In 1026, students in western China are shanghaied into the forces of crown prince Li Yuanhao of Xi Xia, who wants to control the length of the Silk Road. One student is Zhao Xingde, who becomes the favorite of his commander, Zhu Wangli. While sacking a fortress, Xingde discovers Tsurpia, princess of the Uighur. He hides her; they fall in love. When he's sent away to study Xixian, he leaves Tsurpia in Zhu's care, but returns to find her engaged to Li. Tragedy follows, and he and Zhu enter a pact to take revenge when Li arrives at Dun-Huang, the region's seat of learning and culture. Against overwhelming odds, they find a surprising way to leave a monument to their life and love.
Did You Know?
From the late 1950s onward, bringing to the screen the popular novel about China, "Tonkô," by writer Yasushi Inoue
had been a dream project of celebrated director Masaki Kobayashi
, who made such famous films as Harakiri
(1962) and Kwaidan
(1964). Kobayashi not only obtained the rights to Inoue's book, but had adapted another novel by the author to the screen as the 1974 film, The Fossil
(1974). Eventually, the major studio Daiei became interested in the "Tonkô" project. But Daiei's and Kobayashi's visions of the film clashed, partly because Kobayashi insisted upon historical authenticity, which would have made the film much more expensive. In the end, Daiei indicated that it no longer wanted to work with Kobayashi. Since the latter owned the novel's rights, he could have shopped the project around to other studios. However, he had bonded with novelist Inoue, and was concerned that the latter would become ill or die before a movie version of the book appeared. Reluctantly, Kobayashi ceded his rights to the novel to Daiei, and the studio completed the film with another director. It was perhaps the greatest professional disappointment of Kobayashi's career. See more