Synopsis by Clarke Fountain
The Palanquin of Tears was a feature film adaptation of a French Canadian television series, made as a joint effort of Canadian, French, and Chinese production entities. It tells the true story of Chinese classical pianist Chow Ching Lie, beginning in Shanghai just before the Maoist revolution of 1949. Though raised in a wealthy family, which provided her with education and piano training, she is married off at the age of 13 in order to provide her family with an heir. We are shown the injustice of the social system of pre-Mao China, in which a bride is considered the property of her husband's family. Although the Red Chinese Army liberates Shanghai, she continues to honor the marriage commitment. The sensitive, talented Lie is forced to endure many indignities, primarily at the hands of her overbearing mother-in-law. Eventually she is able to free herself from this domestic bondage and embark on a career as a concert pianist. The heroine is portrayed by three different actresses, primarily teenager Tu Huai Qing. Quing Yi plays the adult pianist, who, in the film's framing device, we see at a Paris concert awaiting a reunion with her father after decades of separation.