Chinese producer-distributor Huayi Brothers will be commencing sales on a $20m suspense thriller, to be directed by Hong Kong 's Tsui Hark, at Pusan 's Asian Film Market next week.

The project, which has the working title D-Project, is based on the real-life Tang Dynasty magistrate Di Renjie (aka Judge Dee) who solved mysteries in the imperial court.

Taiwanese filmmaker Chen Kuofu (Double Vision), who heads production at Huayi Brothers, is producing the project. Tsui Hark will direct from a script by Zhang Jialu who worked with Chen on Huayi's psychological thriller The Matrimony.

Production is tentatively scheduled to start next March on the project, which is yet to be cast.

According to Huayi Brothers' international sales chief Felice Bee, the company may fully finance the project, but is also open to finding pan-Asian co-production partners, as it did on Jacob Cheung's similarly-budgeted Battle Of Wits.

The project is one of several that has been developed around the character of Judge Dee, including Murder In Canton, which was being prepped by Samuel Hadida's Davis Flms and Beijing-based Ming Productions back in 2003.

Although the real-life Judge Dee no doubt had an interesting life, his exploits were hugely embellished in folk literature. He then became the subject of a series of novels written in the 1950s by Dutch ambassador Robert Van Gulik.

Davis Films' Murder In Canton was based on those books. However, Bee says the Huayi Brothers take on the Tang Dynasty adventurer is an original story.

Huayi Brothers' Pusan slate also includes the festival's opening film, Feng Xiaogang's Assembly, and Cao Baoping's romantic thriller The Equation Of Love And Death, starring Zhou Xun.

The Beijing-based company is also co-producing Florian Gallenberger's $20m John Rabe, with German and French partners, and $70m kung-fu epic Forbidden Kingdom with Casey Silver Productions, although it is not handling international sales on these projects.

John Rabe is being sold by Beta Cinema while Lionsgate and The Weinstein Company are sharing international distribution of Forbidden Kingdom .