Director Yang Lina breaks new cinematic ground with portrayal of mother-daughter relationship based in hate

Whether it is in movies or literature, Chinese mothers tend to be portrayed as selfless, caring, devoted, and hardworking. Perhaps to please China’s censors, who are notoriously keen to safeguard “family values,” mainstream creators tend to extol great maternal love, beautiful mother-child relationships, and the value of filial piety in their works.

But mothers can also be angry, resentful, and hostile, and this is the reality that director and screenwriter Yang Lina explores in Spring Tide. Released on May 17 on video platform iQiyi due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the acclaimed film explores the multigenerational mother-daughter conflicts between journalist Guo Jianbo (Hao Lei), her widowed mother Ji Minglan (Jin Yanling), and Guo’s daughter Wanting (Qu Junxi), a fourth-grader.

The tagline on the film’s poster reads, “Your relationship with your mother determines your relationship with the world.” In this sense, Guo must have been fighting against the world for every minute of her life. A single mother, Guo lives in an old apartment together with her daughter and her own mother, Ji Minglan, a retired journalist who became a community cadre. In public, Guo acts as a strong-minded and capable professional, but once at home, she becomes a passive and resentful daughter suffering from a lifetime of her mother’s verbal abuse.

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Maternal Instinct is a story from our issue, “High Steaks.” To read the entire issue, become a subscriber and receive the full magazine. Alternatively, you can purchase the digital version from the App Store.


author Sun Jiahui (孙佳慧)

Sun Jiahui is a freelance writer and former editor at The World of Chinese. She writes about Chinese language, society and culture, and is especially passionate about sharing stories of China's ancient past with a wider audience. She has been writing for TWOC for over six years, and pens the Choice Chengyu column.

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