Zhao Tao

Zhao Tao, born on 28 January 1977 in Taiyuan, Shanxi, China, is a highly regarded Chinese actress known for her exceptional talent and contributions to both Chinese and European cinema. With a career spanning over two decades, she has solidified her reputation as a versatile and accomplished actress.

Career Highlights

Zhao Tao embarked on her acting journey in 1999 and has since graced the silver screen in numerous films and shorts. However, she is perhaps best known for her collaborations with her husband, the acclaimed director Jia Zhangke. Their creative partnership has yielded remarkable works such as “Platform” (2000) and “Still Life” (2006).

One of her notable achievements came in 2011, when she starred in the Italian film “Shun Li and the Poet” directed by Andrea Segre. This role marked a significant milestone in her career as she became the first Asian actress to win a prestigious David di Donatello Award for Best Actress, an honor often referred to as the Italian Oscar.

Throughout her career, Zhao Tao has received critical acclaim and recognition for her outstanding performances. She garnered Golden Horse Award nominations for her roles in “Mountains May Depart” (2015) and “Ash Is Purest White” (2018), further establishing her as a remarkable talent in the film industry.

In 2020, her talent was acknowledged on a global scale when The New York Times ranked her #8 on its list of the 25 Greatest Actors of the 21st Century, a testament to her enduring impact on cinema.


Zhao Tao’s journey began in Taiyuan, Shanxi, where she was born on 28 January 1977. Interestingly, Taiyuan is also the hometown of the heroine in one of her most renowned films, “Still Life.” As a child, Zhao Tao dedicated herself to the study of classical Chinese dance, laying the foundation for her future artistic endeavors.

In 1996, she pursued higher education at the Beijing Dance Academy and specialized in the folk dance department. After successfully completing her studies, she returned to Taiyuan and became a dance teacher at Taiyuan Normal College. It was during this period that her extraordinary talent caught the attention of director Jia Zhangke, who discovered her during casting for “Platform” and subsequently invited her to join the world of cinema.

Since then, Zhao Tao and Jia Zhangke have enjoyed a prolific and enduring collaboration, producing a body of work celebrated both in China and internationally.

Personal Life

In a heartwarming personal chapter of her life, Zhao Tao married director Jia Zhangke on 7 January 2012, cementing their bond both professionally and personally. Their partnership has not only enriched their careers but has also contributed significantly to the world of cinema.

Poster for the movie "I Wish I Knew"

I Wish I Knew

Focuses on the people, their stories and architecture spanning from the mid-1800s, when Shanghai was opened as a trading port, to the present day.

Poster for the movie "Jia Zhangke, A Guy from Fenyang"

Jia Zhangke, A Guy from Fenyang

Chinese filmmaker Jia Zhangke returns to the shooting locations of his films, along with his actors, friends and close collaborators. Jia recalls the inspiration sources for his movies, such as Platform, Still Life and A Touch of Sin. The film is the memory of a filmmaker and of a country in convulsion, China, which reveals itself little by little.

Poster for the movie "Where Has Time Gone?"

Where Has Time Gone?

A short film omnibus featuring the work of five directors representing five countries involved in the 2017 BRICS summit, an annual international relations conference held between Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa. The collection—taking the concept of time as a unifying theme—depicts the economic, political, and social alienations and contradictions that create, compound, and structure issues as wide-ranging as poverty, class stratification, and homeless; familial distress; spousal abuse; and natural disaster.

Poster for the movie "Ash Is Purest White"

Ash Is Purest White

In 2001, in the impoverished Chinese industrial city of Datong, a young dancer named Qiao falls in love with Bin, a local mobster. During a fight between rival gangs, Qiao fires a shot to protect Bin and subsequently gets sentenced to five years in prison. Upon her release, Qiao goes looking for Bin to try and start all over again.

Poster for the movie "Mountains May Depart"

Mountains May Depart

Jia’s first feature shot outside his native China is a generations-spanning drama that unfolds in three parts, set in the 1990s, the present day and 2025, respectively.

Poster for the movie "A Touch of Sin"

A Touch of Sin

Four independent stories set in modern China about random acts of violence. Internationally acclaimed Chinese master Jia Zhangke (The World) won the Best Screenplay prize at Cannes for this startling — and startlingly violent — modern wuxia tale of four outcasts on the margins of a rapidly changing China, who channel their underclass rage into a bloody and murderous rampage.

Poster for the movie "24 City"

24 City

Chengdu nowadays. The state owned factory 420 shuts down to give way to a complex of luxury apartments called “24 CITY”. Three generations, eight characters : old workers, factory executives and yuppies, their stories melt into the History of China.

Poster for the movie "Still Life"

Still Life

An intimate and character driven piece, STILL LIFE is the story of James Masino, a gifted Filipino painter who finds out he is afflicted with a paralyzing disease known as Guillain Barre Syndrome. Faced with a future where he can no longer paint, James leaves his life in the city and goes on a self-imposed exile to paint one last time, one final masterpiece. Unable to imagine a life without his art, he plans to … Read more

Poster for the movie "The World"

The World

“The World” is a theme park on the outskirts of Beijing, sixteen kilometers from the Chinese capital, designed around scaled representations of the world’s famous landmarks such as the Eiffel Tower or the Leaning Tower of Pisa.The site is seen here not from the visitors’ point of view but through the eyes of a few of its staff, lonely people, communicating poorly, a bit disillusioned with life, glittering for the tourists but dull and restricted … Read more

Poster for the movie "Platform"


The movie is set in the remote chinese province of Fenyang, and spans the turbulent 1980s by following four performers in the state-run Peasant Culture Group. We see the group evolve from workers that are restricted to approved revolutionary classics that praise Chairman Mao, through performance of western classics, after china adopts an ‘open door’ policy, and the effects on their lives.

Poster for the movie "Unknown Pleasures"

Unknown Pleasures

Unknown Pleasures (任逍遥; Rèn xiāo yáo), directed by Jia Zhangke in 2002, is a compelling portrayal of the lives of disaffected youth in contemporary China. Starring Wu Qiong, Zhao Weiwei, and Zhao Tao, the film delves into the existential crises of a new generation in the industrial city of Datong, Shanxi province.