Zhang Yimou (born November 14, 1951) is an internationally acclaimed Chinese filmmaker and former cinematographer, and one of the best known of the Fifth Generation of Chinese film directors. He made his directorial debut in 1987 with the film Red Sorghum. One of Zhang's recurrent themes is a celebration of the resilience, even the stubbornness, of Chinese people in the face of hardships and adversities, a theme which has occurred from To Live (1994) through to Not One Less (1999). His works are particularly noted for their usage of colour, as can be seen in his early trilogy (like Raise the Red Lantern) or in his wuxia films such as Hero and House of Flying Daggers.
Zhang Yimou was born in Xi'an, Shaanxi Province. As a child he suffered prejudice and derision because of his family's association with the Kuomintang (Nationalist party). His father had been a major under Chiang Kai-shek and an elder brother had followed the Nationalist forces to Taiwan after their 1949 defeat in the civil war.
When the Cultural Revolution erupted in 1966 he was forced to suspend studying and worked, first as a farm hand, and then, for seven years, as a labourer in a cotton textile mill, much like the one he portrayed in Ju Dou. During this time he took up painting and amateur still photography. He had to sell his blood for five months to get enough money to purchase his first camera when he was 18.