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Jonathan Tam
Topic replies: 88
Topic Posts: 28

Hero is a chinese film directed by Zhang Yimou. It tells the story of assassins and a mysterious heroic figure during the time of warring states in ancient china, roughly ~200 BC. Hero captures a careful and colorful image of China during this time period. Everything from the desert landscapes, to the palace settings, to the costumes and customs, gender roles, and dialogues are all very well crafted and depicted in this film. And the message of a unified china is the strongest. The film begins with a story told by a nameless figure, who has arrived at to the King of Qin in order to claim the bounty on three assassins. He claims to have killed all three in an elaborate plan, but the King quickly foils this story through his own personal knowledge of the assassins as well as his own logic. The story eventually evolves to a point, where we truly see the intentions behind each character, as well as the overall desire to bring China together.

This may be one of the few films that I would recommend be brought into the classroom. Not only is it a beautiful written script about story telling and truth, but it also discusses how the value of unification was held above everything else. The characters of Broken Sword and the Nameless Hero refuse to kill the King due to their belief that he can unify China one day and the lover of Broken Sword, Snow soon sees this in the end after killing Broken Sword in pursuit of her own vengeful desires. The film opens with text across the screen that describes how in war, heroes are on both sides. But the film takes this idea to a new level to show how the true heroes were those in pursuit of a greater ideal and willing to die for it. I’ve yet to assess Hero’s historical accuracy, but from the themes discussed in the class on dynasties and the desire for a unified China, the plot does seem very much in line with the issues faced even in the last 200 years of China’s history.

I give Hero, a 9/10.

Kim Leng
Topic replies: 78
Topic Posts: 14

Hero (2002), directed by Yimou Zhang and starring Jet Li (Nameless), Tony Chiu-Wai Leung (Broken Sword), Maggie Cheung (Flying Snow), and Ziyi Zhang (Moon) is a visually stunning film with so many plot twists.  Jet Li is Nameless, a warrior during the warring states era when China had many divided kingdoms. The king of Qin controls one of the most powerful kingdoms and constantly experienced many assassination attempts.  Nameless gets a meeting with the king to claim his reward for killing the assassins, but is questioned by the king regarding his methods. How did he manage to successfully defeat the three very skilled assassins?

I think students may be able to sit through the entire film.  If time does not permit, show the first 10 minutes of the film.  The sweeping landscape of China with its mountain ranges and the battle scenes on horses will immediately captivate the students’ attention. The film’s opening scene displays a map of China’s many divided kingdoms.  Following the first ten minutes of the film, I would show the calligraphy school scene.  In this scene, arrows are flying into the calligrapher’s shelter, but the calligraphers continue to write, despite the possibility of death under a rain of arrows. This scene is also important because of the the film’s message, represented by Broken Sword’s calligraphy in this scene.

A major plot twist in this film is that Nameless did not kill the king’s assassins.   In fact, it is Broken Sword who tries to dissuade Nameless from his plan to assassinate the Qin emperor. Broken Sword said, “One person’s pain is nothing compared to the suffering of all.” China has been in continuous warfare. When Nameless reaches the throne room, Broken Sword’s calligraphy is displayed behind the king.  The two Chinese characters translate to “Our Land.” Nameless is eventually convinced and does not kill the king, but he is executed for his assassination attempt. The film’s message to think of the greater good rather than one’s personal gain or vengeance is the overarching concept. In the end of the film, the Emperor of Qin is able to unite the kingdom.

Lin Kuang
Topic replies: 79
Topic Posts: 10
Chinese Calligraphy in "HERO" Hero was directed by Zhang Yimeng, staring Jet Li, Zhang Ziyi in 2002.

Calligraphy (from Ancient Greek: κάλλος kallos "beauty" and γραφή graphẽ "writing") is a visual art related to writing, which was very common in ancient China. It is the design and execution of lettering with brush (as opposed to built up lettering, in which the letters are drawn). A contemporary calligraphic practice can be defined as, "the art of giving form to signs in an expressive, harmonious, and skillful manner". Modern calligraphy ranges from functional inscriptions and designs to fine-art pieces where the letters may or may not be legible. Classical calligraphy differs from typography and non-classical hand-lettering, though a calligrapher may practice both. Calligraphy continues to flourish in the forms of wedding and event invitations, font design and typography, original hand-lettered logo design, religious art, announcements, graphic design and commissioned calligraphic art, cut stone inscriptions, and memorial documents. It is also used for props and moving images for film and television, testimonials, birth and death certificates, maps, and other written works.

Xiaowei Hunt
Topic replies: 23
Topic Posts: 3
Highly Recommend a Chinese Movie: Our Shining Days

Last school year for my AP Chinese and Language & Cultural class, I played " Our Shining Days", a Chinese movie with bilingual subtitle in Chinese and English. The movie aroused my students' interest in learning more Chinese language and the culture instilled in it. They asked me to show it again and again. Other levels of my Chinese classes also wanted to watch it. I am here highly recommending it to any K-12 educators.

"Our Shining Days" (闪光少女) is set in a school of music in China with about half of its students learning playing western musical instruments (the piano, the violin, the cello...) while another half learning playing traditional Chinese musical instruments such as Guzheng, Pipai, Erhu or Suona. The main characters Chen Jing and li You are in the traditional Chinese musical instrument group while Wang Wen, Xiaomai and Beibei are in the western musical instrument group. In this school, playing western musical instruments was deemed more promising, hopeful and prominent than playing traditional Chinese musical instruments from top down---from the administrators to students. Chen Jing happens to fall in love with Wang Wen(the handsome pianist), but Wang Wen despises Chen Jing because in his mind the western musical instruments (piano in his case) are obviously more superior than traditional Chinese musical instruments (Yang Qin, in Chen Jing’s case), and he looks down on Chen Jing, a Yang Qin player. Challenged by Wang Wen, Chen Jing and Li You form a band by earning the support of members of dorm 52, headed by Xiao Mai (nicknamed Qian Zhi Daren). The traditional Chinese musical instrument group won in a musical instrument playing battle between traditional Chinese musical instruments and western musical instruments. This is youth inspirational film, about how a group of high school students tries to revive Chinese orchestra ensemble. They face many challenges along the way to compete nationally, including a rivalry with the more popular Western orchestra club.

I highly recommend this movie as it is school age-appropriate with no need to cut any scenes, and the use of language in the movie is also appropriate for school-age kids, especially for secondary students. Its significance is easily felt and made clear: Beautiful music has no boundaries. Musical instruments from any country are eqaully good and should be highly valued. You may even ask your students to conduct a Q&AS either orally or in writing  about the movie to ensure total participation.
Jennifer Chang
Topic replies: 27
Topic Posts: 2
Jennifer Chang's picture
Review of Hero

I really enjoyed the opportunity to watch a Chinese film because I had been looking for some really great feature films to show my students while studying Ancient China. Now that I have access to the forum, I have a plethora of resources and materials that I can use! 


While looking for a movie that could somehow be related to my Ancient China unit, I wanted to make sure it had realistic depictions of what life wardrobe and architecture, exciting battle scenes (for my students who are interested in war), and had some references to the dynasties that we went over (Shang, Zhou, Qin, and Han Dynasty). Hero included all of these things and more!


First of, Hero is set around the time of the Qin dynasty, where many warring states were fighting against each other for power. This movie does a great depiction of the instability of the empire, and shows many battle scenes to emphasize the fact that the states were at war with each other. It is interesting to note that the movie depicts the would be Qin emperor as a ruler with good intentions with his ultimate goal of unifying China at a time of unrest. It would be interesting to have a discussion on historical bias with my students, as our textbook depicts him as a ruthless tyrant. 


Secondly, the martial arts in the movie is really cool to watch! I think my students will really enjoy watching the fight scenes, as I was on the edge of my seat watching them as well. The fight scenes were artistic, almost like a dance, and I really enjoyed the connection made between martial arts sword fighting and calligraphy. These are important parts of Chinese culture that my students will be exposed to. 


Finally, the wardrobe and architecture in the movie is very interesting to observe. The contrast between the emperor and his subservients is very clear through the attire, and of course, actions. There were depictions of the emperor’s palace, a typical home, a calligraphy school (students sitting on the floor to do their work), and also beautiful shots of nature in various environments (desert, mountain, lake, etc). I think that this movie will have lots of things to draw upon!