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Lexic : Y

Yanggang means “staunch masculinity” and refers to director Chang Cheh’s martial arts film aesthetics and themes. Chang’s young macho anti-heroes, often betrayed by a corrupt patriarchy, are rebels or outsiders who lived by the code of brotherhood and loyalty (Yi). The gallant heroes often use highly skilled empty-hand kung fu or daggers to battle scores of opponents. Although the heroes are skilled and tough, yanggang films are marked by the intense suffering and violent death of the main characters. Blood, pain and idealized male beauty are intrinsic components of the yanggang film aesthetic. The heroes sacrifice themselves for brotherhood and to eradicate corruption. By doing this they fulfill their higher ideals, thus their tragedy is cathartic.

Ti Lung in The Duel

Chang Cheh’s yanggang films of the late 1960’s (One-Armed Swordsman) and early 1970’s (Vengeance !; The Five Venoms) were created in reaction to the domination of Hong Kong cinema by female stories and female wu xia pian stars who save their weak male supporting actors. The yanggang genre started the trend of male-dominated cinema and paved the way for later heroic bloodshed films, in which guns replace blades. John Woo, a former assistant director to Chang Cheh, spearheaded the heroic bloodshed subgenre with films such as A Better Tomorrow (1986) and The Killer (1989).

Sylvia Rorem (August 2010)

Source: Chang Cheh's Revolution in Masculine Violence, A Preface by Sek Kei, in Chang Cheh: A Memoir, English Editor: Agnes Lam, published by the Hong Kong Film Archive, 2004.

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