China Insight Series: Chinese Movies 1-3

The Insight Series from 2014 continues into 2015! 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.

Red Cliff (赤壁)

The Battle of the Red Cliff, occurring in the waning days of the Eastern Han Dynasty about 1,800 years ago, is one of the most famous examples in the history of Chinese warfare of a weaker force defeating a superior one. At the same time, the power was in the hands of the Prime Minister, Cao Cao. In 208 AD, Cao Cao, with a million land and naval forces under his command, first attached Liu Bei in the south before moving east to attack Sun Quan. Afterwards, Sun Quan and Liu Bei's allied forces, led by Zhou Yu, employing tactics using fire attacked and defeated Cao Cao's superior forces at the Red Cliff on the Yangtze River. Routed, Cao Cao's forces retreated to the North, losing the opportunity to unite China within a short period of time. Following the Battle of the Red Cliff the three states of Wei, Shu and Wu were formed.

Cao Cao waged war on Liu Bei and Sun Quan. After some deliberation, Liu Bei and Sun Quan's forces formed an alliance to resist Cao Cao's attack together. There are many interesting stories during the battle. For example, Zhuge Liang "borrowed" hundreds of thousands of arrows from Cao Cao with thatched boats. Zhou Yu spread rumors which led to the death of Cao Cao's two navy generals. When Zhuge Liang and Zhou Yu decided to use fire to attack Cao Cao's camp, the wind was blowing in the wrong direction. Who will win the battle and who will impress you most? You will know after seeing the movie.

The movie's director is Joho Woo Yu-Sen, a famous director and screenwriter. His Hollywood films Face/Off, Broken Arrow and Misson Impossible II, amongst others, have all been very influential. Zhou Yu is played by Tony Leung, a superstar in Asia who is thought to be amongst China's most "manly" actors. Zhuge Liang is played by Takeshi Kaneshiro, whose broad international background has made him one of Asia's hottest male celebrities.

Main Characters

  • Zhuge Liang, a prominent statesman, military commander, and diplomat in the Three Kingdoms era
  • Zhou Yu, an Eastern Wu general and leaders in civil and military affairs as well as a prominent military commander
  • Cao Cao, a famous military commander and statesman, founder of the Wei state in the Three Kingdoms era
  • Sun Quan, the emperor who founded the Wu state in the Three Kingdoms era
  • Liu Bei, the emperor who founded the Shu state in the Three Kingdoms era
  • Sun Shangxiang, Sun Jian's daughter, Sun Ce and Sun Quan's younger sister and later married to Liu Bei
  • Xiao Qiao, Zhou Yu's wife, a woman renowned in legend for her beauty

Confucian Saying Of The Month


Zǐ yuē:"Zhìzhě bú huò, rénzhě bù yōu, yǒngzhě bú jù"

The Master said, "He who is really wise can never be perplexed. He who is really virtuous cannot be unhappy, He who is really brave is never fearful."

Chinese Character Of The Month


be puzzled, delude, mislead

惑 is a phonogram, picto-phonetic character. The top part "或"marks the pronunciation of the character. The buttom "心"means the heart or mind, which indicates this character is related to mental activity. It can be used as a verb and an adjective, but has to combine with other characters to form meaningful words. Its basic meaning as a verb refers to mislead. As an adjective, it means the statue of being puzzled and deluded.

迷惑mí huò – to mislead

疑惑 yí huò – doubt, feel uncertain

诱惑yòu huò – tempt

不惑之年búhuò zhī nián – the age of 40s (where people should be leading a life without doubts and with full self-confidence )

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