Raise the Red Lantern: a look at China’s concubine culture

June 18, 2014

This film was directed in China by Zhang Yimou in 1991, and it offers a view of life within a closed, culture of patriarchy (male dominated). The film is set in the 1920s during the Warlord Era, and it focuses on the ever-shifting balance of power between the various concubines while the husband ignores much of what’s going on—taking his pleasures when he feels like it.

Before 1949, women in China were the property of men who did what they wanted with that property.

China’s central government approved of the screen play but then banned the film for a time, because it paralleled the return the concubine culture in today’s China where wealthy married men support single women (the concubines) and often buy them apartments in trade for exclusive sex and companionship. But there is a difference. Today, in China, women are not the property of men as they were in 1920.

In fact, when my wife and I lived in Southern California, we ate at 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 younger beauty to replace her. She used the money he paid her to leave to start a business in the U.S. She was lucky. Many modern-age concubines are just abandoned and have to find another master to support them and beauty fades.

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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 third book is Crazy is Normal, a classroom exposé, a memoir. “Lofthouse presents us with grungy classrooms, kids who don’t want to be in school, and the consequences of growing up in a hardscrabble world. While some parents support his efforts, many sabotage them—and isolated administrators make the work of Lofthouse and his peers even more difficult.” – Bruce Reeves.

lloydlofthouse_crazyisnormal_web2_5

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Impressions of Liu Sanjie

March 5, 2013

While visiting China in September/November of 2008, we went to Guilin, went underground to the Reed Flute Cave, hiked the Dragon’s Back, cruised the Li River and spent two days in Yanghsuo.

Then we saw Zhang Yimou’s breathtaking staged production, the Impressions of Liu Sanjie, that I recommend to anyone visiting Southeast China.

Zhang Yimou, the director, is an internationally acclaimed Chinese filmmaker. He made his directorial debut in 1987 with the film “Red Sorghum”.

In the 1990s, Zhang Yimou directed “Raise the Red Lantern”—nominated for Best Foreign Language Film at the 1991 Academy Awards.

The “Impressions of Liu Sanjie” is performed on the river at night. However, you may be more familiar with Zhang Yimou’s opening and closing ceremonies for the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

The “Impressions of Liu Sanjie” is performed with the Karst Mountains and the Li River as the setting.

 The cast comes from the local Guangzi Zhuan Autonomous Region  and many may be fishermen by day and actors at night and are from the Zhuang and Yao minority groups, who live in that region.

_______________

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.

2015 Promotion Image for My Splendid Concubine

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My Mother Would Have Burned This Book – Part 5/5

April 3, 2011

In China, the concubine is a trophy showing a man’s success. No major religion on earth has had a lasting impact on the Chinese culture in more than a thousand years.

In fact, the concept that lust is a mortal sin does not exist in China unless a Chinese has adopted Christianity as his or her religion.

That does not mean China is without morals but the moral codes of China exist without the sin of mortal lust as Catholics and many devout Christians believe. In fact, I’ve known mainland Chinese that are extremely moral and would put most Puritans to shame.

The idea to focus on Robert Hart’s struggles with his Victorian, Christian morals while living in 19th century China’s concubine culture sprouted when I first read his journals and letters published by Harvard University Press.

Other influences were Anchee Min’s Empress Orchid and The Last Empress: A Novel, which go into detail about the lives of the more than three thousand concubines that belonged to the emperor.

After all, in 19th century China, the more power and wealth a man had, the more women he owned.

Another influence was the movie directed by director Zhang Yimou in 1991, Raise the Red Lantern, which “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.”

For anyone that might agree with “colorado outback” or my “mother” that My Splendid Concubine should be censored, burned or put on a “DON’T BUY LIST”, Amazon Kindle offers a free preview of the first few chapters as does the Websites for My Splendid Concubine and the sequel, Our Hart, Elegy for a Concubine.

Read the first few chapters of the novel free and learn if you agree with “colorado outback” that this novel is “soft porn” and should be banned. Why spend money for something you may want to burn unless you really want to burn it?

Return to Part 4 or start with Part 1

View as Single Page

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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.

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The Qing – China’s Last Dynasty – Part 3/3

December 12, 2010

The last travelogue segment takes us on a tour of the Qiao family’s grand courtyard and residence located in Jinzhong, a prefecture in the center of Shanxi Province. Today, this prefecture is home to more than 2.5 million people.

The Qiao family complex shows the blending of the mansion’s practical functions, artistic design and ancient architectural techniques to create complex art in a simple plan.

The details show the glamour of China’s ancient residential house culture in northern China. Each engraving in the mansion is detailed artwork telling a story of life’s philosophy.

The narrator takes us on a tour of a Qiao family courtyard made famous by Zhang Yimou when he directed Raise the Red Lantern. Zhang Yimou won two awards for this 1991 film at the Venice Film Festival.

Raise the Red Lantern also turned the Qiao family’s mansion into a popular tourist attraction. The mansion covers 8,000 square meters (almost 10,000 square yards) of land with 313 rooms.

For security reasons, the roofs are connected.

To build family mansions of this size and scope takes generations of successful businessmen working together as a collective family unit.

However, if a family loses its moral compass, the fortune and land were often lost over time.

These mansions also represent the feudal culture of ancient China.

The last of the three mansions covered in this travelogue was the Chang Mansion, which demonstrates the poetry of a Chinese garden.

Large families such as the Changs built elaborate mansions and gardens. However, the mansions and gardens were built according to rules and guidelines.

Shaanxi province is considered a treasure trove of ancient Chinese architecture.

There are 106 family compounds similar to the four in this travelogue and some date to before the Sung Dynasty (960 to 1276 AD) representing about 70% of China’s surviving ancient wood built architecture.

Return to China’s Last Dynasty – Part 2 or start with Part 1

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Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of “The Concubine Saga”, My Splendid Concubine & Our Hart. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too.

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Impressions of Liu Sanjie

August 16, 2010

While visiting China in September/November of 2008, we went to Guilin, went underground to the Reed Flute Cave, hiked the Dragon’s Back, cruised the Li River and spent two days in Yanghsuo.

A brief tour from Guilin to Yanghsuo

Then we saw Zhang Yimou’s breathtaking staged production, the Impressions of Liu Sanjie, which I recommend to anyone visiting Southeast China.

One of the lightshow scenes from “Impressions of Liu Sanjie”

Zhang Yimou, the director, is an internationally acclaimed Chinese filmmaker. He made his directorial debut in 1987 with the film “Red Sorghum”.

In the 1990s, Zhang Yimou directed “Raise the Red Lantern”—nominated for Best Foreign Language Film at the 1991 Academy Awards.

The “Impressions of Liu Sanjie” is performed on the river at night. However, you may be more familiar with Zhang Yimou’s opening and closing ceremonies for the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

More from the “Impressions of Liu Sanjie”

 

The “Impressions of Liu Sanjie” is performed with the Karst Mountains and the Li River as the setting.

The cast comes from the local Guangzi Zhuan Autonomous Region  and many may be fishermen by day and actors at night and are from the Zhuang and Yao minority groups, who live in that region.

_______________

Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of the concubine saga, My Splendid Concubine & Our Hart. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. 

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Not One Less (1999)

May 8, 2010

In the movie Not One Less, a thirteen-year-old girl is asked to be the substitute teacher in a small Chinese village.  The teacher tells her that when he returns, if he finds all the students there, he will pay her ten yuan—less than two American dollars.

Although money is involved, it isn’t much. When one student, Zhang Huike, stops coming to school, Wei Minzhim, the thirteen-year-old substitute, follows him to the city.

There are several themes in this movie. The most powerful to me were the value of an education and not losing face. If Wei loses Zhang, she will fail the responsibility the teacher gave her. To succeed, she must keep all the students and teach them.

Confucius taught the Chinese that an education was the great equalizer and the key to leaving poverty behind. Most Chinese believe this with a passion.

Zhang Yimou was the director. He says, “Chinese culture is still rooted in the countryside. If you don’t know the peasant, you don’t know China.” Because of this, there is a strong message in this movie about the urban–rural divide, which is being addressed as China sews the nation together with high-speed rail and electricity.

This a powerful movie about children, education, and poverty that shows the challenges China faces in lifting the lifestyles of almost eight hundred million Chinese, who don’t live in the cities. The challenge is to do this without losing the values that made China what it is.

_______________

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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Raise the Red Lantern

March 4, 2010

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.

IMAGE with Blurbs and Awards to use on Twitter

Where to Buy

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China’s Holistic Historical Timeline