The film Raise the Red Lantern was an interesting look at Chinese culture in the 1920s. I thought particularly interesting the fact that the master and the other men in this film did not seem to play an active role in the events of the house. The men controlled most things, but sort of took second fiddle to the interactions between the women. The men "controlled" the house, but all the important events took place with regards to the sisters. There was treachery, deceit, and scandalous behavior between the sisters, all to win standing in the house. I don't really think the sisters cared as much about the master liking them as they did holding power over the other sisters. I think the filmmaker portrayed this very well, especially the fact that the master's face was only shown a handful of times throughout the film.
Despite sleeping with them every few nights, the master does not really play a major role in the lives of his wives.
He is more of a patriarchal offstage figure, interested only in his wives bearing him sons. It's almost as if he is a drone whose sole job is to mate with the queen(s) and once he is unable to do so effectively he is deemed useless. It could be argued that the wives also are queen bees. Their sole purpose is to lay eggs or bear children. But in the animal kingdom, queen bees are far more important than drones. After mating, drones are casually discarded while the queen remains an important figure in the hive/household.
The master is certainly not a traditional western husband in the sense that he does not seem to be emotionally connected to his wives or even his children. If this was the case in all concubines in...