Ash Is Purest White

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Ash Is Purest White
Ash Is Purest White.jpg
Chinese theatrical release poster
Mandarinjiānghú érnǚ
LiterallySons and Daughters of Jianghu
Directed byJia Zhangke
Written byJia Zhangke
StarringZhao Tao
Liao Fan
Release date
  • 11 May 2018 (2018-05-11) (Cannes)
  • 21 September 2018 (2018-09-21) (China)
Running time
136 minutes
Box office$12 million[1][2]

Ash Is Purest White (Chinese: 江湖儿女; 'Sons and Daughters of Jianghu'[3]) is a 2018 Chinese drama film directed by Jia Zhangke.[4] It was selected to compete for the Palme d'Or at the 2018 Cannes Film Festival.[5][6][7] The story is loosely based on the leader of a gang from Zhangke's childhood, whom he had admired as a role model.[3]


Qiao is the girlfriend of a mob boss named Bin. Together they have a lot of power in Datong, an old mining city that has become poor since the price of coal dropped. After Bin's boss is murdered, Qiao suggests that they run away from everything and get married, but Bin isn't interested. One night a group of motorcycles overtakes their car, and the riders begin attacking the driver and Bin. At first Bin fights them off, but there are too many, and they begin to beat him, claiming their intention to "dethrone" him. Qiao grabs Bin's handgun from the back of the car and fires two warning shots into the air, scaring off the attackers.

The police tell Qiao that the gun is illegally owned, and asks her whose it is, but she repeatedly claims that it's hers. She spends five years in prison for possessing an illegal firearm, and Bin does not visit her during that time. After she is released, she tries to call him, but can never seem to get in touch. She travels by boat to the city in Hubei province where he's living, and she is instead greeted by his new girlfriend—Bin hides in another room. Qiao says that if he wants to break up with her, he'll have to tell her himself. She has almost no money to her name, and she schemes ways to con a few strangers for money and food. She hires a motorcycle driver to take her to the power plant where she thinks that Bin works, and along the way the driver suggests that they have sex. She uses this opportunity to steal his bike, and when she gets to the power plant she reports to a police officer that the driver tried to rape her and that he should call her boyfriend Bin. This finally forces Bin to see her.

They rent out a hotel room to talk out their problems. Bin says that he's a changed man, no longer a "jianghu" gangster, and he has no place in his life for Qiao anymore. He can never go back to Datong because he has lost all respect that he once had there. Qiao says that she saved his life and took the blame for him: he should have been waiting for her the day she got out of prison. Since he refuses to say it, she finally says that their relationship is over, and he leaves. On a train back to Datong, she meets an interesting passenger who claims to be developing a UFO hunting tourism company, and he invites her to join him. But after they transfer onto another train, he admits that it had all been a lie: he actually runs a convenience store. She gets off the train while he's sleeping, sees a bright object fly overhead, and makes her way back to Datong.

A few years later she gets a call from Bin, and when she picks him up, she finds him in a wheelchair, unable to walk. She brings him back to their old gambling parlor where she now works and many of his old friends are happy to see him. He is closed-off and hot-tempered, immediately starting fights and Qiao nearly throws him out. He tells her that he had a stroke from drinking too much and she finds a doctor to help rehabilitate him. When he can walk again, he sneaks out of Qiao's building with just a brief voicemail to say he has left. Qiao goes to the front door when she learns he has gone but she does not see him.


Cast and director at the 2018 Cannes Film Festival.


On review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds an approval rating of 99% based on 140 reviews, with an average rating of 8.15/10. The website's critical consensus reads, "Ash Is Purest White finds writer-director Zhangke Jia revisiting familiar themes while continuing to observe modern Chinese society with an urgent, empathetic eye."[8] On Metacritic, the film has an average weighted score of 85 out of 100, based on 33 critics, indicating "universal acclaim".[9] A. A. Dowd of The A.V. Club gave the film a B+.[10] The theme of self-sacrifice, rather than revenge, has been highlighted, with the context of the development of China.


Award Date of Ceremony Category Recipient(s) Result Ref(s)
Asia Pacific Screen Awards 29 November 2018 Best Performance by Actress Zhao Tao Winner [11]


  1. ^ "Ash Is Purest White (2018)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 23 July 2019.
  2. ^ "Ash Is Purest White (2018)". The Numbers. Retrieved 23 July 2019.
  3. ^ a b Zhangke, Jia. "Filmmaker Letter: Ash Is Purest White". Landmark Theatres. Retrieved 1 November 2019.
  4. ^ "Ash is Purest White". Mubi. Retrieved 13 April 2018.
  5. ^ "The 2018 Official Selection". Cannes Film Festival. 12 April 2018. Retrieved 12 April 2018.
  6. ^ Debruge, Peter; Keslassy, Elsa (12 April 2018). "Cannes Lineup Includes New Films From Spike Lee, Jean-Luc Godard". Variety. Penske Business Media. Retrieved 12 April 2018.
  7. ^ Frater, Patrick (18 September 2018). "Feng Xiaogang Cut From 'Ash Is Purest White' as Fan Bingbing Scandal Spreads". Retrieved 18 September 2018.
  8. ^ "Ash is Purest White (2018)". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango Media. Retrieved 16 August 2019.
  9. ^ "Ash Is Purest White (2019)". Metacritic. CBS Interactive. Retrieved 16 August 2019.
  10. ^ Dowd, A. A. (14 March 2019). "With Ash Is Purest White, One of the world's Greatest Filmmakers Cuts Together His Greatest Hits". The A.V. Club. Retrieved 14 March 2019.
  11. ^ "Asia Pacific Screen Awards - Winner". Asia Pacific Screen Awards. Retrieved 5 December 2018.

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