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Edward Yang

Edward Yang
Chinese name 楊德昌 (traditional)
Chinese name 杨德昌 (simplified)
Pinyin Yáng Déchāng (Mandarin)
Ancestry Meixian, Guangdong
Born (1947-11-06)November 6, 1947
Shanghai, China
Died June 29, 2007(2007-06-29) (aged 59)
Los Angeles, California
Spouse(s) Tsai Chin (1985–1995)
Kaili Peng

Edward Yang (simplified Chinese: 杨德昌; traditional Chinese: 楊德昌; pinyin: Yáng Déchāng; November 6, 1947 – June 29, 2007), along with Hou Hsiao-Hsien and Tsai Ming Liang, was one of the leading film-makers of the Taiwanese New Wave and Taiwanese Cinema.[1] He won the Best Director Award at Cannes for his 2000 film Yi Yi ("A One and a Two").[2]


  • Biography 1
    • Youth and early career 1.1
  • Films and work 2
    • The Winter of 1905 and In Our Time (short, Desires) 2.1
    • That Day, on The Beach 2.2
    • Taipei Story 2.3
    • The Terrorizers 2.4
    • A Brighter Summer Day 2.5
    • A Confucian Confusion 2.6
    • Mahjong 2.7
    • Yi Yi 2.8
    • Legacy 2.9
  • Themes 3
  • Filmography 4
    • Features 4.1
  • See also 5
  • References 6
  • Further reading 7
  • External links 8


Youth and early career

Edward Yang was born in Shanghai in 1947, and grew up in Taipei, Taiwan. After studying Electronic Engineering in National Chiao Tung University, he enrolled in the graduate program at the Florida State University, where he received his Masters Degree in Electrical and Computer Engineering in 1974.[3] During this time and briefly afterwards, Yang worked at the Center for Informatics Research. Yang always had a great interest in film ever since he was a child, but put away his aspirations in order to pursue a career in the high-tech industry. Also, a brief enrollment at USC Film School after graduating with his M.S.E.E. convinced him that the world of film was not for him - he thought USC film school's teaching methodologies were too commercial-oriented. Yang then applied and was accepted into Harvard's architecture school, the Harvard Graduate School of Design, but decided not to attend.[4] Thereafter, he went to Seattle to work in microcomputers and defense software.

While working in Seattle, Yang came across the Werner Herzog film Aguirre, the Wrath of God (1972). This encounter rekindled Yang's passion for film and introduced him to a wide range of classics in world and European cinema. Yang was particularly inspired by the films of Italian director Michelangelo Antonioni (Antonioni's influence has shown up in some of Yang's later works). He married Taiwanese pop-singer and music legend Tsai Chin in May 1985. They divorced in August 1995, and he subsequently married pianist Kai-Li Peng.

Films and work

The Winter of 1905 and In Our Time (short, Desires)

Yang eventually returned to Taiwan to write the script for and serve as a production aide on a Hong Kong TV Movie, The Winter of 1905 (1981). After directing a series of television shows, Yang's break came in 1982 when he was asked to direct and write a short, "Desires" (also known as "Expectation"), in the seminal Taiwanese New Wave collection In Our Time (1982). The short film was a rather poignant portrayal of a young girl's experiences through puberty.

That Day, on The Beach

Yang then followed that short with several of his major works. While his contemporary Hou Hsiao-Hsien focused more on the countryside, Yang was a poet of the city, analyzing the environment and relationships of urban Taiwan in nearly all his films. Yang's first feature film, That Day, on the Beach (1983), was a fractured modernist narrative reflecting on couples and families that spliced time-lines.

Taipei Story

Yang followed with his second feature film, Taipei Story (1985), where he cast fellow auteur Hou Hsiao-Hsien as the lead, a former Little-League baseball star trying to find his way in Taipei.

The Terrorizers

Yang's third feature film was The Terrorizers (1986), a complex multi-narrative urban thriller that reflected on city life and contained the crime elements and alienation themes of an Antonioni film. The film won a Silver Leopard at The Locarno International Film Festival[5] and was examined by Fredric Jameson in The Geopolitical Aesthetic.[6]

A Brighter Summer Day

Yang's fourth film was A Brighter Summer Day (1991), a sprawling examination of youth-teen gangs, 1949 Taiwanese societal developments, and American pop-culture (the title was taken from an Elvis refrain);[3] the film was considered by many critics to be a masterpiece. For A Brighter Summer Day, Yang won the FIPRESCI Prize at The Tokyo International Film Festival, and a Golden Horse award for Best Film.

A Confucian Confusion

Yang's fifth film was A Confucian Confusion (1994), a multi-character comedy set in urban Taiwan), which garnered a Golden Horse Award for Best Screenplay Originally Written for The Screen.


Yang's sixth film was Mahjong (1996), a sharp, incisive reflection of modern urban-Taiwan seen through foreign eyes, which also starred several foreign actors, which won an Honourable Mention at the 46th Berlin International Film Festival[7] and garnered Yang a "Best Asian Director" Award at The Singapore International Film Festival.[5]

Yi Yi

However, Yang was best known for his seventh and final film, Yi Yi (2000) - it was for this film that he received the Best Director at Cannes in 2000, among other notable film awards. Yi Yi was an epic story about the Jian family seen through three different perspectives: the father NJ (Nien-Jen Wu), the son Yang-Yang (Jonathan Chang), and the daughter, Ting-Ting (Kelly Lee).[8] The three-hour piece started with a wedding, concluded with a funeral, and contemplated all areas of human life in-between with profound humor, beauty and tragedy.


In 2000, Yang formed Miluku Technology & Entertainment to produce animated films and TV shows. The first animated feature that Miluku was slated to produce was an animated feature titled The Wind with Jackie Chan in 2007, but the project was cut short when Yang fell ill with cancer.[9] At the 2007 Pusan International Film Festival, he won an award for Asian Filmmaker of the Year. He died on June 29, 2007, at his home in Beverly Hills, as a result of complications from a seven-year struggle with colon cancer. He is survived by his wife, concert pianist Kaili Peng, and son Sean.


Yang attempted to examine the struggle between the modern and the traditional in his films, as well as the relationship between business and art, and how greed may corrupt, influence, or affect art. For that reason, many of his films (other than Yi Yi) are extremely difficult to find, since Yang did not consider selling films for money his primary purpose as an artist.

Also, Yang always set his works in the cities of Taiwan. As a result, Yang's films - especially A Confucian Confusion, Taipei Story, Mahjong and The Terrorizers, are commentaries on Taiwanese urban life and insightful explorations of Taiwanese urban society.

He has also collaborated with many of his fellow Taiwanese film-makers in his films: for instance, in Yi Yi he cast as the lead well-known auteur, novelist, and screenwriter Nien-Jen Wu, director of the award-winning Duo Sang, or A Borrowed Life, which Martin Scorsese has cited as one of his favorite works and one of the most influential films of the '90s. He also cast fellow film-maker Hou Hsiao-Hsien as the lead in his 1985 film, Taipei Story. Yang also taught Theatre and Film classes at the Taipei National University of the Arts. Several of his students showed up in his films as actors and actresses.



See also


  1. ^ Sau Austerlitz, Senses of Cinema: Edward Yang,
  2. ^ IMDb, Edward Yang, Awards,
  3. ^ a b International Dictionary of Films and Filmmakers. Eds. Sara Pendergast and Tom Pendergast. Vol. 2: Directors. 4th ed. Detroit: St. James Press, 2001. p1092-1094. 4 vols. "Edward Yang" accessed through Thomson Gale's Biography Research Centre 1 July 2007
  4. ^ Associated Press, Edward Yang, 59, Director who focused on Taiwan Life, July 2, 2007.
  5. ^ a b "IMDB: Awards of The Terrorizers". Retrieved 2009-10-13. 
  6. ^ Jameson, Fredric, The Geopolitical Aesthetic. “Remapping Taipei.” London: BFI Publishing, 1992, pp. 114-157.
  7. ^ "Berlinale: 1996 Prize Winners". Retrieved 2012-01-01. 
  8. ^ "IMDB: Yi Yi: A One and a Two". Retrieved 2009-10-13. 
  9. ^ "UPI, "Filmmaker Edward Yang dies at 59" July 1, 2007". 

Further reading

  • John Anderson, Contemporary Film Directors: Edward Yang (University of Illinois Press 2005). See Link

External links

  • Edward Yang at the Internet Movie Database
  • Jonathan Rosenbaum, "Exiles in Modernity: The Films of Edward Yang" (Chicago Reader)
  • Interview by Shelly Kraicer and Lisa Roosen-Runge (Cineaction)
  • Interview by Duncan Campbell (Guardian UK)
  • Edward Yang Exhibition at MoMA
  • CBS2 Report on Edward Yang's Death
  • "The Taiwan Stories of Edward Yang and Wu Nien-jen," Harvard Film Archive
  • "A Rational Mind: The Films of Edward Yang" The Film Society of Lincoln Center
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