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Zhang Ziyi (Chinese: ???, pinyin: Zhang Ziyí, born February 9, 1979, in Beijing) is one of the best-known Chinese film actresses, with a string of Chinese and international hits to her name. Zhang is considered one of the Four Young Dan actresses (????) in China, along with Zhao Wei, Xu Jinglei, and Zhou Xun. She has worked with renowned directors such as Zhang Yimou, Ang Lee, Wong Kar-Wai, Chen Kaige, Seijun Suzuki and Rob Marshall.
Born in Beijing, China, Zhang joined the Beijing Dance Academy at the age of 11. When Zhang’s parents suggested she go to the dance academy, she was skeptical. While at the boarding school, she noticed how catty the other girls were while competing for status amongst the teachers. Zhang disliked the attitude so much that, on one occasion, she ran away from the school.
Zhang entered China’s prestigious Central Academy of Drama (regarded as the top acting college in China) at the age of 15.
At the age of 19, Zhang was offered her first role in Zhang Yimou’s The Road Home, which won the Silver Bear award in the 2000 Berlin Film Festival.
Zhang further rose to fame due to her role as the headstrong Jen (Chinese version: Xia Long) in the phenomenally successful Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, for which she won several awards in the West, such as Chicago Film Critics Association Awards, Toronto Film Critics Association Awards and Independent Spirit Awards. Zhang’s first appearance in an American movie was in Rush Hour 2, but because she didn’t speak English at the time, Jackie Chan had to interpret everything the director said to her. In the movie, her character’s name, “Hu Li,” is translated from Mandarin Chinese to “Fox”.
Zhang then appeared in Hero, with her early mentor Yimou, which was a huge success in the English-speaking world and an Oscar and a Golden Globe contender. Her next film was the avant-garde drama Purple Butterfly by Lou Ye, which competed at the 2003 Cannes Film Festival. Zhang went back to the martial arts genre with House of Flying Daggers (????), which earned her a Best Actress nomination from the British Academy of Film and Television Arts.