A Touch of Zen



In director King Hu’s grandest work, the noblewoman Yang (Hsu Feng), a fugitive hiding in a small village, must escape into the wilderness with a shy scholar and two aides. There, the quartet face a massive group of fighters, and are joined by a band of Buddhist monks who are surprisingly skilled in the art of battle. Janus Films is proud to present the original, uncut version of this classic in a sparkling new 4K restoration.

TAIWAN  •  1971  •  180 MINUTES  •  COLOR


Director/Scriptwriter: King Hu
Producers: Sha Jung-feng, Hsia-wu Liang Fang
Cinematographer: Hua Huiying
Editors: King Hu, Wang Chin-chen
Music: Wu Dajiang
Martial arts choreographers: Han Yingjie, Pan Yao-kun

Hsu Feng as Yang Huizhen
Shi Jun as Gu Shengzhai
Bai Ying as General Shih Wen-chaio

About the Restoration

King Hu’s A Touch of Zen was restored in 4K by the Taiwan Film Institute and L’Immagine Ritrovata from the 35 mm original camera negative. The negative was generally in good preservation condition, with very light shrinkage. The most serious problems were several tears that needed to be repaired. The film was not particularly warped or unstable, but it was covered in stains and colored spots of various sizes, and full of splices, so the lab used a dust removal filter and went frame by frame to eliminate unwanted artifacts. The removal of splice marks was a heavy task: a movie with fast editing, A Touch of Zen is full of close splices. This work was done by manually reconstructing the damaged parts of frames with interpolation tools, adjusting for luminance and grain. During the color-correction process, the 4K resolution allowed the lab to achieve a deep definition and richness. As there was no vintage positive element available to use as a reference for color restoration, a 1992 print preserved at the Taiwan Film Institute was consulted. Research results on Dragon Inn provided by the TFI and the lab’s previous restoration experience on that film also helped the lab execute the color correction of A Touch of Zen, which was shot by the same director and film crew.


• Production of A Touch of Zen began in 1967 but was not completed until 1969. Against director King Hu’s wishes, producers demanded that the film be exhibited in two parts (in 1970 and 1971) in Taiwan, where it languished at the box office. The famous bamboo-forest fight climax of the first part was reprised at the beginning of the second. Without Hu, the producers then recut the film into a two-hour version and rereleased it to theaters, where it performed no better. In 1973, Hu regained control of the film and recut it according to his original intentions: as a single three-hour film. That version premiered at the Cannes Film Festival in 1975.

• Hu stated that the Ming Dynasty was a period “when Western influences first reached China,” and that he conceived his films as critiques of the unjustified killings depicted in such Western movies as the James Bond franchise, where the hero indiscriminately guns down faceless enemies.

• A Touch of Zen was the first Chinese film to win an award at Cannes, where it took home the Technical Grand Prize in 1975.

• Unusual for the wuxia genre, the first fight sequence does not occur until almost an hour into the film.

• A Touch of Zen was inspired by “The Magnanimous Girl,” from Pu Songling’s ghost-story anthology Strange Stories from a Chinese Studio. The anthology consists of roughly 500 stories and has inspired many films, including Li Han-hsiang’s The Enchanting Shadow, Tsui Hark’s A Chinese Ghost Story, and Gordon Chan’s Painted Skin.

• Hu had a full village constructed for the opening half of the film, and then left it alone for nine months to give it a weathered look.