5 Movies You Must Watch Before Visiting China

China is a huge country, the size of Europe, and each part of this wonderful land is different. Apart from researching visa requirements, what to see, when to go, the amount of money to take…it’s important to be prepared for any cultural differences which could be overwhelming.

We gathered a list of five movies we think you should watch before visiting China:

1) ‘The Last Emperor’ – an epic film about the life of Puyi, the last Emperor of China, whose autobiography was the basis for the screenplay written by the famous director, Bernardo Bertolucci. Somehow Bertolucci persuaded the Chinese government to give him complete freedom to shoot the movie in the Forbidden City, which had never before been opened up for use in a Western film! The movie is an amazing 163 min and for the first 90 minutes, Bertolucci made full use of the Forbidden City’s magnificent architecture and courtyards, and portrayed life vividly in the imperial court.  This movie must be seen before entering the Forbidden City – it’s a feast for the eyes!


2) ‘Raise the Red Lantern’ – is directed by famous film director Zhang Yimou who also directed the Olympic Opening Ceremony in Beijing in 2008. The movie ‘Raise the Red Lantern’ follows a life of a young woman who becomes one of the concubines of a rich man. The film become known for its displays of bright colours, something Zhang Yimao became famous for in his later work. The screenplay changed at the end of shooting, something the Chinese officials were not happy about it and as a result the movie was banned in China for a while. If you are planning to visit the UNESCO city of Pingyao in Shanxi Province you should watch this movie before your visit as the film is shot in the Manor House of the Qiao Family which is located nearby.  Zhang Yimao continued with his work with bright lights and  opulent visual effects by directing evening shows across China, the most famous being an impressive open air performance set against karst peaks and on the water, the ‘Impressions of Sanjie Liu’ in Yangshuo.

Raise the Red Lantern

3) ‘Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon’ – directed by the famous Ang Lee and it’s a “must-see” movie even if you are not planning a trip to China. This masterpiece of an action fantasy is an excellent combination of Gods, spirits, Zen warriors and their incredible Kung Fu techniques. The film won the Oscar for the Best Foreign Language Film in 2000.

If you are planning a visit to the famous Kung Fu school in Luoyang, this movie is excellent preparation for what to expect in the corridors of the school!


4) ‘Rain Clouds over Wushan’ or ‘In Expectation’ – is an excellent introduction if you are planning to visit the magnificent Yangtze River and famous Three Gorges Dam. The film satirically portrays the life of two very lonely people who are living on the banks of the Yangtze River during the construction of the Three Gorges Dam. The movie is an excellent portrayal of rural life in China and its hardship.

Yangtze River Cruise with China Holidays

5) ‘Red Cliff’ – History and Legend are entangled in this epic two part movie which features beautiful shots of the Chinese countryside but it’s essential to see it to understand the events at the end of the Han dynasty and immediately prior to the Three Kingdoms period in ancient China. Canny Prime Minister Cao Cao persuaded Emperor Han to unite the whole of China by declaring the war on the Kingdoms of Xu and Wu. What the Prime Minister didn’t plan was the formation of a very unlikely alliance of the Xu and Wu Kingdoms against him. After numerous battles all across China the culminating battle was held at Red Cliff and it changed the course of Chinese history.


If you are planning to experience Kung Fu in Luoyang, a cruise on the Yangtze River, explore the Forbidden City, walk around Pingyao or simply enjoy the countryside of China, please email sales@chinaholidays.co.uk

5 Movies You Must Watch Before Visiting China
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