Tsui Hark

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Tsui Hark
Tsui Hark2011 (cropped).jpg
Tsui Hark at the New York Asian Film Festival, 10 July 2011
Tsui Man-kong (徐文光)

(1951-02-01) 1 February 1951 (age 72)
Occupation(s)Film director, producer, presenter, screenwriter, actor
(m. 1996; div. 2014)
Hong Kong Film AwardsBest Film
1987 A Better Tomorrow
Best Director
1992 Once Upon a Time in China
2011 Detective Dee and the Mystery of the Phantom Flame
2016 The Taking of Tiger Mountain

Hong Kong Film Critics Society AwardsBest Director
2016 The Taking of Tiger Mountain

Asian Film AwardsLifetime Achievement Award

Golden Horse AwardsBest Director
1981 All the Wrong Clues for the Right Solution

Golden Rooster AwardsBest Director
2015 The Taking of Tiger Mountain

Chinese name
Alternative Chinese name

Tsui Hark (Chinese: 徐克, Vietnamese: Từ Khắc, born 1 February 1951), born Tsui Man-kong, is a Hong Kong film director, producer and screenwriter. Tsui has directed several influential Hong Kong films such as Zu Warriors from the Magic Mountain (1983), the Once Upon a Time in China film series (1991–1997) and The Blade (1995). Tsui also has been a prolific writer and producer;[1] his productions include A Better Tomorrow (1986), A Better Tomorrow II (1987), A Chinese Ghost Story (1987), The Killer (1989), The Legend of the Swordsman (1992), The Wicked City (1992), Iron Monkey (1993) and Black Mask (1996). He is viewed as a major figure in the Golden Age of Hong Kong cinema and is regarded by critics as "one of the masters of Asian cinematography".[2]

In the late 1990s, Tsui had a short-lived career in the United States, directing the Jean-Claude Van Damme–led films Double Team (1997) and Knock Off (1998). Both films were commercially unsuccessful and critically panned; Tsui himself was unsatisfied with his lack of creative control and returned to Hong Kong to continue his career, where he found commercial and critical success with blockbusters such as the Detective Dee film series, Flying Swords of Dragon Gate (2011), and The Taking of Tiger Mountain (2014).

Early life[edit]

Tsui was born and raised in Saigon, Vietnam, to a large Chinese (Hoa) family with sixteen siblings.[3] Tsui showed an early interest in show business and films; when he was 10, he and some friends rented an 8 mm camera to film a magic show they put on at school. He also drew comic books, an interest that would influence his cinematic style. By the age of 13, he and his family immigrated to Hong Kong.[4]

Tsui started his secondary education in Hong Kong in 1966. He proceeded to study film in Texas, first at Southern Methodist University and then at the University of Texas at Austin, graduating in 1975. He claims to have told his parents he wanted to follow in his father's footsteps as a pharmacist, and that it was here he changed his given name to Hark ("overcoming").

After graduation, Tsui moved to New York City, where he worked on From Spikes to Spindles (1976), a noted documentary film by Christine Choy on the history of the city's Chinatown. He also worked as an editor for a Chinese newspaper, developed a community theatre group and worked in a Chinese cable TV station. He returned to Hong Kong in 1977.


New Wave period[edit]

Upon turning to feature filmmaking, Tsui was quickly typed as a member of the "New Wave" of young, iconoclastic directors. His debut film, The Butterfly Murders (1979), was a technically challenging blend of wuxia, murder mystery and science fiction / fantasy elements. His second film, We're Going to Eat You (1980), was a blend of cannibal horror, black comedy and martial arts.

Tsui's third film, Dangerous Encounters of the First Kind (1980), was a nihilistic thriller about delinquent youths on a bombing spree. Heavily censored by the British colonial government, it was released in 1981 in a drastically altered version titled Dangerous Encounter – 1st Kind (or alternatively, Don't Play with Fire). It was not a financial success. However, it helped make Tsui a darling of film critics who had coined the New Wave label, and who were hopeful for a more aesthetically daring cinema more engaged with the realities of contemporary Hong Kong.[citation needed]

Cinema City[edit]

In 1981, Tsui joined Cinema City & Films Co., a production company founded by comedians Raymond Wong, Karl Maka and Dean Shek. Cinema City & Films Co. was instrumental in codifying the slick Hong Kong blockbuster films of the 1980s.[citation needed] Tsui played his part in the process with pictures like the crime farce All the Wrong Clues (1981), his first hit, and Aces Go Places 3 (1984), part of the studio's long-running spy spoof series.

In 1983, Tsui directed the wuxia fantasy film Zu Warriors from the Magic Mountain (1983) for the studio Golden Harvest. Tsui imported Hollywood technicians to help create special effects whose number and complexity were unprecedented in Chinese-language cinema.[citation needed]


In 1984, Tsui formed the production company Film Workshop with Nansun Shi. He also developed a reputation as a hands-on and even intrusive producer of other directors' work, fuelled by public breaks with major filmmakers like John Woo and King Hu. His most longstanding and fruitful collaboration has probably been with Ching Siu-tung.[citation needed] As action choreographer and/or director on many Film Workshop productions, Ching made a major contribution to the well-known Tsui style.

Film Workshop releases became consistent box office hits in Hong Kong and around Asia, drawing audiences with their visual adventurousness, their broad commercial appeal, and hectic camerawork and pace. With Tsui having been called the 'Steven Spielberg of Asia', Film Workshop became the 'Amblin of Hong Kong'.[5] He produced John Woo's A Better Tomorrow (1986), which launched a craze for Heroic bloodshed movies, and Ching Siu-tung's A Chinese Ghost Story (1987), which did the same for period ghost fantasies. Zu Warriors from the Magic Mountain and The Swordsman (1990) birthed the modern-day special effects industry in Hong Kong.

In fact, Tsui's "movie brat" nostalgia is one of the main ingredients in his work. He often resurrects and revises classic films and genres: the murder mystery in The Butterfly Murders (1979); the Shanghai musical comedy in Shanghai Blues (1985). Peking Opera Blues (1986) plays with and pays tribute to the traditions of the Peking opera that his mother took him to see as a small boy and which had such a strong influence on Hong Kong action cinema. The Lovers (1994) adapts a retold, cross-dressing period romance, best known from Li Han-hsiang's 1963 opera film The Love Eterne. A Chinese Ghost Story remakes Li's supernatural romance The Enchanting Shadow (1959) as a special effects action movie.

The pattern is also seen in perhaps Tsui's most successful work to date, the Once Upon a Time in China film series (1991–97). Jet Li played the role of Chinese folk hero Wong Fei-hung in the first three films and the sixth, Once Upon a Time in China and America. This series is the clearest expression in his oeuvre of Tsui's Chinese nationalism and his passionate engagement with the upheavals of Chinese history, particularly in the face of Western power and influence.

Tsui also dabbled in acting, mostly for other directors. Notable roles include one-third of the comic relief trio in Corey Yuen's film Yes, Madam! (1985) and a villain in Patrick Tam's darkly comic crime story Final Victory (1987), written by Wong Kar-wai. He also made frequent cameo appearances in his own productions, such as a music judge in A Better Tomorrow and a phony FBI agent in Aces Go Places II.

In the face of an industry downturn in the '90s, he produced two expensive movies. Green Snake (1993) was a poetic and lyric movie based on a favourite Chinese fairy tale. The Blade (1995) was a gory, deliberately rough-hewn revision of the 1967 wuxia classic The One-Armed Swordsman.

American films[edit]

In the mid-to-late '90s, Tsui tried Hollywood with two films starring Jean-Claude Van Damme: Double Team (1997) and Knock Off (1998). In 2002, he made Black Mask 2: City of Masks, an American market sequel to Jet Li's 1996 film. It was released direct-to-video in the United States in December of that year before being theatrically released the next month in Hong Kong.


Tsui returned to directing at home in 2000 after not having made a local film since 1996. Time and Tide (2000) and The Legend of Zu (2001) were action extravaganzas with lavish computer-generated imagery that gained cult admirers but no mass success.

Tsui continues to push technical boundaries and revise old favourites. Master Q 2001 was Hong Kong's first combination of live action and Pixar-style 3D computer animation. Era of Vampires (2002; US title, "Tsui Hark's Vampire Hunters") reworked a subgenre popular in the '80s, hybrid martial arts / supernatural horror films featuring the "hopping corpses" of Chinese folk legend.

In 2005, Tsui launched the multimedia production Seven Swords, a film adaptation of Liang Yusheng's novels Saiwai Qixia Zhuan and Qijian Xia Tianshan. The film came with a television series counterpart (Seven Swordsmen), a comic book series, a cellphone game, clothing brand, and an online multi-player video game. The film was relatively successful, and in February 2006 Tsui announced plans to begin filming the second late in the year. As of 2008, Tsui continues to work on the script for Seven Swords 2 in between filming projects. In 2011 there has been no news nor plans about a Seven Swords 2. Rumors has it that due to lack of interest by the filmmakers of finishing the hexalogy lead the project into being cancelled.

In August 2008, Tsui provided art direction for the direct-to-video anime feature titled Kungfu Master (a.k.a. Wong Fei Hong vs Kungfu Panda), an apparent unofficial sequel to Kung Fu Panda, featuring Chinese folk hero Wong Fei-hung.[6] Also in 2008 was the thriller Missing starring Angelica Lee. His latest comedy film All About Women features wonky sound editing and comic graphics.


Tsui's latest work in 2010 is Detective Dee and the Mystery of the Phantom Flame, a rare but successful blend of wuxia, suspense-thriller, mystery, and comedy, which was in competition for the Golden Lion award and was also nominated and won numerous other awards.

In 2010 he announced his first 3-D film, The Flying Swords of Dragon Gate, which is a re-imagining of his 1992 film New Dragon Gate Inn starring Tony Leung Ka-Fai, Maggie Cheung and Brigitte Lin. In 2011 Huayi Brothers announced that Tsui will be making a prequel to Detective Dee and the Mystery of the Phantom Flame; shot in 3-D, it was released in 2013 as Young Detective Dee: Rise of the Sea Dragon.

In October 2011, Tsui received the Asian Filmmaker of the Year Award at the 16th Busan International Film Festival for his contributions to Hong Kong cinema. He is the fifth Chinese filmmaker to receive this award at Busan.[7]

His film The Taking of Tiger Mountain premiered in China in December 2014.[8]


Tsui worked on a film with Milkyway Image alongside Ann Hui, Ringo Lam, Patrick Tam, Johnnie To, Sammo Hung and Yuen Woo-Ping. Each director created a segment based on Hong Kong history.[9] The completed film, Septet: The Story of Hong Kong, was shown at the Busan International Film Festival on 21 October 2020 and at the annual Hong Kong International Film Festival in April 2021.[10]

In 2021 Tsui co-directed The Battle at Lake Changjin with Chen Kaige and Dante Lam.

Cultural references[edit]

Tsui was featured on a track which bore his name on the 1994 Sparks album Gratuitous Sax & Senseless Violins. (Sparks also provided a song, "It's a Knockoff," for the closing credits of Knock Off.)


Year Title Director Writer Producer Notes
1979 The Butterfly Murders Yes No No
1980 We're Going to Eat You Yes Yes No Also known as Hell Has No Gates
Dangerous Encounters of the First Kind Yes Yes No
1981 All the Wrong Clues for the Right Solution Yes Yes No
1983 Zu Warriors from the Magic Mountain Yes No No
Search for the Gods Yes No No
1984 Shanghai Blues Yes No Yes
Aces Go Places 3 Yes No No Also known as Mad Mission 3
1985 Working Class Yes No Yes
1986 Peking Opera Blues Yes No Yes
1987 A Chinese Ghost Story No No Yes
A Better Tomorrow II No Yes Yes
1988 The Big Heat Uncredited No Yes
I Love Maria Uncredited Uncredited Yes Also known as Roboforce
1989 A Better Tomorrow III: Love & Death in Saigon Yes Yes Yes
The Killer No No Yes
1990 Fight and Love with a Terracotta Warrior No No Yes
The Swordsman Uncredited No Yes
Spygame No No Yes
A Chinese Ghost Story II No No Yes Also editor
1991 Once Upon a Time in China Yes Yes Yes
The Raid Uncredited Yes Yes
A Chinese Ghost Story III Uncredited Yes Yes
King of Chess Uncredited No Executive
The Banquet Yes[a] Yes No
1992 Twin Dragons Yes[b] Yes No Also known as Shuang long hui
and Brother vs. Brother
Once Upon a Time in China II Yes Yes Yes
The Master Yes Yes Yes Filmed in 1989
Swordsman II No Yes Yes Also known as The Legend of the Swordsman
New Dragon Gate Inn No Yes Yes Also known as Dragon Inn
The Wicked City No Yes Yes
1993 Iron Monkey No Yes Yes
The East Is Red No Yes Yes Also known as Swordsman III
Once Upon a Time in China III Yes Yes Yes
Green Snake Yes Yes Yes
Once Upon a Time in China IV No Yes Yes
1994 Burning Paradise No No Yes
The Lovers Yes Yes Yes
Once Upon a Time in China V Yes Yes Yes
1995 The Chinese Feast Yes Yes Yes
Love in the Time of Twilight Yes Yes Yes
The Blade Yes Yes Yes Also editor and production manager
1996 Tristar Yes Yes Yes
Shanghai Grand No No Yes
Black Mask No Yes Yes
1997 Once Upon a Time in China and America No No Yes
Double Team Yes No No American and English-language debut
A Chinese Ghost Story: The Tsui Hark Animation No Yes Executive Also editor
1998 Knock Off Yes No No
2000 Time and Tide Yes Yes Yes
2001 The Legend of Zu Yes Yes Yes Also known as Zu Warriors
Old Master Q 2001 No No Yes
2002 The Era of Vampires No Yes Yes Also known as Tsui Hark's Vampire Hunters
Black Mask 2: City of Masks Yes No Yes
2003 1:99 Shorts Yes No No 1 segment
2004 Xanda No Yes Yes Also known as Sanda
2005 Seven Swords Yes Yes Yes
2006 The Warrior No Yes Yes Also action director
2007 Triangle Yes[c] Yes Yes
2008 Missing Yes Yes Yes
All About Women Yes Yes Yes Also editor
2010 Detective Dee and the Mystery of the Phantom Flame Yes No Yes
2011 Flying Swords of Dragon Gate Yes Yes Yes
2013 Sheng dan mei gui No No Yes
Young Detective Dee: Rise of the Sea Dragon Yes Yes Yes
2014 The Taking of Tiger Mountain Yes Yes No
2016 Sword Master No Yes Yes
2017 Journey to the West: The Demons Strike Back Yes Yes Yes
The Thousand Faces of Dunjia No Yes Executive
2018 Detective Dee: The Four Heavenly Kings Yes Story Yes
2019 The Climbers No No Yes
2020 Septet: The Story of Hong Kong Yes Yes No 1 segment, also acted as editor
2021 The Battle at Lake Changjin Yes No Executive Also editor
2022 The Battle at Lake Changjin II Yes No Executive
TBD Legend of the Condor Heroes: The Great Hero Yes TBA TBA


Year Title Director Writer Producer Notes
1986 Spirit Chaser Aisha Yes No Yes
1995–1996 Wong Fei Hung Series Yes Yes Yes Episodes "The Final Victory" and "The Ideal Century"
2005–2006 Seven Swordsmen No Yes Yes

Acting roles[edit]

Year Title Role Notes
1980 Dangerous Encounters of the First Kind Interpol Officer Uncredited cameo
1982 Aces Go Places Ballerina Director Also known as Diamondfinger and Mad Mission
Yi jiu ling wu de dong tian Li Shutong
1983 Zu Warriors from the Magic Mountain Blue Army soldier fighting Fat Man
Aces Go Places 2 FBI Also known as Mad Mission II
Wo ai Ye Laixiang Japanese Ambassador
1984 Shanghai Blues Pedestrian Who Gets Soaked
Aces Go Places 3 Police Officer in Computer Room Also known as Mad Mission 3
Run, Tiger, Run Grandpa Steak
1985 Kung Hei Fat Choy Gold Grabber
Working Class Sunny
Yes, Madam Panadol
1986 A Better Tomorrow Music Judge
Happy Ghost III Reincarnation Director
1987 Final Victory Big Bo
1988 The Big Heat Inspector Yiuming Butt Uncredited
I Love Maria Whiskey Also known as Roboforce
1989 A Better Tomorrow III: Love & Death in Saigon Police Officer in Computer Room
1992 The Wicked City Card player
1997 A Chinese Ghost Story: The Tsui Hark Animation Solid Gold (voice)
2000 Time and Tide Narrator (voice) Uncredited cameo
2008 All About Women Taxi driver Uncredited cameo
2011 A Simple Life Director Tsui Also known as Sister Peach
The Great Magician Warlord
2016 The Mermaid Uncle Rich Credited under the name "Ke Xu"
The Bodyguard Old Man
2017 Journey to the West: The Demons Strike Back Theater employee

Other credits[edit]

Year Title Role Notes
1983 All the Wrong Spies Production designer
1986 Righting Wrongs Action choreographer Also known as Above the Law

Awards and nominations[edit]

Golden Horse Awards[edit]

Year Category Film Result
1981 Best Director All the Wrong Clues for the Right Solution Won
1992 Best Adapted Screenplay Swordsman II Nominated
1994 Best Adapted Screenplay The Lovers Nominated
1997 Best Adapted Screenplay A Chinese Ghost Story: The Tsui Hark Animation Nominated
2005 Best Adapted Screenplay Seven Swords Nominated
2014 Best Director The Taking of Tiger Mountain Nominated

Hong Kong Film Awards[edit]

Year Category Film Result
1985 Best Film Shanghai Blues Nominated
Best Director Nominated
1987 Best Film A Better Tomorrow Won
Best Action Choreography Righting Wrongs Nominated
1988 Best Film A Chinese Ghost Story Nominated
Best Supporting Actor Final Victory Nominated
1990 Best Film The Killer Nominated
1992 Best Film Once Upon a Time in China Nominated
Best Director Won
1993 Best Film Once Upon a Time in China II Nominated
Best Director Nominated
1995 Best Director The Lovers Nominated
2006 Best Film Seven Swords Nominated
Best Director Nominated
2011 Best Film Detective Dee and the Mystery of the Phantom Flame Nominated
Best Director Won
2012 Best Film Flying Swords of Dragon Gate Nominated
Best Director Nominated
2016 Best Director The Taking of Tiger Mountain Won


  1. ^ Co-directed with Alfred Cheung, Joe Cheung and Clifton Ko
  2. ^ Co-directed with Ringo Lam
  3. ^ Co-directed with Ringo Lam and Johnnie To


  1. ^ Hendrix, Grady. "Tsui Hark – Senses of Cinema". Retrieved 10 October 2020.
  2. ^ Phil Mills (26 October 2011). "Interview: Tsui Hark". Far East Films.
  3. ^ "Online Exclusive: An Annotated* Tsui Hark Interview". Film Comment.
  4. ^ "Online Exclusive: An Annotated* Tsui Hark Interview (Part II, aka Annotation Overload)". Film Comment.
  5. ^ CORLISS, Richard (2 July 2001). "He makes movies move That's why Tsui Hark is the Hong Kong Spielberg". Time. Retrieved 8 August 2021.
  6. ^ "Kungfu Master". Product listing. Sensasian. Retrieved 1 September 2008.
  7. ^ "Tsui Hark to receive Asian Filmmaker of the Year Award at Busan". Asia Pacific Arts. 9 February 2011.
  8. ^ Stephen Cremin (18 April 2014). "John Woo's Crossing joins 3-D December". Film Business Asia. Archived from the original on 29 April 2014. Retrieved 20 May 2014.
  9. ^ Shackleton, Liz (6 February 2015). "Johnnie To assembles top Hong Kong talent". Screen Daily. Retrieved 9 February 2015.
  10. ^ "Must-watch Chinese film premieres at the 2021 Hong Kong International Film Festival". igafencu.com. 2021-04-07


  • Bordwell, David. Planet Hong Kong: Popular Cinema and the Art of Entertainment. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2000. ISBN 0-674-00214-8.
  • Dannen, Fredric, and Barry Long. Hong Kong Babylon: The Insider's Guide to the Hollywood of the East. New York: Miramax, 1997. ISBN 0-7868-6267-X.
  • Hampton, Howard. "Once Upon a Time in Hong Kong: Tsui Hark and Ching Siu-tung". Film Comment July–August 1997: pp. 16–19 & 24–27.
  • Morton, Lisa. The Cinema of Tsui Hark. Jefferson, NC: McFarland and Company, Inc., 2001. ISBN 0-7864-0990-8.
  • Teo, Stephen. Hong Kong Cinema: The Extra Dimensions. London: British Film Institute, 1997. ISBN 0-85170-514-6.
  • Yang, Jeff, and Dina Gan, Terry Hong and the staff of A. magazine. Eastern Standard Time: A Guide to Asian Influence on American Culture. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1997. ISBN 0-395-76341-X.
  • Bringing a Wealth of Cinematic Knowledge to the Screen in 3-D

Further reading[edit]

  • Ho, Sam, ed. The Swordsman and His Juang Hu: Tsui Hark and Hong Kong Film. Hong Kong University Press, 2002. ISBN 962-8050-15-X.
  • Schroeder, Andrew. Tsui Hark's Zu: Warriors from the Magic Mountain. Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press, 2004. ISBN 962-209-651-4.

External links[edit]