Member of the Sixth Generation of Chinese cinema who directed the films Beijing Bicycle, Drifters, and Shanghai Dreams.
He was born in Shanghai but spent his first 13 years in Guiyang as a result of upheaval during the Cultural Revolution.
He released his 1996 film Frozen under the pseudonym Wu Ming, meaning "No Name" in Chinese, because of restrictions against making independent films in China.
His family moved to Wuhan in 1979.
He and Still Life director Jia Zhangke were both graduates of the Beijing Film Academy.