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Tony Leung (right) and Andy Lau Tak-wah in a scene from 2003 film Infernal Affairs, for which Leung won one of his three Golden Horse best actor prizes. Photo: Alamy

Chinese-language film awards head to head: Taiwan’s Golden Horses vs China’s Golden Roosters

  • Mainland China has ordered its filmmakers to boycott the film awards dubbed the ‘Chinese-language Oscars’, held in Taiwan
  • With the two award ceremonies being held on the same day, Chinese filmmakers and actors face a tough choice about which one to enter and attend
Oasis Li
Mainland China’s boycott of this year’s Golden Horse Awards, to be held in Taipei on November 23, has left many Chinese filmmakers and actors facing tough choices.

Should they choose to take part in the glitzy annual event in Taiwan and miss out on the Golden Rooster Awards, China’s equivalent award ceremony? (Another factor: films entered for the Golden Horse awards will be denied screenings in mainland China and their directors placed on a watch list)

Amid increasing tensions between the governments in Beijing and Taipei, a newspaper affiliated with the China Film Administration reported this month that representatives from the mainland film industry would not attend the Golden Horse Awards.

However, it will come down to filmmakers and actors to make the final decision on whether to make an appearance. Looking beyond the politics, here are five major differences between the two award ceremonies for Chinese-language films.

Jiang Wen’s In the Heat of the Sun was the first film from mainland China to win best picture at the Golden Horse Awards in Taiwan.


Founded in 1962, Taiwan’s Golden Horse Awards are known as the “Chinese-language Oscars”.

Amid China boycott of Taiwan film festival, five other times it used culture as a political tool

In the late 1990s, the event’s executive committee lifted entry restrictions on mainland Chinese films. Since then, the awards have been open to all Chinese-language films (in any dialect) from any country.

Jiang Wen’s In the Heat of the Sun was the first film from mainland China entered in the competition and scooped six awards in 1996. Since then, Chinese films have had a warm reception at Taiwan’s awards ceremony.

From 2014 to 2018, around half the awards went to entries from mainland China. Last year, the majority of the movies nominated for best feature film were from the mainland, while nominees for best director were dominated by five mainland Chinese directors, including final winner Zhang Yimou.

Chinese film director and actor Jiang Wen, whose film In The Heat of the Sun won six Golden Horses. Photo: Jonathan Wong

The Golden Rooster Awards began in 1981 and are the most highly regarded film awards in China. The awards initially were exclusively for mainland Chinese films.

Since 2005, Chinese-language films from Hong Kong, Macau, Taiwan and elsewhere in the world have been allowed to compete for the Golden Rooster.

However, over the past decade, only seven films from Hong Kong and Taiwan have won prizes at the Golden Rooster Awards, and most of them were co-productions with mainland Chinese film companies.

(From left) Hong Kong actress Carina Lau, actor Tony Leung and Chinese actress Zhang Ziyi arrive at the Golden Horse Film Awards in Taipei, on November 23, 2013. Photo: AFP

Entry rules and regulations

Though they are open to Chinese-language films from all over the world, entries for the Golden Rooster Awards must obtain a film release licence issued by the China Film Administration before they can be submitted. Film censorship limits the number of international films that are eligible for the awards.

Taiwan’s Golden Horse Awards do not place any restriction on Chinese-language films competing for the honours. This also means that films banned by the Chinese censors can compete for the Golden Horse. Past examples include Xiu Xiu: The Sent Down Girl (1998), Spring Fever (2010) and A Touch of Sin (2013).

Xiu Xiu: The Sent Down Girl’s director, Joan Chen Chong, was banned from making films for three years in mainland China because she illegally filmed the feature in Tibet and submitted it to the Golden Horse Awards.

The Road Home, a Chinese romantic drama directed by Zhang Yimou, won four Golden Rooster awards in 2000.

When are they held?

Like most international film awards, the Golden Horse Awards take place annually, while the Golden Rooster Awards are biannual.

The Golden Rooster Awards alternate with the Hundred Flowers Awards – the winners of which are decided by popular vote. This year, it’s the turn of the Golden Rooster Awards, and the awards ceremony falls on the same day as that for the Golden Horse Awards – November 23.

Chinese director Zhang Yimou poses with his trophy after winning the best director award for his film Shadow at Taiwan's 55th Golden Horse film awards in 2018. Photo: AFP

Judging system

The Golden Horse Awards are selected by a dozen film professionals and critics. Judges cannot serve more than two consecutive years.

The Golden Rooster Awards are also chosen by film professionals and critics (as opposed to the Hundred Flowers Awards that are nominated by the masses).

The best actress and actor awards at the Golden Rooster Awards have never gone to the same artist twice in the past 20 years, while some actresses and actors have won the top prizes at the Golden Horse Awards multiple times.

For example, Tony Leung Chiu-wai picked won the best actor prize three times, for Lust, Caution (2007), Infernal Affairs (2003) and Chungking Express (1994).

Tang Wei and Tony Leung in Lust, Caution, directed by Ang Lee. It is one of three films for which Leung won best actor at the Golden Horse Awards. Photo: Edko Film

International appeal

The Golden Horse Awards served as a political propaganda tool when they were first set up, but eventually became a credible film event.

Over the past 15 years, four best feature film winners and nominees at the Golden Horse Awards have gone on to win best picture awards at some of the most celebrated Western film festivals: Cannes, Berlin and Venice: Lust, Caution (2007), Black Coal, Thin Ice (2014) andThe Assassin (2015).

No best picture winners from the past 15 stagings of the Golden Rooster Awards have won any major awards at Cannes, Berlin or Venice.

This article appeared in the South China Morning Post print edition as: Top awards as different as horses and roosters