Top 20 kung fu stars in China

Updated: 2015-07-22 14:56:11

When you think of Chinese kung fu stars, the name Bruce Lee may come to mind. In fact, besides Lee, there are many more action stars in China.

Ji Chunhua

Ji Chunhua (left). [File photo]

Date of birth: July 20, 1961

Place of birth: Hangzhou, Zhejiang province

Notable work: "The Shaolin Temple" (1982), "Red Sorghum" (1988), "Fong Sai-yuk II" (1993)

Having learnt martial arts since childhood, Ji Chunhua was a member of professional martial arts group in Zhejiang province. In 1982, he began his acting career in martial arts blockbuster film "The Shaolin Temple." Since then, he became one of the most popular supporting actors in Chinese kung fu films. Ji has alopecia and often appeared as bald villains in films and TV series.

Ben Lam

Ben Lam [File photo]


Date of birth: Sept 25, 1960

Place of birth: Hong Kong

Notable work: "Long Arm of the Law" (1984), "Love on Delivery" (1994), "High Risk" (1995)

Ben Lam started his acting career in 1983 in Hong Kong. Two years later, he joined the Jackie Chan Stunt Team, a group of stuntmen and martial artists founded by Jackie Chan. Since then, he became a popular martial arts actor and starred in a range of films. Lam was once famous for his romantic relationship with Anita Mui, but the two broke up in 1993.

Collin Chou

Collin Chou [File photo]

Date of birth: August 11, 1967

Place of birth: Taiwan

Notable work: "The Bodyguard from Beijing" (1994), "My Father Is Hero" (1995), "The Matrix Reloaded" (2003), "The Forbidden Kingdom" (2008)

Collin Chou, also known as Ngai Sing, is dubbed as one of the most talented stuntman and martial artist in Hong Kong. Chou began studying martial arts at the age of five, and became a stuntman when he was only 12 years old. At the age of 21, he moved to Hong Kong, and joined Sammo Hung's stuntmen team, of which he became an essential member. In 2000, Chou went to Hollywood and joined the "Matrix" crew as an action choreographer. In 2003, he succeeded in getting a role (Seraph) in the Matrix trilogy.

Chin Siu Ho

Chin Siu Ho [File photo]

Date of birth: January 26, 1963

Place of birth: Hong Kong

Notable work: "Mr. Vampire" (1985), "Tai Chi Master" (1993), "Fist of legend" (1994)

In 1977, 14-year-old Chin Siu Ho won the third place during a kung fu competition in Hong Kong. Two years later, he joined the Shaw Brothers Ltd., the largest film production company in Hong Kong at that time. During that period, Chin is notable for acting with Jet Li in "The Tai-Chi Master" and "Fist of Legend." After the Shaw Brothers stopped making films, Chin moved on to Golden Harvest and worked with Sammo Hung for a few years.

Leung Siu Lung

Leung Siu Lung [File photo]

Date of birth: April 28, 1948

Place of birth: Zhongshan, Guangdong province

Notable work: "Tiger Vs Dragon" (1972), "Kung Fu Hustle" (2004), TV series "The Legendary Fok" (1981), TV series "The Fist" (1982)

Leung Siu Lung started learning martial arts at the age of 15. He is known as one of the famous "Four Little Dragons" in Hong Kong, together with Bruce Lee, Jackie Chan and Tommy Tam. In 1980s, Leung's career peaked after he acted in a TV series "The Legendary Fok" and "The Fist." In 2010, Leung won the Kung Fu Star award at the 15th Fantasia International Film Festival in Canada.

Michelle Yeoh

Michelle Yeoh [File photo]

Date of birth: August 6, 1962

Place of birth: Ipoh, Malaysia

Notable work: "Police Story 3: Super Cop" (1992), "Tomorrow Never Dies" (1997), "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" (2000), "The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor" (2008)

Born in Malaysia in 1962, Yeoh moved to England with her parents at the age of 15. She was keen on dance from an early age, and later studied at the Royal Academy of Dance in London, majoring in ballet. However, a spinal injury prevented her from becoming a professional ballet dancer, and she later received a BA degree in Creative Arts with a minor in Drama. At the age of 20, Yeoh won the Miss Malaysia beauty pageant; from then on, she began appearing in TV commercial and films.

During 1990s, Yeoh gained fame for performing her own stunts in Hong Kong action films. In 1997, she is best known in the world for her role in the James Bond film "Tomorrow Never Dies", playing Wai Lin. In 2008, the film critic website Rotten Tomatoes ranked her the greatest action heroine of all time. In 2009, she was dubbed by "People" magazine as one of the "35 All-Time Screen Beauties," being the only Asian actress included in the list.

Cheng Pei-pei

Cheng Pei-pei [File photo]

Date of birth: December 4, 1946

Place of birth: Shanghai

Notable work: "Lovers' Rock" (1964), "Come Drink with Me" (1966), "Golden Swallow" (1968), "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" (2000)

Born in Shanghai in 1946, Cheng moved to Hong Kong with her parents when she was 14 years old. She joined the Shaw Brothers' performing arts training course in 1963 and became an actress with Shaw Brothers after the course. During her years at Shaw Brothers, she has made more than 20 films, most of which are martial arts films.

She moved to the US to get married in 1971 and returned to Hong Kong in 1992. In 2000, Ang Lee cast her as the Jade Fox in the Oscar-winning film "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon". The film brought her the best supporting actress award in the Hong Kong Film Awards.

Louis Fan

Louis Fan [File photo]

Date of birth: June 19, 1973

Place of birth: Hong Kong

Notable work: "Story of Ricky" (1992), "Ip Man" (2008), TV series "The Demi-Gods and Semi-Devils" (1997)

Louis Fan, also known as Fan Siu-Wong in Chinese, is the son of famous Hong Kong martial artist Fan Mei-sheng. At a young age, he often accompanied his father to work and made minor appearances in some of the movies his father acted in. At the age of 13, his father sent him to Xuzhou to study gymnastics and martial arts.

In 1991, Fan started his acting career as a martial arts actor under the Hong Kong television station TVB. In 2008, he played Jin Shanzhao, the tough northern martial artist in the film "Ip Man," and the role earned him a nomination for Best Supporting Actor at the 28th Hong Kong Film Awards in 2009.

Lam Ching Ying

Lam Ching Ying [File photo]

Date of birth: December 27, 1951

Place of birth: Hong Kong

Notable work: "Mr. Vampire" (1985), "Way of the Dragon" (1972), TV series "Vampire Expert" (1995)

As a talented and graceful martial artist, Lam Ching Ying was best known for playing the stoic Taoist priest in "Mr. Vampire" (1985). Actually, since 1971 Lam had been invited to be the action choreographer for Bruce Lee's action films, including "Way of the Dragon" (1972), "Fist of Fury" (1972), and "Enter the Dragon" (1973). After Lee's death, Lam joined Sammo Hung's stunt team, and became one of the most renowned stuntmen and martial artist in Hong Kong. In 1997, Lam died of liver cancer.

Lau Kar Leung

Lau Kar Leung [File photo]

Date of birth: July 28, 1934

Place of birth: Guangzhou, Guangdong province

Notable work: "The 36th Chamber of Shaolin" (1978), "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" (1990), "Drunken Master II" (1994)

Lau Kar Leung is a direct descendant (master-wise) of the legendary Wong Fei Hung, because his father's master was a student of Wong. Lau began learning martial arts with his father at the age of nine, and started his acting career in the 1950s.

In 1990, Lau was invited to join the film "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" as an action choreographer, which made him the first Asian choreographer in Hollywood. In 1994, he won the Best Martial Arts Director award at the 31st Golden Horse Awards and 14th Hong Kong Film Awards thanks to his work in the film "Drunken Master II."

In 2010, Lau was honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award at the Hong Kong Film Awards for his contributions to the martial arts film. He died on June 25, 2013 in Hong Kong.

Yu Rongguang

Yu Rongguang [File photo]

Date of birth: August 30, 1958

Place of birth: Beijing

Notable work: "Holy Robe of the Shaolin Temple" (1985), "New Police Story" (2004), "The Myth" (2005)

Yu Rongguang is the son of the renowned Peking Opera artist Yu Mingkui. At the age of 11, he was enrolled in Fenglei Peking Opera Troupe to study Wu Sheng, a martial role in the opera. In 1982, Yu began his acting career in Hong Kong, and got fame for the title role in "Iron Monkey" along with Donnie Yen in 1993. He is also known for appearing in roles for films with Jackie Chan such as "New Police Story" and "The Myth."

Wu Jing

Wu Jing [File photo]

Date of birth: April 3, 1974

Place of birth: Beijing

Notable work: "Tai Chi II" (1996), "SPL: Sha Po Lang" (2005), "Twins Mission" (2007)

Born in Beijing, of Manchu ethnicity, Wu Jing was sent to Beijing Shichahai Sports School to learn kung fu at the age of six. Both his father and grandfather were martial artists, and he had the same master as Jet Li. Wu won first place in a range of national level wushu competitions at the junior level.

In 1995, Wu started his acting career in Yuen Woo-ping's action film "Tai Chi II". Since then, he has appeared in numerous martial arts TV series and films. In 2008, Wu played the assassin in the film "The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor," which was his first American film debut. In 2008 and 2013, he directed two action films: "Legendary Assassin" and "Wolf Warriors."

Yuen Biao

Yuen Biao [File photo]

Date of birth: July 26, 1957

Place of birth: Hong Kong

Notable work: "Project A" (1983), "New Dragon Gate Inn" (1992), "Legend of Twins Dragon" (2007)

At the age of seven, Yuen Biao enrolled in Yu Jim-Yuen's China Drama Academy to study Peking Opera. He is one of the "Seven Little Fortunes" performing group, together with Sammo Hung, Jackie Chan, Corey Yuen, Yuen Wah, Yuen Tak and Yuen Miu.

In the early 1970s, Yuen began work as a stuntman, and became a stunt double for Bruce Lee in several films, including "Fist of Fury." "Way of the Dragon" and "Enter the Dragon." In the late 1970s and early 1980s, Yuen began working more frequently as an actor. Yuen has worked on over 80 films as actor, stuntman and action choreographer.

Sammo Hung

Sammo Hung [File photo]

Date of birth: January 7, 1952

Place of birth: Hong Kong

Notable work: "Enter the Dragon" (1973), "Carry On Pickpocket" (1982), "Island of Fire" (1990), "Ip Man" (2008)

Sammo Hung began learning Peking Opera at Yu Jim-Yuen's China Drama Academy when he was six years old. He is considered the most pivotal figure in Hong Kong's action film industry. He is the big brother of the "Seven Little Fortunes" performing group, together with Jackie Chan, Yuen Biao, Corey Yuen, Yuen Wah, Yuen Tak and Yuen Miu.

In 1961, Hung started his career as actor, martial artist, action director, film producer and director. He has won two Best Actor awards, three Best Martial Art Chorographer awards, and several Best Action Director awards.

Zhao Wenzhuo

Zhao Wenzhuo [File photo]

Date of birth: April 10, 1972

Place of birth: Harbin, Heilongjiang province

Notable work: "Fong Sai-yuk" (1993), "Once Upon a Time in China" (1993), TV series "Hero Zheng Chenggong" (2000), "The Master of Tai Chi" (2006)

Zhao Wenzhuo's father was a martial artist, and his mother was a professional sprinter who broke the record for being the fastest female sprinter in Harbin. Under the instruction of his father, Zhao attended martial arts lessons at the age of eight. In 1990, he was accepted by Beijing Sport University to study martial arts. During his college years, Zhao won several first place titles and gold medals for the National Junior Championship, the National All-Around Championship, and the National Martial Arts Championship.

In 1992, Hong Kong film producer Corey Yuen cast Zhao to play the antagonist role for his film "Fong Sai-yuk," which started Zhao's acting career. In the following years, Zhao got fame for playing Chinese folk hero Wong Fei-hung in the film "Once Upon a Time in China" and several television series. Thanks to his good looks and professional skill, Zhao has become one of the most famous martial arts stars in the country.

Donnie Yen

Donnie Yen [File photo]

Date of birth: July 27, 1963

Place of birth: Guangzhou, Guangdong province

Notable work: "Once Upon a Time in China II" (1992), "New Dragon Gate Inn" (1992), "Hero" (2002), "Ip Man" (2008)

Born in Guangzhou on the Chinese mainland, Donnie Yen's family moved to Hong Kong when he was two years old, and then to Boston, Massachusetts, when he was 11. Yen's mother is a Fu style wudangquan (internal martial arts) and tai chi grandmaster. Under his mother's influence, Yen started learning martial arts when he was very young, and was sent to Beijing Shichahai Sports School for two years of wushu training.

In 1982, on his way back to the United States, Yen stopped in Hong Kong and met action choreographer Yuen Woo-ping. Two years later, he starred in the film "Drunken Tai-Chi." In the past decade, Yen has been one of the top martial arts actors in China, and contributed to popularize the traditional martial arts style Wing Chun. In 2008, he played Wing Chun grandmaster Ip Man in the film "Ip Man." which was a box office success and brought him several Best Actor awards.

Jet Li

Jet Li [File photo]

Date of birth: April 26, 1963

Place of birth: Beijing

Notable work: "The Shaolin Temple" (1982), "Fong Sai-yuk" (1993), "Lethal Weapon 4" (1998), "Hero" (2002)

Since 1971, Jet Li began learning martial arts with his master Wu Bin at Beijing Shichahai Sports School. From 1975 to 1979, Li has won the National All-Round Championship for five years consecutively, making him the only person in the country to win the competition for five times in a row.

In 1982, Li became famous nationwide for making his debut with the film "The Shaolin Temple." Since then, he has played almost all the kung fu heroes in Chinese culture, including Huo Yuanjia, Wong Fei-hung, Fong Sai-yuk and Chen Zhen. In 1998, Li's first role in a Hollywood film was as a villain in "Lethal Weapon 4" (1998), and his first leading role in a Hollywood film was as Han Sing in "Romeo Must Die" (2000).

In 2007, Jet Li founded the One Foundation in order to help more children, poor people and victims of natural disasters.

Jackie Chan

Jackie Chan [File photo]

Date of birth: April 7, 1954

Place of birth: Hong Kong

Notable work: "Drunken Master" (1978), "Police Story" (1985), "Rumble in the Bronx" (1995), "Rush Hour" series

As a Hong Kong native, Jackie Chan began learning Peking Opera at Yu Jim-Yuen's China Drama Academy. Since 1962, he started his career in the Hong Kong film industry as stuntman, action director, actor, producer and film director. He is best known for his acrobatic fighting style, comic timing, use of improvised weapons, and innovative stunts.

Jackie Chan has appeared in more than 150 films, and directed 15 films, most of which are action movies. He has been awarded stars on the Hong Kong Avenue of Stars and the Hollywood Walk of Fame. He is undoubtedly the most renowned kung fu star in China and the world at present.

Bruce Lee

Bruce Lee [File photo]

Date of birth: Nov 27, 1940

Place of birth: San Francisco

Notable work: "The Way of the Dragon" (1972), "Fist of Fury" (1972), "Enter the Dragon" (1973)

Co-stars: Lam Ching Ying, Yuen Biao, Sammo Hung

Bruce Lee was a guru of Chinese martial arts, and was considered a cultural ambassador who developed ancient Chinese martial arts in a way that bridged the gap between the east and west. It was Lee who introduced the phrase "kung fu" to a wider Western audience.

Born in San Francisco, Lee appeared in his first film when he was three months old. He moved with his parents to Hong Kong, where he attended the local elementary school. Lee's full-time martial art teacher was the legendary Wing Chun grandmaster Yip Man.

In 1971, Lee was invited by Hong Kong Golden Harvest Entertainment Ltd to act in the film "The Big Boss." The film grossed an astonishing HK$3.19 million at the box office. Lee then acted in the film "Fist of Fury," in which he impressed the audience with his fighting abilities. After the success of "Fist of Fury," Lee established his own film studio, directing and acting in his own movies, including, "The Way of the Dragon" and "The Game of Death."

On July, 20, 1973, Lee died suddenly in Hong Kong while shooting of "The Game of Death." He was buried in a cemetery in Seattle.

Billy Chow

Billy Chow. [File photo]

Date of birth: August 24, 1958

Place of birth: Calgary, Canada

Notable work: "Dragons Forever" (1988), "Fist of Legend" (1994), "The Scripture with No Words" (1996)

Why can Billy Chow surpass Bruce Lee to rank first in our kung fu star list? That is because he is the only Chinese person in history who has won the world kickboxing championship.

Chow began training in kung fu at age 11 and won the lightweight kickboxing championship of Canada in 1982. From 1984 to 1986, he won the WKA super welterweight kickboxing champion of the world three times in a row.

In 1985, Chow moved to Hong Kong, and made his acting debut in the film "Winner Takes All?" (1984). In the 1980s, Chow appeared in several action films, including "Eastern Condors" (1987), "Dragons Forever" (1988), and "Miracles" (1989). In 1994, Chow found fame after his role as General Fujita in the film "Fist of Legend." In August 2006, Chow retired from acting at the age of 48, after his final film "Dragon in Fury."


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