This film was directed in China by Zhang Yimou in 1991, and it offers a view of life within a closed, dictatorial culture that starts in the home. The film focuses on the ever-shifting balance of power between the various concubines while the husband ignores much of what is going on—taking his pleasures when he feels like it.
The central government in China did not approve this film since it parallels a return to a concubine society where men with new wealth stash women (the concubines) in different apartments. The more things appear to change, they don’t.
When my wife and I lived in Southern California, we visited a small restaurant near our home. The owner was a former concubine of a wealthy Chinese man, who paid her off and sent her packing when she got too old. He used his influence and wealth to help her reach the United States while he went in search of a young beauty to replace her. She used the money to start a business. She was lucky. Many modern-age concubines are just abandoned and have to find another master to support them and beauty does fade.
Discover more Chinese movies–Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress
Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of My Splendid Concubine [3rd edition]. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. This is the lusty love story Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.
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