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Bian Lian (1996)

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Wang Bianlian is an aging street performer known as the King of Mask for his mastery of Sichuan Change Art in a true story. His wife left him with and infant son over 30 years ago. The son ... See full summary »


Tian-Ming Wu


Wengui Chen (story), Minglun Wei (screenplay)
22 wins & 3 nominations. See more awards »



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A Japanese father travels to China's Yunnan province in the place of his ailing son to film a famous folk-opera star.

Director: Yimou Zhang
Stars: Ken Takakura, Kiichi Nakai, Shinobu Terajima


Credited cast:
Li Chen Li Chen ... Ms Wen
Zhaoji Jia Zhaoji Jia ... Slave trader
Zhigang Zhang Zhigang Zhang ... Sulan, Luo
Zhigang Zhao Zhigang Zhao ... Liang Sao Lang
Renying Zhou Renying Zhou ... Gou Wa ("Doggie")
Xu Zhu ... Bianlian Wang


Wang Bianlian is an aging street performer known as the King of Mask for his mastery of Sichuan Change Art in a true story. His wife left him with and infant son over 30 years ago. The son died from illness at age 10. This left Wang a melancholy loner aching for a male descendent to learn his rare and dying art. A famous master performer of the Sichuan Opera offers to bring him into his act, thus giving Wang fame and possible fortune, but Wang opts for staying the simple street performer. Then, one night after a performance he is sold a young boy by a slave trader posing as the boy's parent. "Grandpa" finds new joy in life as he plans to teach "Doggie" (an affectionate term often used for young children in China) his art. All is well until Doggie is found out to really be a girl. Written by Steve Uptegraft <bluzman@voyager.net>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis




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China | Hong Kong



Release Date:

16 August 1996 (Hong Kong) See more »

Also Known As:

King of Masks See more »

Filming Locations:

Shanghai, China


Box Office

Opening Weekend USA:

$394,272, 11 June 1999

Gross USA:

$1,104,619, 27 February 2000
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Shaw Brothers See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Dolby SR



Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


When Wang (The Mask King) is performing for the soldiers who insist on having his secret, his missing front tooth is there in one scene, then gone in the next. See more »

Alternate Versions

Original Chinese version runs 101 minutes; international Version runs 91 minutes. See more »


Referenced in Rewind This! (2013) See more »

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User Reviews

beautiful and sentimental
10 August 1999 | by kaibab-2See all my reviews

I enjoyed the cinematographic recreation of China in the 1930s in this beautiful film. The story is simple. An older male performer wants to pass on his art to a young man although he has no living children. The faces of the actors are marvelous to see. The story reveals the devotion and gratitude of children to those who treat them well and their longing to be treated well. The operas in the film remind me of FAREWELL MY CONCUBINE, which was more sophisticated and intricate. The story here reminds me of a Dickens tale of days when children were almost chattel. The plot is a bit predictable and a bit too sentimental for me but well worth the time to view for the heroism, humanity, and history portrayed.

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