The Bird People in China

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The Bird People in China
Bird People In China DVD.jpg
The Bird People in China DVD cover
Directed by Takashi Miike
Produced by Yasuhiko Furusato
Toshiaki Nakazawa
Written by Novel:
Makoto Shiina
Masa Nakamura
Starring Masahiro Motoki
Renji Ishibashi
Music by Koji Endo
Cinematography Hideo Yamamoto
Edited by Yasushi Shimamura
Release date
June 10, 1998
Running time
118 minutes
Country Japan
Language Japanese

The Bird People in China (中国の鳥人, Chūgoku no chōjin) is a 1998 Japanese movie directed by Takashi Miike from a screenplay by his frequent collaborator Masa Nakamura. The film is considerably more mellow in tone compared to some of the director's more famous works.


The story tells of a Japanese businessman, who is sent to assess jade in a remote Chinese village, and a member of the yakuza, who is accompanying him to make sure his organization gets its proper share. The scenery of China is something not usually explored in Japanese film and thus was a massive change of pace for Miike, and a far cry from the recurrent themes of violence and sexuality present in his other films. Chinese locations in the movie include Dali City, Yunnan, where the characters enter through a stone arched gate and the Nujiang River, where they see people riding pulleys on steel cables over the water.


Actor Role
Masahiro Motoki Wada (the businessman)
Renji Ishibashi Ujiie (the yakuza)
Mako Shen (the guide)
Li Li Wang Yan, Si-chang
Michiko Kase
Yuichi Minato
Tomohiko Okuda
Manzo Shinra


The film explores themes of ecology and third world versus first world, depicting the East as a legendary place having a mystical knowledge not shared by the West (including Japan), but deepens its message by inserting the character Grandfather, a former British pilot. Near the end, the yakuza decides to kill all foreigners in order to keep the village away from civilization, but is reminded that in order to get to the village he had to use trains and airplanes.

The movie's message is a mixed one, showing the good and the bad both of technology and tradition. The film shares the same humanistic message and feel found in most of Miike's works.


The film was screened at a number of festivals before being released in theatrical distribution. It won the Audience Award at the 1998 Hawaii International Film Festival.

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