Zhang Ziyi

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Zhang Ziyi
ZhangZiyi wiki picture.jpg
Zhang in March 2018
Born (1979-02-09) 9 February 1979 (age 39)
Beijing, China
Alma mater Central Academy of Drama
Years active 1996–present
Wang Feng (m. 2015)
Children Wang Xingxing (daughter)
Parent(s) Zhang Yuanxiao (father)
Li Zhousheng (mother)
Modeling information
Height 5 ft 5 in (165 cm)
Hair color Black
Eye color Brown
Agency William Morris Company
Chinese name
Chinese 章子怡

Zhang Ziyi ([ʈʂáŋ tsɨ̀.ǐ]; Chinese: 章子怡; born 9 February 1979) is a Chinese actress.

Her first major role was in The Road Home (1999). She later achieved fame for her role in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000), which was nominated for 10 Academy Awards.

In the West, Zhang is best known for her appearances in Rush Hour 2 (2001), Hero (2002), and House of Flying Daggers (2004). Her most critically acclaimed works are Memoirs of a Geisha (2005), which earned her nominations for the Golden Globe Award for Best Actress – Motion Picture Drama, the BAFTA Award for Best Actress in a Leading Role, and the Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Leading Role; and The Grandmaster (2013), for which she won 12 different Best Actress awards to become the most awarded actress for a single film.[1]

From 2004 to 2010, Zhang ranked in the Top 5 of Forbes China Celebrity 100 list every year. In 2008, she was awarded with the Outstanding Contribution to Chinese Cinema award at the 11th Shanghai International Film Festival. In 2013, she received the French Cultural Order at the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres.

Zhang most recently appeared in the J.J. Abrams-produced Netflix film The Cloverfield Paradox (2018). She will star in the upcoming film Godzilla: King of the Monsters, a sequel to the 2014 franchise reboot film Godzilla.[2]

Early life[edit]

Zhang was born and raised in Beijing, China. Her father was an accountant and later economist, and her mother, a kindergarten teacher.[3][4] She has an older brother with whom she was very close. Zhang began studying dance when she was 8 years old; subsequently, she joined the Beijing Dance Academy at her parents' suggestion at the age of 11.[5] While at this boarding school, she noticed how mean the other girls were to each other while competing for status amongst the teachers. Zhang disliked the attitudes of her peers and teachers so much that, on one occasion, she ran away from the school.[4] At the age of 15, Zhang won the national youth dance championship and also appeared in a handful of tv commercials and began appearing in television commercials in Hong Kong.[6]

In 1996, Zhang entered the prestigious Central Academy of Drama in Beijing at the age of 17.


1999–2000: Early career[edit]

In 1998, while she was studying in Central Academy of Drama, Zhang was offered her first role by director Zhang Yimou in his film The Road Home, which won the Silver Bear prize at the 2000 Berlin International Film Festival.[7] Zhang plays a country girl in love with the town's young teacher, she won the Best Actress Award at the 2000 Hundred Flowers Awards for her performance.

She is considered one of the Four Dan Actresses of China.[8]

2000–06: Wuxia epics and international breakthrough[edit]

She rose to international fame in 2000 with her role as Yu Jiaolong in Ang Lee's re-visioned martial arts film Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. The movie's success in the US and Europe helped her break into Hollywood.[9] Zhang plays a young Manchu noblewoman who has secretly learned martial arts and runs off to become a wandering swordswoman rather than commit to an arranged marriage. This role won her the Most Promising Actress award at the Chicago Film Critics Association Awards and Best Supporting Actress awards from the Independent Spirit Awards, as well as Toronto Film Critics Association Awards.[10][11][12]

Zhang then appeared in her first American film, Rush Hour 2 (2001). On playing her first villain role, Zhang expressed that "the opportunity to sort of try and analyze the psyche of the character and get to know and pull out emotions I’ve never had to utilize before...was very exciting."[13]

In 2002, Zhang co-starred in Hero alongside Tony Leung, directed by her early mentor Zhang Yimou. The film was a huge success in the English-speaking world and was nominated for an Oscar and a Golden Globe award in the category of Best Foreign Language Film.[14][15] She then signed on to film an avant-garde drama film Purple Butterfly (2003), which competed in the 2003 Cannes Film Festival.[16]

Zhang went back to the martial arts genre in House of Flying Daggers (2004), again by Zhang Yimou, where she starred along Takeshi Kaneshiro and Andy Lau. She plays the blind dancing girl Mei, who despite the lack of eyesight, is a skilled fighter.[17] In preparation for the part, Zhang spent two months living with an actual blind girl.[18] Her performance earned her a Best Actress nomination at the BAFTA Awards.[19] She also featured on the House of Flying Daggers soundtrack with her own musical rendition of the ancient Chinese poem Jia Rén Qu (佳人曲, The Beauty Song).[20]

Zhang next starred in Wong Kar-wai's romantic drama film 2046 (2004), which featured many top Chinese actors and actresses.[21] Critics praise Zhang for her "expressive" body language that was combined with her "reserved and complex emotions" in performance as a struggling prostitute.[22] Zhang won the Hong Kong Film Critics' Award and Hong Kong Film Academy Award for Best Actress.[23][22]

In 2005, Zhang featured in the critically acclaimed film Jasmine Women, adapted from Su Tong's novel titled Women's Lives. She won Best Actress at the Golden Rooster Awards for her performance.[24] Next came Princess Raccoon (2005), directed by Japan's Seijun Suzuki, which premiered at the Cannes Film Festival. For her role, Zhang took two weeks of singing and dancing lessons in Japan.[25]

Showing her whimsical musical tap-dancing side, Zhang played the lead role of Sayuri in the American film adaptation based on the international bestseller Memoirs of a Geisha.[26] Controversy arose in China about having a Chinese woman portray a prominent Japanese geisha.[27] Nonetheless, the film was a box office hit in the West. For the role, Zhang was nominated for the Golden Globe Award for Best Actress – Motion Picture Drama, the BAFTA Award for Best Actress in a Leading Role, and the Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Leading Role.[28][29][30]

On 27 June 2005, Zhang accepted an invitation to join the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS), placing her among the ranks of those who are able to vote on the Academy Awards.[31] In May 2006, Zhang was chosen as a jury member of Feature Films at the 2006 Cannes Film Festival.[32]

Zhang returned to China in 2006 for the Chinese wuxia film The Banquet, directed by Feng Xiaogang. The film is a loose adaptation of William Shakespeare's Hamlet.[33][34]

2007–12: Hollywood and China[edit]

In 2007, she performed the voice of Karai in the American animated film TMNT (2007).[35]

In Forever Enthralled (2008), which tells the story of legendary Peking opera actor Mei Lanfang, Zhang appears in the second act as Mei's lover Meng Xiaodong. The Hollywood Reporter praised her performance as "confident and passion", giving the romance a sparkle.[36]

Her next American film was The Horsemen (2009), where she starred opposite Dennis Quaid.[37][38] Back in China, she played the titular character in romantic comedy Sophie's Revenge (2009); a comic book artist seeking to punish her unfaithful boyfriend.[39] She then starred alongside Aaron Kwok in the AIDS-themed film Love for Life (2011).[40]

In 2012, Zhang starred next to Cecilia Cheung and Jang Dong-gun in the Chinese-Korean co-production Dangerous Liaisons, an adaptation of the French novel Les Liaisons dangereuses, narrating Shanghai of the 1930s.[41] Zhang was reportedly paid 20 million RMB (approximately $3.5 million) for the role.[42] The same year, she was cast in the coming-of-age film Forever Young directed and written by Li Fangfang. The film premiered in January 2018.[43]

Zhang and Tony Leung at the premiere of The Grandmaster at the 2013 Berlin International Film Festival

2013–17: Return to stardom[edit]

In 2013, Zhang received the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres for her significant contributions to the film industry.[44]

Zhang reunited with Wong Kar-wai and Tony Leung for The Grandmaster (2013), which also marks her return to the martial arts genre after 7 years since The Banquet (2006). The film was China's submission to the Academy Awards for Best Foreign-Language Picture. Critics praise Zhang's portrayal of Gong'Er as the "best performance she's ever delivered in the history of her career."[45] which led to her winning several "Best Actress" trophies across Asia.[46] The same year, she reprised her role as Sophie in My Lucky Star, a sequel to Sophie's Revenge.[47] Described as Zhang's "breakthrough comedy role", the film topped Chinese box office on the week of its release.[48]

In 2014, Zhang starred in John Woo's romantic epic The Crossing, based on the true story of the Taiping steamer collision and follows six characters and their intertwining love stories in Taiwan and Shanghai during the 1930s. Zhang plays a poor illiterate woman waiting for her soldier lover in 1930's Shanghai.[49]

In 2015, Zhang produced her third film Oh My God, which stars Zhang Yixing and Li Xiaolu. She made a cameo appearance in the film.[50] Zhang next starred in romance anthology film Run for Love[51] and crime epic The Wasted Times.[52]

2018–present: Hollywood epics[edit]

In 2016, Zhang was cast in J. J. Abrams's science fiction thriller The Cloverfield Paradox, which premiered in 2018.[53]

In June 2017, Zhang was announced to join the cast of Godzilla: King of the Monsters, playing a prominent character.[54]

Ambassadorship and representation[edit]


Other causes[edit]

Defamation cases[edit]

In 2012, an overseas Chinese website Boxun falsely reported that Zhang Ziyi was paid $100 million to sleep with top Chinese officials. Zhang sued Boxun in a US court for defamation. In December 2013, Boxun settled the case after agreeing to pay an undisclosed amount to Zhang and issue a front page apology.[60] Zhang also won court cases in Hong Kong against Next Media over similar false reports in Apple Daily and Next Magazine.[60]

Personal life[edit]

In the July 2006 issue of Interview magazine, Zhang spoke of her movies' contents and being careful about the roles she takes on, especially in Hollywood:

Zhang obtained Hong Kong residency in 2007 through the Quality Migrant Admission Scheme for her contribution to the local film industry.[62]

Zhang is an admirer and collector of the works of the Chinese contemporary artist Shen Jingdong.[63]

Zhang is one of the members of China Zhi Gong Party.[64]

Zhang had been engaged to the Israeli American venture capitalist Aviv Nevo before the couple separated in 2010.[65][66] Zhang married Chinese rock musician Wang Feng in May 2015.[67] On December 27, 2015, Zhang gave birth to their daughter Wang Xingxing.[68]


Year English title Original title Director Role
1996 Touching Starlight 星星點燈 Sun Wenxue Chen Wei
1999 The Road Home 我的父親母親 Zhang Yimou Zhao Di
2000 Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon 臥虎藏龍 Ang Lee Jen Yu
2001 Rush Hour 2 N/A Brett Ratner Hu Li
The Legend of Zu 蜀山傳 Tsui Hark Joy (special appearance)
Musa 무사 Kim Sung-su Princess Bu-yong
2002 Hero 英雄 Zhang Yimou Moon
2003 Purple Butterfly 紫蝴蝶 Lou Ye Cynthia
My Wife is a Gangster 2 조폭 마누라 2 - 돌아온 전설 Jeong Heung Sun Gangster boss (Cameo)
2004 2046 2046 Wong Kar Wai Bai Ling
House of Flying Daggers 十面埋伏 Zhang Yimou Mei
Jasmine Women 茉莉花開 Hou Yong Mo/ Li/ Hua
2005 Princess Raccoon オペレッタ狸御殿 Seijun Suzuki Princess Tanuki
Memoirs of a Geisha N/A Rob Marshall Chiyo Sakamoto/Sayuri Nitta
2006 The Banquet 夜宴 Feng Xiaogang Wan
2007 TMNT N/A Kevin Munroe Karai (Voice)
2008 Forever Enthralled 梅蘭芳 Chen Kaige Meng Xiaodong
2009 Horsemen N/A Jonas Åkerlund Kristen
Sophie's Revenge 非常完美 Eva Jin Sophie
The Founding of a Republic 建国大业 Huang Jianxin Gong Peng (Cameo)
2011 Love for Life 最爱 Gu Changwei Qinqin
2012 Dangerous Liaisons 危险关系 Hur Jin-ho Du Fenyu
2013 The Grandmaster 一代宗師 Wong Kar Wai Gong Er
Better and Better 一越来越好之村晚 Zhang Yibai Herself (Cameo)
My Lucky Star 非常幸运 Dennie Gordon Sophie
2014 The Crossing Part 1 太平轮 John Woo Yu Zhen
2015 The Crossing Part 2 太平轮·彼岸 John Woo Yu Zhen
Where's the Dragon? 龙在哪里? Foo Sing-choong Phoenix (Voice)
Oh My God 从天儿降 Wei Nan, Wei Min Auntie (Cameo)
2016 Run for Love 奔爱 Zhang Yibai Su Leqi
The Wasted Times 罗曼蒂克消亡史 Cheng Er Xiao Liu
2018 Forever Young 无问西东 Li Fangfang Wang Minjia
The Cloverfield Paradox N/A Julius Onah Tam
2019 Godzilla: King of the Monsters N/A Michael Dougherty Dr. Chen

Awards and nominations[edit]

Other honors[edit]

In 2008, she was awarded with the "Outstanding Contribution to Chinese Cinema" at the 11th Shanghai International Film Festival.[69]

In 2010, she was named "Actress of the Decade" by CineAsia. She previously won "Star of Tomorrow prize" back in 1999.[70]

In 2013, Zhang received the Order of Arts and Letter at the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres Awards.[44]

Magazine recognition[edit]

  • Ranked 2nd of the 100 Sexiest Women by FHM Taiwan (2001).
  • Named one of the 25 Hottest Stars Under 25 by Teen People Magazine (2001).
  • Named one of the 25 Hottest Stars Under 25 by Teen People Magazine (2002).
  • Ranked No. 91 in Stuff magazine's "102 Sexiest Women in the World" (2002)
  • Voted at No. 100 in FHM's "Sexiest 100 Girls of 2002", UK edition. (June, 2002)
  • Ranked in the top 5 of "Forbes China Celebrity 100" list every year from 2004 to 2010.
  • Named by Entertainment Weekly in their "The Must List" 2005. Listed 38th out of the 122 people and things the magazine "loves" this year, Ziyi was the only Chinese to be included.
  • Selected by Southern People Weekly magazine as "Chinese Top Ten Leaders of the Younger Generation" in 2005.
  • Listed in People's "50 Most Beautiful People" List in 2005.
  • Listed in TIME's World's 100 Most Influential People. They called her "China's Gift to Hollywood".
  • Ranked one of the "100 Most Beautiful Women in the World" in the July 2005 issue of Harpers & Queen magazine. It was her first time on the list. She was ranked number 15.
  • Voted in at No. 86 in FHM's sexiest women in the world in 2006. She had not appeared in the list since 2002.
  • Topped Japanese Playboy's "100 Sexiest Women in Asia" list and was featured on the cover (April 2006)[71]
  • Voted No. 1 in E!'s "Sexiest Action Stars" list in summer 2007.
  • Included in People's 100 Most Beautiful People in the World (2007). This is now her third appearance on the list after 2001 and 2003.
  • Ranked No. 3 in Japanese magazine Classy's "Super Perfect Head-to-Body Size Ratio List" in January 2009.
  • Listed among 50 Most Beautiful Female Celebrities by the Los Angeles Times.[72]


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External links[edit]