Hongkong superstar Chow Yun Fat, aged 55, has pledged to donate 99 per cent of his reported HK$1 billion ($130 million) wealth for charity upon his death. He told Hong Kong paper Sun Daily: “This is not my money, I just earned them but this doesnt mean it will be forever mine.”

Chow has been married twice; first in 1983 to Candice Yu , an actress from Asia Television Limited that lasted nine months. In 1986, Chow married Singaporean Jasmine Tan. Chow transition from Hong Kong movie star to international star was in no small part due to his wife’s planning and financial support. The couple has no children, although Chow has a goddaughter, Celine Ng, a former child model for Chickeeduck and other companies.

Chow Yun Fat and his wife Jasmine Tan

“I’m not taking anything with me (when I die),” he said.

Chow has come to an agreement with his Singaporean wife Jasmine Tan to donate his wealth.

Chow Yun-fat is best known in Asia for his collaboration with filmmaker John Woo in heroic bloodshed genre films A Better Tomorrow, The Killer, and Hard-Boiled; and to the West for his role as Li Mu-bai in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. He mainly plays in dramatic films and has won three Hong Kong Film Awards for “Best Actor” and two Golden Horse Awards for “Best Actor” in Taiwan.

Chow was born on May 18, 1955 in Hong Kong, to a mother who was a cleaning lady and vegetable farmer, and a Hakka father who worked at a Shell Oil Company tanker. He grew up in a farming community on Lamma Island in a house with no electricity. He woke up at dawn each morning to help his mother sell herbal jelly and Hakka tea-pudding on the streets and in the afternoons he went to work in the fields. His family moved to Kowloon when he was ten. At seventeen, he quit school to help support the family by doing odd jobs – bellboy, postman, camera salesman, taxi driver. His life started to change when he responded to a newspaper advertisement and his actor-trainee application was accepted by TVB, the local television station. He signed a three-year contract with the studio and made his acting debut. With his striking good looks and easy-going style, Chow became a heartthrob and a familiar face in soap operas that were exported internationally.

Chow became a household name in Hong Kong following his role in the hit series The Bund in 1980. The Bund, about the rise and fall of a gangster in 1930s Shanghai, was one of the most popular TV series ever made in Hong Kong and was a hit throughout Asia.

Chow Yun Fat in The Bund

Although Chow continued his TV success, his goal was to become a big screen actor. His occasional ventures onto the big screens with low-budget films, however, were disastrous. Success finally came when he teamed up with director John Woo in the 1986 gangster action-melodrama A Better Tomorrow, which swept the box offices in Asia and established Chow and Woo as megastars. A Better Tomorrow won him his first Best Actor award at the Hong Kong Film Awards. It was the highest grossing film in Hong Kong history at the time, and it set the standard for Hong Kong gangster films to come. Taking the opportunity, Chow quit TV entirely. With his new image from A Better Tomorrow, he made many more ’heroic bloodshed’ films, such as A Better Tomorrow 2 (1987), Prison on Fire, Prison on Fire II, The Killer (1989), A Better Tomorrow 3 (1990), Hard Boiled (1992) and City on Fire an inspiration for Quentin Tarantino’s Reservoir Dogs.

Chow Yun Fat in John Woo's A Better Tomorrow

Chow may be best known for playing honorable tough guys, whether cops or criminals, but he also starred in comedies like Diary of a Big Man (1988) and Now You See Love, Now You Don’t (1992) and romantic blockbusters such as Love in a Fallen City (1984) and An Autumn’s Tale (1987), for which he was named best actor at the Golden Horse Awards. He brought together his disparate personae in the 1989 film God of Gamblers (Du Shen), directed by the prolific Wong Jing, in which he was by turns suave charmer, broad comedian and action hero. The film surprised many, became immensely popular, broke Hong Kong’s all-time box office record, and spawned a series of gambling films, as well as several comic sequels starring Andy Lau and Stephen Chow.

The Los Angeles Times proclaimed Chow Yun-Fat “the coolest actor in the world.” Being one of the biggest stars in Hong Kong, Chow moved to Hollywood in the mid ’90s in an ultimately unsuccessful attempt to duplicate his success in Asia. His first two films, The Replacement Killers (1998) and The Corruptor (1999), were box office disappointments. In his next film Anna and the King (1999), Chow teamed up with Jodie Foster, but the film suffered at the box office. Chow then returned to the east and accepted the role of Li Mu-Bai in Ang Lee’s Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. It became a winner at both the international box office and the Oscars, finally making Chow a global star. In 2003, Chow came back to Hollywood and starred in Bulletproof Monk in yet another Asian stereotyped role of a martial art expert. In 2006, he teamed up with Gong Li in the film, Curse of the Golden Flower, directed by Zhang Yimou.

Chow Yun Fat and Michelle Yeoh in Ang Lee's Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon

Chow Yun Fat and voluptuous Gong Li in Zhang Yimou's Curse of the Golden Flower

In Chows latest movie Shanghai, he is again teamed up with the gorgeous Gong Li and international stars John Cusack and Ken Watanabe. In this Mikael Hafstroms film, Chow played the role of a triad boss with Gong Li as his wife. I watched the movie two weeks ago and found it to be quite a good movie. Both Chow and Gong Li gave solid performances in this spy thriller set in Shanghai during World War II.

Chow as a triad boss in the movie Shanghai

Chow has said that the money he made is not his. What a philosophy! I salute you, man!

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