Huang Shuqin

Huang Shuqin (9 September 1939 – 21 April 2022)[1] was a Chinese film director known for her film Woman, Demon, Human (1987). Widely considered the first feminist Chinese film by critics and scholars,[2] Woman, Demon, Human garnered universal critical acclaim, as well as a nomination for Best Director and a win for Best Writing at the 8th Golden Rooster Awards. Although her film career didn't take off until she was well into her forties, she was regarded as one of China's most talented female directors, with a career spanning nearly three decades.

Huang Shuqin
Born(1939-09-09)9 September 1939
Shanghai, China
Died21 April 2022(2022-04-21) (aged 82)
Shanghai, China
SpouseZheng Changfu
ChildrenZheng Dasheng
Chinese name
Traditional Chinese
Simplified Chinese

Huang was also known for the popular television series Fortress Besieged (1990) and Sinful Debt (1995) and she received awards and nominations in both television and film mediums .

Early life and educationEdit

Huang Shuqin was born 9 September 1939 in Shanghai to film director Huang Zuolin,[3] a well-known playwright who had studied in England during the 1920s,[4] and Jin Yunzhi. Walking in her father's footsteps, Huang aspired to become a film director.[5] She enrolled in China's only film school at the time, the Beijing Film Academy, to study directing, graduating in 1964. Assigned to work for Shanghai Film Studio as a script supervisor,[6] her career was interrupted when the Cultural Revolution took hold of China. This prevented many films from being made, and left the Huang family in difficult financial circumstances. In addition, Huang's mother died during this time. Huang later attended a May Seventh Cadre School, which acted as a labour camp, for five years; two of which were spent under "isolation and surveillance"[4] in a small room without contact from anyone as punishment for her possible involvement in the May 16 Notification in 1966. Huang also joined the Rebel Faction during this time.[4]


After the end of the Cultural Revolution, she assisted director Xie Jin on the films The Cradle (1979) and The Legend of Tianyun Mountain (1980).[7] Her debut film, Contemporary People (also translated as The Modern Generation) garnered widespread attention through its critical acclaim, which scholar Yingjin Zhang states grew as she directed more films, particularly Woman, Demon, Human.[7]

Many of Huang's films explore the theme of gender and woman's consciousness. She has expressed the necessity to "insert herself" into her work, in order to give these films a personality, citing her gender as an important factor in her self-identity.[8] Six of Huang's films are about women, each with a focus on the fundamental aspects of women's narratives and their relationship to mainstream ideology.[8]

Forever Young (1983)Edit

Forever Young is 1983 coming-of-age period film set during the initial rise of the Chinese Communist Party in the 1950s.[8] The film tells three connected stories, one that explores social conflict between students in a girls middle school, another of a blossoming friendship between ill-fated Su Ning and the helpful Yang Qiangyun, and the third regarding the relationship between Catholic believer Hu Mali and members of the Communist Party.[8] According to Xingyang Li, the film is meant to investigate the passion and nostalgia surrounding this time of political change, through the youthful and passionate lens of the young women growing up in this time period.[8]

Zhang Xian's screenplay for the film, published in 1981, was initially met with criticism and therefore ignored by many Chinese directors at the time.[8] Although tasked by the government to work on the film, Huang has stated that her involvement in the film was just as much a choice made by her as it was the government.[8] Huang hoped to capture an authentic recreation of this time period, rather than one of celebration or rejection. As such, she states that any conclusion of what is right or wrong about this time period is meant to be decided by the audience, rather than the film itself.[8]

Li has stated that Forever Young, and its exploration of women's consciousness in patriarchal society, is seen as a precursor to Huang's more explicitly feminist work later in her career, most notably her 1987 film Woman, Demon, Human.[8]

Woman, Demon, Human (1987)Edit

Woman, Demon, Human (Chinese: Ren - Gui - Qing; 《人·鬼·情》) is considered to be the first feminist film in China[7] and is the first of Huang's films to garner international attention. The film tells the story of Qiu Yun, an opera actress who effectively plays male roles, particularly that of Zhong Kui, and her personal struggles over gender identity and conflict resolution within her family life.[2] Scholars such as Shuqin Cui have written that the film portrays its protagonist, based on real-life actress Pei Yanling, as actively struggling with her simultaneous desire for and rejection of female identity.[9]

Cui also felt that although the majority of Qiu Yun's relationships explored in the film are with male figures (her father, teacher, and husband), her difficult search for identity through these connections is informed most distinctly by her fragmented mother-daughter relationship established at the beginning of the film.[9] She also states that this splintered relationship compels the protagonist to search for an alternative role in society outside the realm of traditionally maternal female identity and that Qiuyan's portrayal of male characters in Woman, Demon, Human is meant to dramatize this identity crisis initiated in her youth.[9]

Prior to filming, Huang felt the need to personally visit Pei Yanling to study her life, even going so far as to follow her on tour with her travelling troupe to get a better idea of her day-to-day life.[10] Huang did this before every film she made, believing it to be necessary to observe and understand life before filming.[11] Despite its feminist reputation, Huang stated that she didn't direct Woman, Demon, Human with the intention of making a feminist film.[4]

Woman, Demon, Human was widely acclaimed by critics, receiving grand prizes at the Brasilia and Santa Barbara International Film Festivals, as well as a nomination for Best Directing and win for Best Writing (both for Huang) at the 8th Golden Rooster Awards.[4]

Pan Yuliang, whose life was the basis for the movie A Soul Haunted by Painting.

A Soul Haunted by Painting (1994)Edit

Huang began work on A Soul Haunted by Painting in the early 1990s, as China moved from a planned economy to a market economy. As the profit motive became the driving force behind film production in China, Huang pursued a more monetarily viable project compared to her previous work.[8] On the subject of the film's box-office success, she stated: "When I was making [The Soul Haunted by Painting] I was going after box office success and I did my best to make it commercial."[8]

The film tells the story of Pan Yuliang, a young woman employed as a prostitute, who eventually climbs her way into becoming a professor for a renowned Chinese institute of learning, and an accomplished artist.[8] A Soul Haunted by Painting was initially banned by the Chinese government due to a nude scene, sparking public debate and furthering publicity for the film. Despite the more commercial elements of this project, Huang described The Soul Haunted by Painting as an "examination of the despicable national mindset that refuses to recognize the full personhood of women."[8]



Year English Title Chinese Title Role
1977 Lianxi Dam Co-Director
1979 The Cradle 啊,摇篮 A, yaolan Assistant
1980 The Legend of Tianyun Mountain 天云山传奇 Tianyunshan chuanqi Assistant
1981 Contemporary People 现代人 Xiandai ren Director
1983 Forever Young 青春万岁 Qingchun wansui Director
1984 Childhood Friends 童年的朋友 Tongnian de pengyou Director
1986 A Border-Crossing Operation 超国界行动 Chao guojie xingdong Director
1987 Woman, Demon, Human 人鬼情 Ren gui qing Director
1994 A Soul Haunted by Painting 画魂 Huahun Director
1996 I Have My Daddy, Too 我也有爸爸 Wo ye you baba Director
2000 The Village Whore 村妓 Cun ji Director
2001 Hey, Frank 嗨,弗兰克 Hai, Fulanke Director

Television showsEdit

Year English Title Chinese Title Role
1990 Fortress Besieged 围城 Weicheng Director
1995 Sinful Debt 孽债 Nie zhai Director


Year Organization Award Work Result
1984 International film festival in the Soviet Union Honourable Mention Forever Young Won
1985 Huabiao Awards Outstanding Film Childhood Friends Won
1988 5th Rio de Janeiro Film Festival Best Film Woman, Demon, Human Nominated
8th Golden Rooster Awards Best Director Nominated
Best Writing Won
1989 Fifth Film and Video Festival Top Prize Won
1991 11th Feitian Awards Outstanding Television Series Fortress Besieged Won
Outstanding Director Won
9th Golden Eagle Awards Best Television Series Won
1992 7th Santa Barbara International Film Festival Best Film Woman, Demon, Human Won
1995 15th Feitian Awards Outstanding Television Series Sinful Debt Nominated
1997 17th Golden Rooster Awards Best Children Film I Have a Dad Won
Best Director Nominated
2016 7th China Film Directors Guild Awards Outstanding Achievement Award Won
Unknown The First International TV Show Festival Golden Bear Fortress Besieged Won


  1. ^ 导演黄蜀芹去世,享年83岁 (in Chinese)
  2. ^ a b Kang, Kai. "Beyond New Waves: Gender and Sexuality in Sinophone Women‘s Cinema from the 1980s to the 2000s." PhD Dissertation, University of California, 2015.
  3. ^ Song, Yuwu (8 July 2013). Biographical Dictionary of the People's Republic of China. McFarland. p. 141.
  4. ^ a b c d e Jinhua, D.; Yang, M. (1 December 1995). "A Conversation with Huang Shuqing". Positions: East Asia Cultures Critique. 3 (3): 790–805. doi:10.1215/10679847-3-3-790. ISSN 1067-9847.
  5. ^ Yu, Wentao (6 May 1990). "Cinema Finds A Superwoman". The Beijing Review. 33 (18): 26.
  6. ^ a b Ye, Tan; Zhu, Yun (2012). Historical Dictionary of Chinese Cinema. Rowman & Littlefield. p. 82. ISBN 978-0-8108-6779-6.
  7. ^ a b c d e Xiao, Zhiwei; Zhang, Yingjin (1 June 2002). Encyclopedia of Chinese Film. Routledge. p. 195. ISBN 978-1-134-74554-8.
  8. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m Li, Xingyang (2011). Chinese Women's Cinema: Transnational Contexts. Columbia University Press. pp. 113–131.
  9. ^ a b c Cui, Shuqin (31 December 2017). Women Through the Lens. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press. doi:10.1515/9780824865634. ISBN 9780824865634.
  10. ^ Kuoshu, Harry H. (2002). Celluloid China: Cinematic Encounters with Culture and Society. SIU Press. pp. 129–132. ISBN 978-0-8093-2455-2.
  11. ^ Yu, Wentao (6 May 1990). "Cinema Finds A Superwoman". The Beijing Review. 33 (18): 26.