After working on a farm and at a textile factory, Zhang enrolled in the Beijing Film Academy where he met his future associates in the celebrated Fifth Generation of Chinese film-makers. Challenging conventions of Chinese cinema, he unorthodoxly used lush images, sumptuous colour and strong female characters in his trilogy: Red Sorghum, Ju Dou and Raise the Red Lantern. These films were followed by, among others, The Story of Qui Ju, Hero, House of Flying Daggers and Curse of the Golden Flower. In 2008, Zhang, the recipient of countless honours, won acclaim for directing the opening and closing ceremonies of the Beijing Summer Olympics. His latest films include A Simple Noodle Story, a remake of the Coen brothers’ debut film, Blood Simple; the love story Under the Hawthorn Tree; and a soon-to-be-released tale of female heroism set in Nanking in 1937. In 2010, Zhang, Film mentor in the 2010-2011 Rolex Arts Initiative, was awarded a doctor of fine arts degree by Yale University.