Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000)

This film by Ang Lee is actually a Chinese idiom! – 卧虎藏龙 (wuo hu zhan long), meaning someone (tiger & dragon) with hidden talents. Wallpapers-04

One of the only ways for a tiger to jump (and catch its prey!!) is to crouch, where it would usually be hidden among the tall grasses, observing its (unsuspecting) prey closely. Likewise, in this film, it reminds us to never underestimate anyone.

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon is a martial arts films set in the 19th century about the pursuit for a stolen legendary 400 year old sword.

While the film was very successful globally, it did not do well in China. As according to Law Kar, a historian at the Hong Kong Film Archive, he characterizes Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon  ‘as a Hollywood film on the basis of its privileging of narrative over spectacle’: “In Chinese martial arts films you don’t let the action slow down; you just feed [the audience] more fights. … Ang Lee knows how to weave inner drama with outer drama. That may be the Hollywood way.”1 I do agree with this beautifully written statement, as characters in Chinese wuxia genre films generally do not express their affections for one another. This expression was explicitly seen when the dying Mu Bai used his last breath to say a whole speech to declare his love for Shu Lien, and said “I love you”. It was a touching scene and I shed a tear or two (you, dear reader, should not be surprised with my crying after reading my previous posts haha). For a moment I was shocked when she kissed him though! I thought he had already died, but thank God he had not when they kissed.

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Something I spotted in the film was the rather cheap looking sword used in the fights:

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Of course, I may be wrong, but his sword looks like a cheap reflective material, and does not look like a real sword at all. From the way it reflects, and it does not look sharp too! Looks like cardboard and shiny wrapping paper/silver foil to me. Compare the above sword to the ones here:

The ending of this film was an open ended one. What made it very interesting was the topic of sexual desires throughout the film.

First, how Jane Fox had slept with a Wudang master in hopes he would teach her some martial arts. Later in the film, Mu Bai keeps telling Jen that he wants to be her master, so she could master and perfect her skills. All that she has to do is return the 400-year old sword to him. Jen, thinking that this doesn’t make sense, asks him bare chested in drenched t-shirt, “Is it the sword you want, or me?”. Mu Bai may have been tempted…

In relation to the ending, it was her sexual desires, wanting to be with Lo that had made her jump. What happens afterwards is topic for a good discussion. Did she jump because she felt after causing Mu Bai’s death and unhappiness amongst others, she did not deserve love? Or did she want to test the legend of jumping off a cliff to see if she has a ‘pure heart’? Then again if she has a pure heart, she will not die, but float far away from Lo, thus not fulfilling his wish. Ah, what do you think? I can’t decide. Lo looked as though he was going to start crying/ but also looked like he was smiling as she floated away though:


There is so much to discuss about in this film, and it was enjoyable to watch! But I shall stop here. Being my second wuxia film (first was Hero) I found this film to be easier to understand. It would be a better introductory film to the wuxia genre as compared to Hero.



1^ 2002. “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: A Transnational Reading”. p41. Retrieved 28 May 2017.





3 thoughts on “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000)

  1. First up in your first paragraph, I liked how you connected the film concept to the films’ name and brought up how the film remind us to never underestimate anyone. The romance and emotions in the film was something I personally did not expect in an wuxia film, however I guess that was what made it interesting and drew myself into the storyline.\

    It was really wow how you noticed the small details like the sword looking fake and the also raised the topic of sexual desire in the film. It was really intriguing to read the film sequence that you pointed out that reflected on the individuals’ sexual desires. Perhaps this Is a representation weaved into the film as a result of Hollywood influence as well? Well done for analyzing and bring up that point, looking forward to your next post ☺


  2. Throughout the course of the movie was it uncovered that Jen had a soft spot for her lover, Lo, which drove her need to fulfil her sexual desires with him. However, when she encounters Li Mu Bai, he insists on having Jen to be his disciple. Despite living in a patriarchal society, even during that era, many questioned so as to why Li Mu Bai took a girl instead of a real man to learn under him; and that was because he saw the potential he saw in her.

    In my opinion, the reason why Jen actually jumped off the bridge was because Li Mu Bai, as her master, has inculcated the importance and values that a true warrior should uphold as her top priority and is more important than her desires; in this case her relationship. Thus, she took the jump because she believed that if her love with Lo was fated, they would meet again in the after life. A very sad ending indeed.

    The inclusion of your questions at the end of your review really got me thinking of the alternate endings and possibilities that the movie could have gone too. Keep up the good work!


  3. I agree that this film is indeed full of affections unlike the usual killings in wuxia film. Perhaps that is the reason why this show is popular in the Western as well (they like romantic stories i guess?).
    A very interesting view on the sword as well, which I didn’t realise when I was watching the movie! I guess, its due to safety purposes/budget that they resort in using a cheaper looking sword.

    I love it when directors leave the ending open for us to imagine. I can’t decide on how I can answer the question as well, both seems possible. But I would slight towards “jumping because she know she caused unhappiness.” She looks pretty guilty before she made the jump and it feels like she was looking relaxed and sinless during the float before she disappeared. I guess different person have different perception of this. Kudos!


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