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ON FAITH & MEDIA View Comments

Snow Flower and the Secret Fan

By
Sr. Rose Pacatte, F.S.P.
Source: AmericanCatholic.org

This is a beautiful motion picture about Chinese women from director Wayne Wang who also brought us “The Joy Luck Club” in 1993.  Whereas “The Joy Luck Club” was based on the best-selling novel by Amy Tan about mother-daughter relationships and the tensions between Chinese and American culture, “Snow Flower and the Secret Fan”, also based on a best-selling novel by Lisa See, is about life-long friendship between women contrasted with early 19th century Chinese culture and contemporary Chinese culture in Hong Kong and Singapore.

Students of culture know that it is created by the bonds of communication and sustained by the values emphasized in that communication. While being female in China is still not valued as are males, even under a Communist government that preaches equality, two hundred years ago, women could have the final word if they had a girl friend, a soul mate. This tradition is called “laotung” and often girl friends were brought together by a kind of matchmaker, transcending even social class, in a commitment that was seldom broken.

This friendship was nourished by communication via a secret language, Nüshu, written on fans.  According to anthropologists, this is the only language in the history of the world to be developed by and for women.

Snow Flower and Lily’s friendship survived war, misunderstanding, and an unhappy, isolated marriage for one, and a poor, rough, though loving marriage by the other. It was broken once, but in death, healed and made beautiful again.
 
Nina and Sophia are also friends from childhood, where Nina teaches Sophia, who is from Korea, how to speak Mandarin.  They remain close even through the challenges best them from differences in social class, family, and education.
 
This is a film about tradition, the emotional connections created through life-long friendships, loyalty, sacrifices, and sisterly love. I think the theme of language and communication frames the story and creates layers of meaning that cinephiles will enjoy discussing.

Nina /Lily are played by Bingbing Li and  Snow Flower/Sophia are played by Gianna Jun.




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Pierre Toussaint: 
		<p>Born in modern-day Haiti and brought to New York City as a slave, Pierre died a free man, a renowned hairdresser and one of New York City’s most well-known Catholics. <br /><br />Pierre Bérard, a plantation owner, made Toussaint a house slave and allowed his grandmother to teach her grandson how to read and write. In his early 20s, Pierre, his younger sister, his aunt and two other house slaves accompanied their master’s son to New York City because of political unrest at home. Apprenticed to a local hairdresser, Pierre learned the trade quickly and eventually worked very successfully in the homes of rich women in New York City. <br /><br />When his master died, Pierre was determined to support his master’s widow, himself and the other house slaves. He was freed shortly before the widow’s death in 1807. </p>
		<p>Four years later he married Marie Rose Juliette, whose freedom he had purchased. They later adopted Euphémie, his orphaned niece. Both preceded him in death. He attended daily Mass at St. Peter’s Church on Barclay Street, the same parish that St. Elizabeth Seton attended. <br /><br />Pierre donated to various charities, generously assisting blacks and whites in need. He and his wife opened their home to orphans and educated them. The couple also nursed abandoned people who were suffering from yellow fever. Urged to retire and enjoy the wealth he had accumulated, Pierre responded, “I have enough for myself, but if I stop working I have not enough for others.” <br /><br />He was originally buried outside St. Patrick’s Old Cathedral, where he was once refused entrance because of his race. His sanctity and the popular devotion to him caused his body to be moved to St. Patrick’s Cathedral on Fifth Avenue. <br /><br />Pierre Toussaint was declared Venerable in 1996.</p>
American Catholic Blog We have a responsibility to balance the scales, to show love where there is hate, to provide food where there is hunger, and to protect what is vulnerable. If life has treated you well, then justice demands that you help balance the scales.

Men, Women, and the Mystery of Love

 
CATHOLIC GREETINGS
Ven. Pierre Toussaint
This former slave is one of many American holy people whose life particularly models Christian values.

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