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is a film
A film, also called a movie or motion picture, is a series of still or moving images. It is produced by recording photographic images with cameras, or by creating images using animation techniques or visual effects...
directed by Ang Lee
Ang Lee is a Taiwanese film director. Lee has directed a diverse set of films such as Eat Drink Man Woman , Sense and Sensibility , Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon , Hulk , and Brokeback Mountain , for which he won an Academy...
. Released in 1992, it was his first feature film.
The story is about an elderly Chinese t'ai chi ch'uan teacher and grandfather who emigrates from Beijing
Beijing , also known as Peking , is the capital of the People's Republic of China and one of the most populous cities in the world, with a population of 19,612,368 as of 2010. The city is the country's political, cultural, and educational center, and home to the headquarters for most of China's...
to live with his son, American daughter-in-law, and grandson in a New York City
New York is the most populous city in the United States and the center of the New York Metropolitan Area, one of the most populous metropolitan areas in the world. New York exerts a significant impact upon global commerce, finance, media, art, fashion, research, technology, education, and...
suburb. The grandfather is increasingly distanced from the family as a "fish out of water" in Western culture
Western culture, sometimes equated with Western civilization or European civilization, refers to cultures of European origin and is used very broadly to refer to a heritage of social norms, ethical values, traditional customs, religious beliefs, political systems, and specific artifacts and...
. 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
Pushing hands, , is a name for two-person training routines practiced in internal Chinese martial arts such as Baguazhang, Xingyiquan, T'ai chi ch'uan , Liuhebafa, Quan Fa, Yiquan.-Overview:...
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
The Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution, commonly known as the Cultural Revolution , was a socio-political movement that took place in the People's Republic of China from 1966 through 1976...
, 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
Culture shock is the anxiety, feelings of frustration, alienation and anger that may occur when a person is emplaced in a new culture.One of the most common causes of culture shock involves individuals in a foreign country. Culture shock can be described as consisting of one or more distinct phases...
felt by a traditional teacher in moving to the United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...