Representations of History in Chinese Film and Television


Director Lin Nong

Lin Nong 林农 (1918/19-2002), real name Su Duoze 粟多泽, was born in Sichuan and was to be one of the most famous directors in China. He grew up in a peasant family and had no easy access to education. For some time he attended a private school but then had to stay home, due to problems in his family. Only at seventeen could he attend school again – a school of agriculture and forestry – because the state paid the fees there, but he had no specific interest in the subjects taught and did not graduate.

In 1937, after the outbreak of the Sino-Japanese War, he first went to Chongqing. There he re-named himself Lin Nong 林农, combining his mother's family name “Lin” with “Nong” (peasant) in reference to the school he had attended. After moving on to Yan'an in 1938, he participated in several political organizations and “studied” the revolution. He decided to support the revolution by majoring in art and started to attend the “Lu Xun Academy of Fine Arts” (鲁艺), where he had the opportunity to gather work experience as an actor and director, and also graduated in the end. After the war, he acted in dramas such as “Leiyu” 雷雨 (Thunderstorm), ”Baimao nü” 白毛女 (The White-Haired Girl), and others. During that time, he also wrote a book about drama: “Yanyuan Shouji”演员手记“ (The Actor’s Notes) which served as an introduction to drama.

At that time he mainly taught acting. Later on, he served also as a lecturer at the ”Luyi Wenxueyuan” 鲁艺文学院 (Lu Xun Academy of Fine Arts) in Shenyang, where he again taught acting skills and actively acted also himself together with his students.

His real career, though, started in 1948, when the first film studio of China was established in Manchuria. In 1949, Lin Nong was for the first time partly in charge of a film: “Weiguo Baojia” "卫国保家“ (Save The Country). One year later, in 1950, he participated in “Shangrao Jizhongying” 上饶集中营 (Shangrao Concentration Camp) in which he also acted in a minor role. In the 1950s, he started to be also completely in charge of films, e.g. with “Yichang Fengbo” 一场风波 (Disturbance) (1954). “Xiaogu Xian” 小故贤 (The Kind Sister-In-Law) (1954) was co-produced with Xie Jin, “Shenmi De Lüban” 神秘的旅伴 (The Mysterious Traveling Companions) (1955) with Zhu Wenshun. Many important films were produced under his direction in the following thirty years. In the late 1950s, his movie “Dang De Nüer” 党的女儿 (Daughter of the Party) became widely known, and his creative climax was reached in the early 1960s when he directed “Jiawu Fengyun” 甲午风云 (The Naval Battle of 1894) (1962) and “Bing Lin Cheng Xia ”兵临城下“ (City Under Siege) (1964). The film “Jiawu Fengyun” 甲午风云 (The Naval Battle of 1894) was especially well received by the audience, namely actor Li Moran who starred as the heroic Deng Shichang, whereas his “Bing Lin Cheng Xia” (including Li Moran as well in the cast), focusing on a GMD-figure, got him into political trouble. With some problems he managed to film again in the late years of the Cultural Revolution.

Further films of Lin Nong after the Cultural Revolution include:

  • Dadu He 大渡河 (Dadu River) 1979/80
  • Tiaodong De Huoyan 跳动的火焰 (Dancing Flames) 1984
The subjects of Lin Nong’s films were usually historical or dealing with minorities. As he himself stated it, his style aimed at “naturalness, profundity and sincerity” and his declared credo was that “a good film is the outcome of good team work”.


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© 2007 Gotelind Müller-Saini