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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 19,463 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 <>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


China, 1920. One master, four wives.




PG | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:




| |


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?


Banned in China for a short time in the early 1990s. 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 »


Referenced in About Schmidt (2002) See more »

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User Reviews

Shocking, thought-provoking and very well-made.

I can certainly understand why this film is so critically acclaimed. Raise The Red Lantern is one of the only Chinese movies I've seen, but I'll definitely admit that it's unusual to see a film this stylistically masterful come out of Hollywood (although it can happen -- The Thin Red Line, for example). A lot of what makes this film work is Zhang Yimou's outstanding directorial style; his use of color against bleak background is especially effective. It's his hypnotic visuals that keep you interested throughout the slow progression of the story. And the amazing acting by most of the performers doesn't hurt, either; everything feels completely real.

I think of this as one of those movies that you aren't supposed to enjoy; it shocks you, and leaves you just as disturbed as, considering the subject matter, you should be. The miserable story of Yan'er, the servant girl, is especially painful to watch, and the same goes for the unfolding of the last few scenes. But I think the fact that I was so unsettled by this movie probably just goes to show how well it gets its points across. And along with the remarkable acting and directing, that's definitely something to be respected.

44 of 54 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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