Gong Li

Gong Li (巩俐) was born on December 31, 1965, in Shenyang, Liaoning, China. She is the youngest of five children. Her father was a professor of economics, and her mother was a teacher. Growing up in Jinan, Shandong, she displayed an early fondness for singing and dancing, aspiring to become a singer.

Education

Gong Li studied at Jinan Sanhe Street Primary School, where her singing talents were recognized early. She sang children’s songs at Jinan People’s Broadcasting Station in grade two. During her time at Jinan No.2 Middle School, she was part of the school’s literature and art team. In 1985, she enrolled at the Central Academy of Drama in Beijing and graduated in 1989. It was here that director Zhang Yimou discovered her, casting her in his film “Red Sorghum” in 1987.

Acting Career

1987–1989: Career Beginnings

Gong Li’s acting career began with “Red Sorghum” (1987), directed by Zhang Yimou. The film won the Golden Bear at the 38th Berlin International Film Festival and was highly acclaimed in China. In 1989, she appeared in “Codename Cougar” and actively participated in the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests.

1990–1999: Rise to International Fame

Gong Li’s international recognition grew with films like “Ju Dou” (1990) and “Raise the Red Lantern” (1991), both directed by Zhang Yimou and nominated for Academy Awards. Her performance in “The Story of Qiu Ju” (1992) won her the Volpi Cup at the Venice Film Festival. In 1993, she starred in Chen Kaige’s “Farewell My Concubine,” earning a New York Film Critics Circle award. Throughout the 1990s, Gong Li collaborated with prominent directors and starred in critically acclaimed films like “To Live” (1994) and “Temptress Moon” (1996).

2000–2004: Global Recognition

Gong Li’s international reputation solidified with awards and prominent roles. She won Best Actress at the Montreal World Film Festival for “Breaking the Silence” (2000). She also served as jury president at major film festivals, including Berlin and Venice.

2005–2018: Hollywood and Continued Success in Chinese Cinema

Gong Li ventured into Hollywood with “Memoirs of a Geisha” (2005), winning the National Board of Review Award for Best Supporting Actress. She continued to star in both Chinese and English-language films, including “Curse of the Golden Flower” (2006) and “Shanghai” (2010).

2019–Present: Return to Global Cinema

In recent years, Gong Li has starred in notable films like “Saturday Fiction” (2019) and the live-action “Mulan” (2020). Her role in “Leap” (2020) as Lang Ping garnered significant acclaim.

Personal Life

Gong Li’s relationship with Zhang Yimou was widely publicized. They collaborated on several films before ending their relationship in the mid-1990s. Gong Li married Singaporean businessman Ooi Hoe Seong in 1996, and they divorced in 2010. In 2019, she married French composer Jean-Michel Jarre. Gong Li has also been recognized for her beauty and was appointed a Goodwill Ambassador of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations in 2000. In 2008, she became a Singaporean citizen.

Throughout her career, Gong Li has been celebrated for her versatile and naturalistic acting, winning numerous awards and recognition globally. Her contributions to cinema have made her one of the most esteemed actresses in the film industry.

Gong Li images

Gong Li filmography

Poster for the movie "A Terra-Cotta Warrior"

A Terra-Cotta Warrior

China 2200 years ago. It’s the time of the Qin dynasty. The emperor seeks immortality by busily letting his alchemists search for formula and building the famous terracotta army from the bodies of outlaws and the condemned. This is the time Mong Tiang Fong and court lady Twon fall deeply in love. Such a thing is not tolerated at the court and when their relationship is discovered both are sentenced to death. In the meantime, … Read more

Poster for the movie "God of Gamblers III: Back to Shanghai"

God of Gamblers III: Back to Shanghai

After the events in God of Gamblers II, Tai-Kun who lost his ESP powers has regained the abilities again and seeks revenge against Sing, the Saint of Gamblers. When Tai-Kun, aided by his fellow disciples, exerts ESP powers under full force against Sing who is doing likewise to them, the spacetime becomes distorted and sends Tai-Kun and Sing to Shanghai in 1937. Meeting his own grandfather Chow Tai Fook and the benign millionaire Ding Lik, … Read more

Poster for the movie "Temptress Moon"

Temptress Moon

Set in the decadent 1920s, Temptress Moon tells the very complicated story of a wealthy family living on the outskirts of Shanghai. Their youngest daughter, Ruyi, is brought up as a servant to her opium-addicted father and brother. Meanwhile, her brother-in-law Zhongliang has a successful, if illegal, career seducing and blackmailing married women in the city. When he comes to Ruyi’s home the two fall in love, and trouble ensues.

Poster for the movie "Mulan"

Mulan

When the Emperor of China issues a decree that one man per family must serve in the Imperial Chinese Army to defend the country from Huns, Hua Mulan, the eldest daughter of an honored warrior, steps in to take the place of her ailing father. She is spirited, determined and quick on her feet. Disguised as a man by the name of Hua Jun, she is tested every step of the way and must harness … Read more

Poster for the movie "Saturday Fiction"

Saturday Fiction

An actress working undercover for the Allies in 1941 Shanghai discovers the Japanese plan to attack Pearl Harbor.

Poster for the movie "Chinese Box"

Chinese Box

The story of Hong Kong, from New Year’s Day to June 30th, 1997, when the British left their colony and turned it over to the People’s Republic of China.

Poster for the movie "The Monkey King 2"

The Monkey King 2

Taking place 500 years after the Havoc in Heaven, the Tang Priest is appointed by Buddha to go to the West to fetch the sacred scriptures, only to accidentally free the Monkey King. With Lady White (Gong Li) aiming to break up the team assembled to defeat her, the Monkey King must fight in order to save his world!

Poster for the movie "Eros"

Eros

A three-part anthology film about love and sexuality: a menage-a-trois between a couple and a young woman on the coast of Tuscany; an advertising executive under enormous pressure at work, who, during visits to his psychiatrist, is pulled to delve into the possible reasons why his stress seems to manifest itself in a recurring erotic dream; and a story of unrequited love about a beautiful, 1960s high-end call girl in an impossible affair with her … Read more

Poster for the movie "Coming Home"

Coming Home

Lu and Feng are a devoted couple forced to separate when Lu is arrested and sent to a labor camp as a political prisoner during the Cultural Revolution. He finally returns home only to find that his beloved wife no longer remembers him.

Poster for the movie "What Women Want"

What Women Want

After an accident, a chauvinistic executive gains the ability to hear what women are really thinking.

Poster for the movie "The Flirting Scholar"

The Flirting Scholar

A scholar in search of true love. Disguising himself as a houseboy, he indentures himself to a rich family in order to pursue the ravishing servant girl who has stolen his heart.

Poster for the movie "Farewell My Concubine"

Farewell My Concubine

Abandoned by his prostitute mother in 1920, Douzi was raised by a theater troupe. There he meets Shitou and over the following years the two develop an act entitled, “Farewell My Concubine,” that brings them fame and fortune. When Shitou marries Juxian, Doutzi becomes jealous, the beginnings of the acting duo’s explosive breakup and tragic fall take root.

Poster for the movie "The Story of Qiu Ju"

The Story of Qiu Ju

The Story of Qiu Ju is a 1992 Chinese comedy-drama film. The film was directed by Zhang Yimou and, as in many of his films, stars Gong Li in the title role. The screenplay is an adaption of Chen Yuanbin’s novella The Wan Family’s Lawsuit. The film tells the story of a peasant woman, Qiu Ju, who lives in a rural area of China. When her husband is kicked in the groin by the village … Read more

Poster for the movie "The Empress Dowager"

The Empress Dowager

Han Hsiang Li’s lush epic re-creates the fascinating life and times of Tzu Hsi, the Manchu Qing dynasty empress who rose from the ranks of Emperor Xianfeng’s many concubines to become the de facto ruler of China for nearly 50 years.

Poster for the movie "Shanghai Triad"

Shanghai Triad

A provincial boy related to a Shanghai crime family is recruited by his uncle into cosmopolitan Shanghai in the 1930s to be a servant to a ganglord’s mistress.

Poster for the movie "To Live"

To Live

In China, Fugui and Jiazhen navigate tumultuous events as their status transitions from affluent landowners to common peasants.

Poster for the movie "A Soul Haunted by Painting"

A Soul Haunted by Painting

At the beginning of the twentieth century, Yu-liang leaves a brothel in a small Chinese town, to become the second wife of Mr. Pan. While Pan is away at the revolution in Yunnan, Yu-liang learns to paint and takes art classes at the Shanghai Art Institute, until it is closed for painting nudes. Because she cannot bear him a son, Yu-liang leaves Pan to his first wife, and studies art in Paris, where she wins … Read more

Poster for the movie "Curse of the Golden Flower"

Curse of the Golden Flower

During China’s Tang dynasty the emperor has taken the princess of a neighboring province as wife. She has borne him two sons and raised his eldest. Now his control over his dominion is complete, including the royal family itself.

Poster for the movie "Red Sorghum"

Red Sorghum

An old leper who owned a remote sorghum winery dies. Jiu’er, the wife bought by the leper, and her lover, identified only as “my Grandpa” by the narrator, take over the winery and set up an idealized quasi-matriarchal community headed by Jiu’er. When the Japanese invaders subject the area to their rule and cut down the sorghum to make way for a road, the community rises up and resists as the sorghum grows anew.

Poster for the movie "Raise the Red Lantern"

Raise the Red Lantern

China in the 1920’s. After her father’s death, 19 year old Songlian is forced to marry the much older lord of a powerful family. With three wives already, each living in a separate house within the great castle, there is fierce competition for his attention and the privileges that are gained. This competition gets out of hand…

Poster for the movie "Ju Dou"

Ju Dou

A woman married to the brutal and infertile owner of a dye mill in rural China conceives a boy with her husband’s nephew but is forced to raise her son as her husband’s heir without revealing his parentage in this circular tragedy. Filmed in glowing technicolour, this tale of romantic and familial love in the face of unbreakable tradition is more universal than its setting.

Poster for the movie "2046"

2046

2046 is the sequel to Wong Kar-Wais’ successful box-office hit In The Mood For Love. A film about affairs, ending relationships, and a shared love for Kung-Fu novels as the main character, Chow, writes his own novel and reflects back on his favorite love Su.

Poster for the movie "Zhou Yu's Train"

Zhou Yu’s Train

Zhou Yu, a ceramic artisan in China’s rural Northwest, has a deep rapport with Chen Qing, a shy sensitive poet. Taking a long train ride every weekend just to make mad passionate love with him, her longing seems insatiable. Until one day, she meets the hedonistic vet Zhang Qiang and begins a torrid affair, which takes her to another train station, and another level of lust. Driven by the locomotive of love and desire, she … Read more

Poster for the movie "The Emperor and the Assassin"

The Emperor and the Assassin

In pre-unified China, the King of Qin sends his concubine to a rival kingdom to produce an assassin for a political plot, but as the king’s cruelty mounts she finds her loyalty faltering.