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Memories of Television and Film

2019.03.20 09:55
关键词:Memories of Television and Film
While Wu Song does include some acrobatic fighting, the television show that really created a sensation in the mainland was the Hong Kong-produced series Legend of a Fighter (Huo Yuanjia), aired by CCTV in May of 1984. This series caused mainland audiences to become hooked on Hong Kong-style martial arts dramas ever since. From today’s perspective we might note the strange phenomenon that although intellectual and academic circles in Hong Kong do not demonstrate a very strong identification with the nation-state, in terms of both mass culture and popular culture the exact opposite is true.
Memories of Television and Film[1]

by ZHANG Yongfeng
Fudan University
Front. Lit. Stud. China 2014, 8(3): 492-512; DOI 10.3868/s010-003-014-0027-8

Although I can no longer remember the first movie I ever saw, the first show I ever watched on television was Wu Song[2] in 1982, and it left quite an impression on me. At that time television sets in the countryside were very scarce, and only the wealthiest people who kept up with the latest trends had one. Actually, the first households in our village to have televisions had some sort of connection to the city: Either someone in the family worked in the city, or they had relatives there, or their work sometimes required them to go there.

Of the first group—those with a family member who worked in the city—there were two households that stood out: They had original 20-inch Hitachi color sets imported from Japan. The men of these households worked at the Tanggu (塘沽)wharfs in Tianjin, and they were supposedly able to buy the TVs at a good price from sailors coming from Japan. Thanks to these people, I was able to watch The Legend of the Condor Heroes (Shediao yingxiong zhuan)[3] in color. Those who comprised the second group, those with relatives in the city, were most generally educated youth who never returned to the city. They were all females from Tianjin who had married and had children in the countryside. For them, it was quite simple to procure a black-and-white set early on. The third group, whose work sometimes took them to the city, were the village’s first wave of nouveaux riches. They paid market price for 14-inch domestically produced color TVs, which projected their sound out into the streets. By the time I watched one of those, it was already the days of The Legend Continues (Huo dong ge).[4]

When I first saw Wu Song in 1982, it was at the house of an old friend whose father worked as the manager of a distribution agency. My impression of the world at that time was that it was all in black-and-white, which, aside from the fact that all the houses at that time were old and squat with dark rooms, was also because most of the televisions at the time were black-and-white. The world of The Water Margin[5] that I saw on the black-and-white 14-inch screen at my friend’s house left a deep impression on me, and became one of my most basic and vivid memories of that time.

Throughout the 1980s, gathering at the homes of people who had a television became a common practice, and the first homes to have a TV basically turned into public places of entertainment. Apparently this was also the case in Beijing, where many people at the time still lived in multi-family compounds, and relationships amongst neighbors were not much different from those amongst villagers in the countryside. Once the rural production teams were dismantled, getting together to watch TV was practically the only opportunity for communal activity. I once heard of a newspaper article that predicted the television would bring with it a decrease in social interaction, but at that time nothing could have been further from the truth; the collective watching of television only enhanced the old custom of going around to visit folks. Not until nearly every household had gotten a television, and individuals could pass their free time home alone watching TV, could the device begin to have an anti-social effect.

Those people who did have a television in the early days were never put out by having so many guests, and if the room was too small for the number of people gathered and the weather permitted, the TV would be moved out to the courtyard. In order to cope with power cuts, which could be quite dispiriting, some people even went as far as to buy storage batteries and transformers, charging them during the day for use in the evening. I remember, in fact, watching the series finale of Return to Tiger Mountain (Zai xiang hushan xing)[6] with a whole crowd of people in the courtyard of my cousin’s home with the help of a storage battery. In those days, it was as if people with a television set shouldered a certain responsibility: If your family had a TV and others didn’t, how could you refuse to let them watch? This feeling of obligation came first from traditional rural moral principles and the communal nature of village life, and second from the honor and joy that came in the wake of new prosperity. After all, during such a time when the accumulation of wealth was being advocated, taking the lead in getting a television was certainly something to be proud of. There were also those, of course, who weren’t so good at getting along with others, and they would shut their doors and enjoy the fruits of the Reform Era all by themselves, much to the disdain of others.

I’m not sure if the homes people chose to visit for watching television had anything to do with their former production units or not, but for a long time the phrase “we’re a working team” was used to indicate a closeness of relations. While the theory of class background started to disintegrate, however, the rifts in people’s hearts from the struggle between the two factions in the Cultural Revolution had not gone away. I never went to our next door neighbors’ to watch TV, for example, even though they had gotten one early on from doing business in Beijing. Having heard too many frightening stories of class struggle as a child, I knew the neighbors had once been supporters of restoring the monarchy and thus had been enemies of my family. As the allure of Wu Song beckoned me, I had to go further afield in search of what was actually close at hand.

Wu Song was a reflection of the general mental and emotional state during that time of historical transition, and its production was deeply effected by the conditions of that transitional period.

Guo Zhenzhi writes in her History of Chinese Television that “in February of 1982, China Central Television broadcast the first three episodes of the Wu Song series produced by Shandong Television: “A Drunken Beating of Jiang the Door God,” “Trapped and under Surveillance,” and “Blood Splashes the Tower of Mandarin Ducks.” I also seem to recall having watched the following two episodes at that time—“The Second Advance toward Crossroads Hill” and “Night Journey to Centipede Ridge”—as well as the three preceding episodes—“Killing a Tiger on Jingyang Hill,” “Brothers Reluctant to Part,” and “A Fight to the Death with Ximen Qing”—but of course this could also just be a later memory. Looking at Wu Song today, it is clear that it was steeped in a culture of revolutionary thought and, to a large extent, was an ideological extension of the previous era. As such, its adaptation of the Wu Song story exhibits several notable points.

First of all, in response to the hopes and demands of the people, the element of the masses is added. In “A Fight to the Death with Ximen Qing,” for example, when Wu Song and Ximen Qing are locked in struggle in Lion Tower, a large crowd of cheering spectators gathers below: Wu Song is fighting not only out of revenge for his brother,[7] but also on behalf of the common people. This is also similar to “A Drunken Beating of Jiang the Door God” (Jiang Menshen), which begins with Wu Song witnessing Jiang’s oppression of the people, on top of which is added Jiang’s slaying of an upstanding champion of the oppressed. This foreshadows Wu Song’s determination to rid society of evil, and when he helps Shi En recapture the inn, his larger goal is to achieve justice in society.

Second, class oppression and resistance is made quite prominent, with a particular emphasis on the class unity of those who are oppressed. The most typical example of this is the adaptation of the character Yu Lan. In The Water Margin, Yu Lan is simply an entertaining servant girl who Zhang Dujian uses to entice Wu Song, lowering his guard and leading him into a trap. In the TV series, however, she is portrayed as a righteous and courageous rebel who has suffered bitterly at the hands of Zhang, who had forced her mother to hang herself. Filled with resentment and hatred, Yu Lan eavesdrops on the plot against Wu Song and immediately brings him the information; only because Wu Song is too morally upstanding to open his door for her does he end up falling into the trap. Then, after Wu Song stabs Zhang Dujian to death, Yu Lan throws herself off a building so that she will not become a burden for Wu Song.

Although Wu Song races to save her, he is too late, which becomes his eternal regret. Clearly, the feelings between these two members of the oppressed class are quite moving. By the same logic, in the book Wu Song kills fifteen people at Zhang Dujian’s estate, while in the TV version he kills only three: Jiang the Door God, Zhang Tuanlian, and Zhang Dujian himself. All of the other servants, however, along with Zhang Dujian’s wife and children, remain unharmed. Because Yu Lan is now categorized as a member of the oppressed, the other servants must be as well, and as long as Zhang Dujian’s family members did not participate in his evils, they too should obviously be shown leniency. In a similar vein, “Blood Splashes the Tower of Mandarin Ducks,” a heroic story in which kindness begets kindness and enmity is repaid with enmity, becomes a rational tale of class struggle in which no innocent person could possibly be killed.

Third, the combination of the principles of individual heroism with collective struggle emphasizes a unified consistency of armed resistance. This is very close to the previous point, and a typical example would be the baseless addition of most of what happens in the episode “The Second Advance toward Crossroads Hill.” In the TV series, interestingly enough, the second advance toward the hill rather than the first. In the novel, when Wu Song is on his way to Mengzhou, where he has been sent for penal servitude,[8] he and his guards stop for a rest at Mrs. Sun’s inn at Crossroads Hill.[9] Mrs. Sun drugs Wu Song and his two guards with a medicinal liquor, intending to murder them and steal their money, but while the guards end up passing out, Wu Song remains alert. As soon as Wu Song overcomes Mrs. Sun in a tussle, Zhang Qing enters, and the heroes recognize each other.[10]This is the story of Wu Song’s first arrival at Crossroads Hill, which also marks a highpoint in the drama. The television adaptation, however, completely cuts this part out, filming instead the “second advance” toward Crossroads Hill, which normally would not make much sense. The deletion of this scene as it appears in the novel is meant to cover up Mrs. Sun’s appalling behavior—such as murdering people for their money and selling buns stuffed with human flesh—which makes no distinctions between class. Otherwise, according to the logic of class struggle, her actions would not be easy to explain. This deletion, however, is consistent with the new contents of “The Second Advance toward Crossroads Hill,” and actually, following Wu Song’s departure disguised as a Buddhist monk, the newly added elements of the story have little to do with him at all. In this new TV version, Mrs. Sun, Zhang Qing, Shi En, and a number of servants fend off the government troops who are pursuing Wu Song. In a battle of resistance on Crossroads Hill, the servants fight bravely alongside the leading characters to vanquish the enemy, sacrificing many of their own lives before ultimately exterminating the government forces. One of the most moving scenes in the episode occurs when a fellow villager of Shi En gives his own life in order to save one of the combatants. This kindhearted villager was the same one who once brought food to Wu Song while he was imprisoned in Mengzhou, and since he possesses no martial skills himself, he cannot directly participate in the battle. By giving his own life, he lends the ultimate support to the resistance. For this battle, victory means buying time for Wu Song, and once the fighting is over Mrs. Sun and the others set fire to the inn and move their base of resistance to Two Dragon Mountain.

The creative adaptation of the last episode of the series, “Night Journey to Centipede Ridge,” is also quite intriguing. In the novel this is a relatively simple and straightforward affair: As Wu Song comes upon Centipede Ridge on his way to Two Dragon Mountain, he passes by a temple where he hears a girl trying to avoid the sexual advances of a lecherous monk. Immediately becoming enraged, Wu Song slays the monk, frees the girl, and burns down the temple. This simple plot becomes much more complicated in the television version. It begins with some itinerant monks traveling along Centipede Ridge, bringing with them some young women they have kidnapped; dressed as a monk himself, Wu Song also happens upon this desolate location. Later he learns from a shopkeeper that the Iron-legged Monk and Flying Centipede have been terrorizing the people of the area, and the officials have remained completely unresponsive to their complaints. Secretly investigating the ridge one night, Wu Song overhears a conversation between the Iron-legged Monk and Flying Centipede and learns that they were originally hired by the government to act as thugs and spies. Under the command of Mr. Cai from Dongjing, they have been instructed to plan an attack on Two Dragon Mountain. Wu Song rescues the young women and leads them down off the mountain, but during their escape they encounter the Iron-legged Monk. Wu Song breaks his legs and kills him, and moves on to engage in a decisive battle with Flying Centipede. At this point the shopkeeper Cao Zheng appears and lends his aid to Wu Song as the fighting intensifies. Mrs. Sun, Zhang Qing, and Shi En then arrive leading the masses, who are driven by a righteous indignation. Through a collective effort, the reactionary forces are completely eliminated. Having escaped from the clutches of evil, the young women are happily reunited with their families, and Wu Song quietly makes his exit with his fellows. The shopkeeper Cao Zheng, it is revealed, had been a secret agent planted at Two Dragon Mountain, passing information to Wu Song and leading everyone to join forces at Two Dragon Mountain. The rescued masses raise their voices to heaven, praying that their righteous military strength will continue to grow.

Here we see the lewd and immoral monks who have plagued the people collaborate with the feudal authorities, clearly demonstrating the extreme reactionary character of the government officials. Because Wu Song’s armed resistance embraced the people and conformed to their will, it possessed an unquestionable legitimacy. The ancient notions of righting wrongs in accordance with Heaven’s will and securing peace for the people by eliminating violence have evolved into the modern idea of revolutionary struggle, in which a large space opens up for the participation of the people. Given Wu Song’s extraordinary bravery, Flying Centipede would not ordinarily be taken as a serious opponent. In the TV adaptation, however, Wu Song alone is no match for Flying Centipede, and without everyone’s help it would have been difficult for him to have escaped in one piece. This demonstrates the consistent nature of armed struggle: Individual heroism must unite with the principles of collective struggle in order to achieve results.

Although the television series Wu Song has many discrepancies with the novel The Water Margin (might this be related to the campaign, “Criticize Lin Biao, Criticize Confucius, Criticize The Water Margin”?),[11] at that time the audience had no difficulty accepting this, either in their hearts or their minds. Everything seemed perfectly natural to them—these sorts of outlaws in this kind of Water Margin were better suited to the audience’s aesthetic demands and outlook on life. Even today, many people still feel that this version of The Water Margin is better than the one filmed in the 1990s, one of the reasons being the characterization of Wu Song. While the 1990s version stays closer to the original story, it is not entirely accurate to understand the producers’ intentions as completely restoring The Water Margin to its original state. Taking the story of Wu Song as an example, while the 1990s remake does include the indiscriminate slaughter of the innocent contained in the novel, it does so by exaggerating Wu Song’s delight in taking revenge. In addition, the remake creates the idea that Pan Jinlian is sexually repressed, adding in a bathing scene which involves multiple shots of her body as she caresses herself. Thus, while this version ultimately returns to the original, the fabricated plot elements do seem to carry with them some contradictions, which actually just result from catering to the preferences of the time regarding violence and sexual pleasure. In this instance, the motivation behind this portrayal of Pan Jinlian results from the predominance of sexual desire in the contemporary understanding of human nature. In the eyes of today’s audience, this seems perfectly natural.

While Wu Song does include some acrobatic fighting, the television show that really created a sensation in the mainland was the Hong Kong-produced series Legend of a Fighter (Huo Yuanjia), aired by CCTV in May of 1984. This series caused mainland audiences to become hooked on Hong Kong-style martial arts dramas ever since. From today’s perspective we might note the strange phenomenon that although intellectual and academic circles in Hong Kong do not demonstrate a very strong identification with the nation-state, in terms of both mass culture and popular culture the exact opposite is true. Shows like Legend of a Fighter, Chen Zhen, and The Legend Continues (Huo Dongge)[12]all closely wove together national self-sufficiency and the resistance of colonial rule to form the central theme of the plot. Love was also present as a theme, of course, although only the protagonist—always some sort of high-minded national hero—was ever able to achieve true love. Devoted to national strengthening and salvation while resisting foreign bullying, the hero of Legend of a Fighter, Huo Yuanjia, displayed the upstanding virtue of the Chinese people, complemented by the standard nationalistic song “The Great Wall will Never Topple” (Wanli changcheng yong bu dao). 

The tragic ending of the heroic tales of Huo Yuanjia, furthermore, contained the psychological scars of Hong Kong’s hundred years of colonial history. Even historical martial arts dramas like The Legend of the Condor Heroes and The Return of the Condor Heroes (Shendiao xia lü) incorporate the themes of defending the nation against aggression and rescuing it from danger. No wonder the Taiwanese authorities banned Jin Yong’s martial arts novels in the 1960s, mistaking them for communist propaganda. If popular culture comes closest to the hearts of the people, then both nationalism and ethnic and national identity (minzu rentong) in Hong Kong’s popular culture become all the more intriguing. Produced in Hong Kong, Legend of a Fighter might seem at first to have nothing to do with the historical context of the mainland, but the fact that it was promptly aired by CCTV demonstrates the implicit spiritual connections—compounded by the fact that in December of that year, China and Great Britain signed an agreement ensuring the return of Hong Kong to the mainland.


ronically, in the 1980s Guo Zhenzhi gave the following critique of Legend of a Fighter in his History of Chinese Television:


This television drama is particularly suited to the interests of the urban petty bourgeoisie. In the quest for some sort of prominent ideological significance, the theme of “nationalism” was injected. Athletics, however, does not equal politics, and no amount of punching and kicking could mold a new nation. If reformism was unable to completely save the nation, “Kung-Fu nationalism” seems even more narrow-minded and foolish. (176)


In that era, the time when River Elegy (He shang)[13] was produced, an idolatry of Western “blue culture”[14] accompanied China’s overarching reforms. This influenced a group of intellectuals who saw the worship of everything foreign as a new trend and identity. In their view, nationalism and national identity were merely “urban petty bourgeois interests,” and the ambiguous “road to complete national salvation” was no more than an adoption of Western rhetoric. The development of this sort of thought and social trajectory, characterized by thorough self-reform and worship of the West, grew stronger day by day. Eventually, they would completely expel the cultural traditions of revolutionary history from television.

Actually, to be fair, the earliest martial arts drama in the mainland was not a television series, but the 1982 film Shaolin Temple (Shaolin si)—a joint production between Hong Kong and the mainland that was initially responsible for the surge of interest in martial arts dramas. A large number of martial arts productions appeared around that time, such as 1983’s Shaolin Brothers (Shaolin si dizi), The Undaunted Wudang (Wudang), and Prides Deadly Fury (Wulin zhi),[15] and 1984’s Little Heroes (Zigu yingxiong chu shaonian), The Holy Robe of the Shaolin Temple (Mumian jiasha), and Kung Fu Hero Wang Wu (Dadao Wang Wu), etc. These kinds of films were actually part of the turn from films about war and revolution to ones that were more purely martial arts romances.

The story of Shaolin Temple, for example, is like a selection of candied fruits on a stick: “revenge on behalf of one’s father” is the bamboo skewer, on which “class oppression,” “youthful romance,” “violent destruction,” and “the salvation of all creatures” are placed. The monks’ “family history” is revealed when they are gathered together feasting on dog, and only when he is listening to the master telling stories does Jue Yuan[16] understand that all of the brothers have their own debt of blood and tears, and that becoming a monk at the Shaolin temple was only a temporary refuge and an opportunity for them to regain their strength. Jue Yuan impetuously rushes down the mountain, displaying not only the immaturity of both himself and Wu Qionghua, but also their individual failures at getting revenge. Wang Renze represents the powerful tyrant with great military capabilities, and to face this sort of enemy, in addition to working tirelessly to hone their skills, the heroes must also wait for the arrival of righteous reinforcements. The appearance of Li Shimin[17]announces that the final, decisive battle is imminent. Fang Zhang (“Buddhist abbot”) becomes injured protecting Li Shimin and eventually sacrifices himself; he is both a high level monk and the grandfather of Zhang Ga, and a general representative of the heroes. Buddhist and “revolutionary” language intertwine to produce the themes of “the cultivation of justice,” “the salvation of all creatures,” and “the use of violence to resist violence.” After the monks’ success in the decisive battle, the ceremony for those taking monastic vows was held as one large celebration of heroism. The restriction on wine and meat was not part of the laws of the Shaolin Temple—this was not simply for the temporary convenience of celebratory drinking (Jinri tongyin qinggong jiu); rather, it both surpassed a stubborn persistence in dharmas and demolished the barriers of worldly existence, protecting the possibility of intervening in worldly affairs.

Perhaps some would exclaim at the poetic beauty of “The Shepherd’s Song” from Shaolin Temple—how could it have anything to do with “revolution”? Perhaps we should listen more closely to the words:


The sun appears at the base of Mount Song,

the morning bells startle birds in flight.


There’s no room for a daughter’s tenderness,

no time for her charms.

Sixteen winters have turned to spring

and the chrysanthemum is in her youth,

her bosom filled with a courageous spirit.

Practicing martial skills and laboring in earnest,

plowing fields, herding sheep, fighting wolves,

taking on all her burdens through the wind and rain.


In this song about Bai Wuxia[18] “plowing fields, herding sheep, fighting wolves,” we see that although she is not exactly equivalent to the Communist Party representative who “vows not to rest until all the wolves have been exterminated” (Bu mie chailang shi bu xiu), her brave and vigorous fighting spirit, as well as her attitude, favoring weapons over silk, bears no comparison whatsoever with the pampered princesses, delicate little swallows, and pretentious “spoiled pets” that have come afterwards.

Obviously Shaolin Temple is not a story of the people standing up and demanding liberation. Li Shimin’s expedition against Wang Shichong is merely a battle between two tyrannical powers, and while Jue Yuan’s participation allows him to get revenge on behalf of his father, it does not tie individual revenge to class liberation. The production process of the film, however, certainly involved revolutionary language—or rather, the structure of the contents was formed by combining the models of a chivalric fairytale and a revolutionary story. Revolution requires fighting, and chivalry is displayed through martial arts; Shaolin Temple, consequently, shows the marks of the transition from fighting to martial arts.

This characteristic was shared by other films of the time, both martial arts films and films of revolutionary struggle. Many imperial officials, for example, were corrupt reactionaries who oppressed the people, and the villains in movies were always thugs of the imperial court or local tyrants. The protagonists, on the other hand, were upstanding characters, and the main story always focused on how they overcame the bad guys, brought peace to the land, and set everything aright with heaven.

All of this, however, soon experienced a complete reversal. In historical dramas, the imperial government and its lackeys soon became positive characters and even the principal heroes. Shows like Make Bitter Qianlong (Xishuo Qianlong),[19] Yongzheng Dynasty (Yongzheng wangchao),[20] Kangxi Dynasty (Kangxi wangchao),[21] Rendezvous with Kangxi (Kangxi weifu sifang),[22] The Silver-tongued Ji Xiaolan (Tiezui tongya Ji Xiaolan),[23] and For the Sake of the Republic (Zoujin gonghe)[24] display the great achievements and romantic stories of leading historical figures, which becomes the basic trajectory for the narration of history. Other shows, like The Great Gate (Da zhaimen),[25]lionize capitalists. Of this group, The Dyehouse (Da ranfang)[26] is among the worst, actually displaying Chen Liuzi’s heroic spirit through his beating of the dye workers; the producers, furthermore, seem quite pleased with the creation of this vivid scene. A beggar as a child who later became the adopted son of the owners of the dyehouse, Chen Liuzi’s first display of his intelligence and ability came when helping his adoptive father punish the hired dye master. This show seemed to promote the message that great figures who were successful in business may have started out poor, but after toadying to those in power and trading in their ancestors—and helping to further intensify their adoptive father’s punishment of poor, suffering workers—they could finally become financially successful.

Chairman Mao once said that all the traditional leading characters—imperial nobility and officials, scholars and beauties—should be expunged from art and taken off the stage. In an era ruled by the people, the common masses should instead take their places. Not long after their departure, these traditional characters have now all been exonerated and have resumed their original positions. The basic driving force behind the rise and fall of these figures in artistic production comes from the vacillating positions occupied by different classes in society. Artistic production is one aspect of ideological production, and by recalling the aforementioned films and TV shows, one can see how both before and after an era, ideology establishes its legitimacy according to its complete reversal. If the promotion of the former ideology required constant affirmation, and those historically in power were guilty of all kinds of evils, and resistance to power was just and heroic, only then could one establish the legitimacy of their political power to rule.

From this kind of historical perspective, then, comes the question of the plight of the common people and their possible resistance, and whether or not it is impossible to ignore. Will people have a certain kind of wariness and self-reflection because they hold power? More importantly, will it be possible for the oppressed classes to draw from this same historical perspective and clearly recognize their own predicament, therefore enabling them to enter into a space for critique and resistance, and possibly become a historical movement?

The answer is certain, but it is already gradually becoming history itself.


[1] Translated from Chinese by Todd W. Foley.

[2] An 8-episode series, produced by Shandong Television (SDTV), based on a selection of stories from the classic novel The Water Margin (Shuihu zhuan). This and all following footnotes have been added by the translator.

[3] Based on the poplar series of martial arts novels by Jin Yong (published in 1959), several television adaptations were produced in both Hong Kong and Taiwan throughout the 1980s and 1990s.

[4] A 30-episode series directed by Xu Xiaoming that first aired in 1984 on Asia Television Limited in Hong Kong. The show was aired in the mainland the following year.

[5] Alternatively translated into English as Outlaws of the Marsh and All Men are Brothers.

[6] A 40-episode series produced in Hong Kong by Asia Television Limited and directed by Xu Xiaoming (1983).

[7] Ximen Qing had an affair with Wu Song’s sister-in-law Pan Jinlian, and the pair conspired to murder her husband (who is Wu Song’s brother) Wu Dalang. At a memorial service for his brother, Wu Song kills Pan Jinlian and then goes after Ximen Qing.

[8] As punishment for the murders of Pan Jinlian and Wu Dalang.

[9] Mrs. Sun (Sun Erniang) and her husband Zhang Qing run an inn where they drug their guests in order to rob and then kill them.

[10] At this point in the story, Zhang Qing and Mrs. Sun apologize to Wu Song and become allies, later helping him in his escape from Mengzhou after killing Jiang the Door God.

[11] This is a play on words with the popular Maoist slogan pi Lin pi Kong, which invited criticism of both Confucius and Lin Biao—the latter being one of Mao’s cronies who, after falling out of favor, was purported to have been a secret conservative and reactionary.

[12] All three were Hong Kong-produced television series from the early 1980s.

[13] A six-part documentary aired by CCTV in 1988. Critical of some aspects of Chinese history and culture, the feature sparked vigorous debate amongst intellectuals, which became known as the “River Elegy phenomenon.” After 1989, it became officially criticized as anti-communist and to this day remains unavailable on mainland Chinese video-sharing websites.

[14] The term “blue culture” (lanse wenming) arose from the rhetoric of River Elegy. While Chinese culture was yellow, based around yellow earth and the Yellow River, Western culture was blue, based around the Mediterranean.

[15] Also translated as The Honor of Dongfang Xu.

[16] The film’s protagonist, played by Jet Li (Li Lianjie).

[17] A historical figure who becomes Emperor Taizong, second emperor of the Tang dynasty.

[18] Bai Wuxia, played by Ding Lan, is the daughter of Jue Yuan’s master, Tan Zong (played by Yu Hai), as well as Jue Yuan’s romantic interest.

[19] 1991, joint production between Mainland, Hong Kong and Taiwan.

[20] 1997, Mainland.

[21] 2001, Mainland.

[22] 1997–2007, Mainland.

[23] 2001–9, Mainland. The standard Chinese name appears to be Tiechi tongya..., rather than Tiezui tongya....

[24] 2003, Mainland.

[25] 2001, Mainland.

[26] 2002, Mainland.