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Character Pinyin English
电影 diànyǐng movie (N)
看电影 kàn diànyǐng to watch a movie (V.O.)
电影院 diànyǐngyuán movie theater/cinema (N)
银幕 yínmù screen (litt. silver screen) (N)
电影业 diànyǐngyè film industry (N)
演员 yǎnyuǎn actor/actress (N)
表演 biǎoyǎn to act (V)
导演 dǎoyǎn director (N)
剧组 jùzǔ crew/cast (N)
编辑 biānjí to edit (N)
一场 yīchǎng scene (N)
背景 bèijǐng background (N)
情节 qíngjié plot (N)
剧本 jùběn script (N)
配乐 pèiyuè movie score (music) (N)
戏剧 xìjù drama (N)
喜剧 xǐjù comedy (N)
武侠片 wǔxiápiān martial arts movie (N)
动画片 dònghuàpiān animated movie/cartoon (N)
影评家 yǐngpíngjiā film critic (N)
盗版 dàobǎn pirate copy/to pirate (N/V)
数字光盘 shùzi guāngpán DVD (N)
第五代导演 Dìwǔdài dǎoyǎn Fifth Generation directors (PN)
照相机/摄影机 zhàoxiàngjì/shèyǐngjì camera (N)
摄影角度 shèyǐng jiǎodù camera angle (N)
摄影 shèyǐng to shoot (a movie) (V)


  • Try to find information on the Internet or in the library about some of the movies mentioned in the article. What are the films about? Do you think the themes of the movies are very different from movies at other times or places? Why or why not?
  • Watch the opening sequence of the 1937 movie Street Angle 马路天使 (director Yuan Muzhi) (use link to the internet archive webpage below). Describe what you see in the first 5 minutes. What do these shots tell you about: China in 1937, Chinese movies, and movies in general?
  • The Goddess (1934), is a silent film from China, starring Ruan Lingyu as a single mother who is so poor, that she has to work as a prostitute. Watch a few minutes from the movie (use the link to the internet archive webpage below), and describe what you see. Since there is no sound (in the movie), how has the director tried to solve this issue? What do you think this movie is trying to tell the viewers? Think about historical, political, cultural, and artistic values and circumstances.

Study Questions

  • How many “generations” are there in China’s film history? What does the name “generations” refer to? Describe each generation in no more than two sentences.
  • Discuss how the historical context in China both influenced, and was reflected in, the movies of specific eras.
  • Explain why there were barely any (if any) films produced during the period 1966–1976.
  • Describe the main differences between the Fourth and Fifth Generation filmmakers. How could you explain those differences? Do you also see similarities? If so, which ones and where would they come from?
  • Compare the development of film in mainland China, Hong Kong, and Taiwan. What are the main differences, and how could you explain those? What about similarities?


The Internet Archive offers some older movies to watch/download for free. For example Street Angel, Spring in a Small Town, Red Detachment of Women, and The East is Red. English subtitles are available for some of these, but they are not all synced with the video. Some of these movies, such as Street Angel, have simple dialogues, and are very suited for Chinese language education.

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