Thirteenth Aunt

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Siu-kwan
Once Upon a Time in China character
RosamundKwan OUATIC3.jpg
Created by Tsui Hark
Portrayed by Rosamund Kwan (original)
Teresa Mo
Sharon Kwok Sau-wan
Lin Yi-chen
Maggie Shiu
Hao Lei
Flora Chan
Huang Ying
Information
Aliases Diana (English name)
"Aunt Yee" or "Aunt Yi"[1]
Thirteenth Aunt
Chinese 十三

Thirteenth Aunt with the Chinese given name Siu-kwan (少筠; "Siu-kwan", unjustifiably translated in some subtitles as "Peony") is a character created by Hong Kong director Tsui Hark for his 1991 martial arts film Once Upon a Time in China. Siu-kwan is the western-educated love interest of the main protagonist, Chinese folk hero Wong Fei-hung and is portrayed by Rosamund Kwan. [2]

Kwan reprised her role in four Once Upon a Time in China sequels, namely Tsui's Once Upon a Time in China II (1992), Once Upon a Time in China III (1993), Once Upon a Time in China V (1994)[3] and Sammo Hung's Once Upon a Time in China and America (1997). As a result of these films, the character became famously associated with the Wong Fei-hung legends, and was portrayed by many other actresses in later Wong Fei-hung media.

Wong Fei-hung respectfully calls Siu-kwan "Thirteenth Aunt" according to Chinese traditions, which place great importance on generations and familial orders. While they are of similar age, in imperial China it is considered taboo for Wong to refer to Thirteenth Aunt as just "Siu-kwan", despite her later insistence that he does so. In addition, their romance is also considered strictly forbidden, even though they are unrelated by blood, as Siu-kwan's father is a blood brother of Wong's grandfather.

Historical basis[edit]

Wong Fei-hung (1847–1924) had four spouses in his life, Lady Lo (羅氏) (m. 1871), Lady Ma (馬氏) (m. 1896), Lady Sam (岑氏) (m. 1902) and Mok Kwai-lan (m. 1915, nominally as a concubine rather than a wife). The first three wives died during marriage.

It is unlikely that Thirteenth Aunt was based on any of them. Siu-kwan's Chinese surname was not revealed in the Once Upon a Time in China film series, to avoid any association.

Once Upon a Time in China film series[edit]

Character overview[edit]

Thirteenth Aunt was educated in Great Britain for three years and returned to China with a great interest in photography and film making.

Analysis[edit]

Palmer & Lau (2003) dismissed the notion that Thirteenth Aunt was merely a clichéd damsel in distress. They called her "ambiguous", and wrote: "In many ways, Thirteenth Aunt is the female character most in tune with the actual position of women in Hong Kong." Palmer & Lau also pointed out that while the Thirteenth Aunt received a western education, dressed in western clothes, and embraced many advanced western technologies, she mostly identified with Chinese, rather than Western, causes. Moreover, while she does not know any martial arts and defers to Wong in his company, she is brave and assertive. She utilizes her knowledge of steam engines and motion pictures to help preserve Chinese traditions (often against foreign pressure). When some of these traditions prove to be repressive, such as her romance with Wong, she openly and defiantly ignores them. Palmer & Lau wrote: "Thirteenth Aunt negotiates the terrain between tradition and modernity without any sacrifices and she lives in a world of (male) violence without being either destroyed or co-opted by it".[4]

Other portrayals[edit]

  • Teresa Mo in Once Upon a Time a Hero in China (1992 Hong Kong film) and Master Wong vs. Master Wong (1993 Hong Kong film)
  • Sharon Kwok Sau-wan in Fist from Shaolin (1993 Hong Kong film)
  • Lin Yi-chen in Wong Fei-hung and Thirteenth Aunt (1994 Taiwanese series)
  • Maggie Shiu in Wong Fei-Hung Series (1996 Hong Kong series)
  • Hao Lei in Young Hero Wong Fei-hung (2002 Chinese series)
  • Flora Chan in Wong Fei-hung and Thirteenth Aunt (2005 Chinese series)
  • Huang Ying in Da Hua Huang Feihong (2005 Chinese series)

Other references[edit]

The 1999 arcade fighting game Martial Masters contains a character Saojin (サオジン) based on Thirteenth Aunt.

Notes and references[edit]

  1. ^ "Aunt Yee" or "Aunt Yi" are incorrect translations sometimes appearing in subtitles of Once Upon a Time in China films. "Yee" (姨; "Yi") already means "aunt".
  2. ^ Morton, Lisa (2009). The Cinema of Tsui Hark. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Company. p. 79. ISBN 0-7864-4460-6. 
  3. ^ Thirteenth Aunt did not appear in Once Upon a Time in China IV.
  4. ^ Palmer & Lau, p. 214–215.

Sources[edit]

  • Palmer, Augusta Lee; Lau, Jenny Kwok Wah (2003). "Chapter 11. Of Executioners and Courtesans: The Performance of Gender in Hong Kong Cinema of the 1990s". In Lau. Multiple Modernities: Cinemas and Popular Media in Transcultural East Asia. Temple University Press. pp. 203–221. ISBN 1-56639-985-8.