In a move to expand its footprint in China, Columbia Pictures has revisited its local production ties and entered into split-rights deals with Chinese production companies. 

Principal photography has commenced in Xianghe, Hebei Province, on Chen Kaige’s (pictured) martial arts feature The Monk.

The film is a Cao Huayi presentation produced by Chen Hong, who produced Kaige’s previous two features.

New Classics Media will distribute in China in summer 2015 while Sony Pictures Releasing International handles the rest of the world including Hong Kong and Taiwan.

The Monk is based on Xu Haofeng’s novel Dao Shi Xia Shan (A Monk Comes Down The Mountain) and marks Columbia Pictures’ second recent production in mainland China following the co-production Gone With The Bullets from director Jiang Wen, currently in post.

Wang Baoqiang stars alongside Taiwanese actress Lin Chi-ling and Fan Wei in the story of a monk on a quest who must defend a supremely important book.

Columbia Pictures and New Classics Media will partner on the Chinese remake of rom-com My Best Friend’s Wedding, which is in development ahead of a December start. 

The studio is also in negotiations to release the romance Summer Has Tears with Chinese partner Ruyi Media. Jin-gyo Cho will direct Han Geng, Wang Luodan and Wu Yifan and principal photography is scheduled for the second half of this year.

Columbia Pictures president Doug Belgrad said, “Columbia Pictures is re-emphasising our long-established commitment to Chinese local language production. We are delighted to be collaborating with such world-class filmmakers as Chen Kaige and Jiang Wen, as well as partnering with esteemed Chinese production companies like New Classics Media, as we ramp up our activity in China.”

Dede Nickerson, head of production and strategic development for Sony Pictures China, said, “Chen Kaige is internationally renowned for his stunning visuals and epic storytelling. For The Monk, he has brought together a first-class team both in front of and behind the camera and we have no doubt that the results will be thrilling.”

Columbia Pictures previously found success with Chinese local-language production through its Columbia Pictures Film Production Asia unit on Stephen Chow’s Kung Fu Hustle in 2004 and Ang Lee’s Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon in 2000.