Born on April 16, 1976, in a relatively poor quarter of Taipei, Taiwan, Shu Qi (ne Li-Hui Lin) and her family lived with the daily struggle of making ends meet. Independent and rebellious, Shu Qi never enjoyed the strictness of her home and as a result, she ran away several times.
At 16 years old, she left home and stayed away for six months, living with friends and taking on odd jobs to earn money. However, these jobs did not offer a significant salary, and so, when Shu Qi was approached by a modeling agency, she jumped at the opportunity. With a great figure and exotic face, she started modeling at 17 and did some very naughty photo shoots for magazines in the three years that followed.
In 1996, Shu Qi translated her still work to film, moving to the soft porn industry. Films like Sex & Zen II (Yu po tuan er zhi yu nu xia jing) and Viva Erotica (Se qing nan nu) represented her contribution to the genre and won her praise as a sexy, poised “actress.” Her manager/agent Manfred Wong, who had initially noticed her on a magazine cover, sung her praises for Viva Erotica and spread the word about this budding actress.
Though the transition from adult to mainstream film is not easy to make, Shu Qi performed the feat with ease. At first, she was cast in typically subordinate female roles that are commonplace in Hong Kong cinema; see her in Growing Up, Queer Story and Till Death Do Us Laugh. Despite the redundant roles, Shu Qi became a workaholic, starring in five movies in 1997.
Impressively, Shu Qi doubled her output in 1998. With films like 1998’s Portland Street Blues and City of Glass, Shu Qi was recognized as a versatile actress who could dominate the silver screen. Shu Qi emerged as China’s favorite leading lady in 1999 when she appeared opposite Jackie Chan in Gorgeous (Bor lei jun).
Though she turned down the role ultimately filled by Zhang Ziyi in 2000’s Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, Shu Qi maintained her celebrity in the new millennium. In 2002, Shu Qi showed off her ability to satisfy an international audience in the successful The Transporter, her only appearance in an English film. That same year, Shun Qi was the feature star in So Close (Chik yeung tin sai), an extremely entertaining action hit that gained acclaim from critics around the world.
Despite Shu Qi’s status as a huge star and frequent appearances in the tabloids (she had a high-profile relationship with singer-actor Leon Lai), she has slowed down her work pace. Films like 2003’s Finding Mr. Perfect (Kei fung dik sau) and 2005’s The Best of Our Times (Zui hao de shi guang) highlight the best of her most recent work, but rest assured that this Asian beauty is going to work hard to maintain her position atop the Hong Kong film industry.
Already the winner of a Golden Horse Award, a Golden Bauhinia and two Hong Kong Film Awards, Shu Qi should be collecting more hardware in the years to come.