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THE MAGIC LOTUS LANTERN

China, 1959 (MIFF 1960, Programme 25)

Director: Yeh Ming

This is a film of a Chinese national dance which is based on an old legend. Travelling to the capital to take his examination, Liu Yen-chang comes to the temple of the Goddess San Sheng Mu on Mount Hua. Gazing at the image he admires her beauty and writes a poem on her silken scarf expressing his devotion. The goddess, tired of her lonely life, lets her heart go out to him but Liu has to plead with her before she breaks the fetters of her divinity. When her brother, the god Erh Lang, hears what has happened from the Heavenly Hound, he hurries to the temple to kill the youth, but the goddess raises the Lotus Lantern which drivers Erh Lang away.

The lovers go to Liu's home and live there happily. A year later a son, Chen-hsiang, is born to them. Erh Lang, enraged, orders the Heavenly Hound to steal the Lotus Lantern and defeat the goddess. At the celebrations of the hundredth day after Chen-hsiang's birth, the Heavenly Hound seizes the opportunity to steal the Lantern. At once the world is plunged into darkness, Erh Lang brings heavenly warriors to attack and they take the goddess prisoner, but the child is saved by the wise immortal.

Fifteen years later Chen-hsiang, having learnt the story of his past, goes to rescue his mother who is imprisoned in a cave under Mount Hua. On the way he passes her temple and the silken scarf there enables him to recognise his father who is at the temple to mourn the goddess.

Chen-hsiang reaches Mount Hua and at the foot of the mountain drives away the Heavenly Hound and Erh Lang. Erh Lang gathers together all the hosts of heaven to attack the boy, but again they are defeated. Finally, with the help of the Lotus Lantern, Erh Lang subdues him; but his determination to save his mother gives him strength, he fells the Heavenly Hound, seizes the Lotus Lantern and is victorious.

With husband, wife and son reunited, a hundred flowers bloom in splendour and heaven and earth are clothed in incomparable beauty.

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