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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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Alphonsus Rodriguez: Tragedy and challenge beset today’s saint early in life, but Alphonsus Rodriguez found happiness and contentment through simple service and prayer. 
<p>Born in Spain in 1533, Alphonsus inherited the family textile business at 23. Within the space of three years, his wife, daughter and mother died; meanwhile, business was poor. Alphonsus stepped back and reassessed his life. He sold the business and, with his young son, moved into his sisters’ home. There he learned the discipline of prayer and meditation. </p><p>Years later, at the death of his son, Alphonsus, almost 40 by then, sought to join the Jesuits. He was not helped by his poor education. He applied twice before being admitted. For 45 years he served as doorkeeper at the Jesuits’ college in Majorca. When not at his post, he was almost always at prayer, though he often encountered difficulties and temptations. </p><p>His holiness and prayerfulness attracted many to him, including St. Peter Claver, then a Jesuit seminarian. Alphonsus’s life as doorkeeper may have been humdrum, but he caught the attention of poet and fellow-Jesuit Gerard Manley Hopkins, who made him the subject of one of his poems. </p><p>Alphonsus died in 1617. He is the patron saint of Majorca.</p> American Catholic Blog People mess up, and it’s especially hard to watch as our children and other young people go down paths we know are likely to lead to heartbreak. Providing gentle guidance when it’s needed, and love even when that guidance isn’t followed, helps them to start fresh.

 
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