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From Wenmingxi (Civilized Play) to Yingxi (Shadowplay): The Foundation of Shanghai Film Industry in the 1920s

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The history of filmmaking in China can be traced to the dawn of this century, 1905, the year when a photography studio in Beijing filmed select episodes of a popular play performed by the famous Peking opera actor Tan Xinpei. Film exhibition can be traced even further back, to 1896, but it was not until after the 1911 revolution had overthrown the Qing dynasty that cinema began to emerge as a mass medium for commercial entertainment. The popularization of cinema in China is intimately related to the disintegration of the Qing dynasty and the subsequent social changes. Although cinema was a novel medium introduced from the West, the Chinese attitude toward cinema was considerably informed by existing cultural traditions. The early development of Chinese cinema is inseparable from the transformation of traditional forms of entertainment through the impact of Western culture.

Keywords: Chinese cinema; Western culture; commercial culture; filmmaking; history; social changes

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: 1997-09-01

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  • Asian Cinema is a seminal journal, which has been published since 1995 by the Asian Cinema Studies Society under the stewardship of Professor John Lent. From 2012 Asian Cinema will be published by Intellect as part of our Film Studies journal portfolio. The journal currently publishes a variety of scholarly material - including research articles, interviews, book and film reviews and bibliographies - on all forms and aspects of Asian cinema. The journal's broad aim is to advance understanding and knowledge of the rich traditions of the various Asian cinemas, thereby making an invaluable contribution to the field of Film Studies in general.
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