Taiwan's award-winning director Hou Hsiao-hsien has raised $450,000 in government subsidies for the production of Nie Yinniang, his long-cherished martial arts film about a female assassin.

In the Tang dynasty (618-907 A.D.) short story that inspired the film, a 10-year-old girl is kidnapped by a Buddhist nun and arduously trained until adulthood to kill without compassion or remorse for the greater good of society.

Director Hou and scriptwriter Chu Tien-wen were attracted to the story because of the modernity of the female assassin, whose loyalty to her own family, clients and society comes secondary to her own desires.

The film will be produced by Hou's own production company, Sinomovie, and CMC Entertainment Group.

CMC, currently in post-production on US$6m thriller Silk, are expected to raise the majority of the budget, potentially bringing in other investors.

While CMC could not confirm the budget or shooting period at this time, Government Information Office policy requires that they at least match the subsidy and complete the film within 18 months, with the possibility of, at most, a six-month extension.

Hou's project is among the recipients of 22 production subsidies announced by the GIO on 23 December, that included awards to new projects by Tsai Ming-liang, Su Chao-pin and Cheng Wen-tang, ranging from US$100,000 to US$450,000.