A Touch of Zen (1971) poster
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Ratings: 7.3/10 from 84 users
# of Watchers: 229
Reviews: 1 user
Ranked #24930
Popularity #17536
Watchers 84

A well-meaning but unambitious scholar and painter, Ku, lives with his mother near an abandoned fort, reputed to be haunted. One night, investigating strange noises, he meets the beautiful Yang who is living there. She is being pursued by agents of an imperial noble who have murdered her family. Ku finds himself caught up in her struggle to survive, and many fierce battles take place before all is resolved. ~~ Adapted from the short story "Xia Nü" (侠女) from the collection "Strange Stories from a Chinese Studio" (聊斋志异) by Pu Song Ling (蒲松龄). Edit Translation

  • English
  • Türkçe
  • Română
  • Українська
  • Country: Taiwan
  • Type: Movie
  • Release Date: Nov 18, 1971
  • Duration: 3 hr. 7 min.
  • Score: 7.3 (scored by 84 users)
  • Ranked: #24930
  • Popularity: #17536
  • Content Rating: Not Yet Rated

Cast & Credits


A Touch of Zen (1971) photo
A Touch of Zen (1971) photo


The Butterfly
4 people found this review helpful
Aug 29, 2021
Completed 0
Overall 8.0
Story 9.0
Acting/Cast 8.0
Music 7.0
Rewatch Value 7.0
A Touch of Zen was a touch of beauty, truly one of the most beautiful martial arts movies I've watched. Much more than a kung fu movie, it sought higher ground.

The movie opened with a spider spinning her web. Political intrigue and battle strategy were woven throughout, complex and yet fragile. This three hour movie was divided into three segments. The first focused on Ku Shen Chai, an underachieving scholar and painter and his relationship with his mother. She harangued him for his lack of ambition and single status almost constantly. Strangers began wandering into town, including Hsu Feng's Yang Hui Ching bringing with them danger and subterfuge. The second segment turned into a battle between a large troop of government troops against a small band of rebels. Ku's knowledge and battle trickery came into play as his character evolved. The third segment moved into the spiritual realm as the monks sought to have both the good guys and bad guys move beyond the temporary conflict to peace.

ATZ was unusual for a martial arts movie, the fights didn't begin until after the first hour. The movie wasn't structured around the fights, the fights were used to enhance the story being told. The cinematography, sets, scenery, and costumes were extraordinary for a 1971 Taiwan martial arts movie. Hsu Feng had helped fund the restoration of this film and for that we should all be grateful. Clear, vibrant, lush, it was a treat for the eyes. King Hu's camera direction caused the viewer to ever look upward as the film progressed, symbolic for the message being woven throughout. His fight set among the bamboo inspired later films such as House of Flying Daggers.

Hsu Feng's character was a woman who spoke few words, preferring to let her blades do the talking. Wanted by the current corrupt regime, she was aided by two disgraced generals. They had hoped to find peace far away from the palace only to have trouble and death follow them. Hsu gave a quiet, yet memorable performance. Pai Ying 's General Shih also moved through the world with little to say. Only Ku and his mother chattering about gave the film a verbal foundation to stand upon. I enjoyed all the performances with the possible exception of Shih Chun's Ku. He seemed out of place with the other actors but perhaps that was the point. His character certainly evolved the most and showed that even someone without kung fu skills could still be beneficial in times of need. Lastly, Roy Chiao's performance as a Buddhist monk still connected enough to worldly events to aid those fleeing evil and spiritual enough to care about the evil doers was quite good.

Though clocking in at three hours long, A Touch of Zen kept my attention throughout. I could easily recommend this beautifully shot movie to martial arts movie enthusiasts and those who can look past a few dated performances and special effects to see the hidden gem lying beneath.

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  • Movie: A Touch of Zen
  • Country: Taiwan
  • Release Date: Nov 18, 1971
  • Duration: 3 hr. 7 min.
  • Content Rating: Not Yet Rated


  • Score: 7.3 (scored by 84 users)
  • Ranked: #24930
  • Popularity: #17536
  • Watchers: 229

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