Snow Flower and the Secret Fan (2011)

PG-13  |   |  Drama, History  |  24 June 2011 (China)
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A story set in nineteenth-century China and focusing on the life-long friendship between two girls who develop their own secret code as a way to contend with the rigid social norms imposed on women.



(screenplay), (screenplay) (as Ron Bass) , 2 more credits »
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Cast overview, first billed only:
Bank CEO
Nina / Lily
Snow Flower / Sophia (as Gianna Jun)
Coco Chiang ...
Hu Qing Yun ...
Mrs. Liao
Shiping Cao ...
Mr. Wei (as Shi Ping Cao)
Ruijia Zhang ...
Mrs. Wei
Zhebing Gong ...
Lilia Zhou ...
Congmeng Guo ...
Little Lily
Danping Shen ...
Lily's Mother
Yan Dai ...
Little Snow Flower
Yulan Xu ...
Snow Flower's Mother


In 19th-century China, seven year old girls Snow Flower and Lily are matched as laotong - or "old sames" - bound together for eternity. Isolated by their families, they furtively communicate by taking turns writing in a secret language, nu shu, between the folds of a white silk fan. In a parallel story in present day Shanghai, the laotong's descendants, Nina and Sophia, struggle to maintain the intimacy of their own childhood friendship in the face of demanding careers, complicated love lives, and a relentlessly evolving Shanghai. Drawing on the lessons of the past, the two modern women must understand the story of their ancestral connection, hidden from them in the folds of the antique white silk fan, or risk losing one another forever. Written by Fox Searchlight Pictures

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


Drama | History

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated PG-13 for sexuality, violence/disturbing images and drug use | See all certifications »


Official Sites:





Release Date:

24 June 2011 (China)  »

Also Known As:

Der Seidenfächer  »

Box Office


$6,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend:

$134,005 (USA) (15 July 2011)


$1,346,503 (USA) (23 September 2011)

Company Credits

Production Co:

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


Zhang Ziyi was originally cast as Nina before dropping out of the film. Li Bingbing signed on to replace her. See more »


The last paragraphs of the unsent letter that Nina found in Sophias apartment, which can be seen when she closes the notebook, don't match Nina's voice-over. See more »


[first lines]
Bank CEO: People say I'm sending Sebastian and Nina to New york so neither will take my job. Hey, perhaps that's partly true. You know, like these butterflies that surround us this evening, it's a time of transformation, new beginnings.
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User Reviews

Bounded feet and bounded love.
16 December 2011 | by (Argentina) – See all my reviews

I finished reading all the previous reviews to have a clear idea about what other people saw in this movie, and I must say that all that emphasis about the film being too different from the book doesn't show a great understanding of the cinematic technique. A movie is not a book. The visual, with long shots and close ups, the dialogue and the music, even the noises, take over all the written pages to express a single gesture, the full description of a landscape, or the design of a dress. A single close up can give us the essence of a full chapter.

This movie is sheer poetry.

Forget about the original book that helped to create this jewel of a movie, just watch this film, allow your senses to be absorbed by the two parallel stories --the contemporary and the historical-- and just absorb all that beauty offered to you in the storyline, the exquisite photography, the delicacy of sentiments expressed by these women (it is a terrible film for men's egos, because we come a very poor second compared with those women, overpowered by men's brutality and yet transcending the horrible handicaps imposed on them, like the tiding of their feet from early age, to convert them into defenseless crippled creatures, totally depending on men, and their virtual slaves for life).

The image of those bounded stomps, deformed to the point of becoming unrecognizable as human feet symbolizes too the humiliation some ultraconservative elements of society try to impose over minorities as if to say: "There, you'll go thru life bounded and suffering, freedom to be yourself will be denied to you because I want it so".

The total love among these "Sisters for life" was infinitely superior to the love these women could have had for their husbands. We see that in both cases --the old and the contemporary-- and in both cases it lasted, strong, to the last consequences.

Contrary to other viewers, I didn't have the slightest problem in following the development of the two parallel stories, since it was done in a very natural, simple and honest way; both stories superbly intertwined to perfection till the final resolution.

¿A masterpiece? yes, I think so.

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