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Flowers of Shanghai (1998)

Hai shang hua (original title)
Unrated | | Drama | 17 October 1998 (Japan)
1:27 | Trailer
In the "flower houses" (upscale brothels) of Shanghai, various interweaving stories of love, loyalty, and deceit play out subtly.


Hsiao-Hsien Hou


Eileen Chang (translation), T'ien-wen Chu | 1 more credit »
6 wins & 6 nominations. See more awards »





Credited cast:
Tony Chiu-Wai Leung ... Wang Lingsheng (as Tony Chiu Wai Leung)
Michiko Hada Michiko Hada ... Crimson
Michelle Reis ... Emerald (as Michelle Monique Reis)
Carina Lau ... Pearl (as Carina Lau Ka-ling)
Jack Kao ... Luo
Rebecca Pan ... Huang (as Rebecca Pan Wan-ching)
Vicky Wei ... Jasmin (as Hsiao-hui Wei)
Hsuan Fang Hsuan Fang ... Jade
Annie Shizuka Inoh ... Golden Flower
Ming Hsu ... Tao
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Josephine A. Blankstein ... (as An-an Hsu)
Pauline Chan ... (voice)
Simon Chang Simon Chang ... Zhu Suren
Tony Chang Tony Chang ... Peking Opera Actor (as Tony Chang Ruei-che)
Shui Chit Cheung Shui Chit Cheung


In Shanghai in the 1880s there are four elegant brothels (flower houses): each has an auntie (called madam), a courtesan in her prime, older servants, and maturing girls in training. The men gather around tables of food, playing drinking games. An opium pipe is at hand. The women live within dark-paneled walls. The atmosphere is stifling, as if Chekhov was in China. The melancholy Wang is Crimson's patron; will he leave her for the younger Jasmin? Emerald schemes to buy her freedom, aided by patron Luo. Pearl, an aging flower, schools the willful Jade, who thinks she has a marriage agreement with young master Zhu. Is she dreaming? Women fade, or connive, or despair. Written by <jhailey@hotmail.com>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis




Unrated | See all certifications »

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The film consists of 38 long shots. See more »


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User Reviews

Beautiful, moving, and insightful
6 May 2001 | by pcgSee all my reviews

This hypnotically beautiful film may recall a dream, but the material world of money and power, indentured servitude and beatings everywhere intrudes on it. We discover in the contrasting stories of Emerald, Pearl, Crimson, Jade, and Crystal, how some survive as "flower girls" and others are crushed. Far from being boring or cold, the film is compelling dramatically and emotionally. "Flowers of Shanghai" seems to contain boundless reserves of sadness and rage -- it is as if the sex and violence are not on screen because Hou cannot bear to show them. If "Flowers of Shanghai" is an opium dream, as many have said, the opium is both bringing pleasure and suppressing pain.

"Flowers of Shanghai" shows compassion for its characters, both the innocents and those who survive through cynical manipulation. The scene-length takes in medium shots work to establish respect for each person within the film, while at the same time bringing about a kind of "rectification of names," systematically exposing the hypocrisy of the brothels. It's appropriate that one of the few moments of violent action in the film occurs when Master Wang smashes the exquisite interior decoration in a room: "Flowers of Shanghai" shows the seductive beauty of the brothel then reveals it to be a cage. Everyone in the film is on multiple levels unfree: the women are financially bound to the brothels and dependent on the whims of their clients, and almost everyone is addicted to opium.

The film never leaves the brothels. This expresses how the brothels in fact own the women. However, as Stephen Teo noted in CinemaScope, there's another detail that's easy to overlook: the women's bound feet prevent them from easily walking more than a few feet.

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Taiwan | Japan


Cantonese | Shanghainese

Release Date:

17 October 1998 (Japan) See more »

Also Known As:

Flores de Xangai See more »

Company Credits

Production Co:

3H Productions, Shochiku See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:




Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See full technical specs »

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