Rupert Murdoch's wife is among the producers of Snow Flower and the Secret Fan, an English-language Chinese drama starring Zhang Ziyi, perhaps the country's most exportable actress.

Set in 19th century remote China, the film revolves around the lifelong friendship of Lily and Snow Flower and their imprisonment by rigid cultural codes of conduct for women.

Wendi Murdoch, the China-born wife of the News Corp. chairman and CEO, will produce with Florence Sloan, the Malaysian-Chinese wife of MGM chairman Harry Sloan.

Zhang, whose most recent big international project was 2005's Memoirs of a Geisha, will also produce. She is coming off a Chinese box office success with the contemporary urban romantic comedy Sophie's Revenge, her first film as producer.

Wayne Wang will direct Snow Flower, having teamed with screenwriter Michael Ray to adapt the novel by Lisa See. Shooting is expected to begin early next year in China.

It will be the first Chinese-made film for the Hong Kong native, who moved to the United States when he was 17. Wang made his breakthrough with 1993's The Joy Luck Club. His 2002 romantic comedy Maid in Manhattan, starring Jennifer Lopez, grossed $155 million worldwide.