Benny Chan Shaolin


Benny Chan Shaolin

Shaolin

Cast: Andy Lau, Nicholastse, Jackie Chan, Fan Bingbing, Wujing Yushaoqun, Yu Halyanneng, Xiong Xinxin, Bai Bing
Director: Benny Chan
Genre: Action, Drama
Running Time: 131 minutes

Synopsis: It is the early years of the republic and China has been plunged into chaos as feuding warlords battle to expand their power and their lands. Young army leader Hou Jie and his sworn brother Cao Man find little resistance in their conquer of the township of Dengfeng, leaving thousands injured and dead in their wake.

The venerated Shaolin Temple throws open its doors to the wounded. Disciples Jing Neng, Jing Kong and Jing Hai venture out in the day to save the villagers and at night, become masked Robin Hoods to help the poor and weak.

When Hou Jie learns that temple disciples are helping his enemies, he challenges the temple's kung fu. The abbot purposely loses the fight to Hou Jie and the latter becomes even more arrogant. But Hou is forced to repent when the shock betrayal of Cao Man wipes out his whole family and he is forced to seek refuge at Shaolin. While recuperating at the temple, Hou has the chance to learn Shaolin's powerful martial arts from the crazy monk Wu Dao and find inner peace.

However, his wife Yan Xi has difficulty coping with the loss of their daughter and decides to seek out Cao Man for revenge. In the meantime, Jing Neng, Jing Kong and Jing Hai also have a confrontation with Hou. The encounters anger Cao Man who brings his army to besiege Shaolin and the peace-loving monks are forced to take up arms to protect the refugees and their beloved temple...

Release Date: 20th of January, 2011


Directors Statement

"Like many of my peers who were starting out in the film industry in the early 1980s, I was influenced and inspired by the original The Shaolin Temple. I found the martial arts portrayed in this 1982 classic radically different from anything I have seen before. I mean, wow, there was Jet Li executing the most perfect of 360-degree roundhouse kicks in mid-air! It was both stunning and riveting. Don't forget that The Shaolin Temple was made before China opened up to the rest of the world - it was such a rarity.

Because of the enormous success of the original film, many films and television series similarly inspired have been made since. However, I believe our Shaolin is the first feature film officially sanctioned by Abbot Shi Yongxin since the 1982 classic. So when Emperor Motion Pictures challenged me to produce and direct it, it is an offer that I could not proverbially refuse.

One of our first tasks was to come up with something new. Fortunately, Shaolin Temple dates back more than 1,500 years and there are so many tales worth telling. Blessed with such a wealth of materials, we consciously set out not to remake the 1982 Jet Li classic. Instead, we set our Shaolin in China during the 1920s - the age of the warlords.

Of course, martial arts is still the core element of our film. However, we have tried not to replicate what Jet Li accomplished almost 30 years ago. He was too unique. We have to adopt an entirely different approach. On the other hand, and in recognition of the true spirit of Shaolin, we have also avoided indulging ourselves with CGI technologies and special effects. There are several ferocious hand-to-hand battle scenes in our film and one of these will lead to the burning of the temple, a spectacle that painstakingly took us more than a month to shoot.

One thing that impressed me most during our research into the myth of Shaolin was its overriding Buddhist principles of benevolence and forgiveness. Contrary to popular belief, Shaolin Temple does not train people with martial arts so that they could go out and fight each other. Even when pushed to defend themselves, Shaolin disciples still hold on to their somewhat pacifist beliefs. This is ironic but this is also a message that I want to convey in Shaolin.

I have been deeply touched by how people rallied around those affected by natural disasters in recent years. Like those Shaolin monks who offer safe havens to war refugees in our film, they are willing to sacrifice themselves unconditionally for the greater good. To these nameless, noble heroes, I salute you!

I hope audience from all walks of life will enjoy Shaolin as much as I enjoyed making it, and be inspired by it, as much as I was when I saw the original Jet Li classic back in 1982. Thank you. "
-Benny Chan


The Production

Recreating the Shaolin Temple
Shaolin Temple is situated at Dengfeng on Mount Song (Song Shan) in the city of Zhengzhou in Henan Province, People's Republic of China. It is largely recognized as the birthplace of Shaolin martial arts, the ancestral courtyard of Zen. It takes its name from the jungles of Shaoshi mountain: Shao plus lin, which means jungle in Chinese. Built in the 19th year of the Taihe years of the Northern Wei dynasty, it gained its formidable reputation in martial arts during the Tang dynasty. It was burned down several times during the feudal era in the run-up to the founding of the republic.

The massive undertaking to replicate Shaolin began in September 2009, involving over 150 worksmen including blacksmiths, carpenters, plasterers, bricklayers and painters. The plan was to reconstruct a life-sized replica of the real temple in Song Shan and the first pile went into the 100,000 square foot lot on October 10. This was the first time in Chinese film history
One of the most spectacular recreations is the big Buddha inside the Mahavira Hall, or the main building of the temple. Towering to almost 10 meters high and weighing nearly 10 tons, the Buddha was molded with putty and textile fibre, and finished off with a layer of golden platinum. The art department spent several months shaping the face of the Buddha alone in order to achieve the façade of a gracious, affable and benevolent sculpture. The entire statue was divided into 16 parts which were hoisted into the great Hall piece by piece. More than 50 workers spent two weeks painstakingly piecing the Buddha together.

Two big trees stand at the front of the Mahavira Hall, formed by the bark of the cryptomeria conifer from Tianmu Mountain and each leaf meticulously glued on piece by piece. Since the cryptomeria can only be found on Tianmu Mountain or Taiwan's Alishan mountains, these trees are highly valued and conserved. The walls inside the Hall were also made with stone from Tianmu Mountain while the floor tiles were sourced from demolished Ming Dynasty houses. With Tianmu Mountain being a conservation site, the set design team had to travel a long way to inspect the trees and other natural material to ensure that every tree trunk, piece of wood, leaf and slab of stone looked as authentic as possible.

From the temple entrance to the Thousand Buddhas Hall, there are seven courtyards - Shanmen or the Gate of the Monastery; the Hall of the Heavenly Kings; Mahavira Hall; the Bell Tower and Drum Tower; Lixueting; Thousand Buddhas Hall and the Abbot's room - all covering a massive area 30,000 square meters. The temple was burned down by the warlord Shi Yousan during the warlords' bloody warfare in 1928 and many of the main constructions like the Hall of the Heavenly Kings, Mahavira Hall and the Bell Tower and much of the temple's scriptures and literature were ruined by the fire. Now, only courtyards like Shanmen, Lixueting, and Thousand Buddhas Hall exist while the others are being rebuilt.

Shanmen, the Gate of the Monastery
The entrance of Shaolin Temple was built in 1735 (Year 13 of Qing Yongzheng Empire) and was refurbished in 1974. Above the Shanmen/Gate of Monastery hangs a black long rectangular board with the golden characters "Shaolin Temple" written by Emperor Kangxi, bearing the seal with the characters "treasure of the Kangzi imperial brush" at the center of the plaque. During the reign of the warlords, the people suffered from the incessant battles and sought refuge in Shaolin. In the movie, the refugee camp is set in the foreground of Shanmen.

The Hall of the Heavenly Kings
The Hall of the Heavenly Kings is located at the end of an area of steles and acquired its name from the consecrated symbols of the four "kings": Wind, Harmony, Rain and Compliance. It was built with red walls and green tiles with colored drawings in wooden brackets on top of columns supporting the crossbeam. Inside the door, golden Vajra sculptures stand on both sides in front of screens. More than 20 steles of previous dynasties are displayed on both sides of the Hall. In the movie, after Hou Jie massacres Huo Long in the Shaolin Temple, he steps on a board with the inscription: "The Ancestor of Militaries of the World" and signs four words flatly: "Nothing out of the ordinary" in order to scoff at Shaolin kung fu and triggers an outburst of outrage by the monks. This scene happens in the Hall of The Heavenly Kings.

Mahavira Hall
The Hall of the Heavenly Kings, the Sutra Chamber, and the Mahavira Hall form the three big Buddhist temples on the Shaolin grounds. Majestically impressive and imposing, the original Hall was ruined in 1928 and was rebuilt in 1986. In the finale, Cao Man has a decisive battle with Hou Jie inside the Mahavira Hall/Hall of Mahavira and the two are finally enlightened by the truth of righteousness in Buddhism before their battle comes to a fatal climax

The Bell Tower
The Bell Tower resides to the east of the Mahavira Hall with the Drum Tower to the west. Both magnificent and lofty towers have four levels and are valued icons in Chinese architectural history. The original towers were burned down by the warlord Shi Yousan in 1928. The two towers were rebuilt by the local government in 1994 and 1996 to their original appearance, allowing the morning bells and the evening drums to sound once again after 70 long years.

The General's Resident
Besides the main temple, Luzhai is another of the more spectacular locations for the movie. In the movie, it serves as the residence of army leader Hou Jie (played by Andy Lau) and is situated in Dengfeng in Zhejiang Province. Its majestic architecture has drawn comparisons to Beijing's Forbidden City and given rise to the popular saying: "There's the Forbidden City in the north, and Luzhai in the south".

With 500 years' history, Luzhai is listed as a national heritage site and is an iconic Jiangnan structure. The location forms the perfect poignant setting for Hou Jie. As he steps out of his warm and luxurious home to attend a banquet with his wife and daughter, it never occurs to him that it would be the last time he ever steps foot in there again.


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