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Cai Chusheng (January 12, 1906 – July 15, 1968) was a Chinese film director of the pre-Communist era, and was the first Chinese director to win an international film award at the Moscow International Film Festival. Best known for his progressive output in the 1930s, Cai Chusheng was later severely persecuted and died during the Cultural Revolution. His ashes are kept at the Babaoshan Revolutionary Cemetery in Beijing.

Cai Chusheng
Cai Chusheng 01.jpg
Born(1906-01-12)January 12, 1906
DiedJuly 15, 1968(1968-07-15) (aged 62)
OccupationFilm director
Years active1930s–1960s
Cai Chusheng


Early careerEdit

Cai was born in Shanghai to Cantonese parents, but raised in Chaoyang, Guangdong. He only had four years of formal education, and was home-schooled after he had spoken up for his class about the misbehavior of a teacher. While home-schooled, he studied Confucianism and practiced calligraphy and painting.[1] Cai Chusheng initially worked in low-level positions in several small studios during the 1920s, before eventually joining Mingxing Film Company as a director's assistant to Zheng Zhengqiu, another Chaoyang-native.[2] Cai later joined the Lianhua Film Company where he directed a handful of mainstream popular films including Spring in the South and Pink Dream (both 1932).[1] He would not cement his reputation as a leading leftist filmmaker until after the Japanese attack in 1932, when Cai, like many of his colleagues, shifted towards increasingly progressive or leftist filmmaking.[1] This shift can be seen in output after 1932, including the class-struggle dramas Dawn Over the Metropolis (1933), Song of the Fishermen (1934), and the proto-feminist New Women (1934), which starred Ruan Lingyu. Song of the Fishermen, for example, was a major box office success in Shanghai where it played for 87 days,[3] and it would also become the first Chinese film to win an international prize, doing so at the Moscow International Film Festival.[4]

Hong Kong and wartimeEdit

During the war, Cai fled first to Hong Kong, where he helped launch Mandarin-language cinema with Situ Huimin.[5] In Hong Kong, Cai would also direct two films, including an anti-Japanese thriller. Cai was also a pioneer in making films in local dialects, and the first to make movies in Cantonese. He also made movies in Chaozhou dialect. When Hong Kong fell to the Japanese, Cai fled to Chongqing, China's wartime capital, where he joined the government-run Nationalist Central Film Studio.[6]

Post-war careerEdit

Cai's post-war career saw him returning to Shanghai and becoming a leading member of the Lianhua Film Society (later incorporated as the Kunlun Film Company).[6] His collaboration with Zheng Junli The Spring River Flows East (1947) also proved to be a major film and popular success in the brief "Second Golden Age" of Cinema that followed the end of the Second World War.[6] Following the Communist revolution, Cai worked mainly in major government administrative tasks. He also actively involved in promoting Chinese film industry and also formed an organization to monitor the quality of movies and to recognize talented artists in the industry. He did make one major post-1949 film, Waves on the Southern Shore (1963).[6]

Death and legacyEdit

As the Cultural Revolution began to gain momentum in the late 1960s, Cai Chusheng, like many artists and intellectuals, became the target of persecution. Cai was forced to self-criticize and admit his mistakes in writing. Cai was tortured which had led to his early death in 1968. His ashes are now placed at the Babaoshan Revolutionary Cemetery. The house where Cai spent his youth is now a museum which is designated by the Chinese government as a certified historical attraction. Cai is honored from time to time at major events like the World Expo 2010 and film festivals.

In Stanley Kwan's 1991 biopic of Ruan Lingyu, Center Stage, Cai Chusheng is portrayed by Hong Kong actor Tony Leung Ka Fai. Ruan was one of the Chinese most prominent actress. This film is about Cai's controversial romance with Ruan. Ruan had committed suicide at the age of 24 due to the news media's irresponsible criticism. Cai condemned the press, which had sparked a ripple effect to raise awareness for responsible conduct in the media. Cai was also very active in promoting the social status and literacy of women—when he had time available, he would teach classes to Chinese women to improve their literacy.

Selected filmographyEdit

Year English Title Chinese Title Studio Notes
1932 Spring in the South 南國之春/南国之春 Lianhua
1932 Pink Dream 粉紅色的夢/粉红色的梦 Lianhua Also known as A Dream in Pink
1932 Facing the National Crisis 共赴國難/共赴国难 Lianhua Co-directed with Shi Dongshan, Sun Yu, and Wang Cilong
1933 Dawn Over the Metropolis 都會的早晨/都会的早晨 Lianhua
1934 Song of the Fishermen 漁光曲渔光曲 Lianhua First Chinese film to win an award at a major international film festival
1935 New Women 新女性 Lianhua
1936 Lost Lambs 迷途的羔羊 Lianhua Also known as Lost Children
1937 Fifth Brother Wang 王老五 Lianhua Segment of an anthology film, Symphony of Lianhua
1939 Orphan Island Paradise 孤島天堂/孤岛天堂 Dadi
1940 Boundless Future 前程萬里/前程万里
1947 The Spring River Flows East 一江春水向東流上集/一江春水向东流上集 Kunlun
1963 Waves on the Southern Shore 南海潮


  1. ^ a b c Pickowicz, p. 371
  2. ^ Xiao, p. 105
  3. ^ Shen, p. 147
  4. ^ Kraicer, Shelly (2005-12-06). "Timeline". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 2006-05-08.
  5. ^ Pang, p. 92
  6. ^ a b c d Xiao, p. 106


  • Pang, Laikwan. Chinese National Cinema. Routledge (2002). ISBN 0-415-17290-X.
  • Pickowicz, Paul. "Victory as Defeat: Postwar Visualizations of China's War of Resistance." Becoming Chinese: Passages to Modernity and Beyond, ed. Wen-Hsin Yeh. University of California Press (2000). ISBN 0-520-22218-0.
  • Shen, Vivian. The Origins of Left-Wing Cinema in China: 1932-1937. Routledge (2005). ISBN 0-415-97183-7.
  • Xiao, Zhiwei. "Shi Dongshan" in Encyclopedia of Chinese Film, ed. by Yingjin Zhang and Zhiwei Xiao. Taylor & Francis (1998). ISBN 0-415-15168-6.

External linksEdit