李翰祥 | LI Han Hsiang

Most people think of film acting as being the easiest and least demanding job in the world, but this impression is only the result of bad habits and misunderstanding. Nowadays, to be an outstanding actor, one must undergo long periods of self training, which not only encompasses the knowledge and craft of acting, but also education in social mores, patience and perseverance, as well as the ability to tell good from bad. Actors must be punctual, be true to their promises and the demands of the job. I think that even if film acting were not the world’s most difficult job, it should not just be about eating, drinking, being merry, and creating gossips of sex scandals.

If there are stars in Chinese cinema, they ought to be excellent actors with good cultural backgrounds; in temperament and bearing they should exude grace and charm. They can withstand the test of time and meet the challenges of different roles without losing their poise. Therefore I advise actors to study hard, choose their friends wisely, and practice good judgment. Only good intellectuals can be good actors.

(Taken from LI Han-hsiang“, A letter to Actors"in Looking Back over 30 Years, Vol 1, Hong Kong:Cosmos Books Ltd, 1983, p.102)


Li Han-hsiang was born in 1926 in Liao Ning Province. He studied Western painting at the Beijing National Art College. He came to Hong Kong in 1948 and made a living as an actor. He later joined the actor’s training course at Yong Hwa Film Company, studying under director Zhu Shilun. He also worked for a time as a graphic artist at Great Wall Film Company, a set painter at Grand View Studios, and a voice actor for films. After these stints at various film studios, Li returned to Yong Hwa to work as scriptwriter and assistant director. He co-directed his first film, Lady From The Moon (1954) with Chiang Nan.

After directing his first solo project Red Bloom In The Snow (1956), he joined Shaw Brothers, where he made some 25 films for the next seven years. The 1958 film Diau Charn was Shaws’ first Huangmei style musical and Li followed with two others, The Kingdom And the Beauty (1959) and The Love Eterne (1963), which inaugurated a craze of Huangmei musicals in Hong Kong and Taiwan. Li won the Best Director Award at the Taipei Golden Horse Awards for The Love Eterne. Li became known for directing historical films, particularly relatively high budget costume epics depicting court intrigues, such as The Magnificent Concubine (1962) and Empress Wu (1963). He also made the critically acclaimed Enchanting Shadow (1960), based on a story from the Chinese classic Strange Tales from a Chinese Studio.

Li left Shaw Brothers in 1963. With the support of Cathay Luke Wan-tho, he formed the Grand Film Company in Taiwan, which produced the costume extravaganzas Seven Fairies (1963) and Hsi Shih : Beauty Of Beauties (1965), the latter winning him the Best Director Award at the Golden Horse Awards. He then went through a change in style and started making smaller, more intimate films, such as the drama The Winter (1969). Li stayed in Taiwan for the next five years, during which he made over 20 films and nurtured many local talents. He was the associate director on many films by Taiwanese directors, including Many Enchanting Nights (1966), directed by Yang Su, Dodder Flower (1965), directed by Chang Tseng-chai, Lady in the tower (1967), directed by Lin Fu-ti and Romance in Northern Country (1969), directed by Wong Sing-loy. By 1968, Grand Film had run into financial troubles, and Li was forced to close the company. He then directed the Sino-Japanese War espionage drama Storm Over The Yang-Tse River (1969) for China Movie Studio, as well as the Bliss segment in Four Moods (1970).

In 1970 he went back to Hong Kong and formed New Grand Film, making a series of low-budget films such as The Legends of Cheating (1971), Cheating Panorama (1972) and Cheat to Cheat (1973). He returned to Shaw Brothers in 1972 and directed Michael Hui in The Warlord (1972), which ranked second place in box office that year, behind only Fist of Fury. In the same year, he also made Legends of Lust (1972), which inaugurated the trend in erotic films popular with audiences. He followed with more titles in the genre, including Facets of Love (1973), Illicit Desire (1973), The Happiest Moment (1973) and The Golden Lotus (1974). At the same time, Li also completed two historical epics based on the Qing Dynasty court, The Empress Dowager (1975) and The Last Tempest (1976).

In 1982, he was invited by the central government in Beijing to make films in the Mainland. He partnered with the Beijing Film Studio to produce Burning of The Imperial Palace (1983) and Reign Behind a Curtain (1983), fulfilling his lifelong dream of filming historical dramas in actual locations in China. In August 1996, as he was preparing for Burning of First Emperor’s Palace, a 40-episode TV drama for China Central Television, he suffered a heart attack. He was rushed to the hospital and died at 9:45pm on 17 December, 1996.

Year Chinese name English name Directors
1994 《少女潘金蓮》
The Amorous Lotus Pan
1994 《情人的情人》
Lover's Lover
1991 《金瓶風月》
The Golden Lotus : Love and Desire
1991 《敦煌夜譚》
Dun Huang Tales of the Night
1991 《竹夫人》
Madame Bamboo
1989 《西太后》
The Empress Dowager
1988 《八旗子弟》
Snuff Bottle
1986 《火龍》
The Last Emperor
1983 《皇帝保重》
Take Care, Your Majesty
1983 《火燒圓明園》
Burning of the Imperial Palace
1983 《垂簾聽政》
Reign Behind a Curtain
1982 《三十年細說從頭》
Passing Flickers
1982 《武松》
Tiger Killer
1982 《乾隆皇君臣鬥智》
The Emperor and the Minister
1981 《徐老虎與白寡婦》
The Tiger and the Widow
1980 《乾隆皇與三姑娘》
Emperor Chien Lung and the Beauty
1979 《軍閥趣史》
The Scandalous Warlord
1979 《鬼叫春》
The Ghost Story
1979 《銷魂玉》
Return of the Dead
1978 《哈囉床上夜歸人》
Hello, Sexy Late Homecomers HSIA Tsu Hui WONG Fung HO Fan HUA Shan SUEN Chung
1978 《子曰:食色性也》
Sensual Pleasures
1978 《乾隆下揚州》
The Voyage of Emperor Chien Lung
1978 《姑媽的法術》
1978 《哈囉床上夜歸人》
Hello Sexy Late Homecomers WONG Fung HO Fan HUA Shan HSIA Tsu Hui SUEN Chung
1977 《風花雪月》
Moods of Love
1977 《乾隆下江南》
The Adventures of Emperor Chien Lung
1977 《金玉良緣紅樓夢》
The Dream of the Red Chamber
1977 《佛跳牆》
The Mad Monk
1977 《乾隆皇香妃風流帳》
The Gallantry King
1976 《洞房艷史》
Wedding Nights
1976 《瀛台泣血》
The Last Tempest
1976 《拈花惹草》
Crazy Sex
1976 《騙財騙色》
Lover Swindler
1975 《港澳傳奇》
Forbidden Tales of Two Cities
1975 《傾國傾城》
The Empress Dowager
1975 《捉姦趣事》
That's Adultery!
1974 《金瓶雙艷》
The Golden Lotus
1974 《醜聞》
1974 《聲色犬馬》
Sinful Confession
1973 《牛鬼蛇神》
Tales of Larceny
1973 《騙術奇中奇》
Cheat to Cheat
1973 《北地胭脂》
Facets of Love
1973 《風流韻事》
Illicit Desire
1973 《一樂也》
The Happiest Moment
1972 《祇羡鴛鴦不羡仙》
The Admired Girl
1972 《騙術大觀》
Cheating Panorama
1972 《大軍閥》
The Warlord
1972 《風月奇譚》
Legends of Lust
1971 《緹縈》
The Story of Ti-Ying
1971 《騙術奇譚》
The Legends of Cheating
1970 《四季花開》
1970 《喜怒哀樂》
Four Moods HU King
1969 《冬暖》
The Winter
1969 《一寸山河一寸血》
Storm Over the Yang-Tse River
1969 《鬼狐外傳》
A Tale of Ghost and Fox
1965 《西施》
Hsi Shih : Beauty of Beauties
1965 《勾踐復國西施下集》
Hsi Shih : Beauty of Beauties Part II
1964 《一毛錢》
The Coin
1964 《狀元及第》
Trouble on the Wedding Night
1964 《王昭君》
Beyond the Great Wall
1963 《楊乃武與小白菜》
The Adulteress HO Meng Hwa
1963 《梁山伯與祝英台》
The Love Eterne
1963 《武則天》
Empress Wu
1963 《鳳還巢》
Return Of The Phoenix
1963 《七仙女》
Seven Fairies
1962 《楊貴妃》
The Magnificent Concubine
1960 《後門》
Back Door
1960 《倩女幽魂》
Enchanting Shadow
1959 《江山美人》
The Kingdom and the Beauty
1959 《兒女英雄傳》
The Adventure of the 13th Sister
1958 《給我一個吻》
A Kiss for Me
1958 《貂蟬》
Diau Charn
1958 《安琪兒》
The Angel
1958 《全家福》
The Blessed Family
1958 《妙手回春》
The Magic Touch
1958 《殺人的情書》
Love Letter Murder
1957 《窈窕淑女》
A Mating Story
1957 《黃花閨女》
Lady in Distress
1957 《馬路小天使》
Little Angel of the Streets
1957 《丹鳳街》
Dan Fung Street
1957 《春光無限好》
A Mellow Spring
1957 《移花接木》
He Has Taken Him for Another
1956 《雪裡紅》
Red Bloom in the Snow
1956 《水仙》
Beyond the Blue Horizon
1954 《嫦娥》
Lady From the Moon