Farewell My Concubine (1993) // An All Time Class Movie in China

The Complete Guide & Review of Farewell My Concubine

Welcome to our Farewell My Concubine Review, the Chinese Movie from 1993.

Farewell My Concubine – 霸王别姬 Bàwáng bié jī

I am talking about a lifetime, one year, one month, one day, even one second less…makes it less than a lifetime!
说的是一辈子,差一年、一个月、一天、一个时辰,都不算一辈子
Shuō de shì yībèizi, chà yī nián, yīgè yuè, yītiān, yīgè shíchén, dōu bù suànyībèizi

Farewell My Concubine Review – Awards

Farewell My Concubine Review – Star Leslie Cheung

Farewell My Concubine Review – How to Watch

Farewell My Concubine Review – Synopsis

Farewell My Concubine Review – Chinese Peking Opera

Farewell My Concubine Review – FAQ’s

Farewell My Concubine Review

Farewell My Concubine Review: Awards

This movie is also very famous globally and won the Palme d’Or (Golden Palm Award) in the 46th Cannes Film Festival.

The film is over two and a half hours long and has an overall rating of 9.6 in China.

Farewell My Concubine Review: Star Leslie Cheung

The lead stars are Leslie Cheung, Gong Li, Zhang Fengyi and Ge You

Farewell My Concubine Review

张国荣 Zhāng Guóróng, or as we call him Leslie Cheung, is an actor from Hong Kong who plays Cheng Die Yi in this Chinese Movie.

Sadly Leslie Cheung committed suicide on 1st April 2003 due to ongoing issues with depression.

He is very famous in China and is affectionately referred to as 哥哥 Gēgē (brother).

On 1st April every year many Chinese people will watch his films in remembrance of him.

Along with Farewell My Concubine (霸王别姬 Bàwáng bié jī) he has also appeared in a number of other famous films such as A Chinese ghost story, Ashes of Time and Days of Being Wild.

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Farewell My Concubine Review : How to Watch

You can watch the full film for free on Youku. It is also available on Netflix in some countries and can also be watched on Amazon Prime.

You can see some more information and some other film recommendations on our Films Set in Beijing blog.

We encourage you to rate the film out of 10 with a comment below after you’ve watched it!

Farewell My Concubine Review: Synopsis

  • Cheng Dieyi (also known as Xiaodouzi when he is a child) is sold to an opera troupe by his mother who is a prostitute.
  • He is a very handsome young boy and his feminine features mean that he is trained to play the female roles in the opera.
  • When he is young, he has to study very hard and is often beaten by his teacher. He almost runs away but decides to return to the theatre troupe after seeing a famous opera performance onstage.
  • In the opera troupe Cheng Dieyi has a best friend called Duan Xiaolong (known as Xiaoshitou as a child). He calls Duan Xiaolou his 师哥 (shī gē) which means brother in Chinese.
  • At one point in the film Cheng Dieyi has to recite lines from a play called Si Fan. The line should be: “I am by nature a girl, not a boy”, but he mistakenly recites: “I am by nature a boy, not a girl”. Even though he is beaten many times for this, he keeps making the same mistake.

Later, he is punished by Duan Xiaolou for this mistake.

He then recites the line correctly, perhaps because he didn’t want to let Duan Xiaolou down.

Farewell My Concubine Review
  • This makes him determined to commit to being the female role, both onstage and offstage.
  • Many years later both Cheng Dieyi and Duan Xiaolou became famous opera stars.
  • They are most famous for the roles in the Peking Opera ‘Farewell My Concubine’. Cheng Dieyi plays the concubine Yuji and Duan Xiaolou plays the Warlord Xiangyu who is Yuji’s husband.
  • Cheng Dieyi believes that he will spend his lifetime singing opera with Duan Xiaolou. He finds it difficult to distinguish his real life relationship with Duan Xiaolou from their relationship onstage.
  • However, Duan Xiaolou is able to separate his feelings from his role and live his own life offstage.
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Duan Xiaolou decides that he will marry the high class courtesan Juxian who is played by the famous actress Gong Li.

  • Cheng Dieyi feels so angry and betrayed that he declares he will begin performing his own opera and leave Duan Xiaolou.
  • Cheng Dieyi only means for this to be a threat so that Duan Xiaolou won’t marry Juxian, however Duan Xiaolou marries her anyway.
  • After this Cheng Dieyi seems to give up on life, he is very disappointed and begins to smoke and drink a lot. Meanwhile, Duan Xiaolou has given up performing opera.
  • Both Cheng Dieyi and Duan Xiaolou continue on in this way until their old teacher forces them to reconcile.
  • They then begin performing opera on stage together again.

Farewell My Concubine Review: Chinese Peking Opera

Years of turmoil follow this and things do not go the way Cheng Dieyi wants them too.

Many unexpected things happen and Cheng Dieyi isn’t even able to play his role in the opera.

The film ends in 1977, one year after the end of the Cultural Revolution, with Cheng Dieyi and Duan Xiaolou meeting again.

They practice Farewell My Concubine with Cheng Dieyi once again playing the concubine Yu Ji and Duan Xiaolou playing her husband, the Warlord.

At the end of the performance Cheng Dieyi commits suicide, just the same as the tragic heroin in the play.

Farewell My Concubine Review

The film is set over a long time, beginning in 1924 and ending in 1977.

It covers some of China’s biggest political upheavals such as the Japanese occupation of China, the Gang of Four and the Cultural Revolution.

Due to some of the politically sensitive subjects it covers, the film was actually banned in China for a while.

The film shows how Cheng Dieyi is obsessed with the role he plays in Farewell My Concubine.

He doesn’t care about what happens in the world outside of the opera, as long as he is able to perform to an audience, this is all that matters to him.

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Farewell My Concubine Review: FAQ’s

How do you say Farewell My Concubine in Chinese?

Farewell My Concubine in Chinese is 霸王别姬 Bàwáng bié jī

Where can I watch the movie?

You can watch Farewell My Concubine for free on the Chinese video hosting site YouKu.

Can I watch it on Netflix?

Farewell My Concubine is only available on Netflix in Taiwan.

You can use a VPN to do this even if you are not in Taiwan.

How long is Farewell My Concubine?

2 hours and 37 minutes in total.

What year was Farewell My Concubine released?

It was released in 1993.

Is there a book for Farewell My Concubine?

Yes there it.

The book which the film Farewell my Concubine movie is based on is written by Li Bi Hua and there is a Chinese book version online.

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