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A Hong Kong fantasy-horror-comedy film series by Tsui Hark. The original film was released in 1987.
Ning, played by Leslie Cheung, is a timid tax collector living somewhere in Imperial China. His job requires him to travel to rural areas, and this way he arrives at a certain town, but he's broke, so he is forced to seek shelter in a deserted temple in the forest on the outskirts. That night in the temple, Ning meets a beautiful and alluring young maiden called Nie. However, when he later recalls last night's events the next day, he becomes increasingly fearful and superstitious. It turns out Nie is actually a spirit, enslaved by a Tree Demon who forces her ghosts to kill men. But Ning manages to fall in love with her in the meanwhile, and decides to free her, and to do this enlists the help of Yin, a Taoist priest and wizard and all-round badass.
There were two sequels, released respectively in 1990 and 1991. In the first of them, Ning gets into a political affair which turns out to have a supernatural background. In the second, which is set a century after the first film, two monks stumble upon the same Tree Demon to finish it once for all. There's also an 1997 Animated Adaptation of the first film, with a more kid-friendly feel. The original got a remake directed by Wilson Yip in 2011.
Definitely a series that Needs More Love.
For tropes specific to individual installments, visit their respective work pages.
- Adorkable: Leslie Cheung's character
- An Axe to Grind: there's a demon in the first film, who wields, like, four axes.
- Attack of the 50-Foot Whatever: in the second film, we get a caterpillar.
- Author Existence Failure: RIP, Leslie Cheung.
- Badass: Yin, and Hu, the warrior in the second film.
- Badass Bureaucrat: Ning, although most of the time it tends to be Badass Unintentional or Mistaken for Badass.
- Badass Preacher: Yin's a monk, and so are several other characters. Also, the chanting Buddhist monks. Well, actually you better not rub off any monks or priests in the wrong way there — if you're lucky, they'll just kick your ass and not turn out to be huge demonic caterpillar in disguise.
- Battle Cry: Altogether, guys : PAO YE PAO LO MI !!!
- Brown Note: Buddhist chanting in the second movie - actually coming from aforementioned demonic caterpillar, and treated as Hell Is That Noise.
- Can Only Move the Eyes: In the second movie, the young Kunlun priest gives Ning a special symbol that can freeze anyone and anything. Ning promptly turns it on the priest, then himself, and the very demon they were preparing to face as it's hovering over them.
"Move your eyes up-down for 'yes' and left-right for 'no'..." (Ning draws attention towards the demon) "What the hell is 'diagonal' mean?!"
- Devil but No God: While Buddhist sutras and statues hold genuine power, it's still the demons who remain dominant in all cases. The second movie even involves a Buddha manifestation that turns out to be fake.
- The Fool: Ning is practically the archetypal manifestation of this trope, given how many times his life is saved by complete random happenstance. Takes on some of the aspects of a Chew Toy at times, given that whatever is responsible for his luck doesn't seem to care about keeping him happy, just alive.
- Ghostly Goals: proper burial, but in a rather unusual spin of the trope, it's more to break the Tree Demon's hold than as a goal in itself.
- Kamehame Hadoken: Yin shoots them like a machine gun, while flying.
- Kung Fu Wizard: Yin, and at least one other character.
- Magical Foreign Words: Sanskrit is treated as this.
- One-Winged Angel: In the second film. To be honest, the first form was impressive in its own right.
- Our Ghosts Are Different: They're Chinese, eh heh heh...  They pass quite well for a human, and they're enslaved by a demon.
- Pragmatic Adaptation: From one tale in an ancient Chinese supernatural anthology, Liao Zhai.
- Prehensile Hair: Ghosts can do this.
- Reincarnation Romance: In the second film, somehow.
- Sky Surfing: on a hover-sword.
- Stuff Blowing Up: the demons just can't die without blowing up. It's like they're Made of Explodium.
- To Hell and Back
- Unfazed Everyman: Ning. Just some poor schmuck who stumbled upon a paranormal affair. Though, as it appears, he's got surprising guts when a girl's soul is at stake.
- Villainous Crossdresser: The Tree Demon is a male actor dressed as a woman. Also, it should be noted the Tree Demon speaks with male AND female voice simultaneously.
- Weirdness Magnet: Ning, so very, very, very much.
- When Trees Attack
- Wuxia: Although The Chinese Ghost Story series has more of a fantasy element than most stories in the wuxia genre.
- Yeah, I know, lame joke.