Hsien-Yung Pai is possibly best known for the fabricated yet convincing characters he created in his fiction. These characters include dance club hostesses Xue-Yan Yin and Tai-Pan Jin, widowed wife of WWII soldier Qing Zhu, the young rebel Long Zi, and the coming-of-age homosexual Ah Qing. These personas are so vividly depicted that readers not only find them realistic, generations of artists and creative professionals have also employed them as inspiration for numerous adaptations for television, film and theater. In 2003, Pai adapted, produced and directed the Young Lover's Edition for Chinese theater classic The Peony Pavilion. It revitalized the art of Kuan Opera by introducing it to an otherwise uninterested younger foreign audience. The Young Lover's Edition was eventually presented on school campuses, in performance halls and other venues through- out the United States and Europe.
"Her affection arose before she knew it and before she realized it had grown ever deep." The famous quote from the Peony Pavilion speaks of a stream of consciousness that inspires the cinematic storytelling of this document-tary. The film alternates between the important life events and career milestones of Pai. It opens with the founding of Modern Literature quarterly by Pai as a vigorous young man of twenty-two years, and ends at Pai's recent writing of two books, My Father and the Republic and Healing the Wounds, as a candid elderly man. In his writings Hsien-Yung Pai retraces his 29 years of teaching at UC Santa Barbara and recalls the unforgettable taste of rice noodles and the never-to-be-satisfied nostalgia when he visits his hometown Guilin in China for the first time since his departure four decades earlier. Through his words the reader joins Pai in returning after ten years to the beloved classical gardens of Suzhou. Also revisited in the film are the "dark empire,” as he describes it, that he created on the theatrical stage and the endless lectures he gave on and outside of campus. The documentary takes the audience through the unparalleled perseverance, courage, insight and profound emotions that make Hsien-Yung Pai one of the leading Chinese writers, whose impact looms large over multiple generations.