain why he has not made any narrative feature film since 2004.


LIN, CHING-CHIEH (Lin Qingjie) (1944- ). Famous for his 1980s “campus film” about high school students, writer-director Lin Ching-chieh was born on 6 January 1944 in Chiao Hsi/Jiaoxi, Yilan County, northeastern Taiwan. After graduating from Provincial Yilan Senior High School, Lin enrolled in the Department of Fine Arts at National Taiwan Normal University. He was a high school teacher for a short time, before switching his career from teaching to filmmaking in 1967.

Lin began his film career as scriptwriter and second assistant director for directors Jiang Lang (aka Cheng Yi-nan/Cheng Sheng-fu), Chen Hung-Min, Lee Hsing (The Jade Goddess/Yu guanyin, 1968), Richard Chen Yao-chi (on his first feature, A Test of Love/San duo hua, 1970), and first assistant director for martial arts wuxia pian The Great Duel/One-Armed vs. the Red Devil/Guijianchou juedou dubeidao wang (Fu Ching-hua, 1971), among others.

Lin cowrote the screenplays for Taiwan-dialect film, such as I Hate You Deeply/Hen ni ru gu (Kuo Ching-Chiang, 1967), a tear-jerker melodrama, and for Mandarin films, including the kung fu fantasy To Subdue Evil/Duel of Karate/ Tie tui jiang mo (Fu Ching-hua and Yang Ching-Chen, 1971), wenyi pian melodrama Love Forever/Hai shi shan meng (Hsu Chin-liang, 1975), science fiction fantasy Mars Men/Huoxing ren (Chen Hung-Min, 1976), etc. He also wrote scripts for several Taiwanese-dialect television drama series.

Lin’s directorial debut film, A Problematic Student/Yi ge wenti xuesheng (1980), was based on a novel about student gangs. The success of A Problematic Student encouraged Lin to establish his own production company, where he made three more such “campus film” in 1981 – Student Days/Xuesheng zhi ai, Co-ed Classes/Nan nu he ban, and Classmates/Tong ban tongxue, the last two written by Wu Nien-Jen, who won “Best Original Screenplay” for Classmates at the 1981 Golden Horse Awards. Classmates was also nominated for “Best Feature Film,” “Best Director,” and “Best Actor,” while Student Days was nominated for “Best Original Screenplay” (Lin Ching-chieh).

Between 1980 and 1990, Lin directed 22 features, 14 of them “campus films,” the rest mainly wenyi pian and comedy. Lin also made serious films about social issues, such as Missing Persons/Shizong renkou (1987), about human trafficking and underage prostitution among the aboriginal tribes, and Crazy Lotto Game/Fengkuang dajiale (1986), a satire about the general population’s madness for playing lotto games. Lin also made a tear-jerker music film for Hong Kong’s Cinema City Enterprise, Cabaret Tears/Send in the Clowns/Taishang taixia (cowritten by Hou Hsiao-hsien and Wu Nien-Jen, 1983), which was made following the success of Yu Kan-ping’s Papa, Can You Hear Me Sing?/Da cuo che (1983).

In the mid-1980s, Lin cowrote screenplays for two films based on renowned writer Kenneth Pai Hsien-yung’s novels –The Last Night of Madame Chin/Jin daban de zuihou yiye (Pai Ching-jui, 1984), and Love, Lone Flower/Gu lian hua (produced by John Woo, 1985), which he also directed for Cinema City Enterprise and Long Shong International Film Company. He also wrote and directed a film adapted from a novel of nativist novelist Wang Tuo of the same title, Aunt Chin-shui/Jinshui shen (1987).

With the downturn of Taiwan cinema starting from late 1980s, Lin’s film career stopped for almost a decade. He went to Mainland China, settling in Amoy/Xiamen in 1992. In 1999, Lin returned to Taiwan to make a TV drama series, A Boat on the Vast Ocean, produced by Public Television Service. The series, based on an autobiography which had previously been made into an award-winning film, He Never Gives Up/Wangyang zhong de yi tiao chuan (1978) by Lee Hsing, was nominated as “Best Series Drama” at the 2000 Golden Bell Television Awards. However, it cost Lin NT$10 million (US$280,000), due to going over-budget and a penalty for delivering the program late.

Lin Ching-chieh is now mostly based in Xiamen, China. He resumed directing feature films in 2001, with a youth romance, Devoted to You/The Story of First Love/Bai fen bai ai ni, shot in Xiamen. Currently, he has plans to make another romantic film about youth – three love stories of a young girl, also shot in Xiamen. In recent years, Lin has been producing TV drama series for Chinese television, as well. In 2007, he made the series, Teacher, You’re Wrong/Laoshi cuo le, produced by China Central Television (CCTV), a love story about a family divided by the Taiwan Strait.


LIN FU-DI (1934- ). Experienced in every aspect of filmmaking, not only producing and directing, Lin Fu-Di was born on 21 August 1934 in rural Putze, Chiayi/Jiayi County in central Taiwan. At first an art teacher in middle-school after graduating from Taiwan Provincial Tainan Normal School, in 1958 he was attracted to the making of Taiwanese-dialect films, which began to flourish in the mid-1950s.

Lin worked as a script supervisor, makeup artist, set decorator, still photographer, lighting technician, and camera assistant, before becoming a producer who invested all his money to make a Taiwanese-dialect film. Unfortunately, the film came out in 1959, during the sudden decline of Taiwanese-dialect film, costing him his entire investment. Afterward, he became manager of a movie theater in Shuangxi, a small town in eastern Taipei County (now New Taipei City). Lin acquired his film knowledge during this time. In 1961, he was invited to write a screenplay by his friend who founded a film company that made Taiwanese-dialect film. Lin started learning the craft of screenplay writing and became assistant director for renowned Taiwanese-dialect film director Shao Luo-hui.

Lin Fu-Di’s directorial debut film, Twelve Astrologies/Shier xingxiang (1961), copied the Japanese film Eight Brave Brothers/Satomi hakken-den (Uchida Kokichi, 1959), with all his actors coming from Taiwanese Opera. The film was a great hit. Subsequently Lin made over 50 such films within three years, mostly melodramatic wenyi pian about romance or family drama, the most well-known being Golden Demon/Konjiki yasha/Jinse yecha (1964), Lovable Man/Ke’ai de ren (1964), City of Sadness/Beiqing chengshi (1964) (not Hou Hsiao-hsien’s classic film of the same title), Hometown in the Dusk/Huanghun de guxiang (1965), and Filial Daughter’s Desire/Xiaonu de yuanwang (1965).

Lin Fu-Di began directing Mandarin film in 1964. His first such film, The Oath/Haishi shanmeng (1964), starring famous Mandarin film actress Chiao Chiao and famous star of Taiwanese-dialect film Yang Ming (aka Tsai Yang-Ming), impressed director Li Han-hsiang so much that Li invited Lin to join his Grand Motion Picture Company (GMP) in 1966. Lin signed a three-year contract, directing five films for the GMP – Lady in the Tower/Tali de nuren (1967), a wenyi pian based on the novel of Wumingshi (meaning “anonymous”); three Chiungyao films: The Whirl/Chuang li chuang wai (1967), The Distant Smiling Mountains/Deep in the Mountains/Yuan shan han xiao (1967), and Female Radish Grass/Nuluocao (1968); and one based on folk legend, Black Bull and White Snake/Hei nu yu bai se (1969). All these films were assignments, made with very tight budgets and short schedules.

After leaving the Grand Motion Picture Company, Lin made several martial arts films, including The Last Day of Hsin Yang/They Died for the Princess/Xue sheng/Guo guan (1968), a wuxia pian based on Kurosawa Akira’s The Hidden Fortress/Kakushi-toride no sanakunin (1958). In 1970, Lin worked for Cathay Organisation, including a wuxia pian, Mission to Die/Xuelu xielu/Sheng long jian xia (1970), and a wenyi pian, The Apartment/Wo ai shasha (1970). Next, he wrote and directed a wuxia pian for Shaw Brothers, The Imperial Swordsman/Da’nei gaoshou (1972). When Li Han-hsiang left Taiwan and returned to Hong Kong in the early 1970s, Lin helped Li make his cheating film, such as The Legend of Cheating/The World of Cheater/Pianshu qitan (1971), and Cheat to Cheat/ Pianshu qi zhong qi (1973). After Li rejoined Shaw Brothers, Lin Fu-Di began making films in Hong Kong and Taiwan, wherever he was needed.

Lin Fu-Di is a versatile director who can make wenyi pian, wuxia pian, kung fu film, comedy, and romance. He even directed one episode in Hsu Feng’s “Kung Fu Kids Series,” Young Dragons: Kung Fu Kids III/Hao xiao zi disanji kuer liulang ji (1987), written by Tsai Ming-liang. He was summoned by Li Han-hsiang in 1990 to help with Li’s two soft-porn films, The Golden Lotus: Love and Desire/Jinping fengyue (1991) and Madame Bamboo/Zhu furen (1991). The films were made in Korea for a Korean company, Jin Gao Run Film Company, and were co-directed by Lin, Li, Hsia Tsu-Hui, and Liu Kuo-hsiung. Lin’s last film, Sun of Ejection/A Sun Without Angles/Quejiao de taiyang (1990), was a biographical film about a handicapped singer nicknamed Aji Zai (real name Lin Ching-chi/Lin Qingji). In a way, this film is very much like a Taiwanese-dialect film, with which Lin Fu-Di began his film career.

Lin Fu-Di was also a respected director of television drama series since the late 1970s. Several of his famous series, such as Never-Ending Memory/Jiuqing mianmian (1981), A-Lang (1982), The Stars Know My Heart/Xingxing zhi wo xin (1984), and Grass Scholar/Caodi zhuangyuan (1991), had very high ratings and won many awards. The Stars Know My Heart was also broadcast in China, where it was also very popular. These TV dramas, in Taiwanese-dialect, Hakka, and Mandarin, were very similar to Taiwanese-dialect films popular from the 1960s, in their directing style and acting method. It seems that Lin made two full circles in his life, from Taiwanese-dialect film to Mandarin film and back to Taiwanese- dialect film, as well as from Taiwan to Hong Kong and then back to Taiwan.


LIN, JOAN FENG-CHIAO (Lin Fong-chiao, Lin Fengjiao) (1953- ). Born on 30 June 1953 to a poor family in Taiwan, actress and movie star Joan Lin Feng- Chiao/Lin Fong-chiao/Lin Fengjiao made over 100 films in her 10-year film career between 1972 and 1982 that ended abruptly when she (secretly) married Jackie Chan and gave birth to a son, Jacee Chan (aka Fang Zuming).

As the eldest daughter in a large family, Lin Feng-Chiao quit school when she was 12 to help with family chores. At 19, director Wang Hsing-Lei cast her to replace Chen Chen in Hero of the Waterfront/Hero of Chiu Chow/Chaozhou nu han (1973). Her performances in that film and several other kung fu films did not attract much attention. Lin appeared in a handful of romantic wenyi pian in the following years. However, it was not until Lee Hsing cast her in Land of the Undaunted/Wu to wu min (1975) that she improved her acting and transformed her image, becoming one of the famed “double Lins and double Chins,” a powerhouse group of stars that included Brigitte Lin Ching-Hsia, Chin Han, and Charlie Chin Hsiang-Lin, renowned for their wenyi pian roles, especially in Chiungyao films. In these films, Lin Feng-Chiao’s characters were restrained, gentle young ladies from average families. The only exception was her masochistic career-breakthrough role in Sung Tsun-Shou’s Ask My Love from God/Ci qing ke wen tian (1978), in which Lin played a stubborn and depressed woman.

Lin Feng-Chiao won the Best Actress Award at the 1978 Asia Film Festival for her performance in Lee Hsing’s He Never Gives Up/Wangyang zhong de yi tiao chuan (1978) and Best Actress at the 1979 Golden Horse Awards for The Story of a Small Town/Xiao cheng gushi (Lee Hsing, 1979).


LIN TUAN-CHIU (Lin Tuanqiu) (1920-1998).  Writer-director of Taiwan theater (1940s and 1950s) and Taiwanese-dialect film, Lin Tuan-Chiu was born on October 6 1920 in Tōen gai (today’s Taoyuan City) to a wealthy family. His father ran a transportation and marketing service for coal mines.

In 1938, Lin dropped out of Shinchiku (Hsinchu/Xinzhu) High School and switched to the Affiliated High School of Nihon University in Japan. Later, he was admitted into the Department of Politics and Economics at Meiji University, became interested in theater, and started to write plays. After graduating in 1942, Lin joined the writing-directing department of the Mourin Rouge/Mūran rūju Theater Troupe in Shinjuku, Tokyo. He was sent briefly to help with film production at Toho Pictures, where he got first-hand experience in professional filmmaking. By the end of 1942, Lin staged his debut work, Village in the Deep Mountains/Okuyama no sha, making him the first playwright in Japan to come from Japan’s colony of Taiwan.

Between 1941 and 1943, whenever he returned home to visit his family, Lin Tuan-Chiu would participate in activities of the Futabakai Theater Troupe in Tōen. After he finally settled down in Taiwan in 1943, he founded a theater troupe, Public Welfare Theater Study Association/Kōsei engeki kenkyū kai, with Chang Wen-huan and other friends. They continued the “Taiwan New Drama Movement,” which had been disrupted by the outbreak of the Second Sino- Japanese War. Lin, in charge of the writing-directing, was able to successfully stage several plays in Taipei’s Eraku-za theater in September 1943. Capon/Yan ji, which tried to raise Taiwanese consciousness during World War II, was a milestone in the development of Taiwan theater, becoming a classic.

After the end of the war, Lin established another theater troupe called Human Theater/Renjuzuo/Hito geki za, staging several plays, including Medical Ethics and Crime. Lin ended his theater activity and returned to run his family’s businesses after the “228 Incident” occurred in 1947. However, 10 years later, Taiwan-dialect film became popular. Disappointed at the low quality of these films, Lin started a film company, Yufeng Pictures, to produce serious, high-quality Taiwanese-dialect film. To achieve this goal, he established a Hushan Studio and built a soundstage in the mountainous area near Yingge in Taipei County (now New Taipei City). The soundstage, said to be the largest in Taiwan at the time, was able to complete a film entirely in-house, from preproduction to postproduction. Lin ran the studio like a school, training film talent, such as renowned 1960s actor Ling Yun of Shaw Brothers and actress Chang Mei-Yao.

Unfortunately, the founding of Yufeng Pictures was ill-timed. Just when Lin Tuan-Chiu started to make films, the market for Taiwanese-dialect films crashed. In spite of this downturn, in 1959 Lin directed Brother Asan Running for Election/ Asan ge chu ma and A Sigh for Prostitutes/Tan yanhua, rigorously serious works. The next year, Lin’s An Intricate Love Affair/Cuo lian, with its penetrating psychological portrayal of the characters, was even considered a masterpiece in Taiwanese-dialect film. The poor box-office of these films forced Lin to discontinue film production.

A few years later in 1965, when Taiwanese-dialect cinema was blooming once again, Yufeng’s talent had already dissipated. Lin Tuan-Chiu had no choice but to find new creative talent and crew in order to make Heartbreaking Night on the 13th of May/Wuyue shisan shangxin ye and Six Suspects/Liu ge xianyifan. Lin’s productions were renowned for their delicate camera movement and careful framing, qualities rarely seen in films directed by other Taiwanese-dialect directors.

By this time, the Censorship Board made it difficult for such filmmakers to pass inspection, due to the government’s “national language” policy promoting Mandarin film and discouraging Taiwanese-dialect films (see CENSORSHIP). The non-film media environment in the mid-1960s was also not favorable to the development of Taiwanese-dialect film, as Taiwan Television Enterprise (TTV) had been inaugurated in 1962 and a second television station was on its way. This led to the exit of Lin from filmmaking, and he became involved in manufacturing the rest of his life. Lin Tuan-Chiu died on 4 April 1998 at the age of 79.


LIU, CHIA-CHANG (Liu Jiachang) (1941- ). Liu Chia-Chang was born in Harbin/Haerbin, Northeast China in 1941. His family moved with him to Incheon, South Korea, while he was still a child. Liu came to Taiwan in 1962 as an overseas student, to study in the Department of Political Science at National Chengchi University. However, he soon dropped out of school to sing popular songs in English at night clubs. Liu married actress Chiang Ching/Jiang Qing in 1966 (the couple divorced in 1970), and started writing popular songs and film music. In 1968, he wrote his first screenplay, and started to make low-budget independent films as writer, director, actor, and composer.

After completing Late Autumn/Wan qiu in 1972, Liu could not find any theater in Taipei to screen the film, because martial arts wuxia pian was at its height. Liu eventually had to rent a movie house and publicize the film himself. To everyone’s surprise, the box-office was quite successful, thus making him an instant celebrity.

Liu’s films in this period were cheaply made on location, with a very low shooting ratio, many long takes, and many empty scenery shots to accompany songs. Liu was not good at drama, so he simplified stories and diluted conflicts, emphasizing only sensational plots. Suffice it to say that his films were primarily made to sell vinyl records of his songs. They were made like large-scale music films, with songs leading the narrative, and images shot to accompany lyrics. Such films in the “Liu” style, despite attacks from film critics, were popular among young audiences in the 1970s.

Liu also copied from foreign films. For example, One Family/Yi jia ren (1973) took after Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (Stanley Donen, 1954), Moon River/Yun he (1974) imitated Roman Holiday (William Wyler, 1953), Chun Chun’s Love/Chunchun de ai (1974) copied Love Story (Arthur Hiller, 1970), Falling Snow Flakes/Xuehua pian pian (1974) mimiced Doctor Zhivago (David Lean, 1965), and A Teacher of Great Soldiers/Huangbu junhun (1979) is a takeoff on The Long Gray Line (John Ford, 1955).

After a few years of hardship as an independent filmmaker, Liu was admitted into major film studios, such as Central Motion Picture Corporation (CMPC) and Union Film Company (Lianbang). His films for Lianbang included I will Always Be With You/You wo jiu you ni (1971), which was publicized as a film shot in three days, Gone With the Cloud/Yun piao piao (1974), Moon River/Yun he (1974), Misty Drizzle/Yan yu (1975), and The September Song/Feng hong ceng ceng (1975). Gone With the Cloud, starring Brigitte Lin, came immediately after her appearance in Outside the Window/Chuangwai (Sung Tsun-Shou, 1973). It became Lin’s first film in Taiwan, after Outside the Window was banned from screening in Taiwan by court order when Chiung Yao won a lawsuit against director Sung and his partners. Liu’s Moon River was a big budget film, supported by Lianbang, with four male stars (Charlie Chin, Yue Yang, Ku Ming-Lun, Qiu Yanliang) and four female stars (Brigitte Lin, Chen Chen, Judy Ongg, Hu Jin).

Liu’s first film at the CMPC, Love Begins Here/Ai de tiandi (1973), starring Judy Ongg/Weng Qianyu, took only 16 days to shoot. It included 10 beautiful songs, which were already very popular before the film was even distributed. The low-budget film earned a lot of money for the CMPC, pleasing its new general manager Mei Chang-Ling. As a favorite director of Mei during his tenure as head of the CMPC, Liu was given the chance to make high-budget national policy films, such as Victory/Meihua (1976) and A Teacher of Great Soldiers/Huangpu junhun (1979). Victory won for “Best Film,” “Best Screenplay” (Deng Yukun), “Best Cinematography” (Lin Chan-ting), “Best Music” (Liu Chia-Chang), and “Best Sound Effects” (Hsin Chiang-sheng) at the 1976 Golden Horse Awards. A Teacher of Great Soldiers was awarded “Best Actor” (Ko Chun-hsiung) at the 1979 Golden Horse.

Liu and actress Chen Chen became a couple in the mid-1970s, making several films together, such as Sunset in Beijing/Riluo Beijing cheng (1977) and Autumn Memories/Feng lin xiao yu (1978). After the suicide of the film’s lead actor, Ku Ming-Lun, Liu and his wife Chen Chen emigrated to the United States. In the mid-1990s, the couple moved their non-film business first back to Taiwan and then, after 2000, to Mainland China.


LIU PI-CHIA (1967). Director Richard Chen Yao-chi’s MFA thesis film in the University of California at Los Angeles’ graduate filmmaking program, Liu Pi-Chia/Liu Bijia is the first modernist documentary film made in Taiwan using the style of “observational cinema,” popular in the United States and Europe in the 1960s. Before Liu Pi-chia, such films in Taiwan were usually made following the style of 1930s and 1940s British documentaries, i.e., real events were reenacted according to a pre-written script, and the story told by voice-over narration accompanied by music.

In the spirit of Robert J. Flaherty’s Nanook of the North (1922), Chen tried to find in Taiwan a straightforward, kind, unsophisticated Chinese farmer similar to Nanook. With help from the Veterans Affairs Commission (VAC) of the government’s Executive Yuan, Chen searched throughout Taiwan to find a veteran’s story suitable for his documentary. He finally chose Liu Pi-chia, a member of the VAC’s farmland development team working near Cikasuan (Papaya) River in Hualien, eastern Taiwan.

No synchronous sound equipment was available in Taiwan in the 1960s, so Chen used a 16mm non-sync camera to reveal his subject’s daily life, recording the sounds of events, ambience, and interviewing Liu on separate tapes. In the interviews, Liu reminisced about his diaspora experience coming from China to Taiwan, his current life, and working conditions. He spoke of yearning for his family left behind on the Mainland, unable to even contact them due to civil war between the Kuomintang (KMT) in Taiwan and the Chinese Communists of the People’s Republic of China (PRC).

Accompanying Liu’s words on the soundtrack, we see the moving images of Liu clearing rocks from a riverbed, gazing at faraway dark clouds and listening to the distant thunder with fellow veterans during their short work break, sitting alone on a train to a nearby city to deposit money from his small pay, eating a meal that brings back memories of his hometown on the Mainland, returning home after work and getting ready for the next workday. The film allows us to glimpse into the simple, yet emotional story of an average Chinese farmer in the diaspora to Taiwan caused by a war beyond his comprehension.

The documentary film was shown for the first time in December 1967, along with  director Chen’s other short films – an animated short, Houyi (1963?), an experimental narrative film, Years Gone, Years Come/Nian qu nian lai (1963?), and another documentary, To the Mountain/Shangshan (1964?), a record of four young college students searching for the meaning of life. The event was sponsored by a literature journal, with assistance from the Taipei office of the United States Information Service (USIS) and the Society of Jesus (Jesuits) in Taipei. Many college and university students, as well as young artists and writers, attended the four screenings.

Since the completion of Liu Pi-chia, Chen did not show the film to Liu, nor did he ever contact him. Twenty years later, Hu Tai-li, an anthropologist and ethnographic filmmaker, found Liu on her field study trip. She eventually made Stone Dreams/Shitou meng (2004), a documentary on Liu and his family, as well as other veterans’ life in Hualien. In a way, Stone Dreams is a sequel to Chen’s documentary, filling in the background that was missed as well as introducing new development in Liu’s life since the making of Liu Pi-chia

Chen’s two cinéma vérité documentaries impressed and influenced other young filmmakers, such as Chuang Ling, who used a similar style in the late 1960s to make several personal documentaries. The effect of such influence, however, was limited, due to the scarcity of resources for making independent documentary films in the 1960s and 1970s. Later, Chen made several documentary films for educational/informational purposes, including one about Chinese festivals, for the Ministry of Transportation’s Tourism Bureau, and several others for the “Faces of Change” series, produced by American Universities Field Staff, Inc. Chen Yao-chi then concentrated on directing fiction films, becoming one of the major Taiwan directors in the 1970s.


LIU, RENÉ RUOYING (1969- ). Singer, writer and actress René Liu Ruoying was born on 1 June 1969 in Taipei. Her family, originally from Liling City, Hunan Province, China, moved with Chiang Kai-shek’s army to Taiwan in 1949. Liu’s grandfather was a general and former acting minister of defense in the Nationalist army, and a member of the Central Advisory Committee of the Nationalist Party. Liu’s father was captain of a navy warship.

René Liu graduated from Fushing Primary School, Taipei Jen Ai Junior High School, and the Gifted Music Class at Kuang Jen Catholic High School, all prestigious schools in the Taipei area. Later, Liu studied in the Music Department at California State University, Fullerton, with a vocal major and piano minor. After graduation, Liu joined popular singer Bobby Chen Sheng’s New Paradise Studio as his assistant, where she learned writing and singing popular music. In 1995, she became a contract singer at Rock Records.

Her talent in acting was discovered by Sylvia Chang, who recommended Liu to critic-turned-director Chen Kuo-fu, who cast her as leading actress in The Peony Pavilion/Wo de meili yu aichou (1995). She was also the leading actress in Shiao Yu/Shaonu xiao yu (Sylvia Chang, 1995), written by Ang Lee, that was originally to be directed by him. Her performance in Shiao Yu won René Liu “Best Actress” at the 1995 Asia-Pacific Film Festival. She won the award again three years later for The Personals/Zheng hun qishi (Chen Kuo-fu, 1998).

Liu appeared in other internationally acclaimed films directed by Taiwanese and Chinese directors in the late 1990s, including, Nanjing 1937 (Wu Ziniu, 1996), Accidental Legend/Fei tian (Wang Shau-Di, 1996), Tonight Nobody Goes Home/Jintian bu huijia (Sylvia Chang, 1996), Red Persimmon/Hong shihzih (Wang Tung, 1997), Murmur of Youth/Meili zai changge (Lin Cheng-sheng, 1997), the last winning René Liu and newcomer Tseng Jing “Best Actress Awards” at the 1997 Tokyo Film Festival. Many of these films were produced by Hsu Li-kong, who cast her in his directorial debut film, Fleeing by Night/Ye ben (2000, codirected with Yin Chi), and the popular television drama series he produced, April Rhapsody/Renjian siyue tian (Ding Ya-min, 2000). Subsequently, Liu appeared in Ding Ya-min’s debut film Migratory Bird/Hou niao (2001), also produced by Hsu.

After René Liu starred in Chen Kuo-fu’s thriller/horror movie, Double Vision/ Shuang tong (2002), and Sylvia Chang’s romantic comedy, 20.30.40 (2004), she switched the base of her career from Taiwan to China and Hong Kong. She appeared in a phenomenal number of recent films, including the China blockbuster, A World Without Thieves/Tianxia wu zei (Feng Xiaogang, 2004), and the Hong Kong-China coproductions, Happy Birthday/Shengri kuaile (Jingle Ma Choh-Shing, 2007), Matrimony/Xinzhong you gui (Teng Hua-Tao, 2007), Kidnap/ Bang jia (Law Chi-Leung, 2007), Run Papa Run/Yi ge hao baba (Sylvia Chang, 2008), Hot Summer Days/Quan cheng re lian (Tony Chan and Shya Wing, 2010) and its sequel, Love in Space/Quan qiu relian (Tony Chan and Shya Wing, 2011), Mr. and Mrs. Single/Yin hun nan nu (Patrick Kong Pak-Leung, 2011), Speed Angel/Sai che (Jingle Ma Choh-Shing, 2011), as well as Starry, Starry Night/Xing kong (Tom Lin Shu-Yu, 2011), among others.

In addition, Liu is a writer. Happy Birthday was adapted by Sylvia Chang, et al, from Liu’s short story of the same title. Currently, Liu has a column in the Sunday afternoon supplement of Apple Daily in Hong Kong.

René Liu is also active in theater performance. Between 2003 and 2005, she worked with Hong Kong director Edward Lam in Eighteen Springs/Ban sheng yuan, coproduced by the National Theatre Company of China and Hong Kong’s experimental theatre group Zuni Icosahedron. In 2011, Lam and Liu worked together again on the critically acclaimed The Doppelgänger/Zai xixiang – hongniang de yi xiang shihie.




THE LOVE ETERNE (1963). The Love Eterne (Eternal Love/Liang shanbo yu zhu yingtai) is a huangmei diao genre film directed by Shaw Brothers’ ace director Li Han-hsiang, with help from directors/screenwriters Chu Mu/Zhu Mu, Tien Feng/Tian Feng, King Hu, Liu Yishi and Sung Tsun-Shou. At the time, a similar project by director Yan Jun was already in production for Motion Pictures and General Investment Co. Ltd. (MP&GI), chief rival of Shaw Brothers in Hong Kong. Run Run Shaw, president of Shaw Brothers, ordered Li to make a comparable film to compete with the MP&GI project. Principal photography of Li’s film took only two weeks, and Shaw Brothers was able to release its film in Taiwan ahead of MP&GI’s. Though produced in such a rush, Li Han-hsiang’s The Love Eterne is by no means simple or crude. It was Li’s third huangmei diao film, and his most successful one. The film showed in Taipei theaters consecutively for 186 days, with 725,000 tickets sold at the box office, which amounted to 90 percent of the population of Taipei at the time, ending up with a record-breaking box-office of NT$8 million (about US$200,000 at the time).

The film based on a celebrated Chinese folk legend, now part of the Chinese intangible cultural heritage, is the sad love story between a poor young scholar and a girl from a rich family. The couple is prevented from being together because of the mismatch in their family backgrounds. Liang Shanbo, the young scholar, dies of despair. When Zhu Yingtai, the rich girl, is forced by her family to marry a rich man, she goes to visit the tomb of Liang Shanbo. The tomb suddenly breaks open into a large pit and Zhu Yingtai jumps into it. The couple transform into a pair of butterflies and fly away together into the sky.

The story of Liang Shanbo and Zhu Yingtai had already been put into songs in various Chinese Operas, as well as adapted into several films. In 1953, Shanghai Film Studio adapted Shaoxing Opera Liang zhu ai shi (Sad History of Liang and Zhu) into the first color Chinese Opera film, Liang Zhu (directed by Sang Hu and Huang Sha). In 1963, MP&GI asked Yan Chun/Yen Jun to adapt the Shaoxing Opera into a huangmei diao film, which elicited the Shaw Brothers’ competing version, Li Han-hsiang’s The Love Eterne, the same year. Twenty-eight years later, Chinese director Lau Gwok-Kuen directed Liang Shanbo and Zhu Yingtai (1991). Hong Kong director Tsui Hark made The Lovers/Liang zhu in 1994, and Jingle Ma Choh-Shing made Butterfly Lovers/Sword Butterfly/Jian die in 2008. A feature animation, The Butterfly Lovers: Leon and Joel, was produced by Taiwan’s Central Motion Picture Corporation (CMPC) in 2003.

In Li Han-hsiang’s The Love Eterne, Ivy Ling Po played the cross-dressing role of Liang Shanbo and Betty Loh Tih the role of Zhu Yingtai. Ivy Ling Po was so attractive to both men and women in Taiwan that when she arrived for publicity of the film, Taipei turned into what the Hong Kong press called “a city of madness.” Hundreds of thousands gathered in the streets to see their idol pass by. The film was not only successful commercially, its artistic achievements were also recognized. In 1963, The Love Eterne won “Best Color Cinematography,” “Best Music,” “Best Sound Recording,” and “Best Art Design” awards at the 1963 Film Festival in Asia. At the Golden Horse Awards, it also claimed “Best Picture,” “Best Director,” “Best Actress” (Betty Loh Tih), “Best Music” (Zhou Lanping), “Best Editing” (Jiang Xinglong) awards, and a Special Acting award for Ivy Ling Po.

Ivy Ling Po continued making several huangmei diao films for Shaw Brothers, even though she had been tempted to leave with Li Han-hsiang when he decided to found his own production company in 1963. She finally moved to Taiwan in 1973 with her husband, director and actor Chin Han (not to be confused with Taiwan actor Chin Han), when her contract with Shaw Brothers expired. Betty Loh Tih, though recognized for her acting in The Love Eterne, could not deal with emotional problems caused by romantic affairs and committed suicide at age 31. Li Han-hsiang established Grand Motion Picture Company (GMP) in 1963, with the support of Shaw Brothers’ rival MP&GI, starting operations in Taiwan, where he produced several additional huangmei diao films. The success of Li’s films prompted a wave of huangmei diao films in Taiwan during the 1960s and 1970s.


LU, HSIAO-FEN (Lu Xiaofen, Chang Shu-fen) (1956- ). Queen bee of violent female revenge film, a sub-genre of violent sexploitation movies in the 1970s, Lu Hsiao-Fen (real name Chang Shu-fen) was born on 9 October 1956 to a miner’s family in Ruifang, Taipei County (now New Taipei City). She started her entertainment career in 1977, as a singer performing in Taipei cabarets, and signed a contract with Taiwan Television Enterprise (TTV). She won the championship in a 1979 singing contest, held by Chinese Television System (CTS). A year later, she became a company actor at Yung Sheng Motion Pictures Company.

Lu’s debut film, On the Society File of Shanghai/Shanghai shehui dangan (Wang Chu-chin/Wang Jujin, 1981), was about a girl persecuted during the Chinese Cultural Revolution. The film exploited her body, showing her stabbing herself on the breasts with a knife. Lu Hsiao-Fen, thus, became an overnight sensation on the level of the other sexploitation film stars at the time, such as Lu Yifeng, Lu Yichan, and Yang Hui-Shan.

Lu starred in more than a half-dozen such crime/gangster action film (self- proclaimed as “social realist films”), including The Lady Avenger/Fengkuang nu shaxing (female director Yang Chia-yun, 1981), The Anger/Shi jie (Richard Chen Yao-chi, 1982), Pink Thief/Nu ze (Yueh Chien-feng, 1982), Exposed to Danger/ Leng yan sha ji/Titianxingdao zhi shaji (Yang Chia-yun, 1982), Girl With a Gun/ Shengyong nu shaxing (Richard Chen Yao-chi, 1982), Kill for Love/Chiqing nuzi (Richard Chen Yao-chi, 1982), and Temptation/You huo (Richard Chen Yao-chi, 1983).

Lu Hsiao-Fen’s film career made a drastic turn for the better when she starred in Wang Tung’s A Flower in the Raining Night/A Flower in the Rainy Night/Kan hai de rihzih (1983), with a script by nativist writer Huang Chun-ming, based on his novel of the same name. Lu plays a prostitute who yearns for a family of her own, after accidentally becoming pregnant. Her performance won her “Best Actress” at the 1983 Golden Horse Awards.

Subsequently, Lu explored different types of roles, such as waitress (The First Stitch/Huanghua guinan/Zai shi nan, directed by Tsai Yang-Ming, 1984), housewife (The Pawned Wife/Dian qi, directed by Wang Chu-chin, 1985), and taxi dancer who partners with men for a fee (Dancers/Wu nu, directed by Tsai Yang-Ming, 1985). Lu was cast in two Hong Kong-made English-speaking martial arts films in the late 1980s – Official Exterminator: Kill for Love/Ninja Knight Brothers of Blood (aka Ninja Killer) (Godfrey Ho, 1987) and American Commando 3: Savage Temptation (Lee Chiu, 1988).

Lu’s breakthrough role was in Osmanthus Alley/Guihua xiang (Chen Kun-Hou, 1987). She plays a woman in traditional Chinese society who is determined to surmount all obstacles in her life – poverty, family power struggles, sexual desire, or fate. She was awarded “Best Actress” at the 1988 Asia-Pacific Film Festival. Lu played a similar role (although with completely different consequences) in her following film, Spring Swallow/Wanchun qingshi (Richard Chen Yao-Chi, 1989), as a woman in the 1910s who gives up her quest for true love and accepts the traditional role as wife and mother. Once again, she won “Best Actress” at the 1989 Asia-Pacific Film Festival. In Hong Kong director Ann Hui’s autobiographical film, Song of the Exile/Ke tu qiu hen (1990), Lu plays the role of Ann’s mother, a Japanese woman married to a Chinese man, who moves to Macau. (Hong Kong star Maggie Cheung plays her daughter.)

Lu starred in another melodramatic film by Richard Chen, Autumn Moon/Ming yue ji shi yuan (1990). Afterward, she reduced her acting by choice, appearing only in one film, 18/Shiba (1993), directed by Ho Ping, who had previously used her in his debut film, The Digger/Yinjian xiangma (1988). She was nominated as “Best Actress” at the 1993 Golden Horse Awards for 18. Subsequently, Lu stopped her film acting, and chose to study theater in the United States in mid-1990s. However, she appeared in several television drama series. Her most recent films were Top Gear/Xiao cu zhan jiang (Chin Ao-hsun, 1999), a youth-action film, and Forever Young/Jinsheng you yue (Chang Yao-hsuan, 2000), a romance.


LU, YI-CHING (Lu Yijing, Lu Xiaoling) (1960?- ). Actress Lu Yi-Ching (real name Lu Hsiao-Ling/Lu Xiaoling) was originally owner of a coffee shop. At age 30, she was “discovered” by Tsai Ming-liang, who invited her for a cameo role in his television drama My Name is Mary/Wo de yingwen mingzi jiao mali (1990). Subsequently, Lu became one of Tsai’s regular cast members in his television dramas and films.

When Tsai was given a chance to direct his debut film, Rebels of the Neon God/Qinshaonian nuozha (1993), Lu played Lee Kang-sheng’s mother/Miao Tien’s wife. From then on, Lu played almost the same role in most of Tsai’ films, including Vive l’Amour/Aiqing wansui (1994), The River/Heliu (1997), What Time Is It There?/Ni nabian jidian (2001), The Wayward Cloud/Tianbian yi duo yun (2005), and Face/Visage/Lian (2009). Together with Tsai, and Lee, another actor in Tsai’s ensemble, she opened her second coffee shop, TSAILEELU.

Besides working with Tsai Ming-liang, Lu appeared in many films of both veteran and novice directors, such as Hill of No Return/Silent Mountain/Wu yan de shanqiu (Wang Tung,1992), My Whispering Plan/Sharen jihua (Chu You-ning, 2002), Blue Cha Cha/Shen hai (Cheng Wen-Tang, 2005), Reflections/Ailisi de jingzi (Yao Hung-i, 2005), Heirloom/Zhai bian (Leste Chen, 2005), Summer’s Tail/Xiatian de weiba (Cheng Wen-Tang, 2007), Blood Brothers/Tiantang kou (Alexi Tan, 2007), Drifting Flowers/Piao lang qingchun (Zero Chou, 2008), Winds of September/Jiu jiang feng (Tom Lin Shu-Yu, 2008), Good Will Evil/Xiong mei (Lin Yu-Fen and Wang Ming-Chan, 2008), A Place of One’s Own/Yi xi zhi di (Lou Yi-An, 2009), Ghosted/Aimei (Monika Treut, 2009), Monga/Mengjia (Doze Niu, 2010), and Blowfish/Hetun (Chi Y. Lee, 2011).

Even though Lu Yi-Ching never had any formal acting training, her performances were recognized with various awards, including “Best Supporting Actress” at the 2001 Asia-Pacific Film Festival, for What Time Is It There?, and “Best Actress” at the 2003 Golden Bell Television Awards, for her performance in a single-episode television drama, Hard to Breath/Yongli huxi (Hsu Chao-jen, 2003). She also received “Best Actress” awards in 2004 for The Missing/Bu jian (Lee Kang-sheng, 2003) at “Osian’s Cinefan Festival of Asian and Arab Cinema,” as well as in “Rome: Asian Film Festival.” In 2006, Lu won “Best Supporting Actress” for Blue Cha Cha at the Asian-Pacific Film Festival. Lu was nominated four times in the Golden Horse Awards – Best Supporting Actress, for What Time Is It There?; Best Actress, for The Missing; Best Supporting Actress for Blue Cha Cha; and Best Supporting Actress, for A Place of One’s Own.




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

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

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

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

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

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

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






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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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






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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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




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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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






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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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




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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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








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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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




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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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




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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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




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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

During this time Wei started to develop a dream project about the 1930 “Wushe Incident” (Musha jiken/Wushe shijian), the last large-scale Aborignes’ rebellion against Japanese colonial rule. Originally, Wei expected to make the film for NT$200 million (US$6.4 million), a very large budget for a Taiwan film. To raise funds, Wei used NT$2.5 million (US$80,000) of his own money for a pilo