Angela Workman adapted the original screenplay, revised by Ronald Bass and Michael Ray, based on the 2005 novel, "Snow Flower And The Secret Fan"by author Lisa See.
Setting her book in nineteenth century China, See writes that 'Lily', the narrator, was born in 1823 — "the third year of Emperor Daoguang's reign". The novel begins in 1903, when Lily is 80 years old. During her lifetime, Lily lives through the reigns of the four Chinese emperors, 'Daoguang' (1820–1850), 'Xianfeng' (1850–1861), 'Tongzhi' (1861–1875) and 'Guangxu' (1875–1908).
The film follows Lily's great grandchildren who presumably take a different path than their ancestors.
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