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China Screen: Under Goddess's Shelter

Year: 2017, 85 mins
Code: IC-CSUnder

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At the very heart of life in a rural Hakka temple.

We are in Meizhou, in the heart of the country of the Hakka ethnic group, in the southern part of China. For a whole year we will observe the daily life of Liu Yunxiang, an octogenarian nun in charge of a rural temple, a kind of abstinence hall where the women of the village often meet for their prayers.

One fine day, the roof of this place of worship crumbles. It becomes imperative to rebuild the building, because the women feel protected by the Gods. In addition, in this space, their religion, a synthesis between Buddhism and Taoism called Xian Tian, ​​allows them to make offerings to the Gods and to follow their vegetarian diet which is one of the daily expressions of their faith. Finally, this temple is the privileged place of the community life of Hakka women, especially when they question their condition and fight for a redefinition of their place in contemporary Chinese society.

During the demolition, then the slow reconstruction of the main building of the temple, the film, served by a very beautiful photograph, gives us the opportunity, through the fragments of memory of our heroine, to revisit the history of China, to the war on reforms, via the Liberation and the socialist construction. It also bears witness, to the rhythm of the seasons and the ancestral rituals of this community, to the confusion of current generations in relation to the new situation.

Towards the end of this contemplative film, the future fast train which will pass near the reconstructed temple reminds us that the past is well over. Just like the excellent health of Liu Yunxiang which deteriorates with the progress of the work. Doubt settled in her regard, when she was the symbol of the history of the Hakka women, who, relying on their great inner strength and the richness of their beliefs, seemed well armed to face loneliness and death. Will this still be true tomorrow?

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