Xiu Xiu: The Sent Down Girl

Xiu Xiu: The Sent Down Girl (Chinese: 天浴; pinyin: Tiān Yù) is a 1998 Chinese drama film directed by Joan Chen in her directorial debut, who co-wrote the screenplay with Geling Yan. Based on Yan's 1981 short story "Celestial Bath", the film is set in the 1970s in the during the Cultural Revolution's Down to the Countryside Movement in People's Republic of China.[2] The film stars Li Xiaolu as the titular character, with Lopsang also starring.

Xiu Xiu: The Sent Down Girl
Xiu Xiu.jpg
Theatrical release poster
MandarinTiān Yù
Directed byJoan Chen
Produced by
  • Alice Chen
  • Joan Chen
Screenplay by
Based on"Celestial Bath"
by Geling Yan
Music byJohnny Chen
CinematographyLü Yue
Edited byRuby Yang
Release date
  • February 19, 1998 (1998-02-19) (Berlinale)
Running time
99 minutes
Box office$1 million[1]


Xiu Xiu (Chinese: 秀秀), a 15-year-old girl living in the city of Chengdu, moves out to study horses in the countryside with a nomadic Tibetan. She is told that after six months, she will return to take charge of her all-girl cavalry unit. Her only friend is the eunuch horseman Lao Jin, who takes care of her while teaching her to herd horses. But after the six months are up, she quickly discovers that she is not returning.

As Xiu Xiu loses hope, she falls for the lies of a peddler who tells her he can get her out of the place, but does not return after having sex with her. Her innocence is slowly corrupted by a stream of men who use her only for sex, barely keeping up the conceit by telling her that they are able to get her back to her hometown. Lao Jin, emasculated and docile, can only watch in sadness as Xiu Xiu loses hope in the system and in herself. She starts to believe the lies the men perfunctorily tell her, as she spitefully lectures Lao Jin that the men who come in the night and have their way with her are important men who can help her get back.

Xiu Xiu gets pregnant and goes for a traumatic abortion in the hospital. The female doctors gossip about her. After the operation, she is raped by one of the patients, a man who shot himself in the foot to get disability benefits in the state-controlled economy. Lao Jin gets angry and assaults the rapist, but is restrained by the other patients while the doctors make snide remarks about how Xiu Xiu enjoys being raped.

After Xiu recuperates, she tries to shoot herself in the foot so she can get sent back home, but cannot bring herself to pull the trigger. She asks Lao Jin to shoot her foot, then changes her mind and asks him to shoot her dead instead. He does so, then shoots himself and falls on her body so they can be finally together in death.



The film was banned in China for sexual content and its negative portrayal of the Cultural Revolution. The Chinese government claims to have approved the script and states it was banned only after the filmmakers decided not to wait for permits before shooting in Tibet.[3] [4]

Awards and nominationsEdit

Golden Horse Awards
  • 1998: won for Best Film (Joan Chen)
  • 1998: won for Best Director (Joan Chen)
  • 1998: won for Best Screenplay Adapted from Another Medium (Joan Chen)
  • 1998: won for Best Actress (Li Xiaolu)
  • 1998: won for Best Actor (LupSang)
48th Berlin International Film Festival
Fort Lauderdale International Film Festival
  • 1998: won the Jury Award
Paris Film Festival
  • 1999: won the Special Jury Prize
  • 1999: nominated for the Grand Prize
  • 1999: won Best Actress (Li Xiaolu)
Mons International Festival of Love Films
  • 1999: won the Grand Prize
National Board of Review
  • 1999: won the International Freedom Award
Independent Spirit Awards
  • 2000: nominated for Best First Feature Over $500,000 (Joan Chen, shared with co-producer Alice Chan Wai-Chung)


  1. ^ "Xiu Xiu: The Sent Down Girl - Box Office Mojo". Box Office Mojo (IMDb). Retrieved February 19, 2020.
  2. ^ "Wettbewerb/In Competition". Moving Pictures, Berlinale Extra. Berlin: 37. 11–22 February 1998.
  3. ^ [1]
  4. ^ <https://observer.com/1999/05/banned-in-china-joan-chens-xiu-xiu-horrifies/]
  5. ^ "Berlinale: 1998 Programme". berlinale.de. Retrieved 2012-01-23.

External linksEdit