Posted: October 17th, 2013
Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon
Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon is a thrilling, romantic epic full of action and adventure. The film is directed by Ang Lee and is based on the novel Crane Iron Pentalogy by Wang Dulu. It is a story showing events that take place in QING China. It was a period when the people believed in spirits. It was a time when supernatural phenomena such as gods, spirits and miracles were present among in the life of man. The film attracts both a western audience and the indigenous, Asian audience. The use of the Asian mother tongue however, makes it more appealing to the Asian audience and can easily relate and familiarize with the story.
The plot revolves around Li Mu Bai a warrior who is on a mission to revenge the murder of his master by Jade Fox. For several years, he has had feelings of affection for Yu Shu Lien. The feeling is mutual, but they both are entangled in the need to bring back Green Destiny. The Green Destiny is a sword that was owned by the master of Li Mu Bai and sold to an affluent district governor. With this prospect, Yu Shu Lien encounters Jen Yu the daughter to the Governor who envies her warrior lifestyle. She is controlled and protected under her father’s roof. She also harbors a highly sensitive secret that may cause an upsurge.
They both discover that the Governor and Jade Fox have been acting as the governess for some years. Mu Bai meets a police investigator called Tsai who is also pursuing Fox. They engage in a fight that night together with Master Bro, but a thief wearing a mask protects Fox before Mu Bai could kill her. A desert bandit visits Jen at night and requests her to leave with him. Jen tells Shu Lien of this, but they enter into a fiery argument leading to a duel. Jen destroys Shu Lien’s weapons with the Green Destiny, but she finally holds a broken sword on her neck to stop her. Shu Lien is merciful, and the lowers her sword, but Jen causes injury to her arm. Mu Bai follows Jen through the bamboo forest and regains the Green Destiny. He throws it over the waterfall, Jen dives in to salvage it and she is later found by Fox who drugs her to sleep.
Fox attempts to attack Mu Bai with poisoned darts but Mu Bai blocks them with his sword. He is successful in avenging his master’s attack and killing Fox. She confesses her goal to kill Jen and her fury that Jen was hiding the Wudan secrets from her. However, Mu Bai has also been hit by one of the darts and Jen runs to get the antidote’s ingredient. He also confesses the feelings he has for Shu Lien and Jen returns a late to find him dead in her arms. Sir Te is given the Green Destiny, and Jen heads to Wudan Mountain to meet Lo for one more night. In the morning, Jen stands on the balcony and overlooks the edge of Wudan. In the desert, Jen soars over the sides of Wudan Mountain and rises into the clouds.
The Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon together with other movies such as Kung Fu Hustle and Hero are seen as mediums to give a clear picture of the Chinese culture. The movies have also attained global recognition because of their emphasis on the Chinese society. The popular culture of this group of Asian people is being relayed through mediums such as television and cinema. This made their popularity not only in Asia but also in the west to be more profound. The use of Chinese language to maintain their cultural heritage is also seen in these movies. The actors also wear Chinese traditional attire.
The cultural reflection in the movie shows the Asian community as a patriarchal community with little opportunities for women. The culture of the Chinese is viewed to be oppressive when Jade Fox is not allowed into the Wudang monastery, as she is a woman. The society is pictured as that of a male dominated one. Shu Lien also sticks firmly to the moral convention and traditions of the society and because of some obligations within the society; she suppresses her feelings for Li Mu Bai because she is marrying his brother to whom she is betrothed.
The movie is filled with suspense and mystery. The intricate twists and turns can be confusing and render a person to the element of surprise. The extensive background of beautiful natural landscapes and features such as mountains, deserts and forest show the beauty of the Chinese country. The scenes are in sequence and show broad and action packed scenes. They intricately use swords and martial arts. The love scenes also show many contrasts between both the male and female warriors. We are able to see both sides of a group of people perceived to be brave and emotionless. The characterization is also superb to bring out the essence of the movie.
It was a common Chinese culture in ancient times for the elite to arrange weddings and marriages in their convenience. Jen the daughter of a highly important governor was going get married off into a wealthy family. The women in traditional China would not oppose this arrangement in order to maintain their families’ social status and prestige (Guillain, 2009). However, Jen takes it upon herself to liberate herself from this tradition. She had fallen in love with a bandit and purposes to defend her love to this bandit. In both movies, Yellow Earth and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon have similar themes of women trying to liberate themselves from culture.
Both movies Mulan and Crouching Tiger, Hidden dragon focus on individualism and feminism in the Chinese culture. Feminism is seen when both characters save their feelings and honor their families’ decision to be married by other men who they do not love. Jen wishes to be free to love Lo, but she is caught in between acceptance and respect from her family and the desires of her heart. They therefore, respect the male privilege to fulfill the obligations of this society. They also display their masculine strength, as Li Mu is a warrior seeking to protect and recover the sword to its appropriate place.
The movie utilizes the Chinese tradition of using proverbs in the language (David, 2005). The title of the movie “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” is derived from an ancient proverb of the Chinese. The saying is used to characterize regions and situations. These places are considered the dwellings of secret heroes and legends. These are places where everything is never as it seems to be. It is within this context, the brave warrior Li Mu Bai is not able to reveal the love he has for Shu Lien. Shu Lien also the calm but brave female fighter also conceals her internal anguish of love towards Li Mu Bai. In addition, young Jen who is betrothed finds inspiration from within and rebels to follow her ambitions and heart.
Symbolism is a major aspect of the Chinese culture. The symbols are seen in their temples and celebrations such as the Chinese dragon. They attach symbolic values in the objects they treasure such as swords. In the movie, the ancient sword, the Green Destiny, is seen as a precious symbol, which cannot be used or touched by anyone. It also has a particular place where it is kept and protected. It essentially carries the memories of the wars it has fought both good and bad. There is also a cherished comb by a young woman in the movie to signify how the Chinese artifacts and pieces of art are cherished by all.
The Chinese culture also expects women to be passive. This is seen in the early life of Jen where she grows up in her fathers’ house with rules and a lot of protection. She was restrained under the control of both her parents (Chang-Kuon, 2012). Chinese music is also a key element of their culture. The music in the movie creates emotions and mood of the particular scene. It is composed by traditional Chinese instruments. They use musical instruments like silk instruments, plucked and bowed such as sanxian, ruan, jing erhu and tiqin.
Martial arts have been part of the Chinese culture from ancient China to modern China. The movie shows martial arts as used by the Chinese unlike western action movies. The movie shows how martial arts should be done in cultural professionalism in scenes showing the women Jen and Shu Lien fighting and among the men too. The sword fights are done with a lot of professionalism in relation to their traditions. Chinese ancestors used these methods when they were fighting their enemies. Professional martial arts teachers would pass on the skills to the younger generation.
Traditional Chinese attire is also used to reflect the rich culture enshrined in their dressing. Different people of different social status used to wear different outfits in traditional China. The traditional wear is called hanfu. Majority of the Chinese men wore cotton shoes such as those of Li Mu Bai while the Governor who is of a higher-class wears tough black shoes especially during formal occasions (Colson, 2012). Women would wear a pair of coated silk shoes. The clothes and shoes distinguished the society as special outfits were set aside for special occasions and rituals. There were also different outfits for warrior and fighters.
The Chinese religion is also incorporated in the movie. Use of mythologies and Chinese philosophy is shown when Jens lover says that when a person throws himself or herself over the cliff their wishes come true. They also venerate the spirits and ancestors as Li Mu Bai seeks to appease his dead master by avenging his death. The characters follow an unwritten code of conduct within their religion. This religion enables the characters to focus on the Green Destiny. The pursuit to protect these Chinese symbols is propelled by the need to base their spiritual inclination and not to wrong their deities.
The movie has not been far from criticism. Some sections of the film are quoted to borrow a lot from the western culture. The language and terms used are quoted not be originally Chinese but the nature of the modern Chinese Culture corrupted by the American way of life. The plot also does not have a clear transition within the scenes and suspense lead to a lot of confusion among the viewers. The women who are made paramount are given leading roles contrary to the Chinese traditions. The female characters are rebelling against the traditions and norms of their society, which is in contrast to the Ancient Chinese custom. Jen goes against the will of her father to marry a different man from whom she is betrothed. The women are also made warriors but in most of the traditional Chinese, this was taboo. The men like Li Mu Bai also express their emotions when he confesses his love for Shu Lien.
In conclusion, the movie shows a clear picture of the Chinese culture rich in symbolism, religion, attire and martial arts. The actors suit in their roles perfectly to familiarize with their viewers. There is also systematic and sequential scene development by the director and scriptwriter. The use of martial art and sword fight gives the film action and adventure to entice the audience. There is also passion in the characters of Shu Lien, Jen and Li Mu Bai as they are determined not to conform to the norms of society. They opt to pursue their desires at all costs despite Li Mu Bai’s declaration of love when it is too late. The set up and choice of location is perfect. The mountainous regions of China are used as good fighting zones. The bamboo forests and desert create engross the viewer because of their resounding beauty of allure and attraction. The movie is a necessity for anyone interested in understanding the Chinese culture and expertise in martial arts.
Chang-Kuon, J. (May 23, 2012). Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon. The Hidden Transcript. Retrieved from www.thehiddentranscript.com.
Colson, Mary. (2012). Chinese Culture. Heinemann/Raintree.
Davis, E. L. (2005). Encyclopedia of contemporary Chinese culture. London: Routledge.
Guillain, C. (2009). Chinese culture. Oxford: Heinemann Library.
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