Class Assignment: Reflection paper on “To Live”

By Ling-Ling Lisa Shih

This post is for the Class Assignment for all my Chinese Classes who are currently taking my class (Spring, 2015), March 15, 2016: A Reaction paper on the movie we watched  in class.

1. Please google and learn about “Chinese Cultural Revolution” ; 2. please reflect how this movie sheds light on the impact of Chinese Cultural Revolution on People’s lives. (at least a half page long).

We have watched this film “To live” in our class. I would like all my students at BHSEC, Cleveland, who are currently taking my class (Spring 2016) to post and share  their reflection on the movie.

By clicking on the COMMENT, you can type  your reflection directly in the comment area. Please identify your name and Chinese class at the beginning.

Thank you!

Please post your reflection by 19, March, 2016

26 thoughts on “Class Assignment: Reflection paper on “To Live”

  1. Jayda Caraballo May 7, 2016 — 8:02 pm

    The movie, “To Live” is an emotional, heartfelt film which almost brought tears to my eyes. The movie was set from the 1940’s to the 1960’s, clearly depicting the Chinese Civil War and cultural revolution. The movie tells the life of a man who is trying to get his life together, but tragedy continues to strike him time after time. This includes him getting involved in gambling and failing economically. Following a family the majority of the film, “To Live” gives their audience insight to what it’s like to live during war time. One of the saddest parts was when the man’s son died, & that was just ONE of the many emotional scenes included. Overall, I enjoyed watching “To Live”, & I will definitely recommend it to anyone who is interested in Chinese history.


  2. To Live is a simple name, but it holds great meaning. The story has many tragic setbacks and throughout the movie I has many mixed emotions. I like how it follows an ordinary family has problems, and that just try to live their life. I found myself rooting for this family because I think they just wanted something simple; to live a quiet and happy life together. I think that’s what makes it even sadder, that ordinary people are affected by war (or things of this nature). I understand where this movie is coming from and I like how they kept on fighting. A movie which may be overlooked by many because it is a foreign or older movie are missing out. Not being some popular action film or Hollywood blockbuster, this movie gets you right in the feels. It shows how ordinary people want to simply live happy lives together. We can get through it by loving the people around us. We just want To Live 🙂


  3. Abdiel Lopez period 2

    In the chinese film “To Live” the main character is Fugi. Fugi is a gambler who ends up losing and it causes him to lose his wife, Jiazhen and his own home. After losing basically everything he begins to live as a peasant and succeeds in joining a theater where he and his group of workers would put on plays to entertain themselves and those who came to watch. He enlist in the army to put on shows for them to portray himself as a good citizen. When things seemed to have gotten better and everything he had lost had come back the Cultural Revolution begins and everything goes wrong. Even though he is going through some hard times, I still think he has learned his lesson. I also think the most entertaining parts were the scenes with the plays because they were well developed.


  4. Gary Thompson III April 29, 2016 — 12:09 pm

    During the movie characters lose their houses and the people close to them showing the loss during the time. People were even allowed to talk to some people because they were considered “bad people” due to their past and what they did or believed in. All or most were considered as equals. Due to the classless essay of China during the time many people wore the same thing. These small things in formated the red guards and other countries leading to fighting which led to the culture revolution ending and the rebuilding of China beginning.


  5. Leonna Williams from 9th grade
    “To Live” was a great movie it shows us people who have regular lives, just normal people on a daily basis. But from my perspective I think the movie was tragic because in the movie the woman lost her son due to an accident. Her son was ran over by his friend that he met during the war. This movie also depicts the Great Leap forward, and the Chinese cultural revolution. Mao Zedong used red guards to get rid of his opponents. As a result of ordinary people suffer.


  6. The movie sheds light on the fact of the depression during the time of the Chinese culture revolution. During the movie characters lose their houses and the people close to them emphasizin the loss during the time. People were even allowed to talk to some people because they were considered “bad people” due to their past and what they did or believed in. All or most were considered as equals. Due to the classless essay of China during the time many people wore the same thing. These small things in formated the red guards and other countries leading to fighting which led to the culture revolution ending and the rebuilding of China beginning.


  7. The movie “To Live” was based on the daily lives of ordinary Chinese people during the time when chairman Mao Zedong was attempting to regain his power in the government. But not only does it give an insight into their lives, but it also shows the effect of the Chinese Cultural Revolution and the Great Leap had on their goal to communism and restoring Mao Zedong’s place as head of the government. Though this was meant to help the people it did anything but, being more counterproductive than anything, seeing as how there are beliefs that these historical events may have been the cause of the Great Chinese Famine from 1958 – 1961, seeing as how all of these combined caused the deaths of around 20 million Chinese. The deaths of Youqing and Fengxia are the result of these cultural changes in China and how they had a negative impact on the people. Youqing was because of the massive amounts of steel that was being produced to try and boot the economy during the Chinese Cultural Revolution, which didn’t do much. Everyone had to work day in and day out, or 24 hours straight, smelting steel. Because of this mass production of steel, everyone was exhausted and didn’t get proper sleep which caused the town chief to accidentally run into a wall and kill Youqing, because it had collapsed on him. The second death, Fengxia, can be blamed also on the Chinese Cultural Revolution because of Mao Zedong’s introduction to the Red Guards. The Red Guards consisted of young people who didn’t want to follow the old way of China and begin again with something new, thus causing them to lock away all of the old doctors with actual experience and label them as “Counter Revolutionaries”. There had to be some form of medical care for the community, so they doctors were replaced with inexperienced trainees who only knew the basics of what to do so when FengXia gave birth and began bleeding to death they didn’t know what to do and she unfortunately died.


  8. In 1966, the communist leader Mao Zedong launched what we now know as the Cultural Revolution in order to reassert his authority over the Chinese government. He felt that the current communist leaders were taking the party and China in the wrong direction. Mao used the youth of China to purge the “impure” parts of Chinese society.

    The move shows how much the Cultural Revolution affected people and families. They had to give up the iron and metal items in their homes. If you were old enough to work, you worked. Every single member of the family had to do something. And I think that’s….insane. I mean you had 6 and 7 year olds doing work that even some adults couldn’t handle. And so, so, so many people died. Whether it was from exhaustion, starvation, or fighting in battles, death tolls were high. After doing some reading and watching the movie, I think….that Mao Zedong wasn’t a bad guy, he just went about doing things and trying to change China in the wrong way.


  9. The cultural revolution was in 1966. At that time China’s communist leader Mao Zendong launched a revolution in order to reassert his authority over the government. This triggered the Chinese civil war where it was the communists against the nationalists. Eventually the communists won and the nationalists were pushed to Taiwan.
    The movie shows the personal effects of the war. Not only did he lose his house but also he had to go to war. He witnesses the horror first hand. It’s a really painful thing to do. When he come back he relaizes that if he hadn’t of lost his house he would have been dead. That’s a really weird thing to think about. We didn’t get to finish the movie but he also has to endure the death of his to go along with all the other pain.


  10. Stephanie Travis March 20, 2016 — 7:54 pm

    In 1966, Mao Zedong (Chinese Communist and the founding father of the People’s Republic of China) began the Cultural Revolution to reassert his power and authority over the Chinese government. In he film “To Live,” a man’s gambling leads to his loss of everything. He loses his wife, family and home. He then struggles to survive as a peasant and enlists in the Chinese Army. His family comes back to him and everything goes well but not for long when the Cultural Revolution begins and tragedy continues to strike. This connects to the Cultural Revolution because many people suffered and struggled to live during this period to the point where they would give up their lives. They had to find little pieces of happiness and ways to move on in times of tragedy in order to live.


  11. Maitlinn Theberge March 20, 2016 — 3:57 pm

    Maitlinn Theberge
    Period 6 Chinese

    The film “To Live” is a Chinese movie made in 1994 by director Yimou Zhang. This film tells the story of an average person living during the Chinese Civil War and the Chinese cultural Revolution. As shown in this movie, the Cultural Revolution which was brought up by Chairman Mao,caused devastation upon many families and places. The main reason for the Chinese cultural Revolution was to bring the CCP and the government together. Many felt as if their ideas and movements were creating a privileged middle class, which wasn’t in many people’s interests.As shown in the film, this reconstruction of the government made a significant shift in the way families and communities interacted in many parts of China, including Fugui’s family. The movie helped me get a better grasp on the concepts surrounding the Chinese Cultural Revolution and how it affected an average family.


  12. Laurie Bocachica March 20, 2016 — 12:51 pm

    Laurie Bocachica from 2nd period

    “To Live” shows people the struggles of having to go through the Chinese Cultural Revolution. Since American children are only taught American history it is interesting to see Chinese history and what young children and adults had to endure. It was interesting to see Fugui keep his spirits up by playing puppet shows even during the war. You can see that from the beginning of the movie to the end there was a drastic personal change in Fugui. He used to not care about his wife or children but after being captured and doing puppet shows he seems to slowly accept the ways of life, and that not everything revolves around gambling. He begins to appreciate more things and gives up his old ways. It was very heart crushing when his son had died and his wife had become very protective. This movie teaches multiple lessons such as to forgive, to cherish and to keep living even when things can’t get any worse.


  13. Michaela Spoljaric March 18, 2016 — 7:19 pm

    The movie “To Live” shows us the hardships that China and its people had to go through during the Chinese Cultural Revolution. One thing that I found interesting is how you see through throughout the movie how Fugui changes from being a despicable gambler to a more admirable character. But the moment when you learn that real doctors were persecuted and there were only inexperienced teenagers, I was heavily shocked to that. When Fengxi went into labor and sadly passed away due to the teenage doctor’s lack of experience and knowledge to run a hospital, you automatically knew prosecting real doctors puts the life of people in danger. All in all, this movie shows us an insight on what went on during the war and the troubles, heart wrenching moments and hardships Chinese people had to go through during this time.


  14. The movie “To Live” shows the impact of Mao Zendong in China. In the film you see how a family is changed due to Fugui’s gambling problem. He loses everything for his addiction including his family. I believe that the time of China’s Culture Revolution was harsh for Chinese people and it affected them a lot. Everyone suffered including the children, they were sent to work on smelting iron rather than going to school and getting an education. Many families were destroyed by the war between Communists and Nationalists. They had to embrace the cultural change that was occurring in China. One of the difficult parts in the movie is when the doctors are all sent to be prosecuted and Fengxia gives birth without the medical treatment necessary and she dies due to the lack of knowledge of the student nurses sent by Mao Zendong. This is an example of what Chinese people had to endure throughout the Cultural Revolution. The people who were sought of as people with authority/power in China like doctors and teachers were undermined and humiliated. Throughout the movie you see more of what happened in Chinese society, but in the movie “To Live” you get a glimpse into the lives of a family who is affected by the drastic change.


  15. Honestly this movie really shows how horrible that time was. All the men and children were forced into hard, horrible labor. It really shows how much privileged we are in America, especially with the child labor laws we have in place. It was such poor foresight to donate all the metal. Without the tools and appliances they needed, the people of China didn’t have the ability to farm. Many people and children, including the character Fugui’s son died.
    Mao Zhedong (I’m not sure on the spelling….) wanted to put the people that disagree with him in camps to be “re-educated” until they agreed with his ideas. Social Capitolism is a scary thought.


  16. I feel that if Fugui didn’t have a gambling problem, then he wouldn’t have had to start a shadow puppet troupe with his partner Chunsheng to support his family. The Chinese Civil Wat didn’t make anything better. Fugui and Chunsheng are forcibly enlisted into the Kuomintang during a performance. They are then captured by the forces of the Communist Party Of China, and they quickly become entertainers for the troops. The Chinese Cultural Revolution impacts people’s lives in this movie in many ways. It causes families to be broken up and all over the place. It breaks close relationships within families and causes distraught.


  17. Reflection of “To Live”
    “To Live” was directed by Yimou Zhang in 1994 to show us China in the 1940s through 1960s. Throughout the whole film, Xu Fugui and Xu Jiazhen watch their children grow up during a time with Communist and Nationalist armies in battle, the rise of Chairman Mao, and then watch them die in tragic events. Their tragic deaths show how political policy changed people’s lives for the worse. Mao did not believe that doctors should have the power that they do, so he killed them resulting in Xu Fengxia losing her baby. In all, this film dealt with gambling, war, death, poverty and China’s Cultural Revolution.


  18. Emilio Bess from 7th Period:

    The movie To Live is very high on my list of movies that I love. The movie really captures the tragedy that was the Cultural Revolution. The Cultural Revolution wreaked havoc on all kinds of people especially those who were against Chairman Mao. He would accuse powerful people of being capitalists and they would be stripped of their power and sometime were in danger for their lives. This happens in the movie many times, first the man who accidently killed Fugui’s son and was a leader of the revolution was branded a capitalist and loses his power, his wife even commits suicide. Next was the man who set up Erxi and Fengxia was also branded a capitalist and lost all his power. It was a grim sight seeing his wife packing and crying. Another thing I was surprised to see was the fact that the all the doctors had been relieved from their jobs and only students were left to take care of the hospitals. This must have caused countless lives due to the inexperience of the students. In the movie it was very hard to watch when they didn’t know what to do to help Fengxia. I also found it interesting that the whole society seemed to revolve around Chairman Mao who was the cause of most of the terrible things and was abusing his power to eliminate potential threats. Overall the movie did an amazing job at showing the audience the tragic effects of the Cultural Movement.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Comment on “I also found it interesting that the whole society seemed to revolve around Chairman Mao who was the cause of most of the terrible things and was abusing his power to eliminate potential threats. ”

      Yes! This movie depicts well how socialist ideology infiltrates the society in every aspect of their lives. You could see slogans everywhere and even find the dominant socialist political ideology of the time find its expressions in “Fengxia’s wedding!


  19. Tessa Theberge from 7th period:
    Tessa Theberge

    Reaction to “To Live”
    The movie “To Live” by Zhang Yimou gave me an unprecedented view of the the Chinese civil war starting in 1946 and the Chinese cultural revolution in 1966, under the supreme authority of Communist leader Mao Zedong.The revolution was commenced in attempts to create an egalitarian class system. In doing so, Mao was hopeful to eliminate capitalists, scholars and other elites in society.His motivation to do this was to increase his overall power. The reconstruction of the society led to the deterioration of families and communities. As for many families in China during this era, Fugui’s family endured significant tragedy due to the new culture. Just a the “ Good luck, Bad luck, Who knows?” Story goes, Fugui and his family never lost hope during this time of hardship in China.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Concisely and well written. As Fugui indicated to his friend, 不管怎么样,你要好好活着。Is that why the movie called “活着”?


  20. Kytana Maldonado from 7th Period:

    Film Response: To Live
    Zhang Yimou’s film To Live represents depicts the struggles of Fugui’s family during the Chinese Cultural Revolution, also known as the “Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution. The Chinese Cultural Revolution was started by Communist party leader Mao Zedong. This film showcases the difficulties that people experienced during Mao’s revolution. In the movie, people received inadequate healthcare. When Fengxia went into labor, there were only students there to deliver her baby, because all of the doctors at the hospital had been accused of being capitalists and arrested. Fengxia’s husband found an obstetrician, but due to malnourishment, he was unable to help Fengxia. When Fengxia gave birth to her son, there was a complication. Because there were no doctors at the hospital, Fengxia died. Fengxia’s death shows that Mao’s policy of removing older scholars from their positions and replacing them with his younger followers was putting innocent lives at risk, in order for him to strengthen his communist power.


    1. A good Chinese movie can be a window to Chinese history, culture, and ways of life! Although this movie only depicts a family, it represented the lives of many families and individual lives who have suffered during Mao’s revolution.


  21. Jamalys Rodriguez from 7th Period:

    To Live Response
    Like in every civil war common peoples are often highly affected. The people who lived through the Chinese Cultural Revolution are excellent examples the harsh conditions. In the film To Live, directed by Zhang Yimou, the impact on people’s lives caused by the civil war between the communist and nationalist is put on display. Although there are many examples of the effects the battle had on people, most often is the negative effects on families. One of the most emotional impacts had to be the death of Fengxi because it could have been easily avoided. Deaf mute, Fengxi died shortly after giving birth at the hands of teen nurses who clearly lacked the education needed to run a hospital. Due to the go going battle, doctors had been labeled as capitalist and locked away leaving hospital to be run by nurses. If it was not because doctors had been banned, Fengxi’s family would not have had to go through such a traumatic experience.


  22. Kevin from 7th period:

    In the movie “To Live” the main character Fugui is a rich man’s son and a gambler. Taking place before the Chinese Culture Revolution and afterwards. From the point of view of the chinese man Fugui and his family. Due to his gambling he is tricked into gambling away everything by a man named Long’er. Fugui loses his father due to stress and loses his wife along the way, she departed from him due to his gambling habits and stubborn self. Eventually he reunites with his family and gets to see his son for the first time and he has come back humble. He comes to live as the poor with his family but along the way he hears that Long’er didn’t want to share his wealth with the government and instead burns everything that he owns. He is then captured and executed and Fugui fearing for his life and family rush back to the house to look for the certificate saying that he served in the war and was not against the government. Throughout the story he loses both his son and daughter one dying by getting hit by a jeep and the other dying from giving birth to a baby boy. Learning to move on but to remember the past for the sake of the lost ones.


    1. Yes, you are right. Fugui has “learned to move on!” In this movie, the main character is Fugui. This movie depicts how this character has been transformed from a despicable gambler to an admirable character we can learn from. Yes. He has “learned to move on” (好好活着)in spite of difficulties and personal tragedies he has endured.


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