The Assassin - Hou Hsiao-hsien’s World of Tang China

Peng Hsiao-yen

The Assassin - Hou Hsiao-hsien’s World of Tang China (刺客聶隱娘:侯孝賢的大唐中國)

The Assassin tells the story of a swordswoman who refrains from killing. Hou Hsiao-hsien astonishes his audience once again by upsetting almost every convention of the wuxia (martial arts) genre in the film. This collection offers eleven readings, each as original and thought-provoking as the film itself, beginning with one given by the director himself. Contributors analyze the elliptical way of storytelling, Hou’s adaptation of the source text (a tale from the Tang dynasty, also included in this volume), the film’s appropriation of traditional Chinese visual aesthetics, as well as the concept of xia (knight-errant) that is embedded in Confucian, Daoist, and Buddhist worldviews. There are also discussions of the much-celebrated sonic design of The Assassin: the nearly exclusive use of a diegetic film score is a statement on the director’s belief in cinematic reality.

Underlying all the chapters is a focus on how Hou reinvents Tang-dynasty China in contemporary culture. The Assassin is a gateway to the remote Tang-dynasty world, but in Hou’s hands the concerns of that premodern world turn out to be highly relevant to the world of the audience.


Peng Hsiao-yen

Peng Hsiao-yen is research fellow at the Institute of Chinese Literature and Philosophy, Academia Sinica. She has published widely on transcultural studies and modern Chinese and Taiwanese literature and culture.






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