Today, I will introduce a Chinese film which called Woman Sesame Oil Maker (香魂女xiāng hún nǚ). So let us have a brief introduction.

Woman Sesame Oil Maker is a 1993 Chinese film in the Mandarin language. In the English speaking world it has been released in the UK under the title Women from the Lake of Scented Souls (the more literal translation) and more recently on DVD as Woman Sesame Oil Maker. It is adapted from a novel by Zhou Daxin (周大新Zhōu Dàxīn), “The Fragrant Oil Mill by the Lake of Scented Souls” (香魂塘畔的香油坊Xiāng Hún Táng Pàn de Xiāng Yóu Fāng).

The film is adapted and directed by Xie Fei (谢飞Xiè Fēi ) and tells the story of a woman in a small village in Hebei (河北Héběi ) who runs a small sesame oil business that becomes unexpectedly successful, but who then uses her money to buy for her mentally disabled son a peasant bride.


Illiterate villager Second Sister Xiang (香二嫂Xiāng èr sǎo ) was sold as a tongyangxi (童养媳Tóngyǎngxí ) to her present husband, a man with a lame leg, when she was seven. She has an intellectually disabled son Dongzi (东子Dōngzǐ ), who suffers from epileptic fits and is now grown up, and a younger daughter Zhi’er. Through her diligence she has started a successful sesame oil mill and now becomes the richest person in her village.

A Japanese lady investor decides to invest in her business after visiting her mill. Meanwhile, Sister Xiang tries to find a bride for her son. She engineers her son’s marriage with Huanhuan (环环Huánhuán ), a peasant girl whose family is in dire financial straits.

One night, Dunzi nearly strangles Huanhuan to death during a fit. Huanhuan runs back home, but her mother-in-law makes sure she returns. Huanhuan witnesses her drunk father-in-law beating Sister Xiang in bed. She also chances on Sister Xiang in an adulterous affair with family friend Ren, who fathered her daughter Zhi’er.

Ren later initiates a break-up with Sister Xiang. Sister Xiang falls ill. She is heartbroken, despite her sesame oil being awarded top prize by the provincial government.

Sister Xiang gradually realizes that Huanhuan, like her, suffers as a kindred spirit. She decides to release Huanhuan by asking Huanhuan to go for a divorce. But Huanhuan states that her life is already ruined. She then breaks down.

The film won the Golden Bear for Best Film at the 43rd Berlin International Film Festival in 1993, a prize it shared with Ang Lee’s The Wedding Banquet.