On December 28, 1895, Dr. Louis Lumiere showed two movies in the Grand Cafe on Boulevard des Capucines in Paris. The movies were Workers Leaving the Lumiere Factory and The Train Pulls into the Station. That event is considered the official birth of the movies. On August 11, 1896, a foreign film was shown at Youyicun of Xuyuan in Shanghai, marking the introduction of movies into China.
In 1897, an American came to Shanghai to show films made by the famous inventor Edison. In 1898, Edison sent his photographers to China and made a documentation film China Honor Guard. In January 1902, movies were introduced in to Beijing with the display of the first film Black People Eat Water Melon and other comic short movies. In 1903, a Chinese student named Lin Zhusan came back from overseas with films and players and opened the history to show movies by the Chinese. In December 1907, Beijing Grand Theater completed its rebuilding and began to show movies. In the same year, the first real cinema, Ping'an Movie, was established by foreign investors at the Chang'an Avenue in Beijing.
It was not until the autumn of 1905 that the Chinese shot their first film The Battle of Mount Dingjun. It was adapted from a Beijing opera of the same name by the Beijing Fengtai Photo Studio and Tan Xinpei, a renowned performer of Peking Opera. The shooting of the film marked the official birth of Chinese cinema.
During the 43 years from 1905 to 1948, China progressed from showing only foreign-made films to shooting its own and from using foreign funds to filming independently. Eventually, China became strong enough to develop its own national cinema.
Family ethics and social issues were in vogue mainly in the 1920s and 1930s. Most of the works on family ethics drew material from the life of urban residents in the lower social strata or the petty bourgeoisie and showed love affairs, marriages, affairs concerning ethics, or household affairs. Films on social issues courageously exposed the most grim and pressing problems confronting Chinese society.
(chinaculture.org January 18, 2004)