King Hu

King Hu
Chinese name 胡金銓 (traditional)
Chinese name 胡金铨 (simplified)
Pinyin Hú Jīnquán (Mandarin)
Jyutping Wu4 Gam1-cyun4 (Cantonese)
Born (1932-04-29)29 April 1932
Beijing, China
Died 14 January 1997(1997-01-14) (aged 64)
Taipei, Taiwan
Occupation Film director, screenwriter, set designer
Years active 1956–1993
Spouse(s) Chung Ling (鍾玲)
Ancestry Handan, Hebei, China
This is a Chinese name; the family name is Hu.

Hu Jinquan (29 April 1932 – 14 January 1997), better known as King Hu, was a Chinese film director based in Hong Kong and Taiwan. He is best known for directing various wuxia films in the 1960s and 1970s, which brought Chinese cinema (including Hong Kong and Taiwan) to new technical and artistic heights. His films Come Drink with Me (1966), Dragon Gate Inn (1967), and A Touch of Zen (1969–1971) inaugurated a new generation of wuxia films in the late 1960s. Apart from being a film director, Hu was also a screenwriter and set designer.[1]

Early life

Hu was born in Beijing to a well-established family originating from Handan, Hebei. His grandfather was the governor of Henan in the late Qing Dynasty. He emigrated to Hong Kong in 1949.


After moving to Hong Kong, Hu worked in a variety of occupations, such as advertising consultant, artistic designer and producer for a number of media companies, as well as a part-time English tutor. In 1958, he joined the Shaw Brothers Studio as a set decorator, actor, scriptwriter and assistant director. Under the influence of Taiwanese director Li Han-Hsiang, Hu embarked on a directorial career, helping him on the phenomenally successful The Love Eterne (1963). Hu's first film as a full-fledged director was Sons of the Good Earth (1965), a film set in the Second Sino-Japanese War, but he is better remembered for his next film, Come Drink with Me (1966). Come Drink with Me is his first success and remains a classic of the wuxia genre, catapulting the then 20-year-old starlet Cheng Pei-pei to fame. Blending Japanese samurai film traditions with Western editing techniques and Chinese aesthetic philosophy borrowed from Chinese music and operatics, Hu began the trend of a new school of wuxia films and his perpetual use of a heroine as the central protagonist.

Leaving the Shaw Brothers Studio in 1966, Hu travelled to Taiwan, where he made another wuxia movie, Dragon Gate Inn. Dragon Gate Inn broke box office records and became a phenomenal hit and cult classic, especially in Southeast Asia. This tense tale of highly skilled martial artists hidden in an inn was said to be the inspiration for Ang Lee's Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000) and Zhang Yimou's House of Flying Daggers (2004). In 2003, the award-winning Malaysian-born Taiwanese auteur Tsai Ming-liang made Goodbye, Dragon Inn, a tribute to Hu, in which all the action takes place during a closing cinema's last show of Dragon Gate Inn.

Chief among the films which exemplify Hu's blend of Chan (Zen) Buddhism and unique Chinese aesthetics is A Touch of Zen, which won the Grand Prix de la Commission Superieur Technique in 1975 Cannes Film Festival,[2] and which many regard as his masterpiece. Other films include Raining in the Mountain and Legend of the Mountain (both dating from 1979, and shot in Korea), which were loosely based on stories from Pu Songling's Strange Stories from a Chinese Studio. After releasing A Touch of Zen, Hu started his own production company and shot The Fate of Lee Khan (1973) and The Valiant Ones (1975) back to back on tight finances. The action choreography in both these films was the work of Sammo Hung.

Though critically hailed, Hu's later films were less commercially successful than his first two films. Late in his life, he made a brief return from semi-retirement in The Swordsman (1990) and Painted Skin (1993), but the latter never achieved the renown of those two, financially successful wuxia films. Hu spent the last decade of his life in Los Angeles. He died in Taipei of complications from angioplasty.[3]

Selected filmography


  1. "King Hu, 65, Maker Of Kung Fu Films". The New York Times. January 17, 1997. Retrieved 2011-01-31.
  2. Wang, G. C. H. (2013). A Touch of Zen (Review). In Richard James Havis (Ed.) Far East Film Festival 15 Catalogo Generale (pp. 220-221). Udine: Centro Espressioni Cinematografiche.
  3. Teo, Stephen (1998). "Only the Valiant: King Hu and his Cinema Opera". In Teo, Stephen. Transcending the Times: King Hu & Eileen Chan. Hong Kong International Film Festival. Hong Kong: Provisional Urban Council of Hong Kong. p. 24.
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