Xiang is hard-working, running a small sesame oil business. When Japanese investors provide capital to expand Xiang’s business, she has the wealth to raise her social standing and buy a wife for her son.
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Slightly overplotted, some may nitpick, an eventfulness that borders on melodrama. But that is what transfigures it, or rather complexifies it, from sheer character study to societal commentary, a poignant one about the sad lot of rural Chinese women. Set at a time of a shifting mode of production, women function not just as labour-power but as conjugal slaves with few options in a libidinal economy.