Here is a list of the main characters in Hou Hsiao-hsien's The Assassin:
- Nie Yinniang. The eponymous heroine played by Shu Qi.
Daughter of Nie Feng, Weibo’s chief military officer and Princess Jiacheng’s lady in waiting Lady Nie-Tian. Nie is her surname.
Yin means 'hidden' or 'concealed'. Niang here means (young) woman, not mother. She is also referred to as Nie Yao, Yao Niang, Yao Qi, Qi Niang, and A-Yao. Yao means a dark, still beauty.
- Tian Ji'an. Military Governor of Weibo. He is the son of Tian Xu and a commoner concubine. He was adopted by Princess Jiacheng.
- Lady Tian-Yuan. The daughter of General Yuan Yi of neighboring Mingzhou and Tian Ji'an's principal wife. She is also the masked Jing Jing and a disciple of the Central Asian sorcerer Kong Konger.
- Concubine Hu. Tian Ji-an's favorite concubine.
- Princess Jia-cheng. Daughter of the Daizong Emperor. Married to Tian Xu, Tian-Ji'an's father and previous military governor of Weibo.
- Taoist Abbess. Twin sister of Princess Jia-cheng. Taoist Abbess and Princess Jia-cheng are both played by Fang-Yi Sheu, a former principal dancer of the Martha Graham Dance Company.
- Nie Feng. Yinniang's father and Weibo’s chief military officer. He is often referred to by his title Duyuhou, which means commander.
- Lady Nie-Tian. Yinniang's mother and lady in waiting to Princess Jiacheng. She is a member of the Tian clan. Tian Ji'an's paternal aunt. Therefore Yinniang and Tian Ji'an are also cousins.
- Tian Xing. A Weibo military adviser and Tang loyalist. He is Tian Ji'an's uncle.
- Kong Kong. Central Asian sorcerer. Lady Tian-yuan's teacher in the dark arts. Played by French artist Jacques Picoux, who has lived in Taiwan since 1979. Kong means 'emptiness'.