Course:ASIA355/2023/Friendship and Love: through the Chinese Cultural Revolution

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The Revolution of Love, Underneath Repression: A Deep Dive into "The Sense of Repression under the Revolution of Love"

Group Members' Contributions

(Manager) D Y: 2.1 2.2 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 3.5 8

(Reflector) Y D: 4.1 4.2 4.3 4.4 4.5 4.6 6.1 6.2 6.3

(Recorder) Z L: 7.1 7.2 7.3 7.4

(Questioner) Y Y: 5.1 5.2 5.3 5.4


Under the Hawthorn Tree is a romantic drama directed by Zhang Yimou and starring Zhou Dongyu and Dou Xiao. The film was released on the Chinese mainland on September 16, 2010.

The film is based on Amy's novel of the same name and tells the story of Jing Qiu and Lao San meeting, falling in love, and finally, heaven and earth separated forever. The film was shortlisted for Best Asian Film at the Berlin International Film Festival Crystal Bear and the Hong Kong Film Awards and won the Huabao Award for Outstanding Feature Film. On August 18, 2018, it was named one of China's top ten outstanding love movies for the 40th anniversary of reform and opening up.


Under the Hawthorn Tree, released in 2010, is a Chinese romance film directed by renowned director Zhang Yimou. The film stars Zhou Dongyu as Jing Qiu, who is sent to the countryside for re-education because her father is the son of a landlord and her family suffered during the Cultural Revolution. Dou Xiao is the male protagonist as Lao San, a young geologist from an educated family.

In this poignant story set during the Culture Revolution period in China, Jing Qiu and Lao San meet and fall in love. Lao San is willing to do anything for Jingqiu, despite the social and political challenges of their era, such as waiting for her to graduate and get a stable job, but in the end, Lao Shan dies of leukemia due to his physical condition.


Initially, by investigating the creative background of "Under the Hawthorn Tree", we aim to understand the filmmaker's intentions and influences, to see how the theme of love revolutionizing under repression is conceived and conveyed. In next section, where we evaluate the film’s reception history, we will gauge the public's perception of the depicted love revolution under repression, noting how it has shifted over time and across cultures. The literature review will enable us to engage with scholarly opinions on the themes of love revolution and repression, offering various interpretations of the film and expanding our understanding of these themes. When we delve into the comparative analysis, we will compare "Under the Hawthorn Tree" with "New Endless Love" to explore how these themes are approached differently across the two films. This contrast will highlight the uniqueness of Ann Hui's depiction of a love revolution under repression. In the final section, where we challenge Patricia Brett Erens' claim, we will critically analyze her perspective on the film's plots, deepening our understanding of how the themes of love and repression interact and evolve throughout the narrative.

Stories Behind the Film

Creative Background

"Under the Hawthorn Tree" is notable for its extensive use of subtitles, a creative choice that director Zhang Yimou carefully explains. "I will wait for you for a lifetime", and incorporate it as a subtitle near the film's conclusion.  This decision caused the preceding subtitles to function as a type of foreshadowing or resonance, echoing this profound sentiment throughout the film.   Consequently, the subtitles that precede this serve as a type of echo or foreshadowing. In addition, due to the substantial amount of content that had to be excised, subtitles were necessary to ensure the narrative's coherence. Zhang Yimou has openly expressed his preference for avoiding films that are overly lengthy in duration, favoring a concise narrative that can effectively convey the story without diluting the intensity of emotions.

Filming Process

When filming reached the halfway point, the performances of the lead actors, Zhou Dongyu and Shawn Dou, were improving remarkably. As they continued to step into their roles, Zhang Yimou contemplated that if the film needed to be extended, he would prefer to cut some of the rural scenes. The director felt that the latter half of the film had greater depth, poignancy, and potential to evoke audience emotion, and therefore deserved more screen time.

Cast and Crew

"Under the Hawthorn Tree" primarily features a cast of young actors who, despite having formal film education, did not have extensive experience in front of the camera. Under Zhang Yimou's expert guidance, they took the first significant steps in their acting careers, impressing audiences with their heartfelt performances. Examples include Zhou Dongyu (Jing Qiu), Dou Xiao (Lao San) and Jiang Ruijia (Wei Hong).

The film also incorporated performances from seasoned actors. For instance, Xi Meijuan played Jing Qiu's mother, and Li Xuejian portrayed Captain Zhang. The combination of fresh talent and experienced actors, carefully orchestrated by director Zhang Yimou, benefited the film significantly.

The seasoned actors brought depth and emotional maturity to their roles, while the newer actors provided a fresh, unvarnished perspective. The seasoned actors' expertise and skills helped guide the less experienced actors in their performances, contributing to the film's overall authenticity and emotional depth.


In terms of budget and production scale, "Under the Hawthorn Tree" stands out from other high-profile films directed by Zhang Yimou, such as "Hero" and "House of Flying Daggers". "Under the Hawthorn Tree" was made on a lower budget, marking a clear focus on narrative richness and character development rather than relying on lavish sets or heavy special effects. Also, the story is set in the countryside, so there is no need for special effects and lavish production of set design. This made possible the film's realistic and authentic portrayal of rural life in China during the Cultural Revolution.

Shooting locations

The setting for the movie enhanced the plot by providing a setting for a love story that takes place during China's Cultural Revolution. The majority of the movie was filmed in rural China, showing the unspoiled beauty of the area as the setting for the tender love story. The Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, known for its picturesque karst landscape and rural scenery, is where the shooting took place. The overall narrative impact of the movie is improved by this choice of location, which helps to accurately depict the historical era and the setting of the story.

Histories of the Film’s Reception

The film Under the Hawthorn Tree has received divided reviews, with mixed reviews.

Bad reviews section

Viewers who didn't like the film said it was very pretentious (zuo zuo in Chinese), and they didn't like the film's bland plot, the characters' overly innocent personalities, the depressing setting, or the excessive subtitles.

As netizen "Tao Tao Lin Lin" said on Douban in 2010 with rate of 4.0: "Subtitles, subtitles, subtitles again. All with subtitles to say whether it is good or not, but also what to play a strong. As netizen "Panda's video" published in 2011 on Douban evaluation: not no physical "contact" love can be called the purest love in the history of cinema. Some netizens even believe that the film's most subtle "bed scene" is a failure, encouraging public abstinence and not in line with realistic male impulses. For example, the netizen "Kuang Yige" published in 2010 on Douban commented with 48 likes: "But what does this love have to do with the integrity of the vaginal flap, a sheet rolled and wrinkled or not?[1]

Middle evaluation section

There were also many who thought the film was average, most of them thought it was just an ordinary romance drama, much like Korean dramas (which at the time produced a lot of romance works). Netizen "Desert"'s comment on Douban in 2010 with rate of 6.0 received 488 likes: It's the Cultural Revolution version of a Korean drama![2]

Good reviews section

The audience who thought the film was good especially liked the pure and passionate love between Jing Qiu and Lao San, but because of the times and health problems revealed a hidden love. They put more praise on the plot of two people getting along with each other, such as Jingqiu and Lao San looking at each other across the shore when they parted, and comparing their embraces to each other, such as when they crossed the stream holding hands through a tree branch.[3]

Changes in evaluation

According to an uncritical survey, its rating on Douban, the most famous movie rating website in mainland China, has experienced a slow rise from 6.6 in 2014 to 7.1 today, proving that people's recognition of it has gradually increased over time.[4] One thing that deserves our attention is that the vast majority of the bad reviews were published in 2010 and 2011, the years when the film was just released. And among the positive reviews, we can find many highly acclaimed reviews of 2018 and 2020. Especially on Zhihu, the article: How to evaluate the movie "The Love of Hawthorn Tree"? The years of high praise reviews (reviews with favorable attitude towards the movie) are concentrated in 2018, not 2010, when the movie was released. This may prove that, with the advent of the fast food era, the merits of slow-paced literary films can be seen more and more by the public.


At the same time, the film received more recognition in terms of awards: for example, it was shortlisted for Best Asian Film at the 30th Hong Kong Film Awards in 2011, shortlisted for the Crystal Bear at the 61st Berlin Film Festival, and won the 14th Huabiao Award for Outstanding Feature Film, among others.[5]


Overall, the film received some poor reviews from the masses due to the subtitles, and the characterization of the characters set far from the general public. However, due to its excellent lead character interaction, the film's atmosphere, and the director's filming standards, it received generally favorable reviews among the officials, and the vast majority of the public.

Scholarly Literature Review

Article 1

In Si Wen Fan[6]'s article, he discusses the expression of director Zhang Yimou's film narrative techniques. More than anything else, Fan analyzes how Zhang applies these techniques to express that pure love.

Fan mentioned that Zhang's films have endless morals and rhymes like poetry. First, Zhang contrasts the film's setting, which is a chaotic era, with the innocent love between the hero and heroine. Thus, the clean, white feelings of the two protagonists are highlighted. Secondly, the film has many empty shots about the natural landscape. More than that, this empty shot leaves enough space for the audience to imagine and think. Thus, just like poetry, it has a deep and long connotation. Finally, there are not many lines used in the movie. So, this reduction does not fill up the plot but leaves enough space for the audience to add and imagine.

Thus, Fan concludes that the film has a strong film style of Zhang and shows the complexity and pure love of the Cultural Revolution.

Article 2

In the article, Jie Tan[7] talks about how the film Under the Hawthorn tree was a successful pure love film. Then, Tan analyzed the formation and development of this kind of pure love film in Asia. More, it also talks about the influence that such films later created in Asian countries and other regions.

Tan outlined to the point where the film became a Chinese feature romance. First of all, the film shows the concept of marriage during the Cultural Revolution and the peculiarities of that era. Therefore, this kind of love combined with the historical background and the background of the era better shows the characteristics of Chinese romance films. Secondly, the movie uses the hawthorn tree to symbolize the love of Jing and Sun. Thus, there are many props related to hawthorn in the movie. For example, the hawthorn basket, the basin with the hawthorn pattern and the hawthorn red clothes worn by Jing. Therefore, these props symbolize that their love begins and ends with the hawthorn tree.

More than that, Tan said that the movie is also very distinctive with the picture and color settings. In the film's picture without the addition of too many other elements and a lot of the setting are restored to the Cultural Revolution era settings. What's more, the colors in the movie are mostly plain to symbolize the simple life of that era and to make a strong contrast with the only hawthorn red that appears later.

At the end of the article, Tan describes how the simple life and simple love shown in this film seems to be a pavement and an inspiration for Chinese films to be made in this genre in today's frenetic and stressful era.

Article 3

In the beginning, Wei Kuang[8] concludes that Zhang Yimou's film brings people a pure artistic enjoyment and expresses a pure and unadulterated love.

Kuang mentioned that the film's storyline is flat and has few twists and turns. More often than not, there are many plot points that are driven by subtitles. Hence, this film focuses on actual and normal relationships rather than showing strong and dramatic love in a romantic movie.

Kuang statess of the slow and shy love progress of two characters in this film. At the beginning of the movie, they  hold the same stick together in order to show the they are kind of shy and afraid to hold hands together.Later in the film, they pretend to hug each other across the river, then this allows the audience to quietly feel the strong love between the two lovers. At the end of the movie, Sun spends his whole life and becomes silently guarding Jing's side. Thus, Zhang achieves a closely psychological distance between the two protagonists by constantly distancing them geographically and physically from each other.

Moreover, the definition and requirements of love have changed in today's materialistic age. However, the love depicted in the movie is extremely simple and genuine. Although, the gifts Sun gives Jing are not expensive, such as a pen, sugar, rubber shoes and sportswear. However, all these gifts help Jing to get through her difficult time. In addition, there is no overly intimate name-calling or overly boundary-crossing actions between the two, whatever, the audience can feel the strong and innocent love between the two.

Finally, Kuang would like to use this article to express that people in close to modern times will more focus on wealth and fame in a relationship, hence this kind of pure and unadorned love shown in the movie is worth reflecting on and remembering.

Article 4

In Ralph Parfect[9]'s article, he analyzes the personal opinions of Chinese netizens about Zhang Yimou's Under the Hawthorn Tree on Douban, a social media platform in the Internet era, and the social phenomena behind these comments.

First, Parfect introduces some basic information and two drawbacks of Douban, a social platform, in the article. One is that many of the movie reviews left on Douban is linked to personal commercial value. Second, many of the reviews are regulated and restricted by official bodies.

Secondly, Parfect outlines the obstacles that Jing and Sun encounter on their way to falling in love. The first is that the two people have different families of origin, which leads to a different mindset when falling in love. Jing's family is not well-off, hence she is destined to carry more family responsibilities and family missions. In contrast, Sun grew up in a family of high officials and did not have to endure the poverty and oppression of life. Therefore, he can have more time to pursue his love. However, this pure love is presented through the film as if Zhang is satirizing the freedom of the new era youth for sex, compared to the Mao era when people were closed-mouthed about sex.

Thus, on Douban netizens notices that some bad comments of Under the hawthorn tree are derived from the movie for the sexual description of the implication. Netizens believe that Zhang mentioned extensively during the movie's promotion that the movie is about a pure love story. However, in many scenes in the movie shows the hint of the sex behavior and sexual desires, such as, one scene that Sun only wants make the fry rice with Jing, one scene that Sun lying in a bed with jing while in the hospital, another scene that Sun lying in the hospital bed and he put his hand on jing's intimate parts, etc.

However, there are many people who maintain an appreciative review of the film. First, many of the lines and plot settings in the movie are full of romance like a prose poem. Secondly, the film does not portray material beauty but promotes simple and spiritual love.

Overall, Parfect's article summarizes the good and bad points of the movie through the comments of netizens on the platform Douban. More than anything else, the author praises the film's good points and also points out its shortcomings, thus serving as a neutral and objective evaluation.

Comparative Analysis

Introduction to comparison objects

Ajie and Min first met

New Endless Love is a 1993 Cantonese movie directed by Er Dongsheng and starring Lau Ching Wan and Yuen Wing Yi. It was released in Hong Kong on November 11, 1993 and grossed 30 million Hong Kong dollars and won several awards.

The film has similarities with Under the Hawthorn Tree, which we studied: both tell the story of a couple in love who are hindered by life's difficulties but do not give up on each other, but in the end, illness separates them forever. The difference is that in New Endless Love, it's the woman who gets sick, and in Under the Hawthorn Tree, it's the man who gets sick. These are two romantic films with different settings, locations and languages, but with similar plots, both of which have been successful. They both choose to end the romance by having one of the main characters die after falling ill, and I want to explore the necessity of this ending and the difference in gender settings in the films.

Lao san and Jinqiu

Under the Hawthorn Tree revolves around Jingqiu, an ordinary innocent girl with low self-esteem due to her family's composition, and details her acquaintance and love with the simple and kind-hearted Lao San, whom Jingqiu only sees for the last time in the end. He was saved by an optimistic and cheerful girl, Min, who died of bone cancer when everything seemed to be getting better.


The same point on the character setting of the main character

New Endless Love" is a film in which the protagonist has career problems, although the time period is different, the protagonist of both films has a bad personality, irritable, offended a lot of people (including his ex-girlfriend and her friends), which led to his writing songs did not hit. He lives in a dilapidated building with very poor sound insulation, which prevents him from practicing and writing songs at all times, and his sleep is disturbed by his neighbors. under the Hawthorn Tree, Jing Qiu is timid and cautious because her father's composition is not right and her mother is often criticized. But as the film is set during the most repressive period of the Cultural Revolution after China's liberation, Jing's mother often teaches her not to publicize her impending conversion, or she prevents her from seeing Lao San for the sake of Jing's future, because love makes people make mistakes, and if they do, Jing's future will be ruined and she will "never be able to hold her head up. The reason is that love is easy to make mistakes, and if you make a mistake, Jingqiu's future will be ruined and she will "never be able to hold her head up. In their careers, the protagonists of both films need the help of their significant others, such as Ajie who, with Min's encouragement, composes a song and contacts a record company with the intention of recording it for publication. For example, Jingqiu successfully turned around under the careful care and support of Lao San. I believe that this is also one of the two love movies touching: who does not want to have a person stand firmly by their side when they are unlucky and difficult, and support them without reluctance? This is also the fantasy of many people for love.

The same points that obstruct love factors

Both films feature a mother who "gets in the way" of their relationship. In New Endless Love, Jie and Min are neighbors, and their relationship is soon discovered by Min's mother. As Jie had mistakenly identified Amin's mother as Amin, as well as Jie's initial pimply, cross-faced image, Amin's mother did not support the two being together. The mother of Amin did not stop the two from separating very strongly, but only talked to Jie, saying that the family was in difficulty and that the singing career could not be separated from Amin, so that Jie would not take Amin to the record company. And Under the Hawthorn Tree, there is Lao San driving Jing Qiu on a bicycle, in order to keep people from finding Jing Qiu, gave her a white jacket. The two just ride faster and faster, laughing louder and louder, only to be seen by Jing Qiu's mother when they are about to stop. The two are not separated and scolded by Jing Qiu's mother, but she uses the fact that Jing Qiu is in the most critical period of her career to persuade Lao San that for the sake of Jing Qiu's career, the two should not go out in dangerous times. The two families, Min and Jing Qiu's family, the father figure seems to be missing, obstructing love is also the mother, using the career. This seems to reflect a common phenomenon in East Asian families, where the father figure is chronically absent from the family, and the mother is too much in charge - still judging her children, who have reached adulthood, on their choice of partner and persuading them to separate from their lover when she thinks it is not right. Only unlike the more feudal era of arranged marriages and parental rodeo, both mothers are not tough enough or hysterical, but use reason to persuade, and in the end actually both the children's free love.

When parting, Lao-san and Jing-qiu embrace each other across the shore

The similarities as well as the differences in the endings

Amin's bone cancer recurrence

Of course, the most classic similarity between the two films is that one of the protagonists of both films eventually died due to the disease; in New Endless Love, Min suffers from bone cancer, which was cured once, but recurred when the two were preparing to see a concert together. "You will definitely write a better (song) for me again". Under the Hawthorn Tree, Lao-san, who often works overtime in the exploration team, suffers from leukemia and hides from Jingqiu that it is just a cold. In the end, Jing Qiu was not able to accompany him through the treatment phase and only saw his last face. The two films that mainly depict love are not the traditional happy ending, but choose to let one of the main characters die to preserve the most pure part of love. The personal opinion is that such a plot set up can make the love "fresh", let people remember the fragment of their love, remember the beauty of their relationship in the relationship, and do not have to think about the follow-up of the food and salt, those trivial, may let the relationship deteriorate day after day boring life. (There is an old saying that marriage is the grave of love.) Moreover, death, as the unavoidable but most grievous aspect of life, is the most emotionally touching, especially when it is due to illness, an uncontested and sudden death. I believe that many viewers watching the clip of the death of the protagonist, Jingqiu repeated "I am Jingqiu" over and over again, hoping that Lao San respond to her, Ajay crying to Amin's clip, can empathize with the character together with the tears, and sigh the beauty of their feelings. Many romantic movies such as "Memories of First Love", "A Millionaire's First Love", "The Bride of the Last Month of Life" have taken this ending, as have many other works of art in other genres, such as the famous Japanese animation "April is Your Lie", the famous Chinese online novel "Little Rose" (the writer is Little Red Apricot, the novel has gained close to 70,000 people's collections, the average chapter click more than 100,000)[10] and The vast majority of novels of this type of subject matter, will choose an unruly or wistful male protagonist, let the gentle, considerate and lovely female protagonist to help him walk through the difficulties, or let him give up some pursuit to fall in love with her.

But Under the Hawthorn Tree is very different. It chooses a female point of view and lets the male protagonist act as her support, to back her up in her endeavors. This is very unusual, and although the author may not have intended it, this choice may be the reason Under the Hawthorn Tree was not well received by many male viewers. (In the movie review column, we mentioned that some viewers thought the bed scene failed because Lao San held back and didn't do anything to Jing Qiu) Its setting for the male character has some possibility of elevating reality (although its original author Amy claimed she adapted it from a friend's real-life experience) The image of Lao San is too noble for the average male and doesn't fit their desires. But on the contrary, for many female viewers, the third is undoubtedly a near-perfect partner image: considerate and handsome, willing to save money to buy things for themselves in the era of material scarcity. The author and her panelists believe that the image of Lao-san is very much like the "wife" in traditional Chinese literature. He is always behind the scenes, and the whole text does not depict his career, but only focuses on how good he is to the protagonist, and when the protagonist "achieves fame and fortune", he becomes invisible behind the scenes, and dies in the film, leaving his purest and most beautiful memories to the protagonist and the audience. There are two old Chinese sayings that prove this point: the three great joys of life are promotion, wealth, death and wife, and behind every successful man there is a woman who supports him. These two sayings illustrate extremely well that for a long time, it seems to be women who support their partners behind the scenes, and New Endless Love, like many romance works, chooses to let the female protagonist to enlighten the male protagonist and finally sacrifice in a flash-in-the-pan. The author and her group believe that this is one of the results of the rise of feminism, Under the Hawthorn Tree was released later than New Endless Love, and was influenced by the awakening of female consciousness, and more importantly, the original author of Under the Hawthorn Tree was an American female writer, while the director of New Endless Love was directed by a man. A female writer would think about the characterization from a female perspective, so it is only logical that she would set the protagonist of the story as Jing Qiu and let her partner support her.


A darker, less saturated version of the Cultural Revolution

The difference in the background of the times

In terms of differences, the overall atmosphere, New Endless Love is not so depressing, the protagonist's love is very free, only by the mother, and occasionally the interference of Ajay's ex-girlfriend. Under the Hawthorn Tree, on the other hand, the romance of the two people is underground, unseen, and cannot tell others that they are in love, because during the Cultural Revolution, someone may report them at any time, affecting their respective careers. This is the difference between the two films, which are set in different times.

The difference between sickness episodes

New Endless Love spends about 1/3 of its time on the male protagonist accompanying the female protagonist to cure her illness, and the description of the female protagonist's illness is more detailed, which makes people more empathetic and aware of the damage that illness does to people, to the female protagonist's body and mind, and to her relationships. And Under the Hawthorn Tree directly skipped the description of the male protagonist's leukemia treatment. This is a difference in plot taking and also due to the different times.

A vibrant Hong Kong in the 90s

The difference in the purity of love

In terms of emotional purity, the main character in New Endless Love has an ex-girlfriend, who is still longing for him, which is not in line with the highest pursuit of love for many people, "one life, one couple". However, the good thing is that the ex-girlfriend is not competing with Min in terms of men. On the contrary, the ex-girlfriend Tracy is Min's idol and even brought gifts to encourage her during her hospitalization. And Under the Hawthorn Tree in the two people should be each other's first love, making this relationship more pure and clear, clean and moving.

The difference in Shooting background

New Endless Love is set in the 90s in Hong Kong, a period of prosperity, so although the main family lives in a more rundown house, the overall color palette is also on the bright side, and Er Dongsheng took more in close-up, to reflect the expressions of the two protagonists when interacting, attitude. Under the Hawthorn Tree, the period of China's Cultural Revolution, also known as the Ten Year Catastrophe, Zhang Yimou chose a large number of low-saturation, dark colors to highlight the kind of wrong step in life will have no hope of a depressing atmosphere, and because the film is aesthetic style, he selected many distant scenes, the protagonists placed in a larger landscape, so that they look like a picture. to reflect the beauty of their love.

Alternative Interpretation

Different views with scholars

Here we want to challenge some reviews from the scholars. Some scholars argue that "Under the Hawthorn Tree" is one of the best pure love movies in the world at that time 2010 for a few reasons. First of all, the film is praised for its authentic portrayal of pure love, capturing the innocence, passion, and intensity of the character's emotions. It avoids excessive melodrama or contrived plot devices, allowing the love story to unfold in a genuine and heartfelt manner. Secondly, the realistic setting. Set during the Cultural Revolution, the film presents a challenging historical backdrop that adds depth and complexity to the love story. The characters' love is tested by societal restrictions, political turmoil, and personal sacrifices, making their connection more poignant and memorable. Thirdly, the emotional depth. "Under the Hawthorn Tree" delves into the deep emotional layers of love, exploring themes of longing, sacrifice, and resilience. The film evokes a range of emotions, from joy and hope to heartache and sorrow, making it a profoundly affecting experience for viewers. Last but not least, is the cinematic beauty. Directed by Zhang Yimou, the film is visually stunning, with meticulous attention to detail and breathtaking cinematography. The aesthetics contribute to the overall atmosphere and enhance the emotional impact of the love story. It is important to note that opinions on the "best" pure love film can vary widely, as people have different tastes and preferences. While "Under the Hawthorn Tree" has garnered acclaim for its portrayal of pure love, there are many other exceptional films in the genre that may resonate with individuals in different ways. However, there were so many problematic policies implemented showing in the film, causing some different angle of perspectives against these scholars' pure love film reviews.

Example 1 "Branch scene"

To be more specific, one of the most famous scenes (timestamp: 21:00 - 23:23) in "Under the Hawthorn Tree" is the "branch scene." In this pivotal moment, Jingqiu (played by Zhou Dongyu) and Lao San (played by Shawn Dou) are walking through a small stream. With not too much light in sight, Lao San tries to hold Jingqiu's hand, however, Jingqiu rejects it because of her shyness. Later, Lao San uses a tree branch as his hand for Jingqiu to hold to protect Jingqiu from walking through the little stream. The two characters' hands are slowly and slowly getting closer and close. Consequently, Jingqiu and Lao San's hands finally are holding together and the shyness between these two characters is fully expressed here. This "branch scene" has been praised because of its emotional impact and the visual beauty it carries. The tenderness and care between the two characters, as well as their resourcefulness and resilience in the face of adversity. It symbolizes their blossoming love and their willingness to support and protect each other amidst challenging circumstances. This scene has resonated with audiences and has been widely discussed and celebrated as a poignant and memorable moment in the film. However, we disagree that this scene is a beautiful scene because we can see the oppression of the government on teens at that time. They do not dare to show their emotion and real feeling to each other under Mao's "up the mountain and down to the villages" policy because Jingqiu going to the village is for study and write revolutionary textbooks. Falling in love with educated youth is not allowed under cultural revolutions. As a result, educated young people can only suppress their inner thoughts and this completely defies our definition of pure love.

Example 2 "Wait for you forever"

Furthermore, another famous example is (timestamp: 35:20 - 38:40) when Lao San tells Jingqiu he will wait for her " one year and one month, will wait for her till she is twenty-five years old and wait for her till forever." At first glance, people would like to say Lao San is loyal to Jingqiu and some scholars argue this is really pure love film because of this scene. Two characters are shy and making some promises here. However, from our point of view, this is also another result of the oppression of the cultural revolutionary policy. To explain, In this scene, Jingqiu and Lao San are secretly dating in the grove. Lao San told Jingqiu that his family will arrange some bling dates for him. And Lao San makes the waiting promise with Jingqiu for her to be at ease. Jingqiu told Lao San she needs to get a full-time job at school so she cannot get into any trouble now, which means she cannot blatantly fall in love with her love because "educated youth falling in love is a trouble" under Mao's "up the mountain and down to the villages" policy. Moreover, Jingqiu's mom does not allow San to affect Jingqiu's internship in the village because this is her only chance to get a full-time school job and make money for their entire family's survival. That is why Jingqiu said her mom does not let her date any man before she is twenty-five. In addition, the family background difference is pointed out directly by Jingqiu's mom. Lao San is from a pretty wealthy family and Jingqiu is from a poor family. The disparity in status might be one of the reasons that Jingqiu's mom is not willing two of them to date. The hierarchy system is still profoundly affecting people's life.

Pure Love vs. Revolution

As a result, the love elements are exactly existing in the film "Under the Hawthorn Tree" and we agree it. However, we disagree the scholar's argument that this is the best "pure" love film. The policies of the time dictate that individuals must prioritize the goals of the revolution over personal happiness and individual desires. Love becomes a contested space where the characters must make difficult choices between their personal feelings and the greater ideological cause, and the film portrays the conflict between love and policy as a deeply emotional and complex struggle. It highlights the sacrifices that individuals make for the sake of the collective, while also emphasizing the human need for love, connection, and personal fulfillment.


In conclusion, "Under the Hawthorn Tree," directed by Ann Hui, has elicited diverse responses from critics and audiences since its release. Many critics have praised the film for its unique portrayal of a love story set against the backdrop of political unrest, appreciating its aesthetics and narrative techniques.

Throughout our research, we have noticed the distinctive artistic techniques used in the film, the depiction of characters and events, as well as the integration of the film with political and cultural themes.

Our group agrees that "Under the Hawthorn Tree" is worth recommending to a wider audience. It contains love, political unrest, and personal sacrifice, allowing viewers to understand how people responded when the revolutionary power of love was restrained by oppression. We believe that the intertwining of love and oppression reflects the reality of the characters' experiences, elevating the film from a simple love story to a compelling exploration of socio-political dynamics. It is an exploration of love and repression, something that a few other films can achieve.



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  4. "evaluation".
  5. Ding, Yueyang (2023/06/17). "awards". Check date values in: |date= (help)
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