Watch: 24 Classic Chinese Films with English Subtitles Showing for Free

A 1928 movie involving "light sabers" is one of a number of classic Chinese films in the works on this Ang Lee-endorsed channel

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9:53 PM HKT, Wed May 12, 2021 1 mins read

Around this time last year, we pointed you towards the Modern Chinese Cultural Studies YouTube channel, an incredible resource of classic Chinese cinema, curated by Christopher Rea, Professor of Chinese in the Department of Asian Studies of the University of British Columbia. At that time there were a dozen classic Chinese films featured on the channel, all showing for free and with English subtitles.

Now, there’s double that number — but that’s not all.

The channel has expanded to include a range of themed clips taken from the classic films, a series of UBC videos looking at modern Chinese culture more broadly, and an open-access course on pre-1949 cinema in China consisting of a series of short lectures from Professor Rea. All of this has also complemented by a new Chinese Film Classics website, featuring a host of resources for movie buffs.


There’s more in the works too. On Saturday 15 May, Columbia University Press will release the ebook version of Professor Rea’s book Chinese Film Classics, 1922-1949 (a print version will follow on June 1), and he’ll be conducting an online public lecture on Thursday 20 May at UC Berkeley entitled, “Chinese Film Classics and Hollywood Resonances.”

Amid all this, Rea continues to work on adding more subtitles to valuable Chinese film classics. “Another half dozen films are in the translation pipeline, including one from 1928 involving light sabers,” he tells us. Here’s a sneak peek at that:

Rea has built an incredible resource for anyone interested in the history of cinema, China, or both. And it’s not just us who thinks so — his work has also come to the attention of Academy Award-winning director Ang Lee.

“These films represent for me not just the dawn of Chinese cinema but also the visualization of my own cultural roots,” Lee says. “They vividly established in my imagination the cinematic awakening of ancient China in a rapidly modernizing world. Rea’s sensitive reading of these films is a fascinating and insightful look into this unique cultural touchstone.”

The Modern Chinese Cultural Studies YouTube channel is here and the China Film Classics website is here.

Cover image: Wanderings of Three-Hairs the Orphan (1949) on the Modern Chinese Cultural Studies YouTube page

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