SOAS University of London

China & Inner Asia Section, Department of East Asian Languages & Cultures

New Taiwan Cinema and Beyond

Module Code:
FHEQ Level:
Year of study:
Year 2, Year 3 of 3 or Year 4
Taught in:
Term 2

The rise of New Taiwan Cinema in the 1980s put Taiwan on the international cultural map and has since attracted a loyal following of Taiwanese film auteurs such as Edward Yang and Hou Hsiao-hsien. What led to the emergence of the New Taiwan Cinema and what is the current state of Taiwanese cinema? This module surveys the development of Taiwan cinema from the 1960s to the present, with a special focus on contested national identities on screen. Critical approaches to film studies such as film semantics, auteur theory, gender, and genre will be introduced to examine representative works by Tsai Ming-liang, Ang Lee, and many others.

Students will also read and translate related Chinese-language texts at intermediate level, such as film scripts and critical essays. 

The syllabus is regularly updated to ensure that it keeps pace with the ever-changing Taiwan film scene.

(Restricted combination with 155903002: Modern Film from Taiwan and the Chinese Diaspora).

Objectives and learning outcomes of the module

On successful completion of this module a student will be able to:

  1. have a comprehensive knowledge of the history, main trends and key critical debates relating to Taiwan cinema
  2. gain an understanding of the interaction between Taiwan cinema and the production of the collective identity in Taiwan
  3. have a general knowledge of different theoretical and critical methods for approaching film and will be able to situate cinematic works within their cultural, social and political context of production and reception
  4. read screenplays, film reviews, critical essays, and other relevant texts in simplified and traditional Chinese and translate them into English
  5. strenghten students skills in research and essay writing based on English and Chinese-language primary and secondary sources


Total of 10 weeks teaching with 2 hours classroom contact per week consisting of a 1 hour lecture and a 1 hour seminar.

Scope and syllabus

The following syllabus is for guidance only and is subject to alteration at the discretion of the module convenor.

  • Week 1: Introduction: Taiwan and Cinema from "Small Nations"
  • Week 2: Healthy Realism and an Imagined Community
  • Week 3: The Genesis of the New Taiwan Cinema
  • Week 4: Hou Hsiao-Hsien: Trauma and Memory
  • Week 5: Edward Yang: Confronting Modernity
  • Week 6: Reading Week
  • Week 7: Tsai Ming-Liang: The Political Aesthetic of Nostalgia
  • Week 8: Representing Male Homosexuality on Screen
  • Week 9: Wuxia Redux and Transnational Cinema
  • Week 10: Contemporary Mainstream Cinema: Remaking Taiwaneseness
  • Week 11: Sinophone Cinema: Debates and Controversies

Method of assessment

A reaction paper of 800 words OR a short film analysis of 6 minutes to be submitted on day 1, week 7, in the term of teaching (15%); a 20 minute quiz in week 11 in the term of teaching (15%); an essay of 2500 words (using original language sources) or a critical commentary with original language text to be submitted on day 1, week 2, in the term following teaching (70%).

Suggested reading

Hong, Guo-Juin. "Healthy Realism in Taiwan, 1964-80: Film Style, Cultural Policies and Mandarin Cinema." In Song Hwee Lim and Julian Ward, eds., The Chinese Cinema Book. London: BFI, 2011, 95-102.

Lu, Tonglin. “Taiwan New Cinema and Its Legacy.” In The Chinese Cinema Book, edited by Lim Song Hwee and Julian Ward, 122-130. London: BFI and Basingstoke, Hampshire: Palgrave Macmillan, 2011.

Yip, June. “Constructing A Nation: Taiwanese History and the Films of Hou Hsiao-hsien”, in Sheldon Hsiao-peng Lu (ed.), Transnational Chinese Cinemas: Identity, Nationhood, Gender (Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1997), 139-168.

Jameson, Fredric. “Remapping Taipei”, in Jameson, The Geopolitical Aesthetic (London: BFI Publishing, 1992), 114-157.

Chan, Kenneth. “Goodbye, Dragon Inn: Tsai Ming-liang’s Political Aesthetic of Nostalgia, Place, and Lingering.” Journal of Chinese Cinemas 1, 2 (May 2007): 89-104.

Berry, Chris. “Wedding Banquet: A Family (Melodrama) Affair.” In Chinese Films in Focus. 25 New Takes, edited by Chris Berry, 183-190. London: British Film Institute, 2003.

Teo, Stephen. “Wuxia Redux: Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon as a Model of Late Transnational Production,” in Meaghan Morris, Siu Leung Li, Stephen Chanching-Kiu (eds.), Hong Kong Connections: Transnational Imagination in Action Cinema. Durham: Duke University Press, 2005.

Chialan Sharon Wang, “Memories of the future: Remaking Taiwanese-ness”, Journal of Chinese Cinemas, 6:2 (2012) 135-151.

Song, Hwee Lim. “The Voice of the Sinophone”, in Audrey Yue and Olivia Khoo, eds., Sinophone Cinemas, Basingstoke : Palgrave Macmillan, 2014.


Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules