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The Story of Qiu Ju ( ) is a 1992 Chinesemarker comedy-drama film. The film was directed by Zhang Yimou and, as in many of his films, stars Gong Li in the title role. The screenplay is an adaption of Chen Yuanbin's novella The Wan Family's Lawsuit.

The film tells the story of a peasant woman, Qiu Ju, who lives in a rural area of China. When her husband is kicked in the groin by the village head, Qiu Ju, despite her pregnancy, travels to a nearby town, and later a big city to deal with its bureaucrats and find justice.

The film was a hit at film festivals and won the Golden Lion award at the Venice Film Festival in 1992.


Qiu Ju is a peasant who lives in a small farming enclave with her husband Qinglai, his sister and their father. She is in the final trimester of her first pregnancy. One day while her husband is conversing to Wang Shantang, the head of the community, a miscommunication ensues. Qinglai's comment that Shantang "only breeds hens", was misconstrued to reflect on a perceived inability of the chieftain to produce a son (he has two or three daughters). The minor municipality leader is insulted by this inference and beats Qinglai, kicking him so severely in the groin that he must see a doctor and remain absent from his work.

Because of this injustice, Qiu Ju sets forth to extract an explanation from Wang Shantang, one which the village head is unwilling to supply. Qiu Ju, determined to right this wrong, goes to the local police office and complains. The policeman for their area comes up with a solution: the village chief must pay 200 yuan to Qinglai. When Qiu Ju goes to the headman, he insultingly throws the 200 yuan notes onto the ground and refuses to apologize. Qiu Ju then goes to the provincial capital accompanied by her husbands' younger sister, Meizi. To raise money for the trip she sells some of the dried hot peppers which is produced on the family farm for cash. This process is one that she and Meizi repeat several times more. Taking the bus to the big city she and her sister are obviously "country folk" as the city people are dressed in a more modern fashion. By luck the two women find lodging at a cheap hotel where the manager helps them by giving them the address of the head of the district police. The two women meet him and he promises them that their case will be reviewed.

Weeks later the new verdict from the district police is nearly the same as the previous, but this time the village headman must pay 250 yuan. He still refuses to apologize and so Qui Ju goes back to the big city, this time against the wishes of her own husband (who is almost completely recovered from the attack). Qui Ju finds a lawyer who takes the case and files suit under a new law.

The case is judged by the court as having been correctly resolved in by the district, the fine remains at 250 yuan, Qiu Ju is unhappy but all she can do is make yet another appeal to an even higher level of police investigation. As part of the suit, officials come to the village and Qiu Ju's husband is X-rayed at the local hospital.

Its now the middle of winter, Qiu Ju goes into labor and experiences complications. The village headman is woken at night by Qiu Ju's husband's father who begs the village chief to do something. Grumbling, he sets off in the night, through the snow, rounds up a group of local men (who were some distance away at a theater watching a Chinese opera performance), and returns to the village. They then carry Qiu Ju, by hand, on a stretcher through the snow to the hospital, where she gives birth safely to a healthy baby boy.

A month later the whole village is invited to the "one month party" for the baby boy and the village headman is begged to come to the party as Qiu Ju and her husband all admit that the village chief saved Qiu Ju's life. But he doesn't come, and the local policeman shows up to tell Qiu Ju that the X-rays revealed her husband had a broken rib. As a result, the village chief is being sent to jail.

Qiu Ju, runs off to try and stop the police from taking the headman away but never even sees the police and the movie ends on a freeze-frame of Qiu Ju with an expression of anguish on her face.


The film was set in present-day China (1992) in northwest Shaanxi province (an area which the director would return to in his film The Road Home). Many of the street scenes in the cities were filmed with a hidden camera so the images are a sort of documentary of China during the time of Deng Xiaoping. As film critic Roger Ebert said "along the way we absorb more information about the lives of ordinary people in everyday China than in any other film I've seen." [249930].

DVD release

The Story of Qiu Ju has been released several times on DVD. In the United States, the first release on Region 1 DVD was by Columbia/TriStar Studio on July 20, 2000.

More recently, the film was re-released by Sony Pictures Classics as part of their Zhang Yimou collection (which also included new versions of Ju Dou and Raise the Red Lantern) on March 28, 2006. Both versions include subtitles in English.

An older VHS cassette version of the film was also released in the United States by Sony Pictures on January 17, 1995.

Awards and nominations

External links

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