Why Do People Love Gong Li?

Gong Li is one of the most renowned and accomplished actresses from China. She has had an illustrious career spanning over 3 decades and has starred in many critically acclaimed Chinese and international films.

Gong Li’s beauty, acting skills and choice of roles have made her a favorite among ardent cinema lovers across the world. Here are some of the key reasons why people adore Gong Li so much.

Her Captivating Beauty and Grace

One of the foremost reasons why Gong Li has such an ardent fan following is her captivating beauty and grace. She has a delicate charm yet strong personality that shines through on screen. Some of her best physical attributes include:

  • Expressive eyes that can evoke a range of emotions
  • Elegant poise and body language
  • Mesmerizing smile that lights up the screen
  • Timeless beauty that has remained over years
  • Photogenic face from different angles

Gong Li has often played strong female characters who exude confidence and vulnerability at the same time. Her beauty and personality perfectly fit these multilayered roles.

Her Versatility as an Actress

While Gong Li is extremely beautiful, she is also a very versatile actress. She has played a wide range of roles across various genres:

Dramatic Roles

Some of Gong Li’s most memorable dramatic roles where she displayed great depth and intensity include:

  • Farewell My Concubine – As the lead actress Juxian, she portrays the pain and struggle of a woman loving two men against the backdrop of China’s turbulent history. Her performance won her the Best Actress award at Cannes in 1993.
  • The Story of Qiu Ju – As the stubborn and determined Qiu Ju navigating the Chinese bureaucracy to seek justice for her husband. This role won her the Volpi Cup for Best Actress at Venice Film Festival in 1992.
  • Zhou Yu’s Train – As the poetess Zhou Yu torn between love and freedom. Gong Li showcased her acting range as an intellectual torn between reason and emotions.
  • Memoirs of a Geisha – As Hatsumomo, she played the complex character of a geisha with subtle nuances.

Comedic Roles

Gong Li has also done lighthearted comedic roles wonderfully, revealing her versatility:

  • Chinese Odyssey 2002 – She played dual roles of Zixia and Xingxing showcasing great comic timing and captivating audiences with both characters.
  • The Emperor and the Assassin – As the zany puppet mistress Lady Zhao, she delivered an over-the-top comic performance.
  • Miami Vice – As the villain Isabella, she revealed her flair for comedy using deadpan expressions and situational humor.

Commercial Films

Gong Li has straddled both art-house and commercial films successfully over her career:

  • The Great Wall – Her first English language film in a big budget production as Commander Lin Mae. She held her own in an action packed role.
  • Memoirs of a Geisha – First Hollywood film that made her a global star playing lead character Sayuri.
  • Raise the Red Lantern – As Songlian, she plays a woman married into a wealthy Chinese family with nuance. This role cemented her acting reputation.

So whether it is hard-hitting dramas, light-hearted comedies or commercial blockbusters, Gong Li has excelled across different genres highlighting her acting calibre.

Her Collaborations with Top Directors

A key reason for Gong Li’s success has been her collaborations with top Chinese directors who have created strong women centric films:

Zhang Yimou

  • Gong Li has worked on 6 films with director Zhang Yimou early in her career.
  • Some of their best works include Raise the Red Lantern, The Story of Qiu Ju, To Live.
  • Zhang Yimou’s strong directorial vision and Gong Li’s acting talents created unique female characters that broke stereotypes.

Chen Kaige

  • Farewell My Concubine directed by Chen Kaige was an important milestone in Gong Li’s career.
  • Her role as the strong-willed Juxian against the backdrop of the Beijing Opera was both dramatic and nuanced.
  • The film won the Palme d’Or at Cannes and made Gong Li an internationally recognized star.

Michael Mann

  • In Miami Vice, Gong Li entered Hollywood by collaborating with acclaimed director Michael Mann.
  • Though the film was a commercial success, her roles in Zhang Yimou and Chen Kaige’s works are considered more substantial.

Regardless, these key collaborations played a big part in showcasing Gong Li’s talents to global audiences and fueling her popularity.

Her Unconventional Choice of Roles

Another aspect of Gong Li’s acting career that has made her such a favorite is her bold choice of unconventional roles for Chinese actresses. She has repeatedly broken stereotypes by picking films with strong female protagonists.

Complex Characters

Gong Li played characters with complexity and agency like:

  • Raise the Red Lantern – As the fourth wife navigating palace politics
  • Shanghai Triad – As the gangster’s mistress
  • Curse of the Golden Flower – As the empress plotting against her husband

Controversial Plots

She starred in movies with controversial plotlines:

  • Ju Dou – As a woman in an abusive relationship
  • The Story of Qiu Ju – About a peasant woman seeking justice
  • Farewell My Concubine – With homosexual undertones

Defying Ageism

Gong Li has also broken convention by playing lead roles even as she advanced in years:

  • Memoirs of a Geisha (2005) – As lead geisha Hatsumomo when she was 40 years old
  • Miami Vice (2006) – As a villain opposite Colin Farrell when she was 41
  • The Great Wall (2016) – As the main protagonist Commander Lin Mae when she was 50

By defying ageism and sexism and playing bold, non-traditional characters, Gong Li has inspired many young Chinese actresses to reach for meatier roles.

Preserving Chinese Culture Through Her Films

While Gong Li is now a global star, she is also respected for preserving Chinese cultural narratives through her filmography. Some ways her films showcase Chinese culture include:

  • Period dramas like Curse of the Golden Flower, Raise the Red Lantern that recreate Imperial China on screen
  • Displaying traditional Chinese opera and folklore in Farewell My Concubine
  • Depicting Chinese society and politics in Shanghai Triad, To Live
  • Showing the Chinese bureaucratic system in The Story of Qiu Ju
  • Starring in international co-productions like Memoirs of a Geisha that build cross-cultural bridges
  • Speaking in fluent Mandarin in most of her Chinese films contributing to language preservation

So while appealing to worldwide audiences, Gong Li also emphasizes Chinese culture and stories through her film choices.

Her Philanthropic Endeavors

In addition to her film career, Gong Li has also undertaken many philanthropic activities focusing on children’s causes and health issues.

Ambassador for Charities

  • Appointed ambassador for both the Chinese & Singapore Red Cross Societies
  • Supports Project Vision Charity that tackles preventable blindness
  • Ambassador for 1KG More for Children charity helping malnourished Chinese children

Disaster Relief

  • Raised funds for disaster relief after the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami
  • Contributed to Sichuan earthquake relief efforts in 2008

Gong Li has been awarded the Commander of the Order of Arts and Letters by France for her cinematic and humanitarian achievements.


In summary, Gong Li is admired by audiences across the globe due to her captivating screen presence, nuanced acting skills across roles and genres, collaborations with master directors, bold film choices, focus on Chinese narratives and humanitarian efforts.

She paved the path for Chinese actors on the international stage. With her extensive body of work over 30 years, Gong Li has earned her place as one of the most renowned Asian film stars and dynamic actresses of her generation.

Her charismatic personality, professional achievements and philanthropic work make her an icon who is loved universally.

Frequently Asked Questions about Why People Love Gong Li

What are some of Gong Li’s best films showcasing her acting range?

Some of Gong Li’s best films that showcase her immense acting talents across genres include:

  • Raise the Red Lantern – As Songlian, she portrays a woman navigating bitter rivalry as the fourth wife of a wealthy man in 1920s China.
  • Farewell My Concubine – As Juxian, she plays the lead actress in a Chinese opera troupe involved in a complex love triangle.
  • To Live – As Fugui’s wife, she depicts a woman enduring several trials as her family experiences Chinese history from 1940s to 1970s.
  • The Story of Qiu Ju – In the title role, she plays a peasant woman seeking justice by stubbornly navigating the Chinese bureaucracy.
  • Curse of the Golden Flower – As the Empress, she portrays a scheming wife plotting to overthrow her cruel husband, the Emperor.
  • Miami Vice – As the villain Isabella, she revealed her comic flair playing a drug lord’s mistress opposite Colin Farrell.

How did Gong Li break stereotypes in Chinese cinema?

Gong Li broke prevailing stereotypes of Chinese actresses and women in cinema by:

  • Playing lead roles in the 1990s when women-centric films were rare.
  • Choosing bold, unconventional characters with agency and complexity.
  • Starring in movies with controversial storylines involving abuse, homosexuality, feudalism.
  • Collaborating with directors like Zhang Yimou on trailblazing movies with strong female protagonists.
  • Acting in commercial films opposite younger male actors as she advanced in years.
  • Speaking up against ageism and limited roles for older actresses.
  • Balancing artistic films along with big budget commercial productions successfully.

Why is Gong Li considered a global star?

Gong Li attained worldwide fame and became a global star due to several reasons:

  • International critical acclaim for her roles in Chinese cinema during the 1990s.
  • Becoming the first East Asian actress to win the Best Actress award at Cannes for Farewell My Concubine in 1993.
  • Global recognition and awards for her collaborations with directors Zhang Yimou and Chen Kaige.
  • Transitioning successfully to Hollywood with films like Memoirs of a Geisha and Miami Vice.
  • Achieving commercial success and visibility through lead roles in international co-productions.
  • Straddling both Eastern and Western sensibilities through her acting range.
  • Retaining her status as a star by defying ageism and sexism in cinema.

How did Gong Li help promote Chinese culture globally?

Gong Li helped promote Chinese culture globally by:

  • Starring in period dramas showcasing Imperial Chinese history and architecture authentically.
  • Performing in operatic films like Farewell My Concubine that displayed Chinese cultural heritage.
  • Acting in movies based on Chinese novels like Raise the Red Lantern and Ju Dou that recreated 1920s China.
  • Speaking flawless Mandarin and mastering the Beijing opera dialect for her roles.
  • Infusing details like costumes, mannerisms, language into her roles to represent Chinese identities accurately.
  • Balancing art-house films exploring Chinese society along with commercial productions successfully.
  • Being appointed as China’s goodwill ambassador and representing the country at international events.
  • Using her fame to increase visibility for Chinese cinema and showcase its narratives to worldwide audiences.

What are some of Gong Li’s philanthropic efforts?

Some of Gong Li’s noteworthy humanitarian and philanthropic efforts include:

  • Being appointed goodwill ambassador for both the Red Cross Society of China and the Singapore Red Cross Society.
  • Supporting Project Vision Charity that provides surgeries to correct blindness in rural China.
  • Backing the 1KG More for Children charity that provides food to malnourished children in poor regions of China.
  • Raising funds for disaster relief efforts like the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami and 2008 Sichuan earthquake.
  • Getting awarded the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres, France’s highest artistic honor, for her cinematic and humanitarian work.
  • Auctioning off costumes, awards, and souvenirs to benefit HIV-affected children in China’s Hubei province.
  • Using her celebrity influence to highlight important social causes like empowering rural women in China.

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