King of Masks: The Myth of Miao-shan and the Empowerment of Women

  • Author(s): Kevin Dodd
  • When: 2012-04
  • Where: Journal of Religion & Film
  • King of Masks represents a particular type of mythic film that includes within it references to an ancient sacred story and is itself a contemporary recapitulation of it. The movie also belongs to a further subcategory of mythic cinema, using the double citation of the myth—in its original integrity and its re-enactment—to critique the subordinate position of women to men in the narrated world. To do this, the Buddhist myth of Miao-shan, which centralizes the Confucian value of filiality, is re-applied beyond its traditional scope and context. Thereby two prominent features of contemporary China are creatively addressed: the revival of interest in Confucianism and the growing concern about the declining number of female births to male ones.

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