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China's Encounter with Global Hollywood"Cultural Policy and the Film Industry, 1994-2013"$

Wendy Su

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780813167060

Published to Kentucky Scholarship Online: September 2016

DOI: 10.5810/kentucky/9780813167060.001.0001

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Chinese Martial Arts Cinema in the Twenty-First Century

Chinese Martial Arts Cinema in the Twenty-First Century

Hybridity and Soft Power

Chapter:
(p.141) 5 Chinese Martial Arts Cinema in the Twenty-First Century
Source:
China's Encounter with Global Hollywood
Author(s):

Wendy Su

Publisher:
University Press of Kentucky
DOI:10.5810/kentucky/9780813167060.003.0006

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter posits that between 2000 and 2013, a new Chinese martial arts cinema emerged. This new genre was a collective cultural phenomenon arising from the Chinese government’s full embrace of the concept of “soft power” in an attempt to battle the global dominance of US popular culture. The author argues that this new Chinese martial arts cinema was a direct result of China’s changing cultural policy, as well as a survival strategy adopted by mainland Chinese and Hong Kong filmmakers to cope with the dual pressures of film marketization and state censorship. This genre reemerged in a seemingly hybrid mode that conforms to the aesthetics of the Hollywood spectacle but reinforces nationalism, patriotism, and orthodox Confucian values, which are especially conducive to state rule. The genre is also a deliberate construction and promotion of Chinese history, culture, and philosophy. New Chinese martial arts cinema thus represents both escapism from and conformity to the established social order, and it reinforces both governmental power and cultural power.

Keywords:   martial arts cinema, soft power, hybridity, nationalism, Confucianism, Chinese culture

The resurgence of Chinese martial arts cinema in the first decade of the twenty-first century is a remarkable phenomenon. Neither the genre nor its popularity is new, but its latest resurgence reflects social, political, and global forces with significant implications far beyond the genre’s entertainment value and its previous range of filmic expression. These forces include the Chinese state’s cultural policy, the demands of film marketization, the inflow and legacy of Hong Kong’s kung fu movies, and the influence of global Hollywood. Intertwined and entangled, they become driving forces and determining factors in the revitalization of this genre in contemporary China.

Historically, Chinese martial arts cinema enjoyed three periods of popularity in the twentieth century: its original emergence in the 1920s; its relocation and revival in Hong Kong from the 1950s to the 1980s, after the Nationalist government’s anti-superstition campaign and ban in 1934; and its resurgence in mainland China in the 1980s as part of the new wave of entertaining cinema. Its resurgence after 2000 in mainland China has been described as moving “closer to its original base in China, signifying a historic closing of the circle.”1 This closing of the circle is the focus of this chapter.

From the Bruce Lee period, when oriental kung fu movies debuted on the international film market, to the global presence of action-packed Hong Kong films featuring Jackie Chan, Chow Yun Fat, and Jet Li in the 1990s, Chinese martial arts cinema exerted an increasing influence. However, not until Ang Lee’s Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon won an Oscar (p.142) and Zhang Yimou’s Hero became both a national and an international box office hit did this genre and its global impact begin to attract intense scholarly interest. Within the fields of international communication, international cultural studies, and film studies, Chinese martial arts cinema has become a popular research topic. A number of studies have investigated the resurgence of the genre and its implications in an era of globalization. Some research has mapped the trajectory of the history of Chinese martial arts cinema.2 Other studies are devoted to the genre’s aesthetic connotations and philosophical implications. Chinese martial arts cinema has been posited as a negotiation between science and fate and between nationalism and modernity,3 as an embrace of cultural nationalism and a mode of transnationalism,4 and as an expression of antiorder resistance and a representation of identity crises.5 Researchers have used Hero as a case study, discussing its discourses and themes, philosophical essence, and aesthetic significance.6 Some have taken the perspective of political economy to analyze the “global-local alliance” in the successful production and distribution of a Chinese “global blockbuster.”7 Others have provided pungent criticism of the “spirit” and “structure” of Hero and concluded that the film reflects both the fascist spirit and the post-9/11 imperial logic.8 Researchers thus bring up the issue of global-local dialectic and raise this question: “In various accounts of ‘glocalization,’ ‘hybridization’ and ‘transculturation,’ which side is prevailing?”9 They have suggested that Hero represents a triumph of globalization. Furthermore, they have argued that the boom in new Chinese martial arts films “means surrendering to the Hollywood mode” and “testifies to the triumph of the Hollywood-style commercial mode of film production in China.”10

In this chapter I weigh in on this discussion and explore global-local dialogue through China’s mass production of martial arts cinema. Working from a perspective of cultural globalization, this chapter positions Chinese martial arts cinema between 2000 and 2012 as a collective cultural phenomenon arising in the broader context of mainland China’s change in cultural policy and its encounter with global Hollywood. Combining the analysis of both text and context, I explore this cultural phenomenon within the context of the Chinese government’s full embrace of the concept of “soft power” as it attempts to battle the global dominance of US popular culture in general and Hollywood films in particular.

I argue that the new Chinese martial arts cinema is, first of all, a direct outcome of China’s changing cultural policy and a survival strategy (p.143) adopted by mainland Chinese and Hong Kong filmmakers to deal with the dual pressures of film marketization and state censorship. Second, this genre has reemerged in a seemingly hybrid mode that both conforms to the aesthetics of the Hollywood spectacle and promotes Chinese history, culture, and philosophy—an element that is especially encouraged by the Chinese state to advance its soft power. Some films reinforce nationalism, patriotism, and orthodox Confucian values that are specifically conducive to state rule; others explore the unique Chinese way of being, theories of heaven and nature, and the philosophy of Chinese martial arts. Therefore, contrary to the rebellious antiorder implications of martial arts cinema during times of social upheaval and identity crises,11 new Chinese martial arts cinema represents both escape from and conformity to the established social order.

Here I want to clarify the term “Chinese martial arts cinema.” First, scholars in the field of Chinese film studies have long raised the question of nation, cultural identity, and transnational cinema. Some researchers have used “Chinese-language cinema” as an all-inclusive term for transregional movies made in mainland China, Hong Kong, and Taiwan.12 In this chapter, the main objects of analysis are those films solely funded and made by mainland Chinese studios and filmmakers, as well as their coproductions with Hong Kong, Taiwan, and foreign partners. Second, in a broader sense, “martial arts cinema” could refer to all types of action movies, including ancient-costumed wuxia movies, kung fu movies, or even police-crime movies set in modern times. As Stephen Teo explains, “wuxia was swordfighting and kung fu was fist-fighting,” and kung fu evolved from wuxia.13 This chapter focuses on ancient-costumed wuxia moves and kung fu movies.

Social and Policy Context

As a collective cultural phenomenon, the resurgence of Chinese martial arts cinema since 2000 is an outcome of the changing historical context both domestically and internationally. Externally, China’s reentry into the World Trade Organization (WTO) and the commitments it had to make to achieve that painted a worrisome picture for domestic filmmakers and increased their already high levels of anxiety. China and the United States signed the agreement on China’s accession to the WTO in November 1999, and it was formally approved in November 2001. Under the agreement, (p.144) the Chinese government agreed to double the annual quota of revenue-sharing film imports to twenty, to allow foreign investors up to a 49 percent share in operating theaters, and to permit foreign investment in video distribution joint ventures.14 Facing the prospect of “dancing with wolves,” both the state and domestic filmmakers felt enormous pressure to compete with Hollywood blockbusters. Internally, the redefinition of the film sector as a cultural industry, and the speedy marketization of those industries, pushed domestic filmmakers to prioritize market appeal and to make films that would maximize profits. Under such circumstances, a genre with a well-established tradition and great entertainment value naturally became filmmakers’ top choice. The success of Ang Lee’s Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000) and Zhang Yimou’s Hero (2002) on the international market also stimulated the boom in martial arts cinema.

The two closer economic partnership arrangements (CEPAs) mentioned in chapter 1 were another important policy factor that served as an incentive for the resurgence of martial arts cinema. The CEPAs opened up cooperative opportunities for filmmakers from the Greater China area. Hong Kong directors considered this a good way to save the declining Hong Kong movie industry. But to benefit from the CEPA and tap into the vast mainland market and its bountiful inland resources, Hong Kong movies had to be “pure entertainment” and reflect “ideological non-commitment.”15 Martial arts movies, as one of “the most popular and well-developed genres in the history of Chinese cinema,” rely heavily on “body language that breaks national boundaries.”16 They had already established themselves as successful worldwide cinematic spectacles that met the needs of both mainland and Hong Kong filmmakers and could serve as a means to integrate their respective film industries.

As table 5.1 shows, the number of martial arts movies increased markedly after 2003 as a result of the changing policy environment and the closer partnership between mainland China and Hong Kong. After 2004, when the CEPA formally took effect, martial arts movies took the lion’s share of box office receipts among the top ten domestically produced movies, peaking in 2007 and 2008. Therefore, the boom in this genre was initiated by policy and driven by various social conditions such as market demand, state intervention, the legacy of the genre, and mainland–Hong Kong collaboration. After 2008, both the number of martial arts movies and their box office receipts began to drop because of market saturation and audience boredom. (p.145)

Table 5.1. Martial Arts Cinema in China, 2000–2010

Year

Total Film Output

Number of Martial Arts Movies (Percentage of Total)

Number of Martial Arts Movies among Top Ten Box Office Hits

2000

83

7 (8.4%)

0

2001

71

3 (4.2%)

0

2002

100

1 (1.0%)

1

2003

140

14 (10.0%)

4

2004

212

13 (6.1%)

5

2005

260

33 (12.7%)

4

2006

330

15 (4.5%)

5

2007

402

36 (9.0%)

7

2008

406

22 (5.4%)

7

2009

456

24 (5.3%)

3

2010

526

12 (2.3%)

4

Source:China Film Yearbook 2001–2011 (Beijing: Zhongguo dianying chubanshe [China Film Press], 2001–2011).

Most new Chinese martial arts movies are costumed and set in ancient times. This can be attributed to China’s strict censorship system, under which any film that touches on contemporary subject matter is too politically sensitive and financially risky. In an interview, an official of SARFT explicitly confirmed that films with ancient themes have an easy time passing censorship.17

Dan Glickman, head of the Motion Picture Association of America, admitted in an interview that “U.S. businesses are wary of taking political stands that might offend the Chinese government because the Americans fear they might lose access to the Chinese market.” He said, “a market of 1.3 billion people should present a lot of opportunities for the big studios.”18 To avoid political controversy and retain access to the huge mainland market, filmmakers in Hollywood, Hong Kong, and China all turned to ancient China for their artistic inspiration. These ancient themes are politically safe, are less financially risky, and had a proven market. This consensus led to a dominant mode in martial arts cinema: a preindustrial historical setting and classical-costumed characters.

Martial arts cinema has obtained the Chinese government’s blessing, as evidenced by the heavy governmental involvement in the processes of production, distribution, and exhibition. Zhang Yimou’s films provide a (p.146)

Table 5.2. China Film Group Corporation (CFGC)–Funded Martial Arts Movies, 2000–2010

Year

Total Number of Martial Arts Movies

Number of Martial Arts Movies Invested in or Cofunded by CFGC (Percentage of Total)

2000

7

3 (43%)

2001

3

2 (67%)

2002

1

0

2003

14

10 (71%)

2004

13

5 (38%)

2005

33

3 (9%)

2006

15

1 (7%)

2007

36

12 (33%)

2008

22

13 (59%)

2009

24

5 (21%)

2010

12

2 (17%)

Source:China Film Yearbook 2001–2011 (Beijing: Zhongguo dianying chubanshe [China Film Press], 2001–2011).

typical example. Various accounts have detailed how Hero (2002), House of Flying Daggers (2004), and Curse of the Golden Flower (2006) obtained the approval and collaboration of the government at various levels and were premiered at the Great Hall of the People—the symbolic center of the Chinese state—and other important locations. The government mobilized the media, college students, and other resources to assist with the promotion of Zhang’s films; it even secretly arranged for a one-month blackout of foreign films to give his films a screen monopoly. Jia Zhangke’s award-winning Still Life was also blacked out for the benefit of Zhang’s Curse of the Golden Flower. Given Zhang Yimou’s esteemed status in China’s film industry, his close relationship with the government, and the nonprovoca-tive themes of his recent films, it is no wonder that his movies enjoy many privileges that other filmmakers could never hope for.19

The largest state-owned film company, China Film Group Corporation (CFGC), played a major role in the production of martial arts films. Since 2000, CFGC’s investment in this genre has fluctuated (see table 5.2). Before 2004, when the CEPA formally took effect, most domestic martial arts films were funded by CFGC. After the signing of the CEPA and the wholesale entry of Hong Kong filmmakers into the mainland China market, (p.147) CFGC tried to maintain its grip and enhance its influence on the production of this genre. CFGC president Han Sanping has talked about the company’s goal and strategy on a number of occasions. He noted, “China boasts five thousand years of culture. It has so many superior classics, so many epic legends, so many dramas and operas, and so many folk tales and heroes, which provide extremely abundant resources for filmmaking.” Therefore, CFGC’s strategy is “to appropriately select subject matter out of the ample Chinese cultural repository.”20 He saw this as a way of competing with Hollywood-represented American culture and of enhancing China’s soft power. In an interview with Sanlian Life Weekly, Han warned that although China’s film sector has successfully transitioned from a planned economy to a market-oriented industry, “we must pay careful attention to the questions of national identity and national characteristics.” He cautioned that “movies are too universal” and “America’s film industry is crossing national borders to obtain material without regard to the source or the culture. If we do not work hard, then everything could be completely appropriated by Hollywood.” When the interviewer mentioned Ang Lee’s belief that modernization means Westernization, because the language of film was established by Westerners, Han said:

Ang Lee was talking about form; I am talking about content. I’ve read a screenplay written by an American about the Generals of the Yang Clan. How would you assess Mu Guiying and Yang Zongbao? That would involve aspects of culture: it has taken shape out of traditional morality. In this American’s script, Mu Guiying kills Yang Zongbao for the interests of the country and of the people. This judgment obviously comes as a result of their particular standpoint, but why shouldn’t we have them accept our value system instead of us always accepting theirs? Of course, they’re the powerful ones now, but our efforts will eventually allow us to reach that point. Differences exist between the values and morals of China and the West. Good and bad, and right and wrong, are hard to distinguish, so we’ve got to work hard so that they’ll have to accept us. Therefore, I believe that this value system should be expressed through film. This is an expression of China’s soft power.21

In another interview with Southern Weekly, Han explicitly stated that Chinese leaders have been involved in the production process and have set (p.148) aside many resources. CFGC’s success, he claimed, “is directly related to these high-level leaders and the [party’s] rich resources for this enterprise.” When asked how much support CFGC gets from the state, he said, “China Film is definitely the first pick, because it belongs to the State. But at the same time, … there are many responsibilities.”22 Clearly, CFGC’s investment in martial arts films has been greatly encouraged and supported by the government. And the government’s blessing has created greater space for the new martial arts cinema to prosper.

Cultural Tradition, Confucianism, and Nationalism à la Hollywood

New Chinese martial arts cinema incorporates talent and cultural elements from global Hollywood, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and mainland China to create a seemingly transnational and transregional hybrid genre. Overdone kung fu movies that combine spectacular Hollywood-style special effects and traditional Chinese cultural elements have become the most influential genre of the domestic film industry and a prime market attraction. These films are characterized by big budgets, famous stars (such as Gong Li, Zhang Ziyi, Michelle Yeoh, Chow Yun Fat, Jet Li, and Tony Leung), spectacular cinematography, and sometimes the ubiquitous sex and violence of Hollywood commercial movies. The production and distribution teams include partners from a variety of regions and countries, meaning that China’s film industry has been integrated with and become a part of the global cinema production and distribution system.

The Hollywood imprint has been conspicuous in some Chinese kung fu blockbusters, such as Zhang Yimou’s Curse of the Golden Flower (2006) and Feng Xiaogang’s The Banquet (2007). Curse of the Golden Flower tells the story of a failed court rebellion conspired by the empress and her son during the Tang Dynasty of the tenth century, on the eve of the Chong Yang Festival. It was the most expensive film ever made in China prior to 2007: it cost US$45 million, whereas the typical big-budget film in China cost closer to US$7 million. Zhang created a gargantuan set, including a mesmerizing gold-laced imperial palace that took five months to build, with 1,000 feet of carpet and 600 luxurious lamps. He hired more than 1,000 real soldiers for the battle scenes and 300 female students from various performance schools, clothed in gorgeous costumes. For the festival scene, he brought in 3 million chrysanthemums to create a spectacular (p.149) sea of golden flowers measuring 130,000 square feet.23 The film foregrounds conspiracy, rebellion, bloody repression, and killing, as well as two incestuous relationships: between the empress and the crown prince; and between the crown prince and his secret lover, the imperial doctor’s daughter, who turns out to be his half-sister. At the end of the film, the empress is forced to drink poisoned herb soup on the order of the emperor; her faithful second son, who helped her with the rebellion, commits suicide; the crown prince and his lover are both killed at the palace; and the imperial doctor and his wife are assassinated. All the soldiers participating in the rebellion are killed, and the pile of bodies reaches the palace wall. Against a moonlit night, thousands of chrysanthemums are trampled as blood spills in the imperial palace. Zhang’s talent as a cinematographer is apparent in this film, with its gorgeous costumes, magnificent settings, and colorful scenes resembling impressionist paintings. All the settings, sceneries, costumes, and props are shiny and splendid, adding an authentic touch of the classic Chinese imperial culture and lifestyle. The film was China’s entry for the Academy Award for best foreign-language film for 2006, but it was not nominated; it did, however, receive a nomination for best costume design. In 2007 it received fourteen nominations at the Twenty-Sixth Hong Kong Film Awards and won for best actress, best art direction, best costume and makeup design, and best original film song.

Feng Xiaogang’s The Banquet is a Chinese version of Hamlet. In a pre-Tang era, the emperor’s brother kills the emperor and takes the throne and the empress for his own. The empress, the crown prince, the emperor, and various ministers all strive for power, and their final battle occurs at a banquet, where almost everyone is killed. Similar to Zhang’s film, The Banquet is a story of court rebellion, conspiracy, and killing, as well as incestuous relations between the empress and the crown prince. It also features bloody revenge, violent killings, and female nudity.

Another big-budget blockbuster, John Woo’s Red Cliff (2008–2009), topped Curse of the Golden Flower in terms of expense. When shooting started in April 2007, the original budget was US$60 million; that increased to US$75 million but still fell short. Woo contributed more than US$1 million of his own money, and CFGC added another US$2 million.24 The film displays breathtaking cinematography and special effects, as well as dazzling kung fu fights. In one scene, as Cao Cao’s northern army gathers to prepare for the next battle, the audience gets a bird’s-eye view of the army (p.150) taken from a helicopter—a spectacular scene of thousands of soldiers on ships sprawling over the miles of the Yangtze River.

In Zhang Yimou’s 2007 movie House of Flying Daggers, special effects are used to create fast-paced kung fu fights. The fantastic scene starring Zhang Ziyi as a blind dancer who waves her long sleeves to hit standing drums has become a cinematographic classic.

Although I agree that these movies signal the triumph of the Hollywood model in China, they also draw heavily on the rich repository of Chinese history and culture. I believe it is more accurate to say that the new Chinese martial arts movies are hybrids that incorporate elements of both Hollywood and China. Moreover, in this hybrid model, the Hollywood portion is merely an extravagant shell; the essence remains Chinese. It is fair to say that most Chinese martial arts films use Hollywood techniques to showcase Chinese culture, history, and tradition. As one CFGC official said: “We should use the language of Hollywood to portray our own ‘Moments in Peking.’”25

These movies draw on the rich collection of Chinese historical and epic legends, as well as martial arts fiction, to propagate Chinese history, culture, and national heroes. The movies are therefore a deliberate (re)construction of Chinese national identity and nationalism. For example, Seven Swords (directed by Tsui [2005]) is based on the famous Chinese martial arts novel Seven Swords from Tianshan by well-known Chinese writer Liang Yusheng, a legend of rebellion and resistance set around 1660, when the Qing Dynasty tried to repress an uprising of Han warriors. In The Myth (Tong [2005]), treasure-seeking adventure is mixed with the Qin Dynasty’s historical figures and legends. Red Cliff I and II (Woo [2008–2009]), Three Kingdoms: Resurrection of the Dragon (Lee [2008]), and The Lost Bladesman (Mak and Chong [2011]) all dramatize the Warring States period and highlight real-life historical figures. Battle of Wits (Cheung [2006]), Fearless (Yu [2006]), Ip Man (Yip [2008]), Yuan Chonghuan (Xiao [2008]), Mo Zi (Jia [2010]), Detective Dee and the Mystery of the Phantom Flame (Hsui [2010]), and The Last Supper (Lu [2012]) are all based on true historical heroes and legends.

A closer examination of these films leads to another discovery: wrapped in the lavish Hollywood style, some of them actually reinforce orthodox Confucianism and the theme of nationalism. Martial arts cinema has always had a double nature and complex connotations. On the one hand, the genre creates an imaginary world outside of social reality and (p.151) beyond the reach of mundane authority—a world governed by chivalrous ethics and brotherhood, where knights-errant use their swords to fight for justice when the imperial legal system does not function or is unfair. These films fulfill people’s desires and dreams for a harmonious world. The genre is, therefore, often used as a weapon for cultural expression and resistance to the current social order. During times of social turmoil, the genre allows people to escape reality and release anxiety, creating an imaginary space to negotiate fierce social conflicts that otherwise might not be resolved. Martial arts cinema, in this sense, has a critical antiorder edge. This tradition was inherited by Hong Kong action movies, which, during the late 1980s and early 1990s, represented a search for national identity and expressed strong feelings of anxiety and powerlessness during the transition to sovereignty. For example, Tsui Hark’s Once upon a Time in China series (1991–1997) profoundly reflects the contradiction between modernity and tradition in the grand historical context of revolution. Stephen Chow’s mo-lei-tou films have a strong touch of cynicism and political satire. When they came to mainland China, they became “the best carrier for post–June-Fourth-1989 cynicism and nihilism about reality and history.”26 As such, the genre’s distinct features have become an effective weapon for cultural expression and social criticism.

On the other hand, martial arts cinema has deep historical roots in Chinese martial arts fiction and folk culture and is therefore laden with Chinese cultural values and traditions. Orthodox Confucian values such as loyalty, filial relationships, virtue, and brotherhood—which constitute the foundation of traditional Chinese society—are well represented in martial arts cinema and are often used as an extra force to aid imperial rule and reinforce orthodox ideology. This distinctive feature of martial arts cinema is displayed throughout its history, from Come Drink with Me (Hu [1966]) to New Dragon Inn (Lee, Ching, and Tsui [1992]). Martial arts movies made after 2000, I believe, especially strengthen and highlight traditional Confucian values and nationalism, but the spirit of social criticism has been weakened. For instance, in Seven Swords, martial arts warriors become the upholders of the orthodox Ming Dynasty, which is ruled by the Han majority. Loyalty to the emperor is valued as much as chivalry. Three Kingdoms: Resurrection of the Dragon and Red Cliff both sanction the imperial Han Dynasty and its legitimate successor Liu Bei and the State Shu, applauding their benevolence and righteousness while disparaging General Cao Cao and his State Wei as duplicitous and cruel. According (p.152) to Red Cliff director John Woo, he wanted to show that a small number of people can defeat larger enemies through “teamwork, innovation, intelligence and courage,” and he especially wanted to emphasize Chinese values such as “loyalty, patriotism, righteousness, brotherhood and friendship.”27

Orthodox Confucian values, however, have a more or less feudalistic nature: loyalty to the emperor, submissiveness to paternalism, and obedience to male domination. Righteousness is understood from the perspective of a ruler’s benevolence and paternalistic attitude toward the common people, rather than from the perspective of individual rights. Brotherhood and martial chivalry often mean unconditional loyalty to one’s comrades to the exclusion of other principles. As for patriotism, the term is often understood in the sense of loyalty to the emperor-represented state, if not in the sense of modern nationalism. Martial arts movies often tap into the conflict between orthodox imperial successors and rebellious ministers, as in Three Kingdoms and Red Cliff, or into the conflict between the Han-dominated Ming Dynasty and the minority-dominated Qing Dynasty, as in Seven Swords. Here, emperors, their successors, and the Han majority are considered the legitimate rulers of China, rather than the rebels or the minorities. In Red Cliff II, General Zhou Yu, who allies with monarch Liu Bei, the legitimate imperial successor, to resist General Cao Cao’s invasion, says: “We are not against the emperor. We are loyal to the Han Dynasty.” In Three Kingdoms, warrior Zhao Zilong explains that his purpose in joining the army is “to reestablish the Han Dynasty and reunite China,” although the theme of one’s uncontrolled destiny also comes through. Likewise, Hero justifies the emperor’s logic of reuniting China through war and force. As such, these martial arts movies legitimize the ruler and are especially congenial to the ruling government.

Nationalism is another theme strengthened by a number of new martial arts films. Typical examples are Fearless and Ip Man. The former tells the story of how famous Chinese martial arts master Huo Yuanjia defeats Japanese warriors and safeguards the dignity of the Chinese nation. The latter recounts a similar tale about Chinese martial arts master Ip Man. Both films culminate in a duel with the Japanese, with the Chinese masters triumphing and being hailed as national heroes. Here, Chinese martial arts are used as an effective tool to inspire the nation, uplift the national spirit, and solidify the unity of the Chinese people. As Ip Man approaches his duel with the Japanese, he soliloquizes: “Martial arts involve armed forces, but Chinese martial arts are Confucius in spirit. The virtue of martial arts is benevolence. (p.153) You Japanese will never understand this principle of treating others as you would yourselves. If you abuse your military power, you turn into oppressors of others. You don’t deserve to learn Chinese martial arts.” Martial arts, therefore, represent national identity and national heritage; they are an acclaimed practice for national self-redemption and self-improvement and an irreplaceable symbol of national pride and national spirit.

Martial arts are also used to propagate the theme of patriotism, as typified in Bodyguards and Assassins (Chen [2009]). In this film, set in 1905, a group of low-class people in Hong Kong serve as bodyguards to protect the founder of the Republic of China, Sun Yat-sen (1866–1925), from assassins sent by the imperial Qing Dynasty. A rickshaw puller, a bagger, a gambler, an opera actress, and a peddler are all portrayed as martial arts practitioners with a political consciousness and patriotic spirit who volunteer to risk their lives to guard Sun Yat-sen. The film thus integrates martial arts with an anti-imperial theme and revolutionary heroism. However, its overemphasis on patriotism and exaggerated claims of the lower class’s political consciousness at the expense of realism give the film an obviously propagandistic tone.

Here, I have argued that orthodox Confucian values and themes of nationalism and patriotism are prominent in some new martial arts movies. However, I also acknowledge other remarkable features displayed in this genre in the twenty-first century, reflecting globalization and a postmodern consciousness.

New Perspectives

Traditional martial arts cinema from the 1920s to the 1980s usually featured two themes: dynastic conflicts between loyal ministers and treacherous officials, and family or clan enmity and revenge. A number of new Chinese martial arts movies, however, demonstrate distinct new traits.

First, the genre has become a comprehensive expression of the underlying tenets of Chinese martial arts, highlighting the goals of peace, harmony, self-perfection, and mutual understanding. The genre thus surpasses the narrow-minded family revenge theme and displays the core values of modern civilization. Fearless is a typical example. Starring Jet Li, the film charts the personal journey of Chinese martial arts master and national hero Huo Yuanjia as he transforms from a proud practitioner with a big ego and a strong drive to defeat others to a true master who displays self-control (p.154) , courtesy to others, and a patriotic spirit. In an interview, Jet Li said Fearless “mirrors my personal journey” and represents “all my belief in martial arts.”28 The film is about how to overcome ego and pride and learn to respect others. After inadvertently killing a rival at a young age, a much more mature Huo Yuanjia speaks of “the true meaning of wushu” at the opening ceremony of his martial arts school. He says, “Wushu is not just about killing, revenge, or hatred and anger. The real goal of practicing wushu is strengthening one’s body, soul and mind, and is about making peace.” The film conveys the principles of martial arts as a distinct Chinese way of being based on Confucian ethics. Huo Yuanjia also expresses the philosophy of martial arts: “We focus on cultivating three things: these are the training of body, mind and the spirit. … Wushu trains and disciplines the body. All disciplines are respected equally. The exchange of knowledge and mutual respect is the key. This way, we will no longer be ‘sick man of the East’ and stand strong as a nation.” He goes on to say: “The real goal of practicing wushu is strengthening one’s body and soul. … You can only beat the body, you never conquer the heart.”

In Ip Man 2 (Yip [2010]), Ip Man escapes to Hong Kong after a duel with a Japanese warrior and gets involved in another duel with an arrogant and rude British fighter. After winning the fight, a wounded and bleeding Ip Man stands at the rostrum and says, “I don’t want to prove which one is better, Chinese or Western boxing. I just hope from now on, we can respect each other.” The film displays what I call “restrained nationalism” and appeals for mutual respect and mutual understanding. Martial arts is therefore not only a symbol of national dignity but also a forum for the possible emergence of national conciliation and mutual understanding, very much in accordance with the trend of globalization.

New martial arts cinema also dedicates itself to the promotion of Chinese philosophy, cosmology, and the Chinese way of being. The film The Forbidden Kingdom (Minkoff [2008]) consciously integrates all the relevant Chinese cultural elements: Monkey Sun Wukong’s tale, the Golden Swallow legend, the glamour of the traditional musical instrument known as the pipa, Zhuang Zi’s philosophy, and so on. The film’s voice-over defines martial arts, based on Zhang Zi’s philosophy: “Kung fu is like water. Nothing is softer than water, yet it can overcome rock. It does not fight. It flows around the opponent. Homeless, nameless, the true master dwells within. Only you can find him.” Martial arts is therefore elevated to a state of philosophy and the Chinese way of being.

(p.155) Another film, Battle of Wits (Cheung [2006]), draws on the philosophy of Mo Zi of the Warring States period to tell a story about the unachievability of “universal love” and the failed ideal of peace. Mo’s tenets of universal love, respect for life, and peace were doomed during that tumultuous and violent period. The film is based on a Japanese comic book and combines martial arts, fierce war scenes, and the conflict between Mo Zi’s philosophy and the cruelty of warmongering states.

Second, whereas some new martial arts movies reinforce orthodox Confucianism and the theme of nationalism, others demonstrate a trend toward reinterpreting history, reconstructing historical figures, and decon-structing traditional values. This trend is remarkably reflected in movies depicting the Han–Three Kingdoms history, such as The Lost Swordsman (Mai and Zhuang [2011]) and The Assassins (Zhao [2012]). Both these films reverse the traditional point of view in which General Cao Cao is portrayed as a treacherous minister with the goal of overthrowing the Han Dynasty and establishing his own empire. In The Lost Swordsman, Guan Yu, China’s symbol of loyalty and righteousness, is described as an awkward hero who is blindly loyal to monarch Liu Bei, who is incapable of saving his people from the violence and atrocity of war. General Cao Cao, in contrast, is portrayed as a wise strategist with great talent and vision who is capable of providing food and shelter, peace, and social order and is loved by the people. Guan Yu is torn between his loyalty to Liu Bei and Cao Cao’s vision, and he eventually dies as the “lost swordsman.” The Assassins portrays Cao Cao through the eyes of his mistress (whose parents he killed) as a caring monarch who is loyal to the Han emperor and can restore peace and order.

In another deconstruction of traditional values, The Warlords (Chan and Yip [2007]) tells the story of loyalty and conflict among three brothers who vow to honor their bond and put brotherhood before everything. However, the oldest brother, Pang, takes advantage of the brotherhood to pursue his personal ambition in the court of the Qing Dynasty and kills thousands of war prisoners. At the end of the film, Pang betrays his vow and kills his two brothers to obtain the position of number-one officer in the richest province of Jiangsu. The film puts one of the most highly praised values, brotherhood, to a harsh test and deconstructs it into lost faith and sheer illusion. The fragile brotherhood eventually decomposes into emptiness and is replaced by ugly human nature, thus giving the film a postmodern touch.

(p.156) In terms of a new perspective, Zhang Yimou’s Curse of the Golden Flower is worth mentioning again. Both this film and Feng Xiaogang’s The Banquet were harshly criticized for their bloody violence, nudity, and lack of moral standards. Cui Weiping, a professor at the Beijing Film Academy, said, “Big-budget films can certainly exist, but they don’t have to be so ugly.”29 Tao Dongfeng, a well-known film critic, commented, “I have never seen any country’s megaproductions that are as overtly violence worshipping as China’s megaproductions, without any moral restrictions and moral values.” He continued:

Most domestic megaproductions love to express the so-called theme of revenge, like Curse of the Golden Flower and The Banquet. However, none of the avengers and those being avenged upon, rulers and rebels, as well as the status quo advocates and challengers, represent justice and conscience. Avengers, when resorting to violence to get revenge, do not have any justified reason except for satisfying their own desire for power. The moral positions and value judgments in these films are completely void: we don’t know which character we should sympathize with, and we cannot tell good guys from bad guys. They only have lust, conspiracy, and hatred: the hatred between princes, and the hatred between empresses and crown princes. Because the hatred has nothing to do with value judgment, the massacre that results from the hatred is merely the abuse of violence.30

Other critics commented, “Our eyes are dazzled by gorgeous settings but our hearts are left in the dark.” Such megaproductions lack “humanistic concern and the height of human thought,” and “it seems that we have everything but soul.”31

However, Curse of the Golden Flower touches on one issue that is rarely seen in old martial arts films: the oppression of women, their depressed and distorted nature, and their desperate but failed rebellion. As director Zhang Yimou said: “There is an old Chinese proverb, ‘gold and jade on the outside, rot and decay on the inside.’ It means beneath a beautiful exterior lies a dark and appalling truth.” All the film’s delicate and splendid settings merely hide the dark, cold-blooded, repressive side of society. The Empress Phoenix is the central figure in this oppression and rebellion against it. Gong Li’s superb performance captures the empress’s depression and (p.157) despair living in this feudalistic, patriarchal dynasty. She is forced to drink poisoned herb soup by the emperor; engages in a secret affair with her stepson, the crown prince, whom she trusts and seeks comfort from; and conspires to lead a court rebellion with her own son, but it fails. Her distorted human nature and desperate defiance speak to the oppressive nature of society; her failed rebellion reveals her desire for control and power. As Zhang Yimou comments: “[The empress] is a tragic figure. In a male-dominated society, she is the central victim. Even though she is the empress, she suffers the most. What I want to portray is, first, a female victim. But at the same time, I also describe her rebellion.” According to Zhang, martial arts served this purpose: “The story of a large family is a reflection of feudalism in China. Chinese culture evolved under male domination. The story represents a time when men dominated society. Women were oppressed. It was a repression of humanity.”32

Curse of the Golden Flower depicts the hierarchy and patriarchy of a feudalistic society, and women’s hopeless struggle. In this sense, Zhang’s film goes beyond the traditional family revenge plot and the loyalty-betrayal conflict. He offers a new perspective and new aesthetic expression for martial arts cinema. Therefore, a purely moral judgment is not sufficient to analyze the significance of this film.

New perspectives are also displayed in the 2010 movie Detective Dee and the Mystery of the Phantom Flame—a combination of the Hollywood model and Chinese cultural components. It draws on the legend of Di Renjie, a real-life figure from the Tang Dynasty who is famous for solving crimes. It tells the story of how Di Renjie foils a conspiracy against Wu Zetian, the only female emperor in Chinese history. Similar to Curse of the Golden Flower, the movie takes a feminist perspective and demonstrates women’s power and wisdom. In addition to this modern perspective, other impressive aspects of the film are its computer-generated visual effects, all-star cast, and spectacular settings, including a sixty-six-foot-tall Buddha tower that overlooks the imperial temple. A fast pace, shifting camera angles, breathtaking fight scenes, suspense, and unexpected twists and turns add to the film’s success. By integrating martial arts with components of thrillers and detective stories, a new genre has emerged—one that scriptwriter Chen Guofeng labeled “historical police-crime.” The film employs modern cinematographic technology and computer-created 3D special effects, providing visual pleasure and splendid scenes that mirror the heyday of the prosperous Tang Dynasty. It won awards for best (p.158) art design, best visual effects, best costume design, and best actress at the Hong Kong Film Awards. Both Time magazine and the New York Times praised the film as “a historical epic” following in the footsteps of Zhang Yimou’s Hero.33

Overseas Reception

Although the new Chinese martial arts cinema has obtained the government’s blessing and the support of state-owned film groups as a showcase for Chinese culture and a strategy for promoting Chinese soft power, serious problems have surfaced. Because of their obvious commercial value, market popularity, and relative ease of passing the censors, both mainland China and Hong Kong film producers have rushed to make martial arts movies. This has led to a number of problems, such as overlapping subject matter, repetitive story lines, and recurring themes and characters, all of which indicate a lack of artistic imagination and creativity. The market is saturated with martial arts movies, and the audience has gradually become fed up.

This overlap reached a peak in 2011 and 2012. Among those movies approved by SARFT, five tapped the historical Three Kingdoms era, with a focus on Guan Yu; four drew on the legendary tale of the Journey to the West and Monkey Sun Wukong; three recounted the legend of Mu Guiying of the Song Dynasty; and three focused on Liu Bang-Xiangyu’s battle in the late Han Dynasty.34 Because of market saturation and audience boredom, box office receipts for these ancient-costumed martial arts movies also fell short of expectations. In 2011 three big-budget martial arts movies failed to earn the target of 200 million yuan. The Lost Swordsman and A Chinese Ghost Story cost 150 million yuan and 120 million yuan, respectively, yet both netted only about 150 million yuan. With an investment of 150 million yuan, The Warring State made only 70 million yuan at the box office. After their release, these three movies followed a similar trajectory: they performed well the first week, thanks to a marketing and promotion strategy that featured their all-star casts and gorgeous settings; the second week witnessed a 50 percent decline in box office receipts; after the third week, box office receipts bottomed out. This pattern is not dissimilar to what happens in the United States, where films are expected to open wide and achieve their best results in the first week. However, films are often removed from theaters earlier in China than in the United States; therefore, (p.159) box office receipts in a three-week window largely reflect a film’s market performance. Meanwhile, the Hollywood blockbusters Kung Fu Panda 2 and Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides both earned more than 300 million yuan within ten days of their release in China.35

In 2012 Taichi, The Last Supper, and The Assassins also fell short of expectations. Taichi boasted an investment of about 220 million yuan and was expected to net at least 600 million yuan at the box office, but its actual revenue was a mere 260 million yuan. With an investment of 80 million yuan, The Last Supper was expected to net 300 million yuan, but it barely recouped its investment.36 The Assassins, which cost 130 million yuan, managed to make only 103 million yuan.37

In resonance with their declining domestic box office revenue, new Chinese martial arts films have suffered in the international market as well, contrary to the government’s expectation that they would help expand Chinese soft power overseas. According to Stanley Rosen, among the top twenty-five foreign-language box office successes between 1980 and 2008, five Chinese-language films made the list: Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon; Hero; Fearless; Kung Fu Hustle; and House of Flying Daggers.38 All five are martial arts movies, indicating this genre’s international popularity. However, the box office records set by Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and Hero have never been repeated, and the genre’s popularity has declined considerably. In 2011 fifty-two Chinese movies, mainly coproductions, were released overseas and made a total of 2.024 billion yuan—a 42 percent decrease compared with the 3.517 billion yuan made by the forty-seven movies released in 2010. Although martial arts remains the most popular genre overseas, more than one-third of foreign audiences have never watched any Chinese movie, and only 26 percent of foreign audiences consider Chinese movies their main source of learning about Chinese culture.39

The situation did not improve much in 2012: of the fifteen Chinese movies released, only eight boasted ticket sales of more than US$100,000. No martial arts movie achieved overwhelming success. Chinese movies were far behind Indian and Korean movies in terms of popularity, and China failed to make the list of top thirty foreign movie producers on the American market.40

There are many reasons for the lack of success of Chinese movies, especially martial arts movies, in both domestic and overseas markets. For domestic audiences, the films’ disconnection with contemporary daily life (p.160) is the main reason. After a constant barrage of visual feasts, spectacular scenes, splashy fights, and gorgeous settings, the audience want something that can satisfy their hearts and souls, something that can arouse deep feelings and evoke thoughts about life, love, family, and society. They want something that relates to the contemporary world and reflects their own life journeys. As entertaining as ancient-costumed martial arts films might be, they rarely satisfy such deep desires. The audience’s yearning for more contemporary, more relevant entertainment explains the success of low-budget youth movies such as Love Is Not Blind, You Are the Apple of My Eye, and Go, Lala, Go.

For American audiences, the language barrier and American parochialism are obstacles that make it difficult for foreign-language titles to find more than a niche audience. The lack of internationally recognized stars is another reason. Restrictions on themes, creativity, and artistic expression imposed by China’s censorship system is also a major factor. In addition, there are fundamental differences in the narrative and storytelling styles of Chinese versus Western filmmakers. For instance, many martial arts movies use historical reference points and assume the audience is familiar with ancient politics and legends, leaving Western audiences in the dark. According to David Lee, a Chinese movie expert who heads a coproduction company and once ran an Asian film fund for Harvey Weinstein: “Hollywood often doesn’t make American movies, it makes globally appealing movies.” In contrast, “Chinese filmmakers run on the assumption people already understand the story. It’s laziness, and it makes it difficult to tell a story to a global audience.” Zhang Yimou commented, “There are not many goods films … good stories that people all over the world can understand and be touched by. … People won’t like the film if the story isn’t told in a way to move people, no matter how big the investment and structure.”41

Martial Arts Cinema and Chinese Soft Power

Chinese martial arts cinema has reemerged as a transnational and transregional hybrid genre. Using Hollywood language, these films glorify Chinese culture, Confucian ethics, and nationalism. They are, therefore, particularly conducive to the government’s strategy of constructing a common Chinese identity to ameliorate contemporary social conflicts. The Chinese government has taken great advantage of this genre and has used (p.161) it to enhance its soft power. This brings us back to the question: in a global-local dialectic and in the process of cultural hybridization, “which side is prevailing?”42 Viewing the latest martial arts movies as a collective cultural phenomenon, and taking the Chinese government’s goals into consideration, we can see that this genre is actually part of the Chinese government’s strategy to battle global Hollywood while maintaining its economic grip on the domestic market and its cultural grip on the film industry. The party-state considers the film industry an indispensable manifestation of China’s soft power. Fully embracing Joseph Nye’s concept of “soft power” after 2006, the Chinese government believes that culture is a significant source of such power and that cultural industries are crucial mechanisms for materializing it.

As defined by Chinese president Hu Jintao in his October 24, 2007, speech to the Seventeenth National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party, the Chinese version of soft power is composed of four aspects: (1) a “socialist core-values system” that highlights Marxism, “socialism with Chinese characteristics,” patriotism, and collectivism; (2) a “harmonious culture” and a morally uplifting society based on honesty and integrity; (3) the exaltation of traditional Chinese culture to foster “a spiritual home commonly identified with by the entire Chinese nation”; and (4) the innovation of culture and the liberalization of the “cultural production force.”43

While the task of building a “socialist core-values system” has been assumed by the so-called main-melody films, with limited success, the task of fostering “a spiritual home” for “the entire Chinese nation” has been delegated to martial arts cinema and the Confucian ethics this genre conveys. Since the reform era, China has faced a “crisis of faith” and moral degradation. Confucianism seems to be a convenient tool to fill this ideological vacuum and impose a common cultural heritage on the entire Chinese population, both on the mainland and beyond. The Chinese government even erected a giant statue of Confucius in Tiananmen Square, just in front of the National Museum of China—two symbols of Chinese revolutionary triumph. Although the statue was recently moved to behind the National Museum, its symbolic significance lingers. In addition, nearly 300 Confucius Institutes have been established throughout the world, and the film Confucius (Hu [2010]) premiered to great fanfare in China and elsewhere in the world. As such, the role of Confucianism in the government’s control of ideology is self-evident. Martial arts cinema, which is both commercially (p.162) successful and ideologically friendly to the government, thus satisfies both the state and the market.

Based on the China case, if what prevails in a global-local dialectic is the government’s subtle agenda and its refined ability to govern, then perhaps it is safe to say that the so-called Chinese soft power includes both governmental and cultural power and that the latter is in the service of the former, as demonstrated by martial arts movies. The state’s refined power to govern has resulted in two consequences: On one hand, the government’s cultural policy has created a relatively open space for film collaboration domestically, regionally, and internationally, and it has enabled martial arts films, drawing on the strength of Hollywood, to become the primary mode of promoting Chinese culture and philosophy. On the other hand, martial arts movies, especially those set in ancient times, reconstruct a traditional and preindustrial China, not a modern China. They represent a form of escapism and a compromise with reality, not a way out or a future direction. If these movies and the traditional values they convey constitute part of Chinese soft power, then that soft power is a double-edged sword with mixed and complicated implications.

On the international market, Chinese martial arts films have lost their appeal among foreign audiences, and the Chinese state is unlikely to advance its soft power through these movies. One reason is the genre’s disconnect with contemporary China and its lack of core values that are compatible with modern societies.

Nevertheless, because of their great entertainment and box office value, overdone kung fu movies that combine spectacular Hollywood-style special effects and traditional Chinese cultural elements have become the domestic film industry’s most influential genre and its primary market attraction. Other film genres, especially social realism, have been marginalized or even driven out of the market, leading to a more monotonous film industry. Based on the preceding analysis, new Chinese martial arts films have dubious and dual functions.

Notes:

(1.) Stephen Teo, Chinese Martial Arts Cinema: The Wuxia Tradition (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2009), 180.

(2.) Ibid. See also Stephen Teo, Hong Kong Cinema: The Extra Dimensions (London: British Film Institute, 1997).

(3.) Zhang Zhen, “Bodies in the Air: The Magic of Science and the Fate of the Early ‘Martial Arts’ Film in China,” in Chinese-Language Film: Historiography, Poetics, Politics, ed. Sheldon H. Lu and Emilie Yueh-Yu Yeh (Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 2005), 52–75; Li Siu Leung, “Kung Fu: Negotiating Nationalism (p.200) and Modernity,” in Asian Cinemas: A Reader and Guide, ed. Dimitris Eleftheriotis and Gary Needham (Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 2006).

(4.) Chris Berry and Mary Farquhar, China on Screen: Cinema and Nation (New York: Columbia University Press, 2006); Stephen Teo, “Wuxia Redux: Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon as a Model of Late Transnational Production,” in Hong Kong Connections: Transnational Imagination in Action Cinema, ed. Meaghan Morris, Siu Leung Li, and Stephen Chan Ching-kiu (Durham, NC: Duke University Press; Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press, 2005).

(5.) Dai Jinhua, “Order/Anti-Order: Representation of Identity in Hong Kong Action Movies,” in Morris et al., Hong Kong Connections.

(6.) Gary D. Rawnsley, “The Political Narrative(s) of Hero,” in Global Chinese Cinema—The Culture and Politics of Hero, ed. G. D. Rawnsley and Ming-Yeh T. Rawnsley (London: Routledge, 2010), 13–26.

(7.) Anthony Fung and J. M. Chan, “Towards a Global Blockbuster: The Political Economy of Hero’s Nationalism,” in Rawnsley and Rawnsley, Global Chinese Cinema, 198–211.

(8.) Zhao Yuezhi, “Whose Hero? The ‘Spirit’ and ‘Structure’ of a Made-in-China Global Blockbuster,” in Reorienting Global Communication—Indian and Chinese Media beyond Borders, ed. Michael Curtin and H. Shah (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2010), 161–82; Cui Weiping, “A Movie Dedicated to Saddam and Kim Jung-I,” Kaifang [Open], February 2003, 30.

(10.) Chris Berry, “Foreword,” in Rawnsley and Rawnsley, Global Chinese Cinema, xxivZhao Yuezhi, “Whose Hero?” 176

(14.) Liu Jianzhong, “Dianying de rushi tanpan yu wo’men de chengnuo” [WTO negotiation with regard to film and our commitment], in WTO yu zhongguo dianying [WTO and Chinese cinema], ed. Zhenxin Zhang and Yuanying Yang (Beijing: Zhongguo dianying chubanshe [China Film Press], 2002), 3–8; Tong Gang, “How Does China’s Film Industry Face the Challenge Brought by China’s Joining the WTO?” China Film Yearbook 2001, 17–20.

(16.) H. Wang and Ming-Yeh T. Rawnsley, “Hero: Rewriting the Chinese Martial Arts Film Genre,” in Rawnsley and Rawnsley, Global Chinese Cinema, 93.

(17.) SARFT official, interview by the author, Beijing, June 28, 2008.

(18.) “Taking on Hollywood’s China Challenge,” Business Week Online, February 26, 2008, Academic Search Premier database (accessed November 19, 2008).

(19.) For detailed accounts, see Wang Ting, “Understanding Local Reception of Globalized Cultural Products in the Context of the International Cultural Economy—A Case Study on the Reception of Hero and Daggers in China,” International Journal of Cultural Studies 12 (2009): 299; Fung and Chan, “Towards a Global Blockbuster”; (p.201) E. Yueh-yu Yeh, “The Deferral of Pan-Asian: A Critical Appraisal of Film Marketization in China,” in Curtin and Shah, Reorienting Global Communication, 183–200.

(20.) “Zhuanfang Han Sanping: quanmian jiexi zhongying jituan chanquan he jizhi gaige” [Interview with Han Sanping], December 11, 2008, http://indus.chinafilm.com/200812/1153882.html (accessed October 4, 2010).

(21.) J. Martinsen, “Boom Times for Chinese Film, but What Comes Next?” Sanlian Life Weekly, February 27, 2008, http://www.danwei.org/magazines/state_of_the_film_industry.php (accessed October 4, 2010).

(22.) Liu A. X., “What Makes the Most Profit? Risk Does. China Film Group CEO Interview with Southern Weekly,” September 28, 2009, http://www.danwei.org/film/what_makes_the_most_profit_ris.php (accessed October 4, 2010).

(23.) “Huangjinjia zhongjin siqian wubaiwan meijin yusuan gaixie yingshi jilu” [Curse of the Golden Flower’s budget of US$45 million breaks the record in film history], October 14, 2006, http://zhidao.baidu.com/question/13833521.html(accessed April 19, 2008).

(24.) Cici, “Huoshao chibi yisi qishang, yusuan zijin yanzhong touzhi” [One death and seven injuries in Red Cliff shooting location; budget overdrawn], July 16, 2010, http://www.rxyj.org/html/2010/0716/2591244.php (accessed October 6, 2010).

(25.) China Film Group Corporation official, interview by the author, Beijing, July 7, 2011.

(27.) John Woo, special features, Red Cliff II (DVD, 2009).

(28.) Focus Features, September 27, 2006, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YeWckl9CN1k (accessed April 8, 2013).

(29.) David Barboza, “A Leap Forward, or a Great Sellout?” New York Times, July 1, 2007, Academic Search Premier database (accessed November 20, 2008).

(30.) Tao Dongfeng, “Zhongguo dapian daole shixueruming de shidai” [Chinese megaproductions have entered a bloodthirsty stage], Art Criticism 2 (2007): 36–38.

(31.) Liu Simin, “Zhang Yimou de bingmayong moshi nengfou zhongjie” [Can Zhang Yimou’s terra-cotta warrior model be brought to an end?], August 21, 2007, http://news.sina.com.cn/pl/2007-08-21/152413711950.shtml (accessed August 21, 2007); Jin Yan, “Women de dapian meiyou linghun” [Our megaproductions have no soul], Beijing Jishi 12 (2007): 12–13.

(32.) “The Making of Curse of the Golden Flower,” special features (DVD, 2006).

(33.) “Di Renjie zhi tongtian diguo” [Information on Detective Dee and the Mystery of the Phantom Flame], http://baike.baidu.com/view/2426824.htm (accessed April 11, 2013).

(34.) “Ershiyubu dianying leitong: daoyan ai zhuangche, guanzhong zhineng zhuangqiang” [More than twenty movies overlap], Liaoning Daily, March 22, 2011, http://news.entgroup.cn/movie/229757.shtml (accessed March 23, 2011).

(p.202) (35.) “Guochan dapian zaoyu piaofang pingjin wuxiapian buzai chimian tianxia” [Domestic megaproductions suffer from box office Waterloo; martial arts movies no longer popular], June 15, 2011, http://news.entgroup.cn/movie/1510435.shtml(accessed June 16, 2011).

(36.) Ar Hua, “Buzhuanye de 2012 dianyingjie: zuiburu yuqide liubu dapian” [Six megaproductions fall short of expectations in 2012], Wangyi Yule, January 7, 2013, http://news.entgroup.cn/movie/0715587.shtml (accessed January 10, 2013).

(37.) Dada Xiansheng and Li Xiaodao, “Shiyi 2012 hesuidang huayu guzhuang dapian luzai hefang?” [In which direction should Chinese ancient-costume megaproductions go?], Mtime, January 6, 2013, http://news.entgroup.cn/movie/0615576.shtml (accessed January 10, 2013).

(38.) Stanley Rosen, “Chinese Cinema’s International Market,” in Art, Politics, and Commerce in Chinese Cinema, ed. Zhu Ying and Stanley Rosen (Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press, 2010), 35–54.

(39.) Li Xiaodao, “Zhongguo dianying guoji chuanbo yanjiu baogao chulu, laowai zhiren gongfupian” [Report on international response to Chinese cinema indicates kung fu movies are the most popular genre among foreign audiences], Mtime, May 30, 2012, http://news.mtime.com/2012/05/30/1489488.html(accessed April 11, 2013).

(40.) Xu Sijian, “Zhongguo dianying beimei biaofang chulu, Love yiwai duoguan” [Love unexpectedly champions North American box office revenue of Chinese movies], Fazhi Wanbao, January 4, 2013, http://news.entgroup.cn/movie/0415560.shtml (accessed January 10, 2013).

(41.) “History of Chinese Films in the West, http://factsanddetails.com/china.php?itemid=241catid=7subcatid=42#150 (accessed April 14, 2013).

(43.) Hu Jintao, “Hu Jintao’s Speech on CCP 17th National Congress,” October 24, 2007, http://news.sina.com.cn/c/2007-10-24/205814157378.shtml (accessed December 2, 2009).