Pushing Hands (推手) & The Gua Sha Treatment (刮痧)

We saw two Chinese movies recently that might be worth watching for the cross-cultural issues they bring up.

Pushing Hands / 推手 / tuī shǒu
tuishou2.gifPushing Hands is a family drama in which a successful Chinese immigrant, along with his American wife and their young ABC son, bring the grandfather from Beijing to live with them in their New York suburb. This sparks family cross-cultural tensions tuishou1.jpgas the main character struggles to balance his roles as husband, father, and son simultaneously across two different cultures. The viewer gets an introduction to the issues faced by Chinese-American cross-cultural households, imported Chinese grandparents, and the struggle of Chinese Americans to uphold Chinese family values (filial piety) in American society. There’s quite a bit of English dialogue, as the wife only speaks English, but you’ll still need subtitles.

The Gua Sha Treatment / 刮痧 / guā shā
guashacover.jpgGua Sha is a family/courtroom drama about a successful, well-adjusted, Chinese immigrant couple in St. Louis with an ABC 5-year-old boy. One day the grandfather, who doesn’t speak any English, etc., gives the boy a harmless traditional Chinese medicine treatment that leaves terrible-looking red marks on his back. When a Western doctor in the hospital discovers the welts the couple loses custody of their son and ends up in a legal battle. The story highlights cultural differences, particularly where Americans misunderstand the Chinese.

About half the dialogue is in English, but you’ll still want subtitles.

Aside from one scene where, in their grief, the couple gets plastered and calls themselves obscene names in English, there’s not much offensive in the movie, if you don’t count some occasional over-the-top writing and acting.

2 thoughts on “Pushing Hands (推手) & The Gua Sha Treatment (刮痧)”

  1. That second movie, 刮痧, sounds very interesting. I can see how such a misunderstanding could lead to huge troubles in America. I have actually done a similar massage treatment here in China and it left quite the marks on my back for nearly two weeks.

    I’m going to see if I can get my hands on that movie somewhere. I’d be interested to check it out. Thanks for the review!

  2. I actually liked 推手 better as a movie. 刮痧 seemed too over-the-top in several places, and that made it hard to take it seriously. But for me there was still some worthwhile cultural stuff to observe between the family members.

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