Hit film sparks interest in ancient general

Updated: Feb 6, 2023 Xinhua Print
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Visitors at the Temple of Yue Fei in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province, pay tribute to the national hero. [Photo provided to China Daily]

ZHENGZHOU — During this year's Spring Festival holiday, the county of Tangyin in Henan province welcomed an increased number of tourists. Many of them came to pay tribute to Yue Fei, a Song Dynasty (960-1279) general and national hero.

The tourist surge was attributed to the success of Full River Red, a domestic blockbuster that debuted during Spring Festival. As of Jan 27, the last day of the holiday, the film had generated a total box-office revenue of about 2.6 billion yuan ($385 million), making it No 1 in the holiday box-office chart.

The historical drama, which shares the title with a well-known lyrical poem by Yue, was directed by acclaimed Chinese director Zhang Yimou. Its suspenseful plot revolves around a series of events surrounding Yue's death.

Many viewers were moved to tears by the ending of the movie, which featured thousands of soldiers reciting the lyrical poem in concert.

The film's popularity sparked public admiration for Yue, who gallantly fought battles against the Jurchen people and was celebrated for his loyalty and courage. "On Jan 27 alone, we received over 10,000 tourists," says Xu Suting, curator of the Yue Fei memorial hall in Tangyin county.

To cater to the tourists' enthusiasm, on Jan 26 the site announced that anyone who can recite the aforementioned lyrical poem in person can visit for free. On that very day, 437 visitors were granted free entrance after successfully reciting the composition.

"I wanted to visit the Temple of Yue Fei after watching the film," says a tourist surnamed Han. He says that by reciting the poem with his children and appreciating the steles engraved with the verses, he profoundly felt Yue's patriotic spirit.

Public interest in Yue's story also extended to other characters involved. At a tourist site in Zhoukou, Henan province, visitors waited in line to smack the bronze statue of a kneeling Qin Hui, a Song Dynasty official who is despised by Chinese people for plotting Yue's death by fabricating charges against him.

According to employees of the tourist site, "smacking Qin Hui "is a traditional local activity that has the connotation of chasing away bad luck. With Full River Red hitting the big screen this year, there are considerably more people participating in this activity.

One of the film's intentions is to illustrate and highlight Yue's spirit. In an article posted on China's leading film rating platform Douban, Chen Yu, the film's screenwriter, wrote that Yue's lyrical poem contains a kind of culture or emotion shared by Chinese people.

"By making this film, we try to explore why Chinese people are so familiar with Yue's lyrical poem and admire his character," writes Chen.

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