Course:ASIA355/2023/Raise the Red Lantern

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Imprisoned Within the Wall of Patriarchy: The Perplexity and Resilience of Women

Group Members' Contributions

C Z: 4.1, 4.1.1, 4.1.2, 4.2, 4.2.1, 4.2.2, 8

C D: 2.1, 2.2, 3.1, 3.2, 3.3

E Z: 6

Y W: 5.1 5.2 5.3 5.4

Z H: 7


Poster of "Raise the Red Lantern"

Raise the Red Lantern (Simplified Chinese: 大红灯笼高高挂) is a film produced by China Film Co-Production Corporation in the year 1991. Directed by Zhang Yimou and starring Gong Li as Songlian, He Saifei as Meishan, Ma Jingwu as Chen Zuoqian and Cao Cuifen as Zhuoyun, this film won numerous awards. The film is adapted from Su Tong's novel Wives and Concubines (Simplified Chinese: 妻妾成群).


During China's Republican era in the 1920s, Chen Zuoqian, the master of the wealthy Chen family, had three wives named Yuru, Zhuoyun, and Meishan. Due to family circumstances, Songlian, a nineteen-year-old college student was forced by her stepmother to drop out of school and marry into the wealthy Chen family, becoming the Fourth Mistress. The young and beautiful Songlian soon became entangled in the power struggles among the Mistresses for the master's favor. Songlian, desperate for attention, pretends to be pregnant, but her scheme is exposed by Zhuoyun and her maid Yan'er. As punishment, Songlian's lanterns are covered, and she realizes the futility of the competition and becomes depressed. In a drunken state, she accidentally reveals the secret affair between Meishan and the family doctor to Zhuoyun. In adherence to tradition, Meishan is executed, and Songlian, traumatized by the event, becomes mentally unstable. A few years later, the Master marries his fifth wife, while Songlian wanders around the Chen Mansion in her old school uniform.


In section 3, we will introduce some behind-the-scene stories of the film. We will focus on the impact of red lanterns in shaping the identity of the filming location, Qiao's Family Compound. We will also explore the film's visually striking symmetry and how it is adapted from Su Tong's novel Wives and Concubines.

In section 4, we will focus on how this film faced a ban in China but gained popularity among overseas audiences. We will discuss the variation of Chinese opinions on framing and criticisms of character settings. We will also focus on the divergence of the film from the 1990s to the 2000s, both in China and overseas. Views diverged on character portrayal and acceptance of feudal customs. Even now, Raise the Red Lantern remains a topic of debate and divides opinions.

In section 5, we will focus on how the film critiques pre-communist China's feudal society and explore the oppression of women under Confucian customs. We will examine the symbolism of the red lanterns, the role of silence and voice in rebellion, and the use of the stationary camera and distant surveillance to depict power dynamics. Additionally, we will analyse body languages and space in the film, and also discuss the disunity between sound and image as a reflection of ongoing power struggles.

In section 6, we will examine the contrasting approaches of male and female directors in two similar films. Raise the Red Lantern and The Third Wife delve into power dynamics, oppression, and gender roles in traditional East Asian societies. These films portray the challenges faced by women in patriarchal systems and their quest for self-identity. We will focus on how these films reveal the oppressive nature of these societies and the ongoing struggle for empowerment through poetic language and vivid visuals.

In section 7, we will approach Raise the Red Lantern in an alternative way. Our focus will be on the symbolism of the red lantern, representing desires within a patriarchal society, the exploration of female agency through the Third Wife's actions, and the concealment of the Master's image as a metaphor for the patriarchy's role in female conflicts. We will also examine the influence of Confucianism on gender roles and the oppressive nature of the patriarchal system portrayed in the film.

The tourist attraction: the Qiao Family Compound

Stories Behind the Film

Red Lanterns: Shaping the Iconic Identity of Qiao Family Compound

Raise the Red Lantern was shot in the Qiao Family Compound. The Qiao Family Compound, originally named Zaizhong Hall, is a courtyard near the ancient city of Pingyao in Shanxi Province. It is an architectural complex build during the Qing Dynasty that covers 9000 square meters and has 6 large courtyards, 19 smaller courtyards and over 300 rooms.[1]

Zhang Yimou’s choice of shooting the film in the central hall of Qiao Family Compound played a significant role in shaping the cultural symbol of compound. As the plot requires, the crew hung a large number of red lanterns in the courtyard during filming, and after the film became an instant hit, these red lanterns were not taken down.[2] Each year, many tourists are attracted to the site mainly to visit the scene from the film. Over time, the red lanterns became a defining feature of the compound, solidifying their place in people's hearts. However, it is important to note that the actual Qiao Family Compound did not have these red lanterns before, and to some extent, the movie has introduced some misleading information about this scenic spot.[3]

Zhao Fei: The Use of Symmetry

The visually striking symmetry of red lanterns and their surroundings

In an interview with Zhao Fei, the head cinematographer of Raise the Red Lantern, he discusses the visual approach taken in the film.

In contrast to Zhang Yimou's earlier film One and Eight, which used "incomplete compositions", Zhao Fei decided to take a different approach in Raise the Red Lantern. They aimed to create a sense of completeness and symmetry in many of the film's scenes.[4] This emphasis on symmetry is especially noticeable throughout the film, with characters positioned in the center of the frame and particular attention paid to visual balance. While this may appear traditional and conservative at first glance, it served a deeper purpose in the context of the story. The aim was to create visual harmony that contrasts with the story's underlying tensions and power struggles. Zhao Fei explains that they strived for perfect symmetry, even going as far as making the actors' hair appear symmetrical to achieve the desired effect. Through the use of visually complete and symmetrical compositions, Raise the Red Lantern achieves a sense of elegance while highlighting the themes of control, order, and confinement in the narrative.

Original Work: Wives and Concubines

Director Zhang Yimou

The film is adapted from Su Tong’s novella Wives and Concubines published by Yuan-Liou Publishing Corporation in 1990. This novel depicts Songlian, an educated female student, who willingly marries into the Chen family, a highly structured and enclosed household. Eventually, she yields to a tragic destiny of mental breakdown due to the competition and power struggles among the wives. It depicts the terrifying sight of traditional Chinese feudal values consuming human nature in a powerful and artistic way.[5]

When this novel was published on the magazine “Harvest”, it got famous in a short time. By recommendation, Zhang Yimou read Su Tong’s work, he was inspired to adapt it into a film. He contacted Su Tong and requested the rights to the adaptation of the novel. In 1991, the film "Raise the Red Lantern” was released and won many awards. [6]

Following the success of Zhang Yimou's film, Su Tong's work was also adapted into many different television dramas, such as the 1992 Taiwanese TV series Raise the Red Lantern,[7] the 2014 Chinese TV drama The Lantern Town (Simplified Chinese: 花灯满城),[8] as well as the Thai drama Mong-Kut-Dok-som (translation: the crown with orange flowers)[9] and many others.

Histories of the Film’s Reception

Raised the Red Lantern was adapted from Su Tong's novel Wives and Concubines, directed by Zhang Yimou and released in 1991. When the film was first released, it was once banned in China for its naked exposure of the corrupt feudal society, but the film was a hit with overseas audiences. The film won the Silver Lion Award for Best Director at the 48th Venice International Film Festival, the BAFTA Award for Best Foreign Language Film, and was nominated for Best Foreign Language Film at the 64th Academy Awards, among many other awards.[10]

Chinese (Local) Audience

The period of 1990s

Although Raised the Red Lantern was once banned when it was first released, it still generated a variety of discussion among mainland Chinese audiences. In 1992, Hu Bin of Shenzhen TV commented on the film's overall framing, which not only used the big red lantern as the core imagery throughout the film, but also used a linear traditional narrative to meticulously divide the four seasons of the year with the characters' dress and scene settings, implying a sense of the story's characters' lives as drama.[11] On the other hand, there are many critical voices. Xuan Cao of the popular film criticism group in Changting, Fujian Province, criticized the film from three aspects: the unpleasant character settings, the faked folklore and the filming techniques. According to Xuan Cao, after seeing the film, people could not be disgusted with the feudal evil, but they thought that the character of Songlian was not ashamed but proud of the setting of the family's downfall to be a little wife.[12] Secondly, Xuan Cao believes that the fake folklore has a divine charm but Zhang Yimou's excessive use of it will make the audience feel bored.[12] Thirdly, the slow paced long shot switch causes the plot to drag at a dull pace, and the overly strong intention of the subject limits the film's performance in local details.[12] Dai Qing, a famous Chinese investigative journalist with the same critical viewpoint, also criticized the plot or elements of the film that did not match the reality, such as the unprofessional Peking Opera actors, the period-defying room decorations that did not match the character of the third wife, and the unappropriated use of the dragon element.[13] (Dai 334-335) All of these reasons failed to move her emotionally or aesthetically, and these details made it difficult for her to be satisfied with the work. [13]

The period of 2000s

The 21st century has entered an era of true online information, where public movie reviews can usually be posted through convenient online platforms. Raised the Red Lantern received a score of 8.7 on the Chinese online platform Douban Movie, with 260,000 people rating it.[14] Of the 50,000-plus people who rated the film, 92 percent of viewers thought it was a good film. Among them, the comment with the highest number of likes reads, "the previous entertainment is still low, so there is the tragedy of the big red lantern. This will be replaced by a wife to give a computer to access the internet. Who cares if Master Chen comes or not?"[14] In the highest praise of the poor comments, netizens commented "really I think this woman is deserved, from the moment she entered the door, a look like everyone owes her money."[14] On the other hand, among the more than 1,000 reviews, the most popular one analyzed the inner state of all the women in the film and titled it "there's really only one woman."[14] The only three poor one-star reviews point to Zhang Yimou's criticism of pseudo-folklore as tradition, the film's narrative technique and its obvious central idea.[14] On Zhihu, another online platform, there were a whopping 31.99 million views and 2,742 discussions.[15] The two words that appear frequently in many posts are "homogenization" and "taming". In a post with more than 2,000 people agreeing, it said "Master Chen of Raised the Red Lantern is really the originator of PUA manipulation."[15]

Western (Foreign) Audience

The period of 1990s

In a 1992 New statement & society journal, Billson expressed his dismay at the move to ban Raised the Red Lantern in mainland China and argued that "with chilling visual formalism, Zhang depicts the casual cruelty built into a way of life that involves elevating oneselfat the expense of others."[16] On the other hand, in Sight and sound journal, Glaessner comments that Raised the Red Lantern is confined to a specific space, and this determines the tone of a story full of jealousy and intrigue.[17] At the same time, Glaessner also comments that Zhang creates an extremely cold emotional world, an effect reinforced by his static, scene-like sequences.[17]

The period of 2000s

In IMDb, Raised the Red Lantern has received a rating of 8.1 with over 30,000 viewers. Among the 133 user reviews, one of the most liked high score reviews says "this is a great movie, like a timeless novel fully realized, directed by a visual genius, from a script of great psychological power. Don't miss this one. It's one of the best ever made."[18] In contrast, the only two one-star reviews said the movie was "overlong and meaningless. "[18] In the 2000 issue of Empire magazine, Parkinson gave Raised the Red Lantern 4 stars and concluded the article with the comment "a haunting, beautiful film ably led by the perfectly understated performances of the main actors. A delight."[19]

During the 1990s, overseas audiences presented a more positive view of the film, and the boldness of the context of exposing the low social status of women in a feudal patriarchal society gave overseas audiences a deeper understanding of the traditional feudal system in China. In mainland China, the film not only exposes traditional bad habits, but even involves political background, so it is more controversial in China. In the 21st century, Chinese society has slowly begun to pay attention to the issue of women's rights, so the topic of oppressed women status in the film has been more widely focused on, and has naturally attracted more recognition and discussion from Chinese audiences. In any case, both Chinese and foreign critics of the film have mentioned that the slow-paced plot consumes interest in the process of watching the film, leading to audience fatigue with the film. On the other hand, a small number of viewers were also dissatisfied with the setting of the characters, as a college-educated female character who was still self-absorbed and accepted the constraints of feudal customs. Of course, most of the viewers consider this as a performance of being assimilated, which can be accepted logically. This unique way of Zhang Yimou's film creation still cannot be recognized by some viewers.

Scholarly Literature Review

A Feminist Critique of Confucian Customs

As one of the representative works directed by Zhang Yimou, Raise the Red Lantern uses a wealthy landowner’s household as a metaphor for the social fabric and values of pre-communist China. Joann Lee states in his analysis article that “the film touches on the human condition in pre-communist China, and stands as a condemnation of the feudal society wrought by Confucianism. " [20]While men possessed power and control, women were treated as objects with no identity. In the film, the face blurred portrait of the patriarch suggests that there is no need for the audience to see his face because he stands for the ever-present oppressiveness of Confucian customs.[20]

According to Joann Lee, although Songlian appears to be the victim of her stepmother initially and has her desires as an educated woman , she is seduced by power and transforms. In the film, foot massage symbolizes more than a fetish. [20]Every night while a woman enjoys the haunting beat of tiny pebbles, she knows that power comes with Master's favor and will compete to earn it.[20] The uses of red lanterns throughout the film represent the Master's choice of having different women, yet this tradition creates a paradox. While lanterns are supposed to provide light and to enlighten, they become symbols of oppression. Lighting up the lantern means providing an opportunity for the women to fulfill Confucian obligations by producing male heirs. [20]

When Songlian generates power by making a false story that she is pregnant, that power is temporary. She gains satisfaction from enforcing rules on other less powerful women in the household, but eventually she gets trapped in a dead end with the guilt for two deaths. She has no ability to live as an individual with a sense of self identity in this patriarchal system , nor does she want to live as a successful concubine. The ultimate hysteria "provides an outlet for the repressed feminine voice.” [20]

A Struggle Through Voice and Silence

Fong believes that Zhang Yimou depicts an ideology of feminine lack and feminine fortitude through women's voices and silences.[21] In the film, foot massage signifies a privilege for the chosen wife as its sound can be heard from all quarters of the Compound. For other wives, this sound becomes a penalty or displeasure. Once they recognize the foot-massage as a privilege, their desire is stimulated. This organization of desire and frustration strengthens the master's power. [21] Songlian, other wives and even the female servant are drawn into this power system.

In the scene in which Meishan sings opera on the rooftop, her voice becomes a weapon to disrupt and displease the privileged wife for her own pleasure. At other times, a woman's voice can be dangerous and cause tragedy. For example, the second wife Zhuoyun leaks the secret of Meishan's affair and Songlian's fake pregnancy, leading to their defeat. [21]

When the servant Yaner's secret is exposed, the eldest wife and Songlian order the penalty to Yaner. They let themselves be used by the Master's plan- follow the old custom. In this situation, their voices are really their silence, muted by their master's power. On the other hand, Yaner refuses to accept the logic that maids are only maids. Her silence is a feminist voice that revolts the patrilineal law.[21]

Despite her struggle in the master's power system, Fong argues that Songlian is still a character with rebellious spirit. Her desire is not ambition and she seeks only the physical pleasure that foot massage provides. Therefore, she is not a helpless sex-object. After her wedding night, she attends her first meal in a grey-white dress (against Chinese custom) and asks for spinach and bean curd instead of meat. By doing this she clarifies that she retains her past identity and remains self-directed. [21]When she lights the red lanterns in Meishan's room and plays the gramophone records, she gives voice to Meishan and the other murdered woman. [21]In the final scene, her endless movements disturb the Compound's courtyards and their symmetrical roof borders, implying that the balance has been broken and will never return to stillness again. Although she makes no speech, this“feminine madness is the disease invading the masculine body of tradition." [21]

The Heterogeneity Implies a Battle of The Sexes

As Jacqueline Loeb suggests, Zhang Yimou's use of a stationary camera creates a tension between the movements of human beings and the rigid structures around them. Throughout the film, there are constant shots from locations above the compound. In these silent shots from overhead, we can see wives and their servants. This prison world with little tolerance for imbalance is the metaphor of power relations within social institutions. [22]

 According to Jacqueline Loeb, the panoptic camera produces a sense of distant surveillance, but sound travels beyond the boundaries and becomes the subversion. In the scene in which Songlian meets Feipu, his music carries creativity and unspoken desire between them. Sound serves as a channel from the compound frozen in time to a feeling of freedom.[22] When Songlian witnesses the men carry Meishan into the death house, the shot is so distant that we can barely see anything, yet the sound of screaming communicates the horror, as if these two mediums are fighting to determine which one will be in control. One is trying to hide the reality and the other one exposes it. [22]

The same conflict can be observed in other scenes. When Songlian tells the master that there must be a ghost in the estate, his response sounds like a documentary voice-over, but as the camera turns to the master lying behind, it is clear that his voice does not emerge from that location. In the scene in which Yaner becomes ill and the master insists on offering her the best medical care, his voice has the same disorienting quality. Jacqueline Loeb believes that there is a message in this disunity: the master's voice-over is disguised as dialogue and the true dialogue will never be present. This purposeful disharmony between the two mediums indicates an ongoing power play and reveals the ideological implications.[22]

Using Space and Body Language To Investigate the Power Relation

Hsiu-Chuang Deppman analyses the contradiction between transgression and passivity through different body languages and space. In the movie, Songlian's female body is the symbolic site of masculine conquest while the master's identity is obscured by camera angle, light or distance. On the wedding night, Songlian is ordered to raise the lantern so that the master can evaluate. A strong sense of shame and passivity is present with the master's comments and sexualizing gaze. In later scenes, Songlian takes up most of the frame and the close-up shots amplify her vulnerability. This imbalanced presentation of Songlian's sexualized image highlights the patriarch threat and power relations in the household.[23]

 Deppman explores the symbolic meaning of rooftop chamber and interprets it with the dramatic death of Meishan (the third wife). The death chamber appears to be an erect phallus that reaches out to the sky. It stands for the masculine energy, a building to defend the master's masculine honor. [23]This cell-like space is the instrument for death with a sense of confinement. Zhang Yimou's cinematography emphasizes the rigid square pattern high walls, which create a system of rules, orders, signs, and conventions. The system confines women' minds and bodies. With no doubt, the death chamber is situated on the top of the system and serves as an oppressive apparatus.[23]

 When Songlian encounters the chamber for the first time, the extreme long shot of Chen compound and rooftop overwhelms her presence, suggesting how the patriarch becomes the architect of woman's destiny. [23]In the final scene on the roof, in which Meishan is executed, Songlian screams the truth and reality: “Murder!” However, the ending of the film suggests that her future is hopeless and uncertain. This critical realism reveals the corruption of the system and this conventional ideological power still persists.[23]

Comparative Analysis

Songlian gets a foot massage if the master selects her for the night

Raise the Red Lantern and The Third Wife are two fascinating films that explore the themes of power, oppression, and gender roles in traditional Confucian society. While both films are set in the same time period and share some similarities, they differ in their portrayal of the female protagonist's journey towards empowerment and self-realization.

The Third Wife premiered in September 2018, almost 17 years after the release of Raise the Red Lantern . Film commentaries on YouTube mention The Third Wife as the Vietnamese version of Raise the Red Lantern ,because they are both about the tragic life and struggles of Asian women in older times. Both directors use beautiful, poetic and vivid graphics to show the environment women lived in; this is unique to Asian films.[24] One major similarity mentioned by the movie critiques between the two films is their portrayal of marriage as a site of competition and conflict. In Raise the Red Lantern, the female protagonist is forced to compete with her husband's other wives for his attention and affection.[20] Ultimately, they engage in fights that hurt them all. Nobody is winning the competition with fate. Similarly, in The Third Wife, the young girl is married off to a much older man and must navigate the complicated relationships between the other wives.[25]

Both films use poetic language and scenes. For example, the foot massage in Raise the Red Lantern has a strong sexual meaning associated with it. Zhang uses this to demonstrate the power of reproduction, as giving birth to a son is one of the most important tasks for women to complete.[26] In The Third Wife, May is offered a chicken egg on her body at her wedding night; this is a symbol of having many children as well.[24]

An egg is placed on May's body at her wedding night

Both films also demonstrate the ways in which women were marginalized and oppressed in traditional East Asian societies. They highlight the lack of agency women had in choosing their own fate and the suffocating nature of patriarchal customs and traditions. The women in both films are subjected to strict codes of behavior and are expected to conform to rigid gender roles such as giving birth to a son.[20]

From the perspective of Chinese and Vietnamese cultural backgrounds and traditions, there are a lot of similarities. For example, the protagonist of The Third Wife, May, meets her husband for the first time at their wedding. And she wears a red dress at her wedding. This coincides with Zhang Yimou’s usage of red at wedding. Red shows the passion and livelihood of women. In both films, red seems weak and pathetic in the background.[27]

One major difference between the two films is the way they depict the role of women in traditional Confucian society. Raise the Red Lantern portrays women as passive victims of patriarchal oppression, while The Third Wife presents them as active agents of change who are at least trying to fight back. In the end of The Third Wife, Xuan’s daughter cuts off her long hair, making her look like a young boy. This action gives the audience some hope that women are brave enough to embrace the awakening of resistance and independent consciousness.

In Raise the Red Lantern, the female protagonist is trapped in a loveless marriage with a wealthy man who already has three other wives. She is forced to compete with her rivals for his attention and affection, which ultimately leads to resentment and betrayal. The film highlights the suffocating nature of traditional Chinese customs and the lack of agency women had in choosing their own fate.[20] On the other hand, The Third Wife depicts a young girl who is married off to a much older man as his third wife. Instead of accepting her fate as a victim, she gradually gains agency by asserting herself and forming meaningful relationships with other women in the household. She ultimately rebels against the traditions and tries to end her daughter’s predicted tragic fate.

The Master married the fifth wife in the end of the movie. She wears a red dress

The perspectives of male and female directors are different, and these differences can be reflected in various aspects of film production. For storytelling, male and female directors may have different focuses on certain themes and plot elements. For example, when describing tragic story about women in Raise the Red Lantern, Zhang Yimou emphasizes conflicts and battles between characters, while a female director pays more attention to delicate emotions and emotional depth, as in The Third Wife. The Third Wife has dialogues about sex and depicts the protagonist as lesbian curious.[25] These topics are still considered taboo in Vietnam even now. This shows a more open attitude to sexuality compared to Raise the Red Lantern. In The Third Wife, even though there are competitions among women, there are also strong bonds of support. For example, the other wives try to give the protagonist more knowledge about sex. And, after the protagonist figures out that Xuan, the second wife has incestuous relationship with her stepson, she tries to protect her interest and keeps it as a secret. Thus, Xuan does not suffer like Meishan in Raise the Red Lantern. This reflects the female director's inner tenderness when describing the relationship between women.[25]

May wears a red outfit at her wedding

Another key difference between the two films is their visual style. Male and female directors may have different perspectives and aesthetic preferences, which means they may focus on different aspects such as composition, use of color, and lighting. Raise the Red Lantern is known for its elaborate sets and costumes, which create a sense of opulence, grandeur and depression. In contrast, The Third Wife has a more understated and naturalistic approach, using lush cinematography to capture the beauty of the Vietnamese countryside.[25]

Despite these constraints, both films also show how women could resist and overcome their circumstances. The female protagonists in both films gradually gain agency and assert themselves against the oppressive systems in which they find themselves. Ultimately, Raise the Red Lantern and The Third Wife offer nuanced portrayals of the complexities of gender, power, and oppression in traditional East Asian societies.

An Alternative Interpretation

Joann Lee argues that although Songlian and other female characters are all victims of feudalism, her explanation of the contradictions embodied in Songlian reduces the criticism of the feminist film.[28] She says that Songlian could not resist the temptation of power contained in the old order. I think this mistakenly transforms Songlian from an object of power to a subject of power, because it points the core of the problem to the woman itself rather than the system itself, thus obscuring the nature of oppression. I want to use the theory in Foucault's "Discipline and Punishment" attempts to restore how Songlian is gradually alienated in the panoramic prison of "Chen Mansion". In the film, feet, lanterns, and food not only symbolize power relations, their flow through the plot also reveals the process of the fall of Songlian. 

First foot massage Songlian receives
Losing foot massage

Compared with Joann Lee's perspective, I prefer to view the special service of foot message as a discipline of feudal women rather than the intrinsic connection between "fetishism" and "castration complex". Foot message is part of the rules of the family and part of the privilege: only concubines who the Master want them to sexually that night are eligible. Songlian is "fortunate" to receive this right on her first night in the family. Footage from Long Shot to Medium Close Up reveals Songlian's doubts and trepidation about the ritual. The servants expertly dried her feet, spread a soft cloth and took out several small hammers. In ancient China (at least after the Song Dynasty), feet were considered part of a woman's naked body and were forbidden to be displayed in front of men other than their husbands. It is the bearer of the gaze and sexual hegemony over women in the patriarchal society . The sound of foot message resembles the sound of having sex. The ignorant and frozen expression of Songlian, who has just arrived, shows her slight resistance. On the one hand, this implies that the service is not designed to please women, that is, not every woman instinctively likes and accepts the feeling of it; on the other hand, it reflects Songlian's inner rejection of the power imposed on her. Her psychology is discovered by the old servant. That's why she said that she would gradually adapt (the rules here). The student outfit on Songlian means that she was still in an undomesticated state at that time. It is precisely because the simple, nonviolent rituals made her unable to vent or even detected her resistance, she can only force her heart to rationalize this fresh rule. This does not mean that she voluntarily surrendered to power, but that her spirit is being paralyzed by the magic of power, making her lose her sense of self. According to Foucault's theory, discipline as a procedure in which each action dictates direction, force, and time. The continuity of actions is also predetermined. Time permeates the flesh, and so does all kinds of elaborate power controls. With this comes the connection between the flesh and the posture: discipline is not just about teaching or imposing a series of special postures. It also creates an optimal connection between the posture and the whole body, which is the condition for efficiency and speed. Then there is the connection between the flesh and the object: discipline defines every relationship between the flesh and the object it manipulates. It depicts a delicate bite between the two.[29] Hammer feet, as the way for the male master to exercise authority, have always been a set of disciplines centered on the will of men. It builds a tolerance in the woman's mind, allowing her to associate sensory stimuli with the meaning of the act. The thrill of deriving resources from power is constructed on an addiction to symbolic sexuality. 

It is the punishment off cutting off supplies that requires a process of another implement. The reason why discipline can come true depends on the effectiveness of its constraints. Just as the greatest torture for a drug addict is the confiscation of his drugs, the greatest punishment for a power-obsessed person is to make her lose power. Losing power means losing all the values and resources attached to power. However, for women such as Songlian, they are not the holders of power, but the objects of power controlled by those in power. The valve that controls them is their innate desire. The only way for women deprived of the means of production to survive is to receive handouts and arrangements from their masters. The desire for this security and the fear of abandonment forces them to hold on to their male masters. The power in his hands will determine their fate and the quality of their lives. However, they have to absolutely obey him and fulfill all his will, including sexual needs. If they fail or resist, they are punished immediately. The sign of punishment is failure in sexual selection. They not only lose their right to sleep with the male master, but also the lighting of red lantern, ordering their own dishes and foot message are all canceled. Another evidence that Songlian did not actively fall into the cult and pursuit of power was that she lost her temper with the male master. Her dissatisfaction expressed her intention to rebel. But the man immediately released his punishment for her - went to the room of the third wife, Mei Shan. Songlian sat alone in the center of the room, with her eyes closed, imagining what it would feel like to be hammered on her feet. Her rebellion was dissolved in punishment, resulting in contradictions in her character and a vicious cycle of constant pursuit of power.


The majority of the audience had a positive opinion of Raised the Red Lantern, and they were concerned with and approved of the core theme of the film about the miserable marriage system suffered by women in the feudal patriarchal society. Only a very small number of people expressed their opinions about the boring and slow-paced narrative style of the film, or the details of the film's set-up or characterization, which were not strict and logical enough. Our group unanimously agreed that Raised the Red Lantern is a recommendable film, as it shows the social structure and distorted values of old China under the feudal rituals in a confined and closed space. Master Chen's face, which never appears in front of the camera, hints at the omnipresent oppression of Confucian customs and ideology. The red lanterns and foot massages in the film are an invisible form of female captivity, placing women in a natural position to fulfill a so-called "female duties". Although the film is slightly bizarre through a series of long boring shots and the use of red and gray as the tone of the film, it also highlights the lack of freedom and action of women in choosing their destiny, thus demonstrating the suffocating bad habits of a patriarchal society.


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  22. 22.0 22.1 22.2 22.3 Loeb, Jacqueline (2011 February). "Dissonance Rising: Subversive Sound in Zhang Yimou's Raise The Red Lantern". FILM PHILOSOPHY. 15: 204–219 – via UBC Library Database. line feed character in |title= at position 45 (help); Check date values in: |date= (help)
  23. 23.0 23.1 23.2 23.3 23.4 Deppman, Hsiu-Chuang (Fall 2003). "Body, Space, and Power: Reading the Cultural Images of Concubines in the Works of Su Tong and Zhang Yimou". Modern Chinese Literature and Culture. 15: 121–153 – via JSTOR.
  24. 24.0 24.1 张, 帆 (Spring 2020). "东方电影的诗意表达——谈越南电影《三太太》的符号与语言". 戏剧电影与电视艺术: 167–174 – via CNKI.
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  26. 屈, 彦君 (2019). "浅析《大红灯笼高高挂》的民俗学". 戏剧之家: 82–83 – via CNKI.
  27. 郁轩, 肖涛 (2020). "张艺谋影片中"红"色的色彩运用与对比分析——以电影《红高粱》《大红灯笼高高挂》为例". 新闻传播: 30–31 – via CNKI.
  28. Lee, Lee, Joann (08/02/2012). ""Zhang Yimou's Raise the Red Lantern: Contextual Analysis of Film Through a Confucian/Feminist Matrix"". Intellect discover. Check date values in: |date= (help)
  29. "FOUCAULT(S)". OpenEditionBook. 2017. |first= missing |last= (help); Missing or empty |url= (help)