Zhuangzi Tests His Wife

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Zhuangzi Tests His Wife
Directed by Li Beihai
Produced by Li Beihai
Written by Li Minwei
Distributed by Huamei
Release date
Country Hong Kong
Language Silent

Zhuangzi Tests His Wife (Chinese: 莊子試妻; pinyin: Zhuangzi shi qi) is a 1913 Hong Kong drama film directed by Li Minwei. It is the earliest feature film of Hong Kong cinema. It was the only film made by the Huamei (Chinese-American) Studio, which was co-founded by Benjamin Brosky, who had sold his Asia Film Company in Shanghai, and Li Minwei. The film was, however, never screened in Hong Kong. Brosky brought the film to the United States,[1] and it became the first Chinese film to be shown abroad, when it was exhibited in the Chinese communities of Los Angeles and San Francisco.[citation needed] It is based on the zidishu play "The Butterfly Dream" written by Chunshuzhai.[2]


Philosopher Zhuangzi meets a woman fanning the newly built grave of her dead husband because she desires to marry again. On returning home, Zhuangzi decides to put his wife to the test by faking his own death. His wife is grief-stricken and goes into mourning. While funeral arrangements are in progress, a handsome young man come to call on Zhuangzi. Later, there is talk of marriage between Zhuangzi's wife and the man. However, the young man falls ill; his servant says that taking his brain is the only way to cure him.


Li Minwei stars as the wife of Zhuangzi, while Li Minwei's wife Yan Shanshan plays a servant girl, thus making her the first ever Chinese film actress.[citation needed]


Zhuangzi was one of the two defining figures of Chinese Taoism, based his philosophy that all things change and that the perception of truth depends on the context under which it exists. Throughout history, his teachings have been particularly favored by Chinese scholars and artists, many of whom have been inspired by Zhuangzi's philosophy.

In other media[edit]

Zhuangzi Tests His Wife has been performed by the Peking Opera, and other local stage performances.

Most of the operatic versions of the story ends with Zhuangzi burying his wife after she commits suicide for being disloyal to her husband. But this version tackles the story from a different angle. While Tian Shi still commits suicide in the end, Zhuangzi turns her and himself into butterflies and then, eventually, into dust.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Fonoroff, Paul (1988). "A Brief History of Hong Kong Cinema" (PDF). Chinese University of Hong Kong. p. 294. 
  2. ^ Idema, Wilt (2014). The Resurrected Skeleton : from Zhuangzi to Lu Xun. New York. pp. 195–196. ISBN 9780231536516. OCLC 881805404. 

External links[edit]