Gong Li

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Gong Li
Gong Li Cannes 2011.jpg
Chinese name (traditional)
Chinese name (simplified)
Pinyin Gǒng Lì (Mandarin)
Born (1965-12-31) 31 December 1965 (age 53)
Shenyang, Liaoning, China
Occupation Actress
Years active 1987–present
Spouse(s) Ooi Hoe Soeng (1996–2010)
Parents Gong Lize (father)
Liu Ying (mother)[1]
Ancestry Jinan, Shandong, China

Gong Li (born 31 December 1965) is a Chinese actress. Gong first came into international prominence through close collaboration with Chinese director Zhang Yimou and is credited with helping to bring Chinese cinema to Europe and the United States.[2] She is a naturalised Singaporean citizen.

She has twice been awarded the Golden Rooster and the Hundred Flowers Awards as well as the Berlinale Camera, Cannes Festival Trophy, National Board of Review, New York Film Critics Circle Award, and Volpi Cup for Best Actress.

Early life

Gong Li was born in Shenyang, China, Liaoning, the youngest in a family of five children. Her father was a professor of economics and her mother was a teacher.[3] Gong grew up in Jinan, the capital of Shandong.

In 1985, Gong sought to study at China's top music school, but was denied entrance. Later that same year, she was accepted to the prestigious Central Academy of Drama in Beijing and graduated in 1989.[4] While a student at the Central Academy of Drama, she was discovered by Zhang Yimou, who chose her for the lead role in Red Sorghum, his first film as a director.[5]


Over the next several years after her 1987 acting debut in Red Sorghum, Gong received international acclaim for her roles in several more Zhang Yimou films:[6] She appeared in Ju Dou in 1990; Her performance in the Oscar-nominated Raise the Red Lantern put her in the international spotlight;[5] in The Story of Qiu Ju, she was named Best Actress at the 1992 Venice Film Festival. These roles established her reputation, according to Asiaweek, as "one of the world's most glamorous movie stars and an elegant throwback to Hollywood's golden era."[5] In many of her early movies, Gong Li represents a tragic victim and an abused soul (physically or emotionally), trying to release herself from an impossible maze of corruption, violence and suppression. In Raise the Red Lantern and Shanghai Triad an additional tragic element is added to her being as she unintentionally becomes the executioner of new innocent victims, making her realize that she has assisted the dark cynical system.[7]

In June 1998, Gong Li became a recipient of France's Ordre des Arts et des Lettres. Two years later, she was invited by the Berlin Film Festival to be the president of its international jury at the festival's 50th anniversary (2001 February).[8]

In 1993, she received a New York Film Critics Circle award for her role in Farewell My Concubine. Directed by Chen Kaige, the film was her first major role with a director other than Zhang Yimou. In the same year, she was awarded with the Berlinale Camera at the 43rd Berlin International Film Festival.[9]

In 2006, Premiere magazine ranked her performance in Farewell My Concubine as the 89th greatest performance of all time.

Immune to political repercussions because of her fame, Gong Li began criticizing the censorship policy in China. Her films Farewell My Concubine and The Story of Qiu Ju were initially banned in China for being thinly-veiled critiques of the Chinese government.[8] Regarding the sexual content in Ju Dou, Chinese censorship deemed the film "a bad influence on the physical and spiritual health of young people."[6]

Despite her popularity, Gong avoided Hollywood for years, due to a lack of confidence in speaking English.[10] She made her English speaking debut in 2005 when she starred as Hatsumomo in Memoirs of a Geisha. Her performance was met with generally positive reviews.[11]

Her other English-language roles to date included Chinese Box in 1997, Miami Vice in 2006 and Hannibal Rising in 2007. In all three films, she learned her English lines phonetically. In 2010, she stated that she was becoming more selective with the Chinese language projects offered to her during a press junket for her upcoming film Shanghai.

She narrated "Beijing" (2008), an audio walking tour by Louis Vuitton and Soundwalk,[12] which won an Audie Award for best Original Work (2009).[13]

In 2010, she starred in the World War Two-era thriller Shanghai about an American man, Paul Soames (played by John Cusack) who returns to a corrupt, Japanese-occupied Shanghai four months before Pearl Harbor and discovers his friend has been killed. In this film, Gong plays Anna Lan-Ting, the wife of triad boss Anthony Lan-Ting (played by Chow Yun-fat). Ken Watanabe co-stars as Japanese military intelligence officer Captain Tanaka.[14][15]

In 2014, Li was a jury president of the 17th Shanghai International Film Festival. In the same year, she reunited with Zhang Yimou for the film Coming Home (2014). It is set during the throes of the Cultural Revolution. The film was their first collaboration since 2006. The film also starred Chen Daoming as her husband.

Personal life

Her personal and professional relationship with director Zhang Yimou was highly publicized. The pair collaborated on six films between 1987 and 1995, before ending their relationship.[16][17] They reunited in 2006 for the film Curse of the Golden Flower and in 2014 on Coming Home.[18]

In 1996, news began circulating that Gong had married Singaporean tobacco tycoon Ooi Hoe Seong. They were married in November 1996 at Hong Kong's China Club.[19][20] On 28 June 2010, the chief editor of Chinese entertainment magazine Southern Entertainment revealed that Gong's agent confirmed that Gong Li and her husband had divorced.[21][22]

Gong Li was nominated Goodwill Ambassador of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) on 16 October 2000.[23]

She was voted the most beautiful woman in China in 2006.[24][25]

Gong Li applied for Singapore citizenship in early 2008. When overseas professional obligations prevented her from showing up at her scheduled August citizenship ceremony, she was harshly criticized for not making it a priority. On Saturday, 8 November 2008, Gong, in an effort to make amends, attended a citizenship ceremony held at Teck Ghee Community Club and received her Singapore citizenship certificate from Member of Parliament Lee Bee Wah.[26]


Year Title Role Awards
1987 Red Sorghum
1989 The Empress Dowager
Mr. Sunshine
Codename Cougar
Ah Li Hundred Flowers Award for Best Supporting Actress
A Terracotta Warrior
Winter/Lili Chu Nominated – Hong Kong Film Award for Best Actress
1990 Ju Dou
Ju Dou First Chinese film nominated for an Academy Award, entered at Cannes
1991 God of Gamblers III: Back to Shanghai
Raise the Red Lantern
Songlian Hundred Flowers Awards for Best Actress
The Banquet
Waitress at banquet
1992 The Story of Qiu Ju
Qiu Ju Golden Rooster Awards for Best Actress
Volpi Cup for Best Actress
Golden Phoenix Awards for Best Female Actor
Mary from Beijing
1993 Farewell My Concubine
Juxian New York Film Critics Circle Award for Best Supporting Actress
Flirting Scholar
Chou Heung
1994 Dragon Chronicles: The Maidens of Heavenly Mountain
Mo Han-Wen
A Soul Haunted by Painting
Pan Yuliang
To Live
The Great Conqueror's Concubine
Lü Zhi
1995 Shanghai Triad
Xiao Jingbao
1996 Temptress Moon
Pang Ruyi Nominated – Hong Kong Film Award for Best Actress
1997 Chinese Box
1998 The Emperor and the Assassin
Lady Zhao
2000 Breaking the Silence
Sun Liying Golden Rooster Awards for Best Actress
Montreal World Film Festival for Best Actress
Golden Phoenix Awards for Best Actress
Hundred Flowers Awards for Best Actress
Shanghai Film Critics Awards for Best Actress
2002 Zhou Yu's Train
Zhou Yu Students' Choice Award for Favourite Actress
2004 2046 Su Li Zhen Wong Kar-wai, director
Miss Hua
2005 Memoirs of a Geisha
Hatsumomo National Board of Review Award for Best Supporting Actress
Nominated – Satellite Award for Best Supporting Actress – Motion Picture
2006 Miami Vice
Curse of the Golden Flower
Empress Phoenix Hong Kong Film Award for Best Actress
Hong Kong Film Critics Award for Best Actress
Nominated – Asian Film Awards for Best Actress
2007 Hannibal Rising
Lady Murasaki Shikibu Lecter
2010 Shanghai
Anna Lan-Ting
2011 What Women Want
Li Yilong
2014 Coming Home[27] Pending — Indiana Film Journalists Association Award for Best Actress
2016 The Monkey King 2
White Bone Demon

See also


  1. 巩俐说母亲:“影后”的归宿慈母的泪
  2. Kehr, Dave (16 July 2004). "Torn Between a Dreamy Idealist and a Veterinarian". The New York Times. Retrieved 7 January 2008.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. Gong Li Sidebar
  4. Gong Li Biography – Barnes & Noble.com
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 Ghahremani, Yasmin; Stanmeyer, Anastacia (24 September 1999), "Nation builders". Asiaweek. 25 (38):74
  6. 6.0 6.1 Dargis, Manohla (5 December 2004), "Glamour's New Orientation". New York Times. 154 (53054):Arts & Leisure 1
  7. Gong Li in ‘Raise the Red Lantern’ and ‘Shanghai Triad’ – The Tragedy of a Victim who Reinforces the system – ThinkingChinese.com
  8. 8.0 8.1 No byline (25 February 2000), "First lady of film". Asiaweek. 26 (7):34
  9. "Berlinale: 1993 Prize Winners". berlinale.de. Retrieved 29 May 2011.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  10. "The Women of Geisha – EW.com". Entertainment Weekly.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  11. Lyttle, John (16 January 2006), "The eastern affront". New Statesman, 135 (4775):47
  12. Soundwalk. Accessed 17 Sept. 2009.
  13. Audio Publishers Association. Accessed 20 Sept. 2009.
  14. IMDB, The Internet Movie Database Accessed 28 Sept. 2010.
  15. Shanghai International Film Festival on the red carpet
  16. "Zhang Yimou's daughter accuses Gong Li of ruining her childhood". AsiaOne. Singapore Press Holdings. 19 August 2009. Retrieved 3 April 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  17. Feinstein, Howard (16 June 2000). "Life after Gong Li". The Guardian. Retrieved 3 April 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  18. Barber, Lynden (25 February 2015). "Favourite star Gong Li shines for Zhang Yimou". The Australian. Retrieved 3 April 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  19. No byline (10 February 1997), "Gong Li & Ooi Hoe Seong". People. 47 (5):112
  20. Louie, Elaine (29 October 1996), "Chronicle:Gong Li". New York Times. 146 (50595):B16
  21. Gong Li was exposed to be divorced from Huang Hexiang 7 July 2010. Retrieved 7 July 2010.
  22. 巩俐被爆离婚 (in 中文). SINA Corporation.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  23. "Gong Li". Food and Agriculture Organization. Retrieved 16 September 2009.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  24. "Gong Li voted China's Most Beautiful Person". China Daily. 23 May 2006. Retrieved 17 March 2007.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  25. Min, Shen (22 May 2006). "Gong Li Voted China's Most Beautiful Star". Retrieved 17 March 2007.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  26. "Gong Li becomes a Singaporean". The Straits Times. Singapore Press Holdings. 10 November 2008. Retrieved 3 April 2015 – via AsiaOne.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  27. "Zhang Yimou and Gong Li Reunited in 'Return'". Variety. 18 September 2013. Retrieved 3 April 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

External links