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A Chinese Ghost Story
Directed by Ching Siu-tung
Produced by Tsui Hark
Written by Pu Songling (novel)
Yun Kai-chi
Starring Leslie Cheung
Joey Wong
Wu Ma
Music by Romeo Díaz
James Wong
Editing by David Wu
Distributed by Hong Kong Legends
Release date(s) March 23, 1987 (1987-03-23)
Running time 98 min.
Country Hong Kong
Language Cantonese
Budget $5,600,000 (estimated)
Followed by A Chinese Ghost Story II

A Chinese Ghost Story (Chinese: 倩女幽魂pinyin: Qiànnǚ YōuhúnWade-Giles: Ch'ien-nü Yu-hun; Jyutping: Sin6neoi5 Jau1wan4; literal meaning: "The Ethereal Spirit of a Beauty") is a 1987 Hong Kong romantic comedy-horror film starring Leslie Cheung, Joey Wong, and Wu Ma, directed by Ching Siu-tung, and produced by Tsui Hark.



Ning Caichen is a timid tax collector whose job requires him to travel to rural areas. He arrives at a town but is forced to seek shelter in a deserted temple in the forest on the outskirts as the inns are fully occupied. That night in the temple, Ning meets a beautiful and alluring young maiden called Nie Xiaoqian and falls in love with her. However, when he later recalls last night's events the next day, he becomes increasingly fearful and superstitious. That night, he returns to the temple to spend his night there and confirms his theory that Nie is actually a spirit.

Nie tells him her story of how she became eternally bound to the servitude of a sinister Tree Demon. She explains that as long as her remains are buried at the foot of the tree, her spirit will be forever bound to the Tree Demon. Ning attempts to free her from her suffering. He seeks the help of a powerful Taoist priest and master swordsman called Yan Chixia, whom he met earlier. Yan battles the Tree Demon and attempts to free Nie's soul but fails. Nie's soul is taken to the Underworld for betraying her master.

Ning is unwilling to give up on Nie and insists that Yan helps him. Yan manages to open a temporary portal to the Underworld. Ning and Yan enter the Underworld and attempt to free Nie's soul from suffering once more. They are unable to find her in the midst of thousands of other spirits. Eventually, Ning and Nie are able to see each other briefly near dawn when sunlight shines on the urn containing Nie's cremated remains. Nie tells Ning that the only way to save her soul is to place her remains to rest at another more auspicious burial site before she returns to the darkness. Ning follows her instructions and with Yan's advice, Ning buries Nie's remains near the crest of a hill. He burns a joss stick for her and prays for her soul while Yan watches solemnly behind him.



The story was loosely based on a short story (聂小倩) in the Qing Dynasty literature Strange Stories from a Chinese Studio from writer Pu Songling. The film was immensely popular in Hong Kong and several Asian countries, including South Korea and Japan when released. Most notably it boosted the stardom of Joey Wong, won Leslie Cheung huge popularity in Japan, and sparked a trend of folklore ghost films in the HK film industry. The film grossed $18,831,638 HKD in Hong Kong.[1]

Sequels and adaptations

Name Type
A Chinese Ghost Story II Sequel
A Chinese Ghost Story III Sequel
A Chinese Ghost Story: The Tsui Hark Animation Chinese animation
Eternity: A Chinese Ghost Story TV Series from China/Taiwan


  • The ghost, Nie, plays a qin and she breaks a string (a common metaphor for a troubled heart or being surprised) when Ning steps into the pavilion.
  • The string breaking is symbolic of the parting of ways, and could represent an absolute separation. The Cantonese Chinese expression for this is "tyun yun" (團圓) and it could be directly translated as "breaking fate". She is a ghost and he is a mortal and that fate that had briefly brought them together had at that point broken. They could have never have been together anyway and they had to part so as to preserve the natural order of things.
  • A decade later, in 1997, an animation based of this movie was made called Chinese Ghost Story Xiao Qian, the story is a bit modified than the original source, in the animated version it focus on lighthearted slapstick comedy.


7th Hong Kong Film Awards

  • Won: Best Art Direction (Chung Man Yee)
  • Won: Best Original Film Score (Lok Man Tai, James Wong)
  • Won: Best Original Film Song (James Wong, Sally Yeh)
  • Nominated: Best Action Choreography (Ching Siu-tung, Jui Kwok, Lau Chi-Ho, Tsui Chung-shun, Wu Chi-lung)
  • Nominated: Best Actress (Joey Wang)
  • Nomianted: Best Cinematography (Hang-Sang Poon Ka Ko Lee Moon-Tong Lau Wing-Hung Wong)
  • Nominated: Best Director (Ching Siu-tung)
  • Nominated: Best Film Editing
  • Nominated: Best Original Film Song (James Wong, Leslie Cheung)
  • Nominated: Best Original Film Song (James Wong)
  • Nominated: Best Picture (Tsui Hark)
  • Nominated: Best Supporting Actor (Wu Ma)


  1. ^ HKmdb. "HKmdb." Box Office Numbers. Retrieved on 2007-01-23.

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