Farewell My Concubine is a strikingly beautiful tale about love and betrayal, of not only individuals but also a country and its culture. The story spans fifty years, as China's turbulent history is the counterpart and contributing factor to the relationships between two young opera stars and a prostitute who changes her life and gets herself involved in a complicated triangle of love and betrayal. The times of the Cultural Revolution in China puts pressure on the opera stars and of course forces them to abandon their one and only passion - acting.
Douzi, one of the famous actors to-be, has a hard time adjusting to school life after his mother who couldn't afford to keep him anymore abandons him at the acting academy. The tough tyrant of the academy, Master Guan and the other boys ridicule Douzi because of his prostitute mother. He does, however, find comfort with a tough yet kind student, Shitou.
This is the beginning of a special and very close relationship that both Douzi and Shitou will endure for the rest of their careers as actors and life. In the Beijing Opera, actors are trained in certain types of roles, in which they specialize for life. Douzi, with a natural feminine beauty, is trained for female roles, while Shitou is given masculine military parts. Douzi, however, has difficulty accepting his role as a woman, but eventually does so for he does not want to disappoint his fellow students. Douzi, a confused, pained, and jealous man who cannot distinguish between male or female, reality and dream. He is doomed to fail the one thing he wants: Duan's love. His movements, both on-and offstage, are careful and precise, much like a woman's. At times, in fact, it is hard to believe he is a man.