Based on the novella The Wan Family's Lawsuit [Wanjia SusongJ by Chen Yuanbin, the film xoas Zhang Yimou's first to directly address issues relevant to contemporary China. Set in the rural northwestern province of Shaanxi, the film traces the pregnant Qiu Ju's effort to work through the different, newly established legal framework. Almost documentary in its style, the film captures the daily drudgery, complicated village politics, and the yawning gap between urban and rural China. In many ways, Qiu Ju represents a type of modern China anti-hero, unwilling to bow either to the village head's arrogant behavior or be intimidated by China's notoriously convoluted and opaque bureaucracy.


  • 1. What event causes Qiu Ju to seek out the police?
  • 2. Why doesn't Qiu Ju accept the village chief's payment?

Policeman: Who are you looking for?

Qiu Ju: Policeman Li.

Policeman Li: Come over, come over, have a seat. Eh, you two, move

over there, I am busy here. What's up?

Policeman Li: Wan Qinglai. What's wrong with Qinglai?

Qiu Ju: He was kicked.

Policeman Li: You are Qinglai's wife?

Qiu Ju: Yea.

Policeman Li: Oh shoot, I didn't get to go to Qinglai's wedding.

Everyone said his wife is quite beautiful. So it's you, hmmm? Wow, about to have a baby already. Sit, sit. (reading the complaint outloud) Wound of soft tissue on the right side. Minor swollen of testicle on left side.

Policeman Li: (looking again back to Qiu ]u) Qinglai is not a troublemaker, how could he have been kicked so that it was swollen? By whom?

Qiu Ju: The village head.

Policeman Li: Who? Wang Shantang?

Qiu Ju: Yea.

Policeman Li: What for?

Qiu Ju: My family grows chili peppers, um, you know that?

Policeman Li: Yeah.

Qiu Ju: We wanted to build a chili pepper shed and even had

the bricks ready, but the village head simply wouldn't approve it. There was no other way, so we thought we could use the edge of the self-cultivated field my family contracted, and we just build it there. But the village head still said he would not approve it. He said it was not permitted [to build]. I said, fine you have the regulations, show me the regulations. He said he didn't need to show it to me. He said he is the regulations, and he wouldn't show me.

Policeman Li: Regardless, there is truly such a policy. The fields are

for growing crops, if everyone builds something on it, what are we going to eat?

Qiuju: But the policy doesn't say to hit people. He is the

village head, one or two hits are fine, but he simply shouldn't be allowed to kick him "where it counts."

Policeman Li: One hand cannot clap. He wouldn't hit anyone for no

reason? What was it really for? What for?

Sister: My brother was very angry and cussed him out.

Policeman Li: Who are you?

Sister: Qinglai is my older brother.

Policeman Li: What did your brother say to him?

Sister: Said he would have no heir to carry on the family . . .

that he only hatched a flock of hens.

Policeman Li: Ah, Qinglai was wrong to say that. Everyone knows

that [the village head] Wang Shantang has four daughters and no boys. Those words hit the old man hard.

Family planning just prevented him [from having more kids], how could this be mentioned?

Qiu Ju: Whatever [the reason], he was wrong to hit people. He

is the village head, how could he just kick him "where it counts?" So I went to ask for an explanation, he said he didn't care, he felt like kicking him, so he kicked.

I said you kicked him, if you are not responsible, who is? You are the village head and you hit people, you were wrong.

Policeman Li: This is it? Right?

Qiu Ju: Uh-huh.

Policeman Li: I tell you he was undoubtedly wrong to hit people.

Qiu Ju: He sure was wrong. How could he kick him "where it

counts." He was damaged, he.. .

Policeman Li: I just told you, he was undoubtedly wrong. How about

you go home first. In a day or two, I will come to your village to investigate. Okay?

Qiu Ju: Uh-huh.

Policeman Li: Both sides will need to self-criticize. Clear?

Qiu Ju: Uh-huh.

Policeman Li: You go home first. I am very busy today. I will keep

this here for now.

Qiu Ju: When will you come?

Policeman Li: In a couple of days.

Qiu Ju: Okay. Policeman Li, you come back in a couple of days.

[.. .]

(Qiu Ju and Policeman Li walk to the grinding house where the village head was.)

Villagers: Policeman Li, come in and warm up by the fire.

Policeman Li: (To the villagers) Ah, I need to talk to Old Wang, you

guys go outside first.

Village Head: You came.

Policeman Li: Grinding corn?

Village Head: Uh-huh.

Policeman Li: Ah, Old Wang, I have seen the proof from the hospital and Qinglai's injury. He was wrong to insult you.

I have criticized him. No matter what, you are a [village] elder and the village head, hitting people is simply wrong.

Village Head: I am handling [their case] according to the policy you

gave me.

Policeman Li: The policy does not say you can hit people.

Village Head: Think it over carefully, why do you think was he beaten?

Qiu Ju: You are the village head, to hit him just once or twice

would have been okay. But you cannot kick him "where it counts."

Village Head: So, I kicked him, I kicked him so he wouldn't say any

more nonsense.

Policeman Li: Alright, alright. Qiu Ju, go outside, I need to talk to the

village head.

Qiu Ju: Hm, okay.

(Qiu Ju walks outside and waits. Policeman Li walks out, and we can hear his last


Policeman Li: Old Wang, so it's solved. Qiu Ju.

Qiu Ju: Ah?

Policeman Li: You see, it's like this. He was wrong to hit people, and

I have criticized him. But Qinglai's words were quite terrible. Both sides need to do more self-criticism. The result of mediation is like this: Medical expenses and the costs incurred from missing work are Wang Shan- tang's responsibilities, which totals 200 yuan. What do you think?

Qiu Ju: I am not after money, but an apology.

Policeman Li: He is a stubborn man and the village head, so just give

him some face. Besides, Qinglai's injury was not such a big deal.

Qiu Ju: But without an apology?

Policeman Li: He is willing to pay, which proves you are right, and

he is wrong. Isn't this an apology? So, this will suffice. Tomorrow, bring the medical receipt and a proof of payment to him. You two make the exchange face to face, then it's over.

(The next day Qiu Ju approaches the village head's home.)

Qiu Ju: Village head.

Village Head: Did you bring the receipt and proof of payment?

Qiu Ju: Hm, yeah. Take a look.

Village Head: Here's 200 yuan. It's yours now.

(The village head then throws it into the air so that the money flies all over, caus-

ing Qiu Ju to run around bending over to pick the bills up off the ground.)

Qiu Ju: Village head, what's that for?

Village Head: What for? It's not so simple to take other's money.

Qiu Ju: I am not after your money today. I just want what's


Village Head: Right? You think I am soft? I merely did it for sake of

Policeman Li who had to come all the way to see me. I was just giving him face. There were a total of twenty bills. Each time you picked one up, you bowed to me once. After twenty bows, then this is over.

Qiu Ju: It's not up to you if it is over or not.

(Qiu Ju returns to the town police station.)

Qiu Ju: I want to see Policeman Li.

Policeman: He's gone to the district for a meeting.

Qiu Ju: Gone for a meeting. When is he coming back?

Policeman: Not sure.

(Qiu Ju and Qinglai talking at home)

Qiu Ju: Originally, it was all resolved. He threw the money on

the ground and said those mean words. I can't believe he couldn't apologize.

Qinglai: Our family members are not good at talking. I cannot

move around well. The road to the county is not easy. You are getting heavier and I worry.

Qiu Ju: Eh, nothing to worry about. If it's meant to drop, it

will drop. If it's not meant to drop, you cannot roll it out with a rolling pin.

Qinglai: Don't forget to take some money with you tomorrow.

Qiu Ju: We have no cash. We will take a cart of chili peppers.

Qinglai: It's not the right season and you probably won't get a

good price for them.

Qiu Ju: I don't care about the money. I just need an apology.

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