According to Jackie Chan, when he and Jet Li shot their fight together, they found it relaxing and easy: "I have not worked with someone whom I'm comfortable with, in terms of movements, rhythm and natural reactions, in the last ten years. I have done many fight scenes with others, but there were usually more than ten takes, which is a waste of time, as the person may forget his moves and unnecessary injuries. When I fought with Jet, our actions were quick. We also didn't have to do the same stunt over twenty times."
The characters were mostly taken from Chinese mythology and adventure pulps. Lu Yan is a famous Taoist Saint (he is better known as Lü Dongbin, one of the Eight Immortals referenced in Jackie Chan's Drunken Master films). The Jade Emperor is the ruler of the Heavens in Chinese myth. The Monkey King is from a 16th Century fantasy epic by Wu Cheng En. Golden Sparrow was the name of the character played by Cheng Pei Pei in a number of Shaw Bros films, like Da zui xia (1966). The White Haired Demoness is the anti-heroine of a pulp novel by Liang Yusheng (filmed twice) with the same title.
This movie marked the very first collaboration between martial arts masters Jet Li and Jackie Chan. However, Chan has said he did not consider this film to be "*The* Jackie Chan-Jet Li film," as neither of them had anything to do with directing, producing or choreographing.
The film was based on the Chinese epic story "Journey to the West," a fictionalized account of the legends around the Buddhist monk Tang Sanzhuang's pilgrimage to India during the Tang dynasty, in order to obtain Buddhist scriptures. Many programs have been based on this tale, such as television show Saiyûki (1978), and Anime series Dragon Ball Z (1996) held a few loose facts from the same story.
Before filming began, the entire cast did a costume fitting and a script read-through. Certain dialogues were altered to suit the different actors' English speaking abilities, since the majority of the cast had English as their second language.
Early in the film, the character Jason finds the DVD Guangdong shi hu xing yi wu xi (1980) in Hop's pawn shop. "The Ten Tigers of Kwangtung" (English title) is often regarded by martial arts film experts as the ultimate Shaw Brothers martial arts film, because it featured a star-studded cast of legendary martial arts actors, including Ti Lung, Alexander Fu Sheng, and major and supporting actors from The Venom Mob (which includes all six principle actors from The Five Venoms). The film also featured a younger generation of Shaw Brothers actors, and was meant as a way to "pass the torch" from then-veteran Shaw Brothers actors to the new generation of actors. The Shaw Brothers Creative Group films rarely featured so many star actors in one film, and "The Ten Tigers of Kwangtung" was one of the few films to do so.
Jet Li worked with John Fusco on the screenplay and said, "He is a superb screenwriter and has been learning Chinese martial arts for more than ten years. He has roughly put across in the film some of my basic understanding of martial arts and principles of Buddhism."
At first, the original theatrical trailer revealed the overall story of Jason Tripitikas (Michael Angarano) being the central character that unites The Monkey King (Jet Li) and Lu Yan (Jackie Chan) as side characters during his adventure. Fan reaction and feedback was so negative to this reveal that a new trailer was hastily edited that focused only on Jet Li and Jackie Chan's character interactions, with no mentions of Michael Angarano, in the hopes that fans would not focus so negatively on the pair's supportive roles for the film.
When the time came to film the cherry blossom scene, the filmmakers were horrified to find the all the plants had gone bare in the meantime. The crew was ordered to glue thousands of fake blossoms to the branches.
The trivia item below may give away important plot points.
In the beginning, when Jason is looking through Hop's DVDs, the song playing in the background is sung by a woman longing for someone to return. The movie contains themes of returning, primarily with Jason wanting to return home (but also needing to return a staff so that The Monkey King can return to the living).