This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon deals not just with the rarefied world of Chinese martial arts, but with the traditions, ideals and philosophies which govern Chinese society and dictate the kind of values that one should cultivate and possess. The two dominant, natively Chinese philosophies, Confucianism and Taoism, prevail in this film, and without an understanding of these two, as well as the ideas of “honor” and “saving face”, one will not comprehend the basic actions of the characters or the events that were the consequences. Confucianism emphasizes a respect for authority, propriety and selfimprovement: through education, one can attain greatness. It dictates that above all, one must respect customs and protect one’s honor, so when faced with a choice between following one’s desires and doing what is considered the “right” or “honorable” thing which will not bring disgrace, the latter is always the only choice in the Confucian way. So, for example, Li Mu Bai and Yu Shu Lien’s feelings for each other remained unspoken because of their respect for propriety, as Shu Lien was previously engaged to Mu Bai’s friend, Meng Si Zhao, who died trying to save Li Mu Bai’s life in a fight. If they ever expressed their love for each other, it would be considered an act which dishonored the memory of Si Zhao, so as a nod to propriety, they do not tell each other about their feelings until Li Mu Bai dies from a poisoned dart. Similarly, Jen, who is about to be married, faces the choice of following the wishes of her parents by making a great match to a powerful family, or choosing what her heart desires and following her true love, Lo, into the desert to live a nomadic life. Her secret study of the Wudang manual to learn martial arts, admiration for Shu Lien’s warrior lifestyle and tutelage under Jade Fox are all signs of defiance against Confucian tradition, as women are constrained by gender roles, considered inferior to
by being shown a world by Jade Fox beyond that which she knows. that one should not strive for fleeting. but also one that seeks to usurp the power of men. indeed. but eventually realizes that sh has surpassed her master. natural feelings. because they are repressing their true. For them to want to have the same education and lifestyle as men was considered inappropriate. humility and filial piety. chaos. her act is not only one of defiance against her destiny as a woman. Her training represents Taoisim. When Jen steals the sword. This is where the conflict of Taoisim and Confucianism come in. as a woman. First she begins to experience change. is a weapon that is passed on to men and used by men. in the the teachings of Taoisim. She learns the ways of Wudang martial arts through Jade Fox’s instruction. she would defer to her parents’ wishes and become a good. growth and simplicity. It claims that the desire to attain immortality through great acts was futile. Therefore. Taoisim emphasizes an acceptance of change. Terrified and confused. so anything manmade was considered against the Tao. If Jen followed Confucianism. she was not considered a potential student of Wudang. Jade Fox was equally constrained by Confucianism. The male-dominated world of Wudang is also ruled by Confucianism. Jen is the one who struggles to break free of Confucianism by rebelling against society’s role for her. so she was pushed aside while men were allowed to train. It is when Mu Bai offers to take her on as a pupil that she has the opportunity to harness her power and achieve balance.men and prized only for “feminine” qualities such as obedience. Mu Bai and Shu Lien are only creating conflict that prevents them from attaining inner peace. The kind of bitterness that such exclusion engendered led to her murder of the Wudang master. but she refuses to become his . because of the power relations between genders. since all return to dust and are in the end overwhelmed by nature and time. the Green Destiny. she tries to learn from the manual on her own. superficial things which go against nature. tradition-bound wife who remained at home instead of practicing her footwork and studying weaponry. and by accepting the philosophy of Taoisim through martial arts. and therefore against one’s spiritual growth. considered the greatest sword and a great plot point in this weapon.
Both philosophies limit the actions of individuals—Confucianism teaches you to do what is “right” and “honorable”. marriage to a man she does not know and love. Taoisim. or she dies. Hidden Dragon is taken from a Chinese proverb. He deems himself superior to Jen. never having found happiness and harmony. knowing that he will always be bound by his ideas of honor and propriety. and yet they managed to co-exist in the same culture at the same time. The ending for the film reveals the repression and unhappy endings resulting from this conflict of philosophies. Mu Bai respects the conventions of society too much to acquiesce to Jen’s implied longing that they have a relationship as friends and equals instead of one of master and pupil. so he can never be her instructor. and the story of the mountain leap is real. Jade Fox dies without unlocking the secrets of Wudang. chooses to leap from the mountain and into the clouds. which is an ambiguous ending: either Jen succeeds in trying to fulfill her wish of being together. Jen’s rejection of his offer to teach her makes Mu Bai perceive her as “unworthy” to become his pupil. torn between her choices of a masterless. as seen in the film. It is interesting to note how radically different these philosophies are from each other. to adhere to a life of freedom from materialism and ambition—and both philosophies have led to repression. who is too headstrong and determined to achieve her own desires to realize that she will not be able to achieve her full potential without proper instruction. wild life seeking the mysteries of kung fu. which when taken too far. Her disrespect for authority leads him to throw the Green Destiny into the waterfall.student. Mu Bai and Shu Lien never live out the rest of their years together. . The title Crouching Tiger. or following her true love Lo. both because she is a woman and because she does not understand the ways of Wudang. but being forced to give up her freedom and possibly her studies of martial arts. True enough. Jen. about an individual’s concealed qualities beneath the façade they present to the world. lead to sorrow and unfulfillment. because of her lack of reverence for the teacherstudent dynamic so beloved to Confucianism. Jen.