Gong Li

For the computer scientist, see Li Gong (computer scientist).
This is a Chinese name; the family name is Gong.
Gong Li
Chinese name (traditional)
Chinese name (simplified)
Pinyin Gǒng Lì (Mandarin)
Born (1965-12-31) 31 December 1965
Shenyang, Liaoning, China
Nationality Singapore
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] Gong is a naturalized citizen of Singapore.

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, Liaoning, China, 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 realise 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 criticising 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 learnt her English lines phonetically.

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 II-era thriller Shanghai as Anna Lan-Ting, the wife of triad boss Anthony Lan-Ting (played by Chow Yun-fat).[14][15] During a press junket for the film, she stated that she was becoming more selective with the Chinese language projects offered to her.

In 2014, Gong 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, which 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 publicised. 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 criticised 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
1987 Red Sorghum
1989 The Empress Dowager
Mr. Sunshine
Codename Cougar
Ah Li
A Terracotta Warrior
Winter/Lili Chu
1990 Ju Dou
Ju Dou
1991 God of Gamblers III: Back to Shanghai
Raise the Red Lantern
The Banquet
Waitress at banquet
1992 The Story of Qiu Ju
Qiu Ju
Mary from Beijing
1993 Farewell My Concubine
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
1997 Chinese Box
1998 The Emperor and the Assassin
Lady Zhao
2000 Breaking the Silence
Sun Liying
2002 Zhou Yu's Train
Zhou Yu
2004 2046 Su Li Zhen
Miss Hua
2005 Memoirs of a Geisha
2006 Miami Vice
Curse of the Golden Flower
Empress Phoenix
2007 Hannibal Rising
Lady Murasaki Shikibu Lecter
2010 Shanghai
Anna Lan-Ting
2011 What Women Want
Li Yilong
2014 Coming Home[27]
2016 The Monkey King 2
White Bone Demon

Awards and nominations

Year Award Category Nominated work Result
1989 Hundred Flowers Award Best Supporting Actress Codename Cougar Won
Hong Kong Film Award Best Actress A Terracotta Warrior Nominated
1991 Hundred Flowers Awards Raise the Red Lantern Won
1992 Golden Rooster Awards The Story of Qiu Ju Won
Volpi Cup Won
Golden Phoenix Awards Won
1993 New York Film Critics Circle Award Best Supporting Actress Farewell My Concubine Won
1996 Hong Kong Film Award Best Actress Temptress Moon Nominated
2000 Golden Rooster Awards Breaking the Silence Won
Montreal World Film Festival Won
Golden Phoenix Awards Won
Hundred Flowers Awards Won
Shanghai Film Critics Awards Won
2005 National Board of Review Best Supporting Actress Memoirs of a Geisha Won
Satellite Award Best Supporting Actress – Motion Picture Nominated
2007 Hong Kong Film Award Best Actress Curse of the Golden Flower Won
Hong Kong Film Critics Society Award Won
Asian Film Awards Nominated

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.
  3. Gong Li Sidebar
  4. Gong Li Biography – Barnes & Noble.com
  5. 1 2 3 Ghahremani, Yasmin; Stanmeyer, Anastacia (24 September 1999), "Nation builders". Asiaweek. 25 (38):74
  6. 1 2 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. 1 2 No byline (25 February 2000), "First lady of film". Asiaweek. 26 (7):34
  9. "Berlinale: 1993 Prize Winners". berlinale.de. Retrieved 29 May 2011.
  10. "The Women of Geisha – EW.com". Entertainment Weekly.
  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.
  17. Feinstein, Howard (16 June 2000). "Life after Gong Li". The Guardian. Retrieved 3 April 2015.
  18. Barber, Lynden (25 February 2015). "Favourite star Gong Li shines for Zhang Yimou". The Australian. Retrieved 3 April 2015.
  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 Chinese). SINA Corporation.
  23. "Gong Li". Food and Agriculture Organization. Retrieved 16 September 2009.
  24. "Gong Li voted China's Most Beautiful Person". China Daily. 23 May 2006. Retrieved 17 March 2007.
  25. Min, Shen (22 May 2006). "Gong Li Voted China's Most Beautiful Star". Retrieved 17 March 2007.
  26. "Gong Li becomes a Singaporean". The Straits Times. Singapore Press Holdings. 10 November 2008. Retrieved 3 April 2015 via AsiaOne.
  27. "Zhang Yimou and Gong Li Reunited in 'Return'". Variety. 18 September 2013. Retrieved 3 April 2015.

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