Painted Skin (2008 film)

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Painted Skin
Painted Skin poster.jpg
Directed by Gordon Chan
Produced by Gordon Chan
Screenplay by Gordan Chan
Abe Kwong
Lau Ho Leung
Story by Pu Songling
Starring Donnie Yen
Zhou Xun
Zhao Wei
Betty Sun
Chen Kun
Music by Ikuro Fujiwara
Cinematography Arthur Wong
Editing by Chan Ki-hop
Studio Golden Sun Film Co., Ltd.
Golden Sun Films Holdings Ltd.
MediaCorp Raintree Pictures
Shanghai Film Group
Ning Xia Film Studio
Dinglongda (Beijing) International Culture Media Co., Ltd.
Eastern Mordor Film Co., Ltd.
Wuhan Huaqi Movies & TV Production Co., Ltd.
Beijing New Film Association Co., Ltd.
Distributed by Eastern Mordor
Intercontinental Film Distributors (Hong Kong)
Beijing Time (China)
Release dates
  • 25 September 2008 (2008-09-25) (Hong Kong)
  • 26 September 2008 (2008-09-26) (China)
Running time 115 minutes
Country Hong Kong
Language Mandarin

Painted Skin is a 2008 supernatural-fantasy film directed by Gordon Chan, starring Donnie Yen, Chen Kun, Zhou Xun, Zhao Wei, Betty Sun and Qi Yuwu.[1] Although the film is based partly on a supernatural premise, it is more of an action-romance than a horror film. Painted Skin is based, very loosely, on one of Pu Songling's classic short stories in Strange Stories from a Chinese Studio. The theme song of the film, Huà Xīn (畫心; Painted Heart), was performed by Jane Zhang.


The film is set sometime in between the late Qin Dynasty and early Han Dynasty. Xiaowei is a fox spirit who feasts on human hearts in order to maintain her lovely, youthful appearance. When General Wang Sheng rescues her from a band of Xiongnu and brings her home, trouble brews as the demon falls in love with the general, who is married to Peirong.

Another older love triangle is present, between Pang Yong, Wang Sheng and Peirong. Pang Yong is a former general who was in love with Peirong, but eventually lost her to Wang Sheng. Peirong asks Pang Yong for help as she suspects Xiao Wei for what she really is. Pang is aided by an inexperienced "demon hunter", a young female fighter called Xia Bing. Hints of a developing relationship between Xia and Pang are there, although this is never fully explored. Another subplot revolves around Xiaowei's demon ally, Xiaoyi, who is actually morphed from a chameleon, and who also has unreciprocated feelings for Xiaowei and helps her obtain all the human hearts she needs to maintain her human "skin", who many a time almost got caught by Wang's soldiers, thus enraging Xiaowei into chasing him off despite his pleas and advice that a love between demon and human is impossible and to let him stay by her side.

One night, Peirong finds out about Xiaowei's true self and form when she undresses and peels off her human skin right in front of her. Horrified at her findings, she tries again and again to tell Wang of Xiaowei's true nature, but he brushes them off as being tired and tells her to rest more. Peirong goes back to Xiaowei's residence and confronts her. Xiao Wei tells Peirong that she wants to be Madam Wang, and tells her to back down. Peirong makes Xiaowei swear that she won't feast on another human's heart in order to be youthful and love Wang Sheng faithfully until they are aged. Xiaowei agrees and forces Peirong to drink a potion which would make her the 'demon' while she becomes Madam Wang. After drinking the potion, Peirong's hair and skin turned white like Xiaowei's true form and in order to keep her promise, she runs away from Wang residence while everyone thinks she is the demon. Pang Yong comes and rescues Peirong just as she is about to die and together with Xia Bing, they run off to a nearby mountain's cave and hide there.

Xia Bing recounts her grandfather's experience that the color white is the most fatal form of demon's poison, and the whiter Peirong becomes, the closer she is to death. Wang Sheng arrives with his soldiers and Xiaowei with her maidservants, who all want to kill Peirong. Wang Sheng shouts to his soldiers that he will kill her himself if she really is the demon. Tearfully, Wang Sheng asks Peirong if she really killed humans and if she really is the demon, all of which she answers yes tearfully. Wang Sheng announces that even if she is a demon, she is his Peirong, and she is still his wife. Smiling, Peirong impales herself with a dagger Wang Sheng was holding and dies in his embrace. Xiaowei tries to gain Wang Sheng's affection by getting closer to him, but he only cries sadly while holding on to Peirong's body. At that moment, Xiaowei realizes that no matter what she does, Wang Sheng will never truly love her in return.

Heartbroken, Pang Yong shouted to the entire troupe that Xiao Wei is the real demon, not Peirong, and he proves it by trying to slash Xiaowei but cannot since Xiaowei's body is as hard as steel. Pang Yong almost is defeated when Wang Sheng comes towards Xiao Wei. He kneels down in front of her and tearfully begs her to bring Peirong back to life. Xiaowei, heartbroken, asks Wang Sheng what would she get if she returns her to life, and Wang Sheng tells her that he loves Xiaowei, but he already has Peirong, and kills himself. Xiaowei screams her heart out and her skin whitens to her demon form but her hair still remains black. Xiaowei willingly gives Wang Sheng her vast magical strength and energy in the form of a small sphere, but before she can restore Wang Sheng to life, her demon ally the chameleon comes and snatches it from her, reprimanding her for her willingness to sacrifice her power which she had cultivated for thousands of years. He swallows it and tells her that he is going to take her back home.

Pang Yong and Xia Bing fight the chameleon, and at last, Xia Bing draws out a demon slaying sword and kills the chameleon, but not before the chameleon kills Pang Yong. Xiaowei tearfully gathers two of the glowing power spheres, one hers while the other the chameleon's. She crushes it and Peirong and Wang Sheng come back to life. Everyone in the cave who had died are brought back to life as well, including Pang Yong.

In the ending credits, Xiaowei is shown manifested in her white fox form without any special abilities, having given up her cultivated abilities from thousands of years to return Peirong and Wang Sheng to life.


Awards and nominations[edit]

3rd Asian Film Awards

  • Nominated: Best Actress(Zhao Wei)
  • Nominated: Best Production Design

10th Changchun Film Festival

  • Won: Best Film Score (Fujiwara Ikuro)

27th Golden Rooster Awards

28th Hong Kong Film Awards

  • Won: Best Cinematography (Arthur Wong)
  • Won: Best Original Film Song (Fujiwara Ikuro, Keith Chan, Jane Zhang)
  • Nominated: Best Film
  • Nominated: Best Screenplay (Gordon Chan, Lau Ho-Leung & Kwong Man-Wai)
  • Nominated: Best Actress (Zhou Xun)
  • Nominated: Best Supporting Actress (Betty Sun)
  • Nominated: Best Art Direction (Bill Lui & Liu Jingping)
  • Nominated: Best Costume Makeup Design (Ng Po-Ling)
  • Nominated: Best Action Choreography (Stephen Tung)
  • Nominated: Best Original Film Score (Fujiwara Ikuro)
  • Nominated: Best Sound Editing (Kinson Tsang & Lai Chi-Hung)
  • Nominated: Best Visual Effects (Ng Yuen-Fai, Chas Chau & Tam Kai-Kwan)

30th Hundred Flowers Awards

16th Spring Swallow Awards

  • Won: Best Actress in a Motion Picture(Zhao Wei)

2nd Vietnam DAN Movie Awards

  • Won: Favorite Chinese Actress(Zhao Wei)


When announced Wilson Yip was supposedly the director in helm of the project. With Fan Bingbing reportedly starring as the female lead as well. But several months later the director's seat was changed from Yip to Gordon Chan instead. Also with Zhou Xun signing on as the female lead instead.


In 2011, Gordon Chan announced that a sequel, Painted Skin 2, will be produced. There are news that Chen Kun, Zhou Xun, and Zhao Wei will be returning for the sequel except for Donnie Yen. Other actors such as Yang Mi, Feng Shaofeng and Gordon Liu have joined the cast. Liu is scheduled to play the father of Chen's character, while Yang and Feng will be playing a pair of lovers. Chan chose Yang and Feng for the roles due to their popularity in the 2011 television series Palace.

Painted Skin: The Resurrection (a.k.a. Painted Skin II) was released in 2012.

Television series[edit]

In March 2011, a Chinese television series also titled Painted Skin, which is based on the film, was aired on TVS4 in mainland China. Gordon Chan and the producers of the film Painted Skin were also involved in the production of this television series, which has a revised script and new cast members.


External links[edit]