Three Films Themed after Dragon Inn

Beijing (English) - - CONTENTS -

Over the years, films fea­tur­ing Drag­o­ninn have been re­made with not only a pa­tri­otic flair, but have be­come a sym­bol of the mar­tial arts cinema of China.

The Dragon Gate Inn is more than a lodge in the hearts of film fans. Fifty years ago, the film Long­men kezhan ( Dragon Inn) di­rected by Hu Jin­quan (King Hu, 1932–1997) made its pre­miere. Based on the “Wrest­ing the Gate In­ci­dent,” it re­counts the story of fight­ing be­tween knights- er­rant who pro­tected the re­main­ing chil­dren of the loyal gen­eral and East­ern De­pot (spy agency) killers led by the eunuch Cao Shao­qin.

During the past half cen­tury, the film that fea­tures Dragon Inn has been re­made as Xin­long­men kezhan ( New Dragon Inn) and Long­men fei­jia ( The Fly­ing Swords of Dragon Gate). These Chi­nese mar­tial arts films not only have a pa­tri­otic flair, but make the flag which reads “Dragon Inn” down He­lan Moun­tains a sign of China’s mar­tial arts cinema, fly­ing in the desert.

Wrest­ing the Gate In­ci­dent

The story about Dragon Inn is traced to the “Wrest­ing the Gate In­ci­dent” in China’s his­tory. In 1449 when the Tumu Cri­sis oc­curred, Zhu Qizhen, Em­peror Ying­zong (reign: 1436–1450, 1457–1465) of Ming was cap­tured. The Oi­rat head Esen Taishi (died in 1455) took him to chase the Ming troops to Bei­jing. At this time of cri­sis, Zhu Qiyu as­cended the throne and be­came known as Em­peror Daizong (reign: 1450–1457); Yu Qian (1398–1457) was pro­moted to serve as the Min­is­ter of War and led the de­fence of the Ming cap­i­tal.

After five days of heavy bat­tle, the Ming army de­feated the Oi­rat Mon­gols. As Esen failed to lure the Ming into sur­ren­der and his troops suf­fered de­feat, he had to re­lease the pre­vi­ous Em­peror Zhu Qizhen. How­ever, there couldn’t be two em­per­ors in one palace. Since Zhu Qiyu wouldn’t step aside, he put Zhu Qizhen un­der house ar­rest in the south­ern palace after Zhu Qizhen came back to the cap­i­tal.

In 1456, gen­eral Shi Heng (died in 1460), to­gether with eunuch Cao Jix­i­ang (died in 1461), mil­i­tary gover­nor Zhang Yue (1393–1458), the cen­sor-in chief Yang Shan (1384–1458), min­is­ter of cer­e­monies Xu Bin (1392–1467) and vice cen­sor-in chief Xu Youzhen (1407–1472), staged a coup known as “Wrest­ing the Gate In­ci­dent,” restor­ing Zhu Qizhen to the throne. The now Em­peror Zhu Qizhen con­vinced that “the restora­tion would mean noth­ing if Yu Qian were not be killed,” putting him into prison. Yu Qian was later falsely ac­cused of trea­son and ex­e­cuted, hence a his­tor­i­cal wrong case.

Although his­to­ri­ans re­garded “Wrest­ing the Gate In­ci­dent” as a “mean­ing­less” strug­gle for the throne, the in­ci­dent was un­doubt­edly the source ma­te­rial for artis­tic cre­ation. Dragon Inn, di­rected by Hu Jin­quan and re­leased in 1967, told of what hap­pened after Cao Shao­qin, the em­peror’s first eunuch in East­ern De­pot, be­headed the Min­is­ter of War Yu Qian.

Plot­ting to cut off Yu Qian’s blood­line, Cao Shao­qin sent the im­pe­rial guards to kill Yu’s re­main­ing chil­dren. To res­cue the de­scen­dants of the loyal gen­eral, Xiao Shaozi, the lead char­ac­ter in­fu­ri­ated the East­ern De­pot and de­feated Cao Shao­qin by co­op­er­at­ing with other coura­geous men.

Per­haps even Hu Jin­quan would never ex­pect that Dragon Inn would be re­made as New Dragon Inn and The Fly­ing Swords of Dragon Gate, in­volv­ing mar­tial arts film di­rec­tors and fa­mous ac­tors such as Tsui Hark, Jet Li and Don­nie Yen.

Their ef­forts have trans­formed Chi­nese mar­tial arts film from pure ac­tion into one in­creas­ing hu­mane con­cerns. New mar­tial arts films have achieved break­throughs and made leaps in story struc­ture, nar­ra­tive form and char­ac­ter im­age, and turned chivalry from texts into im­ages, re­main­ing in the hearts of au­di­ences of all ages.

Dif­fer­ent Films, Same Theme

The three Dragon Inn- themed films make for quite dif­fer­ent view­ing ex­pe­ri­ence. The 44year time span does not al­low to ig­nore, but at

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