- Made his directorial debut in 1987 with the award-winning war drama Red Sorghum.
- His female-empowerment tales Ju Dou (1990) and Raise the Red Lantern (1991) were temporarily banned in China, until he agreed to direct the Communist Party-approved The Story of Qiu Ju (1992).
- Several of his movies have been nominated for Best Foreign Language Film Oscars, including Ju Dou, Lantern and Hero (2002).
- Became the first Chinese director of an Italian opera in 1997, when he oversaw a production of Turandot at Florence's Teatro Comunale.
- Chosen by the Chinese government to direct the opening and closing ceremonies of the 2008 Olympics in Beijing.
- 1993, BAFTA Film Awards — Best Film not in the English Language: Winner
- 1993, Independent Spirit Awards — Best Foreign Film: Nominee
- 2001, Sundance Film Festival — Audience Award: World Cinema: Winner
- 2000, Berlin Film Festival — Jury Grand Prix - Silver Bear: Winner
- 2005, BAFTA Film Awards — Best Film not in the English Language: Nominee
- 1992, Venice Film Festival — Best Film: Winner
- 2003, Berlin Film Festival — Alfred Bauer Prize: Winner
- 1991, Venice Film Festival — Best Direction: Winner
- 1999, Venice Film Festival — Best Film: Winner
- 1994, Cannes Film Festival — French National Education Administration Prize: Winner
- 1994, Independent Spirit Awards — Best Foreign Film: Nominee
- 1988, Berlin Film Festival — Golden Bear: Winner
- Hua Xiao — Ex-wife
- Ting Chen — Wife
- Li Gong — Ex-significant Other
- Beijing Film Academy, Beijing, China (1982)
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