Synopsis by Sandra Brennan
This Chinese melodrama set at the turn-of-the-century offers an allegory about the dangers of rigid adherence to traditions and about the effects of sexual repression. The story is set in the Canton province and centers on the lives of women involved in the Self-Combed Sisterhood. These women, led by the icy and very stern Shang, who comes from a powerful, wealthy family, have taken a vow to never let others comb their hair (back then, to allow another to comb the hair was a symbol of marriage). Young Ah-di suddenly joins the group and disappears from her village leaving her love, Ahfu, confused and worried. Not wanting to lose her forever, he kidnaps her from the women and takes her back to marry him. Shang and her group then come to town and threaten to kill themselves if Ah-di is not returned to them. Negotiations ensue and a compromise is reached allowing Ah-di to marry, but she must then live with the women in their compound upriver. Trouble ensues when Ah-di gets pregnant and Shang sentences her to be drowned in the river. At the same time, Shang encourages comb girl Yanzhi to marry and even helps the young woman find a job playing music in a local inn. This causes even more trouble and leads to the story's inevitable climax.
celibacy, family-member, kidnapping, love, pregnancy, repression, romance, suicide, tradition