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	Film still: Hero. Courtesy Walt Disney Studios

The First Emperor film series: adventures in ancient China

A collection of epic cinematic adventures

Screening in conjunction with The First Emperor, the Adventures in ancient China film series is a collection of epic cinematic adventures. From royal ritual to political upheaval and war occurring throughout the country during centuries of turmoil, these films offer adventure, romance, spectacle and insight into daily life over 2000 years of Chinese history. A rare opportunity to experience these sumptuous epics on the big screen, this series includes two films depicting the life of the first emperor of China: Hero and The emperor and the assassin.

Film still: Hero. Courtesy Walt Disney Studios

Wednesday 8 December 2010 - Sunday 13 March 2011
See listing for specific dates and times


For Wednesday night and Sunday screenings, tickets are issued at the Domain Theatre 1 hour prior to commencement. Arriving early is recommended as seating is limited to 320 and cannot be guaranteed. This is a specialist program designed for mature audiences and is generally not suitable for children under the age of 15. We cannot admit anyone under the age of 18 to films with an R classification or without classification. Babes-in-arms not permitted in screenings. It is a condition of entry to these screenings that behaviour does not disturb other audience members. All pagers and mobile phones must be switched off during screenings.

Location: Domain Theatre

Related exhibition: The First Emperor

Supported by
National Film & Sound Archive


Dir: Zhang Yimou 2002 (China/HK)
99 min 35mm Colour Rated M
Jet Li, Tony Leung
In ancient times, before the reign of the first emperor, China was divided into seven warring kingdoms. Qin, the king of the northern province, is under permanent threat of assassination by the agents of his enemies. He particularly fears the warriors Broken Sword, Flying Snow and Sky. When all three are defeated by a nameless minor official in his kingdom, Qin summons the hero to his palace. Featuring director Yimou’s bold and vibrant use of colour, revelling in the subtle characterisations and fluent choreography, this film is one of the finest martial arts films ever made. The King of Qin eventually unified China under the Qin dynasty, and became Qin Shi Huang, the first emperor of China.


Wednesday 8 December 2010 2pm – 3:39pm

Wednesday 8 December 2010 7:15pm – 8:54pm

Sunday 12 December 2010 2pm – 3:39pm

Wednesday 2 February 2011 2pm – 3:39pm

Wednesday 2 February 2011 7:15pm – 8:54pm

Saturday 5 February 2011 10pm – 11:39pm

Sunday 6 February 2011 2pm – 3:39pm

Red Cliff / Chi bi

Dir: John Woo 2009 (China)
148 mins 35mm Colour Rated M
Tony Leung, Takeshi Kaneshiro
Mandarin with English subtitles
In 208 CE, in the final days of the Han dynasty, shrewd Prime Minister Cao Cao convinces the indecisive Emperor Han that the only way to unite all of China is to declare war on the kingdoms of Xu in the west and East Wu in the south. Thus begins a military campaign on an unprecedented scale. Produced by acclaimed action director John Woo, the highest grossing film in Chinese box office history is a dazzling, visionary epic depicting the legendary Battle of Red Cliff, in which a force of 50,000 defeated an army of nearly one million.


Wednesday 15 December 2010 2pm – 4:28pm

Wednesday 15 December 2010 7:15pm – 9:43pm

Sunday 19 December 2010 2pm – 4:28pm

Wednesday 9 March 2011 2pm – 4:28pm

Wednesday 9 March 2011 7:15pm – 9:43pm

Sunday 13 March 2011 2pm – 4:28pm

The emperor and the assassin / Jing Ke cì Qín Wang

Dir: Chen Kaige 1998 (China/Japan/Fr)
162 mins 35mm Colour Rated MA15+
Gong Li, Zhang Fengyi
Mandarin with English subtitles
A romantic drama that tells the story of a man who became the first emperor of unified China. In late 3rd century CE, China is comprised of seven rival kingdoms. King Ying Zheng is a power-hungry heir to the throne of the kingdom of Qin. His goal is to conquer the six kingdoms and merge them with his own. Tracing the life of this pivotal figure in history, director Chen Kaige (best known for his 1993 film Farewell my concubine) paints a multifaceted portrait of a fair and just ruler who succumbs to his thirst for power and the dogma of his ancestral mandate. The most expensive Chinese production of its time is Shakespearian in tone, historically accurate, energetic and visually thrilling. King Ying Zheng became Qin Shi Huang, China’s first emperor, responsible for visionary projects such as the mausoleum sheltering a terracotta army.


Wednesday 5 January 2011 2pm – 4:42pm

Wednesday 5 January 2011 7:15pm – 9:57pm

Sunday 9 January 2011 2pm – 4:42pm

Wednesday 9 February 2011 2pm – 4:42pm

Wednesday 9 February 2011 7:15pm – 9:57pm

Sunday 13 February 2011 2pm – 4:42pm

House of Flying Daggers / Shi Mian Mai Fu

Dir: Zhang Yimou 2004 (China/HK)
118 mins 35mm Colour Rated M
Takeshi Kaneshiro, Andy Lau
Mandarin with English subtitles
In the year 859 CE, the Tang dynasty was beset by corruption and rebellion. Two lawmen are given the task of infiltrating a revolutionary faction known as the Flying Daggers – a Robin-Hood-like organisation, robbing from the rich to assist the poor. Director Zhang Yimou fuses martial arts action-drama with tragic romance in this elegant period piece. Privileging the visual over plot and character, the film shows this visionary director at his most fantastic. The result is a film of storybook forests, autumn colours and giant bamboo groves filled with atmosphere – a grand adventure suffused with beauty and grace. Its theme of a beautiful woman who brings woe to two men is borrowed from a famous Han dynasty poem written by Li Yannian.


Wednesday 12 January 2011 2pm – 3:58pm

Wednesday 12 January 2011 7:15pm – 9:13pm

Sunday 16 January 2011 2pm – 3:58pm

Wednesday 16 February 2011 2pm – 3:58pm

Wednesday 16 February 2011 7:15pm – 9:13pm

Sunday 20 February 2011 2pm – 3:58pm

Curse of the golden flower / Man cheng jin dai huang jin jia

Dir: Zhang Yimou 2007 (China/HK)
120 mins 35mm Colour Rated M
Chow Yun Fat, Gong Li
Mandarin with English subtitles
A melodrama set in 922 CE during the Tang dynasty. China’s royal family is in turmoil. Emperor Ping is gradually poisoning his wife (the Empress Phoenix), who is romantically involved with the crown prince (her stepson), who, in turn, is conducting an affair with the daughter of the palace doctor. When the empress becomes aware of her husband’s murderous designs, she plots her revenge. Acclaimed director Zhang Yimou transports us into a period of Chinese history known for its prosperity and glamour, but beneath the lavish exterior is a dark portrait of humanity. As the Chinese saying puts it: 'Gold and jade on the outside, rot and decay on the inside’.


Wednesday 19 January 2011 2pm – 4pm

Wednesday 19 January 2011 7:15pm – 9:15pm

Sunday 23 January 2011 2pm – 4pm

Wednesday 23 February 2011 2pm – 4pm

Wednesday 23 February 2011 7:15pm – 9:15pm

Sunday 27 February 2011 2pm – 4pm

Battle of wits / Mo gong

Dir: Chi Leung 'Jacob’ Cheung 2006 (China/Japan/HK/Korea)
133 mins 35mm Colour Rated M
Andy Lau, Ahn Sung-ki
Mandarin with English subtitles
Based on a popular Japanese manga inspired by Chinese history, this film centres on a legendary battle during the Warring States period. In 370 CE, the tiny, walled city-state of Liang was threatened by the overwhelming forces of the kingdom of Zhao. Liang possesses only a handful of soldiers compared to Zhao’s fast-approaching army of thousands. A call for help to a nearby tribe results in the arrival of a lone, pacifist mercenary who appears at the Liang city gates wearing a hooded robe. Ge Li offers to lead the defence of the city using strategies based on the ideas of philosopher Mozi – one of China’s most significant figures in philosophy and political theory. Ge Li’s radical strategies quickly gain popularity among many of the people of Liang, but are seen as a challenge to the authority of the besieged king. Hong Kong action star Andy Lau plays the peace-loving strategist with the historically based action sequences expertly choreographed by veteran Hong Kong action director Stephen Tung Wei.


Wednesday 26 January 2011 2pm – 4:13pm

Wednesday 26 January 2011 7:15pm – 9:28pm

Sunday 30 January 2011 2pm – 4:13pm

Crouching tiger, hidden dragon

Dir: Ang Lee 2000 (Taiwan/HK/US/China)
120 mins 35mm Colour Rated M
Michelle Yeoh, Zhang Zi Yi
Mandarin with English subtitles
A combination of romantic epic and blistering kung-fu adventure, the story of Crouching tiger revolves around the theft of a magical sword from a legendary martial arts master by a masked female. This crime tests the bonds of family, love and duty and sets in motion a series of balletic, gravity-defying duels shot in the Forbidden City in Beijing, the sun-drenched Gobi Desert and Xinjiang province, and the breathtaking mountainscapes of Hubei province.


Saturday 5 February 2011 7:30pm – 9:30pm

Wednesday 2 March 2011 2pm – 4pm

Wednesday 2 March 2011 7:15pm – 9:15pm

Sunday 6 March 2011 2pm – 4pm