Snow Flower and the Secret Fan

Synopsis: In 19th-century China, seven year old girls Snow Flower and Lily are matched as laotong - or "old sames" - bound together for eternity. Isolated by their families, they furtively communicate by taking turns writing in a secret language, nu shu, between the folds of a white silk fan. In a parallel story in present day Shanghai, the laotong's descendants, Nina and Sophia, struggle to maintain the intimacy of their own childhood friendship in the face of demanding careers, complicated love lives, and a relentlessly evolving Shanghai. Drawing on the lessons of the past, the two modern women must understand the story of their ancestral connection, hidden from them in the folds of the antique white silk fan, or risk losing one another forever.
Genre: Drama, History
Director(s): Wayne Wang
Production: Fox Searchlight
  1 win & 1 nomination.
Rotten Tomatoes:
120 min

People say I'm sending Sebastian and Nina

to New York... neither will take my job.

Hey, perhaps that's partly true.

Like these butterflies

that surround us this evening...'s a time of transformation,

new beginnings.

In preparing to open a new office...

...I wanted to place my very best people

in charge of it.

And you truly are my best.


To Sebastian and Nina. A toast.

- Nina and Sebastian.

- Thank you.

Make us proud in New York.

And make us a lot of money in New York.

After dinner, we went to some restaurant.

And then someone came up and said...


- Is this Nina Wei?

- Yes.

I'm calling from

Pu Tuo Qu Hongkang Hospital.

What's going on?

Sophia Liao is in a coma in our hospital.


- What?

- I'm sorry.

Ms. Liao was on her bike

and was hit by a taxi.


Yours was the last number

dialed on her phone.

She called me?


Okay, I'm coming.

Oh, sorry.

Where is she?

Oh, my God.

I'm sorry.

How did we end up here?

You went away.

There is so much distance between us.

What happened

to the promises we made?

What's going on here?


Please don't bring this music

into my house.

And these buns you always bring.

Look how oily they are.


When your mother died,

I promised her I'd raise you properly.

When you act out,

I can't fulfill your mother's final wish.

I know I'm only your stepmother.

Are you going to be against me forever?


Nina, I'd like to have a word with you.

Follow me.

That liar. She never met my mother.

This is good music.


I'll find someone else to tutor her

in Mandarin.

Do not come here again.

A smart girl like you...

...with a bright future...

...shouldn't have to spend all your time

with her.

Come and meet my family for dinner.

This is so exciting.

I never get to visit a real family.

Here's the soup.

Ah. It smells wonderful, Mrs. Wei.

Thank you, Sophia. It's all homemade.

So your family is Korean, right?


I already told you they come from Korea.

I didn't come to Shanghai till I was 14.

That's why my Chinese is so bad.

- Very good.

- Thank you.

Shanghai is a seaport.

Everyone from somewhere else.

People come and they go,

come and they go.


Enough of this silly English.

Nina. Nina.

- Mrs. Liao's not at home.

- Hey, it's you.

So my niece told me Cixi Tai Hou

busted you for the Faye Wong tape, huh?

All I know

Teresa, huh?

Oh, what's this? These are so tiny.

These are not easy to come by.

This shoe was for women

with tiny bound feet.

See? Called...

...3- inch golden lilies.

It's a shoe?

Do you know our family came

from Hunan?

Oh, no.

She's talking about

my mother's mother's mother's mother.

- I think I got that right, huh?

- Mm-hm.

And her name was Snow Flower...

...and she had a laotong named Lily.


Sworn sisters for life, laotong.

Like us.

- Sister.

- Sister.

- Sister.

- Sister. Ha, ha.

Girls, you have a lot to learn

about laotong commitment.

See, marriages used to be made

for men's reasons.

To form business alliances,

to manage households, to produce sons.

And they were obligatory.

A laotong's commitment

was for women's reasons, by choice.

For companionship,

understanding and happiness.

What you're signing today is a symbol

of your deep-hearted love for each other.

Deep-hearted love. I like that.

Here is your laotong contract.

Your vow is written in nu shu.

Sign below it.

Oh, yes. The infamous Wong Faye CD.

Sophia's bag

is at reception. You can pick it up.

Okay, thank you.

This is the story of Snow Flower and Lily.

Two girls born in the same month,

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