Shi si nu ying hao (The Fourteen Amazons) (1972)

 

 

 

 

Director:     Kang Cheng, Shao-yung Tung. 

Starring:     Shen Chan (Grain depot chief guard with signal arrow),  Pin Chang,  Yanyan Chen (Ken Chin Hua),  Tina Chin-Fei (Tu Chin Ngo),  Miao Ching (Wang Ching),  Paul Chun (4th Prince),  Hua Chung (Yang Tsung Pao),  Mei Sheng Fan (Chiao Ting Kuai),  Ping Ha (Tung Yueh Ngo),  Lily Ho (Yang Wen Xuang),  Yun Tai Ho,  Chung-Hsin Huang (Meng Huai Yuan),  Chiu Chin Ku,  Wen Chung Ku (Yang Hung),  Wei Lieh Lan.

the women of the Yang family lead the defense of the Song dynasty against invading Western Xia

 

Spoiler Warning:  below is a summary of the entire film. 

This film is based on the book The Loyal Family of Yang.  Many Yang generals died for their country.  The last of the Yang generals was Yang Tsung Pao.  He fought the invasion of the Western Hsia.  He fought for three days and nights.  Yang Tsung Pao was ambushed by the enemy in the Battle of Jin Shan.  All his men were killed and Yang himself was gravely wounded.  The enemy broke through Yang's lines.. 

Gen. Yang tells two of his bloody uncles to go back and tell the king to send more men. while Yang continues the fight.  The two men says they will not go because they must stay with their blood brother.  Yang insists that they go.  And, he says, they can tells his wife Kuei Ying not to mourn for her husband.  The two men go. 

Yang has only around 10 men with him now.  The leader of the enemy shouts down from a height that the general is surrounded and has to give up.  Their king is coming. 

The King of Asia Hsia and his five sons/princes approach Yang.  The king says he is an admirer of Yang and it is a pleasure to meet him.  But now Yang has lost his entire battalion.  The King wants Yang to join his ranks, but Yang says the Yang family never gives up.  So the King sends his soldiers in to start killing the few survivors.  Yang is wound several more times.  Since Yang still will not surrender, the King says Yang will watch the last of his men die by torture.  The soldiers poke the enemy soldiers with their spears, making Yang's last men bleed all over. 

Yang jumps up to fight for his men, but he is hit with three or four more arrows.  Then spears are rammed into his front and back.  Somehow Yang lives through this, at least for awhile. 

Today is Tsung Pao's birthday.  But Yang is fighting at the borders.  The great grandmother proposes a toast to her son with the hope that he will come back a victor.  She has the wife of Yangm Kuei Ying, say the toast.  The wife goes from first grandmother all the way to eighth grandmother.  Then she goes from eighth sister to her mother-in-aw.  The women partake now of the longevity noodles.  And Yang's daughter puts red flower-like decorations in the hair-dos of the the women. 

Great grandmother is also known as the Grand Duchess.  

A messenger tells Kuei Ying that the uncles Generals Chiao and Meng have just come back from the border.  The generasl come with the bad news of their defeat.  They were ambushed at Jin Shan.  And the marshal (Yang) was killed by multiple arrow wounds.  Kuei Ying starts to tear up and she bows her head low.  She says she will tell the Grand Duchess.  Mother-in-law asks her to delay telling great grandmother, because she may not be able to take the bad news.   

The son, Wen Kuang, now comes in and everyone who knows of the death tries to keep it a secret.  Wen Kuang is going to take his two uncles into see great grandmother, but mother-in-law tells him to let his uncles first clean up and change their clothes. 

Later in fresh clothes the uncles go into see the Grand Duchess, Tai Chun.  The shorter uncle had been told to keep his mouth shut or else he was bound to let something slip.  And almost immediately that's what happens.  The shorter uncle answers a question at the same time as the other uncle answers it, and the two answers are yes and no.  Now the Grand Duchess is very suspicious that someone is hiding something from her.  She now just speaks to the shorter uncle, Ting Kuai, the one with the big mouth.  He tells her that Yang was killed in battle. 

Now all the women remove the red decorations in their hair.  Kuei Ying tells the Grand Duchess that her husband must be revenged for the family and the country.  The older woman says that she will tell the Emperor. 

Prime Minister Gao is announced to express his sympathy to the Grand Duchess.  He bows to the Grand Duchess.  Next comes Minister of War Wong.  The Grand Duchess tells him that the Emperor must send more troops out to fight and repel the Western Hsia.  He says the enemy outnumbers them and so the Emperor has made a pact with the enemy.  The Grand Duchess is not pleased and tells the War Minister it is a grave error.  And it will be an error that he will come to regret. 

War Minister says they just don't have the men to spare.  Grand Duchess tells him that he still has half a million troops in reserve.  Why can't they fight now?  Because there is no general to lead them.  Grand Duchess tells him to provide the soldiers and the Yang family will provide the general  -- me!  No, she's a woman and is too old.  One of the Yang females declares:  "Everyone in the Yang family is a warrior."  The War Minister laughs at the idea of an army of women.  Then son Yang Wen Kuang steps up to say that the Yang family has men too. 

War Minister says the Yang family is a a family of widows, just searching for revenge.  Grand Duchess tells him that, of course, they want revenge, but primarily revenge for the country, rather than personal revenge.  Now she says that she is going to see the Emperor.  The Yang women say they all are ready to fight to revenge the country and their husbands.  But Wen Kuang must stay behind because he is the only surviving male heir in the Yang family.  Wen Kuang begs the Grand Duchess to let him fight.  The other women say too to let him go.  So the Grand Duchess says they will test Wen Kuang to see if he is ready to fight. 

Wen Kuang says he's ready for the test.  His mother will be the one to test him.  Whoever drops their spear first loses.  Mother lets Wen Kuang win the contest.  Everyone knows mother let him win,, but the Grand Duchess says that when Wen Kuang is ready he will go with them.  Wen Kuang is super happy. 

Now the Yang women appear all together.  The Grand Duchess says the Yang family is ready, so let them proceed to the border.   

Before the women can get away the prime minister comes and tells them the emperor wants to see them.  Tai Chun does not believe him.  Where is the order?  He doesn't have one.  So Tail Chun takes her staff and knocks the man down.  And then she knocks off his cap.  The women get on their horses.

There are quite a few soldiers going with the women. 

In the tent at night, Tai Chun says to her staff that they will have to use use their minds to outwit their enemy.  Kuei Ying says that they can get behind the enemy.  They really only need their leader anyway.  Because". . . then the enemy will crumble without a fight."  They are going to aim for the rear base in the mountains. 

The leader and the army watch a series of wrestling matches.  The victors are given six Sung women for their pleasure.  One of the women strikes the top wrestler.  The leader says to cut the woman up with the sword.  A slave, know as Lu Chao, now comes out to try to rescue the young woman.  The wrestler pushes him down to the ground.  He starts to walk away with his head held low.  One of the princes asks how long Lu Chao has been here?  About 10 and a half years.  And he still hasn't learned to obey the king?  So now Lu Chao's sister will do as a substitute prize for the top wrestler. 

Lu Chao doesn't like that, so a prince says he can fight the wrestler and if he wins, he and his sister will both be free.  But the brother must be lashed for his impudence.  Lu Chao will have to fight the wrestler, who is armed with a kind of axe on a long handle.  The wrestler gives Lu Chao three lashes across the chest.  He then keeps hitting Lu Chao.   The wrestler pushes him down off the top floor onto the floor below.  The slave listens to the derision of the audience directed at him.  The top wrestler then jumps down headed for Lu Chao's chest.  Somehow Lu Chao pushes the fellow away from him.  The wrestler falls back and hits his head on the hard rock floor. 

Now Lu Chao has somewhat of a chance to win the match.  The two men fight over the axe until Lu Chao knees the wrestler in the groin area and then knees the fellow in the face.  Now Lu Chao mops up with the arrogant wrestler.  He is the winner of the match. 

Just then a messenger tells the King that the women of the Yang family and a few hundred of their family troops are headed this way. 

Sister Ji Tu tells her brother to go help the Yang family.  He rides on a horse out to the Yang encampment.  There he is attacked by a sentry and some of the Yang women.  He is about to be stabbed with multiple swords, but Kuei Ying stops the fight.  She says that from his voice he must be from around this area.  Yes, he is and he's been a slave for 10 years.  He says he wants to talk to their leader?  Why?  Because they are setting an ambush for the Yang family at Twin Dragon Hill. 

Kuei Ying tells Grand Duchess about the ambush.  She feels that they can push through the ambush.  So Grand Duchess appoints her as the commander of the expedition. 

The Yang family approaches Twin Dragon Hill.  The enemy is ready to let loose hundreds of rocks down upon the family.  The family, however, suddenly stops a ways before the entrance to the valley.  Lu Chao is sent into the valley to check on the situation.  He goes into the valley  a short ways but soon returns.  He says the enemy are all on top just waiting for them. 

They start to go into the trap.  Kuei Ying drops down acting like she has an epileptic fit.  This distracts the enemy and a group of Yang warriors uses the time to find a way up to the top of Twin Dragon Hill. 

The top wrestler says he thinks the woman down below is faking an illness.  The leader yells the order to attack.  But as he does so, the Yang warriors come in on them from behind.  Meanwhile the archers using flaming arrows light up a fuel that now rises to great lengths both in front of and behind the Yang warriors.   This forces a lot of the Yang force to retreat.  They regroup and go back in to put out the fire and bring the rest of the family warriors out of the valley.  Meanwhile, the women and some men, along with Lu Chao, do an excellent job of defeating the force on top of one of the plateaus.  A woman desperately struggles with an enemy to prevent the hundreds of rocks from going over the side of the plateau and onto the valley below.   She fights bravely, but she and the enemy soldier fall with the rocks to their deaths below. 

The Yang family has broken into two parts.  The one still in the valley has to fight to get out.  They are able to do this. 

The Western Hsia leaders confer and agree to go after the main group of the Yang family.  They will attack the main unit that is now in the woods.  The big battle begins.  A messenger reaches the smaller group of the Yang family and tells them that the main part of the family is under attack now.  They start rushing into the woods to help the family. 

Kuei Ying's group retreats from the field.  Now a group of the enemy goes after the Grand Duchess.  They find her with her body guard and the fight starts again.  The women are doing well, but the Grand Duchess is captured.  The fighting stops as the enemy general says they will kill Grand Duchess if they don't stop fighting.  At this moment the smaller group and Lu Chao arrive.  Two enemy messengers arrive on the scene saying that the Yang leader Mu Kuei Ying is coming.   The general figures that Mu Kuei Ying will have to surrender, because she will not risk the life of the Grand Duchess. 

The messengers prove to be the Yang uncle generals.  The shorter uncle gets the Yang women to drop their weapons because they recognize him.  One of the enemy officers recognizes the distinctive boots of one of the uncles.   So he is captured by the enemy.  The son of the commander tries to free his uncle, but it's no use.  He ends up on the ground with an enemy soldier standing over him threatening to disembowel him.  Suddenly, a Yang woman swings down on a rope and knocks down the soldier who was going to chop off the son's head. 

The fight begins anew and the Yangs do very well.  For some reason the Yang commander, her son and Lu Chao are surrounded by the enemy.  A prince yells down to them that he is going to use three of his last arrows on the commander's son and the other three on the commander.  He will kill them just as he killed Yang Tsung Pao.  The son wants to attack the killer of her father, but mother stops him saying that man is too strong for him.  So she goes after him.  He manages to shoot an arrow into the commander's mid-section.  He then says that all his arrows have poison on them.  He adds:  "I know you're good, but you're not that good.  This time you are finished."  A warrior asks the prince for permission to finish off the enemy commander.  Permission granted.  But as he advances to take the two eyes out of the woman, she manages to blind him.  

Now it's just her and the prince.  She pulls the arrow out.  Apparently it was stopped by some inner material she was wearing.  She approaches the prince to start wounding him for a slow death, but he manages to grab another spear and the two have to fight it out.  The prince gets discouraged and runs over to the edge of the plateau.  He jumps onto his horse waiting for him below.  The commander says she will get the prince yet.

The King sends more troops out to find the Yang family.  And now he order that every captured Sung soldier should be killed.  So the soldier prisoners are told to kneel in the courtyard.  The prince tells Lu Chao's sister to watch this, saying:  "If you have the guts to spy, you should have the guts to watch this."  The sister of the sister says she will gladly kill her sister.  She is given a long knife and she stabs the spy in the mid-section.  Now the prince gives the order for the killer sister to be killed.  She is stabbed to death.  Then he shouts:  "Kill them all!"  And the mass killing begins.  The prince kicks the dead body of Lu Chao's sister saying that all the rest of her people will die of starvation. 

The Yang commander says she will have to think of a way of getting the family some food.  The old man that came with the family tells two people that he knows where the enemy took their supplies.  So they take some troops with them to go retrieve the food.  The sharpened ends of bamboo stems are thrust into the bags of rice.  Gravity brings the falling rise down tothe bamboo stems to an attached system of bamboo stems that delivers the rice to the people below  They fill up their bags and then start lugging them back to base. 

A fellow sleeping on top of the rice bags hears and sees what's going on and he reports it to his superiors.  The superior says to let them take the rice.  They will follow the Yang troops back to their base and get them all with one fell swoop. 

The problem with their plan is that one of the women's rice bags opens up and the rice starts spilling out.  She stops to see what can be done and she sees the enemy troops following them.  The woman starts hiding the rice bags in the marshy area.  There she has to try to fight off two of the enemy soldiers.  But the commander's son comes back to help the lagging behind one and the two of them dispense with the two enemy soldiers.  Then they decide to stop the enemy right at the end of the bridge over the water.   They use a bamboo pole to trip the soldiers at the end of the bridge.  When they fall they are caught by the others and wrapped up in netting or with rice bags with rope tied around them. 

The son and the woman go searching for any other possible enemy soldiers in the marsh.  They find some and the women is badly wounded.  The son finishes off the two enemy soldiers.  Then the son helps the woman on the trip back to base. 

Morning dawns and still the missing two have not returned.  The group has to decide whether to stay and fight on the chance that the two missing people will return or to retreat and leave the two missing people to fend for themselves.  The commander says they will leave.  Lu Chao says there's someone out there in the woods.  He and two women go to look.  They find the son and the woman, Yang Pai Feng.  The badly wounded  woman dies.

Lu Chao finds an enemy soldier and kills him.  Another enemy is caught.  They ask him where is the enemy?  Very close he says.  The prisoner is now killed.  The now dead prisoner had shot off an arrow in the sky before he was caught.  This was the signal for the army to rush forward for the fight.  And the army does rush forward.  The army in two groups starts rushing toward the base.

The Yang commander says they are going to play a little hide-and-seek with the enemy.  When the enemy reaches the base, they find the place deserted.  They hear some noise coming from inside the commander's tents.  They riddle the tend with arrows and then they send flaming arrows at the tent to burn it down.   What they are burning up is eight or so of their own captured men.  Two of the men get loose and run outside.  There they die of their arrow wounds.  And now the princes learn that they were deceived again. 

The Yang family starts retreating.  Ahead of them is a bridge they must cross.  As they get closer, they see enemy soldiers set the bridge on fire and then leave.  The Yang family rushes to the bridge and start putting out the fire.  It takes a lot of work but they extinguish the fire.  Or so they thought.  A key rope burns through and the bridge tilts at such an angle that it sends quite a few family members to their deaths below.  Only the son of the commander escapes death by hanging onto part of the bridge.  A vine is attached to an arrow and shot across to the other side.  Both sides are attached to the bridge ends and  Wen Kuang grabs the vine and hand over hand makes it back to safety. 

The enemy will be here soon, so the family builds four high stacks of human beings, two on each side.  The four stacks now lean out over the chasm and fall toward each other.  The people on the top of the stacks grab their counterparts falling from the other direction.  They grab on to each other, thereby creating a human bridge.  The rest of the family starts crossing over this human bridge. 

The enemy climbs up and onto the mountainside.  Part of the Yang family go to fight them to allow everyone else to finish crossing the bridge.  Then the two last persons at the start of the bridge let go.  The two chains of humans smack into the vines on the other side of the chasm.  Then the last persons start climbing up the chain to the top.  Then they are followed by the next two last persons, etc. until everyone is up on the mountain trail. 

Most of the contingent that went to fight have been killed.  One of the captives is the commander's son and another is the old man. 

The rest of the Yang family are still determined to kill or take captaive the enemy King.  They start thinking about a plan to carry out this high risk mission.  Alone, the commander asks her deceased husband to help her discover a way to defeat the enemy.  And an idea does come to the commander.  She returns to the Grand Duchess to say that they will break down the dam and let the waters sweep away the enemy. There are a number of male volunteers to start using their axes to make openings in the dam.   

Meanwhile, the Western Hsia are abusing their prisoners.  Two of them are beings slashed across their faces by a prince using a whip.  While the dam project proceeds, other Yang family warriors start sneaking up on the residence of the King.  Three of the prisoners are killed and their bodies decapitated.  Then the heads are thrown up into the air and nailed to the wooden structure on top of the wall by arrows.  Members of the Yang family get up into one of the lookout positions on top of the wall and order the guard to sound the alarm horn.  The guard blows the alarm.  The King things thinks it must be Mu Kuei Ying's troops.  But one of the princes says that the Sung troops must have now joined forces with the Yang family.  The King sends troops from all the camps to defend the front. 

The troops move out and the King goes into his tent.  Suddenly, the King realizes that standing before him with a spear is Mu Kuei Ying.  The two fight each other for awhile, but the King and his men retreat to the steps of the arena where they stand still waiting for a possible fight.  The King has the giant horn blown to tell his troops to return to base, but Mu Kuei Ying tells him his men will not becoming back.  Why not?  Because his troops will not be able to cross the river.  So the King stalls for time.  Both leaders now wait for an indication of what has happened to the Western Hsia troops. 

The damn destruction crew tries to use dynamite to bust a hole in the dam, but the dynamite is too wet.  So they start using their axes on the wood of the dam.  The axes don't appear to be working very well on the dam, so the four men working on the dam put their  axe heads in one of the places where two boards meet.  They are able to get just a small amount of water to come out at first, but as the water picks up speed, suddenly a big section of the dam explodes outwards with the water right behind it.  The four men are blown backwards into the onrushing waters. 

The returning enemy troops are now caught in a canyon that is being flooded by the dammed water.  They run to get out of the canyon, but the water is much too fast for them.   The soldiers are carried away by the flood waters.  At the end of the canyon the water and soldiers are thrown into a larger canyon perpendicular to the once dammed canyon.   The soldiers are simply swept away. 

Now the commander tells the King to surrender his troops and himself to the Yang family.  The King says they will have to come and get him.  So another battle starts.  The King's troops have the advantage because they have very good shields, while the Yang family has none.   The family has to retreat but then they stop.  The King's troops are now on the many steps of the arena.  This throws their formation off a bit and the family can penetrate through the shields.

Mu Kuei Ying goes after the King.  It's a tough battle for the woman and she is taking a beating. A number of Yang family soldiers try to save the day, but the King spears them and pushes them one by one over the edge down tp the hard ground below.  Lu Chao comes up to help his commander.  With the King a bit distracted, Mu Kuei Ying thrusts her spear through the mid-section of the King's body.  She holds on and he forces her over to the edge to push her off.  But when he starts his big push, Mu Kuei Ying steps out of the way and the King goes over the side and hits the ground below. 

Only the princes are left.  One by one they are killed.

What's left of the Yang family returns home.  The ministers congratulate the Grand Duchess on the family's victory over the Western Hsia.  The Grand Duchess tells them that they are welcome. But now it's the turn of the women to belittle the two ministers that opposed them and said that the women could not do it.  The King wants to hold a banquet to celebrate the victor, but the Grand Duchess will not attend.  She wants the banquet to be transformed into a memorial ceremony held in honor of all the members of the Yang family that did not return with them. 

The ministers and their staff bow down before Tai Chun. 

 

Good movie.  I never really cared for these types of films, but I understand that lots of people do like them.  According to Wikipedia, the Shaw Brothers Studio (owned by Shaw Brothers (HK) Ltd.) was the foremost and the largest movie production company of Hong Kong movies. The parent company Shaw Organization was founded in 1924 in Singapore.  In 1930 Sir Run Run Shaw and his third brother Runme Shaw founded South Sea Film, which was later renamed Shaw Brothers Studio.  Some of its noted directors are:   King Hu, Lau Kar-leung and Chang Cheh.  Some of the actors associated with the Shaw brothers are:  Ti Lung, David Chiang and Alexander Fu Sheng.  In the 1970s members of the Peking Opera School, including Jackie Chan, Yuen Biao and Sammo Hung, played extras and bit parts.  Some of the famous actresses were:  Li Lihua, Ivy Ling Po, Linda Lin Dai, Betty Loh Ti, Cheng Pei Pei, Lily Li and Tien Niu.

The film does not really follow the history of what happened in the Song Dynasty (960-1279).    It is just set in that era. 

One reason I was averse to these movies was the use of certain techniques that just wouldn't work in real time and space.  (I know that I am supposed to overlook these minor things, but it's hard for me.)  For instance, the creation of a bridge made of human beings stretched out across a deep canyon.  It just couldn't be done.  Another irritant is that they used a woman to play the role of the commander's son and heir apparent of the Yang family.  The actress was the girliest looking of all the women and I had a hard time thinking that this little wimp could stand up to the sometimes grizzly bear-sized men. 

And I wouldn't call the women amazons.  They were normal sized, nice-looking females who had trained very hard to be warriors, as they say in the film. 

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.

 

 


Historical Background:

 

Yangs under the Song Dynasty:

The Yang clan started with Yang Ye, a general of the Northern Han Dynasty. He served Emperor Taizong after Northern Han surrendered to the Song Dynasty. Emperor Taizong commissioned Yang Ye to defend Song's northern border from the Khitan-ruled Liao Dynasty. Yang Ye defeated the Khitans in a battle at Yan Pass.

986  --  the Song armies attacked the Liao Dynasty.  Pan Mei and Yang Ye conquered the cities Yunzhou, Yingzhou, Huanzhou and Shuozhou.   Pan Mei and Yang Ye led their troops to protect the civilians of the four conquered cities as they retreated back to Song territory. They were attacked by the main enemy force.  Yang Ye engaged the Liao forces in a bloody battle at Chenjia Valley. Yang Ye's son Yang Yanyu was killed in battle while Yang Ye himself was captured by Liao forces. Yang Ye starved himself to death over the next three days.

The most outstanding of Yang Ye's surviving sons was Yang Yanzhao. He defended Song's northern border for more than two decades.  The Khitans were afraid of him.

1004 --  during the reign of Emperor Zhenzong,  the Liao army invaded Song territory.  Yang Yanzhao led his troops to attack Liao lands and captured the enemy city of Gucheng.

Yang Yanzhao had three sons - oldest son Yang Chuanyong, second son Yang Dezheng and third son Yang Wenguang.   The third son, as a young boy, was recognized  for his talents by chancellor Fan Zhongyan, who accepted him as an assistant. Yang Wenguang followed general Di Qing on a southern campaign.  Yang was given the job of defending Song's western border from the kingdom of Western Xia. When Song and Liao fought for control over Daizhou, Yang Wenguang developed a strategy to conquer Liao's heartland in Youzhou. He died of illness not long afterwards.

 

Western Xia:

The state existed from 1038 to 1227 in what are now the northwestern Chinese provinces of Ningxia, Gansu, eastern Qinghai, northern Shaanxi, northeastern Xinjiang, southwest Inner Mongolia, and southernmost Outer Mongolia.  It was on the northwestern border of China.  Their military was recognized for its integrated cavalry, chariots, archery, shields, artillery (cannons carried on the back of camels) and amphibious troops for combats on land and water.

1048 --   Jizong dies.  After his death, two year old Yizong became the emperor.. His mother became the regent.

The Liao Dynasty launches an invasion of Western Xia.  Western Xia becomes a vassal state to the Liao Dynasty.

After Yizong's death, Huizong was put under house arrest by his mother.  Now she attacks Song Dynasty, but it was a failure. 

Huizong takes back power from his mother.

After Chongzong became emperor, his grandmother (Huizong's mother) became regent again and launched an invasion of Liao Dynasty and Song Dynasty. Again, Both campaigns failed.

Chongzong took direct control of Western Xia. He stopped the wars with his neighbors and focused on domestic reform.

 

Liao Dynasty: 

Liao Dynasty, also known as the Khitan Empire, was an empire in East Asia that ruled over Mongolia and portions of Kazakhstan, the Russian Far East, and northern China proper between 9071125. It was founded by the Khitan Great Khan Abaoji around the time of the collapse of the Han Chinese Tang Dynasty.  It was located northeast of China.  The Khitan were a Mongolic tribe.

 

 

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