Jet Li

Jet Li

Infobox Chinese-language singer and actor
name = Jet Li

imagesize = 200px
caption = Jet Li at the premiere of "Fearless".
tradchinesename = 李連傑
simpchinesename = 李连杰
pinyinchinesename = Lǐ Liánjié
birthdate = birth date and age|1963|4|26|mf=y
birthplace = Beijing, China
yearsactive = 1982–present
spouse = Huang Qiuyan (1987–1990)
Nina Li Chi (1999–)
hongkongfilmwards = Best Actor
2007 "The Warlords"
goldenhorseawards = Special Award
hkfcsawards = Best Actor
2006 "Fearless"
website =

Li Lianjie (born April 26, 1963), better known by his stage name Jet Li, is a Chinese martial artist (Kung fu), actor, Wushu champion, and international film star. After three years of intensive training, Li won his first national championship for the Beijing Wushu Team. After retiring at age 17, he went on to win great acclaim in China as an actor making his debut with the film "Shaolin Temple" (1982). He went on to star in many critically acclaimed martial arts epic films, most notably the "Once Upon a Time in China" series, in which he portrayed folk hero Wong Fei Hung. His first role in a Hollywood film was as a villain in "Lethal Weapon 4" (1998), but his first Hollywood film leading role was in "Romeo Must Die" (2000). He has gone on to star in many Hollywood action films, most recently starring beside Jackie Chan in "The Forbidden Kingdom" (2008), and as the titular villain in "" (2008) alongside Brendan Fraser.


Early life & career as an athlete

Li was born Li Lianjie in Beijing, People's Republic of China. His father died when he was two. Li participated in the sport of wushu in the non-sparring event. He began his wushu on the Beijing Wushu Team, an athletic group organized to perform martial arts forms during the All China Games. As a member of the team, he received wushu training and went on to win fifteen gold medals and one silver medal in Chinese wushu championships:

* 1974: Youth National Athletic Hi Competition: broadsword form gold medal, optional empty-hand form gold medal, all-round gold medal;

* 1975: Third Chinese Wushu Championships: long fist form gold medal, spear form silver medal

* 1977: National Wushu Competition: long-fist form gold medal, broadsword form gold medal

* 1978: National Wushu Competition: long-fist form gold medal, optional empty-hand form gold medal, broadsword form gold medal, all-round gold medal;

* 1979: Fourth Chinese Wushu Championships: long-fist form gold medal, optional empty-hand form gold medal, broadsword form gold medal, sparring form gold medal, all-round gold medal.

All his optional empty-hand form medals were won with a form called "fanzi yingzhaoquan" (翻子鷹爪拳, Fanzi eagle claw).

Acting career

Chinese films

The fame gained by his sports winnings led to a career as a martial arts film star, beginning in mainland China and then continuing into Hong Kong. Li acquired his screen name in 1982 in the Philippines when a publicity company thought his real name was too hard to pronounce. They likened his career to an aircraft, which likewise "takes-off" as quickly, so they placed the name Jet Li on the movie posters. Soon everybody was calling him by this new name, which was also based on the nickname, "Jet," given to him as a young student, due to his speed and grace when training with the Beijing Wushu team. He made his debut with the 1982 film "Shaolin Temple". Some of his more famous Chinese films include:
* The "Shaolin Temple" series (1, 2 and 3), which are considered to be the films which sparked the rebirth of the real Shaolin Temple in Dengfeng, China;
* The "Once Upon a Time in China" series (Chinese title: "Wong Fei Hung"), about the legendary Chinese folk hero Master Wong Fei Hung.
* "Fist of Legend" (Chinese title: "Jing Wu Ying Xiong"), a remake of Bruce Lee's "Fist of Fury" ("Jing Wu Men" in Chinese, named after the martial arts school);
* The Fong Sai-Yuk films "Fong Sai-Yuk" and "Fong Sai-Yuk II" (1993), about another Chinese folk hero.Li starred in the 1995 film, "Shu dan long wei", known in English as "Courage of a Mouse and Power of a Dragon". The film, known in the US as either "High Risk" or "Meltdown", portrays Jet Li as a cop who becomes disillusioned after his wife is murdered by crime lords. Along the way, he pairs up with a wacky sell-out actor, Frankie (played by Jacky Cheung), and proceeds to engage in a series of violent battles in a high-rise building. The setting is similar to that of "Die Hard" (which similarly, is known in China as "Hu Dan Long Wei", or "Courage of a tiger and power of a dragon"). This movie is notable in that director Wong Jing had such a terrible experience working with Jackie Chan in Jing's previous film "City Hunter" that he chose to make Cheung's character a biting satire of Chan. Jet Li would later publicly apologize to Chan for taking part in it.

American films

In 1998, he made his American film debut in "Lethal Weapon 4" which also marked the first time he had ever played a villain in a film. He agreed to do "Lethal Weapon 4" after the producer Joel Silver promised to give him the leading role in his next film, "Romeo Must Die" (2000) which was a box office hit launching his career as a leading man in Hollywood.

Li turned down Chow Yun-Fat's role in "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" (2000) because he promised his wife that he would not make any films during her pregnancy. [Burr, Martha. "Kiss of the Dragon."Kung Fu Magazine" June 2001 13 Feb 2007 [] .] He also turned down the role of Seraph in "The Matrix" trilogy, based on his belief that the role was not one which required his skills and that the films were iconic and stunning enough without adding his name to the cast list.

In 2001, he appeared in two more Hollywood films: "The One" and "Kiss of the Dragon" opposite Bridget Fonda which did moderately well at the box office. In July 2001, Li agreed to produce and star in an action film with Jackie Chan which was to be released in 2002 or 2003, but no further news of their collaboration surfaced until 2006. In 2002, the period martial arts epic film "Hero" was released in the Chinese market. This film was both a commercial and critical success. In 2003 he reunited with producer Joel Silver for the action thriller film "Cradle 2 the Grave" where he starred alongside rapper DMX and fellow martial artist Mark Dacascos. In 2004 Li lent his likeness, voice and provided motion capture work for the video game "".

Li departed from his usual martial arts action films with the 2005 dramatic film, "Unleashed" (a.k.a. "Danny the Dog"), where he portrays an adult with the mentality of a child who has been raised like an animal. Although his martial arts skills were utilized extensively, it was a somber film with more depth than had been previously seen in Li's films, and co-starred dramatic actors Bob Hoskins and Morgan Freeman.

In 2006, the martial arts film epic "Fearless", was released worldwide. Although he will continue to make martial arts films, "Fearless" is his last Wushu epic. In "Fearless", he played Huo Yuanjia, the real-life founder of Chin Woo Athletic Association, who reportedly defeated foreign boxers and Japanese martial artists in publicized events at a time when China's power was seen as eroding. Together with the film "Fist of Legend", Li has portrayed both Chen Zhen, the student and avenger of Huo Yuanjia, as well as Huo Yuanjia himself. "Fearless" was released on January 26, 2006 in Hong Kong, followed by a September 22, 2006 release in the United States where it reached second place in its first weekend.

Li has stated in an interview with the "Shenzhen Daily" newspaper that this will be his last martial arts epic, which is also stated in the film's television promotions. However, he plans to continue his film career in other genres. Specifically, he plans to continue acting in action and martial arts films; epic films deal more with religious and philosophical issues.

Li's 2007 Hollywood film, "War", was released in August of that year, and re-teamed him with actor Jason Statham, who previously starred with him in "The One", and action choreographer Corey Yuen. "War" raked in a disappointing $23M at the box office, becoming one of Li's lowest grossers in America; however, it was a hit on video, accumulating nearly $52M in rental revenue, more than doubling its box office take. [ [ War Rental Revenue] ] With the exception of "Romeo Must Die" and the worldwide release of "Hero", most of Jet's American films have been only modest hits like "Kiss of the Dragon", "The One", "Unleashed", "Cradle 2 the Grave", and the worldwide release of "Fearless".

In late 2007 Li returned again to China to participate in the China/Hong Kong co production of the period war film "The Warlords" with Andy Lau and Takeshi Kaneshiro. This film with its focus on dramatics rather than martial arts netted Li the Hong Kong Film Award forbest actor.

Li and fellow martial arts veteran Jackie Chan appeared together onscreen for the first time in "The Forbidden Kingdom", which began filming in May 2007 and was released to critical and commercial success on April 18, 2008. The film was based on the legend of the Monkey King from the Chinese folk novel "Journey to the West". [ [ Jackie and Jet Li Will Begin Filming of The Forbidden Kingdom in May] ] [ [ Forbidden Kingdom Facts] ] Li also starred as the lead villain in the fantasy action film "" with actors Brendan Fraser, Isabella Leong and Michelle Yeoh. [Chung, Philip W. (2008-08-01). [ "Jet Li and Michelle Yeoh: From ‘Tai Chi Master’ to ‘The Mummy’"] . AsianWeek. Retrieved on 2008-08-04.]

Personal life

Li is a practitioner of Tibetan Buddhism. [ [ How did you come to follow Tibetan Buddhism?] ]

In 1987, Li married Beijing Wushu Team member and "Shaolin Temple" series co-star Huang Qiuyan, ["Huang Qiu Yan." "Hong Kong Cinemagic". 13 Feb 2007. [] ] with whom he had two children. They divorced in 1990, Since 1999, he has been married to Nina Li Chi (born Li Zhi), a Shanghai-born, Hong Kong-based actress. He has two children with her as well, Jane (born 2000) and Jada (born 2002).

Li was in the Maldives when the tsunami hit during the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake. Although it was widely reported at the time that he had died during the disaster, ["Asian Blog Entry ." "Blog Critics ~ About Tsunami". [] ] he only suffered a minor foot injury, caused by a piece of floating furniture, while he was guiding his daughter to safety. The two were in the lobby of their hotel when the wave came ashore. ["Reports: Jet Li escapes Maldives flooding." "USA Today". 28 Dec 2004. Gannet Co. Inc. 13 Feb 2007 [] ]

According to Li, once, as a child, when the Chinese National Wushu Team went to perform for President Richard Nixon in the United States, he was asked by Nixon to be his personal bodyguard. Li replied, "I don't want to protect any individual. When I grow up, I want to defend my one billion Chinese countrymen!" which earned him much respect in his homeland. ["Jet Li Essays." "The Official Jet Li Website". 13 Feb 2007 [] ]

On an interview in 1999 on "The Tonight Show With Jay Leno" Jet Li admitted that if he were to ever fight Jackie Chan in a no holds barred fight, he (Li) had quote "No chance."


Li has been a "philanthropic ambassador" of the Red Cross Society of China since January 2006. He contributed 500,000 yuan ($62,500 USD) of box office revenues from his film "Fearless" to the Red Cross' psychological sunshine project, which promotes mental health. ["Jet Li Becomes 'Philanthropic Ambassador' of Red Cross." Xinhua News Agency. 23 January 2006. [] ]

In April 2007, touched by his near-death experience in the Maldives during the 2004 tsunami, Li formed his own nonprofit foundation called The One Foundation. ["Interview with Jet Li." CNN. 25 January 2008. [] ] [The One Foundation [] ] The One Foundation supports international disaster relief efforts in conjunction with the Red Cross as well as other efforts, including mental health awareness and suicide prevention.


ee also

*Cinema of China
*Cinema of Hong Kong


Further reading

* Ducker, Chris, and Stuart Cutler. "The HKS Guide to Jet Li". London: Hong Kong Superstars, 2000.
* Marx, Christy. "Jet Li". Martial Arts Masters. Rosen Publishing Group, 2002. ISBN 0823935191.
* Parish, James Robert. "Jet Li: A Biography". New York: Thunder's Mouth Press, 2002. ISBN 1560253762.

External links

*imdb name|id=0001472|name=Jet Li
* [ The Official Jet Li Website]
* [ Jet Li's Foundation: The One Foundation Project]
* [ Jet Li Biography (HKCinema)]
* [ Jet Li Biography (HKFilm)]
* [ Jet Li's Official UK Site - Articles]
* [ Jet Li discusses The One Foundation]

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

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