Farewell My Concubine – a movie review

Chen Kaige, self-trained as a filmmaker, was the director for this award winning 1993 film. Prior to “Farewell, My Concubine“, Chen received modest acclaim for the “Yellow Earth” and “The Big Parade”. With “Farewell, My Concubine,” he won the Palme d-or in Cannes.

Although the film is in Mandarin with English subtitles, the story captured me from the beginning. If you are interested in Chinese history, this film spans several decades beginning near the end of the Qing Dynasty. On the surface, it is just a story of two boys who happen to become famous, but have their difficulties like most of us lesser mortals do. However, the setting shows the  transformation of a nation from the Qing Dynasty to a warlord dominated republic, the Japanese invasion of World War II and then Mao’s Cultural Revolution.

I saw this movie a decade ago and I remember this powerful, dramatic story of one man’s life from the day his mother took a knife and chopped off an extra finger on each hand so he would have five instead of the six he was born with.

The main character is apparently modeled after an actual person—Peking Opera superstar Mei Lanfang—some may imagine that Lanfang was ‘gay’. However, he only specialized in male roles. He was married at least three times and had children.

Discover Not One Less


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 love story Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.

His latest novel, Running with the Enemy, was awarded an honorable mention in general fiction at the 2013 San Francisco Book Festival.

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6 Responses to Farewell My Concubine – a movie review

  1. chennicole2013 says:

    Thanks for reminding me about this movie. I liked it the first time. It’s worth seeing again.

  2. Ken Chan says:

    Lloyd, Thanks for your regular articles. Your article’s font size had recently been smaller compared to sometime ago, and I find that very difficult to read. Do you think you could increase the font size a bit. Thanks, Ken Chan

    • All you have to do is click “Ctrl +” and the screen will increase in size and so will the font/print. That’s what I use on my computer to increase font size so it’s easier to read. If you want to shrink the screen and size of the print, click “Ctrl -” I don’t have an Apple product but I suspect they have a similar command to make the screen and print larger.

      Let me know if that works for you. I often use the “Ctrl +” command because most of the sites I visit start out too small for me to read. Be careful, though. If you click “Ctrl +” too many times, your screen will get way too big and a pimple may become a mountain. Of course, all you have to do then is click” Ctrl -“

  3. Sarah Knight says:


    This is a wonderful film which I so enjoyed.

    I work in a bookstore in rural Vermont and yes, the film did play here many many years ago. One morning a customer rushed to the service desk and said/asked, “Last night my husband and I saw a wonderful Chinese movie which I hope is also a book that I’d like to buy. I think the film was, “Farewell My Porcupine”. My co-worker without missing a beat answered, “I think the movie was “Good-bye My Concubine” and if there is a book I think, at this point in time, it’s only in Chinese.” We still tell that story.

    • Thank you. I’ve never heard of “Farwell My Concubine” as a book. I wonder if there is one, and you are probably right about if there is one it is only in Chinese.

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