EFL Movie Study Guide for:
The Gua Sha Treatment
from www.krigline.com www.krigline.com.cn
After eight years of hard work in the US, Chinese immigrant Datong Zhu
achieves a piece of the American Dream in St. Louis. But a series of
accidents and misunderstandings throw his family into turmoil, and the
Child Welfare Agency gets a restraining order to keep Datong away from his
young son. For the rest of the movie we see the effect of cultural pride
and prejudice (on many sides), and what happens when people dare to be
open-minded about things they don’t understand. (drama, with Chinese
subtitles only; 100 min)
St Louis in the central USA
One of the themes of this movie is that “violence” is hard to define, and
the definitions often relate to one’s culture or upbringing. The film
opens by showing protesters who object to the excessive violence in video
games. The protest is outside a video design award ceremony at which
Datong Zhu (the main character) will receive an important reward. Datong’s
wife asks what is going on, and Datong’s American boss says: “It’s that
constitution thing again; free speech and all that.” He means that the
people have the right to “assemble” in order to protest, and they have the
right to say they object to the violence of his video games. Later, he
says “the first amendment works both ways,” meaning that his company also
has the right to express itself, even if others think the expression is
violent. (See “First Amendment” below)
Another theme is the conflict, especially
in Datong, between showing love and respect to his elderly father (who
can’t speak English) and to his young son (who can’t speak Chinese).
People and proper nouns:
Datong Zhu: the main character; a video
Dennis Zhu: Datong’s American-born young
Datong’s wife (I didn’t catch her name)
Datong’s father (often called Ye-ye, or
John Quinlan: Datong’s boss and best
friend, an intellectual property rights lawyer
Paul Quinlan: John Quinlan’s son, and a
playmate for Dennis
Child Welfare Agency: a government
department, which can take charge of children in abusive or dangerous
situations. Two social workers [government employees who care for
people’s non-medical needs] in this film work there (a female boss, and
her loud, unethical coworker)
First Amendment: This
refers to an important part of America’s basic law, dating back to the
nation’s foundation. The first amendment to the US Constitution says that
“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or
prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech
or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to
petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”
secondhand smoke: exhaled smoke that others
DOA: Dead on Arrival (Mr Huo died of a
heart attack before any medical or police personnel arrived at the scene)
five or six stitches: sometimes the
seriousness of a wound is measured by the number of “stitches” a doctor
must use to sew it up.
for observation: the doctor says they will
keep Dennis overnight “for observation,” which is a standard medical
procedure when a child badly injures his head; they want to watch him
closely overnight, with a doctor nearby in case there is hidden damage
foster home/foster care facility: a place
where children stay temporarily, without parents or with “temporary”
parents, while the child is under the protection of a court.
contempt of court: the crime of being
disobedient or disrespectful to a court, punishable by big fines and/or
time in jail
restraining order: an
official court document that says someone can’t do something (often not be
near a person or a place); if you violate a restraining order, the police
will arrest you
Sentences/dialog from the movie: (see the bottom)
1. Look at dialog 2a. What is the “American
2. How do we know that Datong loves his
3. When Datong raps his son on the head for
direct, prolonged disobedience, Datong’s father quotes a proverb: “当面教子背后教妻”
(Face to face correct your son; in the background correct your wife) Why
did he say this? Was he agreeing with Datong’s actions, or scolding him?
4. What did Grandpa mean when he quoted
this proverb to Dennis (though Dennis couldn’t understand the Chinese): (A
hit is deep love, scolding is love; don’t hit, don’t scold, then don’t
grow into a useful person)?
5. At one point, Datong’s wife asks: “Why
is this happening to us? Where did we go wrong?” Tell your partner how you
would answer those questions.
Sentences/dialog from the movie:
1. As Datong wins an award, his boss says:
“Welcome to the big time, my friend.”
2a. Award acceptance speech (Datong): “I
believed that if I worked hard enough, one day I’d become one of you, a
truly successful American. …This [award] is my piece of the American
2b. Mom (as she opens a window because
Grandpa is smoking): Secondhand smoke is bad for Dennis.
DT: Don’t you think our rule about
speaking English when Dennis is home might make Dad uncomfortable?
Mom: Dennis has applied to go to
Chesterfield next year. Without a proper English-speaking environment, how
is he going to get in?
2c: After Mom gets home, Grandpa says (in
Chinese) that Dennis wasn’t feeling well so he gave him Gua-sha treatment.
Mom: Why didn’t you give Dennis a pill?
Grandpa: I couldn’t read the English on
the medicine boxes.
Later, DT appologized to his son for
hitting him (see the “differences” section, #A).
Dennis: You never hit me before. Dads
who hit their kids aren’t good daddies. I’m sitting with Grandpa.
DT explained to Grandpa that Dennis was
still upset about being disciplined.
Grandpa (in Chinese):
(Why so narrow-minded?) Are you going to hold a grudge against your Dad?
(then he “sings” this proverb) ”
(see translation below)
2d. Grandpa (in Chinese): I really didn’t
expect to run into Mr. Luo today—we haven’t seen each other inover 10
years. He offered to take me to a gambling ship where we can get $15.
DT: Not “get” but “win”; you can win.
2e. Teacher: Dennis hit Paul again at
school, saying it was because “he loved him.”
DT: He misunderstood something I said.
2f. DT (to police captain): What happened
to his friend?
Police: DOA (Dead on Arrival); he died;
heart attack; it happens.
2g. (After DT picks up his Dad late at
night; his son is home alone, asleep)
Grandpa (in Chinese): Isn’t driving too
fast against the law?
DT: Dad, leaving a child alone is
already against the law.
2h. Doctor: The wound is deep. Its going to
require five or six stitches. We’ll need to keep him here tonight for
Nurse: Doctor, you’d better take a look
at this. (She is looking at the effect of Gua-sha treatment.)
Doctor: Notify the hospital social
worker right away.
3a. Social worker: This child is under the
supervision of the Child Welfare Agency (CWA) now. It is the opinion of
the CWA that this child has suffered long-term abuse and neglect, so he is
being moved to a state foster care facility. Forty-eight hours from now
the court will convene a special hearing, and then you’ll be able to state
your case. Prior to that time, if either of you come within 500 feet of
your child you will be held in contempt of court.”
3b. Boss (John Quinlan): The anti-violence
lobby put up a good fight, but the First Amendment words both ways. The
judge ruled in our favor on all points. (Then DT says he needs John’s help
because of the trouble at the hospital.) I’m an intellectual property
rights lawyer, not family law. (That is, you need a different type of
lawyer! But DT didn’t understand American law, so he wouldn’t listen.)
4a. After seeing the photos of Dennis’s
back, showing the Gua-sha marks, DT told the judge that this was a
traditional Chinese medical treatment. (then see 4b)
4b. DT: “Gua Sha is a traditional Chinese
Judge: “What does it say on every
Missouri license plate?”
DT: “Show me state”
Judge: “Can you get an authoritative
medical expert to back your testimony in plain English?”
DT: “Yes, I can try.”
4c. Judge: Did you do this Gua-sha to your
DT: Yes, I did. (even though Grandpa
actually did it)
DT (in Chinese to his wife): Don’t say
anything; don’t forget we are trying to get Dad a green card.
5. When the judge said this case would go
to trial, it meant that Dennis would not be able to be with his parents
for many months. Datong Zhu’s lady-lawyer said: “The CWA’s entire case is
aimed at you. There is a remote chance that they will let your son return
home if you and your wife separate.” Legal “separation” is a step between
marriage and divorce.
6. When the parents come home without
Dennis, Grandpa begs to know what is happening.
Grandpa (in Chinese): In China, I was
known as an intellectual, but here I’ve become deaf and dumb [because I
can’t use English]. Yet I have two good eyes. I’m old but I’m not frail.
Please tell me about Dennis! (in tears) What is going on!? How long are
you two going to deceive me?
Then Mom breaks her promise (to DT) not
to tell his father.
7. Boss: You shouldn’t have hit your son.
DT: Why did I do it? To show respect to
you. To give you face.
Boss: What kind of twisted Chinese
logic is that? You have to hit your own son so you can show respect to
8. DT returns home, trying to continue
deceiving his dad, after his wife has explained things.
Grandpa (in Chinese):
好儿子难得你一片孝心。(Good son; how rare is
your filial piety.)
9. Mom: Why is this happening to us? Where
did we go wrong?
DT: I don’t know.
10. Grandpa (in Chinese, talking to Mr.
我想我怎么着都的来跟你聊聊不成。I’ve thought about
this for days, and have decided to go back to China. Here, I can’t help
take care of Dennis. I just bring everyone trouble. They’ve known Gua-sha
in China for thousands of years, so why can’t it be understood in
11. Grandpa (in Chinese, in the car):
Datong, you can’t move me. I’ve made up my mind. There are things to do
DT: Dad, what are you talking about?
Mom passed away. In Beijing you would be alone. I would be very worried.
Gpa: Why worry? Everyone there speaks
Chinese. I’d be with old friends. I would be very happy.
12: (In the airport, also in Chinese)
DT: You’re too anxious. The plane
won’t leave for over two hours.
Gpa: Let your dad take a good look at
you. (DT starts to weep.) At my advanced age, I don’t want to forget what
you’ve grown up into. Your Dennis—I love him (starting to weep). I miss
him; I know I can look at his photo… Now look at me (crying).
DT: Dad, wait for me here. I’ll be
back soon. (Then DT brings Dennis to the airport to see Grandpa; even
though he knows this is breaking the law.)
Grandpa (to Dennis): Such a good boy.
Grandpa’s going back to Beijing. I’ll really miss you!
DT: Dad, we’re coming with you. I’ve
been in America many years and made it my home, but now my home/family is
so broken… Why should I stay here? In Beijing we can be reunited.
Gpa: You have great prospects here.
You want to run away? You want to abandon this lawsuit—pretend it never
happened? How are you going to go back? You would still be an escaped
criminal who had abused a child in America. Life is just sometimes like
this. All kinds of things happen, whether or not you started them or can
avoid them. But before you moved to America, didn’t you prepare to come
face to face to difficulties? Datong, take Dennis back. Do what you said
you would do. Raise the child to be an upright/fair-minded person with a
bright future. (Datong looks out the window.) I’ll write after I get back
13. Lawyer: Since posting bail, Mr. Zhu
has moved out and has fully complied with the court’s restraining order.
Social worker: Our only concern is
that your son have a safe home environment. If we discover that your
husband has been around Dennis, the police will arrest him.
14. (Grandpa’s letter from Beijing): Son,
I arrived safely. Don’t worry. This trip to the US, seeing the
accomplishments you’ve achieved far from your old homeland, was really
gratifying. I bought this book about Gua-sha in Beijing and I’m sending it
to you. I heard on TV about a reference film about Gua-sha they are
making. I asked somebody to get me a copy and soon I can also send that. I
hope this quickly helps to resolve the problem. As for me, I’ve had a
rough life… slipped into being an old man. I have no other request/prayer
than that you three will know peace and safety.
15. Guard (DT tries to enter the apartment
building, disguised as Santa): Mr. Zhu? You can be arrested on sight if
you’re caught here! You’ve always been a good tenant, and you’ve never
caused me any trouble, but I can get into deep shit if I help you violate
your restraining order. Sorry.
A few Chinese idioms used in the film:
(be impervious to reason)
(people with different principles are ill-matched)
the rod and spoil the child)
(Face to face correct your son; in the background correct your wife)
(the sooner the better)
How do differences between Chinese and
American culture affect these situations:
A. Dennis hit Paul because Paul said
Dennis’ dad was stupid. When Paul’s dad arrived, Dennis’ dad required
Dennis to apologize for hitting Paul (though Datong didn’t know what
B. The family’s decision to use “only
English” when Dennis is home (though Grandpa didn’t understand English).
C. Datong’s decision to say that he gave
Dennis the Guasha treatment, in order to protect his father.
D. Datong’s willingness to leave Dennis
alone, asleep in bed. (In America, most parents will not let a child be
alone—without an adult looking at him—until the child is eight or ten
E. Datong’s decision to immediately “drop
everything” to pick his dad up from the police station (after Mr Huo died
unexpectantly), even though it meant leaving Dennis alone, asleep in bed.
F. Datong’s decision not to tell his dad
about what was really going on (to protect him from feeling responsible
for Dennis’ detention, and because his dad was already feeling bad about
Mr. Huo’s death, the non-Chinese culture around him, etc.).
G. The lawyer’s intentionally wrong
depiction of Sun Wu Kong as a selfish, deceptive, “violent, all-powerful
monkey” (to which DT reacts violently to defend the Monkey King as a
“good-hearted compassionate, righteous hero who represents our traditional
values and ethics”).
H. Datong’s decision to “kidnap” his son so
that his father could see Dennis one last time (before returning to
China), and so that they could all flee to China; and then his decision to
drive the boy back (with a police escort) after his father told him to
return the boy and keep fighting to get him back legally.
I. Datong’s decision to attack the mugger
who stole his money and (more importantly) his child’s toy.
J. Datong’s decision to risk his life to
give his son the Christmas gift, in spite of a restraining order, almost
certain jail time, and possible death.