In his latest film, "Under the Hawthorn Tree," Chinese director Zhang Yimou explores a story of young love in 1970s rural China. The movie, which opened the prestigious Pusan International Film Festival last week, features fresh-faced actors with no box-office track record.
Long tear-shaped white forms—representing bitter gourds commonly used in Chinese cuisine—stand out against a background of impassioned dark-green brushstrokes. The late Chinese artist Wu Guanzhong called his 1998 work "Bitter Melon Homestead," and wrote: "This is blood. This is destiny … Bitter melons are not so bitter, since … I have fully tasted the bitterest of the bitterest."
As a director, Feng has become a strong draw on his own—an anomaly in Chinese entertainment, where movie stars usually make or break a film. Since his 1994 debut film, "Gone Forever With My Love", he has made a dozen movies, each one shattering a record in China.
Even among the stuffy bureaucrats in Beijing, the Song dynasty ink-on-silk painting "Along the River During the Qingming Festival" has an affectionate nickname: "China's Mona Lisa." Though it's a landscape, not a portrait, "Qingming" has a mysterious allure that has captivated the popular imagination and spawned debate about its hidden meaning, much like da Vinci's fabled work.