The Goddess – Shen Nu (1934)

An unnamed devoted mother sells herself by night on the streets of Shanghai in order to support herself and her infant son. When a gambler who calls himself “the Boss” strong-arms his way into becoming her pimp, she flees with her son and attempts to earn an honest living, but the Boss tracks her down and forces her back into prostitution. When her son reaches school age, she begins hiding away enough money to pay his tuition. Although her son is ostracized by other kids due to her profession, she takes great joy in providing an education and a potential better future for him. When the other parents want the boy expelled, a kindly principal fights to keep him in school. Meanwhile, the Boss finds her hidden cash, adding financial woes to the problems of social injustice.

(Plot summary written by TimeNTide)


Runtime original: 01:13:00

Runtime at 90to5: 00:02:19

Director: Yonggang Wu

Writer: Yonggang Wu (script director)

Editor: ?

90to5 Editor: Othniel Smith

90to5 Editor Website: Othniel Smith on LinkeIn

90to5 Editor Bio: Scriptwriter for radio, theatre and television. Maker of short films. Academic researcher.


A classic of early Chinese cinema, “Shen Nu” features a remarkable performance from Ruan Lingyu as a much-abused prostitute. This edit, whilst omitting much plot detail, attempts to capture the essence of her character’s predicament.

— Othniel Smith



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