Crows and Sparrows (1949)

Translated by Christopher Rea

MCLC Resource Center Publication (Copyright April 2020)

Shanghai, 1949
The Peak Film Industries Corp., Ltd. (Kunlun)
Director: Zheng Junli
Screenplay: Shen Fu, Lin Gu, Xu Tao, Chen Baichen, Zhao Dan, and Zheng Junli
Cast: Zhao Dan, Wu Yin, Li Tianji, Huang Zongying, Wei Heling, Shangguan Yunzhu, Sun Daolin, Wang Bei

Main characters:

Boss Xiao (Zhao Dan), aka Little Broadcast, and Mrs. Xiao (Wu Yin), 28 or 29 years old, commodities speculators and parents of three young boys, ages 5, 7, and 9, who live in the front apartment on the ground floor

Kong Youwen (Wei Heling), over 50 years old, an editor at a publishing house, and the true owner of the rowhouse; he lives in a small back room on the ground floor

Hou Yibo (Li Tianji), 45 years old, a mid-ranking official in the Ministry of Defense of the Republic of China, Nanking; he spends weekends with Yu Xiaoying

Yu Xiaoying (Huang Zongying), 24 or 25 years old, lives full time in the upstairs apartment; other residents address her as “Mrs. Hou.”

Hua Jiezhi (Sun Daolin), over 30 years old, and Mrs. Hua (Shangguan Yunzhu), given name Yuan Jiajin, 30 years old, a middle-school teacher and his wife, who live with their 5-year-old daughter in the tingzijian, the back apartment over the kitchen.

Ah Mei (Wang Bei), 16 or 17 years old, a girl from the countryside working as maidservant of Yu Xiaoying and Hou Yibo. 


[Opening Credits]

Producers: Xia Yunhu and Ren Zongde
Screenplay: A collective work by Shen Fu, Lin Gu, Xu Tao, Chen Baichen, Zhao Dan, Zheng Junli
Lead Screenwriter: Chen Baichen

CAST (in order of appearance) and Crew:

Old Wei: Zhang Lide
Yu Xiaoying: Huang Zongying
Ah Mei:  Wang Bei
Boss Xiao:  Zhao Dan
Mrs. Xiao: Wu Yin
Big Mao: Xu Weijie
Second Mao: Qiu Huan
Little Mao: Ge Meiqiang
Hua Jiezhi: Sun Daolin
Mrs. Hua: Shangguan Yunzhu
Wei Wei: Wang Lulu
Kong Youwen: Wei Heling
Hou Yibo: Li Tianji
Old Liu:  Ji Mengshi
Old Zhao: Fu Botang
Old Xu: Tian Guangcai
Principal:  Li Baoluo
Director Li: He Jianfei
Xiao Wu:  Zhang Qian
Assistant Manager Hu: Miao Zhusan
Female visitor: Xu Lan
Security agent A:  Cheng Mo
Security agent B: Guan Peng
Thug:   Zhang Zhizhi
Man handing out bread: Wang Lan
Doctor: Shi LingProduction Manager: Wang Lingu
Cinematography:  Miao Zhenhua, Hu Zhenhua
Assistant Cinematographer: Shen Xilin
Gaffer: Lu Qisheng
Sound Recording: Li Liehong
Recording Assistant:  Wu Hua
Set Design: Ding Chen
Art Design: Niu Baorong, Xu Xing
Production Manager: Zhu Fuxiang
Music: Wang Yunjie
Dubbing: Ding Bohe
Editing: Wu Tingfang
Printing: Zhou Jiaoda, Xu Erqian, Wu Zengrong
Script Manager: Zhu Honggang
Script Supervisors: Huang Zumo, Gao Heng
Makeup: Wang Tiebin
Props: Yao Zhirong
Costumes:  Cao Ming
Set Coordinator: Liang Yingjun
Director: Zheng Junli

[Intertitle: Winter, 1948. Our People’s Liberation Army has completely wiped out the enemy in the Huaihai region. At this time, in Nanjing and in Shanghai, lackeys of the thuggish Chiang Kai-shek clique, in their death throes, intensify their oppression of the people, even as they make preparations to scatter like chickens and flee like running dogs…]

[Page of newspaper advertisements: Apartment building for sale; Seeking to purchase Hong Kong villa; For Sale, cheap; Garden villa for sale; For Rent; To Let – urgent; To Let – urgent; To Let – cheap; To Let – cheap]

[Zoom in on newspaper advertisement: FOR SALE, CHEAP: Superior two-level shikumen rowhouse, with fully installed telephone and utilities, offered by Mr. Hou at 23 Renkang Alley on Linsen Road.]

[At the front door of a brick building. Sign below door bell: Hou Residence, #23]

[Old Wei consults the newspaper in his hand, looks at the door number, and presses the buzzer.]

[Yu Xiaoying’s apartment]

[Yu Xiaoying sits reading an illustrated booklet, The Legend of White Snake.]

Yu Xiaoying: Ah Mei!

Ah Mei [right behind her]: Yes!

Yu Xiaoying [startled]: You wretch! What are you doing, hiding there? You scared me to death! Go see who’s at the door!

Ah Mei: Do you think the Master might be back from Nanking?

Yu Xiaoying: Don’t be ridiculous! The Master wouldn’t be back today.

[Door buzzer sounds.]

Yu Xiaoying: Go, quick!

[Exit Ah Mei. Yu Xiaoying stands and lights a cigarette. Buzzer sounds again.]

[Camera tracks down from Yu Xiaoying’s apartment to the Xiao family’s apartment below.]

[Mrs. Xiao takes goods from the loft and climbs down a bamboo ladder. Boss Xiao stands singing a Shaoxing ditty, while the three Xiao boys shout and run about, playing marbles.]

Xiao boys: A hit! A hit! No cheating!

Boss Xiao [singing]: When I think of her, I can’t eat or drink… [speaking] Hey, my turn! [flicks an object and resumes singing]

[Camera shows a crate of stacked up canned goods, with labels such as VC, First American, Atlantic Coast herring, Texsun oranges, Carnation evaporated milk. Written on the crate is “American canned goods—CHEAP.”]

Mrs. Xiao [picks up crate and places it on a cart beside a second crate, to Xiao]: Rain’s stopped! Why aren’t you getting ready to go out and sell something?

Boss Xiao: Aiya, listen to me! The U.S. dollar’s going up today, so we should keep our stuff at home. We shouldn’t take it out no matter what! [resumes singing]

[At the door]

Ah Mei [to Old Wei]: Who are you looking for?

Old Wei: I’m here about the building!

Ah Mei: Please come upstairs!

[Boss Xiao and Mrs. Xiao look on curiously from the door to their apartment. Ah Mei and Old Wei climb upstairs past the second floor landing, where Mrs. Hua opens the door and looks out.]

[In the Hua household. Hua Jiezhi sits next to a brazier.]

Hua Jiezhi: Who is it?

Mrs. Hua [closes the door]: A guest of upstairs.

Mrs. Hua [to daughter]: Aiya, Wei Wei! Stop playing with the fire! Here, go read this magazine over there!

Mrs. Hua [to Mr. Hua]: We can exchange all those old newspapers and books for matches, you know. Why do you have to burn them?

Hua Jiezhi [as he continues to feed publications into the brazier]: I already explained to you: things have been edgy out there these past couple days. [close-up shot of publication titles: The Observer, Outlook] They’re doing raids everywhere. Keeping these books at home means trouble. There’ve been lots of problems at school too. The old principal’s been fired by the Ministry of Education, and Old Zhang and Old Wu have been arrested by security agents…

[Knock on the door]

Mrs. Hua: Who is it?

Yu Xiaoying: Mrs. Hua! Mrs. Hua!

Mrs. Hua: Is that Mrs. Hou? Please wait a minute. I’ll be right there.

[Mr. and Mrs. Hua hurriedly hide the unburnt publications. Mr. Hua sits on the bed with Wei Wei and pretends to read.]

Mrs. Hua [opens door and welcomes in Yu Xiaoying and Old Wei]: Mrs. Hou, come in and have a seat.

[Mr. Hua, looking uneasy, acknowledges the visitor with a forced smile, as Old Wei looks around the apartment.]

Old Wei: You are Mr….?

Mr. Hua [standing]: My name’s Hua.

Old Wei: Mr. Hua, I apologize for inconveniencing you!

Mrs. Hua: It’s such a mess in here. Please, have a seat—sit!

Yu Xiaoying: No, thanks.

Old Wei: Sorry again for the trouble!

[Exit Yu Xiaoying and Old Wei. Mr. Hua watches them anxiously and closes the door after them.]

Mr. Hua [to Mrs. Hua]: Ai, What was that about?

Mrs. Hua: Who knows!

Mr. Hua: I don’t trust that shifty fellow. He might be… Burn all this stuff immediately!

Mrs. Hua: Leave it. You need to get to class! I’ll burn them all later.

Mr. Hua: Fine, fine.

[Knock on the door downstairs.]

Yu Xiaoying [shouting through door]: Old Kong! Old Kong!

[Boss Xiao and family push by with their canned foods cart.]

Boss Xiao [protesting]: Hey, hey, hey, hey, hey! Old Kong just got home from the paper. He didn’t hit the sack until dawn.

Yu Xiaoying [continuing to pound on the door]: I know!

Boss Xiao: If you know, then why…

Mrs. Xiao [impatiently, to Xiao]: Get going!

Yu Xiaoying [continuing to pound on the door]: Old Kong!

[Kong Youwen opens door, drops his spectacles, then picks them up and puts them on again.]

Yu Xiaoying: Ugh! [holds nose and turns away]

[Old Wei looks in Kong’s room, frowns, waves his hand and leaves.]

[Mr. and Mrs. Xiao, in the hallway, watch Yu Xiaoying showing Old Wei around their apartment.]

Boss Xiao [whispering, to Mrs. Xiao]: This means trouble for the whole building!

[At the bottom of the stairs. Kong Youwen stands in his doorway, looking on as Wei and Yu return to the entry hallway.]

Old Wei [to Yu Xiaoying]: So, we’ll wait until Mr. Hou returns home to talk over the details. When do you expect him to be back?

Yu Xiaoying [laughs]: He comes back every Saturday.

Old Wei: All right. Bye, then!

Yu Xiaoying: Goodbye! [Exit Old Wei] I won’t see you out.

Boss Xiao [to Yu Xiaoying]: Uh, Mrs. Hou, is this building going to be…

Yu Xiaoying: You’ll hear about it after the Master gets back! [goes upstairs]

Boss Xiao [To Mr. Kong]: Old Master, that man was here to check out the building. Hear me out! This building’s your property! How can you let her sell it?

[Mr. Hua comes downstairs with his daughter.]

Mr. Hua: Wei Wei, go find Grandpa Kong to play with!

Boss Xiao [to Hua Jiezhi]: Mr. Hua, I have some shocking news for you!

Hua Jiezhi: What?

Boss Xiao: This building is being sold!

Hua Jiezhi: Is this news reliable?

Boss Xiao: Of course it’s reliable! The man who was here just now is a buyer. We need to talk this matter over. Hear me out!

Mr. Hua: I’ll hear you out some other time. Sorry, I have to be getting to class. [Exits]

Boss Xiao: Just hear me out…

Mrs. Xiao: Nothing doing, you busybody. Outside with you!

Boss Xiao: You hear me out, then!

Mrs. Xiao [angry]: I won’t hear another word! You lazy good-for-nothing! Go, go, go…

Boss Xiao: Just hear me out!

[Boss and Mrs. Xiao exit the building, pushing their cart of canned goods.]

[Wei Wei grabs Kong Youwen’s hand.]

Kong Youwen: Okay, okay. Let’s go play in the street! I’ll take you. Wei Wei, you’re so well behaved! Off we go, off we go. [The children surround Kong and shout in delight.] Okay, okay. We’ll go inside and tell jokes. Jokes it is. Goodness, it’s freezing outside! Off we go, now.

[On the rooftop. Ah Mei and the children surround Kong Youwen]

Children, with Ah Mei chiming in [singing]:

Monkey, monkey—he’s not poor
Traitor on the second floor
Living upstairs doing tricks
Stealing property’s his fix
Shamelessly living the official life
Complete with a car and even a wife!

Kong Youwen [applauds]: Well sung, well sung—all of you. Here, have some peanuts! Come on, gather round. One for you, one for you, one for you…and one for you! Well sung, well sung, everyone, ha ha ha!

Second Mao [eating peanuts]: Aiya, it’s so fun here! I wish we lived up here!

Big Mao: You said it. Grandpa Kong used to live in the upstairs apartment, but Monkey took it from him!

Second Mao: Huh? Why’s he called “Monkey”?

Big Mao [points to an envelope, on which is written: “To Section Chief Hou Yibo, Ministry of Defense, Nanking… From Shanghai Garrison Command”]: Look, dummy! His surname’s Hou, and Hou sounds like “monkey.” He’s ugly too—so “Monkey” fits!

[All laugh.]

Children [singing]: Monkey, Monkey, he’s not poor. Traitor on the second floor…

[Yu Xiaoying emerges from the doorway, scowling.]

Yu Xiaoying: Cut out that racket! Ah Mei, you get mixed up with this lot and I’ll skin you alive! So you’ve made this your own little playground, have you? If you’re going to make so much racket, do it in your own hovels! Be grateful I haven’t kicked you all out!

Mrs. Xiao [washing clothes downstairs, shouts to upstairs]: Grateful?! It’s not like we’re not paying rent! If you have a problem, say it face to face! Mixing it up with the children! Big Mao, Second Mao, Little Mao, you come down here right now!

[Knock on door.]

Mrs. Xiao [grumpily]: Who is it?

[Mrs. Xiao opens the door, on which is written “Please close the door after you.” A man and his family stands outside the entrance.]

Visitor: Excuse me. Is this the building that’s for sale?

Mrs. Xiao [brusquely]: No! [Slams the door]

[Next morning, outside the entrance to Renkang Alley, on the left of which is a sign for Bright Hardware. A man sweeps the streets. Kong Youwen walks in through the alley gate and up to No. 23, where he knocks on the door.]

Boss Xiao [opening door]: Aiya, Old Master, you’re here at last! I’ve been waiting for you. Come in!

Kong Youwen: Thanks! Now, what is it that’s so urgent?

Boss Xiao: A shocking piece of news!

Kong Youwen [skeptical]: Another bulletin from the Central Bureau, huh? Rumors!

Mrs. Xiao [holding a basin of water, to Xiao]: Crack of dawn and you’re already spouting nonsense. Git! [Splashes water on the ground, forcing Kong Youwen and Boss Xiao to hurriedly step back.]

[Boss Xiao pulls Kong Youwen into the kitchen, where Mrs. Hua is cooking.]

Boss Xiao: Listen to this!

Mrs. Hua: Good morning, Mr. Kong!

Kong Youwen: Ah, morning!

Boss Xiao [whispering]: Listen to this! This building is going to be sold!

Kong Youwen: Aiya, I already know that. Didn’t you broadcast this to me earlier?

Boss Xiao: Hear me out. Can you guess why they’re selling it?

Kong Youwen [thinks]: Um…

Boss Xiao: Monkey is planning to flee!

Kong Youwen: What?

Boss Xiao: This is your chance! You can get your place back!

Mrs. Xiao [happy]: Yeah, now that’s the truth. Listen, Old Master: yesterday that woman from upstairs was showing the building to someone, and I heard her telling off Little Mao, saying something like “Time for you to move out!” Looks like she’s going to be ratcheting up the pressure on us, step by step! Old Master, you’ve got to decide what you’re going to do!

Mrs. Hua: That’s right, Mr. Kong. You’re the one who should be our landlord!

Kong Youwen [grimaces]: Drop it! Just forget it!

Boss Xiao: Forget it? How could you say such a thing? This building belongs to you! Sure, Hou had traitors backing him when he stole your building from you. But why be afraid of him now?

Kong Youwen: Yes, very nicely put. But to whom should I convey these fine arguments? I tell you, there’s no justice in this world! Just drop it, Boss Xiao. [Grimaces]

Boss Xiao: Fine, but this is coming from three renters, not just from me. I’m going to go get Mr. Hua down here so that we can all talk this over. Sound good?

[The Huas’ apartment. Boss Xiao opens the door and lets himself into the room, where Hua Jiezhi is brushing his teeth.]

Boss Xiao: Good—you’re here, Mr. Hua. We’re going to have a group chat about this building. Mr. Hua, you’re an educated man—you’re the one who needs to take the lead on this matter!

Hua Jiezhi: Hey, wait a minute. I haven’t washed my face yet!

Boss Xiao [takes away the toothbrush and cup from Hua]: You can wash in a minute. Everyone’s waiting for you. Let’s go, hurry…

[Hua Jiezhi wipes his mouth clean and straightens his robe as Boss Xiao drags him out the door.]

[The kitchen]

Boss Xiao: Everyone’s in here! In here! Mr. Hua’s here! Mr. Hua’s here!

Mrs. Xiao [warmly]: Oh, Mr. Hua’s here! Wonderful, wonderful!

Mrs. Xiao [to Hua Jiezhi, pointing at Kong Youwen]: Goodness me! Old Master Kong is such a fossil! I’ve been talking myself blue in the face, and…and none of it is getting through his thick skull!

Boss Xiao [to Hua Jiezhi]: Old Master Kong won’t listen to a word a dummy like me has to say! Mr. Hua, we need you to get through to him so we can figure out a solution to this housing problem.

Mrs. Xiao: Exactly! I’ve been on at him about this for ages!

Boss Xiao [to Mrs. Xiao]: What do you women know? Get along with you!

Mrs. Xiao: What do you mean “What do I know?”

Boss Xiao: Mr. Hua just got up and hasn’t had breakfast yet. Go make him a cup of Chrysanthemum Instant Milk!

Mrs. Xiao [with alacrity]: Sure!

Hua Jiezhi: No, none for me.

Ah Mei: Keep your voices down. Monkey came back last night and is still sleeping!

Boss Xiao: Monkey’s back? Perfect. I’ve been wanting to see him.

Ah Mei: Keep it down. Let me go take a look for you first.

Boss Xiao: Okay, you take a look.

[Exit Ah Mei.]

Boss Xiao [to everyone]: Look, even I’m not afraid of him! Listen to me, Old Master: he seized your home illegally! I can see why you would have been afraid of him when he was a powerful traitor. But why now? Right, Mr. Hua?

Kong Youwen [smiles ruefully]: Now you listen to me: If he was still a traitor, of course I wouldn’t be afraid of him. But he’s got friends in high places and has suddenly transformed himself into a big-shot official who can treat us like dirt like he always has. Sigh… I’ve seen it all! Mr. Hua, I’ve worked as a newspaper proofreader for a few decades now. I may not know much, but I am well acquainted with recent history. First it was the Northern Expedition, then Bandit Eradication, then the Peace Movement, and now, to top it off, what they’re calling “suppressing chaos”… During all this backing and forthing, the one thing that hasn’t changed is that it’s the common people like us who suffer. As for that two-faced guy, he was clearly a traitor, but then he had the nerve to call himself an “underground worker.” [Furious] This old man sent his own flesh-and-blood, the son he raised himself, off to fight the Japanese. And then what? One word from Hou claiming that he was a member of the New Fourth Army gets my son arrested and my apartment confiscated. Tell me this, all of you: How am I supposed to settle that account? There’s no justice in this world!

Hua Jiezhi [sighs]: That’s as may be, Mr. Kong, but you’re too pessimistic! There is justice in this world. The day will come when accounts will be settled and the evil forces exterminated. [Uncertainly] The time just hasn’t come yet.

Kong Youwen [chuckles ruefully]: I’ll be in the grave long before that day comes!

Boss Xiao: Old Master——

Hua Jiezhi: Mr. Kong, you really are way too pessimistic. I just mean the time isn’t here yet. [Smiles] Of course, if you’re willing to take a stand now and fight to get your home back, that would be the best plan of all!

Mrs. Xiao [carries in a cup of milk; to Kong Youwen] That’s right! Really, Old Master, if you stood up to him, that would take care of everything! They wouldn’t dare kick us out, would they? [to Hua Jiezhi] Mr. Hua, you must be hungry. Have a cup of milk—real Chrysanthemum Brand Instant Milk! There’s plenty more!

Hua Jiezhi [reluctantly accepts the cup; to Kong Youwen]: What do you say, Mr. Kong?

[Kong remains silent. Hua Jiezhi looks disappointed.]

Boss Xiao [impatient]: In that case, what are we going to do now?

[Hua Jiezhi sighs lightly, lowers his head, and is surprised to discover tea leaves floating in the dirty cup.]

Mrs. Xiao [grinning at Hua]: Drink up! It’s getting cold!

Hua Jiezhi [making a show of politeness]: Thank you, but you drink it! I haven’t rinsed the toothpaste out of my mouth. I never eat before I’ve rinsed my mouth. [hands the cup back to Mrs. Xiao.]

Boss Xiao: Huh? But upstairs just now I saw you…

Hua Jiezhi: I didn’t finish! [to Mrs. Xiao] I’m sorry, really.

Mrs. Xiao [annoyed]: N-n-n-no problem, no problem. [Puts cup down on the counter, then picks up cleaver and starts chopping vegetables, grumpily.]

Xiao boys [entering room]: Mama, I want money to buy a sesame flatbread and donut stick! Me too! Me too!

Mrs. Xiao [bellows]: Shut up! [hands the cup over] Go drink this!

[The three boys take the cup and exit.]

Boss Xiao [to boys]: Careful, careful!

[Mrs. Xiao continues to chop vegetables.]

Boss Xiao: Ai! Look, why don’t we team up and ask them for moving expenses?

Mrs. Xiao: Right, that’s our only option.

Mrs. Hua [holding bowl and spoon, glances at Mr. Hua and then turns to everyone]: If they forced us to move, at very least they’d have to give us moving expenses! If they don’t, we won’t move—right? [nudges Mr. Hua, who gives her a look]

Boss Xiao [excitedly]: Great! Mr. Hua, you be our leader. We’ll unite and stick it to them as one!

Hua Jiezhi: Ai, no, no, no, no. We could ask for moving expenses—that goes without saying. But as for me taking the lead [smiles]—you’ll forgive me, but with a creature like Hou, I’m not even willing to speak to him. Any conversation would just turn into an argument. Boss Xiao, you’re the best man for the job. You take the lead, and the rest of us will be your rear-guard.

[Mrs. Xiao frowns.]

Boss Xiao [exhilarated]: Alright! If you’ll all be my rear-guard, I’ll be the vanguard strike force!

[Mrs. Xiao frowns and slaps husband’s shoulder.]

Boss Xiao [uncomprehending]: What was that for?

Ah Mei [runs into the kitchen, and whispers]: She’s here, she’s here!

Yu Xiaoying [walking into the kitchen]: Ah Mei, serve the longan soup!

[Yu Xiaoying looks around at the full room. Kong Youwen rubs his hands together in front of the stove. Mrs. Xiao chops vegetables.]

Boss Xiao [avoiding Yu’s gaze, sings]: When I think of her, I can’t eat or drink. When I think of her…

[Hua Jiezhi smiles and nods at Yu Xiaoying. Mrs. Hua looks down at her cooking.]

Yu Xiaoying [smiling]: You’re all here—just as well. The Master gave orders that we’ll be accompanying the Ministry to Taiwan and that this building’s to be sold. All three of you had better start looking for a new apartment. Get cracking so you don’t inconvenience yourself! [turns and goes upstairs]

Mrs. Xiao [throws down cleaver]: Pah! Slut!

Three Xiao boys [fighting for the milk cup]: Gimme some! Gimme some!

Mrs. Xiao [snatches away the cup and slams it down on the chopping board, then furiously turns on Second Mao]: Don’t you know what’s good for you? You already had some!

[Exit Hua Jiezhi, slamming the door behind him.]

Mrs. Xiao [slaps her son, who bursts into a wail]: Get out!

Boss Xiao [rubs son’s head, to Mrs. Xiao]: Hey, don’t hit him!

[Yu Xiaoying’s apartment]

Yu Xiaoying [holding a cigarette in one hand, picks up a hot towel in the other, walks to the bed and pulls aside the mosquito net; attentively]: Here, wipe your face.

[From inside the mosquito net comes the sound of someone hoching up phlegm. Yu Xiaoying grabs a basin.]

Yu Xiaoying [sitting bedside, hands over the cigarette; attentively]: Have a smoke. Get up and have some longan soup. Then you can go back to sleep.

Hou Yibo [offscreen]: No! I’m don’t resting!

Yu Xiaoying: It’s still so early—not even noon yet. Sleep a bit longer!

Hou Yibo [offscreen]: No, I’m getting up! This time back, I’ve got too much to do.

[Yu Xiaoying pulls aside the mosquito net.]

Hou Yibo [offscreen]: I spend all my time at the Ministry in Nanking pushing papers, and when I’m in Shanghai I have to run myself ragged buying and selling things. What a pain!

Yu Xiaoying: Just back and you’re so busy already. Is this how you are at home in Nanking?

Hou Yibo [offscreen]: Don’t be ridiculous. Hey, did you tell the tenants to hurry up and move out?

Yu Xiaoying [blowing on soup to cool it, and smiling fawningly]: I did, but they keep having these secret conversations. I have no idea what they’re up to.

Hou Yibo [offscreen, scoffing]: I’ve seen this type before, and I know they’re up to no good!

[The Xiao household]

Mrs. Xiao [wiping down cans, annoyed]: You fool. Are you really so clueless about that Hua guy’s intentions?

Boss Xiao: You’re too suspicious! Mr. Hua is an educated man…

Mrs. Xiao: These educated types are a calculating bunch! What kind of “rear-guard” backup do you think he’s going to be? While you’re playing the fool fighting in the vanguard, he’ll be hiding in the rear-guard waiting to enjoy the spoils of battle.

Boss Xiao: He’s a teacher. Of course he’s going to feel uncomfortable asking a guy like Hou for a handout.

Mrs. Xiao: So, do you think he’s going to turn down moving expenses if you get them?

Boss Xiao: He’ll move!

[The Hua household]

[Mrs. Hua is doing housework. Hua Jiezhi sits on the bed reading the newspaper. On the back wall is a calligraphic scroll of a Wang Guodong poem.]

Mrs. Hua [while tidying up]: What? So I’m in the wrong again? Do you mean we shouldn’t demand moving expenses?

Hua Jiezhi [puts down his newspaper]: Ai, the problem isn’t whether or not to demand moving expenses. If that Hou guy really was willing to pay up, we could ask for anything. Listen to me: the real problem is with our attitude. How can we compete with folks like Little Broadcast? [dismissively] They’re businesspeople. All they care about is money.

Mrs. Hua: I care about money too. Fuel, rice, oil and salt all cost money!

Hua Jiezhi: Don’t change the subject! My point is that Hou is a thug. At a time like this, we can’t risk confronting him directly. We’d just be asking for it.

Mrs. Hua: Well, what do you think we should do, then?

Hua Jiezhi: Uh…how about about moving onto campus?

Mrs. Hua: But didn’t you say that people at school were being arrested?

Hua Jiezhi [thinking]: Yes, but there are a lot of people at school, and at least a few of them should have scruples. I’ll go look into it today.

[Hua Jiezhi walks to the window, through which can be heard the call of the paper recycling man.]

Hua Jiezhi [puts on scarf]: Hand me some spare change for the tram.

Mrs. Hua [muttering as she hands over money]: There won’t be enough money to buy groceries again.

[Hua Jiezhi sighs, takes money.]|

[Sound of a paper recycler calling outside the window.]

Mrs. Hua [opens window, to peddler]: Hey! Newspaper collector—wait a moment!

[Peddler acknowledges her.]

[Mrs. Hua takes the old periodicals out from under the bed]

Hua Jiezhi [stopping her]: Hey, weren’t you going to burn them?

Mrs. Hua: But why? What’s wrong with selling them for a little spare change?

Hua Jiezhi [anxious]: Ai, women!

Peddler [offscreen, in Shanghainese]: Anything to sell, ma’am?

[Hua Jiezhi looks out the window.]

Peddler [in Shanghainese]: Are you selling or not? Are you bringing any papers down?

Hua Jiezhi [pokes head out window]: No! [closes window]

[Front gate of Chiang Kai-shek First Middle School. Hua Jiezhi walks into campus carrying books.]

Student 1: Teacher.

Student 2: Mr. Hua.

Student 3: Morning, Mr. Hua.

[Hua Jiezhi acknowledges the greetings as he passes by the school bulletin board, where a group of students stands reading the school newspaper, The Cry of Freedom, which carries the headline “Special Issue Protesting the Illegal Arrest of Our Students and Teachers.” Hua Jiezhi pauses for a moment and reads.]

Group of students: Mr. Hua! Mr. Hua!

Female student [pointing to the school newspaper, to Hua]: Mr. Hua, what do you think of our protest?

Hua Jiezhi [looks embarrassed]: I, I, I support it. I support it. [lowers his head and walks on]

Other students [respectfully]: Mr. Hua.

[Hua Jiezhi walks into the staff residence area.]

Old Liu [surprised and delighted]: Hey, Old Hua, you’re not going to class? What are you doing here at the dorms?

Hua Jiezhi: I’m here to see if there’s a flat available. I’m hoping to move in.

Old Liu [whispering]: Hey, we’ve been hoping to talk to you about something. Come in here. [pulls Hua Jiezhi inside]

Other teachers: Come on, Mr. Hua. Sign this! Sign! [hands him a document]

Hua Jiezhi [whispering]: You’re submitting a protest to the administration, aren’t you?

Old Liu: Yes, that’s right! How did you know?

Hua Jiezhi [smugly]: Ha ha! I guessed as much! I could tell at a glance from this sneaking about that you were up to something.

Old Zhao: First they kicked out the old principal. Then they arrested Old Zhang and Old Wu! This won’t be an easy one to sort out. The new principal they sent here knows what’s going on, for sure. We’re all in real danger! And Old Zhang and the others are really no different from us: liberals completely independent of any political party.

Hua Jiezhi: That’s right. We’re all non-partisan liberals.

Old Zhao: That’s right, every one of us!

Old Liu [impatiently]: Enough of these foreign platitudes. Old Hua, put your name down here! [hands him the brush]

Hua Jiezhi [takes brush, hesitates]: The thing is, what I mean is—will issuing a letter of protest be effective? And will it be of any help to Old Zhang and the others who were arrested?

Old Liu [angry]: I’m surprised. I never would have thought that this would be a problem for you, of all people, Mr. Hua. You were good buddies with Old Zhang, and the students have always supported you…

Old Xu: Don’t get Mr. Hua wrong, Old Liu! You interrupted him.

Hua Jiezhi: That’s right. You’re still the loose cannon! When you go off at me, you’re firing at the wrong target. [smiling] What I’m trying to say is that we need to think things through a bit more carefully! As for the protest letter [awkwardly] I…I think…of course I’ll sign!

[Hua Jiezhi reluctantly signs.]

[Letter: “We protest the illegal arrest of Mr. Zhang Yao and Mr. Wu Jizhi. Messrs. Zhang and Wu have served this school for years and have high personal and scholarly integrity…Their sudden illegal arrest is extremely alarming…”]

Hua Jiezhi [smiles politely at the others]: There! Now I have to go solve my housing problem!

The others [happily]: Okay, bye!

[Principal’s office]

Hua Jiezhi: Principal, I have something I want to discuss with you. Recently a problem has come up with the apartment I’m renting off campus, so I’d like to move here. Would that be possible?

Principal [holding a cigarette, smiles and slaps the table]: What a pity! Why didn’t you say something earlier? Just a couple days ago there was a vacant apartment, but someone took it today! But don’t worry—there’s always a way. You just leave it to me!

Hua Jiezhi [standing up]: Great, thank you, Principal! [makes to leave]

[Camera reveals a portrait of Chiang Kai-shek behind the Principal.]

Principal [stops Hua, smiles]: Sit, sit, sit. I have something I want to discuss with you too.

[Both sit back down.]

Principal [intently]: Has there been any word since Mr. Zhang’s arrest? When the Municipal Department of Education appointed me Acting Principal I told them I didn’t want to do it and asked to be made Director of Student Affairs instead. They wouldn’t hear of it. See the position I’m in? There’s been some unfortunate misunderstanding. A few teachers don’t even trust me. It’s absurd! Mr. Hua, have you heard any gossip?

Hua Jiezhi [uneasily]: No, nothing!

[Bell rings.]

Hua Jiezhi [relieved, stands up]: I’d better be getting to class.

Principal [stands up, smiles]: Ah, “A good man in a difficult situation!” Mr. Hua, if you hear your colleagues gossiping, please explain things to them for me. As for that apartment, I’ll figure something out for you. Don’t worry!

Hua Jiezhi: Thank you! Sorry for the trouble!

[At the publishers’ office. Sign on wall: Editorial Office]

Director Li: I’m sorry, Mr. Kong, but the whole press is in retrenchment and we don’t have enough flats for everyone. We really can’t squeeze you in anywhere.

Kong Youwen: Of course, I understand. I know the press doesn’t have any flats to spare, but all I need is a few feet of space. Just enough to fit a bed!

Director Li: In that case, let’s brainstorm later. For now, get these proofs finished. [hands papers to Kong, who walks dejectedly back to his desk]

Colleagues [offscreen]: I heard that Hsu-chou’s been completely surrounded! And if Hsu-chou is in danger, Peng-pu isn’t safe either! Word also has it that Huang Wei’s regiment has already been swallowed by the Communists! Even Sun Yuanliang and Ch’iu Ch’ing-ch’üan’s regiments have been overcome!

[Kong Youwen sits down at the desk he shares with his colleague Xiao Wu.]

Xiao Wu [looks around]: Old Master Kong, what were you seeing Director Li for? Are you hoping to move into the office?

[Kong Youwen shakes his head and doesn’t answer, then bends to his proofing work.]

Kong Youwen [frowns, sighs]: Ai! They’re “suppressing chaos” everywhere, but more suppression just leads to more chaos!

[Camera shows the article he’s proofing, covered in his annotations, which highlight many appearances of the words “suppress” and “chaos.” Headline on left: “Military support to China to be strengthened. Outlook to improve if Republican Party gains power. Advisor XX might be dispatched as battlefield aid.” Headline on right: “President Chiang reiterates his resolve to suppress chaos. The army and the people are working together to restore peace to the nation”]

Kong Youwen [sighs, angrily]: Never mind that they “suppressed” my son. Now I don’t even have a place to rest my old bones!

Xiao Wu [looks over the draft Kong Youwen is proofing, then looks at his own]: While suppression is causing more chaos, inflation is getting worse and worse.

[The article Xiao Wu is proofing is covered in annotations, with many appearances of the word “inflation.” Headline: “Inflation of textile prices continues unabated. Bran chaff is up to forty yuan. Cooking oil skyrockets. Soy sauce rises to 150 yuan. Corn and red sorghum prices rising…”]

[Xiao Wu uses a brush to circle the word “inflation.”]

Boss Xiao [offscreen; sound bridge]: Inflation! Inflation! Inflation! U.S. dollars are going up!

[A streetside stall.]

Boss Xiao [shouting as he hurries along the street]: Quick, change your prices! The U.S. dollar’s up!

Boss Xiao [rushes over to his own stall, shouting as Mrs. Xiao is completing a transaction with a customer]: Dollars are up! They’re up! No sale! [Customer hurries away with goods.] Sir, we’re not selling—sir!

Boss Xiao [to Mrs. Xiao, exasperated]: We took a bath on that one, thanks to you! We’re going home…no more selling!

Mrs. Xiao: You’re nuts! What’s eating you now?

Boss Xiao: The U.S. dollar’s spiked! The market this afternoon will be a total wash-out. Let’s go back home and find Monkey!

Mrs. Xiao [startled]: Monkey? About what? The building?

Boss Xiao: Yep. I’m on edge every day we haven’t figured out some solution. Goddamn it, they might not care, but even if I, Little Broadcast, have to fight Monkey single-handed, I’m going to have it out with him!

Mrs. Xiao [smiles]: Oh, so you finally get it!

Boss Xiao [smiles]: You’re right again! Let’s go.

[The two of them push their cart away.]

[Outside Yu Xiaoying’s apartment. Boss Xiao knocks on the door.]

Yu Xiaoying: Who is it?

Boss Xiao: Me! Is Mr. Hou home?

Yu Xiaoying: Who?

Boss Xiao: My name’s Xiao!

Yu Xiaoying [walks to the door]: Xiao who?

Boss Xiao: Little Broadcast. Uh, no…Boss Xiao from downstairs.

Yu Xiaoying [opens door]: Oh, it’s you. What is it?

Boss Xiao [smiles]: I’m here to talk to Mr. Hou. [looks inside apartment]

Yu Xiaoying [closing the door behind her]: I’m sorry, the master hasn’t gotten up yet. You can say what you have to say to me. [takes a drag on cigarette]

Boss Xiao: Um…

[Phone rings.]

Yu Xiaoying [walks across the landing and answers the phone]: Hello? Yes, Manager Hou returned last night. What is it? Yes, he brought the funds with him! Manager Hou said to acquire whatever quantity of goods you can—money’s no object. Yes! I’ll tell him!

Hou Yibo [offscreen, from inside the apartment]: Who was it?

Yu Xiaoying [into the apartment]: Assistant Manager Hu.

Boss Xiao [into the apartment]: Mr. Hou, about the building…

Yu Xiaoying [blocking the door]: The master already told you: the building is being sold, and everyone has to move out! [Mrs. Xiao creeps up the stairs, eavesdropping.] We didn’t take any deposit from any of you, so don’t be getting crazy ideas! If you don’t move out, that’s fine—you’d just have to buy the building yourself!

Boss Xiao [smiles ingratiatingly]: Hear me out, just hear me out! Whether or not to buy your building is a different matter entirely. But if you’re wanting everyone to move out…

Hou Yibo [offscreen, from inside the apartment]: Xiaoying, come in here.

Yu Xiaoying [entering apartment]: Coming!

Boss Xiao [through the door]: Mr. Hou! [Yu closes the door in his face; speaking through the door] This, this is completely unreasonable. Mr. Hou, if you want us to move out, I have a question for you: just how…

Yu Xiaoying [opens door]: Keep it down, will you? The Master is still resting! [closes door, and Xiao starts to walk away. Yu opens door again and comes out] Oh, Boss Xiao: just now you kept saying “us, us.” Does that mean that you’re representing all the tenants?

Boss Xiao: That’s right!

Yu Xiaoying: The master made it clear that every family is responsible for making its own arrangements. So mind your own business!

Boss Xiao: What, what do you mean by that?

Yu Xiaoying [in a low voice]: Old Kong’s son is a communist. You’d better not go getting mixed up with him, understand? [Mrs. Hua opens her door and eavesdrops.] The master said that he’s willing to give you a deal on the apartment if you play nice, but not anyone else. [Mrs. Xiao tiptoes back downstairs, delighted.]

Mrs. Xiao [shouting upstairs]: Big Mao’s dad, someone’s here for you. Come down! Big Mao’s dad!

Boss Xiao: In a moment! [To Yu] Talk to you later!

[Mrs. Hua closes the door, looking troubled.]

Boss Xiao [descending stairs]: Coming, coming! What is it? [Looks at Mrs. Xiao] Aiyo! [Turns around to go back upstairs, but Mrs. Xiao grabs him by his coat.]

Mrs. Xiao: Come down here! [in hushed tones] Listen to me! That woman upstairs said that they’d give you a deal. Does that mean that they’re willing to sell the building to us?

Boss Xiao: That’s right, but we don’t have the money!

Mrs. Xiao: Shh! Go, go!

[The Xiaos enter their apartment.]

Mrs. Xiao [to their boys]: Out you go! Go out and play!

Boys: Oh! We’re going out to play!

[Mrs. Xiao closes the door.]

Boss Xiao [anxious]: What do you want to do about the apartment…?

Mrs. Xiao: You take the lead! Sit down, sit down. [Pushes Xiao to sit down next to the bed. Happily] Listen to me: The only thing in this world you can rely on is yourself. Geezer Kong is an eccentric, and that Mr. Hua on the back landing is broke and always dragging things out. You can’t rely on either of them!

Boss Xiao: But where is the money going to come from?

Mrs. Xiao: Just listen! Real estate is cheap now. And aren’t they saying that Monkey planning to flee? This is our opportunity to slash the price and close the deal!

Boss Xiao: For crying out loud, what nonsense! Tell me: where’s the money going to come from?

Mrs. Xiao: Wretch—you’ll never get rich with that attitude! Are you really telling me you can’t figure out a way to get the money?

Boss Xiao: From where?

Mrs. Xiao: Idiot! These past couple days, our business has been bad, and the yield on gold is high. Why not buy some gold on spec? Use the spec gold to buy the bulding, lease out the rooms, and collect rent!

Boss Xiao: Great! [in opera tones] Today we’ve got our solution!

[Yu Xiaoying’s apartment. Close up of a wall-mounted portrait of Chiang Kaishek, flanked with the inscription: “To Comrade Yibo, from Chiang Kai-shek” and Chiang’s seal. Camera tracks over to a framed photograph of Hou Boyi in military uniform.]

Hou Boyi [offscreen]: This building has its own telephone installed, and I’m only asking three gold bars. [Camera pans to show Hou Boyi in uniform from the back.] They’ll need to put down a deposit, and pay the balance by the end of the month. [Looks into the mirror and adjusts his clothes.] Tell that to Little Broadcast.

Yu Xiaoying [helps Hou straighten his uniform]: Three gold bars—that cheap?

Hou Boyi [looking into the mirror]: What do you know? Have you been watching the market these past couple days?

Yu Xiaoying [crouches down and pats dust off Hou’s uniform] These past couple days the price of everything has been going up!

Hou Boyi [turning around]: Everything except real estate, which is plummeting!

Yu Xiaoying [shocked]: Ah? Why?

Hou Boyi [looks at documents in his hands]: Don’t go spreading this around! All the bigwigs in Nanking have slipped away. We need to sell this place fast, and the first step is to kick out Kong Youwen, so that he won’t cause trouble. Got it?

[Yu Xiaoying hands Hou a suitcase, which he opens and puts the documents inside.]

Hou Boyi: Go stir-fry me a plate of New Year’s rice cakes!

[Yu Xiaoying smiles and exits.]

[The Hua household]

[Mrs. Hua is working with yarn next to Wei Wei on the side of the bed, looking preoccupied. She then walks Wei Wei to the door of Yu Xiaoying’s apartment.]

Mrs. Hua [knocking on the door]: Mrs. Hou! Mrs. Hou!

[In the apartment, Hou Yibo is reading financial documents from the Ministry of Defense. Back-left envelope: “Internal Directive; Central Bank, Ministry of Defense.” Front-center envelope: “Ministry of Finance Transfer of Funds Notice: Financial Account No. 1367; In accordance with National Defense Provisioning Regulation Article 3, Item 5; Ministry of Defense routine expenses for the month of November: One billion five hundred million in gold-backed yuan exactly. Central Bank, Department of the Treasury. October 20, 1948.”]

[Mrs. Hua continues to knock on the door. Hou Yibo puts the documents into a suitcase filled with cash and walks towards the door with his back to the mirror, which reflects the painting of a female nude.]

Mrs. Hua: Mrs. Hou! Mrs. Hou!

Hou Yibo [opens the door, and his annoyance turns to surprise and delight]: Why, Mrs. Hua! Please do come in and have a seat.

Mrs. Hua [looks in, apprehensively]: Oh, Mrs. Hou’s not home! [turns and makes to leave]

Hou Yibo [warmly]: Xiaoying will be right back. Please come in and have a seat!

Mrs. Hua: Thank you, I’ll just come back a little later!

Hou Yibo [crouches down and takes Wei Wei’s hands]: Little sister, you’re so well behaved, and so pretty! Come in and have some candy. [leads Wei Wei into the apartment by the hands] Mrs. Hua, please come in and have a seat! Whatever you wanted to say to Xiaoying, you can say to me.

Mrs. Hua: It’s nothing important, really. I just wanted to talk with Mrs. Hou about our housing.

Hou Yibo: Excellent, excellent! Have a seat, and let’s talk!

[Mrs. Hua enters the room, looking around uneasily, and hugs Wei Wei to her as she sits in a chair next to the coffee table.]

Hou Yibo: Sit, sit. Please sit. So, Mrs. Hua, what are you thinking about your housing?

Mrs. Hua: Well, Mr. Hua is actually willing to move, but the rule in Shanghai is that the landlord has to give the tenant moving expenses if they want them to move out. [lowers head]

Hou Yibo [solicitously]: Mrs. Hua, we’ve been neighbors for so long now. I have no intention of making you move.

Mrs. Hua: But didn’t Mrs. Hou say all three families will have to move out?

Hou Yibo: Not at all! She just didn’t understand. Actually, what I meant was—

[The three Xiao boys and Kong Youwen pass by the door on the stairs. Wei Wei hears them and runs out of the room to join them. Kong Youwen embraces her.]

Hou Yibo [frowning]: Those boys’ racket drives me crazy! [closes door] That’s right, they’re the only ones I want to leave. You’re fine, Mrs. Hua! Nothing to worry about! If you’re happy to stay, you can stay. You can leave it to me to make arrangements with the buyer about your lease!

Mrs. Hua [delighted]: That’s wonderful. And, really…why would we want to move out?

Hou Yibo: Exactly! Best to stay put if you can! What is it—is Mr. Hua not home?

Mrs. Hua: He goes out every day. School keeps him so busy.

Hou Yibo [smiles]: Don’t you get lonely, then, Mrs. Hua?

Mrs. Hua [expression changes]: Not at all!

Hou Yibo: When Mr. Hua gets back, you tell him what I told you—It’s fine if you keep living here. It’s no trouble at all! Not a bit!

[Kitchen entrance]

[Yu Xiaoying comes out of the kitchen with a plate of fried New Year’s rice cakes, or nian gao, followed closely by Mrs. Xiao.]

Mrs. Xiao [cheerfully]: Mrs. Hou, so that’s settled about the apartment! We’ll pay a deposit first, and this [extends three fingers] will be the sale price.

Yu Xiaoying: Done! But I’m going to say this up front, Mrs. Xiao: you’d better move fast. [points upstairs] The Master said that he’ll only wait for you until the end of the month. If you haven’t paid up by the end of the month, you’ll forfeit your deposit!

Mrs. Xiao [smiles]: Fine. I agree—it’s a deal!

Yu Xiaoying: Great! [turns and climbs stairs]

[Mrs. Xiao walks to her apartment, where Boss Xiao is looking out the door.]

Mrs. Xiao [pokes Xiao’s forehead] Mind your own business!

[Boss Xiao sticks out his tongue and the two of them laugh, then close the door.]

[From the stairs, Yu Xiaoying hears the sound of two people talking in her apartment.]

Hou Yibo [offscreen]: Goodbye, Mrs. Hua. Come up for another visit when you have the time!

Mrs. Hua [offscreen]: Okay, goodbye, Mr. Hou!

Mrs. Hua [runs into Yu Xiaoying as she comes out the door]: Ah, Mrs. Hou, I waited for you forever!

Yu Xiaoying [smiles]: For me? About what?

Hou Yibo [voice from the apartment]: About the apartment! I’ve already settled things with Mrs. Hua!

[Hua Jiezhi returns home and walks up the stairs.]

Yu Xiaoying [brusquely]: If everything’s settled, that’s great!

[Hua Jiezhi climbs the stairs in a huff.]

Mrs. Hua [to Hua Jiezhi]: Done with classes?

[Hua Jiezhi doesn’t reply. Mrs. Hua follows him into their apartment.]

[The Hua household]

[Hua Jiezhi sits on the bed and doesn’t speak.]

Mrs. Hua [pours a cup of water]: You must be tired out from teaching. Have some water!

[Hua Jiezhi ignores her.]

Mrs. Hua: Why aren’t you saying anything? You’re driving me crazy!

Hua Jiezhi: Just why did you go upstairs?

Mrs. Hua: To have a talk about the apartment.

Hua Jiezhi: With him? What for? I already told you: I don’t want to stay here. We’re moving—moving on campus. Listen, Jiajin, you really haven’t learned a thing these past few years.

Mrs. Hua [walks over to the table and clears things up, her back to her husband]: I’m at my wit’s end just trying to provide the basic necessities for our family. When, exactly, do I have time to learn anything?

Hua Jiezhi: All families struggle to stay afloat. That’s a societal problem! It’s not my responsibility.

Mrs. Hua [turns around, angry]: So it falls on my shoulders! I know how you think. Anything having to do with money is beneath you! You’re not willing to talk to him, and what are we going to do if I don’t?

Hua Jiezhi [stands up]: Of course I’d never talk to him. Do you know what he is? A traitor, a petty bureaucrat, a profiteer, and a thug!

Mrs. Hua: That has nothing to do with me. All I want is our own apartment!

Hua Jiezhi: An apartment? They have those on campus!

Mrs. Hua: But the apartments on campus aren’t our own!

Hua Jiezhi: Is this one?

Mrs. Hua: Of course! I asked if we could stay put, and he said yes.

Hua Jiezhi: He did?

Mrs. Hua: Ai, listen: I talked it over with him, and he agreed that we could stay!

Hua Jiezhi: He says we can stay? Maybe he did. But I prefer to move on campus and have him pay us moving expenses.

Mrs. Hua [angry]: Then you go tell him that yourself!

[Yu Xiaoying’s apartment. Hou Yibo wears a fur coat and carries a briefcase, preparing to go out.]

Yu Xiaoying [smiling]: How do things stand with the missus from the second-floor room over the back landing? Do you want me to help with anything?

Hou Yibo: Like hell am I going to get mixed up with these people who come looking for you. Here, take this! [hands Yu a wad of cash]

Yu Xiaoying [takes cash]: So you’re off. Back to Nanking?

Hou Yibo: No. First I need to deliver this money to the firm for the department chief.

Yu Xiaoying: Okay. When will you be back?

Hou Yibo: Saturday, of course!

Yu Xiaoying: Can’t you come back earlier?

Hou Yibo: Why would I do that?

Yu Xiaoying [mocking]: To have another chat with that Mrs. Hua.

Hou Yibo [glowers]: Wise up. Don’t worry yourself about things that don’t concern you.

[The firm]

[Hou Yibo enters, and an employee takes his hat and coat.]

Deputy Manager [taking Hou’s briefcase]: Manager Hou, your train tickets to Nanking tonight have been booked.

[Hou Yibo sits down at a desk and signs a document, which he hands to the Deputy Manager.]

Hou Yibo: Deputy Manager, when you obtain these funds from the Treasury, go immediately to the Central Bank and buy gold at the official rate.

Deputy Manager: Yes, sir.

[Document: “Ministry of Finance Transfer of Funds Notice: Financial Account No. 1367; In accordance with National Defense Provisioning Regulation Article 3, Item 5; Ministry of Defense routine expenses for the month of November: One billion five hundred million in gold-backed yuan exactly. Central Bank, Department of the Treasury. October 20, 1948.”]

Deputy Manager: 1.5 billion? That’s a lot of gold bars!

[Envelope: “Internal Directive #2, Central Bank, Ministry of Defense”]

Hou Yibo: I’ve already arranged things with the Ministry and the firm. The Central Bank is to make the exchange tomorrow!

Deputy Manager: Yes.

[Envelope: “Temporary loan to Chen Mingji of One billion five hundred million in gold-backed yuan notes, to be disbursed to Hou Yibo, Accounting Department, Great River Enterprises, Corp…”]

Hou Yibo: This 1.5 billion may be considered a temporary personal loan from the department chief to the firm. He’d like a receipt from Accounting.

Deputy Manager: Of course, of course. What do we do once the gold is in hand? Sell it on the black market, or…

Hou Yibo: No. Nothing of the sort. Buy up rice! Peasants aren’t going for gold-backed yuan anymore, and a single ounce of gold can buy over six hundred pounds of rice. That’s where the money’s at!

Deputy Manager: But wouldn’t transporting a huge shipment of rice cause trouble?

Hou Yibo: Trouble? Hah! No one would dare make trouble for us. Say it’s from a grain levy!

[On the apartment rooftop. Kong Youwen and Ah Mei are drying laundry, with Ah Mei standing on a stool.]

Kong Youwen: Ah Mei, can I help you?

Ah Mei: No, thank you, Mr. Kong!

[Kong Youwen walks towards the stairs. Yu Xiaoying, standing in the doorway smoking a cigarette, stops him.]

Yu Xiaoying: Wait a minute. I have something to tell you.

Kong Youwen: Me?

Yu Xiaoying: The master passed on instructions that you’re to move out no later than the end of this month.

Kong Youwen: What? This month?

Yu Xiaoying: Yes.

Kong Youwen: But that’s cruel!

Yu Xiaoying: Cruel? The master has been letting you stay here temporarily because he pities you. Don’t think you can keep kicking around here forever!

[Kong Youwen turns angrily and heads downstairs.]

Yu Xiaoying [pursuing him]: Hey, if you don’t clear out by the end of the month, don’t blame me if things get ugly!

Kong Youwen [helplessly]: Why are you being so ruthless? I’ll move once I’ve found a new apartment.

Yu Xiaoying: You slippery old scoundrel. Still dragging your heels, huh? If you don’t move out, just wait and see what happens! [enters her apartment and shuts the door]

[The bottom of the stairs]

Boss Xiao [to Kong Youwen]: Old Master, she’s pressuring you to move out again, isn’t she? Hey, hear me out: do you know why Monkey wants to drive you out? Because he wants to sell this place! And do you know who he wants to sell it to?

Kong Youwen: Ai, who cares?

Boss Xiao: Hear me out, hear me out!

Mrs. Xiao [offscreen]: Stop talking nonsense! Old Master doesn’t want to hear your rubbish.

Boss Xiao [grabbing Kong Youwen]: Just hear me out! Do you know who the landlord is going to be?

Mrs. Xiao [grabs Boss Xiao by the ear]: It sure ain’t gonna be you!

[The Xiao household]

[Mrs. Xiao pushes Boss Xiao into the room, where their boys are playing noisily.]

Mrs. Xiao: Stop going around everywhere wagging that tongue of yours!

Boss Xiao [to boys]: Out, out!

Three boys: Oh, we can go out to play!

Mrs. Xiao [to boys]: Close the door after you! Close the door! [to Boss Xiao] What were you going on about to him?

Boss Xiao [protesting]: Old Mr. Kong is living on his own!

Mrs. Xiao: Cut the crap! We haven’t closed the deal on the building yet! Get moving and take our goods out to earn a little cash. We also have to go to the bank to buy gold.

Boss Xiao [excitedly]: Buy gold! We’re going to buy gold!

Boss Xiao [climbing the ladder]: Listen: we’ll take our stuff out and sell it on the black market as quickly as we can. Then we’ll go to the bank and redeem our cash for gold at the government rate. Once we’ve got the gold we’ll sell it on the black market. Then we’ll go back to the bank and trade more cash for gold, sell it on the black market again, then back to the bank, then back to the black market, then cash for gold at the bank again… [reaches the top of the ladder, opens a trunk, and takes out jewelry] What’s this junk? Ah ha! Here’s our capital, right here! [Sees Mrs. Xiao down below with a load of goods; angrily]: Hey, what are you doing?

Mrs. Xiao [sees Boss Xiao holding jewelry; angrily]: What the heck are you doing?

Boss Xiao [panicked]: I…nothing! Me? [climbs down ladder] Why did you take out my penicillin? [grabs a box out of her hands] I risked my neck to get that! And the price of those silk stockings is about to skyrocket too.

[As the Xiaos squabble, behind them can be seen a pile of assorted canned goods by the back wall, on which is a New Year’s illustration with the auspicious symbols of a fat child and a carp.]

Mrs. Xiao [trying to snatch gold jewelry out of Boss Xiao’s hands]: That gold is mine. What are you doing taking my gold out?

Boss Xiao [fighting back]: Using it as capital!

Mrs. Xiao [angry]: Capital! Then why are you hording these goods?

Boss Xiao [hands the jewelry and the medicine to Mrs. Xiao]: Fine, let’s just stop fighting, okay? We’ve got plenty of capital and the profits are going to start rolling in. Your gold and my goods— [in Shanghainese dialect] we’ll pool it together and use the lot! Sound good?

Mrs. Xiao: Damn you! Trying to pull a fast one on me! [takes jewelry and penicillin and walks towards the door]

Boss Xiao: Hey! Where are you going?

Mrs. Xiao: Didn’t you say to use them as collateral to borrow some cash from Monkey?

Boss Xiao: Collateral? And do you know how much cash we need? Here, I’ll write up an inventory for you. [the two go over to the table and Boss Xiao starts writing] Penicillin…

[Yu Xiaoying’s apartment. Yu Xiaoying, Mrs. Hua, a female visitor, and Ah Mei stand together in front of a table.]

Mrs. Xiao: These five pieces of jewelry weigh 2.58 ounces altogether. One ounce will be our deposit on the purchase! The rest, including these goods, I’d like to use as collateral for a cash loan. There are three more here.

Yu Xiaoying [laughs]: These are quite some antiques you’ve got here!

Mrs. Xiao: Look: I’ve got two pairs of silk stockings, a half dozen Parisian perfumes, and even penicillin!

Yu Xiaoying: Pay-nee-shee-ling? In Shanghainese, that sounds like “Dead man coming up!” [laughs and banters with the female visitor]

Mrs. Xiao: Mrs. Hou, this medicine is worth a fortune! It can bring the dead back to life! Two months ago, when I wangled this stuff, you could sleep on the streets to be first in line to buy penicillin, and still come away empty-handed.

[Ah Mei laughs.]

Yu Xiaoying [wipes smile off face, to Ah Mei]: What’s so funny? I don’t know what’s what, is that it? Get over here and put these things in the cupboard.

Ah Mei [puts the things in the cupboard, and peeks into the box of medicine]: Pay-nee-shee-ling!

Yu Xiaoying: Mrs. Xiao, I’ll give you the money when the Master gets back!

Female visitor [impatiently, to Yu Xiaoying]: That’s enough of that! Go find a couple more people for a game!

Yu Xiaoying [to female visitor]: You mahjong addict! Just would I find them?

Female visitor: Hah, there’s one right here!

Mrs. Xiao: Me? I wouldn’t presume to play with the two of you. I’m all thumbs.

Female visitor: Aiya, it’s just a little game of mahjong. What’s to be afraid of?

Yu Xiaoying: We’re still one short.

Mrs. Xiao: I know someone. If you don’t mind having her, I could ask Mrs. Hua up.

Yu Xiaoying: Yes, go!

[The Hua household]

Mrs. Xiao [knocks on door]: Mrs. Hua, Mrs. Hua!

Mrs. Hua [opens door]: Ai! Why, Mrs. Xiao!

Mrs. Xiao: Let’s go, let’s go! Come upstairs with me to play mahjong. [pulls Mrs. Hua by the arm]

Mrs. Hua: Wei Wei is sleeping, and I really can’t play.

Mrs. Xiao: Come now, Mrs. Hua. You need to get out more. Monkey is pressuing us to move, so we need to spend more time getting to know them.

Mrs. Hua [nervous]: Is Monkey home?

Mrs. Xiao: No, just a female visitor. Let’s go…come with me. Aiya, let’s go!

Mrs. Hua: In that case, just give me a minute.

Mrs. Xiao: Hurry up!

[Yu Xiaoying’s apartment, around a mahjong table]

Yu Xiaoying: I can’t stand it. I’ve had three good hands and not one win!

Female visitor: I had a great hand too!

Yu Xiaoying: Did you have the eight-circles tile I needed to win?

Mrs. Xiao: No, I didn’t. I…

[Fade out, fade in.]

Mrs. Xiao: Right. Just “eat” if you can.

Female visitor: Why did you discard that new tile? It’s all I needed for an amazing hand!

Yu Xiaoying: Oh, give me a break!

Mrs. Xiao: I had to play that tile, but as soon as I did—

Ah Mei [runs in the door, urgently]: The master’s back!

Yu Xiaoying [panics]: Quick, put the game away!

[Hou Yibo walks in the door.]

Yu Xiaoying [helping him take off his coat, solicitously]: You’re back! Why so early? It’s only Thursday! You must be freezing!

[Ah Mei hands him a scarf. Hou Yibo glowers.]

Mrs. Xiao [stands up and smiles apologetically]: We had nothing to do and were feeling bored, so I said we might as well keep Mrs. Hou company to liven things up. We weren’t expecting you! Never mind, we’ll wrap things up and put the game away.

Hou Yibo [discovers the presence of Mrs. Hua, smiles]: Mrs. Hua, please sit down. Sit, everybody. Carry on! Sit! [to the others] Sit—you too, Mrs. Xiao.

Yu Xiaoying [smiles]: What’s this? You’re going to play today too?

Hou Yibo [smiles, to Yu Xiaoying]: Sure, sure. I’ll play a couple rounds in your place. [looks at Mrs. Hua and smiles]

Mrs. Xiao: Come on, then!

[Phone rings.]

Yu Xiaoying: What a pain! The moment you get back, the phone rings. [goes out to take the call] Hello? Yes. He just got back. You sure got the news fast! [to Hou Yibo in the apartment] Hey, it’s from the firm!

Hou Yibo [to Yu Xiaoying]: Tell them that every one of them is to stay put! I’ll be there at five o’clock to make an important announcement.

Yu Xiaoying [closes door and resumes phone call]: Hello?

[Around the mahjong table in the Hou residence]

Mrs. Xiao [to Hou Yibo]: Aiya, they’re really after you with these calls. You get home and the phone starts ringing. Really!

Hou Yibo [to Mrs. Hua, attentively]: Mrs. Hua, isn’t Mr. Hua home?

Mrs. Hua: No, he’s teaching. Oh, yes—yesterday he told me that he wants to have a word with you.

Hou Yibo [smiles]: Great, excellent!

[Mrs. Xiao’s expression darkens.]

Mrs. Hua: Mr. Hua hopes that this building…

Hou Yibo: Mr. Hua is so busy!

Mrs. Xiao [smiles]: Maybe, but not as busy as you, Mr. Hou.

Female visitor [impatiently]: Aiya! Are you going to talk or are you going to play? Come on, Master Hou!

Hou Yibo [laughs and starts the game]: Of course.

Female visitor [bursts into laughter and claps]: I’ve won! Won big!

Mrs. Xiao [looking at the winner’s tiles]: Aiya—what a killer! All one suit! A one-to-nine straight. A pair of eights. Won without drawing or eating a tile. Gained an inside-five to complete a meld on the discard—and it’s the only five at that! No character tiles, no flowers, no jokers …aiya!

Female visitor [laughs]: And that’s not all! Let me total it up myself.

[Mrs. Xiao and the Female visitor count up the tiles.]

Hou Yibo: Mrs. Hua, what is Mr. Hua thinking about your living situation?

Mrs. Hua: He wants to move on campus.

Hou Yibo: Why?

Mrs. Hua: It’s nothing really. His position is just that it’s the Shanghai custom that the landlord provides moving expenses if they want the tenant to move out.

Hou Yibo: And what do you want?

Mrs. Hua: Well, of course, it’s inconvenient to move.

Mrs. Xiao: Master Hou, that tile you just played is going to cost us all money!

Hou Yibo [smiles]: Whoops!

[Near the school staff residences]

Old Liu [to other teachers]: Let’s deliver the protest letter first, and if the authorities don’t reply we’ll just go on strike!

Hua Jiezhi: Strike? Wouldn’t that be going overboard?

Old Liu: Going overboard? The students are already walking out of classes to support us. Why is it that teachers like us are the ones who are so timid [laughs]—isn’t that a bit cowardly?

Hua Jiezhi: Hey, what kind of attitude is that?

Old Xu [to Old Liu]: Okay, that’s enough of that. Let’s not argue about that right now! We’ll deliver the protest letter and decide what to do after we receive a response. [to everyone] First we should discuss how we’re going to deliver this letter to the new principal.

Old Liu: Just hand it to him in person. Why fuss about niceties?

Old Xu: Who should deliver it, then?

Old Liu: Looks to me like [laughs] this new principal of ours has taken a liking to Mr. Hua!

Hua Jiezhi [angry]: Just what do you mean by that?

Old Xu: Really, Old Liu! Cracking jokes at a time like this!

Old Liu [picking up the protest letter]: Fine—no more jokes. I’ll deliver it!

Hua Jiezhi: In that case, I’ll be off.

Old Liu [walks in, holding the protest letter, and, discovering Hua Jiezhi there, smiles]: What’s this? You’re here too? Where’s the principal?

Hua Jiezhi: I don’t know. I just got here myself. I wanted to talk to him about my housing problem.

Old Liu [smiles]: I see.

[Old Liu walks over and places the protest letter on the principal’s desk.]

Old Liu: Mr. Hua, you’re really willing to move on campus?

Hua Jiezhi: Why are you so surprised? Didn’t I say as much to you a couple days ago?

[Old Liu sneers, exits. Hua Jiezhi looks uncomfortable and starts to leave, when the Principal enters.]

Principal: Mr. Hua, Mr. Hua! Leaving already? Mr. Hua, that apartment you wanted—I’ve already arranged it for you. [whispering] Mr. Hua, have there been any developments among the staff?

Hua Jiezhi: There…I couldn’t say.

Principal: Okay, I’ll take you to see the apartment! [sees the protest letter on the desk]

Hua Jiezhi [awkwardly]: Principal, I see you’re busy. I’ll leave you.

Principal [glares up at Hua suspiciously, but then puts on a smile]: I’ll take you now. It’s this way.

[A spacious and well-lit staff apartment]

Principal: Take a look at this place. Not bad, huh?

Hua Jiezhi: It’s fabulous! But I’m not sure if someone like me really deserves such a great place to live…

Principal: Ai, nonsense! You’re too modest! You just wouldn’t be able to move in today. It needs to be tidied up first.

Hua Jiezhi: No rush, no rush!

[Hua and the principal are back in the hallway. The principal closes the door to the apartment.]

Principal: Mr. Hua, I need to ask you a favor today! [smiles] That staff protest aimed at me is entirely the result of a misunderstanding. I wouldn’t want this matter to go any further.

Hua Jiezhi: No, Principal, don’t misunderstand! It wasn’t me who delivered the protest letter. I’m not the representative!

Principal: No need to explain, Mr. Hua. I understand completely! Just retract this protest letter and you can move into the apartment tomorrow!

Hua Jiezhi: No! You misunderstand! The apartment and the protest letter are separate matters entirely.

Principal: Of course they’re separate matters! I’m letting you have the apartment as a personal favor—it has nothing to do with anyone else. As for this thing, be a pal and take it back! Sorry for putting you to the trouble!

[The principal thrusts the protest letter at Hua Jiezhi, who refuses to take it. Visible on the hallway wall in the background are protest slogans; the one on the left reads: “Protesting the illegal arrest of teachers and students.”]

Hua Jiezhi [panicked]: No, I’m sorry, Principal. I can’t do this! And I don’t want the apartment any more either!

Principal: Oh, come now, come now!

[Hua Jiezhi flees.]

[Yu Xiaoying’s apartment, around the mahjong table]

Hou Yibo [smiles]: Looks like Mrs. Hua’s the winner this round!

Female visitor: Aiya! A complete thirteen-tile hand!

Yu Xiaoying [enters apartment and walks over to table]: What’s that now?

Female guest: Five circles!

Yu Xiaoying: Who played it?

Female guest: That husband of yours!

Hou Yibo: Ha ha ha…

[Yu Xiaoying picks up mahjong tiles from Hou Yibo’s side and sees that he let her win. Yu glances askance at Hou.]

Yu Xiaoying [to herself]: Why play five circles? [smiles, to Hou Yibo, and throws tiles back on table] Of course you’d play five circles with a hand like that! We’ll settle this debt later. Time for a snack! [to Mrs. Hua] Help yourself, Mrs. Hua!

[Yu Xiaoying walks away. Enter Ah Mei with snacks.]

[Hua Jiezhi returns to the building and climbs the stairs.]

Hua Jiezhi: Jiajin, Jiajin! [enters the Hua household and sees that the floor is covered in papers and that the blanket has fallen off of Wei Wei, asleep on the bed. He covers her back up.] Wei Wei, Wei Wei! Where’s mama?

Wei Wei: Where’s mama?

Hua Jiezhi: I’m asking you!

Wei Wei: I don’t know.

[Hua Jiezhi closes the window.]

Wei Wei: Mama? Where’s mama?

[Hua Jiezhi walks to the door, where he encounters Ah Mei.]

Yu Xiaoying [offscreen]: Please help yourself to some snacks!

Hua Jiezhi [to Ah Mei]: Ah Mei, has Wei Wei’s mother gone out?

Ah Mei: She’s upstairs!

[Sound of laughter from upstairs.]

Hua Jiezhi [angry]: Jiajin, Jiajin!

Wei Wei [offscreen]: Daddy, daddy!

[Hua Jiezhi goes back into his apartment, closes the door, picks up Wei Wei from the bed and puts clothes on her.]

Wei Wei: Daddy, where’s mama?

[Enter Mrs. Hua.]

Mrs. Hua: You’re back so early today. [Awkwardly] Mrs. Xiao dragged me over. I really didn’t want to go. I know I shouldn’t play mahjong, but since we’re asking for moving expenses, I couldn’t refuse the invitation.

Hua Jiezhi [stands up furiously]: Who wants moving expenses from them? I’m not moving anywhere!

Mrs. Hua: You keep changing your mind. What is it you really want?

Hua Jiezhi: Mahjong—is that all you care about? Do you care what disaster occurred at school? That school apartment is a gonner!

Boss Xiao [voice from downstairs]: Big Mao’s mother, the rice ration is here! We need to hurry and join the crowd!

[Mrs. Hua takes out her money and prepares to go out too.]

[The Xiaos, Kong Youwen, and Ah Mei congregate noisily at the bottom of the stairs.]

Boss Xiao [to everyone]: IDs! Don’t forget your ID!

Ah Mei [to Kong Youwen]: Mr. Kong, I’ll go get your ration for you.

Kong Youwen: No need. I’ll go myself.

[Mrs. Hua comes downstairs.]

Boss Xiao: Hurry, hurry, hurry—it’s already arrived at the rice shop!

[Everyone hurries out.]

Boss Xiao [watching the others leave, smokes a cigarette and sings]: When I think of her, I can’t eat or drink…

[Yu Xiaoying’s apartment]

Female visitor [to Yu Xiaoying]: What a drag! The round isn’t even finished and everyone splits. Now that’s a first to me! I’m off. [Turns and leaves]

Yu Xiaoying [closing door]: I won’t see you out.

Yu Xiaoying [to Hou Yibo]: What do you think? Interesting game, wasn’t it?

[Hou Yibo glances at Yu Xiaoying, then lowers his head and shuffles papers.]

Yu Xiaoying: So, tell me: what do you really think of that woman who lives on the landing? You want me to set you up with her? [rests a hand on Hou Yibo’s shoulders]

Hou Yibo [brushes her hand away impatiently]: Don’t be ridiculous! You think I came back today to wallow in your jealousy? Stop dreaming! The fighting’s already reached Pookow! The Department Chief dispatched me here to deal with company matters.

Yu Xiaoying: So you’re going straight to the firm, then.

Hou Yibo: This building’s got to be dealt with as soon as possible too, got it?

Yu Xiaoying [hanging Hou Yibo’s clothes in the wardrobe]: I’ve taken care of everything you asked me to. I confronted Kong Youwen and told him to start packing and move out by the end of the month. Little Broadcast’s wife has already brought over gold and western drugs. They’re just waiting for you to give them money for their collateral.

Hou Yibo: Just give her a bit of cash from those public funds in the trunk! Have her come get it.

[The Xiao residence]

Boss Xiao [sitting in a rocking chair with his eyes closed, smoking a cigarette and talking to himself, with his stockinged feet resting on a metal foot-warmer, a bottle of wine on a stool next to him]: If our collateral gets us enough cash to buy two ounces of gold, and we sell it tomorrow and then spec more to flip the next day, then we’ll have four ounces. The day after that, we’ll flip it again, then we’ll have eight ounces. Eight times two is sixteen; one two is two; two twos is four; two fours is eight; that makes thirty-two ounces. We’ll spend three gold bars to buy the place, two ounces of gold on renovations, and move onto the terrace. Then we can rent out every single apartment individually. Let’s see…one and a half gold bars up front for the front unit, another one and a half for the upstairs unit, and five ounces for the back apartment on the landing. Two fives make ten—three and a half gold bars exactly! Redeeming the items we pawned, including principal plus interest, will cost three ounces of gold. Well, damn me if I won’t have cleared thirty-two ounces of gold! [Delighted] Ha ha! [claps hands; in Shanghainese] Daddy’s hit the jackpot! I’ve goddamn struck it rich, ha ha ha…I’m rich! [Laughs uncontrollably and slaps his legs, whereupon the chair breaks and he collapses to the floor, the wine bottle falls, and a cascade of cans and other goods rains down on him.] Aargh!

[Yu Xiaoying pushes open the door and enters, knitting.]

Yu Xiaoying: Little Broadcast, I spoke with the Master and he said that, leaving aside your deposit, he’ll give you four thousand gold-backed yuan for the rest of your goods and your gold jewelry. That’ll be enough for you to buy two ounces of gold. This short-term loan will cost you twelve cents a day and mature in ten-day’s time. If you don’t redeem them by the deadline, you’ll lose your collateral. What do you think—ten days sound good? If you agree to these terms, I’ll go upstairs and get the money right now.

Boss Xiao: Ten days? Ten days it is! [slaps thigh]

[The firm]

[Hou Yibo, carring a briefcase, walks into the office with the assistant manager.]

Hou Yibo [to assistant manager]: Is he still in?

Assistant Manager: He’s waiting in the office. [hands something to Hou Yibo, and whispers] Any news?

Hou Yibo [gravely]: The situation is changing too quickly. We need to respond in kind!

Assistant Manager [worried]: Aiya! All we’ve got are confiscated goods. How are we going to unload them?

Hou Yibo [whispering]: That’s exactly what I’m here about! The Ministry has a transport vessel leaving for Canton. [employee closes the office door] Box up all of the firm’s textiles, dyes, and hardware and put a Ministry of Defense seal on them. We’ll smuggle it onboard disguised as public property.

[Seal: “Republic of China, Ministry of Defense, sealed on ____ day of ____ month of 19__.”]

Assistant Manager: Yes, sir!

[Hou Yibo hands the Assistant Manager an envelope, on which is written: “Ministry of Defense internal communation to the from the Greater Shanghai Commandery Maritime Inspections Office”]

Hou Yibo: There’s also this directive from the Ministry to Maritime Inspections. Mobilize everyone to carry it out immediately!

Assistant Manager: Yes, sir! [starts to leave, then turns back] And how shall we deal with that rice shipment?

Hou Yibo: For crying out loud, you moron! With everything ass over tincups, think you’ll find anyone who doesn’t want to hoard a few hundred pounds of rice? The market’s ripe—dump it!

Assistant Manager [coming to his senses]: Of course! Dump the rice and buy gold! Ha ha ha…

[Alley outside the apartment building. Mrs. Xiao, the Xiao boys, Mrs. Hua, and Kong Youwen trudge through heavy rain.]

Mrs. Xiao [opens door, angrily]: Rice rations, they say, rice rations! So, where’s the rice? [to boys] Big Mao, you come back here now! [lets others enter first] That good-for-nothing—eats his fill and doesn’t lift a finger… Hey, you bum, you good-for-nothing!

[Boss Xiao comes down the stairs.]

Mrs. Xiao [angry]: Bum! Lazy swine! Lying around like a corpse while we’re out getting soaked and swindled! Rice rations, they say! You go get our rations! Get going—go! [puts the empty basin on Boss Xiao’s head]

Boss Xiao: I hear you loud and clear, madam! But, hey, take a look here! [pulls bills from his pocket] Forget rice rations. Tomorrow we’re off to buy gold!

[The two laugh together.]

[Dawn the next morning. Sunrise over the Bund on the horizon. A steam whistle sounds. Boss Xiao and Mrs. Xiao exit the front door of the apartment building.]

Boss Xiao: Ah-choo!

Mrs. Xiao [grumbling]: Lazy swine—you’re impossible to wake! All the gold will be long gone before your turn ever comes up!

Boss Xiao: Is that my fault? I couldn’t sleep a wink last night with your snoring!

Mrs. Xiao: Let’s go! People will already be lining up!

Boss Xiao: Ah-choo!

[Morning fog over Shanghai, dwellings in the foreground, the Bund on the horizon. Hou Yibo exits the front door of the apartment building, where his driver is looking under the car hood.]

Hou Yibo: What’s the trouble? Something wrong with it?

Driver: It’s too cold. The engine won’t turn over!

[Mrs. Hua passes by with a shopping basket under her arm.]

Hou Yibo: Morning, Mrs. Hua!

[Hua Jiezhi comes out the door in between Hou Yibo and Mrs. Hua. He glances at Hou Yibo, who turns and walks away.]

Hua Jiezhi [to Mrs. Hua]: Jiajin, give me some money for the bus.

Mrs. Hua: Hey, didn’t you say that teachers are on strike today?

Hua Jiezhi: Keep your voice down! They didn’t send out a notice today, so the strike probably isn’t going ahead. I’m going to school and take a look!

[The Huas walk and continue their conversation. They pass the entrance to the building next door, on which hangs the sign: “Hsu Chung-jen, Doctor of Chinese Medicine.”]

Mrs. Hua: I hear that Little Broadcast and his wife are planning to buy the building. What should we do?

Hua Jiezhi: Sigh…

Mrs. Hua: It’s all your fault. First you say we’re moving on campus, then you say we’re not, and I end up having to eat my words.

Hua Jiezhi: Just listen to yourself! You wouldn’t have me sell out my friends just for a two-room apartment at school, would you?

Mrs. Hua: Since when did I ask you to do something like that! Hou already said we didn’t have to move…

Hua Jiezhi: Good grief! Of course we won’t move since we don’t have any other choice! We’ll talk about this later.

Mrs. Hua: Now you’re back to saying we’re not moving! Then you go and talk to him yourself!

Hua Jiezhi: What? You want me to talk to him? We just won’t move and see what he does! [walks quickly away]

Mrs. Hua: If we’re staying, we at least have to tell them!

Hua Jiezhi [impatiently]: For crying out loud, just do what you want! [leaves]

[Mrs. Hua sighs.]

[Car horn honks. Long shot of street corner, where a peddler is hawking newspapers. A black sedan stops next to Mrs. Hua, and Hou Yibo steps out of the car.]

Hou Yibo: Mrs. Hua, off shopping? I’ll give you a lift!

Mrs. Hua [smiles]: No, thank you! [hesitantly] Mr. Hou, I want to have a talk with you about the apartment. [embarrassed] We still don’t want to move. I’m really sorry about all this back-and-forthing!

Hou Yibo [delighted]: That’s wonderful, Mrs. Hua! I told you you shouldn’t move! Come in, let’s talk in the car! [gestures toward open car door]

Mrs. Hua: No, thank you. I have to go shopping!

Hou Yibo [reluctantly]: Goodbye, then!

[Staff residences at Hua Jiezhi’s school. Sign on wall: “Protesting illegal arrests.”]

[Hua Jiezhi walks by. Old Liu and Old Xu look out at him from a window.]

Old Liu: Hey, isn’t that Old Hua? Why’s he at school today?

Old Xu: Maybe he doesn’t know about our strike!

Old Liu: What is it with you? You still trust him? Look! There he goes to class with his books. Humph. He’s been bought for sure.

Old Xu: Maybe he didn’t receive the strike notice!

[Hua Jiezhi arrives at the door to the Principal’s office.]

Principal: Who is it?

Hua Jiezhi: Me!

[Hua pokes his head in the front door and is alarmed to discover the Principal smoking and talking with three men, holding a document in his hand.]

Principal: Oh, it’s Mr. Hua! [puzzled] What’s this—you’re here for class!

Hua Jiezhi: Yes, but it seems there’s a teacher’s strike today, is that right?

Principal [laughing]: Mr. Hua, didn’t you know about it?

Hua Jiezhi [uneasily]: I really didn’t, so I came to school to see what was happening.

[Principal smiles at him fixedly as his three companions stare. On the wall behind the principal is a portrait of Chiang Kaishek.]

Hua Jiezhi [nervously]: I have something to attend to. Goodbye!

Principal [smile disappears, to other three]: Watch out for this one! Still pretending to be out of the loop. He must be the instigator of the strike! Follow him, and don’t let him escape! [One of his companions, a security agent, stands up.] Take this list of names. [hands him the document he’s been holding] There are twenty-five all together, students and teachers. See if the van’s here.

[Security agent walks over to the window and looks out.]

[The school exercise yard. Students stand near telephone poles and trees pasted with slogans. A “flying fortress” armored van drives into the yard and students scatter. The van stops, and the security agent walks over to give directions to the armed men pouring out of it.]

[Near school buildings, whose pillars and walls are pasted with slogans, including one on the left, which reads “Protest the illegal arrest of teachers and students!”]

[Security agent directs the military police to arrest Hua Jiezhi.]

Security agent: Let’s go!

Military police: Let’s go!

Hua Jiezhi [struggling]: What are you doing? Let go of me!

Military police: Get moving, there!

[Security agent tears down a slogans from one of the pillars.]

[Hua Jiezhi is forced into the van, which is already full of arrested teachers and students.]

[The apartment building]

[Three thugs walk in the front door.]

Thug [shouting]: Does a guy named Kong live here?

[Kong Youwen sits on the stairs telling a story to the children.]

Kong Youwen [standing up, alarmed]: Pardon me, what is it? My name’s Kong.

[Thug draws himself up, threateningly.]

Thug [standing in front of the door to Kong Youwen’s quarters]: Is this where you live?

Kong Youwen: Yes, yes.

Thug [cursing]: Son of a bitch! Why the hell haven’t you moved like you were told to?! Instead, you need me to come here and teach you a goddamn lesson!

[Thug slaps Kong Youwen in the face, drawing blood.]

Thug: You had this coming!

[Kong touches his bleeding lip. Thug directs his accomplices to enter Kong’s room.]

Ah Mei [races downstairs]: What’s going on?

Thug: Keep out of this! Fuck off!

[Sound of things being smashed in Kong’s room.]

Yu Xiaoying [from the upstairs landing, to Ah Mei]: Ah Mei! Come upstairs! This doesn’t concern you. [Returns to own apartment]

[Sound of smashing crescendos. Xiao boys scream in terror and hug Kong Youwen. Ah Mei hugs Wei Wei.]

Thug: Get the hell out of the way, kids! Move it! Scram!

[Thug throws something out of Kong’s room. Kong tries to enter.]

Thug [pushing Kong away]: Get out of here! Scram!

[Neighbors from other buildings in the alley, hearing the uproar, gather at the open door of the building. Boss Xiao pushes his way through the crowd and in the door.]

Boss Xiao [to Ah Mei]: What’s happening? What’s going on?

Thug [to Kong Youwen]: Listen up, old man—I’ll give you until tomorrow to move out. If you don’t… [snaps a table leg in his hands in half] that’s what’ll happen to you!

Boss Xiao [pushes his way in between thug and Kong]: Hey, buddy, can I say something?

Thug: And you are?

Boss Xiao: Name’s Xiao, Boss Xiao. They call me Little Broadcast. I live in the front room. Now, about Mr. Kong here: of course he’ll have to move, but a single day is just not enough time. You should at least give him some time to prepare for the move, shouldn’t you? Listen, pal, I’d really appreciate it if you’d give me the benefit of the doubt and do me a favor. Let him stay one more week, and if he hasn’t moved out, you can hold me completely responsible!

Thug: Done! We’ll take Boss Xiao at his word. We’re off! See you later!

Boss Xiao [smiling and bowing them out the door]: So sorry for the trouble! See you later! Bye!

Thug: We’ll see ourselves out! Bye!

Boss Xiao [offscreen]: See you later!

[Thug waves to Boss Xiao and exits through the front door. Thug and Mrs. Hua, just returned from grocery shopping, look at each other as they pass.]

Mrs. Hua [bursts in the room and takes Wei Wei from Ah Mei]: Wei Wei!

Wei Wei: Mama!

Mrs. Hua [alarmed]: What happened? What’s going on?

Ah Mei: Some thugs smashed up Mr. Kong’s room!

Mrs. Hua [shocked]: Why?

Ah Mei [weeping, quietly]: Monkey paid them to do it!

Yu Xiaoying [offscreen, from upstairs]: Ah Mei!

Ah Mei [glances upstairs, and curses under her breath]: Horrible woman!

[Mrs. Hua hands shopping basket to Ah Mei and hurries over to the bottom of the stairs.]

Yu Xiaoying [offscreen, shouting from upstairs]: Ah Mei!

Wei Wei: Mama, mama!

[Kong Youwen looks around his smashed-up room, in which is visible a work of calligraphy, featuring the line “redolent verses fill my heart,” and a photograph of Kong with his son. Boss Xiao, Mrs. Xiao, Ah Mei, and Mrs. Hua look on from behind him. Mrs. Hua and Ah Mei help Kong pick things up off the floor. Kong picks up a broken water thermos, the inner metal lining of which falls to the floor with a clatter. Mrs. Hua rolls up the calligraphy scroll.]

Boss Xiao: Don’t worry, Old Master. I’ll sort this out! By the end of the week, I’ll definitely have figured something out! Really, listen to me…

Mrs. Hua: That’s right, Mr. Kong—don’t worry! We’ll figure something out…

Boss Xiao: Yep, I’m on the job!

Ah Mei [indignantly]: You should all just stay put and see what he does about it!

[Everyone thinks silently.]

Ah Mei: So, what did you all say to him last time?

Mrs. Xiao: What did we say to him? No one was willing to take the lead! [glances at Mrs. Hua] Oh, but Mr. Hua…

[Boss Xiao nudges Mrs. Xiao. Everyone is silent.]

Boss Xiao [to children]: Goodness, what are you all doing?

[Kong Youwen picks up a photograph from the floor and sits down. Close up of photo of Kong and his son.]

Ah Mei: Why are you all so afraid of him? That pair are nothing more than a thief and a whore—you wouldn’t believe the things they’ve done! You should all be brave and refuse to move out!

Children: Grandpa Kong, we don’t want you to leave! Don’t leave, Grandpa Kong! Don’t be afraid of him!

Kong Youwen: Second Mao, there’s nothing Grandpa Kong can do…

Second Mao [points to photograph]: Then get Big Brother Kong to come back and get revenge!

Children: Yeah, get Big Brother Kong to come back!

Second Mao [touching Kong’s face]: Don’t be sad, Grandpa Kong. We’ll help you clean up! [directing other children] Come on, let’s clean up. Get to it!

[Everyone cleans up Kong’s room.]

[Entrance to the building]

Old Xu [to upstairs, whispering]: Mrs. Hua! Mrs. Hua!

Mrs. Hua [runs over]: What is it?

Old Xu [pulls Mrs. Hua into the kitchen and closes the door]: They arrested a bunch of people at school today, including Mr. Hua. I only escaped because I jumped the wall. I came here just to tell you!

Mrs. Hua [cries]: What should I do? Oh, what should I do?

[Other residents gather outside the kitchen.]

Wei Wei: Mama!

Old Xu: Try to keep calm, Mrs. Hua! We’ll all try to figure out what to do. Mr. Hua was totally uninvolved with the strike. I have to get going! [Exits]

[Other residents enter the kitchen.]

Everyone [to Mrs. Hua]: What’s wrong? What happened?

Mrs. Hua [crying]: Mr. Hua’s been arrested!

Boss Xiao: Arrested? Why?

Mrs. Hua [to Kong Youwen]: Mr. Kong, please look after Wei Wei for a while. I need to go figure out a way to save him! [exits]

Boss Xiao [following her]: Mrs. Hua, Mrs. Hua!

Wei Wei: Mama!

[Other residents follow her to the front door.]

Boss Xiao [to Mrs. Hua]: Wait, I’ll go with you!

Mrs. Xiao [restraining Boss Xiao]: Hey, save your energy for the gold market tomorrow! You’ll oversleep again! We need to go get in line tonight!

Ah Mei [to Kong Youwen]: Why Mr. Hua?

Kong Youwen [indignantly]: What has this world come to!

[Mrs. Hua arrives at a lawyer’s office. Sign: “Feng Ping, Esq.”]

Mrs. Hua [crying]: Plesae save him!

Lawyer [awkwardly]: I’m truly sorry, but we really can’t take on this sort of case!

[Mrs. Hua lowers her head and cries.]

[Entrance to the municipal Department of Education]

Mrs. Hua [to guard]: I’m looking for Secretary Kao.

[Mrs. Hua stands in front of a sign for the Shanghai Municipal Department of Education.]

[Education Secretary’s office]

Mrs. Hua: Please release him—I’m begging you!

Official [unsympathetically]: This type of thing is not our responsibility!

[Sign on wall: “Propriety, Righteousness, Integrity, Honor”]

[Mrs. Hua leaves in tears.]

[Entrance to Greater Shanghai Garrison Command]

[Mrs. Hua attempts to enter the building.]

Guard [blocking her]: Hey, what are you doing?

Mrs. Hua: I’m here to see Section Chief Chen.

Guard: Go to reception!

[Section Chief Chen’s office]

Mrs. Hua: Please do the right thing and release him, I’m begging you! I’ll kneel! I’ll kowtow! [kneels]

Section Chief Chen [annoyed]: I already told you, we didn’t arrest anyone! [walks away]

[An exhausted Mrs. Hua walks back home in the rain.]

[The Hua residence. Mrs. Hua lies face-down on the bed, crying.]

Kong Youwen: What is it? No news of him?

Mrs. Hua: Nothing at all!

[Wei Wei fusses.]

Kong Youwen [to Wei Wei]: Don’t fuss, Wei Wei, there’s a good girl! Let mommy rest a bit! [to Mrs. Hua] Don’t be anxious, Mrs. Hua—it won’t help a thing! We’ll think of something!

Mrs. Hua [determinedly]: I…I’ll ask Monkey for help! [stands up]

Kong Youwen [surprised]: Him? Why on earth ask him?

Mrs. Hua: Monkey works in the Ministry of Defense. He’s sure to have connections! [picks up a mirror and fixes her hair]

[Yu Xiaoying’s apartment]

Mrs. Hua: Mr. Hou, Mrs. Hou, please help me! If only you can get Mr. Hua released, I’d do absolutely anything to repay you!

Hou Yibo: Ai, Mrs. Hua, how could you say such a thing! Recently, incidents like this one involving Mr. Hua all too common. The Ministry I work for in Nanking prosecutes over a hundred a year. And to be honest, these teachers have been acting completely outrageous! That said, I know Mr. Hua, and know that he’s a good man. You just relax and leave this matter entirely to me!

Yu Xiaoying [holding a cigarette, to Hou Yibo]: So, you’re going to bail him out!

Hou Yibo: Of course! I have plenty of friends in the central government and the military. That Ch’en Ta-ch’ing is a former classmate of mine, so it’ll be no problem! I’ll just place a couple of calls! [smiles] But, Mrs. Hua, to settle this matter you’ll have to appear in person!

Mrs. Hua [gratefully]: Of course! Just so long as there’s a solution.

Hou Yibo [smiles]: That’s that, then! I’ll take you to see my friends tomorrow afternoon!

Mrs. Hua: Thank you, thank you!

[Yu Xiaoying looks askance at both of them.]

[Mrs. Hua walks downstairs, where Kong Youwen and Wei Wei come over to meet her. Sound of a storm outside.]

Mrs. Hua: Mr. Kong, I’ve found a way to save him! He agreed to take me to see some friends tomorrow.

Kong Youwen [surprised]: Why is he willing to help you all of a sudden?

Mrs. Hua: I never imagined it either! [feels Wei Wei’s forehead] Is Wei Wei a bit feverish?

[Kong feels Wei Wei’s forehead.]

[Boss Xiao and Mrs. Xiao walk out of their apartment with their things for spending the night outside.]

Boss Xiao [to Kong Youwen]: Hey, Old Master!

Kong Youwen: You’re going out to buy gold tonight?

Mrs. Xiao [smiles]: We’re going to get in line. We’ll have to sleep on the streets tonight! We’ll leave the kids under your care!

Kong Youwen: No problem!

Boss Xiao [to Mrs. Hua]: Mrs. Hua, we’ll have you over if we’re able to buy gold tomorrow! I still want to find Mr. Hua for you!

Mrs. Xiao [to Boss Xiao]: Stop talking nonsense. What gold? Let’s get going! [to boys] Back home with you!

[On the street, in a downpour. Mrs. Xiao holds an umbrella, and the pair struggle forward in the rain.]

Mrs. Xiao [frowning]: Aiya, if we aren’t able to buy gold again, we’ll be in serious trouble!

Boss Xiao: Think we’ll fail if we stay up all night? With everything in this world, “where there’s a will, there’s a way.” Got it?

Mrs. Xiao: All you do is brag!

Boss Xiao: Humph!

[A column of blind men walks in the same direction. The man in front walks with a cane.]

Boss Xiao [pointing at the lead blind man, to Mrs. Xiao]: Hey, look: even the blind are going to speculate in gold|!

Blind man: So what if I’m blind! Are you saying the blind can’t be gold speculators?

[Boss Xiao laughs and the Xiaos walk away, followed by many other people walking in the same direction.]

[Sounds of whistle, rain, and a cacophony of voices. Outside the bank is a throng of people, many holding umbrellas. A “flying fortress” armored van drives up, and police disperse the crowd, including the Xiaos, causing chaos.]

[Next morning, a clock above the Bund shows six o’clock, and tolls the hour. Outside the main entrance to a bank, a mass of hundreds of people anxiously await its opening, as the clock continues to strike. Amidst the clamor, some people drink water, some smoke, others nod in and out of sleep, while many more push forward. Boss Xiao, whose eyes are closed, squeezes forward with the crowd.]

Man in Crowd A: Are you with us?

Man in Crowd B: Of course!

Woman [offscreen, in Shanghainese]: Aiya! Somebody picked my pocket! They stole my money! My cash!

[Boss Xiao looks in the direction of the voice and sees Mrs. Xiao waving at him from afar. Mrs. Xiao gestures to Boss Xiao to guard his pockets, and Boss Xiao nods vigorously. A man in black steps out of a second-floor window of the bank, holding a basket of bread loaves.]

Man in black: Bread’s here! One loaf per person! Here you go! [throws a loaf of bread into the crowd. One man in the crowd catches the loaf and begins to wolf it down.]

Man on street 1: Dammit! The guy distributing bread is the head of that gang of hoarders. Not again!

Man on street 2: Yeah! What’s he doing in the bank anyway?

Man on street 3: It’s a conspiracy! The Central Bank is colluding with a gang of gold-hoarders. All those people who forced their way to the front are in their gang!

Man on street 2: Dammit! They stuff themselves with bread and then buy up all the gold. There might not be any gold left for us!

Man on street 3: Keep it down or you’ll get yourself beaten up!

[Man in black throws bread toward the front row, calling out names as he does so. The crowd shouts out as they raise their hands to catch loaves of bread. Boss Xiao squeezes his way up front. Man next to Xiao catches a loaf. Soon, Xiao catches one.]

Man in black [to man next to Xiao]: Hey, brother, is he with you?

Man next to Xiao: No!

Man in black [to Boss Xiao]: Where did you come from, you little bastard?

Boss Xiao [bites into bread with gusto, and replies in Shanghainese]: We’re on the same team! Same team!

Man in black [points at Boss Xiao]: You son of a bitch! Where the hell did you come from? He’s a member of that hoarder gang! Get him out of there! Goddamn it, drag him out if you have to! Drag him out!

People in front row [as they push and punch Boss Xiao]: Beat him up!

Man in black: Goddamn it! Throw him the hell out of here!

[Crowd picks up Boss Xiao and carries him back, above their heads.]

Mrs. Xiao [panicking, shouts to Boss Xiao]: Over here!

[The crowd shouts at and pummels both Boss Xiao and Mrs. Xiao.]

[Bright daylight. The ground is scattered with items, like broken shoes and broken umbrellas. Mrs. Hua sits in a stupor on the ground. Boss Xiao hauls her to her feet. The street is covered in garbage. Other injured people sit in front of the cigarette and alcohol shop opposite. Vendors pass by occasionally, shouting their wares.]

[Entrance to the apartment building. As it rains, Hou Yibo leads Mrs. Xiao into his car.]

Hou Yibo [to Mrs. Hua, solicitously]: Please, after you!

[Mrs. Hua gets in the car.]

Hou Yibo [to driver]: To Garrison Command! [gets in car]

[In a restaurant]

Waiter [to Hou Yibo, solicitously]: Manager Hou, your table is ready! [takes Hou Yibo’s coat and cane]

Mrs. Hua [confused]: Mr. Hou, didn’t you say we were going to the military police to find a friend of yours?

Hou Yibo: Oh, let’s wait here until it stops raining. It’ll be easier to find who I’m looking for!

[A pan shot show the restaurant full of couples flirting in booths.]

[In the next shot, Hou Yibo and Mrs. Hua are having a meal in a booth.]

Hou Yibo [uses chopsticks to place food on Mrs. Hua’s plate]: Eat, don’t be so polite.

Mrs. Hua [anxious]: Mr. Hou, we should be able to go see that friend of yours by now!

Hou Yibo: Not yet, not yet. Let’s sit a while longer. The rain hasn’t stopped yet! Besides, you don’t get a chance to get out much, and I don’t get much time off…

Mrs. Hua: Mr. Hou, I’ll keep you company some other day. It’s really past time…

Hou Yibo: You’re such the good wife, Mrs. Hua! You’re so good to your husband, but it seems that his treatment of you isn’t quite…

Mrs. Hua: It’s nothing. It’s just that his personality is a bit peculiar…

Hou Yibo: That’s right! He never gives me the time of day.

Mrs. Hua I’m sorry, Mr. Hou. He’s such the bookworm! When he gets out, he’s sure to apologize to you! In person!

Hou Yibo: Don’t mention it! You’re so polite. But, Mrs. Hua, I want you to repay me yourself.

Mrs. Hua: That goes without saying! Of course I should thank you personally.

Hou Yibo [leers]: In that case, Mrs. Hua, just how do you plan to repay me?

Mrs. Hua [anxious]: Do, do you want me to give you some kind of present?

Hou Yibo: Don’t play dumb, Mrs. Hua! [touches Mrs. Hua’s hand]

Mrs. Hua [pulls hand away]: Mr. Hou, I don’t understand what you mean! [stands up] Mr. Hou, we should be going!

Hou Yibo [pushes Mrs. Hua down by the shoulder, sits down next to her and slides closer]: Let’s sit a little longer, just a little longer!

Mrs. Hua [retretats, scared]: Mr. Hou, Mr. Hou!

Hou Yibo: Come out dancing with me tonight!

Mrs. Hua: I don’t know how to dance!

Hou Yibo: That doesn’t matter. If you’ll just spend one night with me…

Mrs. Hua [struggles]: Mr. Hou, you…!

Hou Yibo: Mrs. Hua, don’t you know that I truly love you?

Mrs. Hua [fights to standing, cries]: Mr. Hou, you bully!

Hou Yibo [angry]: I’m doing you a good turn! I’m helping you!

Mrs. Hua [pushes Hou Yibo away]: You hypocritical beast! [forces her way out and escapes, knocking over a server’s tray, which falls to the floor with a crash]

[Mrs. Hua runs home through a downpour on the streets, and pushes open the door.]

Kong Youwen [meets her carrying Wei Wei]: Mrs. Hua, thank goodness you’re finally back! Wei Wei’s sick!

Mrs. Hua: What? Sick? [takes Wei Wei from his arms]

Kong Youwen: I’ve already called the doctor. He’s in the Xiaos’ apartment!

[Xiao household. Boss and Mrs. Xiao lie bruised and battered on the bed, their heads wrapped in bandages.]

Boss Xiao [murmuring]: Gold…thirty-two ounces of gold!

Doctor [holding bandages, to Kong Youwen]: It’s nothing serious. They’ll recover from their wounds after a few days of rest. If they’re in pain, just apply a hot water bottle.

Kong Youwen: Sure! I apologize, but there’s also a little girl I’ll trouble you to take a look at.

[Sound of rain outside. Doctor nods and walks past Kong to where Mrs. Hua is holding Wei Wei. Mrs. Hua sits down at the table.]

Doctor: What’s wrong with her?

Kong Youwen: She started running a fever yesterday—probably because of a draft! Then her mother, Mrs. Hua, hasn’t been at home these past few days, and I’m really no good at taking care of children. I’m afraid she’s caught a cold, since she’s been in this comatose state all today…

[Mrs. Hua looks mortified. Doctor uses his stethoscope on Wei Wei.]

[Enter Ah Mei.]

Mrs. Hua: Doctor, please tell me: what’s wrong with her?

Doctor: It’s acute pneumonia! You’ll need to give her penicillin, and soon. As soon as you’re ready, I’ll give her an injection!

Kong Youwen: Penicillin!

Mrs. Hua: Penicillin!

Doctor [nods]: The sooner, the better. You’d best go buy some right now!

[Exit Mrs. Hua, carrying Wei Wei, followed by Kong Youwen and Ah Mei.]

[The Hua household]

[Mrs. Hua rifles through her drawers anxiously, and looks crestfallen when she finds only a few bills. Kong Youwen sits on the bed with Wei Wei in his arms.]

Kong Youwen: Mrs. Hua, come here quick!

Mrs. Hua [hurriedly embraces her child]: What’s wrong? What’s wrong, Wei Wei?

Kong Youwen: Her breaths are getting shorter and shorter. Use some warm water to moisten her lips!

Mrs. Hua: Wei Wei, Wei Wei!

Kong Youwen: Mrs. Hua, do you have the money? You’d better buy the medicine right away!

Mrs. Hua [cries]: To be honest, Mr. Kong, we don’t have the money! We don’t even have enough to get by day to day, and we don’t have anyone we can borrow from. Since Mr. Hua was arrested, our house has been…

[Ah Mei listens from the doorway, then pushes open the door and enters.]

Ah Mei: Mr. Kong, how much does the medicine cost? [pulls money out of pocket] Here—buy it with this!

Kong Youwen: Ah Mei, I’m afraid a month of your wages wouldn’t be enough to buy even a single injection!

Ah Mei [alarmed]: That expensive!

Kong Youwen: Mrs. Hua, don’t panic. Whatever you do, don’t panic! There’s always a way. I’ll go figure something out. [exits]

Mrs. Hua: Mr. Kong…

Ah Mei [gasps]: Mrs. Hua, I’ll be right back!

Mrs. Hua [holds child and cries]: Wake up, Wei Wei, wake up! Let mommy rub your chest. Does that make you feel any better? Wei Wei! Say something, say something! Wei Wei, Mommy can’t die in your place. Just answer me, Wei Wei! Mommy’s scared. Why are you so quiet? Answer me, answer me! [Wails]

[Mr. Kong’s household]

[Kong Youwen searches frantically through his belongings. The door opens and Ah Mei looks in from the stairwell.]

Kong Youwen [to himself]: This coat might be worth something.

Big Mao: Grandpa Kong, Daddy’s calling again!

[Kong Youwen and Big Mao go over to the Xiao household together.]

[Ah Mei sneaks into Kong Youwen’s apartment, and picks up and inspects the coat Kong is planning to sell. Suddenly, she thinks of something and turns and heads upstairs.]

[Xiao household]

[Kong Youwen pulls the blanket covering Boss and Mrs. Xiao up a little higher, gives Boss Xiao a drink, and puts a hot water bottle on Mrs. Xiao’s forehead.]

Kong Youwen [to Big Mao]: Big Mao, you’re old enough to know how to take good care of your mommy and daddy. I’ll be right back! [pulls blanket up on the other two boys, who are sleeping with their heads at the foot of the bed]

Big Mao: Grandpa Kong, where are you going?

Kong Youwen: I’m going to buy medicine for Wei Wei!

[Ah Mei tiptoes downstairs holding something in her hands. She then enters Mr. Kong’s quarters and puts the item in Kong’s trunk and closes it. Kong Youwen comes in the door, startling Ah Mei, who pretends that she’s fetching the thermos.]

Ah Mei: Mr. Kong, I’ll go fetch you some hot water!

Kong Youwen: No, no, no—thank you! I’m about to leave for the office.

Ah Mei [stopping him]: Wait, why on earth are you taking this trunk to the office?

Kong Youwen: Never you mind!

Ah Mei [anxious]: Mr. Kong, I found this trunk open just now. Do you think someone messed with it?

Kong Youwen: Messed with it? [opens trunk]

[Shot of newspaper-wrapped package labeled “Contains one course of penicillin.” Kong Youwen tears open the newspaper and sees the box of medicine.]

Kong Youwen: Penicillin! Penicillin! Where did this come from? Where? [shakes with emotion] Ah Mei, it was you, wasn’t it?

Ah Mei [whispers]: It’s Mrs. Xiao’s!

Kong Youwen: Fine, doesn’t matter! A life’s at stake! [excitedly races upstairs] Penicillin, penicillin! Mrs. Hua, we’ve got penicillin!

[Ah Mei looks on happily from downstairs.]

[The Hua household]

[Kong Youwen holds Wei Wei while the Doctor gives her an injection. Wei Wei cries.]

Mrs. Hua [soothingly]: It’s nothing, there’s a good girl, Wei Wei! It’ll be over in a second. Stay still! Good girl!

[That night in the Hua household. Mrs. Hua looks at the sleeping Wei Wei and smiles happily. Her thoughts suddenly turn to her imprisoned husband and she becomes distraught again.]

[Next morning in the Hua household]

Wei Wei [awakening with a smile]: Mama, mama!

Mrs. Hua: Wei Wei!

[The bed in the Xiao household]

Boss Xiao [removing the bandage from his face]: Ouch! [looks at Mrs. Xiao] Hey, how are you doing?

Mrs. Xiao [happily] My! You’re recovered too?

Xiao boys [all three sit up together in bed and set up a happy clamor]: You’re better!

[On the ground floor, Ah Mei opens the door for Kong Youwen.]

Kong Youwen: Thanks, I’ll close it, I’ll close it.

Wei Wei [calling from upstairs]: Grandpa Kong, Grandpa Kong!

Kong Youwen: Wei Wei, you’re all better!

Mrs. Hua [stands by the window, carrying Wei Wei]: Mr. Kong’s back?

Wei Wei [runs downstairs]: Grandpa Kong, Grandpa Kong!

Kong Youwen [picks up Wei Wei]: Wei Wei! My goodness!

Mrs. Hua [to Wei Wei]: Say it! What did I tell you to say? Say thank you to Grandpa Kong!

Wei Wei: Thank you, Grandpa Kong!

Mrs. Hua: Really! It’s all thanks to you that this little girl is still alive!

Kong Youwen: Hey, don’t mention it.

Boss Xiao [offscreen, from the Xiao residence]: Old Master, come in here for a chat!

Xiao boys: Grandpa Kong, Grandpa Kong! Come down, Wei Wei! [they go out to play]

Mrs. Hua: Be careful, Wei Wei!

[Boss and Mrs. Xiao welcome Kong Youwen and Mrs. Hua.]

Mrs. Hua: Don’t get up, please!

Kong Youwen: You’re both better! Congratulations!

Boss Xiao: You saved us both, Old Master!

Kong Youwen: Hey, don’t mention it!

Boss Xiao [opens newspaper]: Let’s see what the news is. Any chance of peace?

Kong Youwen: Ai, peace?

Boss Xiao [eyes widen]: Wait a minute—peace really is here! Peace at last, for real! Look!

[Headline of the newspaper L’Impartial: “President Chiang announces resignation. Vice President Li appointed Acting President, exhorts nation to work together in bringing about peace”]

Boss Xiao: Old Chiang’s stepped down! No more fighting.

Mrs. Xiao [elated]: What’s that? Say again?

Mrs. Hua [elated]: Really?

Ah Mei [happy]: What’s that? No more fighting?

Boss Xiao: Ai! Really! Old Chiang’s stepped down!

Kong Youwen: Stepped down? Don’t believe it. It’s just that Big Boss Uncle Sam sees that Old Chiang reeks to high heaven, and is swapping in Li Tsung-jen to dupe everyone!

Boss Xiao: Whatever the case may be, this might mean the war’s over!

Mrs. Hua: If peace is really here, then the people they arrested—

Boss Xiao: —will be released for sure! Mrs. Hua, I congratulate you! Mr. Hua is sure to be released any day now!

Mrs. Hua [with tears of joy]: That’s wonderful!

Boss Xiao [to Ah Mei]: And you, little sister! Now you can go back to the countryside and farm—you don’t need to be a servant anymore! [to Kong Youwen] And you, Old Master, you deserve the heartiest congratulations! Your young man should be back any day now! [Kong Youwen shakes his head] As for us—Big Mao’s mom, as long as the fighting’s done we’ll be back in business! Some day…heh heh!

Mrs. Xiao [laughs]: Praise be to Buddha, peace is finally here!

[Everyone laughs. Outside, a car horn honks.]

Ah Mei: Monkey’s back!

[Everone falls quiet. Ah Mei hurries to the door and takes a briefcase from the driver’s hand.]

Hou Yibo [entering front door, to Ah Mei]: Has Geezer Kong moved out yet? Are Little Broadcast and his wife home?

Ah Mei: They’re home!

Hou Yibo: Tell him to come upstairs in a moment.

Ah Mei: Okay.

[In the Xiao household]

[Kong Youwen leaves.]

Mrs. Hua [to the Xiaos]: Mrs. Xiao, you keep resting.

Mrs. Xiao: Sure, thank you!

[Mrs. Hua leaves.]

Mrs. Xiao [anxiously, to Boss Xiao]: Let’s go to exchange cash for gold again tomorrow, okay?

Boss Xiao: No good. All we’ll get in exchange will be more trouble! In a moment I’ll go talk to Monkey and ask him to extend the deadline a couple days.

Boss Xiao [resumes reading newspaper]: What’s this?

[News item on front page, dated 1949: “Economic news: Paper currency exchanged for gold now subject to a Stabilization Fee of 6,500 yuan per ounce.”]

Boss Xiao [alarmed]: Stabilization fee? Stabilization fee! What goddamned stabilization fee? [puts down newspaper and stares ahead blankly] We’re finished! My money has been stabilized away!

Mrs. Xiao [alarmed]: What? Does this mean…does this mean that gold…?

Boss Xiao [cries]: …has skyrocketed! It was two thousand dollars an ounce! Now it’s six thousand five hundred dollars an ounce!

Mrs. Xiao: What? Six thousand five hundred? That’s ridiculous! Six thousand five hundred? That four thousand Monkey gave us won’t even buy a single ounce now! What goddamned son-of-a-bitch told you this?

Boss Xiao: Stop dreaming! Now we don’t even have four thousand! One doctor’s visit and we’re down to two thousand! [gets up]

Mrs. Xiao [cries]: Tell me, just which son-of-a-bitch is claiming the price is sixty-five hundred?

Boss Xiao: Aiya! Who else? Orders from Nanking! Motherfuckers!

Mrs. Xiao: Government orders? What kind of bastard government would do such a thing? That order’s not worth a dog’s fart! We had more than two ounces of gold in capital, and now they’re worth less than three thousand dollars! [wails] Those short-sighted bastards have killed our future! That government of murderers!

Boss Xiao: Quiet down, my good wife. If that guy upstairs hears, he’ll kill you!

Mrs. Xiao: I don’t care! I’m going to go settle accounts with those daylight robbers!

Boss Xiao: Aiya, and just where would you find them? The government’s in Nanking! Wife, this is what’s meant by “disaster never strikes just once.” Not only can’t we get our capital back, all those things we took upstairs as security are a lost cause too!

Mrs. Xiao: Heavens!

[Yu Xiaoying’s apartment]

Hou Yibo [displeased]: Just what have you been up to these past few days? Geezer Kong is still kicking around here, and Little Broadcast’s not going to be able to come up with the rest of the money for the apartment. Meanwhile, Nanking has pretty much cleared out! Tell me: are you planning to stay or go?

Yu Xiaoying [pouring hot water]: We should at least wait until after the Lunar New Year! Tomorrow’s the Kitchen God Festival!

Hou Yibo [impatiently]: Clueless woman! Wait till New Year’s passed and it’ll be too late!

Yu Xiaoying [hurt]: Don’t blow up at me! All year I’ve been doing everything I can to make things right, just to be together with you.

Hou Yibo: Alright, alright—cut the crap! Pack up everything in the next couple days, and we’ll go down to Canton when we move the firm there.

Yu Xiaoying [changing Hou Yibo’s shoes]: What? Didn’t they say the war would be over in a couple days?

Hou Yibo: Dream on! They’ve beaten us so badly we can barely catch our breath! Of course we’ve asked them for a cease-fire, but that’s just so we can catch our breath to fight again. What would you know about it?

Yu Xiaoying: So what are we going to do about this building?

Hou Yibo: Do? Get the rest of the money from Little Broadcast!

[A knock on the door.]

Yu Xiaoying: Who is it?

Mrs. Xiao [opens the door and enters]: Me! Master Hou is home—excellent! I have something to discuss with you.

Hou Yibo: What’s that?

Mrs. Xiao: Just this: we want to redeem those good we left here, including the gold jewelrey and the penicillin.

Hou Yibo: Ah ha! Tell me this first: The deadline on the apartment is up. Where’s the rest of the money for the sale? You owe three gold bars—let’s see ‘em!

Mrs. Xiao: We’ll have to trouble you for an extension for a few days on the apartment! I’ll just redeem the goods first.

Hou Yibo: The goods? You agreed to a ten-day deadline. That’s long passed. What nonsense are you spouting now?

Mrs. Xiao: Say what?

Hou Yibo [fiercely]: Don’t waste my time! The deadline on the apartment is up tomorrow. Bring me three gold bars and I’ll grant you the apartment. If not, you’ll move out tomorrow and forfeit your deposit!

Mrs. Xiao [angry]: That’s ridiculous! So you’re going to gobble up my things just like that?

Yu Xiaoying [standing up]: Liar! “Gobble up,” you say? Take a look at this! [takes out document] Isn’t this the agreement you and Little Broadcast wrote out yourselves?

Mrs. Xiao: And just how much money are those goods of mine worth? You gave us only four thousand gold-backed yuan for our security—if that’s not gobbling up someone’s property I don’t know what is! You two have to be fair!

Yu Xiaoying: No one forced you into this deal, and you wrote out the agreement yourselves. Fairness doesn’t enter into it!

Mrs. Xiao: But gold is now selling for sixty-five hundred. My jewelry alone is worth twenty thousand! You [cries]… you’re kicking us when we’re down, you opportunists…

Hou Yibo [stands up, furious]: Bullshit! So you’re accusing me, Hou, of gobbling up your gold, are you? Then take me to court, if you’ve got the guts. Get out of her! [pushes Mrs. Xiao]

Mrs. Xiao: Push me, will you? Stop pushing, you bully! Are you blind!?

Hou Yibo: Get out!

Mrs. Xiao: You can’t push me around like Kong Youwen!

[Yu Xiaoying pushes Mrs. Xiao away.]

Boss Xiao [pushes open the door and enters]: Stop this arguing! [to Mrs. Xiao] Get away home! We already pawned the goods to them, so there’s nothing left to say. [to Hou Yibo] Listen up, Hou: I wrote that agreement and I won’t be going back on it. But is time really up on our goods and gold? Anyone with a sense of reason or fairness can answer that question for themselves! [turns and pushes Mrs. Xiao off] Let’s go! We’ll be back if we can, and if not, we’ll have made them a gift of it! [turns back, to Hou Yibo] So, fine—it may be that our deal on the apartment is a lost cause, and you’ve gotten my deposit for nothing! But listen up, Hou—Little Broadcast knows the truth about you!

Hou Yibo [slams door]: Son of a bitch! Who do you think you are?

Boss Xiao [opens door, to You Yibo]: What’s that? Cursing me? Nicely put! But know this: Little Broadcast works on the streets and earns what he eats. I’m no thief and no robber—everyone on the streets knows exactly what kind of man I am. But you—what the hell are you? Fuck you!

[Hou Yibo grasps the door.]

Yu Xiaoying [restraining him]: Forget it! Why fight with him—the bum!

Hou Yibo [pulling up his sleeves]: Goddamn it! That dog doesn’t even deserve to eat my shit! I’m sure as hell not giving him a bargain on this building! Call up Old Wei and tell him to get over here as soon as possible. I’ll sell him the building for cheap!

[The Xiao household. Mrs. Xiao storms in, on the verge of tears, closely followed by Boss Xiao, and sits down on bed.]

Mrs. Xiao [crying]: Aaah…my poor gold! It took me decades to save those few ounces, and I could never bring myself to exchange them. Now that unscrupulous beast has gobbled down all of it, just like that!

Boss Xiao: What’s there to cry about? Stop crying! Stop it!

Mrs. Xiao: It’s all your fault! You’re the one who exchanged my gold!

Boss Xiao: He got my penicillin the same way—do you know how hard that was to get? Why cry about it? [cries] Stop crying! You weren’t born with it, and you can’t take it with you. Stop this infernal crying! [yelling upstairs, enraged] You’re going down—you hear me, Hou!

Mrs. Xiao: That man came back to look at the apartment again. What should we do?

Boss Xiao: Fight it out—that’s what! Everyone unite and duke it out with him!

Ah Mei [whispering]: He’s here, he’s here!

[Everyone hides in the kitchen. Sound of footsteps.]

Old Wei [to Hou Yibo]: In that case, I’ll have the full purchase amount sent over, and have the place tidied up at the same time!

Hou Yibo: Excellent, I look forward to it! [Sees Boss Xiao standing by the kitchen door, and his eyes widen] Listen up, you three! I’ve already sold this place to Mr. Wei here. All of you have until no later than tomorrow morning to clear out! [to Old Wei] I’ve got plenty of friends among the police, so don’t you worry, Mr. Wei.

Old Wei: Okay, then—see you tomorrow!

[Exit Old Wei. Hou Yibo goes upstairs.]

Boss Xiao [spits at Hou Yibo’s retreating back]: Phaugh! Well I’m not moving a goddamn inch! What’s he going to do about that!

Mrs. Hua: But Mr. Xiao, didn’t you hear what he just said? He’s going to get the police to kick us out!

Boss Xiao: Him? His days of bullying are numbered! Hey, Old Master, listen to this! I’ve got a shocking piece of news!

Kong Youwen: Spare me! What kind of wild gossip are you spreading this time?

Boss Xiao: This report is absolutely reliable! I heard that last night the Communists fought their way to Liuhe. Nanking’s in chaos!

Kong Youwen [nods]: Now, that’s a fact. [smiles] A rare treat to hear an accurate broadcast from you!

Boss Xiao: So don’t you think Monkey’s going to flee? Why fear him?

Kong Youwen: Aiya! But he hasn’t fled yet! [returns to his quarters]

Mrs. Xiao: Well, we’re not moving. We’ll fight it out with him to the end!

Mrs. Hua: That’s right! After all, he can’t move the building!

Boss Xiao: Even if the police come, it’s nothing to be afraid of. We’ll drag him into the fight!

Ah Mei: Boss Xiao, Boss Xiao! What’ll we do if Mr. Kong moves out?

Mrs. Xiao: He’s planning to move? I’ll go see him!

[Outside Kong Youwen’s door]

[Day calendar on wall: 27th]

Mrs. Xiao: Old Master, Old Master! Old Master, we won’t let you move out!

Boss Xiao: That’s right, we won’t let you move out!

Mrs. Hua [to Wei Wei]: Look, Wei Wei! Grandpa Kong wants to move out. Are you going to let him do that?

Wei Wei: Don’t leave, Grandpa Kong!

Second Mao: Grandpa Kong, you can’t leave!

Big Mao: Grandpa Kong, you can’t leave!

Kong Youwen [squats down]: I didn’t say I was leaving. Who told you that?

Ah Mei [opens door, pulls out a tied-up parcel of luggage]: Who told them? What’s this?

Mrs. Xiao [laughs]: Telling lies at your age!

Kong Youwen: I never!

Yu Xiaoying [offscreen]: Ah Mei, come up here now! [on landing outside her apartment] Faster! Hurry! Where is that package of goods I gave you?

Ah Mei: Goods?

Yu Xiaoying: In the wardrobe I only found the silk stockings and the perfume. Where’s the penicillin? Where did you put it? Bring it here!

Yu Xiaoying [to Hou Yibo, who is packing a suitcase with gold bars and cash]: That group downstairs is causing trouble again. You go deal with them!

Hou Yibo: Son of a bitch!


Tenants: Don’t be afraid of him.

[Hou Yibo stands on the upstairs landing, glaring down at the tenants, who stare back at him.]

Mrs. Xiao: None of us are moving out, Mr. Kong, so don’t you move either! Stick together, everyone. See what he does about it!

Boss Xiao: That’s right—be stick together, everyone!

[Hou Boyi stomps slowly and deliberately down the stairs.]

Hou Yibo: Get out, all of you! You’re all evicted! Get the hell out!

[Mrs. Hua lowers her head and starts to leave.]

Wei Wei: Mama!

Mrs. Xiao [grabs Mrs. Hua]: Don’t leave, Mrs. Hua! We’re going to have our say, face to face!

Hou Yibo [to Kong Youwen]: What’s this? Why haven’t you moved out yet? Ah Mei, come down here! Throw his luggage out! You hear me? Throw it out!

Kong Youwen: Don’t bother. I’ll do it myself!

Yu Xiaoying [offscreen, yelling]: Ah Mei!

[Ah Mei climbs stairs.]

Hou Yibo [throws Kong Youwen’s bedroll out the door]: Humph! You just watch your step! Don’t be stupid enough to mess with powerful people again! [walks upstairs]

Boss Xiao [stopping Kong Youwen from carrying his luggage out]: You’re not moving!

Mrs. Xiao: You can’t leave!

Mrs. Hua: Why would you leave?

Big Mao: Don’t leave, Grandpa Kong!

Second Mao: Bring his luggage back in!

[Xiao boys fetch back inside the bundle of possessions that Hou threw out.]

Hou Yibo [to boys]: What the…? Are you looking for a thrashing?

Boss Xiao: We told you—none of us are moving!

Ah Mei [offscreen, terrified]: Aiii!

[Yu Xiaoying chases Ah Mei down the stairs from her apartment, beating Ah Mei with a feather duster.]

Yu Xiaoying: I’ll kill you!

[Ah Mei falls to the floor. Hou Yibo and Yu Xiaoying grab her by the hair. Kong Youwen pulls Ah Mei back behind him.]

Yu Xiaoying [to Kong Youwen]: What’re you doing?

Kong Youwen: Hey! Why are you beating her?

Yu Xiaoying: She stole my things! Mind your own business!

Kong Youwen: She stole your penicillin, didn’t she?

Yu Xiaoying: What? You know!

Kong Youwen: Yes, because I stole it! Don’t falsely accuse her! I’m the one you’re looking for!

Yu Xiaoying: What!

Hou Yibo: Huh!

Mrs. Hua: No! Mr. Kong didn’t steal it—I did!

Hou Yibo: Alright, then! So this place of mine has turned into a den of thieves! You’re a gang of thieves—all of you! Fine. Not one of you is leaving!

Mrs. Xiao: Bullshit! Thieves? You’re the thief here, you robber, swindler! You swindled away my penicillin, my silk stockings, and my gold! Alright, then, let’s take this out on the street and thrash out who’s right and who’s wrong! [grabs Hou Yibo]

Hou Yibo: Thrash your mother! You get the hell out! Clear off—every one of you! Get the hell out!

Boss Xiao: Call us thieves, will you, Hou? Let’s go thrash out the truth on the streets, if you’ve got the guts! You think you can bite us just because you’re the lapdog of some high official? You just try me, if you’ve got the guts!

Kong Youwen: Let him go, Boss Xiao. Let him call the police on us. Today we’re finally going to settle an old score with him! Hou Yibo, you’re a traitor and scumbag! If you’ve got any clout left, you show us what you can do with it. This old man is going to fight you for all he’s worth!

Hou Yibo: Like hell you are! You watch yourself, Kong Youwen! Your son’s a communist, and if you keep spouting nonsense, I’ll finish you off, old man! [pushes Kong Youwen]

[Boss Xiao props up Kong Youwen.]

Kong Youwen [indignant]: I’m spouting nonsense? You rob Mrs. Xiao of her gold with your loan-sharking, you illegally take over my building, and now you want to evict me! You even try to seduce a good woman, and you accuse me of spouting nonsense?

Yu Xiaoying [alarmed]: What? What did you say?

Kong Youwen: When he saw Mrs. Hua was in difficulty, he tried to take advantage of her!

[Mrs. Hua lowers her head and starts to leave.]

Kong Youwen: Don’t go, Mrs. Hua. You have nothing to be ashamed of. It’s this beast who’s made a public spectacle of himself!

[Mrs. Hua cries. Yu Xiaoying bursts into tears and furiously turns and stomps upstairs.]

Hou Yibo: Shut up! One more word and I’ll beat you to death, you son of a bitch!

Boss Xiao: Just try it!

Kong Youwen: Do your worst! I’ll never be afraid of you again! This building is mine, and I’m staying put. Everyone is, and we’ll just see what you do about it.

Boss Xiao: That’s right—we’re not moving. What’re you going to do about that?

Xiao boys: We’re not moving! [singing] Monkey, Monkey, he’s not poor…

[Telephone rings. Amidst the noise, Yu Xiaoying picks up the receiver, then impatiently hangs up.]

Hou Yibo: You’re asking for it, all of you! This is mutiny! I’ll have you all arrested! [turns around and climbs stairs]

Kong Youwen: Go ahead and make the call! Move? Over my dead body!

Everyone: We’re not moving!

[Telephone rings. Yu Xiaoying ignores it and returns to her apartment in tears. Hou Yibo answers the phone.]

Hou Yibo: Hang up! Hang up!… What? Long-distance call? From the Ministry of Defense in Nanking? Okay, okay! Oh, D…Department Chief, it’s you!

[An office of the Ministry of Defense, which is in chaos, amidst preparations for evacuation. Employees tear down from the wall a “Capital Garrison Area Military Defense Map.”]

Department Chief [on the phone, seen only from the back]: Of course it’s me! What’s going on with you? Why haven’t you called by now? [puts receiver down, to a subordinate] Hey, get a move on! [picks up receiver, to Hou Yibo] Hey, an emergency decision has come down: the garrison will be leaving Nanking immediately and retreating to Canton! [Shot of subordinates burning documents, which read: “Top secret: Yangtze River Defense Plan is hereby transferred to the Ministry of Defense, signed, Chiang Kai-shek”] I’m about to accompany the Minister to Fenghwa to meet the President for an urgent meeting. Tomorrow I fly to Canton. Hey, have you finished collecting all of the firm’s funds? You have until the day after tomorrow to bring them to me. The Minister needs them. Understand?

Hou Yibo: Yes, sir! I’ll take care of it immediately—immediately! [hangs up] Son of a bitch!

Yu Xiaoying [lies face down on the bed, crying]: No wonder—you’re always rushing around doing this and that. The only thing you have time for is that woman downstairs!

Hou Yibo [packing]: Get out of my way! Move it!

Yu Xiaoying: Of course you want me to move out—so someone else can come in and take my place!

Hou Yibo [furious]: Goddamn it! So what if I did get myself another woman? Leave if you want to leave. I don’t need any woman! Stop this goddamn crying! It looks like it’s all over!

Yu Xiaoying: What did they tell you on that call just now?

Hou Yibo: What did they tell me? That it’s over!

Yu Xiaoying: Nanking’s fallen?

Hou Yibo: Any minute now!

Yu Xiaoying [panicked]: Then…then what are we going to do?

Hou Yibo: Do? Get the hell out—now!

Yu Xiaoying: You mean today?

Hou Yibo: We’ll fly out at dawn. I’ll go book the tickets!

[Hou Yibo goes to the phone; Yu Xiaoying follows.]

[The Xiao household]

Mrs. Xiao [treating Ah Mei’s wounds]: How could they beat you so badly?

[Ah Mei cries.]

Kong Youwen: They’re beasts—absolute beasts!

Boss Xiao: Damn them! The only thing devils like them understand is violence. That’s how we’ll deal with them!

[Sound of Hou Yibo on the phone upstairs. Everyone eavesdrops.]

Hou Yibo [offscreen]: Is this the airline? Put Captain Wang on the line! Captain Wang, is that you? This is Hou Yibo. I want two tickets to Hong Kong!

Boss Xiao [to everyone]: They’re fleeing—fleeing!

Kong Youwen: Come on, please do me this favor.

[Everyone looks delighted.]

[Yu Xiaoying’s apartment, which is in disarray]

Hou Yibo: Hurry, hurry, hurry! Let’s go, it’s daybreak!

Yu Xiaoying: I really can’t get over abandoning this building!

Hou Yibo: Move it! This dump’s worthless!

Yu Xiaoying: Worthless? It’s worth three gold bars!

Hou Yibo: I’ve got a lot more than that in here! Do you think I’m going to have you sleeping on the streets in Hong Kong?

Yu Xiaoying: Wait, aren’t you going with the firm to Canton?

Hou Yibo: For crying out loud, who cares about the firm at a time like this? Move, fast!

[As they exit with their luggage, they startle awake Ah Mei, who is sleeping on the ground outside the apartment door.]

Ah Mei: Who is it? Thieves! Thieves!

[Hou Yibo and Yu Xiaoying exit the building and climb into a waiting car, which has luggage strapped to the back.]

Hou Yibo [to driver]: Let’s go, let’s go! Lung Hwa Airport! Hurry, let’s go!

[Sound of car ignition.]

Hou Yibo [exasperated, sees lights going on upstairs]: Goddamn it—you’ve woken everyone up! Hurry up! Hurry! Hurry! Faster!

[Ignition sound continues, but engine still doesn’t turn over.]

Kong Youwen [walks over to Hou’s car window]: Hunh, quite the speedy escape!

Hou Yibo: Shit! I’m letting you all off easy now, but I’ll be back to settle accounts with every one of you!

Kong Youwen: Fine, then. If you’ve got the guts, you come back and we’ll settle accounts so that you get everything you deserve!

[In the dawn light, Hou’s car drives away across the hump of a bridge. A van driving the opposite direction stops at the bridge, and two thugs throw Hua Jiezhi out of the vehicle onto the ground.]

Thug: You’re getting off easy this time! Walk straight ahead, and if you turn your head even once, I’ll kill you. Move! [kicks Hua in the back]

[Hua Jiezhi stumbles forward with his hands up.]

[In the alley to the Shanghai apartment building, Hua Jiezhi stumbles over to and into the front door. A secret agent appears on the corner. Inside the apartment building, Hua Jiezhi knocks on the door to his apartment.]

Mrs. Hua [offscreen]: They’ve really fled!

Mrs. Xiao [offscreen]: They’re finished too!

[Sound of everyone laughing. Hua Jiezhi follows the noise upstairs to the the door to the apartment Yu Xiaoying and Hou Yibo have just vacated.]

Wei Wei: Daddy!

Hua Jiezhi: Wei Wei! Jiajin!

Mrs. Hua [ecstatic]: Jiezhi!

[Mr. and Mrs. Hua embrace. Hua Jiezhi winces.]

Mrs. Hua [anxious]: What’s wrong?

Hua Jiezhi: It’s not serious. It’s just a bit wounded.

Mrs. Hua: Why did they release you?

Hua Jiezhi: They shot Old Zhang and Old Liu. They couldn’t find any evidence against me, but they beat me half to death anyway!

Mrs. Hua: But why would they release you?

Boss Xiao: Yeah, Mr. Hua, why would they be willing to release you?

Mrs. Xiao: Yeah, why?

Hua Jiezhi: Now that Li Tsung-jen has taken power, he’s waving the flag of peace to dupe people. Naturally, they have to release a few prisoners, just for show! Actually, a secret agent followed me all the way home. They can re-arrest me any time they like. But I’m not afraid! Mr. Kong, I may have suffered a lot, but I’ve learned some valuable lessons! [eyes blaze with determination]

Boss Xiao [delighted]: Everything’s great now that Mr. Hua’s back! We can celebrate a truly happy New Year!

[A calendar on the wall of Yu Xiaoying’s former apartment reads: “Friday, January 28, 1949. Twelfth month of the Wuzi year, Day 8 of the Little Cold period. Twenty-second, rain.” To the right of the calendar hangs a photograph of Hou Yibo in military uniform, which Ah Mei takes down and replaces with a photograph of Kong Youwen and his son. Members of the three families, freshly attired, are preparing the room for a Lunar New Year celebration. On a wall hangs the calligraphic inscription of a Lu You poem previously seen in Kong’s former lodgings downstairs: “As guests depart, tea fragrance lingers on the tongue / As I awake, redolent verses fill my heart.” Mr. and Mrs. Hua are making the bed, Mr. Hua is now wearing a Western suit and tie, with his hand bandaged. Mrs. Xiao and her children are setting out the dishes.]

Mrs. Xiao [to children]: We’ll eat in a moment. Be patient! [sneaks a bite herself]

[Boss Xiao lights candles.]

Kong Youwen [writes a New Year’s couplet and smiles]: Goodness! This past year’s kept everyone busy! Ha ha ha…

Mrs. Hua: The bed’s made!

Mrs. Xiao: The food’s on the table!

Boss Xiao: And the candles are lit!

Second Mao: Oh, time to light the firecrackers!

Kong Youwen: Hold on, hold on just a minute! I want to do one more thing first. Little Mao, Second Mao, Wei Wei! Take these carefully! [hands them two strips of paper featuring a New Year’s couplet] Let’s all go to the front door! Okay, take your time! [Children carry the New Year’s couplet and lanterns]

[Everyone arrives at the building entrance.]

Boss Xiao: Right side first! Up!

[Everyone helps paste up the two strips of paper with the New Year’s couplet on the two leaves of the front door of the building.]

Kong Youwen: This is an old couplet, but it’s been many years since—well, I haven’t put up a New Year’s couplet since this building was stolen from me. I think it’s a fitting one for this year! The New Year is here, and a new society will be here soon. “Firecrackers explode, driving away the old / With a door couplet on view, families welcome the new.” Hah!

[Everyone laughs]

Hua Jiezhi: That’s right! New Year’s is upon us, and a new society is coming too. As for us, we’ll need to adopt a new way of thinking. Living in the old society, we’ve picked up a lot of bad habits that we’ll have to fix. That’s why it’s time for “out with the old, in with the new”—we need to start afresh! We need to learn how to become new ourselves!

Boss Xiao: Listen to me…

Mrs. Xiao: Leave it! The food’s getting cold! Let’s all drink a cup to celebrate a New Year of all being together!

[Everyone happily goes back inside. Kong Youwen closes the door.]

[Camera rests on the couplet: “Firecrackers explode, driving away the old / With a door couplet on view, families welcome the new.” Sound of festive gongs and drums is heard as people celebrate on the street.]


Subtitles translated by Christopher Rea, with the research assistance of Yao Jiaqi.