Historical China References in Detective Dee and the Mystery of the Phantom Flame

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Detective Dee and the Mystery of the Phantom Flame is a movie produced by the budding movie industry of China. Directed by Tsui Hark, the movie takes place during the Tang Dynasty, just before the inauguration of Empress Wu Zetian. It is a fictional adventure of the famous Di Renji, a chancellor of both the Tang and the Zhou dynasties. Although the movie portrays many of its characters to have superhuman abilities while depicting a fictional event, the movie's setting and some of the characters are historically accurate.

The city of Chang’an served as the capital to both the Tang and Zhou Dynasties [D]. Within the city walls the director shows a bustling city center filled with markets selling both domestic and foreign goods. A group of people are seen playing on a Setar and a Bofu while an Umayyad trader exchanges money with a local dealer. This is historically accurate as the city of Chang’an was the center of commerce for the entire Tang Empire. People from around the globe would come along the Silk Road to trade for the luxuries that the city produced.

The movie starts with a diplomat from the Umayyad Caliphate being shown a sixty-six yard Buddha statue that has been commissioned for the Empress’ inauguration. At the time of the coronation the Caliphate’s territory separated the Tang Dynasty from Europe and Africa [A], which allowed the Caliphate to position themselves as Europe's and Africa’s source of trade goods from the Tang Dynasty. So, it stands to order that a diplomat of the Caliphate would have been sent to show political support of the new Emperor in an attempt to strengthen or maintain the political and economic ties of the two dynasties.

The statue of Buddha is shown to be built in the center of the ad...

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...rs of the movie took their time to try to make many of the small details of the movie historically accurate, for this period.

Works Cited

Detective Dee and the Mystery of the Pantome Flame. Dir. Hark Tsui. Perf. Tony Leung Ka Fai,

Chao Deng, Carina Lau. Hengdian World Studios, 2010. DVD.

Du You 杜佑, comp. Tongdian 通典. Vol. 115. Print.

Hawting, G. R. The First Dynasty of Islam: the Umayyad Caliphate AD 661-750. London:

Routledge, 2000.

Lewis, Mark Edward. China's Cosmopolitan Empire: the Tang Dynasty. Cambridge, MA:

Belknap of Harvard UP, 2009.

McNair, Amy. Donors of Longmen: Faith, Politics, and Patronage in Medieval Chinese Buddhist

Sculpture. Honolulu: University of Hawai'i, 2007.

New Book of Tang新唐書. Beijng: Zhonghua shuju press 中華書局, 1956

Zizhi Tongjian資治通鑒. Beijng: Zhonghua shuju press 中華書局, 1976

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