Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon was titled in the context of a Chinese proverb which refers to the hidden mysteries or hidden and undiscovered talents that lie under the shell of a normal person. This shows that the movie has throughout impacted and referred to the characters which have influential roles. The first part of the movie is in a society that has restrained the law and order and the second part includes a flashback scene and is in the world of individuals. Thus, the characters which are created in the first part are the ones that have been revealed in their true identity or form.
It is said that the best martial art movies are those that do not have fighting but personal excellence. The heroes used in these films are those that transcend gravity, space and the limitations of the body and mind fears. For example, in a fighting movie, the characters are portraying hatred for one another by fighting, but in a martial arts movie, these characters tend to be celebrating their powers together with one another. This film is also one of those that have been known for its display of heroism and power and the victory of individual over collectivism. The film increased the popularity of the strong heroes and was one of the first American films in a foreign language that gained so much popularity and praise.
The movie has been a presentation of complete levels of love, Tao, life and tradition. It is basically a story based on the life of a person Yu Chiao-lung (Jen) depicted showing a framework of the way in which the real self can be seen and comprehended intuitively to the Tao. Jen’s journey can be illustrated as the path from the dragon to the phoenix, development of emotions to compassion or natural virtue to spiritual virtue. The film was based partially on the Chinese chivalric novel which gives a certain traditional representation in the characters. It not only emphasizes on the characters but also has a philosophical aspect included.
The main characters in the film are each significant in their own position and hold certain touch of symbolism in their role. Li Mu-bai joint a Taoist monastery and was becoming the expert of sword fighting in Wudan School and was a very well known person throughout China especially for his gungfu. His weapon was Green Destiny which was 400 years old and it consisted of special powers. This shows that the sword holds symbolism in the film and throughout it is used as a special power rather than a weapon to harm others. His Taoist practise was at a very high level yet he was still to accomplish his destiny of life. He had a strong belief that all the hindrances in his life which he encountered during his Taoist practise was related to the sword and how attached he was with it.
Yu Shu-lien was also an expert in Wudan and he was married to the classmate of Li Mu-bai, Meng. Meng was killed in a fight in which he tries to save the life of Li Mu-bai. Shu-lien never re-married after his demise. Shu-lien used to run a security company that escorted the shipments between the major cities of China. Her personal beliefs were for four ethical values which were etiquettes, friendship, humbleness and the sense of achievement. In addition, she also consisted of eight natural virtues which were loyalty, benevolence, love, harmony, peace, filial piety, trustfulness and friendship of Confucianism and also the quality which is approved by the Sung and Ming philosophies which are that a woman should not be skilled while doing things and being virtuous.
Yu Chiao-lung (Jen) was an educated teenager who had been practising gungfu since she was a young child as she was the daughter of a high grade government official. Jade Fox was her maid who was her gungfu master since many years. Jen is engaged and is about to marry. Jade Fox had been studying gung since years and thus she trained Jen. She also had an affair with Li Mu-bai’s master and hoped that he would teach her the secret to the Wudan fighting. When he didn’t teach her and refused to do anything like that, Jade Fox was outraged and she killed him and stole the manual which contained the Wudan secrets. She further killed Meng who was one of his students with poisoned darts which was her preferable weapon.
Lo Hsiao-hu leaded a band of bandits in the western Chinese province Sinkiang. His band had attacked a caravan and it included Jen and her family. Jen has an affair with him, pursues him and returns to Beijing. Another character is Sir Te who is a member of the royal family and holds a very high ranking in the government officials. He was also the client of Shu-lien and her security company in the early past. The three main characters are however Li Mu-bai, Shu-lien and Jen who represent the traditions of Zen Buddhism, Taoism and Confucianism. The beginning of the film builds up the plot and shows the relation between the characters.
In the beginning of the film, certain attributes of the characters are shown in which the likeness for Li Mu-bai of Shu-Lien is shown but she can’t show it because of her Confucian training in which she is taught that she cannot marry anyone else after the death of her fiancé, and she has to stay unmarried forever no matter how young she is. This meant that she could not make the first step in this matter and she had to keep waiting for Li Mu-bai to take the step and initiate any discussion of romance between them. Li Mu-bai also liked her back but he was too afraid of striking down his honour and integrity by starting the romance with her.
His character was a master of martial arts and thus he was aware of what he is doing and his dignity while doing these things. And so he waited for the right time to initiate the subject and enter in his love life. This represented the classical behaviour of the character and how he showed respect towards his profession. Because the time was still to come, both the characters had maintained a distance throughout the film from each other, and even if they thought about each other, they never did anything about their feelings.
These two characters have mainly depicted the destiny in this film as they were so close to each other virtually and admired each other so much, they could not follow their heart because of what they believed was destiny. They thought that because of destiny they were unable to follow their hearts and feelings and thus could not experience true love. These two characters were also shown as traditional and conservative when it came to managing things and people habitually.
The character of Jen as shown in the beginning was a very different than the first two. She is the key character of this film that is a fresh breath of air and life. She had a spark and was the one who made all the emotions of the characters revive and she also let the love out of Li and Shu-Lien for each other. These qualities had lead Jen to understand that something was missing from her life and she wanted to understand the mind of the people and also her own original mind. She kept on helping a lot of people like her boyfriend and in doing that, never thought about herself and killed her own ego. She yielded wisdom and believed that he who helps others can help himself. Her character was also influenced by many of the classical representatives which were a part of the novel on which the film is based.
Green Destiny in the film refers to the belief that destiny is not predictable because we do not have the ability to grasp it securely. Li Mu-bai tells Shu-Lien that before his retreat was over, he had to let go off the thing in his mind which was the Green Destiny and only then he could gain peace and freedom. His sword had meant his life to him as it was what made him famous and such a dignified person. He wanted to retire from the sword fighting and thus he must have passed on his sword to someone and if he does this, he will get the Tao.
The film is an influential story depicted through the impactful characters that portray wisdom, truth, tradition and symbolism. Each character has an important role in the film. With the relation to the martial arts, the characters depict their power, beliefs and peace of mind. The film ends with a fight in which Jen saved her master out of her respect in fighting for the sword. Sword fighting is shown throughout the film which doesn’t show violence or hatred, but rather power and strength of the individuals. Overall, it is a very impactful film which is beautifully put by the director Ang Lee.
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. Director: Ang Lee. USA: Good Machine, 2000. Movie.