What is the reality women face in Chinese society? What should it be? This “problem film” dramatizes the perils facing women seeking a public role in society, especially a predatory news media that treats them like commodities for public consumption. A film inspired by the recent suicide of actress Ai Xia (who appears in Spring Silkworms), the film became a sensation when lead actress Ruan Lingyu committed suicide on March 8, 1935–International Women’s Day.
Alternative English titles: New Woman, New Female
Produced by: United Photoplay Services, Ltd. (Lianhua yingye gongsi 聯華影業公司) (second studio)
Director: Cai Chusheng 蔡楚生
Screenplay: Sun Shiyi 孫師毅
Date of release: February 3, 1935
Cast: Ruan Lingyu 阮玲玉, Zheng Junli 鄭君里, Yin Xu 殷虛, Wang Naidong 王乃東
English subtitles translated by Eileen Cheng-yin Chow
See the video lectures and other material on the New Women (1935) module of the Chinese Film Classics online course.
New Women (1935) is discussed in chapter 6 of the book Chinese Film Classics, 1922-1949.
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.
2019/10/03-11-16: Zheng Junli films at BAMPFA
A retrospective on actor-director Zheng Junli, featuring 10 of his films, several of which were restored by BAMPFA
Ruan Ling-Yu (2005), by Richard J. Meyer
Ruan Ling-yu: The Goddess of Shanghai tells the story of one of the greatest Chinese movie stars of the silent era from humble origins to tragic death at the height of her career.
Crows and Sparrows 烏鴉與麻雀 (1949)
An epochal film, produced and set at the end of civil war, centering on a fight over housing. Who will stay and who will go?
Spring River Flows East 一江春水向東流 (1947)
An epic melodrama in two parts. A dutiful wife struggles to keep her family together through eight years of war, only to suffer betrayal.
Goddess 神女 (1934)
Ruan Lingyu stars as a single mother in Shanghai struggling to give her young son an education, in the face of exploitation and social prejudice.
Playthings 小玩意 (1933)
Artisan toymakers struggling to survive amidst war and competition from big business.
Spring Silkworms 春蠶 (1933)
Silkworm farmers in southern China find themselves in desperate economic straits, despite a bumper harvest.
The Peach Girl 桃花泣血記 (1931)
The Peach Girl co-stars Ruan Lingyu and Jin Yan as lovers in rural China tragically separated by social class.
Love and Duty 戀愛與義務 (1931)
A romantic melodrama with paternalistic overtones, Love and Duty was the first Lianhua film to showcase the chemistry between Ruan Lingyu and Jin Yan.