She was born in 1961 in the old film capital of China, Shanghai, to two doctors. As a child, Joan lived through the horrors of the Cultural Revolution in a very personal way. When she was seven, the Red Guard sent her mother to live in the countryside and her father was sent to Tibet for "re-education". She was left to care for her brother.
At the age of fourteen she was chosen to act in a government propaganda film and then joined an acting school. In her first film - Youth - she played a mute and in her second film - Little Flower - she won China's version of the Oscar at the age of 18.She later moved to New York to study medicine , but decided to try her hand at the movies in the USA. Her first film was Tai-Pan - but most of her film career in the states was with a few exceptions not very successful. She did have a major role in the lavish The Last Emperor and in my opinion was the only reason to watch Twin Peaks. She also has appeared in a few HK films - Red Rose White Rose and Temptation of a Monk.
Recently, she directed her first film to much
critical acclaim. It is called Xiu Xiu and is a powerful, poignant and
tragic film about a girl that is sent to the countryside during the Cultural
Revolution. She filmed it in the Mainland and got into some trouble for
filming many scenes that were not approved by the government