Meet the Hong Kong and Taiwanese actors dominating Mainland film

The sinosphere stars making waves on the Mainland

Chinese cinema has got some pretty big Mainland stars. But it's also got it's fair share of celebrities from further afield in the Chinese-speaking world — here's our breakdown of the Hong Kong and Taiwanese actors and actresses who have taken over the Mainland Chinese film scene.

The men

Jackie Chan


We know how obvious this choice seems. After all, everyone knows Jackie Chan. What you might not realise, though, is just how successful his turn back to China has been. Refocusing his attention from Hollywood in favour of more Mainland productions (and flattering the Chinese government) has made Chan the second-highest paid actor in the entire world, with Forbes reporting that he made an eye-popping $61 million last year.

Films to watch Nothing will match his ‘80s and ‘90s Hong Kong action flicks, but Little Big Soldier is the best of his Mainland output.

Donnie Yen

donnie yen

Donnie Yen has been touted as the future of kung fu for decades now, and while he never managed to single-handedly usher in another golden age of kung fu cinema, he did end up becoming China’s best martial arts star. Lately the Boston-raised actor has been poached by Hollywood for movies like Rogue One: A Star Wars Story and xXx: Return of Xander Cage as an easy way to appeal to Chinese audiences.

Films to watch More than anything else, it’s the Ip Man series that made Yen’s name. While the movies get increasingly sillier, he’s worth catching in any of them.

Andy Lau

andy lau

Lau began his career with a key role in Ann Hui’s The Boat People, and went on to star in an insane variety of Hong Kong films during the peak of that city’s film industry. Like occasional co-star Chow Yun-fat, he’s now the kind of actor who can pack in audiences for crapfests such as the From Vegas to Macau movies by virtue of his natural charm, lingering good looks and nostalgic appeal.

Films to watch Lau’s as entertaining a lead as ever in Detective Dee and the Phantom Flame, directed by fellow Hong Konger Tsui Hark.

Louis Koo

louis koo

There are plenty of other established Hong Kong stars who have successfully made the jump to the Mainland (among them Nicholas Tse and Aaron Kwok) but none of them have maintained the same output as Koo. As an actor, Koo has distinguished himself by taking on all kinds of roles, from romantic leads and stoic action heroes to cartoonishly evil villains.

Films to watch As a murderous, convicted drug lord desperate to escape a death sentence, Koo takes on a completely unsympathetic role in 2013’s excellent Drug War and somehow makes us root for his character.

The women

Shu Qi

shu qi

Shu Qi is like the Angelina Jolie of Chinese film, a comparison we’re making purely because both of them have absurdly large lips. Shu’s had a remarkable rise from starring in cheapo soft-porn flicks to becoming one of the biggest stars in Asia. There’s a reason for that: much more than just a pretty face, she has a great screen presence and can expertly ladle on the charm.

Films to watch Journey to the West: Conquering the Demons may be pretty up and down, but Shu gives it many of its high points with a great comic willingness to look ridiculous. To see her in an entirely different mode, check out If You Are The One or The Assassin.



Half Shanghainese, half Hong Konger and a fourth German on her father’s side, Angelababy is 100 percent unavoidable, appearing in ads for everything from home-buying services to cooking oil, often alongside hubby Huang Xiaoming. With her ridiculous name, big eyes and pale skin, Angelababy seems to have mainly built her fame by looking like a cartoon version of the Chinese female ideal.

Films to watch Go outside, look at the first ten ads you can find, and you’re almost certain to see Angelababy shilling something. You’re also certain to have a better time doing that than watching a movie like Bride Wars.

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