The climactic fight scene was filmed in the Ukraine. It snowed so early (October) that it caught the filmmakers by surprise, as they had already started filming. They decided to change the script and the movie so that it would appear almost as if this epic battle began during the fall and ended during winter. Yimou Zhang was very happy with how it turned out because it set the perfect tone and obviously highlighted the blood spilled on the snow.
Ziyi Zhang is not actually a trained martial artist, despite having been in many martial arts films. She is however a skilled dancer (joined the Beijing Dance Academy at age 11), which allowed her to adapt to the fight choreography.
This was originally going to be Anita Mui's final appearance in film and she had already accepted the role but, because she was battling cervical cancer, her part wasn't going to be filmed until early 2004. After her death on 30 December 2003, director Yimou Zhang decided to alter the script rather than find a replacement. Anita's name will still be listed in the credits.
The song that Mei sings that begins with, "A Rare Beauty in the North" is actually an ancient poem set to music. It was written by the brother of an Imperial Concubine about his sister. Meant as a cautionary tale to the Emperor about overindulgence in female beauty at the same time it acknowledged the lasting hurt of a powerful love.
Concerned that Western audiences would not be able to tell Andy Lau and Takeshi Kaneshiro's apart in the beginning of the film as they are dressed similarly, Yimou Zhang had Kaneshiro's character eat peanuts throughout many of the opening scenes to distinguish them.
Director Yimou Zhang has said that he will rewrite the screenplay to remove Anita Mui's character following the veteran star's death. This is meant to be a sign of respect for Mui. It was earlier reported that Michelle Yeoh or Brigitte Lin would be cast instead.
The film features the theme of a beautiful woman who brings woe to two men. Theme was borrowed from a famous poem written by the Han Dynasty poet Li Yannian . (Eng trans.) "In the north there is a beauty; unique and independent. A glance from her will overthrow a city; another glance will overthrow a nation. One would rather not know whether it will be a city or a nation that will be overthrown. As it would be difficult to behold such a beauty again".
Most of the film was shot in Ukraine's Carpathian Mountains (the Hutsul Region National Park), such as the scenes in the snow or birch forests. The cast and production team spent 70 days on location from September to October 2003 and were largely based in Kosiv. The bamboo forest sequences were filmed in China. But, due to the early snowfall, the filmmakers decided to alter the script and certain sequences rather than wait for the snow to thaw as the leaves were still on the trees. Zhang Yimou later said that despite of the unpredictable weather forcing the alterations, he had achieved the desired effect and was happy with the final result.
Sets were built at Yongchuan, Sichun Province, in the bamboo forests of Tea Mountain and Bamboo Sea Scenery Park, near the city of Chongqing. To visit China's 120-square km park, the largest primaeval bamboo park in the country, you have to take 2h flight from Shanghai to Chengdu, from where there is a 5h bus trip to the Bamboo Sea. You will find unique Bamboo Museum, and and a bamboo restaurant featuring dishes based on the local speciality.
T'ang Dynasty AD/CE 618 - 907: House of Flying Daggers is set in AD/CE 859 (as stated above), near the end of China's T'ang Dynasty. The T'ang Dynasty enjoyed its "golden age" AD/CE 710-755, but corruption was, as always ,commonplace and Chinese peasants, as always, suffered. "A sequence of peasant uprisings beginning in [CE] 860 A.D. led to the demise of the T'ang Dynasty" ("T'ang Dynasty").
Interiors, including the 'Peony Pavilion' brothel and the abandoned Buddhist temple in the bamboo forest, lensed in Beijing Film Studio (where films Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and Kill Bill were previously filmed).