This Is AuburnElectronic Theses and Dissertations

A Chinese Director and His Transition from Critical Banned Filmmaker to Box Office Success




Tu, Haijing

Type of Degree



Communication and Journalism


This thesis uses historical poetics to analyze Chinese director Zhang Yimou’s film productions of the last ten years. Zhang Yimou has been famous for his leading position in the Fifth Generation of Chinese directors. Zhang started his film career as a cinematographer in 1982, and directed his first film Red Sorghum in 1987. Zhang continued his film career with ten more films with the most recent House of Flying Daggers. Before 1995, Zhang’s films were often banned in China because of his focus on the social problems of poverty and ignorance in China. However, after 1994, none of his films were banned. At the same time, his recent productions, Hero and House of Flying Daggers, both achieved great box office success in China and the United States, and Hero still holds the record for highest box office in Chinese film history. This thesis selects four of Zhang’s films made after 1994 and analyzes the change in Zhang’s film production in terms of thematics, constructive principles, and stylistics. The thesis concludes that Zhang’s film career experienced great change during the 1990s and that his success in the new century contributed to his effort to transition from art cinema to commercial productions. With Zhang’s transition from a critical banned filmmaker to box office success he has changed his filmmaking to suit a commercial audience and forsaken his past filmic ideals.