Once Upon A Time in China is a 1991 pivotal Hong Kong martial arts film. It was directed and written by Tsui Hark and stars famous actor Jet Li as a martial arts master and hero of legend, Wong Fei-hung.
The film is set during the Qing Dynasty in Foshan, China, in the late 19th century. The story opens with the Black Flag Army commander inviting Wong onto his ship to watch a lion dance. Sailors on a nearby french ship hear the firecrackers and mistakenly think it’s the Chinese ship firing on them. They return fire and injure the dancers, and Wong picks up the lion’s head and completes the dance. The whole scene sets the stage by alluding to the tense state of affairs China is in.
Wong is a martial arts instructor in the nearby militia and runs a medical clinic. He has three apprentices and falls in love with the daughter of a family rival. The movie continues with tensions rising and the climax reaching when Wong’s love interest is kidnapped, and he and his apprentices infiltrate the compound to save her.
The movie depicts an amazing show of traditional martial arts move. Jet Li trained at Wushu Academy and is an incredibly talented martial arts master. Tsui’s new interpretation of real-life Cantonese hero Wong Fei-hung, who gave the film its unique Cantonese title, made a star of China-born martial artist Jet Li. It started a trend for movies set in a historical China with postmodern characteristics.