Director Zhang Jizhong’s next project will be the Flowers in the Mirror 镜花缘, a rare feminist epic that combines Gulliver’s Travels and The Classic of Mountains and Seas with social commentary.
Written in the Qing dynasty but set during Empress Wu Zetian’s reign, the story tells of what happens when the Flower Fairy and a hundred flowers fairies are cast upon the earth as punishment. We follow the Flower Fairy’s human father, and then she herself, as they go on a series of fantastical voyages around the world, including to Two-faced Kingdom, Kingdom of Giants, Kingdom of the Undead, Kingdom of Righteousness, etc. Throughout the voyages, they meet the other flower fairies, each brilliant in their own way, and invites them to join the main flower fairy in the first imperial examination for females under Wu Zetian’s reign.
One particularly interesting chapter includes Li Ruzhen’s portrayal of Kingdom of Women. Unlike the Kingdom of Women in the Journey to the West, Li Ruzhen’s women do not live in absent of men. The matriarchal society is a flip side of contemporary (Qing) society. The Flower Fairy’s uncle-in-law was chosen as a concubine, and was subject to make-up and feet-binding, exposing the unfair treatment of women in Li’s society.
If anyone, Zhang Jizhong can assemble a great female cast for the series. I just hope that many of the social commentary won’t be lost, and that Zhang Jizhong won’t try to add in any romance plots. According to its request to SARFT, the series is set to begin filming next January, with a production period of two years (2016!).