Zhuangzi Tests His Wife (Traditional Chinese: 莊子試妻 Zhuangzi shi qi) is a 1913 Hong Kong drama film directed by Li Minwei. It is the first ever feature film in Hong Kong cinema. It also became the first ever Chinese film to be shown abroad, when it was exhibited in the Chinese communities of Los Angeles and San Francisco.
Li Minwei stars as the wife of Zhuangzi (Beihai Li), while Li Minwei's wife Yan Shanshan played a servant girl, thus making her the first ever Chinese film actress. The two-reel film was successful and was shown in the United States by Polaski.
Throughout history, his teachings have been particularly favored by Chinese scholars and artists, many of whom have created thought-provoking works inspired by Zhuangzi's philosophy.
"Zhuangzi Tests His Wife" is one such work and has become known to people in China through Peking Opera, and other local stage performances.
According to tale, Zhuangzi one day comes across a grieving widow, who is vigorously fanning her recently deceased husband's grave. At his deathbed, the husband has made his wife promise not to remarry until the earth around his tomb is dry -- a common request in ancient China.
Aroused by his curiosity, Zhuangzi decides to test his own wife's moral convictions, by faking his death and changing himself into a handsome young man named Chu Wangsun. His wife, Tian Shi, falls in love with the striking young buck, and a courtship develops.
Most of the operatic versions of the story end with Zhuangzi burying his wife after she commits suicide for being disloyal to her husband. But this version tackles the story from a different angle. While Tian Shi still commits suicide in the end, Zhuangzi turns her and himself into butterflies and then, eventually, into dust.
The significance of the ending, from the perspective of Taoist philosophy, is that her yearning for a second love does not go against nature, but is in fact a very human instinct. This is in stark contrast to original opera versions of the story, which purport that her actions were a violation of common moral beliefs, and therefore against the way of nature.