Raise the Red Lantern (1991)
"Da hong deng long gao gao gua" (original title)

PG  |   |  Drama  |  20 December 1991 (France)
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Ratings: 8.2/10 from 19,812 users  
Reviews: 101 user | 47 critic

A young woman becomes the fourth wife of a wealthy lord, and must learn to live with the strict rules and tensions within the household.



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Nominated for 1 Oscar. Another 19 wins & 8 nominations. See more awards »
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Complete credited cast:
Saifei He ...
Meishan (Third Wife)
Cuifen Cao ...
Zhuoyan (Second Wife)
Jingwu Ma ...
The Master
Qi Zhao ...
Lin Kong ...
Shuyuan Jin ...
Yuru (First Wife)
Weimin Ding ...
Zhengyin Cao ...
Old servant
Zhihgang Cui ...
Dr. Gao
Chu Xiao ...


China in the 1920's. After her father's death, nineteen year old Songlian is forced to marry Chen Zuoqian, the lord of a powerful family. Fifty year old Chen has already three wives, each of them living in separate houses within the great castle. The competition between the wives is tough, as their master's attention carries power, status and privilege. Each night Chen must decide with which wife to spend the night and a red lantern is lit in front of the house of his choice. And each wife schemes and plots to make sure it's hers. However, things get out of hand... Written by Mattias Pettersson <seaman@sbbs.se>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


China, 1920. One master, four wives.




PG | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:




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Release Date:

20 December 1991 (France)  »

Also Known As:

Raise the Red Lantern  »

Box Office


$2,603,061 (USA)

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


Filmed at the Qiao Family Compound near the city of Pingyao. The complex is now open for tours, however, nowhere is there any mention of the film. See more »


Yan'er: Who are you?
Housekeeper: Fourth mistress, please come inside.
Yan'er: [losing her cool] So you're the fourth mistress!
[Yan'er rudely pulls the water bowl away from Songlian and puts clothes in it]
Songlian: Yes! I am the fourth mistress. Bring my suitcase inside please.
See more »

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User Reviews

Beyond words
7 November 2000 | by (Hampshire, England) – See all my reviews

This movie has it all, betrayal, conflict and tragedy. I have to say that I couldn't live without it, effectively anyway. The political criticisms tear at the spine of the film and the beauty of it in such an intimate setting is outstanding. The use of such a rich, three dimensional setting defies what we have been taught by the mainstream as being beautiful and sets a standard on a budget that I would love to be aware of, that all Hollywood movies should aspire to. It shows us that film, real film that is, does not need $100 million to look good, rather the combination of a haunting setting in the middle of vastness and the equally haunting beauty of it's star, Gong Li, but at it's heart the house itself resembles a claustrophobic pot, boiling over the surface.

This is in my opinion, Zhang Yimou's greatest film, it is a triumph in film form and narrative. The haunting sounds of flutes, a significant visual and audio element that has a mythical quality due to it's importance to Songlian and becomes an unattainable item of the gods when it is removed from existence when it is burned, becoming a tragic reminder on the attempts to vanquish the personalities of not only Songlian but all of the concubines. It's slow burning nature may repel the masses but anyone who can get a copy, do so without fail, you will never regret it. I cannot stress the importance of this film, we may see it as a study on the oppression of women in China, but this is universal, we westerners once did the same thing not too long ago.

For me the cinematography is what sells the film, it is the best I have ever seen and ever will. If there is ever a film to promote the use of the three strip technicolour process once again, this is it. Long after you have finished your post film analysis, the light from the red lanterns will still be searing in your eyes.

37 of 38 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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