China Insight Series: Chinese Movies 1-2

The Insight Series for 2014 continues! This series introduces excellent Chinese movies and encourages movie appreciation with focused themes.

Our series consists of four themes: Chinese History, Chinese Kung Fu, Chinese Cartoons, and China Today. For each theme, three movies will be introduced.

For the first theme, Chinese History, we will introduce: The Founding of A Republic, City of Life and Death, and Red Cliff.

For the second theme, Chinese Kung Fu, we will introduce: The Grandmaster, Hero, and Reign of Assassins.

City of Life and Death (南京!南京!)

City of Life and Death is a 2009 Chinese drama film written and directed by Lu Chuan, marking his third feature film. The film deals with the Battle of Nanjing and its aftermath (commonly referred to as the "Rape of Nanking" or the "Nanking Massacre") during the Second Sino-Japanese War. The film is also known as Nanking! Nanking! (or Nanjing! Nanjing!) The film was released on April 22, 2009 where it became a box office success, earning 150 million yuan (approximately US$20 million) in its first two and a half weeks alone.

Shot in dazzling black-and-white Cinemascope, City of Life and Death is a visionary re-telling of one of the most horrific chapters in modern Asian history, and an unforgettable masterpiece of contemporary world cinema. Within the scope of Asian history, few events carry the ugly and sickening connotations of the Rape of Nanking. Japanese forces invaded that Chinese city on December 9, 1937, and in the six weeks to follow, soldiers raped thousands of women and annihilated hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians, killing as many as 300,000 citizens according to official statistics.

Director Lu Chuan directs this black-and-white docudrama account of that horrifying six-week period, with the benefit of an ensemble cast that includes Hideo Nakaizumi as a conscience-stricken Japanese soldier, Fan Wei as the aid to a German humanitarian worker, and Gao Yuanyuan as the head of a refugee camp. Lu relays the events directly and straightforwardly, with a careful avoidance of sensationalism and excessive sentimentality, and uses the chronicle to meditate on the insanity of war for all of those involved.

The movie director Lu Chuan is considered one of the most talented young directors in China. His insightful films have found new ways for the Chinese cinema.

Main Characters

  • Lu Jianxiong, Commander
  • Jiang Shuyun, a returned teacher
  • Kadokawa Masao, Superior Private of Japanese Army
  • Jiang Xiangjun, a Chinese dancer
  • John Rabe, Nazi Party member and the chairman of the international committee at Nanjing safety zone
  • Shunzi, a comrade-in-arms of Lu Jianxiong
  • Tang Tianxiang, Secretary to John Rabe

Confucian Saying Of The Month


Zǐ yuē: "Fùmǔ zài, bù yuǎn yóu. Yóu bì yǒu fāng."

The Master said, "While your parents are alive, do not wander far away; if you do so, go only where you have said you are going."

Chinese Character Of The Month



square, direction

方is a single character. It can be used as a noun and an adjective. Its basic meaning as a noun is "direction", as in phrase like 方向、方位 and the "way", as in phrase 方法. The meaning as an adjective is "square", as in phrase 平方、方块。

方向 fāngxiàng – direction
方位 fāngwèi – position
方法 fāngfǎ-way, method
平方 píngfāng – square
方块 fāngkuài – diamond, block

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