Module 11: Crows and Sparrows (1949)

The film:


Wuya yu maque
Alternative English title: House and Tea Money
Director: Zheng Junli
Screenplay: Chen Baichen, Shen Fu, Xu Tao, Zhao Dan, Zheng Junli
Studio: The Peak Film Industries Corp., Ltd. (Kunlun)
Year of production: 1949
Year of release: 1950
106 minutes
Cast: Zhao Dan, Wu Yin, Wei Heling, Shangguan Yunzhu, Sun Daolin, Li Tianji, Huang Zongying, Li Baoluo
English subtitles translated by Christopher Rea

Video lecture 1:

19 minutes

Video lecture 2:


12 minutes

Learn more:

Scenes from Crows and Sparrows
Old Wei, who is seeking to buy the building, serves as a narrative device to introduce the main families in this drama:

The Xiao children and Ah Mei sing a song about the monkey traitor, Hou Yibo:

The Acting Principal offers to help Mr. Hua with his housing problem…but not for free:

The second of two scenes introducing the main villain, Hou Yibo:

The Xiaos hatch a scheme to buy the apartment building:

Mahjong – a gambling game, a social pastime, and symbol of strategy, chance, and risk – appears in this scene, as well as in other films, such as Long Live the Missus! (1947):
Boss Xiao daydreams of getting rich quick:

Corruption as a workaday reality for Nanking officials:

Zhang Zhizhi, who was often typecast as a thug or a lustful bully, appears in a familiar role as his character smashes up Kong’s place:

The “sparrows” defy the “crows”:

Comparisons with other films

Zhao Dan also appears in Street Angels (1937).

Shangguan Yunzhu also appears in Long Live the Missus! (1947) and Wanderings of Three-Hairs the Orphan (1949).

Li Tianji wrote the screenplay for Spring in a Small Town (1948).

The multi-family apartment complex is also used as a narrative structuring device in films such as:

The House of 72 Tenants (1963)

The House of 72 Tenants (1973)

Stephen Chow’s Kung Fu Hustle (2004)

Eric Tsang’s 72 Tenants of Prosperity (2010)