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Rian Lingyu
The most famous mainland actresses Gong Li and Zhang Ziyi. Michele Yeoh is Chinese Malaysian. The most famous old time movie star was Rian Lingyu, who is sometimes called the “Chinese Garbo.” She appeared in Shanghai silent classic such as Cai Chusheng’s “New Woman” (1934). Her performance in the film caused a major sensation and outcry in the press to which Rian responded by killing herself with a bottle of sleeping pills. In her suicide note she wrote, “Nothing matters.” Thousands turned out for her funeral.

Anna May Wong was a star during the silent era. She retired in 1928 saying, "I was tired of parts I had to play. Why is it that on the screen the Chinese are nearly always the villain and so cruel a villain — murderous, treacherous, a snake in the grass” We are not like that. How could we be, with a civilization so many times older than that of the West” We have our rigid code of behavior, of honor. Why do they never show those on the screen?"

Liu Xiaoqing is one of the most famous people in China. She emerged in the late Mao era as an actress and made a name for herself in films as a Lolita-like revolutionary in the 1979 film “Little Flower”, for which she was paid $6. In the Deng era, she made a fortune writing some best-selling books about herself, marketing cosmetics, making television programs with herself in the leading roles, and making some lucrative real estate and business deals. Lui was notorious for not paying her crew and going into stores and demanding something and then not paying for it. Not long after declaring herself the richest woman in China and attaining te rank of 45 of the list of wealthiest Chinese (with $70 million) she was arrested and jailed for not paying $1.2 million in taxes. She was so well known at the time that after her arrest tax payments nationwide jumped by 24 percent.

Actress Joan Chen appeared in Bernardo Bertolucci's The Last Emperor, and Chen Kaige's Temptress Moon and Farewell My Concubine. She was born and raised in Shanghai and moved to America when she was in her twenties and married and settled in San Francisco. She returns to Shanghai around four times a year.

Other famous Chinese actresses included Ning Ling, the actress in “Red Firecracker, Green Firecracker” and “Heat of the Sun”. The famous Chinese actress Ju Jia died from a drug overdose at the age of 28. Lucy Liu is Chinese American. She was born in Queens. Tang Wei, the actress in Lust Caution, won Taiwan’s Golden Horse award for best new performer in 2007. In 2008 she as black-listed in China for her gymnastic sex scenes in the film.

Bai Ling stared in “Red Corner” with Richard Gere. She was brought up her grandparents in Sichuan after her parents separated during the Cultural Revolution. She joined the People’s Liberation Army at age 13; entertained troops in Tibet; participated in the Tiananmen Square demonstrations; and fled after the crackdown to Los Angeles, where she learned English and worked as a waitress. Her film first role was in The Crow. She also appeared in “Wild, Wild West”, “Anna and the King” and the film version of “Shanghai Baby”. At a film festival in Berlin she took off her clothes so often she was dubbed by one German tabloid as Berlinackte (“The Berlinnaked”)


Websites: Senses of Cinema sensesofcinema.com; dGenerate Films is a New York-based distribution company that collects post-Sixth Generation independent Chinese cinema dgeneratefilms.com; Internet Movie Database (IMDb) on Chinese Film imdb.com ; Wikipedia List of Chinese Filmmakers Wikipedia ; Shelly Kraicer’s Chinese Cinema site chinesecinemas.org ; Modern Chinese Literature and Culture (MCLC) Resource List mclc.osu.edu ; Wikipedia article on Chinese Cinema Wikipedia ; Film in China (Chinese Government site) china.org.cn ; Directory of Internet Sources newton.uor.edu ; Chinese, Japanese, and Korean CDs and DVDs at Yes Asia yesasia.com and Zoom Movie zoommovie.com

Maggie Cheung

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Maggie Cheung
Maggie Cheung is one of Hong Kong's best, most prolific and popular actresses. One of her biggest fans is Richard Corliss of Time. Her "greatest special effect is her face," he wrote. "You can read it like a beautiful picture book. In that pretty visage every emotions her characters might experience is instantly on call."

Cheung (who was 40 in 2005) is 5-foot-6-inches tall and has a very unusual accent: the result of having moved at age 8 from Hong Kong to Britain, where she was the only Asian at a school in Kent, England, and the moved back to Hong Kong again at age 17 for a career as a model. "I can speak like 70 percent of English and 70 percent of Chinese," she told the New York Times. "I kind of stuck between two languages." Cheung lives in Paris with her husband, the French director Oliver Assayas, with whom she speaks mostly in English.

Cheung has appeared in more than 70 Honk Kong movies. She began he her career as an action star and later was romantic lead. In the late 1970s and early 1980s, Cheung battled an eunuch in “Heroic Trio”, shoved cake in Jackie Chan's face in “Police Story” and darted her tongue erotically in “Green Snake”. Cheung appeared in five Jackie Chan films, matching him stunt for stunt and injury for injury. Once she was got partly scalped while shooting a film and had to get 17 stitches and spend a week in the hospital.

In the late 1980s and early 1990s, when the Hong Kong film industry was at its peak, she appeared in 10 films year. Some were good. Others that had titles like “It's a Drink, It's a Bomb” were not. In 1994, she dropped out. "I was fed up with the parts I was playing....I always played a really helpless, cute girl who the hero came and saved...All the films seemed the same?.

In 1996, Cheung came out of retirement to play herself, "Maggie Cheung, Asian Superstar," in “Irma Vep”, a French satire about filmmaking, directed by her husband. She said she didn't act and just played herself. After the experience her acting became more natural and sensitive.

In the late 1990s she appeared in the critically acclaimed “Comrades, Almost a Love Story” and Wong Kar Wai’s “In the Mood for Love”, for which received the best actress award at the Hong Kong Film Awards, as well the less acclaimed “Chinese Box” (1998, directed by Wayne Wang) She was also in Zhang Yimou’s “Hero” and Wong Kar Wai’s “2046".

Good Maggie Cheung sources: Papermag's interview with Cheung maggie-cheung-coming-clean ; The Sunday Times's article The Sunday Times's article ; The Sunday Herald's article, China’s Garbo www.heraldscotland.com/china-s-garbo ; Dailymotion's interview video with CHEUNG, partly in French dailymotion.com

Michelle Yeoh


The veteran Hong-Kong action star Michelle Yeoh appeared in “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon”, “Memoirs of a Geisha” and dozens of Hong Kong action films and was a Bond girl in “Tomorrow Never Dies”. Regarded as Hong Kong's most respected kung fu film actress, she has appeared opposite Jackie Chan in several films and suffered serious injuries on several occasions doing stunts. She was the highest paid Asian actress, earning $13 million per film.

Standing 5-foot-4-inches and weighing 100 pounds, Yeoh was born to Chinese parents in Ipoh, Malaysia. In school, she was a good swimmer and rugby player and her dream was to become a ballet dancer, but all that changed when he mother entered her in a Miss Malaysia beauty contest without her knowing it in 1983 and she won. In 1984 she appeared in some commercials and five Hong Kong films. She retired from film between 1988 and 1992 when she was married to business tycoon and producer Dickson Poon.

Yeoh resumed her career after the marriage collapsed and appeared with Jackie Chan in “Police Story III: Supercop”, where she rode a motorbike onto a speeding train and jumped from helicopter into a moving convertible. Yeoh has dislocated her shoulder, cracked some ribs, and ruptured arteries in her leg. While leaping from an 18-foot overpass in “Stuntwoman” she missed the safety net and dislocated her neck. "I heard a snap in my back when I landed and said, 'Uh-oh, I'm going to be paralyzed for life.'" She recovered after spending several months in a full body cast. In 2011, Yeoh played Aung San Suu Kyi in a biopic of the Myanmar pro-democracy leader.

Gong Li

Gong Li (born 1965) was the most well known and arguably the most beautiful actress in China in the 1990s and 2000s. She couldn't speak very well and still looks very sexy when he was in her 40s. The Los Angeles Times called “one of the most delectable Chinese imports since the noodle” and said she has the rare ability to convey both strength and vulnerability In 2006, Gong Li was voted the most beautiful woman in China. In 2000, she was nominated Goodwill Ambassador of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.

left Gong is arguably the first Chinese actor to draw attention in the West without martial arts skills. She was born shortly before the onset of the Cultural Revolution to a pair of economic professors who were forced to work in factories and send all their children away, with the exception of Li, to work in the countryside. Gong Li studied at the prestigious Central Drama Academy in Beijing at met the director Zhang Yimou there when she was 22.

The director Wong Kar Wai told the Daily Yomiuri, “Gong Li has a quality that you cannot really put your finger on. She has a strong presence on the screen. Everyone around her, including myself...is drawn to her when she was on the set...Even more surprisingly is that her beauty becomes even more greater and more profound in the later stages of the shooting when everyone is was exhausted.”

Gong Li was chosen by L'Oreal as the face for its products in China. In 1998, she was awarded the medal of the Officer des Arts, France's highest art award. In China Gong has served as a Chinese parliament delegate.

Gong Li’s Life

Gong Li was born in Shenyang, Liaoning, China, the youngest of five children. Her father was a professor of economics and her mother was a teacher. She grew up in Jinan, the capital of Shandong. She was aged one through 11 the Cultural Revolution from 1966 to 1976. She was fond of singing and dancing at a young age dreamt of becoming a singer when she was a child. When she was in the second grade, she was recommended by the school to sing children's songs at Jinan People's Broadcasting Station. In middle school and high school she was a member of the school's literature and art team.

Gong said her parents wanted her to become a professor or a teacher like them but she wanted to act. She told Variety: “When I was young, I didn’t understand movies; we did not have a lot of movies imported. After I entered the Academy, we watched a lot of movies. I saw ‘The Godfather’ over and over; that was like a textbook. I learned from watching Al Pacino, Robert De Niro; they inspired me. After that, performances like Meryl Streep’s were really helpful.” [Source: Tim Gray, Variety, February 6, 2021]

In 1985, Gong was accepted to study at the Central Academy of Drama in Beijing; she graduated in 1989. While a student there she was discovered by Zhang Yimou, who chose her for the lead role in Red Sorghum, his first film as a director. Gong and Zhang collaborated on six films between 1987 and 1995, before ending their relationship. They reunited in 2006 for the film “Curse of the Golden Flower” and in 2014 on “Coming Home”. Gong Li was Zhang Yimou's for many years. Sometimes referred to as the Von Sternberg and Dietrich of Chinese cinema, the couple split up in the mid-1990s, depending on who you talk to, because she didn't want to have children or because she left him for the rich Singaporean tobacco tycoon Ooi Hoe Seong. In 1996, Gong and Ooi were married in Hong Kong. The couple was rarely seen in public and it is not known whether they have any children. In 2010, Gong's agent confirmed that Gong Li and Ooi had divorced. In 2019, Gong married French musician Jean-Michel Jarre.

On Gong Li’s problems speaking English, director Michael Mann told the Los Angeles Times: “The difficulty is; in Mandarin, the muscles in your mouth aren’t used to make Rs and Ls. She never developed those muscles. It’s not just making a different sound. Her tongue is not conditioned to be behind her teeth and to breath in the same way,. She had to do facial expressions just to be able to make these sounds. the degree of difficulty is high.”

Gong Li’s Films


Gong Li films include several Fifth Generation classics: Chen Kaige “Temptress Moon”, and “Farewell My Concubine”, and Zhang Yimou's “Raise the Red Lantern” and “Ju Dou (The Story of Qiu Ju)”.

Gong Li appeared with Maggie Cheung and Jeremy Irons in “The Chinese Box” and played Hannibal Lector’s mentor-lover in “Young Hannibal: Behind the Mask”. Li and Indian actress Ashwarya Rai and French actress Laetitoa Casa starred in “Bad Education” by Spanish director Pedro Almodovar. She was offered a part opposite Robert DeNiro in “Heat” but turned it down because of her English deficiency. Gong Li was signed up to do a Hollywood film with Richard Gere but the project was later scrapped because of the lack of a good script.

In 2005, Li played the villain geisha in “Memoirs of Geisha”. In 2006, she starred in the $140 million movie version “Miami Vice”. She played the lover of a drug lord who falls for Sonny Crocker (Colin Farrell), the detective who is trying to bring in her lover. Li did a steamy love scene with Farrell. She needed an eight-person entourage of translators, assistants and dialogue coaches to get her English in shape for the performances.

Li and Zhang Yimou reunited to make “The Curse of the Golden Flower” — a Shakespearean-style tragedy set on Tang dynasty China about an Empress who falls in love with the Emperor’s son from a different marriage and plots to kill her husband, the Emperor (Chow Yun-Fat). She also appeared in Disney non-animated version of "Mulan".

In 2021, Gong Li starred “Leap”, directed by Peter Ho-Sun Chan and China’s submission for Oscar’s international film category. According to Variety: Gong plays Lang Ping, who was the MVP of women’s volleyball at the 1984 Olympics, then coached the U.S. women’s team to a silver medal in 2008. When her China women’s team won the gold medal at the 2016 Rio Games, Lang became the first person, male or female, to win volleyball gold as both a player and a coach. Gong said it was “the hardest role I’ve ever played, but the best role.”[Source: Tim Gray, Variety, February 6, 2021]

Gong Li' Becomes a Citizenship of Singapore

Gong applied for Singapore citizenship in early 2008 and became one. When overseas professional obligations prevented her from showing up at her scheduled citizenship ceremony, she was harshly criticized for not making it a priority.

Becoming a Singapore citizen, required Gong to forsake her Chinese citizenship. The decision sparked an online debate in China, with many branding her a traitor but others defending the star. “All traitors will be nailed to history's mast of shame. We should resolutely reject any further contact with such people,” one person said in a chat forum on the popular portal Sohu.com. Another said: “Traitors like this don't even love their own country. These people were only fake countrymen of ours. Let them slink off to other countries and die!” [Source: AFP]

The state-run Xinhua news agency said speculation that she was actively seeking foreign citizenship resulted in Gong being left off the list of delegates for the 2008 session of parliament earlier that year. However, many people also expressed understanding for Gong's decision, noting the pressure such stars face in China, and making veiled criticisms of life in the communist country. “Why doesn't anyone ask why people want to emigrate? We see one Chinese person after another take US citizenship,” one person said on Sohu. “Why don't we see Americans taking Chinese citizenship?”

Zhang Ziyi

Poster for Road Home
Zhang Ziyi was arguably the most beautiful and in-demand actress from China in the 2000s. She wowed audiences in “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” and charmed them in “Memoir of a Geisha” and is equally adept at doing choreographed fights, loves scenes, and serious drama. Zhang holds Hong Kong citizenship.

Zhang is beautiful in a cute way, has a delightful smile, steely stare, great fighting technique and a dancer’s body. Yimou said "she was born to be filmed." Ang Lee said, "She is very sexy...She is the most marvelous thing I've found." The New York Times wrote that Zhang has the “ability to flicker from rage to vulnerability with hummingbird grace and speed.” Zhang did television commercials for a shampoo in Japan called in “Asia-essence” in which she is shown making Western women envious with her good looks and beautiful, shimmering hair. She also did ads for Maybelline, Pantene, Tag Heuer, Coca Cola and Visa.

The daughter of an accountant who became economist and kindergarten teacher, she was born in Beijing in 1979 and grew up there after Cultural Revolution period in the Deng reforms era. She has an older brother with whom she is very close. She initially wanted to be a dancer. Zhang began studying dance when at the age of eight. She entered the Beijing Dance Academy when she was 11. She boarded there but didn’t like the way the other girls competed to be the teacher favorites. She disliked it so much she once she ran away from the school. Even though Zhang won a national youth dance championship she gave up dancing.

Zhang appeared in some television commercials in the mainland and Hong Kong when she was 15. Zhang made her acting debut in the television film Touching Starlight at the age of 16. In 1996, at the age of 17, Zhang entered the prestigious Central Academy of Drama in Beijing. In 1998, while studying there she was noticed by Zhang Yimou who auditioned her for a shampoo commercial and cast he at the age of 18 in “The Road Home”, which won the Silver Bear prize at the 2000 Berlin International Film Festival. Zhang won the Best Actress Award at the 2000 Hundred Flowers Awards for her performance as a country girl in the same film who falls in love with the town's young teacher,

Zhang Ziyi’s Personal Life

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Zhang Ziyi in a Coke ad
There have been rumors that Zhang was romantically involved with Zhang Yimou who was linked for many years with Gong Li. There have also been reports that the Zhang’s romance with Gong Li collapsed once he started working with Zhang. Zhang dismisses these allegation, “I’m too busy to have a boyfriend. I just want to focus on my script,” she said. Zhang was engaged to Israeli-American venture capitalist Aviv Nevo until the couple separated in 2010. Zhang married Chinese rock musician Wang Feng in 2015. The same year , Zhang gave birth to their daughter, Wang Xingxing. In January 2020, Zhang gave birth to son.

When asked for opinion of performance of her two onscreen lovers — one Japanese and one Chinese — in the lovemaking scenes in one film Zhang said both were good kissers but the Japanese actor Takeshi Kaneshiro was “gentle and considerate” while the Hong Kong actor Andy Lau was “tough and brusque.”

Zhang obtained Hong Kong residency in 2007 through the Quality Migrant Admission Scheme for her contribution to the local film industry. Zhang Ziyi polished her English skills by taking voice and dialect classes at the Julliard School in New York. She now speaks good English. In person she often looks tired. Sometimes she is accompanied on the set by her mother. When asked about the supernatural powers of king fu she told The Time of London, “Yes, I believe there are people in China who can fly. She is an admirer and collector of the works of the Chinese contemporary artist Shen Jingdong. Politically, she is a member of the China Zhi Gong Party.

Zhang Ziyi’s Career

In 2005, Zhang said, “I don’t want to call myself a Hollywood star because I still feel like an outsider...Hollywood is, of course, an ideal place for any actor or actress because it draws the best talent in world...But at this time, I still feel like a transient: it’s not my world.” On another occasion she told the Times of London, “I prefer fans in America. They are more civilized. In China, if you don’t take a picture with them they say, “I’ll never see your film again.”

left On working in Hollywood she told the Times of London, “everyone says, “You’re wonderful, you’re great. I’m not used to it Chinese directors don’t praise, they only smack. It’s our culture. I waited for five months before Zhang Yimou said “good job. And just that one piece of praise made me cry. That’s why I work hard every day.”

In 2005, Zhang said she was reluctant about doing Hollywood action roles. “Frankly,” she told the South China Morning News, “I think we have the ability to handle more complex characters. I’m not just playing action movies or some stereotyped characters....I have been waiting and waiting for a quality production. “

On flying around in wires and doing fight scenes she said, “We get hurt all the time. It’s normal. Once when she accidently cut actress Maggie Cheung in her hand with a sword she said, “I cried so much. I couldn’t stop. I felt so bad.” She says she had not been injured.

Zhang has a reputation for working hard and being down to earth. Few have accused of her acting like a prima donna. During shooting of the Chinese film The Banquet, which she made in 2006 after becoming a big star in Hollywood, she willingly shaved her eyebrows for the role and even made soup and served it to the crew on the set.

Zhang is active in the British charity Care for Children, which finds foster homes for orphaned and disabled children. “There are so many in China who do not have my good fortune,” she said. I want to give something back to society, and since I love children this seemed like a way for me to make a difference.”

Zhang Ziyi’s Films


Zhang Ziyi starred in “The Road Home, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, Rush Hour II, Memoirs of a Geisha, House of Daggers, Hero” and “2046". Zhang made her debut in Zhang Yimou's “The Road Home”, described a visual love letter to the actress. She was very convincing as a sweet, innocent peasant girl. She had only been in one film (“The Road Home”) and had never done martial arts when Ang Lee selected her for “Crouching Tiger”. At the age of 19 she stole many of the scenes in that film from some of Hong Kong’s greatest actors. Zhang was the best thing about the Jackie Chan film “Rush Hour II”. She played a Kung-fu-kicking villainess. In that film she mostly leered. She didn’t speak much English.

In “House of Daggers” Zhang plays a martial arts master with amazing skills who also happens to be blind. In the opening scenes she repels an attack of pebbles, throwing them back to create rhythms on a circle of drums, and tries to assassinate a nobleman with a knife while doing a traditional Chinese long sleeve dance. She trained for two months with a real blind person to learn her movements and reactions.

Zhang won the award for best actress by the Hong Kong Film Critics Society for her performance in the film “2046". The New York Times said she put in an “astonishing performance” of “heartache and steel” in that film. “Her character crumbles with desire” and “Zhang’s face seems to break into pieces.”

Ziyi Zhang was pretty to look at in “Memoirs of a Geisha” but her acting was not great. Zhang had initially been rejected by Spielberg for the role in the early 2000s because the only words of English she knew at that time were “hire me.” Marshall told the Los Angeles Times that what impressed him about her was her athleticism and dancer’s training. “It was the fit...It was the slipper.” To get her English pronunciation right she studied two hours a day with a dialect teacher. See Memoirs of a Geisha, Japan.

In the July 2006 issue of Interview magazine, Zhang said was careful about the roles she took, especially in Hollywood, She said: I could have done a lot of Hollywood movies. After Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon I got a lot of offers, but I turned them down because they were all victim roles—poor girls sold to America to be a wife or whatever. I know I have the ability to go deeper, to take on more original roles than that. That's why I really appreciated Geisha, because it allowed us to show the world what kind of actors we are and what kind of characters we can play—not just action, kick-ass parts.

In “Godzilla: King of the Monsters” (2019) Zhang Ziyi played a dragon expert. She starred with Dennis Quaid in the crime thriller “Four Horsemen” (2008). Quaid plays a detective investigating a series of murders connected to the Biblical story of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. Zhang plays a “manipulative young woman” who is also investigating the case. Zhang had a voice role in “TMNT”, a film based on the “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles”. “Sophie’s Revenge” was a romantic comedy produced by Zhang Ziyi that stars Zhang and popular South Korean actor So Ji Sub. It is about a woman who tries a number of ways to get revenge after her fiancé dumps her on the eve of their wedding, Zhang comes across as spunky but somewhat miscast. She was the producer of the film and made a lot of money from its box office success.

In 2021, Zhang Ziyi made her directorial debut with a short titled “Poem,” as part of the patriotic blockbuster, “My People, My Forebears.” Set in 1969, the “Poem” tells a tragic story about a family in which both parents (Zhang and Huang Xuan of Lou Ye’s “Blind Massage”) are involved in the development of China’s Long March 1 rocket, which launched the country’s first satellite. Other directors, many of them famous, were brought in to make other pieces in the film. [Source: Rebecca Davis, Variety, September 11, 2021]

Zhang Ziyi Wins Libel Suit Against Claim She Had Sex with a Communist Party Official for $100 Million

In 2013, the BBC reported: Zhang Ziyi has reached an undisclosed settlement with a US-based website which has apologised for false reports that she was paid to have sex with top Chinese officials. The star sued Boxun News for damaging her reputation and business interests. “Boxun retracted its story that she was paid $100 million to sleep with officials, saying it should not have published it. [Source: BBC, December 18, 2013]

“A court in the US said the parties had reached the settlement in a libel case. A short statement on her official Sina Weibo site said: "Nineteen months, and nearly 600 nights and days, is perhaps not very long for a scandal case, but it is long enough to destroy an innocent person's reputation."

“Boxun, in a front page apology, said it had reported "negative and untrue information" about Zhang, which had been "insupportable and improper". It added that its anonymous sources "cannot support the information reported".

“When the rumour first broke that Zhang Ziyi had been paid for sex with top Party officials, the story grabbed headlines around the world. In 2012, she launched a legal action at the High Court in Hong Kong seeking unspecified libel damages from Next Media over stories in its publications Apple Daily and Next Magazine - and won.

“Rumours about sex being traded for favours have long circulated in China. The BBC Chinese service's Carol Yarwood says the allegations surrounding Zhang Ziyi have been all over the country's media for months. It is also one of the hot topics on weibo sites, China's version of Twitter, our correspondent says. While many web users criticised Zhang, others sympathised with her. “One weibo user, bornin1968, wrote: "No way, I don't believe she has fallen so low."

Fan Bingbing

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Xin Fengxia, popular actress in the 1950s
Fan Bingbing (born 1981) is a Chinese actress, model, television producer, and singer who was biggest celebrity in China in the 2010s until a tax evasion scandal in 2018 crashed and burned her career. For four years in a row from 2013 to 2017 she topped the list of the highest-paid celebrities according to Forbes and ranking in the top 10 every year since 2006. For a while she was one of the highest-paid actresses in the world and earned even more as a global fashion icon and frequently appeared at movie premieres and at fashion shows. [Source: Wikipedia]

Fan rose to fame in East Asia in 1998–1999 with the TV costume drama series “My Fair Princess”. In 2003, she starred in “Cell Phone”, which became China's highest-grossing film of the year, and received critical acclaim at the Hundred Flowers Awards. She has starred in many Chinese films, most notably “Lost in Beijing” (2007), “Buddha Mountain” (2011), “Double Xposure” (2012) and “I Am Not Madame Bovary (2016)”, which earned her a Golden Rooster and Golden Horse and awards as the Tokyo International Film Festival and the San Sebastián International Film Festival. Among her foreign-language film credits are in the French film “Stretch” (2011), the South Korean film “My Way” (2011), and “X-Men: Days of Future Past” (2014), in which she portrayed Blink, and Irin Man 3. She won the Golden Screen Award for Best Actress for her performance in the Hong Kong-Chinese-American film “Skiptrace” with Jackie Chan (2015).

Fan is a member of the Chinese Communist Party. She was recognized by Time Magazine as one of the 100 most influential people of 2017. In 2017, Fan served on the 70th Cannes Film Festival jury and was invited to join the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. In 2018, Fan was secretly detained by Chinese authorities, disappearing from public view in July 2018 for nearly three months. When she finally reappeared she publically apologized for tax evasion and was fined US$127 million).

Fan Bingbing’s Life and Career

Fan was born in Laixi, Yantai (Now Qingdao) and was raised there. She graduated from Shanghai Xie Jin Film and Television Art College and Shanghai Theatre Academy. Fan debuted in the television series Powerful Woman in 1996 and played minor roles for two years, before finding success with role in the Chinese television series My Fair Princess, She had been recommended for the part by Cantonese actress Leanne Liu. The comedic period drama was popular throughout East Asia, making here a star in the region. [Source: Wikipedia]

Relatively early in her career she founded he own film and television studio. After her X-Men film, which gave her a lot of global exposure, Barbie announced the launch of the Fan Bingbing Celebrity Specialty doll in Shanghai and Louis Vuitton chose her as the first Asian actress to be provided with a specially tailored dress for their red carpet. In the series The Empress of China, Fan portrays the titular character Wu Zetian, the only female emperor in Chinese history and one of the most famous figures of the Tang Dynasty (A.D. 960–1279).

The 82-episode TV series was broadcast on Hunan Television from December 2014 to February 2015, and recorded the highest ratings for the year. She was a producer of the series, which cost $50 million to make, a record at the time. The same year, she starred in wuxia fantasy film “The White Haired Witch of Lunar Kingdom”

In 2015, Fan joined the CCTV variety show as a judge in Amazing Chinese and was ranked 4th on Forbes list of the World's Highest-Paid Actresses. In 2016, Fan was on the jury at Cannes Film Festival and was named global ambassador of several brands such as ReFa Beauty Care Tools, De Beers diamonds, King Power and Montblanc. Forbes reported she earned $17 million in 2016. In 2018, she appeared in the Cao Baoping's crime drama film The Perfect Blue and the spy-thriller film “355", with Penélope Cruz. The same year she launched her own brand Fan Beauty Secret first moisturizing mask.

In 2015, the actor Li Chen announced through social media that he was dating Fan Bingbing. In 2017 the couple got engaged after he proposed to Fan at her birthday party. The couple announced their separation in 2019. Fan has a younger brother named Fan Chengcheng who is one of the members of the boy group Nine Percent and NEXT. .

Fan Bingbing Disappearance and Tax Scandal

In 2018, Fan disappeared for three months after allegations were made of tax evasion. In May 2018, TV anchor Cui Yongyuan used social media to leak a contract disclosing Fan being paid $1.5 million for her four days of work on the Feng Xiaogang film Cell Phone 2. The following day, Cui published a second contract showing an amount of almost $8 million for the same job, suggesting that the smaller contract was made for tax purposes to avoid paying taxes on the higher amount. [Source: Wikipedia]

Eli Meixler wrote in Time,: “In past years, actress Fan Bingbing was a regular presence on film festival red carpets and fashion catwalks from Barcelona to Busan. And then, suddenly, she wasn’t. Film fans are expressing alarm at Fan’s disquieting recent disappearance from public life: she was last seen on July 1, while visiting a children’s hospital. Her account on China’s popular Sina Weibo social media network, where she has 63 million followers, has been silent since July 23. Speculation is linking the disappearance of Fan to an alleged tax evasion scandal at a time when China’s state-controlled film industry is cutting back on bloated budgets and star-driven blockbusters. If so, it would be a swift reversal for the celluloid superstar, whose rapid ascent as an actress and fashion icon seemed eclipsed only by her potential. Not long ago, Fan, 36, seemed poised to become one of the biggest crossover stars in the world: a China-born, English-speaking workaholic armed with a formidable combination of acting, singing, and modeling skills.[Source: Eli Meixler, Time, September 17, 2018]

“The documents leaked by Cui appeared to reveal an arrangement, known as “yin-yang” contracts, wherein one contract reflects an actor’s actual earnings while a second, lower figure is submitted to tax authorities, the BBC reported. According to the South China Morning Post, Cui then called for the Chinese authorities to “step up regulations on show business.” In June, the Jiangsu Province State Administration of Taxation opened a tax evasion investigation focusing on the entertainment industry. Fan’s film studio, which denied the allegations, is based in Jiangsu, according to the Post.

“The whiff of impropriety has already impacted her cachet: Australian vitamin brand Swisse suspended use of Fan’s image in advertisements, while her name was removed from promotional materials for the upcoming Unbreakable Spirit, starring Bruce Willis. Adding insult to financial and professional injury, the BBC reports that Fan has been rated last in a ranking of Chinese celebrities’ personal integrity and charitable work, scoring zero out of 100 in the 2017-2018 China Film and Television Star Social Responsibility Report published Tuesday by a Chinese university. That’s despite the fact that Fan co-founded a charity to provide surgery for children with congenital heart disease in rural Tibet, which she called her “greatest achievement” in a 2003 interview with the Financial Times. In 2015, she also donated a million renminbi ($146,000) to relatives of firemen killed in the Tianjin chemical warehouse disaster; the following year a different index listed Fan among the 10 most philanthropic Chinese celebrities.

In 2017, Fan filed a defamation lawsuit against exiled Chinese billionaire Guo Wengui, who alleged sexual affairs between celebrities, including Fan, and top Chinese Communist Party officials. And when the yin-yang contracts came to light, Fan was shooting a sequel to Cell Phone that Cui, her CCTV accuser, complained bore an uncomfortable resemblance to his own life, the Postreports.“Actor Jackie Chan has meanwhile dispelled rumors that he recommended Fan seek asylum in the U.S.

Rumours suggest that Fan was arrested, but there has been no official confirmation or statement except that in August, Fan's manager Jersey Chong confirmed, via social media, that Fan was never arrested.[88] Fan broke the silence on 3 October 2018 by apologizing to the public for tax evasion after the Chinese authorities ordered her and her companies to pay US$127.4 million in taxes and penalties to avoid criminal prosecution. After that her career seemed to more or less be over. [Source: Wikipedia]

Chinese Celebrity Scandal Bring Attention to Surrogate Births

In 2021, the South China Morning Post published a 2019 recording that appeared to show Chinese actress Zheng Shuang and her former partner, producer Zhang Heng, deciding to abandon two children arranged with a surrogate mother before they were even born following the end of their relationship. Heng, Shuang and their parents talked about the fate of the then-unborn children. Shuang’s father purportedly made the suggestion to abandon the children at the hospital. The actress herself was frustrated over the fact that they could no longer abort the unborn babies as they were already seven months in the womb. [Source: Ryan General, Nextshark, January 22, 2021, 6:00 AM

Alexandra Stevenson and Cao Li wrote in the New York Times: “The scandal already seemed tailor-made for celebrity websites and online gossips: A glamorous Chinese actress stood accused by her estranged partner of abandoning two surrogate babies they had decided to have together, stranding him in the United States to take care of them. When his allegations hit the Chinese internet, the outrage couldn’t be confined to the gossip pages. The accusations against the actress, Zheng Shuang, have dominated conversation online and drawn a fiery response from the public, from the state-run news media and even from a powerful Communist Party legal group on the subject of reproduction. China’s limits on people seeking surrogate mothers should be tightened, officials have argued. Beyond the salacious details of the celebrity breakup, the scandal surrounding Ms. Zheng touches on sensitive topics for a country that has a troubled history with women’s reproductive rights and that remains largely wedded to traditional notions of family. [Source: Alexandra Stevenson and Cao Li, New York Times, January 20, 2021]

The scandal came to light through recordings of Ms. Zheng’s conversations that were posted online, then widely reported on in the Chinese news media. Ms. Zheng’s father, Zheng Chenghua, said on his verified account on Weibo, the popular Chinese social media platform, that the recordings were only snippets and lacked context. He did not respond to a request for comment. Attorneys for Ms. Zheng and her former partner, a television producer named Zhang Heng, did not respond to requests for comment. It wasn’t clear why they were using surrogates.

At one point in the recording, in a moment that has drawn particular anger in China, Ms. Zheng seems to express frustration that the pregnancies were several months along and couldn’t be ended. Mr. Zheng said online that Mr. Zhang was trying to force his daughter into a settlement to resolve a $3 million legal judgment she had won against him for a loan she said he hadn’t paid back. Mr. Zhang is appealing that decision in a Shanghai court. In one of the recordings, Ms. Zheng tells her parents and Mr. Zhang’s that if she and Mr. Zhang ever get back together, they can still have children using her frozen, fertilized eggs.

On her official social media account, Ms. Zheng, 29 — who just a few years ago topped the list of China’s most popular actresses — said her fight with Mr. Zhang, 30, was “a very sad and private matter for me.” She has found little sympathy. The luxury fashion brand Prada said it had canceled her contract as a brand ambassador, as did a cosmetics company and a watchmaker. China’s top industry award committee stripped Ms. Zheng of her 2016 title as “Best Actress in Modern Chinese TV Dramas” and 2014 title as a “Top Ten Favorite TV Star.”

China Central Television, the main state broadcaster, issued its own condemnation of surrogacy on Weibo. “Its disregard for life is heinous,” it said. Without mentioning Ms. Zheng’s name, the broadcaster said surrogacy could lead to wanton discarding of a fetus, for example if the couple wanted a boy instead of a girl. In the 1990s, China made it illegal to identify the sex of a fetus in an effort to prevent gender-based abortions, which have led to millions more men than women because of a traditional preference for boys. That same day, the Communist Party’s Central Political and Legal Affairs Commission accused Ms. Zheng of “taking advantage of legal loopholes” to organize a surrogate pregnancy.

Amid the rising public anger toward Ms. Zheng, women’s rights groups have expressed frustration that Mr. Zhang is receiving less criticism. Women are often blamed for reproductive decisions made with their partners, said Feng Yuan, a women’s rights activist and co-founder of a women’s rights nonprofit group in Beijing, leading to tighter restrictions on the services women use. “The main topic of the debate is about surrogacy, but Zheng Shuang seems to be the only target, and netizens avoid Zhang Heng,” Ms. Feng said, using a term for internet users in China.

Young Chinese-American Actress in Hollywood

Kara Wang, a Chinese-American actress who grew up in Diamond Bar, California, had little luck getting her career off the in Hollywood. "The problem in L.A. is that you don't see Asians be the lead unless it's an ethnic film," she told the Los Angeles Times. "I was either auditioning for the token Asian girl role or I had to be the sexy, kick-ass, kung-fu chick that looks good in latex." [Source: Gabrielle Jaffe, Los Angeles Times, June 10, 2012]

Gabrielle Jaffe wrote in the Los Angeles Times: “Fluent in Mandarin, since relocating to Beijing, within a year she has played a wide variety of roles, including a lady-in-waiting in a historical period drama ("a real challenge," she says, "it was like doing Chinese Shakespeare") and a fashionable Chinese gossip girl in a popular series. She's worked with leading director Chen Kaige on "Caught in the Web," which comes out next month in China, and acted opposite Bill Paxton in the upcoming co-production "Shanghai Calling." But she had to resign from the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) because the organization prohibits members from taking nonunion work and there are no unions in China. She has also had to say goodbye to the benefits that SAG membership entails. "The whole eight-hour rule, lunch breaks” in China, all that, flies out the windows," she says.

Western actors like Wang find themselves working on Chinese productions for up to 24 hours at a time. Worse still, while in L.A. actors are often paid by the hour, in China they are usually offered a lump sum with no guarantee of how much time they'll be needed on set. Even when working on co-productions, if hired here, they are considered "local talent" and are paid local rates. For Wang, this is a price worth paying. "I've auditioned for people that in a million years I never would have been able to meet in L.A. I got to the last round for a part in Keanu Reeves' 'Man of Tai Chi.' There's a relatively small pool of English-speaking actors out here. But in L.A. everyone in the city wants to be an actor, so the competition is out of control."

It's not only actors who are being lured eastward by the promise of jump-starting their careers. With more than 500 movies shot here annually, there is huge demand for Hollywood expertise from producers and directors to set designers and visual effects technicians. It is hard to establish just how many of the 600,000 foreigners who now live in China are working in the movie business, but it is clear numbers have shot up in recent years. One casting agency claimed to have more than 1,000 English-speaking actors on its files, and a producer estimated that the number of foreigners working in the film industry has perhaps doubled in the last five years.

Image Sources: Wikipedia, fan and Asian film websites and blogs

Text Sources: New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Times of London, National Geographic, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, Lonely Planet Guides, Compton’s Encyclopedia and various books and other publications.

Last updated May 2022

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