Saturday, February 21, 2009

Seven Shining Stars, according to CRI

One of this blog's main aims is to introduce Chinese pop culture to curious readers. So it was handy that China Radio International's English website,, this week posted a useful article that listed seven "shining stars" - female actresses who are "gaining more and more fame these days".

The seven stars are Vicki Zhao (Zhao Wei), Ruby Lin (Lin Xinru), Fan Bingbing, Crystal Liu (Liu Yifei), Xu Jinglei, Zhang Ziyi, and Li Bingbing.

Vicki Zhao (Chinese name 赵薇 Zhao Wei) has been around for a while. She became a star more than 10 years ago when she starred in the TV series, Princess Returning Pearl (1997).

She hasn't always been among China's most beloved stars. During the early years of this decade in particular she was fodder for tabloid gossip, and she angered Chinese nationalists when she wore a dress with a Japanese Rising Sun design. And some less than successful films had her tagged as box-office poison.

However last year marked a revival in her career. She starred in two big movies - Red Cliff and Painted Skin - and 2009 looks like continuing the trend. She's in the just-released Red Cliff sequel, and will star in the title role of Mulan, about the Chinese folk heroine.

Ruby Lin (林心如 Lin Xinru) was another to get her start in Princess Returning Pearl. She's best known as a TV star, appearing in a succession of hit TV series over the last ten years. She's also had some success as a singer, though opinions are divided on her singing skills.

This year she'll appear in two new TV series, and has been cast in what is sure to be one of the blockbuster shows of 2010 - Romance of the Three Kingdoms, based on one of China's best-loved stories. Incidentally, she'll play the same character as Vicki Zhao did in Red Cliff.

Fan Bingbing (范冰冰) has divided her career between film and television. She's yet another to get her start in the enormously popular drama-comedy series Princess Returning Pearl. Her film career included the Chinese box office smash Cell Phone (2003) and the controversial Lost in Beijing (2007).

This year she's set to star alongside Jackie Chan in Shinjuku Incident, a mob drama set in Japan, as well as a TV sitcom The Last Night of Madam Chin, and the historical drama Wheat.

Crystal Liu or Liu Yifei (刘亦菲) is the youngest of the seven at 21 years old. When she was just 15 she got her big break in the wuxia TV drama, Demi-Gods and Semi-Gods in 2003. She was in another big wuxia TV series hit, The Return of the Condor Heroes (2006). Her film career was less successful, until last year when she played Golden Sparrow in the Sino-American production The Forbidden Kingdom. She's also branched out into singing, recording a CD in Japan in 2006.

Xu Jinglei (徐静蕾) had an emerging career as an actress in the early years of this decade. Then when she was just 29 years old she directed and starred in the film My Father and I. She has since directed two more films, including the award-winning Letter from an Unknown Woman (2004).

In 2006 she achieved further fame when she topped the Technorati billboard, making her arguably the world's most popular blogger.

Last year she appeared in the blockbuster epic, The Warlords, with Jet Li and Andy Lau. This year she too will appear in Shinjuku Incident, playing Jackie Chan's girlfriend.

Zhang Ziyi (章子怡) is probably the best known of the seven in CRI's list, from her roles in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, House of Flying Daggers and Memoirs of a Geisha, collecting a string of awards in the process. In 2008 she was in the biopic of Peking Opera star Mei Lanfang, Forever Enthralled, though her performance received only lukewarm reviews.

Coming up in what will be a busy year, she will star in an American thriller The Horsemen, a Chinese-language romantic comedy Sophie's Revenge, another romantic comedy, Lost for Words alongside Hugh Grant Tom Cruise (possibly), and the film adaptation of Ha Jin's acclaimed novel Waiting.

Li Bingbing (李冰冰, not to be confused with Fan Bingbing) made her film debut in 1999 in Seventeen Years, a role that brought her instant attention. In 2005 she had several hits to make her one of the country's most popular actors. She starred in the classic TV series Hui Niang Wan Xin (or Maid Wan Xin) and the hit romantic comedy film Waiting Alone. She won China's best actress award for her performance in The Knot (2006).

Last year she played the White-Haired Witch in the well-received blockbuster The Forbidden Kingdom, and the not so well-received Johnnie To drama Linger. She also launched a singing career, and last month, at the tender age of 32, released her autobiography.

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