Early cinema in China was dominated by foreign imports, especially from the US. An early US co-production, Nan fu nan qi/An Unfortunate Couple was made in Shanghai in 1913. That film’s director, Zhang Shichuan, also produced and directed the earliest locally produced film, Hei ji yuan hun/Wronged Ghosts in an Opium Den (1916) and the earliest surviving film, Zhi guo yuan/Romance of A Fruit Pedlar (1922). In parallel with similar developments in Hong Kong, by the 1930s, a number of film companies had become established in Shanghai, with Mingxing and Lianhua the largest. Films about city life and adaptations of Chinese traditional cultural forms such as the Beijing Opera were popular with audiences.
Japanese invasion of Manchuria in 1931 provoked a rise in Chinese nationalism and communist activism, and an influx of left-wing artists and intellectuals into the film industry ensured a pronounced political dimension in films of the 1930s; Chun can/Spring Silkworms (Cheng Bugao, 1933) and Dalu/The Big Road (Sun Yu, 1935), for example, combined the songs and comedy of popular genre films with comment on Japanese aggression and class struggle. The period from 1932 is widely regarded as a first golden age of Chinese cinema, with a robust film industry producing popular and political fare, and with Ruan Lingyu, ‘the Chinese Garbo’, a successful star. Malu tianshi/Street Angel (Yuan Mu-jih, 1937) and Shizi jietou/Crossroads (Shen Xiling, 1937) are considered classics of the period. ...
Articles and other writings about Chinese language films can be found in many publications. Our collection includes 2 journals which look exclusively at Chinese language cinema. You can use Film & Television Literature Index to find articles or use the search box at the top of the page.
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