Pushing Hands (film)

Pushing Hands

Movie poster
Directed by Ang Lee
Produced by Hsu Li Kong
executive producer
Liu Yiming
Ted Hope
James Schamus
Ang Lee
Written by Ang Lee
James Schamus
Cinematography Jong Lin
Edited by Ang Lee
Tim Squyres
Release dates
Running time
105 min
Country Taiwan, Republic of China
Language Mandarin Chinese, English

Pushing Hands (Chinese: 推手; pinyin: tuī shǒu) is a film directed by Ang Lee. Released in 1992, it was his first feature film. Together with Ang Lee's two following films, The Wedding Banquet (1993) and Eat Drink Man Woman (1994), it forms his "Father Knows Best" trilogy, each of which deals with conflicts between an older and more traditional generation and their children as they confront a world of change.

The film was first released in Taiwan. After The Wedding Banquet and Eat Drink Man Woman became successful in the United States, Pushing Hands received a U.S. release.[1]


The story is about an elderly Chinese t'ai chi ch'uan teacher and grandfather who emigrates from Beijing to live with his son, American daughter-in-law, and grandson in a New York City suburb. The grandfather is increasingly distanced from the family as a "fish out of water" in Western culture. The film shows the contrast between traditional Chinese ideas of Confucian relationships within a family and the much more informal Western emphasis on the individual. The friction in the family caused by these differing expectations eventually leads to the grandfather moving out of the family home (something very alien to traditional expectations), and in the process he learns lessons (some comical, some poignant) about how he must adapt to his new surroundings before he comes to terms with his new life.


The title of the film refers to the pushing hands training that is part of the grandfather's t'ai chi routine. Pushing hands is a two-person training which teaches t'ai chi students to yield in the face of brute force. T'ai chi ch'uan teachers were persecuted in China during the Cultural Revolution, and the grandfather's family was broken up as a result. He sent his son to the West several years earlier and when he could he came to live with his family with the expectation of picking up where they left off, but he was unprepared for the very different atmosphere of the West. "Pushing Hands" thereby alludes to the process of adaptation to culture shock felt by a traditional teacher in moving to the United States.

Filming style

Donald Lyons wrote that in the film the director Ang Lee "a mastery of the visual dynamics of interior spaces and their psychic pressures."[2]



  1. Dariotis and Fung, p. 193.
  2. 1 2 3 Dariotis and Fung, p. 193.
  3. Dariotis and Fung, p. 193-194.
  4. Dariotis and Fung, p. 194.
  5. 1 2 3 Dariotis and Fung, p. 196.
  6. Dariotis and Fung, p. 195.

Further reading

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