Course:ASIA321/2022/Sylvia Chang

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Sylvia Chang

Sylvia Chang can be regarded as an actress who has not missed any golden era in the entertainment industry. She has always had opportunities to work with renowned artists, with her career spanning five disciplines—film, television, singing, acting and directing.[1] Chang’s contribution towards the cinematic and music industries cannot be neglected. Her records went platinum and became important representatives of Taiwan’s 70s folk song era. The Best Director award, several times as a female director in a male-dominated filming industry, were also awarded to Chang.[1] Even her personal affairs have aroused heated media and social discussions.

Born in Chiayi, Taiwan, Sylvia Chang moved to Kowloon, Hong Kong with her family at the age of 12. She then received an education in New York and later moved back to Taiwan. Growing up with the influence of multiple cultural backgrounds, Chang was deeply impacted by different ideologies and thoughts of trends, which became the foundation for her inclusive interests and versatility in the entertainment industry. In such spaces, Sylvia Chang is known for her “spontaneousness” and “effortlessness”.[2] She is also rebellious in the sense that she has never aspired to become an “iconic” figure. To her, the concept of being an icon is a double-edged sword as it signifies the most prestigious fame, but it also confines an artist into one specific role.[2] Instead, Chang has always tried to actualize self-breakthroughs and continued challenging herself with new roles. To date, Sylvia Chang is known not only as an actress, but also as a writer, a singer, a producer and a director.[3]

This Wiki page aims to provide information about the stardom of Sylvia Chang and how her personal life correlates with her feminist and auteurist approaches to cinema.


When regarding Sylvia Chang as an auteur, her life story should be considered as the basis or motivation behind her stylistic choices for her films. Chang was born into a prestigious family; her grandfather Jingmeng Wei was the director of the Broadcasting Cooperation of China, and her mother was an elite socialite.[4] When she was 13, Chang moved to New York with her family, which was just in time for the outbreak of the American hippie movement and the women’s liberation movement. The hippie culture greatly influenced Chang’s lifestyle when she was young. Sylvia Chang once mentioned in an interview, “I definitely would have been a hippie if I stayed in the U.S.”[5] Hippies advocated nonviolence and love, with the popular phrase “make love, not war”. Under this influence, Sylvia Chang became rebellious and started dating. As opposed to studying, Sylvia Chang enjoyed participating in demonstrations more. In school, she wore mini skirts and cut her hair into boyish styles, which dismayed her conservative mother who had expects her daughter to be a proper lady. Thus, at the age of 16, Sylvia was brought back to Taiwan to continue her education in a Catholic school because “she has dated too many boys in the U.S.” It was also at that age for Sylvia Chang to realize, “In order to wear what I want to wear, I need to make my own money.”[5] Not long after, Sylvia Chang started her career as a radio DJ.

Chang’s first movie, The Tattooed Dragon (1973)

In 1972, when Sylvia Chang was 19, Hong Kong cinema was undergoing a period of transition and transformation. In 1970, former Shaw Brothers executives Raymond Chow and Leonard Ho left to form their own company, Golden Harvest; they soon signed the famous action movie star Bruce Lee and jumpstarted the Chinese action movie era. At the age of 19, Chang left Taiwan and moved to Hong Kong. In the same year, she successfully signed up with Golden Harvest and started off her career as a professional actress. Chang started filming her first movie in 1973, The Tattooed Dragon.[4] Throughout this experience, Chang soon came to the realization that the Hong Kong film industry at the time was mostly male-dominated and that the female characters in films were produced and specifically catered to the male gaze. This experience paved the way for Sylvia Chang’s attempt to become a female scriptwriter and director. She wants to offer a gentler and more feministic perspective to the audience. In the same year, Chang terminated her contract with Golden Harvest, because her rebellious nature is unreconcilable with the company’s strict corporate rules, and neither does it satisfy her to be a mere wallflower in action movies.[4]

Sylvia Chang began to challenge herself with different genres of films after her resignation. Finally, in 1976, Sylvia Chang won her first Golden Horse Award as Best Supporting Actress with the movie Prosperity and Perplexity, written by famous drama writer Chiung Yao. Three years later, Sylvia Chang impressed the Hong Kong film industry with the movie The Secret. This movie was the directorial debut of the female director, Ann Hui. The movie soon stirred up heated discussion in the film industry as it marked the beginning of the Hong Kong New Wave era.[6] In the same year, Sylvia Chang married her first husband, Bob Liu. Unlike other actresses who were active around the same time, Chang did not retire and give up her pursuit of a career after her marriage.

After being in the industry for almost 10 years, Sylvia Chang gradually went through the transition from having the belief that the purpose of films is to entertain the public to the point where she preferred to de-commercialize her work and deliver a more personalized message to her audience.[2] In her works Siao Yu, Passion and Mountains May Depart, Sylvia Chang began to incorporate more of her personal understanding and life experiences into the work. In the movie Passion, Sylvia Chang worked as the director, scriptwriter and lead actress, which won both a Hong Kong Golden Film Award and a Taiwan Golden Horse Award. She was also nominated for Best Film, Best Director and Best Original Screenplay.

Life roles

The celebrity’s life roles

As a jill of all trades in the realm of the entertainment industry, Sylvia Chang has held a longtime career with considerable range, making her debut as an actress in 1973, dabbling in scriptwriting and directing in the 1980s, returning to acting, while making several musical releases with acclaim.

Even after the birth of her son, Oscar Wang, in 1990 and her second marriage to Hong Kong businessman Billy Wang in 1991, Chang remained active in the entertainment sphere as a “quadruple-threat artiste”[7] into the mid-2000s, appearing in movies such as The Fun, the Luck & the Tycoon (1990), The Banquet (1991), The Twin Dragons (1992), The Red Violin (1998) and returning to self-directing as seen in Siao Yu (1995), Tempting Heart (1999) and 20 30 40 (2004).

On July 6th, 2000, Chang’s son was kidnapped and held for a ransom of $15 million Hong Kong Dollars. While Oscar was eventually found unhurt by police after 10 days[8], his mental health had suffered as a result of the ordeal and Chang tended to him with the utmost care for the next three years[9]. On the subject of the kidnapping, Chang had said, “With your life, you have to move on, there’s no other choice; out of no choice… it’s a matter of your attitude.”[10]

In a Yang Lan One on One (《杨澜访谈录》) interview in 2003, Chang further explains her choice and determination to remain in the industry: “Everyone wants to say, ‘act, act, do some acting while you can, then you can marry someone, or retire’; but I feel like when it comes to film, there is so much to learn, how can you be so passionate about film, only to give it up and forget about it? I’ve always refused to concede on that.”[11]

Screen roles

The celebrity’s screen roles

Between Hong Kong, Mainland China, Taiwan, and the U.S., Sylvia Chang has spent over four decades in over 100 works of film and television.

Sylvia Chang behind the scenes (1989)

Just like her willingness to “give [everything] a try”[12] in life, Chang has taken on a variety of roles over the course of her acting career, from an innocent girl as seen in her early films such as The Story of Four Girls (1975) to a street walker in The Lady Killer (1976), from a masculine and fiery-tempered police officer in Aces Go Places (1982) to a motherly figure in Buddha Mountain (2010), from starring alongside the likes of Leslie Cheung in Crazy Romance (1985) and Chow Yun-fat in All About Ah Long (1989) in the East to Chuck Norris in Yellow Faced Tiger (1974) and Samuel L. Jackson in The Red Violin (1998) in the West.

However, when given the choice to make an appearance in her self-directed films, Chang gravitates towards roles that show the complexities of the female psyche. For 20 30 40 (2004), Chang’s vision was to tell “a story about [the] best 30 years of women’s life [when] there are not many women’s films in Asia — I mean Hong Kong, Taiwan or even China — [since] I had this opportunity [to make] films for women, I just do it.”[10] Appearing in the film as the 40-year-old female protagonist herself, Chang wished to depict “how pathetic women sometimes are […] yet, they come to [the] realization that they cannot just hold on to another man […] you have to go on with your own life, that it’s just a matter of attitude.”[10]

Substantive analysis of the celebrity’s profession

A critical analysis of one film starring the celebrity under analysis

The living struggles of women under the patriarchal system have raised much discourse in contemporary society. As the female community began to realize the importance of equal rights, feministic movements became prevalent. However, the same topic has already been explored in the 1990s by male director Stanley Kwan in his film Full Moon in New York (《人在纽约》)[13]. The background of the story took place from the 1980s to the 1990s, a period in which China was experiencing a new wave of diaspora. With the impact of the reform and opening policy of China, Chinese people experienced huge shockwaves with the development disparities between China and developed countries. This cultured an “American Dream” in the younger generations’ hearts. The movie focuses on discussing three women’s growth and self-salvation after they came to the U.S. from mainland China, Taiwan and Hong Kong. In the movie, Sylvia Chang, along with Maggie Cheung and Stchingowa, vividly portrays the predicaments females are facing in the foreign country. At the time of the film’s production, the concept of feminism is still an advanced topic in China, the director’s exquisite filming skills along with the captivating performances of the main characters, helped the film to won the Best Feature Film Award in the Golden Horse Awards.

Full Moon in New York (1989) starring Sylvia Chang, Maggie Cheung and Stchingowa

In Full Moon in New York (1989), Sylvia Chang played the character Xiongping Huang, a Taiwanese girl who came to New York with his father after college. This character represents the group of Asian Americans who are in a cultural dilemma: they are already assimilated into American culture, but they could not cut off the impacts of their roots and are constantly confined by the discrimination that are associated with their appearances and identity. The character is caught in a predicament because of her identity as an Asian and as a woman. Although she was talented, Xiongping could not gain recognition by the casting team and could only play minor roles. The oppression the character faced in the patriarchal system particularly is highlighted in the scene where she crawled on the ground acting as a fine steed, yet the casting director, a white man with privileged background, criticized her acting condescendingly and mocked her, asking, “By the way, do Chinese people have fine steeds?” This scene ended with a long shot of Sylvia Chang doing the same acts repetitively on the stage, where she was covered in the shadow of the white male directors and actors. The shot also zoomed into her face, that the audience could clearly see the sadness, humiliation and non-reconciliation of the character.

This plot of the film is highly parallel to the actor Sylvia Chang’s living experience. Chang moved to New York with her family when she was 13, and just like the character, Sylvia is deeply impacted by American culture, especially the counterculture hippie movement. It was also in New York where Sylvia Chang began to nurture feminism ideologies and started her pursuit of equal rights. Moreover, Chang signed with Golden Harvest when she started her profession as an actress. Yet, she was not satisfied with the working environment of the Hong Kong film industry at the time, which she believed was androcentric and lacks recognition for women.[4] Thus, this experience contributed to Sylvia Chang’s portrayal of the role Xiongping Huang, and helped to convey the inner monologues of the character in a vivid and emotionally touching manner. 

The celebrity’s contribution to their professional field

Aside from being a professional actress, Sylvia Chang also contributed to Chinese cinema greatly with her extraordinary talent behind the scenes. The topic of feminism is a prevalent theme in much of Sylvia Chang’s self-directed work[14]. Through a precise grasp of the feminine mentality, along with her unique feminine lens and delicate expression, Sylvia Chang became an important female director in the Chinese film industry. Stemming from her individual growth, Sylvia Chang realized the unrecognized challenges the female community is facing and she projects her own self-consciousness onto the female characters she created[14]. In her films, Sylvia Chang focuses on portraying female struggles and their experiences of finding themselves, through which Sylvia Chang defies the traditional patriarchal expectations placed on gender and boosts the awakening of the female consciousness in Chinese society. This was a subversive change in Chinese cinema since the industry was previously male-dominated and thus lacks an empathetic approach to exploring feministic topics. Sylvia Chang once mentioned in an interview about the creative process of the film Siao Yu (《少女小渔》), stating that she was disappointed to see the draft script provided by the American scriptwriting team, in which the female character was heavily overshadowed by her male counterpart because the male scriptwriter could not empathize with an underprivileged woman whose life seems to revolve around her spouse. Chang took back the rightful place that the female role deserved by showing more internal monologues and character developments of the character Siao Yu.[2] Her film eventually won the Best Film Award in the Asia-Pacific Film Festival.

Furthermore, Sylvia Chang’s is also known as the “caregiver of the unheralded talents” due to her constant support to the talented directors and scriptwriters who are full of aptitudes and passions to the industry but lack of opportunities.[15] Sylvia Chang discovered a lot of famous celebrities, such as, Lo Ta-yu, Rene Liu and Edward Yang. Noticing the talents of Edward Yang with his film The Winter of 1905, Chang hired him to write and direct an episode of the television miniseries she was producing, Eleven Women, which became the cornerstone of the Taiwan New Cinema movement.[16] According to Peggy Chiao, who helped to develop an international network for local Taiwanese filmmakers, “Sylvia Chang’s bold move of promoting the new talents, through using her own resources and connections, is irreplaceable.”[15] Hence, Sylvia Chang’s efforts in advocating the new talents greatly contributed to the developments of the Taiwan New Cinema Wave and the production of auteurist films.

Key societal, economic, political, moral, and historical forces that influenced the celebrity’s career

Hong Kong and Taiwanese cinema

Sylvia Chang’s ventures in both Hong Kong and Taiwanese cinema influenced her career and in turn, allowed her to hold influence over the two cinematic industries, particularly at the cusp of Taiwan New Cinema’s inception. During a 2004 TalkAsia interview, Chang’s description of the roles she had played for Hong Kong and Taiwanese films are indicative of the respective societal and stylistic needs of the two industries, with Hong Kong’s vigour in pop as well as action cinema and Taiwan’s sensitive and sympathetic portrayals[17]: “In Taiwan, everybody wanted me to play a very dramatic role […] a very sad role. It’s funny, whenever a person can cry, [it implies that they are] a good actress, so I [kept] on doing these kinds of films. But when I came to Hong Kong, nobody wanted me to cry anymore, they wanted me to do actions, they want me to do comedy roles, that was a very big switch […] my career just went on and on juggling from some acting, action and also from crying.”[10]

Politics, patriotism, and censorship

Political tensions between Mainland China and Taiwan have been a source of conflict in Sylvia Chang’s career. When asked how she feels about politics and being questioned about her patriotism as an actress active in the three lands across the Taiwan Strait (两岸三地) during the TalkAsia interview, Chang reveals that she was given an opportunity to meet Italian director Bernardo Bertolucci when he was casting roles for his epic biographical film The Last Emperor (1987). Chang recalls, “During that time, I [was still considered] to be a Taiwanese actress; [Bertolucci] asked me to go to China to film, and I just couldn’t. For if once I go there, [I might] come back ‘banned’.”[10]

It was until Taiwan moved away from authoritarianism with the lifting of the Nationalist Party martial law in July of 1987[18] that censorship in Taiwan was greatly relaxed. At the time of the TalkAsia interview, Chang says that although she feels things are now “one step improved […] there is still some [political] restriction there”[10].

China-Taiwan relations have remained rocky in the twenty-first century, which in turn has continued to affect those within the film and television industry. In 2019, the China Film Administration banned mainland Chinese movies and stars from participating in Taiwan’s 56th annual Golden Horse Awards[19], several titles of which had been awarded to Chang years prior.

Reception of the celebrity


In the August of 1990, when Sylvia Chang’s career was flourishing, she was revealed by the media that she was having an illegitimate child. The media satirized Sylvia Chang as “the most rebellious celebrity”[9] as Sylvia Chang refused to divulge the father of her child. In the September of 1991, Sylvia Chang secretly married Hong Kong businessman Billy Wang, which aroused heated criticisms against them considering their relationship was borne out of an affair while Wang was still married. For a long time, Sylvia Chang was stigmatized with the title of the "home-wrecker". She even admitted herself that, "There was a lot of pressure on me for being a mistress, and my mom did not like it. I think I was morally wrong too. I've been guilty for a long time." [9]Yet, the judgments of this marriage have been mitigated in recent years. One explanation is that Sylvia Chang is candid and consistent about her attitude in relationships. She has mentioned in many interviews that “relationships and dating is an important component of my life” and that “smoking, drinking, working hard and constantly dating are my secrets for staying young”. [4]Along with her career devotion in liberating women from the constraint of traditional moral standards and expectations, the mainstream media seems to be more tolerant of her freewheeling attitude towards relationships. Another explanation could be that Sylvia Chang’s scandal took place at a time when the Internet was not widely available. Thus, her scandals were not spread on the large scale. In recent years, the media and audience’s attention gradually shifted to her career achievements as she greatly contributed to the cinema industry, especially to the Taiwan New Cinema wave.

Critical literature review

Taiwan New Cinema

Sylvia Chang holding a Golden Horse Award

“Awarding Chinese-Language Cinemas: Imaginary Transnational Identities of the Golden Horse Awards” by Carol Chih-Ju Lin identifies the objectives of the Golden Horse Award: it elevates the global image of Taiwan and recognizes the artistic dimensions of Chinese-language films. Despite its objectives, the award faces political controversy, and brings in the complexities related to national identities and transnational Chinese-language cinemas (Lin 18).[20] “Awarding Chinese-Language Cinemas” mentions Sylvia Chang’s name regarding her resignation as the chair of the jury committee in 2018 and the position later taken by Ang Lee. In addition, the Golden Horse Awards were taken over by major filmmakers affiliated with Taiwan New Cinema, thus establishing criteria that favour art films over commercials (Lin 19).[20]

While Lin’s argument does not directly relate to Chang, it points to how all the chairs who served before Ang Lee had been involved in Taiwan New Cinema, suggesting that Chang was one of the chairs whose association with Taiwan New Cinema cannot be neglected. This encourages more exploration of the topic of Taiwan New Cinema and its role in Chang’s films. A special feature of Taiwan New Cinema is its semi-autobiographical quality, as it begins with producers making movies about personal experiences and shooting movies that reflect personal memories. These realist productions differ greatly from dramatized Qiong Yao romance films and carry with them the imprint from “the auteur movement” (Berry 52).[21] Berry’s interview conversations with Chu T’ien-wen reveal the characteristics of Taiwan New Cinema, and the details of this cinema movement can thus, be traced in films directed by Sylvia Chang herself.

Contributions and Controversies

As a contributor to the Taiwan New Cinema (or New Wave Cinema) movement, Sylvia Chang’s films carry an individualistic style that reflects her personal experiences. They articulate plotlines in a more human language, and characters did things that normal people do when compared with the old Qiong Yao romance films (Berry 52)[21]. Moreover, the feminist approaches that she utilizes to portray female characters attempt to demonstrate that women do have free will and do not have to restrict themselves within conventional familial settings. However, as a public figure who acts and directs films, Sylvia Chang’s personal life was often closely watched and scrutinized by the general public. Shabahang’s “Celebrity hate: Credibility and belief in a just world in prediction of celebrity hate” uses a data-collecting method involving two independent samples of 360 and 300 college students (Shabahang 501)[22]. The statistical data demonstrates why people take pleasure in hating celebrities, including scandal-driven criticisms. In line with the triangular theory of hate proposed by Sternberg in 2003, the research results indicated that celebrity hate can be characterized by three components: the negation of intimacy, passion, and commitment (Shabahang 503)[22]. In response to our celebrity’s biography, Chang’s scandal of giving birth to an illegitimate son and refusing to reveal who the father is, appeared to be a more engaging topic than her achievements back in the 1990s when the incident was revealed to the public. Celebrity scandal, in general, provides people with the pleasure of reading damaging and corrosive celebrity gossip, much of which is presented in the context of celebrity news (Shabahang 500)[22]. Although Shabahang's article does not explicitly focus on Chang herself, it can be applied to decipher her public image and the attention she received when she was pregnant as an unmarried woman.

Types of female characters and narration in Chang’s films

Liu Weijuan’s “Feminist Narrations of Sylvia Chang’s Films” (《张艾嘉电影的女性书写》)[23] conducts an analysis of Chang’s films through the male gaze and urban perspectives, the female characters’ unreasoning of love and indulgence and the value of feminine narration. Liu utilizes the method of introducing Chinese Confucian views that support the patriarchy and deciphers why females cannot freely express themselves against male oppression historically. Imperial China was the time when males dominated the literary field, and females could only agree with the patriarchal views in their works, as portrayed in Ban Zhao’s Lessons for Women or use indirect and blurred language to illustrate what they want to say (Liu 13)[23].

After laying out the historical background, Liu uses evidence from Sylvia Chang’s films to portray how they are of different cinematic themes that speak to the male gaze or unreasoning of love. Tonight Nobody Goes Home (《今天不回家》) is a film that satisfies the male gaze with various film techniques and how the “motherly nature” of female characters upholds the social construction within patriarchy. More importantly, Liu expresses her disappointment in Tonight Nobody Goes Home because Chang, as the director, did not provide opportunities for the female characters within the film to change or oppose the traditional familial values that trap them (Liu 17–18)[23]. Another example is Tempting Heart (《心动》). Liu discusses how the relationship between the main characters portrays romantic relationships as unreasoning and straying from logic. Unlike Qiong Yao 琼瑶, the female characters constructed by Sylvia Chang are not always passively waiting for love. Instead, the female characters are seeking true love actively and not blindly (Liu 32)[23].

The two films introduced intend to provide a glance into how Chang’s biography as a director who challenges herself with different cinematic themes and how they serve as examples of Chang’s development as a director and unique views towards familial relationships and female love. As a result, Chang’s role as a director provides types of female characters that are screened to address the importance of females within the construction of familial, romantic and social relationships (Liu 55)[23].

Sylvia Chang as a female auteur

To expand on the concept related to how females conform to expectations within patriarchy, Liu Jin’s “Sylvia Chang’s Movies’ Female Image: Research of Gender Perspective” (《性别视角下的张艾嘉电影女性形象研究》)[24] utilizes an auteurist and feministic approach to analyze Chang’s cinematic portrayal of females. Chang is regarded as an auteur since her films tend to follow the trend of presenting realism inspired by personal experiences and her productions enable deeper reflections on social issues. Without exaggeration or fantastical elements, Chang’s films depict three traits: the reflection of life’s ordinariness, the realistic portrayal of events, and the courage to face reality rather than to escape from it (Liu 34)[24].

The female characters portrayed in Chang’s movies are no longer restricted to satisfy Laura Mulvey’s idea of the male gaze. Instead, the female characters mostly received an education, and know clearly what type of romantic relationships they want and do not want (Liu 16)[24]. For instance, Yun Yun, a character in Passion (《最爱》), serves as an epitome of how a woman can be momentarily lost in feelings of love and passion. Yet, Yun Yun recognizes such feelings of love and passion for her best friend’s husband are chains that trap her, so she acts as her own saviour by being responsible for her feelings and decisions. Overall, females are aware of what type of relationships they want and the ability to make decisions for themselves in Chang’s films (Liu 17)[24]. This example from Passion echoes Chang’s biography of her engagement with feministic topics that allowed women to address their repression and confusion, and to obtain free will when it comes to romantic relationships. Consequently, the feminist portrayal of characters responds to Chang as a member of Taiwan New Cinema and an auteur, who aims to show female characters as ones who courageously face the turmoils of reality by making their own decisions.

Critical debates

Sociocultural issues regarding sexual orientation

Liu Weijuan’s “Feminist Narrations of Chang Ai-chia's Films” (《张艾嘉电影的女性书写》)[23] provides multiple examples of Chang’s films to unravel females’ unreasoning of love and indulgence and the value of feminine narration. Taking Tempting Heart (《心动》) as an example, Chen Li (陈莉), Xiao Rou (小柔) and Hao Jun (浩君)’s relationship is akin to a complicated love triangle. The female character, Chen Li, is secretly in love with Xiao Rou, but she is married to Hao Jun, while Xiao Rou and Hao Jun are also secretly in love. When Chen Li is about to pass away, she reveals to Hao Jun that Xiao Rou is her true love (Liu 31)[23]. Although Liu provides a comprehensive picture of Xiao Rou and Hao Jun’s heterosexual relationship by comparing Chang’s approach to portraying male-female relationships to Qiong Yao, the dissertation nevertheless disregarded the relationship between Chen Li and Xiao Rou. Similarly, Liu Jin’s “Sylvia Chang’s Movies’ Female Image: Research of Gender Perspective” also disregarded Chen Li’s role in the film by focusing on Xiao Rou and Hao Jun, the heterosexual couple. Xiao Rou’s feelings toward Hao Jun are seen as pure and passionate (Liu 21)[24], but none of which provide insights into Chen Li’s feelings towards Xiao Rou.  

When the film was first released in 1999, Sylvia Chang was interviewed by Stephen Short, a reporter from TIME digital magazine. In one of her interview questions, Stephen asks, “there’s a lesbian subplot. Are attitudes more accepting in Hong Kong now than they were?”[25] This implies a sense of homophobia that used to exist and still exists in Hong Kong society in 1999. A study conducted by Xu Wenjian, Lijun Zheng, Yin Xu and Yong Zheng, reveals that the values of marriage and family responsibilities, which are emphasized in traditional Chinese values, contribute to the development of internalized homophobia among gay and bisexual individuals. The results of this study indicated that more than 30% of the respondents wished they were not gay/bisexual men, would like to be heterosexual, and wished they could develop more erotic feelings about women (Xu et al. 7)[26]. This study, conducted 18 years after the release of Tempting Heart, identifies how internalized homophobia is still a trend within Chinese communities.

Chang expresses her disappointment in her response to Stephen, the reporter from TIME: “For one trailer of Tempting Heart we originally featured elements of one of the lesbian scenes in the film, but then the marketing department told us to take it out. I thought to myself, ‘Come on, for God’s sake, we’re nearly at the year 2000. What’s the big problem here?’ But the department’s reaction was typical. It’s easier just to ignore the subject and hope it will go away.”[25] As mentioned in the biography, Sylvia Chang remains quite open-minded since she was influenced by the American hippie movement. Chang’s response reveals how homophobic characters are unlikely to be marketed to the public view and the department’s denial of different portrayals of gender orientation in films. Chang’s response reveals how homophobic characters are unlikely to be marketed to the public view and the department’s denial of different portrayals of gender orientation in films. As a result, the dissertations do not provide a comprehensive analysis of Chang’s portrayal of female characters as they attune their analysis of female characters who are adhering to the orthodox ideals of heterosexual relationships.


Born in a conservative family, Sylvia’s exposure to the hippie movement and women’s liberation movement when she lived in New York has taught her an unconventional way of living. Her rebellious and romanticist nature has laid the foundation for her cinematic approaches as a female auteur in the androcentric film industry. Since she had lived in the U.S., Hong Kong, and Taiwan, Sylvia’s contributions as an actress and director serve as examples of multiculturalism, displaying both the action and pop of Hong Kong cinema with the sensual and sympathetic nature of Taiwan cinema.

The first component of our biography explored Sylvia’s influence from Western movements, but more critically, we observed how these external social forces contribute to her realization of how the Hong Kong film industry’s female characters are catered to the male gaze. We then discussed Sylvia’s decision of terminating her contract with Golden Harvest and paving her path into multiple different genres of films that resulted in her achievements as an actress. Sylvia Chang did not confine herself into the role of an actress; instead, she continued chasing her passions and challenging herself with different roles such as scriptwriting, singing and directing.

By highlighting her role as a director in the Taiwan New Cinema movement, we demonstrated that the semi-autobiographical and realist qualities in her films are auteurist in nature and her fame is intrinsically correlated with her achieved fame as a talented director. In relation to the Taiwan New Cinema movement, we speculate that she had attempted to decommercialize her works, which resulted in her “retreat” from the spotlight. However, we also shed light on her attributed fame as a female celebrity who attracted a lot of attention from her relationship with Lo Ta-yu to the birth of her son, Oscar. The way Sylvia's films depict female characters illustrate that they are active figures who seek for true love that cannot be rationally explained. These female characters, at the same time, can bravely acknowledge and break free from those feelings if necessary. Despite the feminist viewpoints provided by the dissertations, we believe that female’s homosexuality within Sylvia’s films is not properly recognized.

We recognize that there is an insufficient amount of available literary and scholarly sources directly related to Sylvia Chang. Our hope is that future investigations will focus on Chang’s cinematic appearances and works in Hong Kong and Taiwan, which will offer valuable dialogue about realistic femininity, independence, and perseverance against constantly shifting transnational and transtemporal landscapes.


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UBC Asian Centre, Bell Shrine, Winter 2013.JPG
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