The Inn of the Sixth Happiness.

Many of the blogs I have read over the past month or so, have been waxing lyrically about the coming of spring, and not only in words, but some beautiful photographs too. This is hardly unusual at this time of year, people do feel better when the dark dreary days of winter come to an end and the sun comes out once more. However this year the joy we all feel seems much more intense than usual, why?

2020 has been an especially bad year for us all, being under the cloud of coronavirus and lockdown has not been easy for anyone, more so with the threat that coronavirus can kill, so the fear we felt was well founded.

I read a regular blogger from America and today its writer was telling us how beautiful everything around him seemed, telling us how truly beautiful his world is. This was to get me thinking. I wondered just how much of the beauty we see around us is down to our attitude, mentally and physically, and our contentment with life.

I hate to think how many times I have watched the movie “The Inn of the Sixth Happiness”, released in 1958.

The story was based on the book, The Small Woman, by Alan Burgess. Gladys Aylward was a tenacious British woman, who becomes a missionary in China at a time of great world upheaval, the lead into the Second World War.

Like all movies this award-winning film took liberties. Ingrid Bergman (Helen Lazell) a tall 5 foot 9-inch blond Swedish actress was a world away from Gladys Aylward,

Gladys Aylward

Small in stature, dark hair and a North London accent. The scriptwriters had ignored the struggles of Aylward and her family to send her to China in favour of their plot, also her struggle by train across Russia, China and Japan were greatly ignored.

Again many characters and place names were changed, her adopted children, the name of the inn, and instead of the Chinese belief in the number 8 as being auspicious, it became 5 in the film. The Chinese name she was given was Ai Wei De, the Chinese approximation to Aylward (Virtuous One). In the movie we had the name Jen-Ai – pronounced Zhen-Ai, (True Love). And of course, the loves scene in the movie was total fiction, Gladys Aylward in fact had never kissed a man in her life, and she did not go back to join her lover as portrayed at the end of the film but worked with orphan children until her retirement at 60 years of age.

The film was shot in Snowdonia, North Wales – most of the children in the film were ethnic Chinese children from Liverpool, home to one of the oldest Chinese communities in Europe.


Ingrid Bergman – Gladys Aylward

Curd Jurgens – Capt. Lin Nan

Robert Donat – The Mandarin of Yang Cheng

Michael David – Hok-A

Athene Seyler – Jeannie Lawson

Moultrie Kelsall – Dr Robinson

For me, none of the above will distract from the message of the film. In one scene, where Gladys is helping Jeannie Lawson hang the sign outside the inn, Gladys told Jeannie that Hok-A had told her that there were only 5 happiness, what is the 6th happiness? Lawson answers that you have to find that out for yourself.

Later in the film when all the dignitaries meet for the last time the Mandarin of Yang Cheng, tells them that there is one among them that took their troubles upon herself, he was singing the praises of Gladys, who had clearly made an impression on him. She answered with all humility that all the beauty that she now saw around her – was lost to her until she came to China. Life for her began on coming to China.

Yes, there is joy and beauty in the coming of the sunshine and the renewal that we call spring, but this only happens because, like Gladys, change was made from within. Her life had changed forever when she reached China, she was rewarded in her work, making a difference gives understanding to her life. We see it all the time, pride in our work brings its own rewards.

Happiness within brings us joy from without. And that was the message of the film for me.

If we are content and happy with our lot, the world will always be a brighter place, and the flowers even more colourful, I truly believe that.

Marketing and advertising are all about selling you a better lifestyle, that expensive perfume will get that handsome man falling into your arms. The girl undressing before stepping naked into her car, tells you that this car is all you need. During lockdown we all became a little depressed, so we went onto the internet and bought ourselves happiness in the form of goods. How much happiness did they really bring us when the package was opened? Very little I suspect.

Happiness starts inside us, and why good affordable housing, a job that pays the bills and leaves us a little to save for that special day, “Hatches, Matches and Dispatches”, (births, weddings and funerals) that gives us control over our lives, and a happier, more content people will means a more content community, and everything in Scotland will be that much more beautiful.

The Dila Lama, tells us “Happiness is not a gift, you must worked at it”.

Let’s work at it, to make the world a better place for all.

“Bairns not Bombs”.

This morning the post delivered a magazine and on the front page, emblazon in big letter was the message,


This was alongside “Mwatana for Human Rights”, a grassroots organisation working in Yemen.

“Bairns not Bombs”

Stay safe

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