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The Bargaining Power in Marriage of Chinese and Western Culture Depicted in The Movies

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Facing against the adversity, western is different from eastern culture even though both of the cultures has no bargaining power. Western women tend to express their thoughts and fights for their right. On the contrary, Eastern women endure unfairness by themselves. Ada has chopped off the finger as a punishment of cheating on his husband. But she still has the determination to seek for love and expressed her feeling to his husband. After the death of maidservant and the third wife, Soglian never get a chance to express what she feels to her husband and finally became insane and trapped forever physically and mentally while Chen married the fifth wife. Taylor and Choy admitted that obeying to her husband as a wife is one of the Chinese moral principles. The common phrase “Three Obediences and Four Virtues” was describing that behaviors.

Movie Raise the Red Lantern is Chinese film that is released in 1991 and based on the novel Wives and Concubines by Su Ton. It is directed by Yimou Zhang and written by Ni Zhenby. The leading character is acted by Li Gong as Songlian. It has won numerous awards in Belgium, Italy and the UK as well as nominated for best foreign language Film by Academy Awards. Raise the Red Lantern is about women right in the traditional Chinese culture and related to feminism. Feminism is explained as social equality between man and women. The movie presented the oppression of women by included expressions and scenes to display the characteristic of Chinese women status.

In this essay, I am going to compare the bargaining power in marriage and contrast the way of facing adversity between Chinese and Western culture.


Raise the Red Lantern is a cultural drama film and sets in 1920s China. After the death of Sognlian’s father, her stepmother was forced Sognlian who is highly educated 19 years old student to drop out and marry a wealthy and old landlord – Chen to become the fourth mistress. After her arrival, she was enjoyed living with luxurious surroundings and physical enjoyment. Also, her husband indicates which wife he tends to spend the night and have a red lantern lighten and hung outside of the wife‘s house on the daily basis. Sognlian soon discovered that the raise of the red lantern is represented the control power in the household, such as receives the foot massage or servant’s respect. Due to this tradition, the tension between the ladies is intensive. Songlian realizes that she must fight for the favor and the master’s attention. However, because of Songlian’s inexperienced and rebellious, she defeated by the second wife and tragedy kept happen one after another. This tradition described the Chinese female inequality fate in epitome.

Comparison between the two films

Both in western and Chinese culture, women have no bargaining power in marriage. O’Brien stated that Marriages were arranged between families based on property and economic status. In Raise the red lantern, Sognlian’s stepmother arranged the marriage with Chen family for her in order to deal with the family bankrupt. Songlian expressed that there is no choice for her to marry what kind of man she wants (Da Hong Deng Long Gao Gao Gua: Raise the Red Lanterns. Peking, China: China Film Co-Production Corp. ). This scene shows the Chinese marriage put family needs at the most important position rather than love or attraction. Similarly, in The Piano, the same situation happens on Ada who is a mute woman. Ada revealed that she marries to a man that she never meets (The Piano: A Jane Campion Film. Toronto, Ont: Columbia Tristar Home Video). Therefore, in both movies mean all the marriage are selected by their parents.

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The Bargaining Power In Marriage Of Chinese And Western Culture Depicted In The Movies. (2020, March 16). GradesFixer. Retrieved January 28, 2022, from
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