The White-Haired Girl—Film Script

Tr. by Pete Nestor and Tom Moran[1]

MCLC Resource Center Publication (February 2006)


Title and credits appear over a still shot of a river in the countryside.
A Changchun Film Studio production.
The White-haired Girl.
Based on a work created collectively by the members of the Yan’an Lu Xun Academy of Literature and Art and written down by He Jingzhi and Ding Yi.
Adapted for the screen by Shui Hua, Wang Bin and Yang Runshen.
Directed by Wang Bin and Shui Hua.
Director of photography: Wu Weiyun.
Music by Qu Wei, Zhang Lu and Ma Ke.
Cinematography by Qian Jiang.
Assistant director: Wang Guangyan.
Art direction by Lu Gan.
Recording engineer: Sha Yuan.
Song lyrics by He Jingzhi and Zhang Songru.
Songs performed by Wang Kun, Meng Yu, Zhang Ping and Li Yaodong.
Music performed by the Changchun Film Studio Orchestra, conducted by Yin Shengshan and Li Bingshen.

Cast (in order of appearance):

Zhao Lu as Old Zhao.
Zhang Shouwei as Yang Bailao.
Tian Hua as Xi’er.
Hu Peng as Wang Dashen [Auntie Wang].
Li Baiwan as Dachun.
Chen Qiang as Huang Shiren.
Li Renlin as Mu Renzhi.
Li Bo as Madame Huang.
Guan Lin as Zhang Ershen [Aunt Zhang].
Zhang Ying as Dasuo.
Wang Feng as Huzi [Tiger].
Zhang Yan as Lao Wushu [Fifth Uncle].
Sun Fengqin as Xiao Yatou [Maidservant].
Gao Ping as Laotou [Old Man].
Fu Jia as Lao Shuishou [Boatman].

Fade to black. Fade in on a village by a lake below a mountain. Cut to a pan across a valley. Cut to shots of a river. Cut to Old Zhao on a hillside herding sheep. Old Zhao sings.

Old Zhao [singing]: Clear flowing water and bright blue sky, fields of grain below the hills. The sorghum stretches to the horizon, the Huang family’s lands are boundless.

The song is continued by a chorus in voiceover. As the song continues, a montage of shots of the fields, the valley, Madame Huang at home with her servants, young men laboring in the fields, and Yang Bailao cutting grain.

Chorus [singing, in voiceover]: The master is in the mansion, tenant farmers bring in the autumn harvest. They bleed and sweat, working like beasts of burden. The older farmers’ backs are breaking, their children are nothing but skin and bones. Their suffering has no end.

Yang Bailao straightens up and wipes sweat from his brow.

Yang Bailao: Xi’er! Xi’er! Stop cutting. Xi’er, it’s midday. Stop cutting. You look as if you’re about to drop from exhaustion. . . . Here. [he hands her a cloth so she can wipe her face]

Xi’er: Dad, you take a break. I’ll finish this row. . . . Auntie Wang should be bringing lunch soon.


Auntie Wang, carrying baskets of food, approaches along a path. She passes farmers and exchanges greetings with them. She puts down her baskets and calls to her son, Dachun, who is working in the fields.

Auntie Wang: Chun’r! Chun’r! Chun’r!

Dachun: Ma!

Auntie Wang: Chun’r, lunch time. Call your Uncle Yang and Xi’er over to eat with us.

Dachun: Uncle Yang, my mom has brought lunch for you two!

Yang Bailao: Coming! [to his daughter] Xi’er, let’s go.


Auntie Wang and her son, Dachun, find a spot in the shade of a tree to have lunch. Yang Bailao and his daughter, Xi’er, join them. The Wangs and the Yangs, who are not related, use familial terms to address one another, as is the custom.

Auntie Wang: Brother Yang, time to eat.

Yang Bailao: Okay.

Xi’er [taking over from Auntie Wang and serving the food]: Auntie Wang, let me.

Yang Bailao: Auntie Wang, sorry to put you to the trouble of cooking for us again.

Auntie Wang: What do you mean trouble, Brother Yang? What are we, strangers? Making a little bit extra is no problem.

Yang Bailao: There’s nothing I can do about it. The girl is here in the fields with me. That leaves no one at home to do the cooking.

Auntie Wang: Will you just look at this child. Her hands are all torn up. When she sets to working, she doesn’t hold back! [to Xi’er] Why don’t you ask Dachun to help you when there is too much for you?

Dachun: I told you that you didn’t have to come down to work, but you insisted. From now on, you should stay out of the fields!

Old Zhao approaches.

Auntie Wang: Uncle Zhao, come have some millet soup.

Old Zhao: Hey, Brother Yang!


Yang Bailao: Brother Zhao, come here and get some soup.

Old Zhao: So, your two families are working together to bring in the harvest again?

Auntie Wang: Yes.

Xi’er: Uncle Zhao, have some soup.

Old Zhao: Brother Yang, your sorghum stalks are nice and full this year.

Yang Bailao: We aren’t going to end up with much grain after we pay rent to the Huangs.

Auntie Wang tries to thread a needle but struggles because of her eyesight.

Xi’er [taking the needle and thread]: Auntie Wang, I can do that for you.

Old Zhao [watching Xi’er]: Auntie Wang, Brother Yang, to bring up the same old topic again, it is time for your families to make the match. [laughter] Chun’r, Xi’er, it’s time for you to treat your Uncle Zhao, your old matchmaker, to a piece of your wedding cake.

Dachun and Xi’er, embarrassed, run off. The adults laugh.


Auntie Wang: Uncle Zhao, how can you tease like that? The kids are grown now.

Old Zhao [laughing]: Come on, what is the big secret?!

Yang Bailao: Brother Zhao is right. After the harvest is over, we’ll pick an auspicious day for the wedding, make food for the wedding, and fix up that old room for them. Then, this old man will be able to marry his daughter off in style.

Auntie Wang: Right now we don’t even have the money to buy a red quilted jacket for her as a wedding gift. Xi’er is a good kid, that’s not fair to her.

Yang Bailao: Don’t say that, Auntie Wang. Chun’r is a good boy. Xi’er can’t go wrong getting married to him. [Xi’er and Dachun overhear and smile]

Dachun and Xi’er work together in the fields.


Shots of sky, the valley, and a flock of sheep. A horse-drawn wagon driven by Mu Renzhi, with Huang Shiren riding next to him, turns a corner. Mu Renzhi yells at the farm hands.

Mu Renzhi: Out of the way! Out of the way! Move over!

Mu and Huang see Xi’er, stop their cart, and stare at her.

Mu Renzhi [to Huang]: Hey, it’s Xi’er.

She turns away.

Huang Shiren [to Mu]: What do you think? The older Xi’er gets, the prettier she gets, right?

Mu Renzhi: I’ll say. She’s the prettiest girl around. Nobody can compare with her.

Mu flicks the reins to start the cart. They pass Xi’er.

Mu Renzhi: Xi’er, the Young Master really dotes on you. . . . He’ll loan you a donkey to carry that for you.

Xi’er, embarrassed and angry, turns away. Yang Bailao and Dachun walk up next to her. Mu and Huang ride on.


Dachun [to himself]: That son of a bitch.

The wagon reaches the Huang mansion. Shot of a horizontal tablet over the entrance. It reads “Wealth and Virtue over a Thousand Acres.” Huang and Mu get out of the cart and walk up the stairs. Servants great them.

Servants: Young Master, you’re back. Young Master.

Mu Renzhi [handing something to a servant]: Take this to the lady of the house.

Huang Shiren: Old Mu, I want to take a look at Yang Bailao’s account.

Cut to Madame Huang in her room attended by a servant. She is praying by a Buddhist shrine.

Huang Shiren [at Madame Huang’s door]: Mother.

Madame Huang: Shiren, you’re back.

Huang Shiren: I’m back, Mother. I thought I’d come say hello to you, Ma’am.

Madame Huang: You’ve been outside in the heat wearing yourself out all day. Be careful you don’t get heatstroke.

Huang Shiren: No problem, Mother. It’s nothing. I’ve brought back all the things you wanted from town, Ma’am.

Madame Huang: Oh.

Cut to Mu Renzhi outside the door to Madame Huang’s room.

Mu Renzhi [through the door]: Young Master.

Madame Huang: Old Mu, come in.

Mu Renzhi enters and bows to Madame Huang.


Mu Renzhi: Ma’am.

Madame Huang: Old Mu, how is the harvest this year?

Mu Renzhi: All credit to Madame Huang, this year is going to be a once in a century bumper crop.

Madame Huang: The tenant farmers are all going to have a surplus this year. You should have them pay the debt they have accumulated over the past years.

Mu Renzhi: Yes. Absolutely, absolutely.

Madame Huang: Shiren.

Huang Shiren: Yes, Mother?

Madame Huang: Go get some rest.

Huang Shiren: Okay. I’ll be going then, Mother.

As Huang leaves, Mu shows him several papers. Huang indicates that Mu should go with him. They turn to leave.

Madame Huang: Old Mu, when you collect the rent be especially careful. We don’t want our tenant farmers to get so upset they kill themselves. That would ruin the reputation of the Huang family.

Mu Renzhi: Right, Ma’am. You don’t have to worry about that.

Madame Huang: Go on then.

Cut to the farmers threshing grain. A man walks by banging on a gong.

Man: Listen up! Back rent and this year’s rent are both due together. Hurry up and bring what you owe to Er Niu’s house in the west village.

Cut to the Huang mansion. Huang Shiren and Mu Renzhi go over accounts.

Huang Shiren: What’s this? Yang Bailao owes us only six dou [sixty liters] of grain?

Mu Renzhi: We already converted the other grain he owes for back rent into cash debt. He owes $22.50 silver dollars in total.

Huang Shiren: Well, when is it due?

Mu Renzhi: By custom, debts aren’t settled until the last month of the year.

Huang Shiren looks displeased by this news.

Mu Renzhi: Master, it’s my fault for letting this escape my attention. Tell you what, when the twelfth month rolls around, I’ll make sure he is brought before you.

Huang nods and smiles faintly.

Cut to the threshing yard. Yang Bailao and Xi’er fill a sack with grain.


Yang Bailao [sighs]: That’s enough to pay the rent to the Huangs.

Xi’er: Dad, you should also pay back the six dou of grain you borrowed in the spring and be done with it.

Yang Bailao: All we have left is this little bit of grain. Aren’t you going to need some when you get married?

Cut to the rent collection station. Mu Renzhi, who is supervising, sits at a table and fans himself. In the background, a man measuring grain shouts out measurements.

Dasuo: Uncle Yang, Fifth Uncle even used his seed grain to pay his rent.

Yang Bailao sighs.

Mu’s Assistant: Fifth Uncle is still short a bit.

Fifth Uncle: Mr. Mu, I just don’t have that seven and a half sheng [liters]. I’ve even given you my seed grain.

Mu Renzhi: Enough, enough, enough! Stop making things difficult. Let’s get this over and done with. Show me your deed. [to his men] Get his deed.

Fifth Uncle [angry]: Fine! I’ll go get the deed! I’ve spent my whole life serving the Huang family, and now for seven and a half sheng of grain you want to drive me to my death.

Yang Bailao: Fifth Uncle, calm down.

Fifth Uncle [to himself]: I’ll bring it to you. I’ll bring it to you.

Mu’s Assistant: Yang Bailao, pay up!

Yang Bailao: Okay, here I am. . . . Mr. Mu, I’m begging you: I’ve got this year’s rent for you in full, but I really can’t pay back right now that six dou of grain I borrowed in the spring.

Mu Renzhi: Old Yang, as for the six dou of grain you borrowed in the spring . . . [he pauses, looks at Xi’er, and laughs] . . . that’s easily taken care of. I’ll add it to your cash debt, okay?


Yang Bailao: Great!

Mu Renzhi: We’ll add two dou in interest, you know. Let me make this clear to you, by the end of the year, make sure you have the money ready. . . . Let me repeat that. By the end of the year, make sure you have the money ready.

Yang Bailao: Okay, okay.

Dissolve to Yang Bailao at home at night.

Xi’er: You should have thought it through better. You owe them so much money, and now you own them more. I don’t see how you can pay them off at the end of the year.

Yang Bailao: Quit your grumbling. Is it wrong for an old man to look after his daughter?

Faint sound of crying is heard. Yang Bailao and Xi’er go outside. Auntie Wang and Dachun are outside.

Auntie Wang: Who is that?

Dachun: I don’t know.

They come across Dasuo.

Dachun [in greeting]: Dasuo.

Auntie Wang [to Dasuo]: Dasuo, who is that crying?

Dasuo: Fifth Uncle killed himself by jumping down a well.

Auntie Wang: What?!

Dasuo: I’ll go see. [he exits]

Auntie Wang: Uncle Yang, don’t get any crazy ideas. At least you and I have kids who can work. Let them work hard for a winter, and at the end of the year when the time comes to pay the Huang family, you’ll be able to do so.

Fade to black. Fade in on Xi’er and Dachun above a cliff. Dachun ties a rope around his waist and anchors the rope to a rock so he can rappel down.

Xi’er: Don’t do it.

Dachun: If I don’t, how are we going to pay off what we owe the Huangs?

Dachun starts down the cliff.

Dachun: Let the rope out.


Dachun rappels down the cliff. He chops off branches and small trees and lets them drop. Dissolve to a shot of the mountains covered in snow. Dissolve to Xi’er and Dachun with bundles of firewood, which they hoist and walk off with. Cut to the village street. Fade to black.

Fade in on Yang Bailao, Auntie Wang, Xi’er and Dachun at home at night.

Yang Bailao: We sold twenty jin [about twenty pounds] of bean curd for four strings of copper cash. We spent 200 cash on half a jin of salt brine [for pickling or making bean curd]. That leaves three full strings plus eight hundred.

Auntie Wang [to Old Zhao, who is with Dasuo; they are plastering the room that will house Dachun and Xi’er after they marry]: Uncle Zhao, come eat when you’re done.

Old Zhao [finishing up]: Right. . . . Okay, we’re done.

Yang Bailao [grabbing a kitten that is trying to get into the salt brine]: Hey! That’ll kill you! [he hands the kitten to Xi’er]

Xi’er [holding the kitten, she picks up the jar of salt brine to move it and says to the kitten]: Listen you, salt brine is not for drinking.

Old Zhao [looking at the money on the table]: Brother Yang, do you have enough to pay the interest to the Huangs?

Yang Bailao: Just enough. The kids worked themselves to death this winter. [holding up a bag of cash] This is the fruit of their labor! We’ve finally gotten over the end of the year hurdle with the Huangs.

Old Zhao: Great. You’ve earned enough to pay the interest. The bridal chamber is all fixed up. Chun’r, come here. Xi’er, come over here. What do you think of my plastering job?

Old Zhao and Dasuo push Xi’er and Dachun into the room. All laugh. Xi’er and Dachun are embarrassed.

Dasuo: Why wait for the New Year? Move in now and try it out. . . . Don’t wait for the first of the year, move in now and try it out.

Xi’er: Stop fooling around! Dad, listen to what Dasuo is saying! [to Dasuo] Quit fooling around!

Yang Bailao smiles as he counts his money. Fade to black. Fade in on Yang Bailao at an outdoor market.

Salesman: You want to buy clothes, old man? How about this red padded jacket? It’s perfect whether you are marrying off your daughter or taking a daughter-in-law. It’s only $2.50. How about it, old man? [Yang Bailao walks on]

Dachun walks up to Yang Bailao.

Dachun: Uncle Yang, I sold the firewood for two and half strings of copper cash. Here, take it.

Yang Bailao: You’re getting married tomorrow. This time keep it to spend yourself.

Dachun: I don’t need it. Take it to pay back your debt.

Yang Bailao and Dachun exit through a gate in the village wall.

Yang Bailao: Chun’r, you go on home. I’m going to the Huang family to pay off the debt. Then I’ll come home.

Yang Bailao exits. Dachun notices someone selling flowers made of velvet. He picks one out.


Cut to Xi’er at home on the kang [heated raised platform] making paper cuts. Pasted on the window is a double-happiness character cut from paper. Xi’er sings.

Xi’er [singing]: The north wind blows, snowflakes fly. Windy sky, snow on the ground, and a pair of birds. Birds fly a thousand miles, love lasts long. Pair by pair birds settle in the trees. Birds pair off, love creates couples. Half a thatched hut becomes a bridal chamber. Half a thatched hut becomes a bridal chamber.


Dachun walks up to the outside of the house. He hears Xi’er singing and can see her silhouetted against the window. He enters and gives her a package. She unwraps it. It is a hairpin and a strand of red yarn to wear in her hair [items purchased by Yang Bailao at the market and given by Yang to Dachun to give to Xi’er]. Dachun gives Xi’er the velvet flower. She smiles and turns away embarrassed. Cut to Yang Bailao at the entrance to the Huang mansion. He enters. Cut to Xi’er at home. She sings as she combs her hair and pulls it into a ponytail, which she ties with the red yarn. She inspects herself in a mirror.

Xi’er [sings]: Rich people dress up when they marry. My father has no money to buy nice clothes. I’ll just wear a long red string in my hair. Tie it up in front of the mirror. Tie it up! Tie it up! Wind piles the snow outside the door. There’s a flower in my hair in the mirror. The flower is also in my heart. The years will pass, but it will not fade. Oh, the flower will not fade.


Cut to Huang Shiren in his mansion.

Mu Renzhi [showing Yang Bailao in]: Old Yang, the Master is in here.

Yang Bailao: Young Master. [he takes coins from a bag] Young Master, here is the $7.50. I’m not a penny short on this year’s interest.

Mu Renzhi: What? Yang Bailao, who are you trying to fool? At rent collection in the fall I made it very clear to you that at the end of the year you had to pay back both principal and interest. What do you mean by paying only the interest?

Huang Shiren: Old Yang, we’re collecting both the principal and the interest this year.

Yang Bailao: Young Master, this $7.50 is what the kids and I earned by breaking our backs all winter. If you want me to pay back the principal too . . . Well, even if you broke my legs I couldn’t come up with it.

Huang Shiren: What? Pay back what you borrow and settle all accounts at the end of the year. That’s been the custom forever. Not to mention that you’ve been behind on rent for a long time and your debt has been piling up for years.

Yang Bailao: Young Master, to be honest, even all the grain I get in a whole year of working your land doesn’t cover my rent or what I owe you in debt.

Huang Shiren: You can talk until the cows come home and you’d still have to pay up. . . . [nods to Mu Renzhi]. Old Mu.

Mu Renzhi: Yang Bailao, the Young Master has a way out for you. It is up to you whether you take it or not.

Yang Bailao: Mr. Mu, what is it?

Mu Renzhi: Bring Xi’er to him as payment for your debt.

Yang Bailao: What?!


Mu Renzhi: Bring Xi’er to him as payment for your debt.

Yang Bailao [throwing himself at Huang Shiren’s feet]: Young Master! Young Master! This is not right! Young Master! [Huang Shiren stands and walks away]

Mu Renzhi: Yang Bailao, what are you going to do?

Yang Bailao: Young Master!

Huang Shiren [to Mu Renzhi]: Don’t waste time arguing with him anymore. Write up a contract for him and have him bring Xi’er here tomorrow.

Yang Bailao [shaken]: Okay. I’ll go find someone who will do what’s right.

Mu Renzhi: Where are you going to go? The Young Master is the sub-magistrate for the county. You can think of the Huang mansion as the government office.

Huang Shiren [laughs]: Go ahead. Try your luck anywhere for miles around.

Shot of Yang Bailao’s face over a sound bridge of Mu Renzhi’s voice reading a contract. Cut to Mu Renzhi writing the contract and reading it aloud as he does.

Mu Renzhi: Promisor Yang Bailao is in debt to his landlord for twenty-five silver dollars but because of poverty is unable to pay. He agrees to sell his daughter, Xi’er, to his landlord to settle his account. Both parties accept this agreement willingly and under no circumstances will go back on it. Verbal agreements being no guarantee, a written agreement is hereby made. The parties to this contract are Huang Shiren and Yang Bailao. The witness is Mu Renzhi.

Mu Renzhi: Come here, Old Yang. Put your fingerprint on it.

Yang Bailao [throwing himself at Huang Shiren’s feet]: Young Master, please show mercy. My girl is all I have in the world, Young Master.

Huang Shiren [kicking him away]: Get away from me! [to Mu Renzhi] Tie him up. Have someone take him to the authorities.

Mu Renzhi grabs Yang Bailao and forces his finger onto the contract and presses Yang’s fingerprint onto the paper below his name.


Cut to Xi’er at home. Auntie Wang and Dachun arrive.

Auntie Wang: Xi’er! Xi’er! Let’s make the dumplings!

Xi’er opens the door for Auntie Wang and Dachun. Cut to Yang Bailao outside the Huang mansion. He pounds on the shut doors.

Yang Bailao: This is wrong! Young Master! Young Master! This is an offense against Heaven and all that is right! Young Master! Young Master! [Old Zhao comes by and sees Yang Bailao]

Cut to Xi’er, Auntie Wang and Dachun at the Yang household making dumplings. Xi’er is rolling dough. They are happy.

Dachun [reaching to take the rolling pin]: I’ll do that.

Xi’er [teasingly]: You’re going to roll dough with those hands you handle an axe with?

Dachun [smiles]: Yeah. . . . Fine then, you do it!

Old Zhao leads Yang Bailao in from the snowy evening.

Dachun: Xi’er, your father’s back.

Xi’er: Dad!

Auntie Wang: Yang Bailao, did you settle your account with the Huangs alright?

Yang Bailao: Yes, it’s . . . it’s settled.

Old Zhao: Well, that takes care of that. Now let’s get ready for the New Year and the wedding!

Auntie Wang: Yang Bailao, Uncle Zhao, let’s go to the bridal chamber and eat dumplings.

Old Zhao: Oh? We’re eating in the bridal chamber?

Auntie Wang: Yes.

Old Zhao [teasingly]: Xi’er, you haven’t had a chance to move into your brand new room, but we’re letting an old bachelor like me in there. Don’t make a fuss okay?

Auntie Wang: Don’t be silly. Go eat.

Old Zhao: My whole life I never had a son or a daughter. Seeing these two good children getting married fills my heart with joy. And you won’t let me have a bit of fun!?

Auntie Wang: Me? Not let you have fun? You can have all the fun you want. . . . Xi’er, call your father in to eat.

Xi’er: Father, come eat!

Old Zhao: Brother Yang, the whole family is waiting for you.

Yang Bailao: I’m coming. Coming.

Yang Bailao walks over to where the rest are sitting around a low table on the kang.

Old Zhao: Brother Yang, come on. . . . Here, have a drink. [Yang drinks]

Xi’er [handing a bowl to her father]: Here you go, Dad.

Auntie Wang: Eat up, it’s getting cold. . . . Brother Yang, don’t take it so hard. What tenant farmer doesn’t get bullied by his landlord?


Old Zhao: Old Yang, don’t be so angry. Good fortune will come when it is time. Chun’r, Xi’er, listen up, your Uncle Zhao is going to tell you a story.

Auntie Wang: You’re not going to tell your Red Army story again are you?

Old Zhao: Hey! That’s something I’m going to remember for the rest of my life.

Xi’er: Auntie Wang, let Uncle Zhao tell his story. . . . Dad, eat up.

Old Zhao: This happened in 1934. The landlord was squeezing me so bad there was no way I could go on. I ran away, straight across the Yellow River to Bao’an county in Shaanxi province. When night came I found an inn. I was just taking off my shoes to get up on the kang to go to sleep when I heard a huge noise coming from just outside the village. The innkeeper said not to be afraid, that it was the Red Army. We all ran outside to see.

Dissolve to a flashback showing the events Old Zhao is describing. He continues his story in voiceover.

Old Zhao [in voiceover]: All the tenant farmers were gathered outside the landlord’s mansion. They took their deeds and the records of their debt that had weighed them down for centuries and burned it all up. And then they divided the land so that everybody had some land of their own to farm. The soldiers were all good young lads. They had caps with a red star on the front. This was an epoch-making event, like nothing I’d ever seen before. The farmers finally got justice.


Dissolve to Wang Dachun’s face; he is smiling as he listens.

Dachun: Uncle Zhao, how far from here was this?

Old Yang: Just west of the Yellow River. Right across the river.

Xi’er: Uncle Zhao, how come they haven’t come to our village?

Old Yang: Just wait. Sooner or later they are going to come.

Auntie Wang: Brother Zhao, you’ve got the kids mesmerized. . . . Are you all going to eat or not?

Old Zhao: I’m finished. [he gets up, puts on his coat, and goes to the door] Brother Yang, I’ll come tomorrow to pay my respects for the wedding. [he exits]

Auntie Wang: Uncle Yang, you should get some rest too. [to Xi’er] Xi’er, make sure you get up early tomorrow. [Auntie Wang and Dachun exit]

Xi’er: Dad, you should go to sleep.

Yang Bailao: I’m going to stay up and see the New Year in.

Xi’er: Well, then I am too.

Xi’er sits next to her father, leans on him, then puts her head on his knees and falls asleep. Dissolve to Auntie Wang sitting next to the sleeping Dachun and gazing at him. Dissolve to Yang Bailao with the sleeping Xi’er.

Yang Bailao: Xi’er, wake up. Get up on the kang and go to bed. [she does so; Yang Bailao puts a quilt over her] Xi’er, Xi’er, go to sleep now.

Xi’er: Dad, you should go to sleep too.

Yang Bailao: Okay, I will.

As Xi’er sleeps, Yang Bailao sings.

Yang Bailao: Xi’er, Xi’er, are you asleep? [singing] Xi’er, Xi’er you are sleeping now. Your father calls your name, but you don’t hear. Even in your dreams you can’t imagine the unforgivable thing your father has done. [speaking] Xi’er, I’ve let you down. Auntie Wang, Brother Zhao, I put my fingerprint on the contract. Mother of Xi’er, before you died you told me that no matter what happened, I had to raise Xi’er to a grown woman. I raised her up to a grown woman. I’ve suffered for seventeen years through all kinds of trials and tribulations, and now I’ve sold her. Tomorrow the landlord is going to come and take her away. No one will ever forgive me. I deserve to die. I’ve done something awful. I can’t let them take Xi’er. I’ll fight them!

Yang Bailao opens the door to go outside, but he hears Mu Renzhi’s voice saying [in voiceover], “Where are you going to go? The Young Master is the sub-magistrate for the county. You can think of the Huang mansion as the government office.” Huang Shiren’s face is shown over a shot of Yang Bailao in double exposure. Yang Bailao closes the door. He looks at the jar of salt brine. He looks at Xi’er. He rushes to the jar of salt brine and drinks it. The jar falls and breaks. Yang Bailao takes off his jacket and puts it over Xi’er. He holds his stomach, staggers to the door, looks back at Xi’er, and falls outside, pulling the door closed behind him. Fade to black.

Fade in on Yang Bailao lying dead in the snow the next morning. Old Zhao, Xi’er, Auntie Wang, Dachun and others find him, kneel down, shake him, and call his name.


Old Zhao: Brother Yang! Why?!

Xi’er [throwing herself on her father’s body]: Dad! Dad! [singing] Dad came home in the night, something was troubling him, but he wouldn’t say what. The next morning he is lying in the snow. Dad, Dad, Dad, Dad, why?

Old Zhao: Brother Yang, how could you do this? Even if you’d suffered some terrible injustice, you should have told us what the trouble was.

Auntie Wang: You didn’t even say anything to your own daughter or your own son-in-law.

Mu Renzhi [walking up and coming upon the crowd]: Isn’t that Yang Bailao? . . . Look at this, this at this. What has happened? . . . Okay, everybody get busy making funeral arrangements for him. Xi’er, come with me to the Huang mansion and ask them if they’ll provide a casket for your father. [he reaches for her hand]

Dachun: Don’t you dare!

Dasuo: Mind your own business!

Mu Renzhi: Well then, since everybody is here, I’ll make things clear. This is the contract that Yang Bailao signed with the Young Master yesterday. Who’d like to read it to us? Li Shuan, come here, you can read. Do me a favor and read this aloud.

Li Shuan: Promisor Yang Bailao is in debt to his landlord for twenty-five silver dollars but because of poverty is unable to pay. He agrees to sell his daughter, Xi’er, to his landlord to settle his account.

Xi’er [singing]: Suddenly I hear that I have been sold to someone, it is like fire burning my body. Auntie Wang, Uncle Zhao tell me what to do, I’ll die before I set foot in the Huang mansion. I’ll die with my father or live with Auntie Wang. Uncle, Aunt, save me. Not even thunder and lightning can separate us.


Villager: Mr. Mu. You must do a good deed. Xi’er is about to get married. How about allowing Xi’er’s in-laws to pay back the money that Old Yang owes? All of us will stand as guarantors.

Second Villager: That’s right, do a good deed.

Auntie Wang: Mr. Mu, do a good deed. Let the girl get married. If their guarantee isn’t enough, then I’ll promise my home as collateral.

Mu Renzhi: That won’t do. If you have anything to say, say it to Mr. Huang. I can’t make decisions for the Young Master. [to his men] Take her away.

Dachun: Don’t you have any sense of decency!

Dasuo: Goddamn it, this is what you call settling a debt? Everybody knows this is the kidnapping of a man’s wife, plain and simple.

Mu Renzhi: You little punk. So you’re getting uppity?! She is coming with us whether she wants to or not.

Dachun pushes Mu Renzhi back. Mu’s men take out pistols and threaten Dachun.

Mu Renzhi: Open fire!

Mu’s men fire shots in the air.

Mu Renzhi [holding up the contract]: This right here is justice and propriety. [close-up of the contract]. Whoever wants to die is welcome to start something.

Old Zhao: We’ve had our teeth knocked out and all we can do is swallow them. We’ll just never forget this. [to Xi’er] Come, Xi’er.

Auntie Wang ties a white mourning cloth around Xi’er’s head.

Old Zhao: Kowtow to your father.

Xi’er throws herself on her father.

Xi’er: Dad!

Mu Renzhi’s men drag Xi’er away. Old Zhao and Auntie Wang follow to the steps of the Huang mansion.

Xi’er: Auntie, Uncle, I don’t want to go. I don’t want to go.

Mu Renzhi: Get rid of that mourning cloth. [Mu’s men pull the headband off and throw it to the ground]

Xi’er: Dad! . . . Dad! . . . Dad! [she is dragged inside, and the gates close behind her]

In a hallway of the Huang mansion, Zhang Ershen comes out of a room. A maidservant walks up to her.

Maidservant: Aunt Zhang, Aunt Zhang, Yang Bailao’s girl has been taken by the Huangs. They’ve brought her here.

Zhang Ershen: Okay, I understand.

Cut to Xi’er standing with Mu Renzhi and Huang Shiren. She is crying.

Mu Renzhi: As long as you do what Young Master tells you, these new clothes are all yours. And from now on whatever you want is yours. [Xi’er pushes the clothing away]

Zhang Ershen appears in the doorway and watches with an expression of alarm and concern. She steps forward and changes her expression to a smile.

Zhang Ershen: Young Master, the mistress wants the girl brought to her so she can have a look.pubs-white-image080pubs-white-image082

Huang Shiren: Go on then.

Cut to Madame Huang in her room with Xi’er and Zhang Ershen. Xi’er is crying.

Madame Huang: It is New Year’s day. What are you crying for? . . . How old are you? . . . Why don’t you answer me?

Zhang Ershen: She’s seventeen.

Madame Huang: She looks intelligent enough.

Zhang Ershen: The girl is really skillful with her hands. She would be perfect for waiting on you, Madame.

Madame Huang: Oh. . . . Go back and tell Shiren that I’ll keep the girl with me as my servant.

Huang Shiren appears in the doorway as Madame Huang speaks and is alarmed and unhappy at what she has said.

Huang Shiren: Ma, Ma, I really need a girl to do needlework for me.

Madame Huang: Take her to change her clothes and tell her what she is to do.

Huang Shiren [appealingly]: Ma! [Madame Huang turns away]

Cut to Zhang Ershen and Xi’er in the servants’ quarters.

Zhang Ershen: Aren’t you Xi’er from the Yang family? . . . Listen, the year before last at the end of the year your dad came to my house to hide out from the debt collector. . . . I’m from Zhang Family Village west of here. . . . I came to the Huangs to work to pay off debt too. . . . There’s nothing we can do. Just try to put up with it. . . . Make it through a year or so and think of a way to get out of this place. You can still marry your man and life your life.

Xi’er [throwing herself into Zhang Ershen’s arms]: Aunt Zhang!

Zhang Ershen: While you are here if you have any trouble, I’ll look after you. Okay? . . . Here, change your clothes.

Xi’er: Aunt Zhang, can you help me and take a message to Auntie Wang? Tell her that no matter what happens, I’m part of her family now.

Cut to Dachun on a hillside watching the sun come up. He sings.

Dachun [singing]: Trees rooted together are toppled by the wind, lovers bound to each other are torn apart. To be separated by a wall is like being separated by mountains. When we will see each other again? When we will see each other again?

As Dachun continues singing in voiceover, dissolve to scenes of Xi’er in the Huang mansion being whipped and poked with a needle by Madame Huang and kneeling and crying in front of a Buddhist shrine.

Dachun [singing in voiceover]: The stars come out as the sun sets. You are suffering in the Huang mansion, a lamb in a tiger’s clutches. How are you surviving these bitter days? How are you surviving these bitter days?

Xi’er [alone in the Huang mansion; she sings]: A width of blue cloth is quickly cut in two. A married couple is separated. To be separated by a wall is like being separated by an ocean. Who will bring me word from him? Who will bring me word from him? [dissolve to a shot of Xi’er sewing] A thousand needles and ten thousand threads, my sewing is never done. A thousand worries and ten thousand resentments weigh on my heart. Why do the poor suffer so? Why are the rich so cruel? Why are the rich so cruel?


Huang Shiren [entering Xi’er’s room]: Are you making some cloth shoes for me? I have some work for you. [he reaches to take what Xi’er is sewing, but she turns away; he reaches around from behind and takes what she has away from her]. What lover of yours are you making these for? Tell me.

Xi’er [yanking the shoes out of Huang’s hands]: None of your business.

Xi’er: Okay, so you won’t stop thinking about him until he’s dead. You think you’ve got a way out, but I’m going to cut it off. Then you’ll have no more illusions about the matter.

Cut to Dachun working in the fields. His mother, Old Zhao and Dasuo are with him. Mu Renzhi approaches with several of his men.

Old Zhao: Chun’r.

Mu Renzhi: Wang Dachun. . . . Wang Dachun, the Young Master is taking this piece of land back. He’ll work it with his own people. Let’s go. Go home and get your deed.

Old Zhao [to Dachun]: Come on. Let’s get it for him, okay?

Dissolve to Xi’er at the Huang mansion. She is adding oil to a lamp by Madame Huang’s Buddhist shrine. Huang Shiren is in the corridor outside. He looks through the window at Xi’er, but she does not know he is there. He comes inside, creeps up behind her, and grabs her.

Huang Shiren: Come here.

Xi’er [screaming]: Aunt Zhang! Aunt Zhang!

Huang Shiren gags Xi’er with a piece of cloth and pushes her down. The camera tilts up to the plaque above the shrine, which reads, “Great Mercy and Benevolence.” Dissolve to the plaque showing the name of the Huang mansion, “House of Accumulated Merit.” 


Cut to Zhang Ershen asleep in the room she shares with Xi’er. The wind blows the door open. Zhang Ershen wakes and is alarmed to see that Xi’er’s bed is empty. Zhang Ershen gets up. Cut to a close-up of Xi’er lying on the ground with a gag in her mouth and her hands tied behind her back. Cut to Zhang Ershen opening the door and reacting as she sees Xi’er. The Maidservant stands outside the door.

Zhang Ershen [untying Xi’er, who is crying]: Xi’er, it’s my fault for not looking after you. Xi’er.

Xi’er stands and runs toward the door.

Zhang Ershen [stopping Xi’er]: What are you going to do? . . . Xi’er, no, you cannot.

Xi’er [kneeling at Zhang Ershen’s feet, imploringly]: Aunt Zhang, if you care about me, let me die.

Zhang Ershen: Child, no matter what, don’t do anything like that. Get up.

Wipe to a shot of Zhang Ershen and Xi’er sitting on a bed in their room. The Maidservant is with them.

Zhang Ershen: Xi’er, Xi’er. Xi’er, you have to stop thinking about ending it all. [Xi’er turns away from Zhang Ershen and sees the shoes she has been sewing for Dachun; she picks them up]. Xi’er. Xi’er, you’re still young, child. You still have your whole life in front of you. [Xi’er starts to work on the shoes; Zhang Ershen speaks to the Maidservant] Keep an eye on her. I’ll be back shortly.

Maidservant: Okay.

The Maidservant sits beside Xi’er. Cut to Old Zhao, Auntie Wang, Dasuo and Wang Dachun in a room.

Auntie Wang: They took Xi’er away. They’ve taken the land back. The Huangs are obviously trying to drive me and my boy out of the village.

The door opens and Zhang Ershen comes in.

Zhang Ershen: Uncle Zhao, you’re here too? . . . Come outside for a minute, there’s something I have to tell you.

Old Zhao follows Zhang Ershen out; the camera stays on Auntie Wang and the others; a moment later, Old Zhao and Zhang Ershen come back inside.

Auntie Wang [taking Zhang Ershen’s hands]: Aunt Zhang, what’s happened to Xi’er? . . . Aunt Zhang, whatever it is, you can say it in front of my boy.

Old Zhang: Xi’er has been violated.

Dachun reacts in shock, then anger. He picks up an axe. The others restrain him.


Auntie Wang: Chun’r! . . . Chun’r!

Dachun sits down and puts his head in his hands.

Zhang Ershen: Xi’er has been thinking about nothing else but Dachun. Now that this has happened she wants to kill herself. I’ve got somebody watching her. Uncle Zhao, you have to think of something quick.

Uncle Zhao [in anger]: They should run away! [he goes over to Dachun] Auntie Wang, Dachun should take Xi’er across the Yellow River to the west and find the Red Army.

Wipe to a shot of Zhang Ershen with Xi’er.

Zhang Ershen: Stop worrying. . . . Dachun is by the back gate waiting for you.

Cut to Dachun and Dasuo outside the Huang mansion in the night. Cut to Zhang Ershen and Xi’er by the gate. The slow, steady gonging of the Huangs’ night watchman is heard in the background.

Zhang Ershen: Now hurry with Dachun across the Yellow River to the west. [she puts a bundle in Xi’er’s hands, brushes Xi’er’s hair back, and pushes her out the door]. Go. [outside the gate, Zhang and Xi’er meet Dachun]

Dachun [taking Xi’er’s hand]: Xi’er, let’s go.

Xi’er and Dachun hear the gonging of the watchman grow faster and louder. They turn and run.

Zhang Ershen: Hurry and get out the back gate.

The night watchmen see Xi’er and Dachun and put a bolt across the gate.

Night watchmen: Someone is in the compound! Somebody has gotten in! After them! . . . [they block the way of Dachun and Xi’er] . . . Aha, you scoundrels. [they grab Dachun and Xi’er]. Grab them, grab them. [two men grab Xi’er; Dachun knocks a third man to the ground].

Xi’er: Dachun! Get out of here! Don’t worry about me. Run! Quickly! Run now!

Dachun punches the man on the ground, gets up, and runs toward the wall.

Mu Renzhi: Shoot him! Shoot him! [sound of gun shots]

Dachun leaps over the wall. Dachun runs down a path, followed by Dasuo. They run up to Old Zhao and Auntie Wang.

Dachun: Uncle Zhao.

Old Zhao [seeing he is alone]: What? . . . . Son, you go on alone.

Auntie Wang: Chun’r, remember, don’t go to any village where there’s a rich landlord.

Old Zhao [quietly]: Hurry, go now, quickly. [fade to black]

Fade in on Xi’er in rags toiling at a grist mill. She is exhausted. She looks up. Cut to Dachun walking through a stream and climbing a hillside. Dissolve to Xi’er looking up.


Xi’er [looking up, beseechingly]: Heaven protect Dachun and see him safely across the river to the west. Send him back soon with the Red Army.

Cut to Zhang Ershen approaching with food for Xi’er.

Zhang Ershen: Xi’er.

Xi’er: Aunt Zhang. Aunt Zhang. Aunt Zhang. [they embrace]

Zhang Ershen: You haven’t eaten yet, child? Here, take this.

Xi’er takes the bowl and brings it to her lips, but she turns her head away and gives the bowl back to Zhang Ershen.

Zhang Ershen: Eat something.

Xi’er: Aunt Zhang, lately as soon as I see food or smell it I feel nauseous. [she puts her hand over her mouth and turns away]

Zhang Ershen: Child, I’m afraid you might be . . . pregnant. [Xi’er starts to cry] Xi’er, Xi’er, Xi’er.


Xi’er: Aunt Zhang, how can I go on living?

Zhang Ershen: You simply have got to survive and wait for Dachun to come back.

Cut to Dachun climbing up a hill. Cut to a shot of the Yellow River. Cut to Dachun looking down and seeing a raft on the river. Cut to Dachun approaching the Boatman.

Dachun: Sir, save me. Take me across the river to the west side and save me. . . . I’m a poor suffering peasant too. The landlord is making it impossible for my family to survive. Sir. [cut to a shot of the river; cut back to Dachun kneeling at the Boatman’s feet]. Sir, take me across the river to the west and save me.

Boatman: Okay, calm down son. Get up, I’ll help you.

The Boatman leads Dachun to a small raft. They push the raft into the water and lie prone on it. The raft reaches the opposite bank.

Boatman: Made it. [pointing] Look there, son. Climb that hill and you’ll find the Red Army. Remember, the soldiers of the Red Army wear black uniforms and have a five-pointed red star on their caps. Go on now.


Shot of two men in dark uniforms with rifles standing on a hill. Dachun climbs toward them. The soldiers reach down and take Dachun’s hands to help him up.

Dachun: I found you! I found you!

Dissolve to a shot of the flag of the CCP and then of a solider standing sentry duty. Fade to blackFade in on the Huang mansion. Decorations for a wedding are in place. The rooms are crowded with guests and servants. Huang Shiren is dressed as a groom. He smiles and acknowledges congratulations. Cut to Xi’er in the grain milling room. She holds her back with one hand and with the other pushes a basket sieve to sift flour. Mu Renzhi enters.

Mu Renzhi: Xi’er, Madame wants to see you. . . . Let’s go.

Cut to Madame Huang with Xi’er and Mu Renzhi.

Madame Huang: Xi’er, my family is having a wedding this week. We’re having a lot of guests, and so it would be awkward to have you around because you are getting so big. Tonight your Auntie Wang is coming to take you home. And that is the last word on this. Here is some clothing for you to take and keep. Here you are. [she hands the clothing to Xi’er]


Xi’er does not take the clothing. She walks away without looking at Madame Huang. As she exits, she passes Huang Shiren on his way in. Zhang Ershen comes down the corridor. She sees Xi’er leaving and Huang Shiren entering. She pauses and listens by a window. Cut inside to Madame Huang with Mu Renzhi and Huang Shiren.

Madame Huang: Old Mu, that girl is difficult to handle. You have to be extra cautious. [cut to Zhang Ershen listening at the window; the camera stays on Zhang Ershen as Madame Huang speaks] Get her out through the back gate before taking care of business. Is the slave trader here yet?

Mu Renzhi: He’s here. He’s waiting outside. [cut to a man waiting alone; he impatiently rolls a cloth bundle of coins his hands]

Cut to Xi’er in her room. She has changed into her own clothing. She picks up the clothing she has been wearing and throws it aside. She packs her things into a bundle. Cut to the slave trader waiting. Cut to Xi’er sitting on her bed. Cut to Zhang Ershen elsewhere in the mansion looking over her shoulder warily as she opens a drawer and takes out a key. Cut to Xi’er in her room. Zhang Ershen enters.

Xi’er: Aunt Zhang, Aunt Zhang. That old witch of the Huangs said that Auntie Wang is coming tonight to take me home.

Zhang Ershen: Stop dreaming, child. The Huangs have sold you. The slave trader is coming to tie you up and take you away. [Xi’er reacts, then moves toward the door; Zhang Ershen grabs her] What are you going to do?

Xi’er: I’ll fight them.

Zhang Ershen: That’s suicide. I stole the key to the back gate for you. You need to hurry and run for your life, child.

Xi’er: Aunt Zhang!

Cut to Mu Renzhi and the slave trader. Mu hands rope to the slave trader. The slave trader hands his cloth bundle to Mu. Mu unwraps the bundle. Cut to a close-up of about 50 or 60 coins. Cut back to Xi’er and Zhang Ershen.

Xi’er: Aunt Zhang, if I can’t marry him, give these shoes to him for me.

Zhang Ershen: Don’t say that, child. Whatever else happens you have to wait for Dachun to come back and get revenge for you. [she slips two coins into Xi’er’s hand] Here’s two dollars for you to spend on the road.

Xi’er [kneeling at Zhang Ershen’s feet]: Aunt Zhang!

Zhang Ershen: Get up, child. Hurry, go!

Zhang Ershen unlocks the back gate, and Xi’er runs out.

Xi’er: Aunt Zhang, but where should I go?

Zhang Ershen: Follow the gully behind that mountain. Hurry.

Cut to Mu Renzhi and the slave trader entering Xi’er’s room.

Mu Renzhi: Where did she go? [he picks up the clothing she has left] She ran away!

Zoom in on the clothing in Mu Renzhi’s hand. Zoom out from the clothing, which is now in Huang Shiren’s hand. Mu Renzhi and the slave trader are with Huang Shiren.

Huang Shiren: What, she ran away? [he throws the clothing down] After her!

Xi’er runs down a path through a wooded area as Huang Shiren and his men follow with lanterns (it is night).

Huang Shiren: After her! Hurry!

Xi’er pushes through reeds to the bank of a river. She steps in the water, then turns and goes back through the reeds. Huang and his men follow. Mu Renzhi finds Xi’er’s shoe by the water.

Mu Renzhi: Hey. Young Master, look at this. Isn’t this Xi’er’s shoe? She must have drowned herself.

Huang Shiren [taking the shoe and nodding]: She did drown herself. Old Mu, tomorrow search along the riverbank. Either find her dead or bring her to me alive. [shot of Xi’er in the reeds, overhearing this]

Mu Renzhi: Got it.

Huang Shiren: Old Mu, get word to the county government. Wherever she runs to, I want her caught. [he throws the shoe down] Let’s go back.

Xi’er climbs a hill and looks down on the lights of the Huang mansion.

Xi’er [singing]: You plotted to harm me, but you failed! I am the depthless water and the inextinguishable flame! My hatred for you is vaster than the sky, I have cried rivers of tears. I want justice, I want revenge! I want justice, I want revenge! I will not die, I will live! I will get revenge! I will live!


As she sings, she climbs to the top of a mountain. Fade to black. Fade in on Xi’er walking across a ridge. She climbs and reaches a cave. She holds her belly in discomfort. A wolf bounds by. Tired and in pain, she holds her belly and collapses. She lies on her back, pants, and screams. The sound of a baby crying is heard. Dissolve to a rainy night. Xi’er walks through the rain carrying her dead infant. She puts the dead child down and digs a grave for it with her hands. Dissolve to Xi’er placing rocks over the grave. Xi’er walks away in the rain. Fade to black. Fade in on the mountain in the snow. The wind blows on Xi’er where she is sleeping in her cave. She is cold. She wakes and sings.

Xi’er [singing]: Heaven will kill you without blinking, the wind and the snow bring a change of weather. The rocks crack in a thousand places, the north wind cuts like a knife. Rags and rotting leaves cannot protect me from the cold, it is hard to stay alive in a cave in the wild mountains. Xi’er, your debt of blood has yet to be revenged, can it be that this injustice will disappear like a stone in the sea?

Sound bridge of a bell being struck and dissolve to incense burning before an altar in a temple. Dissolve to Xi’er in her cave; she is thinking about temple offerings as a source of food.

Xi’er [singing; as she sings she becomes more vigorous and gets up to clear the snow from the entrance to her cave with her hands]: Xi’er, you must stay alive. Let the seas dry up, you must stay alive. Let the mountains crumble, you must stay alive. You will survive these bitter times to hold your head up free one day. Stay alive to get your revenge.

Xi’er walks out of the cave through the snow. Wipe to Xi’er in the snow on a ridge looking down at a temple below. Cut to the front gate of the temple. Xi’er enters the temple. Pan around the temple from Xi’er’s point of view. She sees the food left on the altar as an offering. She bundles the food in a piece of cloth. She takes a few sticks of still burning incense and blows on them to keep the flame alight. Dissolve to Xi’er approaching the entrance to her cave. She blows on the incense to raise a flame. Dissolve to Xi’er warming her hands over a campfire. Dissolve to Xi’er throwing wood on a bigger fire. 


Dissolve to a shot of the mountain in snow. Dissolve to a creek in melting snow, then to a rushing stream and blossoms on trees. Fade to black. Fade in on the temple Xi’er visited. Villagers are lighting incense, praying, and bowing before a shrine to a goddess. Cut to a small group of villagers gathered around an old man who is smoking a pipe.


First Villager: You’ve seen the White-haired Goddess, right? Will you tell everybody about it?

Second Villager: Tell us.

First Villager: Come on, tell us about it.

Old Man: You can’t mention this to any strangers. If we offend the White-haired Goddess there will be big trouble. Got it?

First Villager: Don’t worry, we won’t tell.

Old Man: On the first of this month, I went into town to the market fair. It had been raining for days and so on the way home it was hard going. I was here at Liu Family Village when it got dark. It was thundering and the road was slippery from the rain. There was no way to keep going, so I came to this Nainai Temple [“Granny Temple,” a temple to a goddess associated with Mt. Tai] to stay the night. I noticed the main gate was ajar.

The Old Man finishes his story in voiceover as a flashback to his encounter with the White-haired Goddess is depicted on the screen.

Old Man [in voiceover]: I pushed it, it opened, and I took a few careful steps inside.

When I got to the second door I found it was open too. I pushed it open gingerly and went in. I went into the prayer hall and stamped my feet to shake off the rain. My feet were soaking. I was looking for place to warm up. I looked up and the curtain behind the altar was billowing. I looked more carefully and the curtain was moving back and forth more and more. I looked at the bottom of the curtain but I didn’t see anything. I was really scared. So I knelt right down and kowtowed and prayed, kowtowed and prayed. I said, “White-haired Goddess, White-haired Goddess, please don’t take offence, I had to come in here to get out of the rain. There was nothing I could do. Don’t blame me.” Nothing happened. So I relaxed and caught my breath. I slowly raised my head and, oh my, the White-haired Goddess was standing right above me. She was white all over. I felt a cold shiver run through me. I snuck a look, saw a flash of white, and then there was nothing.

Fade to black. Fade in on the Old Man and the others in the temple courtyard. A temple bell rings. Fade to black. Fade in on the villagers bowing before the shrine to the goddess.

Dissolve to Xi’er, her hair white, climbing up a cliff and taking a bird off its nest. Dissolve to Xi’er killing a chipmunk by throwing a stick. Dissolve to Xi’er sitting by her campfire. Zoom in on her face, fade to black.


Fade in on clouds. Dissolve to a bridge. Dissolve to Japanese soldiers, one looking through binoculars. Cut to a shot of a village. Cut to Japanese artillery exploding in the village. Cut to Japanese artillery exploding in fields where villagers are working. Cut to a column of Red Army soldiers striding through a stream, disregarding the shells that explode next to them. Dissolve to a shot of the Great Wall and, in double exposure, Dachun in a Red Army uniform. Dissolve to flames, dead bodies, and Dachun bayoneting the enemy. Fade to black.

Fade in on the courtyard outside the prayer hall of the Nainai Temple in the thunder and lightning. Huang Shiren and Mu Renzhi, soaking, approach and stand in the gate out of the rain.

Mu Renzhi: Let’s go into the temple and get out of the rain.

Huang Shiren: Okay.

They enter the prayer hall. The thunder is loud and lightning lights up the room. They look around and see that offerings remain on the altar.

Huang Shiren: Old Mu, today’s the 15th of the month, right?

Mu Renzhi: That’s right. The White-haired Goddess still hasn’t come to get her offerings.

The wind blows the windows open and blows the objects on the altar. Huang and Mu kneel and kowtow. The door blows open and Xi’er runs in. She does not see the men.

Huang Shiren [praying]: Please, please protect us, White-haired Goddess. Your humble servant Huang Shiren will build you a new temple.

Xi’er sees that it is Huang Shiren, picks up something from the altar and throws it at him. Huang and Mu run from the room screaming.

Huang and Mu: It’s a ghost! It’s a ghost!

Xi’er chases Huang, who continues to yell about a ghost. Xi’er has almost caught him when he falls, dropping down out of the frame.

Xi’er [looking down where Huang has fallen]: You say I’m a ghost? You made me like this! [singing] It has been more than two years since I came into the mountains. I have gritted my teeth through pain and suffering, with nothing but rags to wear and grasses to cover me, eating the offerings from the temple and the berries that grow wild. My hair and skin have turned entirely white. You say I’m a ghost. Well then, I am a ghost! I am the ghost of someone who was persecuted to death. I want to tear your flesh and bite you!

Fade to black. Fade in on a rider on a white house crossing through a valley. Cut to Dasuo working in the fields. He looks up to see a column of soldiers approaching. Dasuo turns and runs. Cut to the rider crossing a stream. Cut to the villagers running away.

Dasuo: Hurry, run! Troops are coming from the mountains.

Cut to the rider. It is Dachun. He sees Uncle Zhao.

Dachun: Is that Uncle Zhao!? [he spurs his horse on] It’s me, Wang Dachun! . . . . Uncle Zhao! Uncle Zhao! [cut to Dachun walking toward Uncle Zhao, leading his horse] Uncle Zhao!

Old Zhao: Chun’r!

Dachun: Uncle Zhao.

Old Zhao: This is just great, great. Great! [he turns to call after the villagers] Hey, don’t run! [he turns back to Dachun] Come on, let’s go. [he calls after the villagers] Stop running! It’s Dachun. He’s back. It’s our Dachun!

Dachun: Tiger! Dasuo! . . . [Dasuo approaches] Dasuo.

Dasuo: Dachun’r!

Dachun: Dasuo.

Cut to Auntie Wang walking from her house with a young woman.

Auntie Wang: Chun’r is back? Where is he?

Cut to Dachun with the others.

Dachun: Dasuo.

Tiger: Dachun, what army are you with?

Dachun: We’re the Eighth Route Army.

Tiger: The Eighth Route Army?

Dachun: Uncle Zhao, it’s the Red Army you talked about. Now we’re called the Eighth Route Army.

Old Zhao: That’s great, great. Heaven is finally smiling on us. The Red Army has arrived.

Cut to Auntie Wang.

Auntie Wang: Where is he?

Young Woman: That’s him there, see?

Dachun: Mom.. . . Mom. . . . [holding her by the arms] Mom.


Auntie Wang: Chun’r. . . . Chun’r, let me look at you. Let me look at you, child.

Dachun: Mom.

Auntie Wang: Child, how did you survive for these past two years? [she cries]

Dachun: Mom.

Old Zhao: This is what you’ve been hoping for every day. Your boy is back now, and you are crying? [to the crowd] This is a happy day. No one should cry, got it? The days of our suffering are over!

Cut to the villagers welcoming the Eighth Route Army in the street.

Dasuo [speaking to a soldier]: Wang Dachun’r from our village is in the Eighth Route Army. . . . We’re all together in this.

Villagers give gifts and food to the soldiers, who decline politely. Cut to the Huang mansion.

Mu Renzhi [to Huang Shiren]: Bad news! Bad news! Wang Dachun is back. And the Eighth Route Army has arrived too.

Huang Shiren: What?!

Cut to a village street. An officer of the army is at a table, soldiers and villagers around him. Wang Dachun stands next to the table.

Officer [to Wang Dachun]: Comrade Dachun, as I explained to you last night, the Party has decided that you will remain here on assignment.


Mu Renzhi and Huang Shiren lean out of a door and see the villagers reading a banner. It reads, “Join Forces to Combat the Japanese, Reduce Rent for Land and Interest on Loans. Eighth Route Army.” Huang and Mu nod to each other, go back inside and close the door. Dissolve to a meeting of the officers from the army and villagers.

Dasuo [angrily]: My God! Huang Shiren has destroyed who knows how many lives. He has bullied us for who knows how many years. And all we are going to do is make him reduce rent and reduce the interest on loans? That is not enough for me!

Tiger: Let’s divide up his land and take care of him once and for all.

The assembled villagers respond approvingly, all talking at once.

Old Zhao: We’re not going to accomplish anything if everybody talks at once. Dachun, what do the regulations from headquarters say?

Tiger: Right. What do they say?

Wang Dachun opens a small book and looks through it. Zhang Ershen arrives.

Zhang Ershen: Chun’r. Chun’r. You’re back!

Dachun: Aunt Zhang.

Zhang Ershen [unwrapping a bundle and handing something to Auntie Wang]: Auntie Wang, this is a pair of shoes poor Xi’er left for Dachun. . . . Poor Xi’er, tomorrow it will be three years to the day since she died.

Wang Dachun [collecting himself]: In order to join forces to resist the Japanese, in dealing with landlords we’ll follow the policy of reducing rent for land and reducing interests on loans. In dealing with a tyrant like Huang Shiren, you can go to the People’s government and make charges against him.

Mu Renzhi listens at the window.

Dasuo: Right! We’ll try him by the rules for dealing with local despots.

Tiger: Okay then. Tomorrow I’ll go make the contacts.

Old Zhao: Let’s also start by getting a Peasants Association together. Then we’ll make Huang reduce his rents …

Crowd: Right!

Old Zhao: Everybody hang on a second. Tomorrow morning after breakfast, everybody gather on the west side for a meeting, a meeting to set up a Peasants Association.

Cut to Huang Shiren at home. Mu Renzhi runs in.

Mu Renzhi: Young Master, bad news!

Huang Shiren: What?

Mu Renzhi: Bad news!

Huang Shiren: What is it?

Mu Renzhi: Wang Dachun got a bunch of people together for a meeting. They say they are going to make you lower your rents. Dasuo and Tiger want them to try you as a local despot. They looked really worked up. They are going to take action as soon as they have their meeting.

Huang Shiren [gets up, paces, pauses]: Old Mu, come here. . . . Go set fire to Dasuo’s house.

Cut to a crowd working to put out a fire at Dasuo’s house. Cut to Mu Renzhi pasting a piece of paper with a Daoist spell written on it onto a post. Cut to Dasuo. The fire is out. Dasuo sits down, exhausted.

Dasuo: Fine, goddamn it. Burn down my house, but I am going to catch you one day.

Man [with the paper that Mu Renzhi has posted]: Old Zhao, take a look at this. What is it?

Old San: That’s a Daoist spell.

Man: Read it, Old San.

Old San: The manifest White-haired Goddess is powerful. If the people behave correctly and keep to their proper places, she will protect them. If they perpetrate outrages, then Heaven will show no mercy.

The crowd mutters in consternation about the White-haired Goddess. Cut to Dachun and Dasuo waiting in the shadows by the shrine in the Nainai Temple. Xi’er comes in, goes to the shrine to take the food. Dasuo, not recognizing Xi’er, rushes at her and hits at her with a sword but misses. Xi’er leaps down and runs out. Dasuo and Dachun, who still do not recognize Xi’er, chase her. Dachun fires shots over her head. Xi’er runs back to her cave. Dasuo and Dachun follow. Xi’er hides. Dasuo and Dachun enter the cave. Dachun sees Xi’er’s campfire.

Dachun [calling Dasuo’s attention to the campfire]: Dasuo!

Xi’er [hiding, overhearing, to herself]: Dasuo?!

Dachun and Dasuo hear Xi’er and look up to where she is hiding.

Dasuo: Dachun’r.

Xi’er [hiding, overhearing, to herself]: Dachun! [she calls to him] Dachun! [crying] Dachun!


Dachun: Xi’er! [she collapses in his arms] Xi’er! . . . Xi’er. Xi’er. . . . Xi’er. . . . Xi’er, the Red Army that Uncle Zhao talked about is here.

Xi’er: The Red Army is here. . . . Dachun, revenge . . . . get revenge.

Huang Shiren and Mu Renzhi kneel on the ground surrounded by the villagers, who sing their accusations.

Villagers [singing]: Huang Shiren, Huang Shiren, Huang Shiren, you are a murderous tyrant, a man-eating beast. A murderous tyrant, a man-eating beast. Your crimes are at an end, we are going to get revenge for the injustice done to poor Xi’er.

Xi’er [singing]: Huang Shiren, Huang Shiren, you are crueler than a wild animal, you are more hateful than the devil. You drove my father to his death, you destroyed my family. You drove me into the mountains. I was half-ghost and half-human. The hatred in my heart for you kept me alive. I endured in suffering for three whole years, but now this day has come and in broad daylight I appeal for justice.


The villagers close in on Huang and Mu. Cut to the sun in a clear sky. Cut to a soldier and Old Zhao at a table on which is spread a proclamation. Cut to a close-up of the proclamation, which lists Huang Shiren’s and Mu Renzhi’s crimes and condemns them to death. A hand writes a check on the proclamation and adds dashes by the names of Huang and Mu, indicating the sentence is to be carried out. The crowd pulls Huang Shiren to his feet and drags him away.

Over the above and over the following montage, the villagers sing. Montage of: the Huang family stele being pulled down; the plaques at the Huang mansion, including the one that reads, “House of Accumulated Merit,” being pulled down and burned; the land deeds and account books being burned; the sky; fruit trees in bloom; and Wang Dachun and Xi’er working together in the fields.

Villagers [singing]: A thousand years of wrongs will be revenged, will be revenged. Ten thousand years of injustices will be redressed, will be redressed. Old scores will be settled, you will pay with your life for the murders you committed. The debts that crushed the people will be erased. One thousand years of feudalism are now uprooted and ended. The shackles you have made us wear for ten thousand years are now broken and you are destroyed, the shackles are broken and you are destroyed. The ice on frozen rivers is breaking up, the flowers are opening and welcoming spring. The girl who was forced to become a ghost today becomes human again! People who have suffered in bitterness for generations are today reborn, are today reborn!

Fade to black.



[1]. Translated (and stills taken) from Baimao nü (1950) VCD (Shenzhen: Shenzhen yinxiang gongsi, 2001) and DVD (Guangzhou: Qiaojiaren wenhua chuanbo youxian gongsi, 2004), with reference to the film script by Shui Hua, Wang Bin, and Yang Runsen in Zhongguo dianying juben xuanji (Beijing: Zhongguo dianying chubanshe, 1959), volume 3, pages 95-148 (the film as released and the published film script differ in places). See also the translation of the opera version (different from the film): The White-haired Girl: An Opera in Five Acts, by Ho Ching-chih [He jingzhi] and Ting Yi [Ding Yi], translated by Yang Hsien-yi [Yang Xianyi] and Gladys Yang (Beijing: Foreign Languages Press, 1954). Translation by Pete Nestor (Middlebury College class of 2002) and Tom Moran (Middlebury College), edited by Tom Moran. Pete Nestor’s work supported by the Middlebury College Undergraduate Collaborative Research Fund. Translation © Middlebury College 2006.