Laogong zhi aiqing
Alternate title: Zhi guo yuan 擲菓緣 (A Marriage Made by Flinging Fruit)
Director: Zhang Shichuan
Screenwriter: Zheng Zhengqiu
Year of release: 1922
Cast: Cheng Cheh Ku (Zheng Zhegu), Yu Ying, Zheng Zhengqiu (credited as Cheng Kung [“Mr. Zheng”], T.M. Loh (Lu Tie[min?])
English subtitles translated by Christopher Rea
Laborer’s Love is the earliest-known surviving complete Chinese-made film. A carpenter-turned-fruit seller courts a doctor’s daughter, but her father tells him that he’ll only marry his daughter to the man who can bring him more patients. Watch to see how Carpenter Zheng uses the tools of his trade to get the girl!
The film contains original bilingual Chinese-English intertitles, indicating that it was made for an international market. The Chinese text has been translated only in instances where the meaning of the Chinese words and the English words is significantly different.
Watch the video lectures and see other related content in Module 1 of the Chinese Film Classics course.
Laborer’s Love is discussed in chapter 1 of the book Chinese Film Classics, 1922-1949.
See if you can spot the visual joke in the shot introducing our hero:
Check out the “connection device” that links lovers between shots:
See the trick staircase-slide in action:
Compare with these three sequences featuring a trick staircase-slide in Buster Keaton’s “The Haunted House” (1921):
Now compare with the trick staircase-slide appearing in ”Woman Warrior White Rose” (1929):
Watch the fast-forward special effect in the doctor’s office:
If you enjoy Laborer’s Love, be sure to check out Yuan Muzhi’s City Scenes (1935), the most gag-driven Chinese film of the early sound era.
Teaching Resources for Early Chinese Cinema
The Chinese Film Classics Project is a research, teaching, and translation initiative aimed at making early Chinese cinema more accessible to the general public
Special effects were common in early Chinese cinema, especially in comedies and martial arts (wuxia) films of the 1920s
Chinese Film Classics, 1922-1929 (2021), by Christopher Rea
An essential guide to the first golden age of Chinese cinema, offering detailed introductions to fourteen films.
An Amorous History of the Silver Screen (2005), by Zhang Zhen
The first sustained historical study of the emergence of cinema in China, An Amorous History of the Silver Screen is a fascinating narrative that illustrates the immense cultural significance of film and its power as a vehicle for social change.