Home > Movies, Previews & Trailers > Painted Skin, source and summary

Painted Skin, source and summary

Tuesday, September 16, 2008 Leave a comment Go to comments

irugnotmis posted the trailer, which got me thinking that I’d seen the premise somewhere, and voila!

Cast (so far confirmed):

Vicki Zhao – as 佩容/Pei Rong
Donnie Yen
Zhou Xun – as 小唯/Xiao Wei
Sun Li
Chen Kun

Genre: Fantasy/Action

Release date: September 28, 2008 (in China)

Approximate budget: $10 million (USD, which is modest for a fantasy movie these days).

What the movie is about:

In the time between Qin and Han dynasties (oh man, the succession got messy), a regional warlord, Wang Sheng marshalled his troops to fight off invaders from the West, and incidentally rescued a stunning beauty called Xiao Wei (little Wei). He brings her home. Of course, he doesn’t know that Xiao Wei is a fox demoness whose strength and beauty come from her covering of human skin.

Unfortunately for the residents of the city, Xiao Wei’s painted skin requires constant upkeep with human hearts. These hearts are procured for her by a desert lizard demon, Xiao Yi, who is in love with her (isn’t everyone?). Gradually Xiao Wei falls in love with the dashing, gallant and handsome Wang Sheng, and wants to replace Pei Rong as his proper wife.

It doesn’t seem like Wang Sheng returns Xiao Wei’s feelings (though he does succumb to her seduction). Pei Rong senses something wrong with this unusual houseguest and seeks help from Long Yong, a martial arts expert, and Xia Bing, an expert shaman exorcist.

The conflict between demons and humans begin, with Wang Sheng caught in the middle, by two women who love him…

Basically the movie ends when everyone dies, or when all emotions have been scrambled beyond possible recognition, or, you know. Both.

What the actual folktale, passed down from the centuries, says:

The folktale actually comes from a book on strange phenomena called ‘Strange Tales’ (original titling ftw). Meaning, there are many more stories where this came from, and if this movie does well we will be deluged with fantasy/horror action films for many more years to come.

(I read this thing in ancient Chinese form, so aside from the headache, I may have missed something. Yay for grade 3 Chinese! And now, for a translation…)

Wang Sheng, of the town of Taiyuan, voyaged from home and met a girl-child of only 17 summers staggering alone along the road. He rushed up to help her, and was stunned by her beauty at close quarters. He asked her, “Why do you walk alone in the darkness before dawn?” The girl replied, “You are only another travellor, why should you concern yourself with the affairs of others?”

Wang Sheng asked, “What plagues you? Perhaps I can be of use.” The girl deliberated for a moment before telling him, “My parents were greedy for wealth, and have sold me to a rich man as a concubine. Alas, his wife is jealous of me, and takes great pleasure in making my life miserable. I could not find in myself to stay.”

He knew that the girl did not have a refuge and so invited her into his own home. She was delighted, but made him swear an oath to not reveal her presence to anyone, for, she said, it would be better for all concerned if she were to disappear from human reckoning. Wang Sheng agreed, and gave her lodgings in his library room.

One day in the market, Wang Sheng encountered a daoist master who sensed that evil auras were entwined about the man. He explained about the plight of the girl, despite all cautions from the daoist master. The old man turned away in disappointment, for here was a man lost in his own desires and sees not the coming signs of death.

However, this chance encounter raised doubts within Wang Sheng’s mind, so that when he returned home, he gazed upon the girl in secret. Thus he saw the true visage of the demoness, blue-skinned and a mouth full of fangs. She had laid a piece of human skin against a table and was assiduously painting on the surface. When she deemed her work done, she shook the skin much as one does with a garment, and put it on.

Wang Sheng watched the transformation from demoness to ravishing beauty with great panic. He rushed out to seek the daoist master and begged him to save him from the results of his own folly. The daoist master felt pity in his heart for the demoness and decided only to lend his daoist brush to Wang Sheng.

Brush in hand, Wang Sheng hurried home and hung it over the entrance to his own rooms, as a warning to the demoness to depart. However, he woke in the middle of the night to the sound of knashing teeth and asked his wife to see (as he himself was too craven to go). She found the demoness outside. The demoness overcame her fear of the daoist master, and with one leap, tore the brush from its place and smashed it.

The wife of Wang Sheng rushed back into their room, but his heart had already been taken from his chest and the still corpse lay bleeding. At dawn, his wife called on her brother-in-law, Wang Er Lang, to seek the daoist master, who was greatly enraged that the demoness dared to perform such an act when he had been merciful. With quick steps they arrived at Wang Sheng’s home.

The demoness had fled to the neighbouring home, disguised as a crone in need of work. Wang Er Lang’s wife, not aware of the dangers, had accepted the old woman as a servant in the kitchens. When the old woman heard the two approach, her face blanched and she attempted to run away. However, the wooden sword of the daoist master caught her full on the neck, and thus beheaded, it dissolved into a foul miasmic fog. Deliberately the daoist master set a gourd on the ground, and with a sucking noise the miasma vanished. Then the daoist master rolled up the painted skin, with a sound of parchment, and departed.

Mistress Chen, the wife of the unfortunate Wang Sheng, knelt at the entrance and begged the daoist master for a way to return her husband to death. The old man shook his head and denied that he held such powers, though he suggested that she seek a beggar in the market streets. He advised her to ignore the filth of his surroundings and do ask the beggar requested, for he was greater in power than many masters and chose only to hide where he would not be noticed.

When the beggar heard the story of Mistress Chen, he mocked her for wanting to revive this husband when her beauty would allow her to have any other. Suddenly angered by her persistence, he beat her with a walking stick. Soon after, he made her swallow a handful of spit and phlegm in front of a now-curious crowd. She looked on in disgust, but remembered the words of the daoist sage, and obeyed the beggar. It entered her throat with a curiously tight sensation, and lodged in her chest.

The beggar laughed uproariously and walked away. Mistress Chen thought to follow him, but came upon an empty temple. Returning home in despair, she thought of nothing but her own death, and resolved to die with her husband as soon as she had cleaned his corpse.

As she rearranged the inner organs, Mistress Chen began weeping again, mourning for her departed husband. She looked heavenwise and wished for her own death, but only felt the lump in her chest suddenly jump out of her mouth. She could not avert her head in time, and spat into her husband’s body.

Mistress Chen realized with shock that it was in fact a human heart in his chest, and as she looked on, it began to beat. Thing strands of smoke were spiralling up from his abdomen, and she held her husband’s torn body together. When she released it, the wound slowly closed by itself. She wrapped the body in blankets and placed it upon the bed.

At dawn, Wang Sheng was alive. He only remembered what had transpired in his dreams, even as his abdomen was quickly healing.

Cue fangirling reactions:

ZOMM. ZHOU XUN. I love that girl. She is super awesome (despite the rather crucial handcap of a flexible voice). Also, the demoness role should be interesting after she’s done smart martial arts girl, innocent victim and ambitious actress.

Also, Zhao Wei – I don’t love her singing, but this is considered her comeback movie and the HZGG fan in me is chomping at the bit.

The action/supernatural bits are just huge pluses, though there is a purported love scene. (Yerrrk.)

And some extras:

Um, because I am in love with Jane Zhang’s amazing, beautiful voice (I can’t believe they didn’t give her an individual song for the Beijing Olympics. Since you’re going to spend tons of money, why not actually make the songs sound good?), this is one of the theme songs for the movie:

And a bts for the two leads. V. funny, though you have to understand Chinese.



  1. ...
    Wednesday, September 17, 2008 at 5:37 am

    thanks for the post!

  2. blackberrie
    Saturday, September 27, 2008 at 8:59 am

    i think that you wrong put Donnie Yen is Wang Sheng. I watched the movie yesterday and Donnie Yen played Brother Yong in Painted Skin. Thank you.

  3. sevenses
    Saturday, September 27, 2008 at 9:07 am

    That’s entirely possible, as the information I have is pre-release. 😀 Thanks for letting me know!

    Wednesday, October 15, 2008 at 7:56 am

    omgosh this movie is HORRIBLE. really!!!!
    T.T total waste of a good plot and a bunch of cool cast i tell you!

  5. sevenses
    Wednesday, October 15, 2008 at 9:07 pm

    Wow… how bad was it? (Not acting, I guess? Cinematography? OST?)

    Friday, October 17, 2008 at 7:42 am

    cinematography. i felt so sad. so SAD.

  7. cindy
    Monday, October 20, 2008 at 7:42 am

    i thought zhou xun’s and vicki’s acting was good, esp when she screamed in shock, anger, pain… the bg music too. but the storyline was too brief and not in depth enough. Oh not forgetting wang sheng fella he portrayed his grief for his dead wife very well at the end (forgot the actors name)

    pardon the rant i really like the movie cuz of their act.

  8. cindy
    Monday, October 20, 2008 at 7:43 am

    lol i think i can start a post already. and thanks Sevenses for the music 😉
    i think im goin to watch it again LOL

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  1. Saturday, November 15, 2008 at 11:31 am

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