Sample Literature Paper on The film “Lan Yu”

Lan Yu is one of the most popular films that depict the life and times of gay people in a society that strictly forbids homosexuality. Based on one of China’s anonymously written gay romantic novel, Lan Yu describes the romance story between an architecture student named Lie Ye and a wealthy Beijing businessman named Handong. Handong is described as a hardworking smart businessman who lived a double life as he secretly yearned for a romantic relationship with a man. Through his normal escapades from work, Handong got to meet a male prostitute who would later on become his lover. Lan Yu, an architectural student who chose commercial sex as his other source of income, is the primary character of this film. Lan Yu made his first money from gay prostitution after having a sexual encounter with Handong (Khoo & Sean 8). Handong and Lan Yu eventually became a gay couple after the bizarre first encounter. However, Handong and Lan’s love story ends up in sorrow after they are both sentenced to death.

Homosexuality is one of the most sensitive subjects in China that continues to receive much attention from the society. In China, homosexuality is a strictly forbidden behavior that is discouraged at all cost. Those found to practice homosexuality are not only disowned by the entire society but the may face the ultimate price of losing their lives because of the issued death penalty.  Both ‘Lan Yu’ and ‘Farewell My Concubine’ ends up tragically with death. This is because; homosexuality in the films’ society is viewed as a sin or crime that deserves the harshest form of punishment. On the other hand, in the ‘Farewell My Concubine’, Shitou’s wife committed suicide after being denounced by Shitou who discovered that she was once a prostitute. It is for this profound reason that both films end with death. The tragic end serves as a to condone the audience from practicing any form of sexual immorality as it defies the culture and background of China’s society.


The Queer Space of China by David Eng

Prompt question B

The Queer Space of China examines the sporadic increase in the number of gay and lesbian relationships in China. David Eng explains the film’s references to the events of 1989 by using some homosexuality based romantic films to describe the identity, nature, and the development of a gay or lesbian character. Eng does this by carrying out an analysis of Lan Yu film in a bid to shed more light on the interrelation between sexuality and gender. Eng utilizes Stanly Kwan’s ‘Lan Yu’ film to describe how homosexuality is speedily becoming a normal practice in the current modernized country (Khoo & Sean 12). Eng uses the aspect of timeline events to describe how the current immoral behaviors oppose China’s traditional stunts, China’s revolutionary aspirations, and cultural norms. Eng also examined some of the Chinese values on sexuality and their relation to homosexuality. In the end, Eng justifies the death of the characters in Lin Yu film by viewing homosexuality as defiance to Chinese’s traditional and cultural norms on homosexuality.

“Fish and elephant” by Martin

Prompt question C

‘Fish and elephant’ is the first film that showcases and describes the aspect of lesbianism in China. The film is made up of several documentaries that depict the life and struggles of lesbians. The film uses two main lesbian characters with the intent of showcasing the lesbians’ routine daily habits that portray their lifestyles. ‘Fish and elephant’ sought to make the audience view lesbians as ordinary people who led a normal way of life (Shi 22). Li Yu uses the film also portrays the romantic love story of the main characters in a bid to inform the audience of the struggles and sufferings that are faced by lesbian women in China’s societies. The key lesbian characters named; Xiao Qun and her lesbian lover named Xiao Ling face a lot of challenges that hinder them from going on with their relationships (Shi 21). Even though both characters have absolutely no romantic feelings for men, they are pushed to seek male suitors by their families. This does not work out as both characters are sure of their sexuality as lesbians.

Prompt question D

According to Martin, films like Fish and Elephant are not available in Mainland China as they had been shot without the government’s permission. Additionally, the film has never received approval from the Chinese Communist Production. This means that the films were never even allowed for production. Since homosexuality is a forbidden subject, the Chinese cinema system and censorship made it difficult for the release of the films to the audience (Martin 63). Underground style is thereby the only suitable way by which films depicting homosexuality are released.

The vertical time in the film is its lyrical aspect where the depths of the isolated moment are emphasized over narrative progression (Martin 67). In this case, poetry dominates over drama. On the other hand, horizontal dimension refers to the film’s narrative trajectory that entails an unraveling of a story, action of the film, and drama (Martin 67). “Rather than the teleological chain of cause-and-effect events associated with the film’s horizontal movement, the scenes dwell on the subjective and poetic qualities of the isolated moment, with little action or narrative progression”. From that excerpt, Martin elucidates that the film does not have dialogues between the characters. Instead, the film is made using narrative static method.

The lesbian space “space” is highly represented in the film a “utopian” space/utopian alternative to hetero/conventional marriages in the film. This is because; both characters hide their sexualities due to fear of the discriminative views from the family and society. In spite of receiving pressure from their parents, she ends up engaging in a romantic relationship with Ling. From this story, it is clear that parents are required not to choose for their children, instead, they should be supportive to their children who would make the ultimate choice.


Khoo, Olivia, and Sean Metzger. Futures of Chinese Cinema: Technologies and Temporalities in Chinese Screen Cultures. Bristol, UK: Intellect, 2009. Print.

Shi, Liang. “Beginning a New Discourse: The First Chinese Lesbian Film” Fish and Elephant”.” Film Criticism 28.3 (2004): 21-36.

Martin, Fran. Backward Glances: Contemporary Chinese Cultures and the Female Homoerotic Imaginary. Durham: Duke University Press, 2010. Internet resource.