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The following FAQ entries may contain spoilers. Only the biggest ones (if any) will be covered with spoiler tags. Spoiler tags have been used sparingly in order to make the page more readable.
Ying xiong (English: Hero) is based on a screenplay by Chinese writers Feng Li, Bin Wang, and Zhang Yimou, who also directed the film. It is loosely based on the life of Jing Ke, attempted assassination of the Chinese emperor Qin Shi Huang, who reigned from 221 BC to 210 BC.
The "wu" in "wuxia" refers to "martial arts" or "combat". The "xia" refers to a person whose sense of righteousness is so profound that it empowers them to sacrifice themselves and even break the law to help people. The closest equivalents in English would be the hero, knight, warrior, or vigilante in superhero comics. See here for more information about wuxia and the xia.
That's an ancient Chinese instrument called the "guqin".
In terms of wuxia masterpieces, Bao biao [Have Sword, Will Travel] (1969) and Xia nü [A Touch of Zen] (1971) are seen as the influential epic grandmasters of the genre. Wo hu cang long [Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon] (2000) is probably the most well-known around the world. Some other wuxia flicks of note are Shi mian mai fu [House of Flying Daggers] (2004) and Man cheng jin dai huang jin jia [Curse of the Golden Flower] (2006). If you like wuxia movies, try some of Akira Kurosawas jidaigeki cinema, like Ran (1985), Kagemusha (1990), Yôjinbô (1961), and Shichinin no samurai [Seven Samurai] (1954). Another Jet Li movie of interest might be Huo Yuanjia [Fearless] (2006). Other movies similar to Ying xiong [Hero] include Chi bi [Red Cliff] (2008), Musa (2001), and Ching se [Green Snake] (1993).
The Director's Cut runs approx. 10 minutes longer than the Theatrical Version and features more than 140 newly added bits and pieces. These new scenes are mostly only a couple of frames long and extend existing scenes smoothly. There are only a fistful of new scenes. Nonetheless the Director's Cut has to be preferred. A detailed comparison between both versions with pictures can be found here.
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