The history of Chinese film has three separate threads of development: Cinema of Hong Kong, Cinema of China, and Cinema of Taiwan. The cinema of Mainland China after 1949 has grown up somewhat suppressed by the Communist regime until now. The Beginnings: Shanghai as the Center
Motion pictures were introduced to China in 1896. The first recorded screening of a motion picture in China occurred in Shanghai on August 11, 1896, as an "act" on a variety bill. The first Chinese film, a recording of the Beijing Opera, The Battle of Dingjunshan(汉中之战）, was made in November 1905. For the next ten years the production companies were mainly foreign-owned, and the domestic film industry did not start in earnest until 1916, centering around Shanghai, a thriving entrepot center and the largest city in the Far East.
During the 1920s, film technicians from the United States trained Chinese technicians in Shanghai, and American influence continued to be felt there for the next two decades. The first truly important Chinese films were produced starting from the 1930s, when the "progressive" or "left-wing" films were made, like Cheng Bugao's Spring Silkworms (1933), Sun Yu's The Big Road (1935), and Wu Yonggang's The Goddess (1934). During this time the Kuomintang struggled for power and control over the major studios, and their influence can be seen in the ensuing films produced. The post-1930 era is called the first "golden period" of Chinese cinema, where several talented directors appeared, most of them are leftist. The period also produced the first big Chinese movie stars, namely Hu Die, Ruan Lingyu, Zhou Xuan, and Jin Yan. Other major films of the period include Song of the Fishermen (1934), Crossroads (1937), and Street Angel (1937).
The Japanese invasion of China, in particular their occupation of Shanghai, ended this golden run in Chinese cinema. All production companies all closed except Xinhua company, and many of the filmmakers...