Once dubbed the most popular actress in her native China, Li Bingbing often portrayed fearless women in film and television projects. Whether she was playing a compassionate cop or a sword-wielding demon, Bingbing showcased her versatile acting range and athletic prowess, especially in the action drama genre. She launched her acting career by starring on a number of Chinese television series based on martial arts legends and adventures. Bingbing also captivated audiences and earned awards for a variety of movie roles that encompassed romantic comedies, historical dramas, and quirky independent films. In 2008, Bingbing was cast opposite Jackie Chan and Jet Li - two of the most successful martial arts actors in history - in the adventure epic "The Forbidden Kingdom." Yet it was her emotionally charged performance in "Snow Flower and the Secret Fan" (2011), a moving tale of lifelong friendship and the unbreakable bond between women, that made her a formidable presence and acclaimed star of international cinema.
Born Bingbing Li on Feb. 27, 1973 in Harbin, China, she inherited her artistic talent from her mother, who performed in kung-fu opera. Growing up, Bingbing initially wanted to become a schoolteacher but it was not until a friend encouraged her to join the Shanghai Drama Institute in 1993, that she developed a passion for acting. She made her acting debut in the drama "Seventeen Years" (1999) as a young prison guard who befriends an inmate (Li Jun) accused of accidentally murdering her stepsister. Her breakout performance in the film earned Bingbing a Best Actress award at the 2000 Singapore International Film Festival. She further cemented her career as one of Asia's top actresses with starring roles on "wuxia" television dramas, a fictional genre focusing on martial arts. Bingbing showcased her acting range and athleticism on shows such as "Taiji Prodigy" (Eastern Television, 2001) that established her career as an action star.
Bingbing returned to the big screen in 2003 with a handful of film appearances, including the comedy "Love for All Seasons" and the historical drama "Purple Butterfly." The following year, she starred in the romantic comedy "Waiting Alone" about three 20-something singles living in modern-day Beijing. The film won over the country's young audience for its coming-of-age plot, charming cast, and contemporary setting. Bingbing was equally praised for her portrayal of a train robber in the action drama "A World Without Thieves" (2004). The role earned Bingbing a Best Supporting Actress nomination at the 2005 Golden Rooster Awards - China's equivalent to the Academy Awards - and the title of "Most Popular Actress" at the 12th Beijing College Film Festival. She began making waves in the international film community with "The Knot" (2006), a love story set during the Korean War and China's official submission to the 2007 Academy Awards in the Best Foreign Language Film category. The film was not nominated in the U.S., but it won the top honor of Best Film at that year's Golden Rooster Awards.
Bingbing was cast in her first American film in 2008 opposite Jackie Chan and Jet Li in "The Forbidden Kingdom." She played Ni Chang, a white-haired witch and assassin with deadly sword skills. Bingbing's career finally took off stateside with a starring role in "Snow Flower and the Secret Fan," the 2011 film based on Lisa See's best-selling novel of the same name (2005). Set in 19th Century China and present day Shanghai, "Snow Flower and the Secret Fan" focused on a pair of female friends (Bingbing and South Korean actress Gianna Jun) who were paired as "laotong" - arranged friendships for girls - and kept in touch through the years by sending secret messages written on the folds of a fan. Both actresses played the 19th Century women as well as their modern-day counterparts.