Planet China

Name and shame

The latest release from director Feng Xiaogang didn’t fare as well as expected at the box office. Despite receiving high praise at international film festivals – and later being named Best Picture at the Asian Film Awards – I Am Not Madame Bovary was overshadowed in China’s cinemas by Western blockbusters.

Now Feng is facing more misfortune as a woman from Guangdong province is suing him for defamation. The Chinese title of the film is I Am Not Pan Jinlian, and alludes to a character in the classic text The Water Margin. In that book, Pan Jinlian is an adulterous woman whose promiscuity results in her husband’s murder.

Feng’s film opens with the explanation that “Ever since the Song Dynasty, people have used the name Pan Jinlian to refer to improper women”. This is a reality that appears to have eluded the (less well read) parents of today’s Pan Jinlian.

According to Sixth Tone, a woman called Pan Jinlian in southern China says she’s suffered ridicule all her life due to the unfortunate association of her name. And since I Am Not Pan Jinlian was released, awareness of its unsavoury reputation has peaked.

Pan’s younger brother told Chengdu Economic Daily that the impact of the film has been so severe that she “can’t sleep for much of the night, and her health is deteriorating,” whilst her neighbours openly mock her.

Pan Jinlian is not only bringing Feng to court but also actress Fan Bingbing, and others associated with the film, demanding that they stop infringing on her name and restore its honour. A verdict on the case is expected on April 19.

However, given the accused can’t rewrite a centuries-old work of literature, WiC suspects it might be easier for Pan to just change her name.

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