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Red River Valley (1997)

Hong he gu (original title)
At the turn of the century, a young Chinese girl escapes from a religious sacrifice, and is rescued by an honorable Tibetan herdsman. The two fall in love, but problems arise when she is ... See full summary »

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9 wins & 4 nominations. See more awards »

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Jing Ning
Bing Shao
Zhen Ying
Paul Kersey ...
Jones
Nicholas Love ...
Colonel Rockman
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At the turn of the century, a young Chinese girl escapes from a religious sacrifice, and is rescued by an honorable Tibetan herdsman. The two fall in love, but problems arise when she is ignorant of their time-honored traditions and runs into trouble with a glamourous and proud Tibetan princess. Meanwhile, a British expedition is planning to invade the sacred mountain. Facing the country's enemy, the three set aside their disputes and jealousy, and join the militia force to protect their homeland. Written by L.H. Wong <lhw@sfs.org.sg>

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1997 (China)  »

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A Tale of the Sacred Mountain  »

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Fictitious story that helps to explain real problems in China
13 February 2004 | by See all my reviews

The literal translation of the title of this film is: Red River Valley.

Although the story itself depicted in the movie is fictitious, similar events in real life did happen, but the significance of this movie is often missed by the audience if they don't have a clear knowledge of Chinese history and traditional culture.

What is important in this movie is that it exposed the not-so-favorite side, or more precisely, the dark and nasty side of the Chinese traditional culture: first, the gender discrimination against females in the traditional Confucian teaching. The second is the extravagant ceremonial rituals to pay the respect to the dead and your ancestors in a fanatical religious way to show how dedicated you are and what a good offspring you are. According to the traditional Confucian teachings, in addition to the dead and ancestors, the same extravagant ceremonial rituals to show respect also applies to the emperors, head of the family or other authority figures.

When these two types of dross of the traditional culture combined, one of the deadly result was the extreme measures people would resort to: human sacrifice in the religious ceremonial rituals to pay one's respect to the dead/ancestors/authorities/heaven/earth etc., just like the movie depicted. Such brutal practice existed through out the Chinese history for thousands of years and it was not until the establishment of the Chinese Republic did such practice was finally banned by law, but due to the weak control of the Nationalist government, the practice was not completely eradicated after the communist revolution. Ironically, the ethnic minorities which were considered barbarian by Confucianism such as Tibetans shown here did not have the widespread of such practice and this is why potential victims escape to the area where minorities resides.

The other bad results of the combination of the two types of dross of the traditional Confucian teaching reappeared in China during the traditional Chinese culture resurgence when personal wealth increased significantly in the rapid economic expansion of China:

One of the two is the widespread adultery: men keep mistresses because under the traditional Confucian teaching, such unequal treatment of genders was tolerated and encouraged in the form of concubinage, which is illegal in China, so men resorts to the practice of keeping mistresses. The second one is the abandoned female babies (in addition to abortion) because of the needs of having sons to carry on the family names.

This movie provided a doze of reality that Chinese society really needs in the current heat of traditional culture resurgence in which everything is accepted blindly, instead of only inheriting the good aspect and riding of the bad aspect. The only thing unsatisfactory is that such good hint made by this movie is in a very subtle way of describing the past, not direct enough, but it is still good enough.


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