Cultural Differences in Ang Lee's "The Wedding Banquet" and Yu Hua's "Big Shot's Funeral"

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Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon by Ang Lee and 'The Wedding Banquet,' Ang Lee present in different times and settings which ensure that there are stark contrasts and differences which emerge in the films. 'The Wedding Banquet,' Ang Lee is a clear representation of the changes which had occurred in China through the years and how cultural practices seem to have changed drastically through the ages. While Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon would be described to have been created in a traditional Chinese setting the ideology that it represents is the strenuous relationship that a teacher and a student had even though they are from different genders. This can be considered in comparison to 'The Wedding Banquet,' where there is a gay Chinese couple and a Chinese lady who is in love with a Caucasian man. These differences in both films show that the traditional Chinese culture rarely accepted entrant of new methods of living or socializing ad that is why the directors had to covey these messages intricately. Cultural Revolution in both films is therefore based on understanding the relationships that are enjoyed by the actors of both films while they are trying to keep in touch with the reality of being Chinese.

'The Wedding Banquet,' the actors present a situation which was considered a taboo in traditional china but since the beginning of the late 1900’s, there was considerable movement of people from rural to urban areas which began to have gay relationships and to date outside their race. Mitters shows the different approaches the Chinese cinemas have been able to incorporate gay relationships into their films which began mostly as comedies before the bold works of representing these relationships as something which occurs though scarcely (Mitters, 34)[1].  This is the reason why Mr. Gao in 'The Wedding Banquet,' accepts Simon through traditional Hongbao which is a recognition of the relationship that Simon has with his son Wai-Tung Gao. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon shows how the Chinese films were able to incorporate and accept gender roles for the women where they could star from the start of the film to the end. However, the primary concern was the way that Li Mu Bai and Yu Shu Lien were able to control their feelings despite having emotions for each other. Traditional Chinese culture where women were had learned the art of martial skills, they were able to take part in being bodyguards to wealthy patrons or the royal families. The Cultural Revolution in this film is in understanding how women were able to be part of a male-dominated field while they suppressed the emotional urges to connect with each other especially when it came to master and student relationships. The modern China that is portrayed by Mitter shows that the people had evolved to the extent that some of the traditional practices which were revered like the distinction of the master and the students were largely ignored in the urban settings while they were rarely practiced in the rural environments (Mitter, 81).[2]  The traditional martial art practices were becoming a thing of the past with the places where the exercises took place being replaced by the emergence of new buildings which went with modern times. Ang Lee can incorporate these differences well in the films while ensuring that the viewer can understand these differences in relationships, acceptance of traditional practices while ensuring that the entertainment aspect is still relevant. The film industry in China was also able to accept the martial arts which had been part of their tradition as well as the borrowing of the styles across different provinces across China to be used in Chinese themed films.

Question 2

Yu Hua in his book notes that the changes which have occurred in China for the past 30 years are full of problems and negative aspects which have been concealed by the sporadic economic growth (Yua, IX).[3]

However, until the problems are countered from the root, the society continues to be embedded in practices and scenarios which continue to affect the common Chinese man who is not able to live up to the demands of modernization. Feng Xiaogang, “Big Shot’s Funeral” and Zhang Yang, “Shower” are a clear indication of those changes and what the Chinese people have been able to put up with in the face of modernization which is affecting every sector of the economy while traditional practices are being taken over by new things. Yu Hua narrates about the possibility of the Chinese to encompass the traditional practices in the modern day culture, but the theme seems to be pushed back as the day’s progress because even the new generation Chinese people also want to go with the times. Therefore, it becomes hard for the people had been accustomed to a particular traditional to let go while there is an introduction of a new method of doing things. Zhang Yang, in “Shower,” showcases how a traditional bathhouse which was at the heart of Beijing and which old people had been accustomed to since they were young had to be demolished to pave the way for new buildings which were forming part of the Beijing skyline.

The bathhouse is seen as a place where different social practices take place beginning with Chinese chess or cricket fighting, mediation in squabbles as well as consultancy in marriage amongst the younger men and the old ones. This practice was common in traditional Chinese culture as most of the idle time was spent by the old men being engaged in such practices while the younger and energetic males went on about the hard labor to fend for their families. The economic upheaval that is taking place in China forces closure to such business and it forces the old members of the society either to go back to their rural villages if they have one or to be enrolled in the homes of the elderly. Yu Hua (149) shows this disparity by portraying how the young and able Chinese have relegated the old people further on their social needs as they try to fit into the urban life demands (Yua, 58).[4]  Feng Xiaogang, “Big Shot’s Funeral” shows the emergence of China as a capitalist nation despite the practice of communism which drives their economic agenda. This is because YoYo plans to have Rob Tyler’s funeral to have as many sponsors as possible which would be able to generate income at the expense of the dead film director. However, this is contrary to the Chinese tradition of respecting the dead and ensuring that the process is as sacred as possible with very minimal expenses. For the foreigner Rob Tyler, the funeral for the elderly was akin to a comedy while the Chinese practiced the ritual as a celebration of the life of the deceased. Therefore, modern Chinese society continued to prove the changes that were happening across the country had impacted more than the local and traditional businesses as it had also found its way into the cultural practices. The ability of the foreigners to be able to work and operate in China was another factor which was brought by modernization because individuals would be able to bring their expertise from different industries.

Question 3

In comparing and contrasting the representation of Dai Sijie “Chinese women in Balzac and the little Chinese mistress” and Xie Fei, “A Girl from Hunan there is a stark difference on how the women in both works are represented.  While one is a literal representation where the narrator presents the women as being able to transition through different periods of time after learning the ways of the modern world, the film, on the other hand, shows a continuation of a tradition which is supposed to condemn women to traditional repressible practices. Through the narrator in Chinese women in Balzac and the little Chinese mistress,” he is attracted to the philosophy that the women are able to learn from the books which are presented while the little Chinese mistress is attracted to the beauty. Therefore, through these two approaches, the reader can come to terms with the way that the women are able to be perceived by their admirers at the end of the novel. The narrator pictures himself being entrusted to take care of the Little Mistress by Luo and he takes this picture as him being the head of a routed army who is tasked with escorting the young wife of his bosom friend (Dai, 148).[5]

The words that the narrator uses are supposed to portray that Luo would be taking a mistress who was young and irrespective of that fact he was willing to do it as it was a practiced tradition. This is in comparison to Xie Fei’s, “A Girl from Hunan” because the young girls are taken as brides to wed young boys but the contrast is because of the reversal of the roles. While in the prior literal work shows that the young girls are taken to be wedded to men who were older than them, the latter indicates that older girls were being taken to be married to younger boys.

This representation of Chinese women shows that they are deprived of a choice to make up their mind while they are condemned to male patriarchy which determines their future. However, Dai Sijie shows that the approach of containing the women in Chinese culture had evolved as Luo, and the narrator preferred to take women who were able to understand the modern way of living. Little Seamstress, after living under Mao’s principles of communism in the rural village had undertaken the mandate of leaving the village to go into the city (Dai, 179).[6]  This shows the liberation of the young seamstress from the long entrapment of uncivil male practices which had contained her life. Xiao who is left by her uncle in a remote village in China in the film “A Girl from Hunan” proves that she can determine her destiny and fall in love as she wishes even though she is under the manipulative care of her mother in law. Through her story, Xiao shows the need for the women to understand each other in a male-dominated society because that is the only way that they are ensured of survival.

Question 4

Tian Zhuangzhuang, “Blue Kite” film shows the way that the Chinese culture is able to be as diverse and integrative as any of the modern-day cultures. The revolution of the Chinese has been clearly defined throughout the films that we have been able to watch, and the understanding how the society was able to evolve from its traditional setting to the current first world developed country is represented. However, on Tian Zhuangzhuang, “Blue Kite” the representation of different Chinese families shows how far the country has come regarding accepting societal and political change in the midst of an economic revolution. Throughout the film, the actors can represent those changes in a detailed manner, and the Cultural Revolution in this film is the epitome of what happens in almost every single country in the world. This ensures that the Chinese are seen as part and parcel of the other global entities despite their culture and representation of the western media showing a retrogressive society which is autocratically controlled by communism (Berry, 63).[7] While the communism economic growth seems to be the theme which has mostly been associated with the Chinese people, throughout the films people have been seen to be inclined towards matters of capitalism. As stated earlier, the engagement in economic practices to the way that people are able to work on their businesses the most prominent economic inclination is typically what capitalism entails. When the bathhouse was demolished in Zhang Yang's, “Shower” it shows the same approach that most governments use in a bid to make their capital cities more appealing to investors.

Throughout the course, the understanding of sexual preferences and orientations amongst the Chinese has also been prominently featured in the films, and it has been seen as a culturally sensitive topic as much as it has continued to be viewed in different parts of the world. However, the representation of the gay couple who are being accepted by their families for whom they are shows the progress of recognizing the differences which make up our societies. Earlier, before taking this course, the Chinese Cultural Revolution seemed to be based only on their economic and political fields, but the films have been eye-openers on what the Chinese have been able to achieve. The banning of Tian Zhuangzhuang, “Blue Kite” is a representation of how the films can impact the society by showing how the political decisions are a reflection of the societies that people live in. As the politics seem to be entrenched in every sphere of the family, the impacts seem to have negative effects on the people, and they fail to connect to each other (Berry, 29). [8]The behavior of the adolescents based on the film shows the beginning of the Cultural Revolution because they are able to rebel from the decisions that are made by their teachers, parents and the party members who want them to lead their lives in a particular manner which does not bode well with them.


Berry, Chris, ed. Chinese Films in Focus II, 2nd Revised edition New York: Palgrave Macmillan      on behalf of the British Film Institute (BFI), 2008;

Dai Shijie, Balzac, and the Little Chinese Seamstress, translated from the French by Ina Rilke   New York: Anchor Books, 2002;

Mitter, Rana, Modern China: A Very Short Introduction, Second and Fully Updated edition Oxford: Oxford UP, 2008;

Yu Hua, China in Ten Words, translated from the Chinese by Allan H. Barr New York: Pantheon         Books, 2011;

[1] Mitter, Rana, Modern China: A Very Short Introduction, Second and Fully Updated edition Oxford: Oxford UP, 2008;

[2] Mitter, Rana, Modern China: A Very Short Introduction, Second and Fully Updated edition Oxford: Oxford UP, 2008;

[3] Yu Hua, China in Ten Words, translated from the Chinese by Allan H. Barr New York: Pantheon Books, 2011;

[4] Yu Hua, China in Ten Words, translated from the Chinese by Allan H. Barr New York: Pantheon Books, 2011;

[5] Dai Shijie, Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress, translated from the French by Ina Rilke      New York: Anchor Books, 2002;

[6] Ibid

[7] Berry, Chris, ed. Chinese Films in Focus II, 2nd Revised edition New York: Palgrave Macmillan on behalf of the British Film Institute (BFI),2008;

[8] Berry, Chris, ed. Chinese Films in Focus II, 2nd Revised edition New York: Palgrave Macmillan on behalf of the British Film Institute (BFI),2008;

August 01, 2023

Culture Literature



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