Movie Review: A Chinese Ghost Story《倩女幽魂》2011

A Chinese Ghost Story (倩女幽魂) 2011 movie poster
A Chinese Ghost Story (倩女幽魂) 2011 movie poster

Most of my peers will remember the original Tsui Hark’s A Chinese Ghost Story《倩女幽魂》trilogy in the 1980s. The movies made stars out of Joey Wong and  the late Leslie Cheung. It also turned the two main characters, lovely female vixen ghost, Nip Siu-sin (聶小倩) and testosterone-driven scholar, Ning Choi-san (寧采臣) into household names.

The 2011 version of A Chinese Ghost Story, alternatively known as A Chinese Fairy Tale, is directed by Wilson Yip and stars Liu Yifei as Nie Xiaoqian (聶小倩), Yu Shaoqun as Ning Caichen (寧采臣) and Louis Koo as Yan Chixia (燕赤霞).

Instead of a straight-forward love story between two star-crossed lovers, the 2011 version pairs Xiaoqian with Caichen as her new lover and Chixia as an old lover, complicating the relationship interplay between the characters.

Liu Yifei (刘亦菲) as Nie Xiaoqian (聶小倩)
Liu Yifei (刘亦菲) as Nie Xiaoqian (聶小倩)

In an interview, director Wilson Yip stressed that his movie is not a remake: “A Chinese Ghost Story is not a remake movie.  I have just selected one of the famous ‘Ghost Story’ to play out in a feature film that is filled with oriental fantasy.  I make a romantic love story not a ghost story.”

I find this a smart approach.

When the original trilogy is so successful and iconic, no matter how good the 2011 version might be, no one will admit it is better than the original even if it is really so. Hence it is best to avoid comparison from the start.

Rachel and I caught the movie at the gala premiere last week, thanks to the folks from Encore Films.

We had both watched the original and were initially a little sceptical about the 2011 version. Nonetheless, both of us enjoyed the movie very much. Rachel was even moved to tears at the ending scene.

Other than the same character names and similar looking, but updated sets, the storyline is quite different from the original, focusing more on the love stories between the characters.

Liu Yifei looks stunningly beautiful as Xiaoqian and brings a youthful vibrancy to the character. Yu Shaoqun played a perfect wimp, sharply contrasting Louis Koo’s strong alpha-male character. Who would audience prefer to win Xiaoqian’s heart? Rachel and I rooted for the latter.

The movie is now showing in Singapore cinemas. For those who have seen the original, do catch it to revisit the classic. For those too young to have seen the original, the storyline is good enough to watch on its own too. 🙂



The story takes place in an ancient mountain village.  There were spirits and tree monsters living on Black Mountain and these demons were always engaged in slaughter and bloodshed.  The villagers all fear to enter the mountain and the Lan Ruo temple within the mountain.

When Yan Chi Xia was still young, he chose Black Mountain to practice and realize his dreams of becoming a good Demon Hunter.  He experienced many dangerous battles with demons in Black Mountain.  His sword became more fearful, and he gets more powerful and confident as he overcomes all the spirits and monsters until the day he met her and their sad story begins.

Many years later, when the river at the base of Black Mountain dried up, the villagers made the decision to search for a water source on the mountain.  Humans, ancient spirits and tree monsters enter into conflict.  From there, another romantic legend emerges …




Movie Background:

The original tale, written by 17th century Chinese author Pu Song Ling, is a love story between Ning Cai Chen and a beautiful spirit named Nie Xiao Qian.  The story has been adapted to the silver screen many times before, from 1960’s “The Enchanting Shadow” directed by Li Han Hsiang.  The most well-known version to date being the Tsui Hark’s production in 1987, 1990 and 1991, known as “A Chinese Ghost Story I, II,and III”.

But China’s hottest director today, Wilson Yip (Ip Man 1 & 2) is taking a whole new approach from films of the past.  Starring Louis Koo and Liu Yifei, and at a budget of US$20 million, this picture is one of the most exciting martial arts fantasy films ready for release at end April 2011.

本電影根據清代蒲松齡原著《聊齋誌異》之《聶小倩》重新改編,故事中聶小倩及寧采臣一段人鬼殊途之戀動人心魄,實屬是經典之作。《倩女幽魂》亦多次搬上大銀幕,先有1960年由李翰祥導演執導的<<倩女幽魂>>,後再有由著名導演徐克製作的<<倩女幽魂I, II, III>>。


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One thought on “Movie Review: A Chinese Ghost Story《倩女幽魂》2011”

  1. I loved it as well. I agree it’s totally different from the original and I like that ! I wish it had a better reception though. Louis Koo and Liu Yifei are my favorite actors/actresses and I loved the love story between them.

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