Xi chu bawang (The Great Conqueror's Concubine) (1994)

 

 

 

Director:     Stephen Shin.

Starring:     Sung Young Chen (Fan Kuai), Li Gong (Lu Zhi), Rosamund Kwan (Yu Ji), Shun Lau (Fan Zeng), Ray Lui (Xiang Yu), Elvis Tsui (Zhong Li-Mei), Hsing-kuo Wu (Zi Qi), Chuan Chen Yeh (Courtesan), Fengyi Zhang (Liu Bang), Mu Zhu (First emperor of Qin dynasty).

Xian Yu and Liu Pang depose Qin Dynasty

 

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

 

Part I.

A procession comes down the road and the people on the side of the road are all told to kneel down. 

In 221 B.C., Ying Zheng united a divided China and established the Qin Dynasty.  To consolidate his domain, he instituted harsh rules.  It provoked violent opposition from the people."

A man digs his hands down in the sand and pulls out two clubs with heavy balls with spikes on them.  He starts knocking out the guards around the ruler. The big man shouts:  "You old scum, go to hell!"  An officer gives the troops the order to protect His Majesty.  The big fellow charges the guards, but there are so many of them that he gets stabbed in the front and the back.  His friend jumps in with his sword to help him, but the big man says:  "Leave me alone. Run!"  Horsemen charge after the swordsman and anyone in their way gets slashed to the ground. 

The big man is brought over to the king.  His Majesty is angry:  "I united the country, standardized writing and the tax system, all for the good of the people.  Why'd you want to kill me?"  The big man says:  "Death to tyranny!"  Now the big man is finished off with a sword to his mid-section. 

210 B.C.  The Qin Emperor I dies.  His second son Hu Hai kills his older brother, ascends the throne and becomes Qin Emperor II.  The country falls into turmoil and rebellion. 

A group of horsemen comes up to a group of sheep herders, kneels before one of them and say:  "We pay respect to my prince."  The leader then tells the two descendants of Chu General Xiang Yan (Xiang Liang and Xiang Yu) to pay their respects to the prince.  The leader says that with such turmoil in the kingdom, it is time to restore the Chu monarch.  He wants the prince to take the throne again.  The Prince says he does not want to be killed.  So, they have to explain to the Prince that the Qin Emperor I has died and the Prince is the Lord of the thousands of citizens of Chu.  And now the Xiang troops asks the Prince to assume the throne, so the Chu Empire may prosper anew.  The Prince just laughs at them and starts shepherding his sheep again.  

The next scene is of the Prince becoming the King of Chu.  Even then he carried a lamb around with him.  One of the men watching this says that the King is a fool.  One of the descendants of a Chu General says all he himself wants is to defeat the Qin Empire.

209 B.C.  Xiang Yu revolts in Hui Qu and thereby became the leader of all the anti-Qin forces.   

Liu Bang leads the people of Pei to rebel.  He kills the Qin General and joins the rebellion.  The Qin troops appear and Liu Bang orders a retreat. 

A man named Xiao runs up to the farm of Mrs. Liu, telling her that the soldiers are coming!  He adds that Liu Bang led a successful uprising and now calls himself Lord Pei.  And now the Qin soldiers are headed this way.  The family is delayed by the grandmother and Mrs. Liu has to knock out two Qin soldiers with some fancy footwork.  Grandmother goes back for some of her money that shes spilled and the family has to leave her behind to the Qin soldiers or be captured by them.  The grandmother is killed by a Qin soldier. 

The Liu family now drives their wagon into a large opening in a mountain where there are many others from their area.  Liu Bang asks his wife what happened to hia mother?  Liu Zhi says she had to cut the rope so the family could get away.  The Qin killed mother.  The man says his wife is not a decent person!  She shoots back that her husband abandoned the family for the sake of the rebellion and no longer cares about the family.  He shouts how dare she kill his mother:?  "You wicked woman!"  He asks to be given a sword.  But no one obliges him.  Liu Zhi gives him a knife, kneels down and tells her husband to kill her.  He finds that he cannot kill her.  Liu Bang now shouts that they will join Xiang Yu of the Chu State!

Liu Bang asks the head of the guards to please tell General Xiang that Liu Bang and his people have come to join his forces.  General Ji Bu, coordinator of army affairs, comes forward to speak to Liu Bang.  He says he has heard that Liu Bang is the best of the revolutionary leaders.  The General welcomes Liu Bang and his people and they now walk through the gates. 

Liu Zhi and a relative see Xiang Yu come in through the gates.  Miao Ge (Lady Lu) is helping a doctor treat a patient, but she starts to get sick to her stomach.  Xiang Yu comes in and asks her if she is afraid of blood?  She says she wants to help with the wounded soldiers.  He now gives her a lamb he brought back with him.  She feels sorry for the abandoned lamb.  Xiang Yu says he's without parents, will she pity him?  She tells him he is disgusting.  Her brother comes in with a huge cutting knife on the end of a long pole.  He tells sister that since she hates Xiang Yu so much, she can kill him with this knife.  Sister says her brother is just teasing her again. Xiang Yu grabs the broadsword and swishes it around.  He bangs the broadsword by its end into an upright position and the broadsword goes through the floor and down to the next floor almost hitting Liu Zhi. 

Xiang Yu and the brother and sister run down stairs and ask Liu Zhi has she been hurt?  Miao Ge suddenly recognizes Liu Bang and she tells Xiang Yu that this is the wife of Lord Pei.  The two men introduce themselves to each other.  Liu Bang says that Lady Liu is fine and that Lady Yu can ease her mind about that.  Liu Bang seems very impressed by the beauty of Lady Yu. 

When Liu Bang and his wife are together she asks him if she is getting old because now he is always staring at other women?  He grabs her and puts her down on the bed.  She asks him if he thinks of Lady Yu when he is looking at her (his wife)?  Liu Bang gets insulted, puts on his goat and walks out of the room. 

Liu Zhi comes into the room where Lady Yu is having a bath.  She says it's no wonder there's so many soldiers on guard here.  Liu Zhi gets in the bath with Lady Yu.  A rat falls into the bath water and Lady Yu freaks out.  Liu Zhi grabs the rat and throws it over into a corner of the room.  She asks Lady Yu how can she follow Gen. Xiang Yu around when she's scared of a rat?  Lady Yu gets out of the bath. 

An assistant to Liu Bang comes into the blacksmith's shop and asks for some weapons.  The blacksmith throws some spears on the ground.  The assistant complains that the blacksmith is keeping all the good weapons for his people and giving them the poorest of the weapons.  The blacksmith says they are just a bunch of peasants and don't know anything about weapons.   This starts a big fight between the blacksmiths and Liu Bang's people.  Some guards rush in to break up the fight.  The head guard says that fighting amongst themselves is a serious offense!  He then tells Liu Bang's people to take the good weapons. 

Xiang Yu has a talk with the men under Liu Bang.  He stresses unity and says they will forget this offense this time.  Xiang Yu's brother comes in saying he was involved in the fight and the Xiangs will take all the blame.  But Zhong Li Mei broke the law and should be beheaded!  But again unity is stressed over the little fight.  The two commanders cut their thumbs and let the blood fall into a container of drink.  Now they both drink the liquid and call each other brother.

There is an ambush.  A messenger comes back to say the General Xiang Liang has bee ambushed by Wang Li.  General Xiang Liang returns to Chu with about 20 arrows in him.  A funeral is held.  Liu Bang cries over the loss.  The General was the uncle of Xiang Yu, who now swears that he will kill Wang Li and destroy the Qin.  Now Liu Bang is made General of all the West.  He will work with General Xiang Yu to defeat the Qin army. They should march up to Xian Yang.  The first General to enter Xian Yang City will be given the rank of Lord. 

Liu Bang tells his wife that a fortune-teller told him that he would be the king.  Liu Zhi says then she shall be a queen. 

Xiang Yu will soon be attacking Ju Lu, head of the main force of the Qin.  The King orders Liu Bang to stay in Xue City.   A staff member says the Xiang Yu should be cautious of Liu Bang because he gave Liu Bang control of 5,000 soldiers.  The man is already very influential.  Liu Bang has vowed not to take Xian Yang City first, but can the General believe the vow?  Xiang Yu says he trusts Liu Bang.  What he is concerned more about is the safety to Lady Yu.  The General asks Lady Yu to wait for him.  He gives her a hug. 

Off the army goes.  Liu Zhi sees her husband being fussed over by a courtesan and she is bothered by this.  The courtesan asks him:  "Please don't forget me!" 

In 207 B.C. Xiang Yu led 20,000 soldiers and attacked the 200,000 man Qin army.  In a walled fortress the cry goes out that Gen. Xiang Yu and the Chu army are here.  Xiang Li tell his men to leave that swine Wang Li to him.  The two armies charge each other outside the fortress.  The opposing generals are both in the thick of the battle.  The Qin start losing ground and Wang Li takes off.  Xiang Yu chases him down and cuts off his head.  The fight was called the Battle of Ju Lu. Xing Yu presses on to the next attack.

Ji Yuan, the military base of the Qin army.  Qin General Zhang Han has 300,000 troops.  He wonders where this Xiang Yu gets his audacity to think that his few thousands of troops can take Ji Yuan.  His aides, however, reminds the General of what happened at the Battle of Ju Lu. 

Xiang Yu goes to the attack against Ji Yuan.   While this battle proceeds, Qin troops make a sneak attack on the Chu capital.  The Chu King has to flee.  The Chu are now on the run, destitute and homeless.  Lady Yu goes with Lu Ji's family.  Meanwhile, Liu Bang takes no action.  He hasa different plan.   A wagon rolls up with Liu Bang's wife and Lady Yu.  The latter asks Liu Bang to help Xiang Yu who is fighting a large army in Zhang Han.  A staff member says they can't help Xiang Yu because their orders are to head west.  But Liu Bang says he will do his best.  Liu Zhi is angry that all her husband's energy is spent on Lady Yu and none on her.  She has everyone get back in the wagon and she drives off. 

Liu Zhi and Lady Yu are in the bath tub again.  Lady Yu says she's afraid what might happen to Xiang Yu.  She adds that she must try to find him.  Liu Zhi tells her that's impossible.  She would be killed.  They swap hairpins which makes them sisters, they say. 

Liu Zhi comes in and finds one of his many courtesans Lu talking with Liu Bang.  She comments that her husband has brought his courtesan to the front line.  Liu Zhi tells her:  "Remember who you are!"   The courtesan leaves, as Liu Bang tells her he will be by to see her later.  Liu Zhi scolds her husband saying that the end of the Qin Dynasty is near and all her can do is to fool around and to eye-ball other women.  She goes on to say that he won't be a king.  And certainly not if he is going to fool around with Xang Yu's woman.  Moreover, she says that she has told Fan Kuai to send Lady Yu away.  Liu Bang objects that it's too dangerous out there for Lady Yu.  His wife taunts him that he is not a hero like Xiang Yu.  It was Xiang Yu who with only 20,000 men defeated 10 times that number of Qin soldiers.  Liu Bang says he will show her. 

Qin soldiers attack Fan Kuai's little convoy.  He tells Lady Yu to hide under the blankets.  Fan Kuai fights courageously but is wounded.  The Qin soldiers find Lady Yu and decide that they will take her to the king.  A young man survives by hiding under the wagon.  Now Fan Kuai tells him to go to Ji Yuan and report what has happened to General Xiang. 

Qin soldiers get behind the Chu army.  The Qin King wants to catch Xiang Yu in a pincer movement.  Xiang Yu has his left flank attack the Qin soldiers to his rear, whilehe attacks straight ahead with his part of the army.  During the battle Xiang  Yu yells out:  "Zhang Han, I want your head."

Xiang Yu wins another battle.  His right hand man got really cut up losing an eye, a hand and a leg. Xiang Yu goes back to his tent where the old wise man and adviser tells Xiang Yu that he surely is a great conqueror and an unbeatable one too.  He says Zhang Han lost the war for Qin which has lots its last stronghold.  He adds that the Qin King is a mere puppet. 

News comes to Xiang Yu that Lady Yu has been kidnapped.  He demands to know what happened from the messenger.  The messenger says he was hiding under the wagon and doesn't know what exactly happened.  So Xiang Yu orders that the young man receive 30 lashes and then will be hung him up by the main gate as a warning to others. One adviser tells the General to kill the 200,000 Qin soldiers, while another says be kind to the Qin soldiers.

The Chu soldiers send fireballs rolling down the hills into a valley where a part of the Qin forces are encamped.  The Qin soldiers try to run, but they are completely surrounded by the Chu soldiers.  The Chu soldiers start throwing dirt down into the valley burying the 200,000 Qin soldiers.  The old adviser tells Xiang Yu that now millions will hate him for what he did here.  He asks him:  "Don't you want to rule this country?"

After the battle of Ji Yuan, Xiang Yu orders all the vassal lords to gather at Ji Yuan.  Liu Bang avoids the meeting because he plans to take the Qin capital of Xian Yang.   The adviser to Liu Bang says that Gen. Xiang Yu now wants to make himself the chief.  But as of now Liu Bang is too weak to face Xiang Yu.  Xiang Yu still has battles to fight with the Qin, but Xian Yang City is under-defended.  Liu Bang could take that city and Liu Bang will be made a Lord.  Liu Bang is concerneded that people would laugh at him for breaking his promise not to be the first to take Xian Yang City.  Another staffer says that the people want Liu Bang to take the city.  So Liu Bang says he will do it. 

The Qin King learns that they have brought him a beauty of a woman.  Lady Yu is tied with her arms out-stretched.  The King likes what he sees. He goes in for a kiss, but she bites one of his ears.  He is so mad that he tells his guards to kill Lady Yu.  But instead of killing Lady Yu, the guard runs his sword into the mid-section of the King.  The guard, the chief eunuch Zhao Gao, says the King no longer deserves his position because, while the Qin Empire is falling apart, the King is fooling around with women.  The King dies and the eunuch sits on the throne of the King of Qin.  He calls for Zi Ying to come up to the throne.   The eunuch says that, since he has killed Zi Ying's uncle, Zi Ying himself will now be emperor.  He says Liu Bang's troops are advancing on the city and he wants Zi Ying to surrender to Liu Bang and ask him to give them some territory.  As the eunuch talks, Zi Ying takes out a knife and thrusts it into Zhao Gao's mid-section. 

Liu Bang comes into the capital without a fight.  Lord Pei now gives the order that all Qin rules are abolished.  In the throne room, Lord Pei climbs up the steps to sit on the throne.  Liu Zhi goes up with him and says she wants to sit down on the throne too.  Lord Pei gets up and Liu Zhi sits down.  A eunuch asks Liu Bang if he may pick out some beautiful women for him.  The ruler says yes. 

An item is brought out to be shown to Liu Zhi and she recognizes it as the gift that Xiang Yu gave to Lady Yu.  She wonders if Lady Yu is here.  She goes to the cells where the beautiful women are kept, but when Liu Zhi hears Lady Yu crying out for Xiang Yu to save her, she just walks away from the cells. 

Bad news arrives for Lord Pei.  Xiang Yu has occupied Han Gu Guan and now is coming to Xian Yang City.  They are camped at Hong Men.  Lord Pei says they will take all the valuables from the fortress and retreat to Ba Shang.  His adviser says its better to leave all the valuables in the palace to Xiang Yu.  Then Lord Pei should go to Xiang Yu and apologize. 

So Liu Bang goes to the banquet.  He acts very friendly to Xiang Yu, but the old adviser has him sit with his head below that of Xiang Yu.  Now the adviser asks if the Qin surrendered to the Chu or to Liu Bang?  Liu Bang answers since he is a Chu General, the Qin surrender to the Chu.  They why was Liu Bang been living in the palace and acting like a king?  Liu Bang answers that he entered the Qin capital only as a forerunner for Xiang Yu.  The old man says all that sounds good, but Liu Bang doesn't really mean it.  Liu Bang's advisers say that Liu Bang closed off the palace, hid the valuables and then stationed his troops in Ba Shang.  Liu Bang says to prove his innocence he is willing to take his own life.  He asks for a sword.  Xiang Yu comes down from his high place and says this is a reunion and there will be no more talk about suicide.  The two men drink from the same bowl. 

Xiang Yu's adviser Fan Zheng now calls for a sword dance.  The dancer gets too close for comfort with his sword and makes Liu Bang nervous.  The adviser shouts:  "Now!"  The dancer is about to run Liu Bang through with the sword but Liu Bang's friend Fan Kuai stands in front of Liu Bang  and saves him.   He says:  "I was almost killed trying to save Xiang Yu's woman."  Xiang Yu says this was all a mistake, an accident.  He apologizes for his brother's actions.  Liu Bang's adviser says that they should be going now.  Before they leave the adviser hands a gift to Xiang Yu from Zi Ying.  Xiang Yu at first won't except it, but Liu Bang says it was Xiang Yu who defeated the Qin, so the gift should belong to Xiang Yu.  So Xiang Yu accepts the gift. 

Xiang Yu asks Fan Kuai about Lady Yu.  The man says the Qin soldiers took her from his custody and now he doesn't know where she is. The gift box is opened and there is an expensive carving it it.  The adviser takes out the gift and smashes it on the floor.  Now he says that Liu Bang want to take "our" country.  Liu Bang is doing everything he can to make the people dislike Xiang Yu and love Liu Bang.  The adviser says they should have killed Liu Bang while they had the chance.  Now it is they who will die by Liu Bang's hand.  So Xiang Yu decides to go after Liu Bang.  Just as he is about to ride against Liu Bang, Liu Zhi shows up with a golden arrow.  Xiang Yu rides over to her sitting on his horse.  He says he gave this arrow to Lady Yu, so where is Lady Yu?  He tells the others that he must go to the palace immediately in order to find Lady Yu.  He and some men  together with Liu Zhi ride over to the palace.  Liu Zhi says she will take Xiang Yu to Lady Yu. 

Liu Zhi says it was here that Lady Yu was molested and then raped by the Qin Emperor.  Now Xiang Yu goes a bit crazy.  He runs up to the throne and hacks pieces off of it with his sword.  He cuts down a chandelier that crashes to the ground and setc a rug on fire.  His adviser tries to stop him from destroying the entire palace with all of its irreplaceable relics.  Now Xiang Yu has the heads of all the Qin couriers are chopped off.  News arrives that Lady Yu is still alive.  She is in a dungeon.  Xiang Yu now starts to run into the palace, but his men say he can't go in because the fire is spreading to quickly.  Xiang Yu goes in anyway.

A pillar falls down and kills the messenger, but Xiang Yu keeps going, determined to find the dungeon.  He finds it and crashes through the locked gate. He starts letting all the women out of their cells.  Finally, he hears Lady Yu call his name.  He crashes through the cell and reaches Lady Yu. 

Liu Bang tells his wife that it was foolish of Xiang Yu to just burn the palace down.  His wife asks him if she was in that dungeon, would Liu Bang come and save her?  Her husband doesn't say anything.  Xiang Yu now comes out of the burning palace with Lady Yu in his arms.  He laughs and laughs at his triumph. 

"The love story of Xiang Yu and Lady Yu has been praised for a thousand years.  But the Qin palace, which represented uncountable efforts of a million people had been burned down into ashes in three months.  Xiang Yu then established his supremacy over the wretched Qin Dynasty."

 

Part II.

Xiang Yu destroyed the Qin Dynasty.  He put a puppet to be the Prince.  Then he divided the conquered area into eighteen states.  Xiang Yu now called himself "The Western Conqueror".  Liu Bang was made the Lord of Han and ordered to stay in Ba Shu. 

There is still a lot of strain between Xiang Yu and Liu Bang.  Those favorable to Liu Bang say that Xiang Yu forced the King to remain King, whereas the King himself wanted to step down from the throne.  So what happens here is not the king's will, but the will of Xiang Yu.  Liu Bang speaks up to silence his men and say that he is loyal to Xiang Yu and wherever Xiang Yu sends him, he's happy to go.

In his own tent, Liu Bang is bitter and a bit impatient.  He asks what kind of Lord has to let his wife and father be used as hostages?   Liu Zhi interprets this in a different way.  Having to hold hostages only confirms her husband's importance.  

Liu Bang and his men leave for the desolate Ba Shu.  Xiang Yu returns to Peng City (Ping City, central Shanxi province, west of the Taihang Mountains, and about 715 km from Beijing and 80 km from the provincial capital, Taiyuan; in the Qin Dynasty it was a financial center of China). 

Xiang Yu gets a big welcome as he comes into Peng City.

Lady Yu rides on a horse back and forth, while Xiang Yu laughs at the orderly trying to keep up with the horse and rider.  Councilor Fan has come to see Xiang Yu.  The councilor says Xiang Yu should have never let Liu Bang go.  And his wife, a hostage, should not be living here with Xiang Yu.  He says that Xiang Yu is only making trouble for himself that he will have to deal with later.  Xiang Yu grows impatient and goes back to watch Lady Yu go riding.

Liu Zhi readsout loud a text before Xiang Yu.  The text says that the various warlords are already plotting against Xiang Yu.  And one of them, Tien Rong, is planning a rebellion.  Xiang Yu says they have nothing to worry about from that rat Tien Rong.  Lady Yu doesn't like the talk of war, but Liu Zhi says that a king must put down unrest in his country.  Just then arrows start flying into the room.  Xiang Yu saves Lady Yu from the arrows by putting a table on its side for her to hide behind.  He then goes to help Liu Zhi.  They hide behind another piece of wood, but Liu Zhi's leg is exposed, and the leg is hit by an arrow.  To get her away from the arrows, she and he roll along the floor while holding each other.  Lady Yu is worried that Xiang Yu might be taking a fancy to Liu Zhi. 

The assassins now break into the room.  Xiang Yu is a very broad-shouldered, stout fellow and he is able to handle the assassins.  But he does get a little help from Liu Zhi, who bangs one of the assassins over the head with a bunch of wooden scrolls.  The guards finally arrive.  They catch one of the assassins and bring him in so Xiang Yu can speak to him.  The assassin says Xiang Yu is a cruel tyrant and everyone wants him dead.  Xiang Yu can't believe that the people think more highly of the Qin King than of himself. 

Councilor Fan busts into Liu Zhi's bedroom and tells his men to take her away.  Fan says that the assassins were brought in by Liu Zhi. Lady Lu comes to the rescue. She asks Liu Zhi if they have frightened her? And now she tells Councilor Fan that he has gone too far. Xiang Yu arrives and Fan tells him that Lady Liu plots against Xiang Yu and she must be killed. He goes on to say that Liu Bang has been trying to get rid of Xiang Yu. Lady Liu says that Fan has always wanted to see her dead.

Liu Zhi comes in the bath room where Xiang Yu is relaxing in a hot bath.  He is still hurt by being called a tyrant.  Liu Zhi tells him that where the Qin King united China, Xiang Yu has divided it into 18 different parts. No wonder there is rebellion in China.  Xiang Yu thinks that's a valuable observation and he says he thinks Liu Zhi can help him.  Now she starts buttering up Xiang Yu, saying she was willing to die for him when he was attacked by the assassins and remarks that who wouldn't be smitten by the great Xiang Yu.  And she says Lady Lu will harm the country, whereas she (Liu Zhi) wants to serve Xiang Yu.  Xiang Yu returns to playing a small, round musical wind instrument after he tells Liu Zhi that he would rather give up his ruling the country rather than abandon Lady Yu. 

Lord Han receives a confidential document from Lady Liu.  Tien Rong has started a rebellion.  The vassal lords are joining the rebellion and the whole of China is in turmoil.  Lady Liu says it's time for Lord Han to strike against Xiang Yu and take over his territory. 

Xiang Yu is ready to march with his troops. They march out to an enemy fortress and attack it.  The gates are battered open and Xiang Yu's troops rush inside.  They capture Tien Rong, who tells Xiang Yu that since he is a relative of the King, there is nothing Xiang Yu can do to him.  So Xiang Yu runs him through with his sword. 

A messenger comes to the King and says that Xiang Yu should be punished by the King.  The King says that he is under the thumb of Xiang Yu and can't do much of anything.  The King orders that the messenger to be killed.  But it's not easy killing the messenger, since he's a very fierce fighter.  As the messenger swings his broadsword back and forth to keep the guards away from him. he accidentally hits and kills the King with a blow to his neck.  The King was behind the messenger because he was trying to retrieve his pet lamb.       

The messenger was General Yu Zi Qi, Xiang Yu's brother-in-law.  Xiang Yu says the death of the King was an accident.  Then he lets the General go.  Councilor Fan now says that Xiang Yu must have this General killed because the vassal lords will use the King's death as an excuse for a coup.  They will claim that it was Xiang Yu who killed the King.   But Xiang Yu can't bring himself to kill his brother-in-law.  The General makes it easy for Xiang Yu, because he now slits his own throat with his sword. 

Fan is ecstatic over what has just happened.  Now he tells Xiang Yu to send out notices saying that this was the result of Xiang Yu killing the murderer of the King.  But Xiang Yu has his own plan   He will send out notices that the King was a traitor who fomented rebellion so Xiang Yu killed the King.   Councilor Fan cries and says Xiang Yu is setting up everything for his own destruction. 

Liu Bang tells his troops that Xiang Yu has now killed their father, the King.  He has committed a serious crime and must be punished.  In short, he must be eliminated.  He calls upon all the vassal lords to gang up on Xiang Yu.

Xiang Yu suppressed the vassal lords' rebellion.  Liu Bang attacks the capital of Chu.  General Ying is going to put up a Ying's Last Stand.  Liu Bang talks to him to get him to come over to the side of the Han.  Liu Zhi says that Xiang Yu does not trust General Ling, because only under these dire circumstances would he leave General Ying behind and in charge of the capital of Chu.  Then Liu Bang starts flattering General Ling until the man gives in and and bows down to Liu Bang.  He, Ling Bu, will join Liu Bang, but he hopes that Liu Bang will not disturb Xiang Yu's family who still live in the palace.  Liu Bang promises him.

Liu Zhi goes to see Lady Lu, who says:  "I'm a helpless woman, if you want to kill me."  Liu Zhi asks he not to talk like that:  "We are sisters, men's wars are none of our business."  Now she tells Lady Lu the bad news that her brother is dead.  Lady Lu is certain that Liu Bang and his people killed her brother.  Liu Zhi lies and says that Xiang Yu killed her brother while he was trying to protect the King. So now Lady Lu assumes wrongly that Master Fan made Xiang Yu kill the King and then her brother.  Liu Zhi says that Fan always wanted her husband Xiang Yu to be King.  And she says that Lady Lu must convince her husband to kill Fan Zeng.  Lady Lu says she won't do that.  "My brother is dead and more killing won't bring him back."  She says that "you people" take advantage of Xiang Yu because of his naiveté.  She adds:  "I think it's time we returned our hairpins."  Liu Zhi tells her that now they can be friends forever because they both can work on their husbands to end this war. 

Chu soldiers climb up the walls of the fortress.  The alarm goes out that the Chu soldiers are here.  Han soldiers go into Lady Lu's bedroom and grab her.  She is taken to see Liu Bang.  Lady Liu comes out.  She suggests the possibility that Lady Lu could be Liu Bang's hostage.  Liu Bang says he won't do that to Lady Lu or Xiang Yu.    He leaves and then Lady Yui leaves. 

Lady Lu is waiting at the palace when Xiang Yu arrives.  They reunite.  To himself, Xiang Yu says:  "Liu Bang, we are enemies now." 

The war between the Chu and the Han lasted two years.  In 203 B.C. the two leaders and their troops clashed at Guang Wushan.  Wiang Yu challenges Liu Bang to a fight one on one.  The winner takes the country.  Liu Bang just laughs at the idea.  But now the Chu bring forward Liu Bang's father.  Liu Bang says that is a "dirty trick".  If Wiang Yu really wants the country, then he must share it with him (Liu Bang).  Wiang Yu is now really mad.  He asks for a bow and arrow.  He shoots the arrow at Liu Bang.  The Han soldiers put their shields up to block the arrow, but it goes through one side of a shield and hits Liu Bang. 

The wife now cuts the arrow off with a knife and she and the adviser pick up Lord Han and let Xiang Yu and the Chu soldiers see Liu Bang.  Wiang Yu wonders if this is God's will.  They will leave today to come back another day.  The Chu leave.  Now they bring Liu Bang into his bedroom to have the arrow head removed from his body.  The adviser says that they must retreat, because the Chu have too many soldiers.  Liu Zhi says they can't just leave because they are surrounded by Chu soldiers.  Her husband asks her to leave, but she says she has an idea.  So she is allowed a private session with her husband.  She says that her husband hates her because she left his mother behind to be killed by the Qin soldiers.  But she is willing to die for Liu Bang to pay him back.  She says that Xiang Yu is the ideal husband, but he will never rule the empire because he failed to shoot another arrow at Liu Bang.  "He's not as cruel as you are."  Her husband says she's jealous because he has many concubines, while Xiang Yu only loves Lady Yu.  Liu Zhi grabs him by his robe and bluntly reminds him that no concubine will ever be his Queen.  If he becomes king, then she will be queen.  She says she wants to be queen to an emperor, not queen to a vassal lord of Han. 

Liu Zhi says that tomorrow Liu Bang will defeat his opponent in battle and he'll conquer the empire.  Liu Bang says he swears that she will be his empress.  She replies:  "Never mind.  A vow is only good for gentlemen." 

The next day the news is that Liu Bang has surrendered.  Wiang Yu says that's good.  A procession rides up to Wiang Yu.  He sees Liu Zhi, but Liu Bang is not Liu Bang.  He's an imposter.  Liu Zhi laughs loudly.  They take Liu Zhi and put her in a cage.  Lady Lu brings Lady Liu her food and asks her to eat something.  Liu Zhi answers:  "What's the use of eating if you're dead?"  And now she says they should give back each other's hairpins.  Lady Lu is upset at that and says she won't let Liu Zhi die.  A soldier comes in to say that his orders are to execute the traitor Lady Liu.  Lady Lu pleads with her husband not to kill her sister, but rather to let her go.  Lady Liu tells her sister not to stop them from killing her.  But Lady Lu keeps begging, asking her husband, since he's so invincible, why can't he spare her sister?  Soldiers remove Lady Lu from the tent. 

Wiang Yu draws his sword out and Lady Zhi tells him:  "Just kill me!  It's my bad luck that I married a creep like Liu Bang!"  She says Wiang Yu is the kind of man she wanted as a husband.  Wiang Yu now uses his sword the break the chain keeping her cage locked.  He tells her:  "It's a disgrace to kill an unarmed woman."    He now wants Liu Zhi to go tell her husband that he is now willing to have peace and will give some of the country to Liu Bang. 

Fan Zeng is upset when he hears the Chu soldiers celebrating that war has ended between the Chu and the Han.  So the Councilor goes over to Wiang Yu to ask him if it's really true?  Yes.  Fan Zeng says there can never be peace as long as Liu Bang is alive.  He adds that Wiang Yu had Liu Bang at the end of his tether, but failed to follow through and that is a big mistake.  Liu Zhi speaks up, saying that before this she thought Wiang Yu was in charge of the decision-making, but now she sees that it's really Fan Zeng who is in charge.  Fan Zeng answers:  "Bitch!  You're more vicious than Liu Bang!"  He grabs a sword, determined to kill Liu Zhi, but Wiang Yu stops him.  He tells the Councilor that for the sake of peace he is willing to hand over half the country to Liu Bang.  He tells Fan Zeng to get out.  The Councilor falls to the floor.  Lady Lu comes to help him but he has harsh words for her too.  He says:  "You bitch!  He'll die one day because of you!"  Now he tells Liu Zhi:  "You'll be the empress!"  He says Wiang Yu will fail and the Chu will fall.  He laughs and laughs as he leaves the tent. 

The peace negotiations begin the next morning.  Wiang Yu says that from now on the Hong Channel is the border between the two territories.  The Han will be on the west side, the Chu on the east side.  Both men cut their thumbs and then drink the bloodied drink.  The two women nod to each other. 

Fan Zeng dies on his way to exile. 

203 B.C.  Hang Xin's reinforcements arrive allowing Liu Bang to hit Xiang Yu and his troops with a surprise attack.  Xiang Yu was on his way headed east to the Chu State.  The Han have surrounded the Chu forces.  Xiang Yu says they will fight their way out of the encirclement.  He shouts:  "Liu Bang, you lying bastard, go to hell!"  There is a show down on the river between the two forces.  Lady Lu rides out to the river and calls for her husband.  He tells her to follow him. 

News arrives to Liu Bang that Xiang Yu has been trapped at Gai Xai.   The Lord of Han now puts a reward on Xiang Yu's head.  Liu Bang takes his troops out to finish Xiang Yu off. 

Xiang Yu has been wounded and Lady Lu helps bandage him up. 

Some Chu family members are brought in.  They are given the "Xun" and told to play it and to sing.  The Chu soldiers hear the Chu song.  One soldier yells:  "Those bastards got them!  My wife and my parents!"  Some of the Chu soldiers go down the hill to see if they can save their families.  Lady Lu blames herself for what has happened.  But her husband asks her not to say that.  He apologizes for not being able to protect her.  She gives Xiang Yu a passionate kiss.  They continue this back in their private tent.  In the night in bed blood passes under Xiang Yu's hand.  Some of the blood gets on his hand and he awakens.  It doesn't take him long to realize what the liquid is.  He jumps up quickly only to find Lady Yu dead by her own hand.  He cries out her name which awakens the whole encampment.  Her body is burned. 

Liu Bang is told that Xiang Yu has broken out of the encirclement.  The commander has his soldiers immediately go after him. 

Xiang Yu and his men run smack into a dead end, in the shape of a huge lake.  The commander says:  "I never thought I'd end up like this!"  He tells his men not to kill Liu Bang because he made a blood oath that Liu Bang would be spared.  He adds:  "For an oath that I made, I've dragged you all down with me together with millions of the people of Chu.  I'm ashamed.  Please accept my apologies."  He goes to the ground.  His men, the few that he has, tell him to get up.  He's not dead yet. 

But now the Han soldiers arrive.  A boatman tells Xiang Yu that they can get away on his boat and live to fight another day.  His men urge him to get on the boat.  Xiang will not, but he does send his horse across the lake. He only has 28 men with him.  They will face thousands of Han soldiers.  The 28 men on horse back go to the attack.  Xiang Yu stands alone now.  One after another the Chu soldiers are killed.  Now only Xiang Yu is left standing.  The soldiers attack him.  The big man kills so many Han soldiers that archers are ordered to shoot him.  He has about 10 arrows in his body. 

Liu Bang comes down to laugh at him.  Xiang Yu decides to take his own life with his sword to his throat.  Liu Zhi yells to tell him to stop, but he kills himself.  Liu Bang gives the order for a state funeral for Xiang Yu.  Moreover, ". . . all who bear the surname Liu shall never be elevated to the peerage!"  Liu Zhi cries over Xiang Yu's body. 

"In 202 B.C. Liu Bang united the country and established the Han Dynasty.  After he died, his wife Lu Ji took over the throne, soon she ordered the execution of those who'd help her husband to power!  Zhang Liang due to early retirement escaped this fate." 

 

Spoiler Warning.  This is a long film.  The history in Wikipedia is very short about this time, but the film about the same period goes on for three hours or so.  There are some more minor differences between the article and the film, but the film does give the broad outline of the story.  Gong Li was great in the role of the wife of Liu Bang, Liu Zhi.  In the film both wives of the two powerful men (Liu Bang and Xiang Yu) were very influential in how things turned out.   Liu Zhi was the biggest schemer of them all and did a lot of the manipulating of the decision-making quietly.  (Women were not even supposed to speak with men about politics.)  In the end the two schemers won out over the two honest and kind ones.  Rosamund Kwan was good as Lady Yu.  Her character was limited emotionally because the character was so kind and caring.  Gong Li got the juicer part where she could be good and bad.  The same is true, but to a lesser extent, about the characters of Xinag Yu (mostly good) and Liu Bang (mostly bad with some good).  So anyway, the bad guys win out.  Does it pay to be bad and manipulative?  Sometimes it does, but you don't come off well in the history books.

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D. 

 

 

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