Raise the Red Lantern

Raise the Red Lantern is a 1991 Chinese-language romantic drama film directed by Zhang Yimou and starring Gong Li. It is an adaptation by of the 1990 novella Raise the Red Lantern (originally Wives and Concubines) by Su Tong. The film was later adapted into an acclaimed ballet of the same title by the National Ballet of China, also directed by Zhang.


The film is set in Republican China during the 1920s. Nineteen-year-old Songlian (played by Gong Li), an educated woman whose father has recently died and left the family bankrupt, is forced by her stepmother to marry into the wealthy Chen family, becoming the fourth wife or, as she is referred to, the Fourth Mistress (Sì Tàitai) of the household. Arriving at the palatial abode, she is at first treated like royalty, receiving sensuous foot massages and brightly lit red lanterns, as well as a visit from her husband, Master Chen (Ma Jingwu), the master of the house, whose face is never clearly shown.