Jasmine Women

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Jasmine Women
Jasmine-women poster.jpg
Directed by Hou Yong
Produced by Tian Zhuangzhuang
Written by Hou Yong
Zhang Xian
Su Tong
Starring Zhang Ziyi
Joan Chen
Jiang Wen
Lu Yi
Liu Ye
Music by Su Cong
Cinematography Yao Xiaofeng
Release date
15 June 2004
(Shanghai International Film Festival)
23 October 2004
(Tokyo International Film Festival)
Country China
Language Chinese (Mandarin) and Chinese (Shanghainese)

Jasmine Women (simplified Chinese: 茉莉花开; traditional Chinese: 茉莉花開; pinyin: Mò li huā kāi; literally: "Blooming Jasmine") is a 2004 film, adapted from Su Tong's novel called Funü Shenghuo (妇女生活) which means Women's Lives. It is directed by Hou Yong, formerly a well known cinematographer. Zhang Ziyi plays the youngest of three generations of women who lead lives in Shanghai. Joan Chen plays the great-grandmother, grandmother, and mother. The film recounts this family, the mistakes they make, and a cycle that the granddaughter breaks out of. The film was well received by critics and was praised for its use of color and the performances of Zhang Ziyi and Joan Chen.

The Chinese name of the movie, Mo li hua kai, is based on a popular Chinese song Mo Li Hua, which means "jasmine flower blossom." The names of the characters in the movie are also based on this song.


The film is divided into three chapters: "grandmother, mother, and daughter"; respectively the story of Mo, Li and Hua.

Mo's Story (1930s)[edit]

Eighteen-year-old Mo (Zhang Ziyi) lives with her mother (Joan Chen) who owns a small photo shop in Shanghai. She longs to become a movie star, a dream her mother does not understand. One day, Mo meets Mr. Meng (Jiang Wen), the boss of a movie studio. She then leaves her mother to fulfil her film career dream. She enters a relationship with Mr. Meng who is married and later becomes pregnant. She refuses to have an abortion and when the Second Sino-Japanese War begins, Meng leaves Shanghai and abandons Mo. The movie studio is shut down and Mo returns home. She gives birth to Li and blames her child for everything she has lost. Her mother's boyfriend (this is never explicitly stated but implied) also tries to seduce her, using the guise of a free hair appointment. Her mother finds out, and commits suicide not long after.

Li's Story (1950s)[edit]

Li (also played by Zhang Ziyi) had grown up with her mother Mo (now played by Joan Chen) in misery. Mo still remembers her dream of being a movie star. Li marries Zou Jie (Lu Yi) who was a member of her high school's chapter of the Communist Youth League of China. After marriage, they move into Jie's home but unused to their lifestyle and unable to bear a child of her own, they move back to stay with Mo. Li eventually adopts a baby girl named Hua. Li later becomes mentally unstable. Li's situation gets steadily worse and she even accuses Zou for violating Hua, her adopted daughter. Li’s family collapses and her husband Zou commits suicide by throwing himself at an oncoming train. Li leaves home; her fate is unknown, and Hua is left to live with Mo.

Hua's Story (1980s)[edit]

Li disappeared when Hua (Zhang Ziyi) was still very young and she grew up with her grandmother Mo (Joan Chen). Mo finds comfort in taking care of her granddaughter. When Hua grew up she married a college graduate, Du (Liu Ye). After marriage, Du went for further studies overseas in Japan and after that, decided to leave Hua. Unfortunately, Hua was already carrying Du’s child. Mo strongly encouraged her to abort the baby because of her experiences with having a child and being unprepared for it, but Hua decided against it. Hua decided to check into a family planning clinic/hospital to have an abortion in any case, but before she could arrive home, Mo died. Years later, Du returns to Hua to 'finalise things', but it seems Hua had moved on with her life. Closing scenes show her moving into a new home with her daughter.


Reviewing the film at the Tokyo International Film Festival, Russell Edwards of Variety described Jasmine Women as a "tearjerker of the first order" and a "visual feast" and writes the film is "an impressive showcase" for actress Zhang Ziyi and Joan Chen "in multiple roles as daughters and mothers across three generations."[1] The review further states the film is "a picture postcard, with the scenes set in pre-WWII Shanghai particularly impressive for their art direction."[1]



  1. ^ a b Edwards, Russell (11-02-2004). "Jasmine Women". Variety.  Check date values in: |date= (help)

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