white hair

White Haired Girl, dir. by Wang Bin and Shui Hua

《白毛女》, 王滨、水华导演,1950

喜儿 Xi’er, a young peasant woman whose name means “happy child”; living with her father because Mother has died. As she reaches the age to be married, it becomes apparent that her husband and his family will be important to the conditions of her family; she makes it clear that her affection is for her childhood sweetheart Dachun, a young man also from a poor family. But the debts her father owes are a big factor in whom she marries, and soon she finds herself a bond maid or indentured servant working in the house of Landlord Huang as a way to pay her father’s mounting debts; she is raped and pregnant, but still hoping that he would formally marry her, only to be told that he is making wedding arrangement to marry someone else and planning to sell her. She runs away from Huang family compound and hides in the nearby mountains for years where she also buries her baby after it is born. Due to lack of salt intake during this time living like a ghost in the mountains, her hair turns white and she lives off of food people offer as saccrifices in the Buddhist temple. Since she is seen running in and out of the temple a few times, rumors circulate that there is a ghost in the mountain. Villagers finally are able to catch her and identify her as Xi’er and give back her human identity, which is followed by her rejoining lover Dachun.
杨白劳,Yang Bailao (the given name literally means work for nothing) a landless farmer who forms the land of Landlord Huang in his village. After a series of bad harvests, he goes to see Huang with little money only to be told to either pay off all his debts or let his daughter work as a maid servant for his mother. With the bleak prospect of living alone and daughter being taken away, he commits suicde after leaving Nan’s family compound where he was forced to give his finger print on the contract to sell his daughter.
大春, Da Chun, a young farmer in the same village and also from a landless family; in love with Xi’er as they grew up together. He often helps out with the works in the field when he knows Xi’er and her father don’t have the physical strength to do them. Soon after Landlord Huang learns that Xi’er is in love with Dachun, Huang takes back the land he has rented to Dachun, which results in him leaving the village altogether. He joins the red army as Uncle Zhao has told him to. While in the army, he is brave in battles against the Japanese troops invading China during the 1930s and soon promoted. He is sent back to his own village to help carry out the communist directives to try to coerce the landlords to reduce the rent for leased land and alleviate the financial burden on the part of the landless or land-poor. As soon as he returns to the village, he organizes the land-poor and puts pressure on Huang to reduce rent. When Xi’er is found, the whole village is outraged by the rape (of her) and murder (of her father) perpetrated by Huang. After a quick trial, the angry villagers executed the despotic landlord and Dachun and Xi’er become reunited
黄世仁, Huang Shiren, a landlord in search of a wife and some fun; has his eyes on Xi’er for quite some time and wants to have her. The way to accomplish this is to put pressure on her father who owes him much money as his tenant farmer or sharecropper. Around Chinese new year when tenant farmers pay their dues, Huang refuses any further delay of Yang’s rent money and demands that Yang pays off all his debts by way of his daughter working for free in his house as a maid servant. He rapes Xi’er while she is working inside his house but decides to marry someone else that his mother has arranged for him. His tranquil life as a landlord and complacent country squair is disrupted when Japan invades China and when he finds himself having to either support the Japanese whom he hates or be a part of the resistance on the side of masses led by the communists. Finally he decides to be a part of the order by agreeing to serve as a local representative for the Japanese, thus becoming a Chinese turncoat (汉奸). He is executed when his fellow villagers indict him as a traitor and despotic landlord, justly punished for what he has done to Xi’er, her father and many other tenant farmers.
穆仁智, Mu Renzhi, the butler of landlord Huang, in charge of all the logistics in Huang’s farm, including such business as finding lackeys to terrorize tenant farmers that are behind their payments or incur too much debts like Yang Bailao. He participates directly in the death of Yang Bailao by forcing him to fortfeit his daughter. He is executed along with his master Huang when the peasants become organized and rise up against the Huang family.
赵大叔, Uncle Zhao, a respected member in the village, one of the land poor in the village. He is an old timer and has been around. When Dachun is denied land to farm, he tells him to join the communist red army, and when Dachun is back with guns and authority, he fills him in on what has been going on in the village