Zhang Ziyi Biography

Actress, Film Actor/Film Actress, Film Actress (1979–)
Zhang Ziyi is a celebrated film actress known for starring in films like Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, Rush Hour 2, 2046 and Memoirs of a Geisha.


Born on February 9, 1979, in Beijing, China, Zhang Ziyi received training in dance and drama before making her film debut in 2000’s The Road Home. She next co-starred in the international Ang Lee hit Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. Later film roles have included Rush Hour 2, The House of Flying Daggers, 2046, Memoirs of a Geisha and a modern version of the Shanghai-based Dangerous Liaisons.

Early Life and Career

Zhang Ziyi was born on February 9, 1979, in Beijing, China. As a child, she pursued her interests in dance and gymnastics. At the age of 11, she earned acceptance into a secondary school affiliated with the presitigious Beijing Dance College. Zhang earned countless awards in school, but became frustrated with the pressure. At 15, Zhang opted to focus on acting instead, and enrolled in Beijing's renowned Central Drama Academy.

At the age of 19, Zhang auditioned for a shampoo commercial, which was being made by famed director Zhang Yimou. Unbeknownst to Zhang, Yimou was using the advertisement as a way to screen actresses for his upcoming film, The Road Home. He chose Zhang for the lead role of a young girl who falls in love with a teacher assigned to work in the country village where she lives.

Commercial Success

In 2000, Zhang landed a high-profile part as the headstrong Jen Yu in Ang Lee's film, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. The movie because enormously successful domestically as well as internationally, and earned Zhang the Best Supporting Actress Award for both the Independent Spirit and Toronto Film Critics festivals.

Her first appearance in an American movie was in 2001's Rush Hour 2, starring Chris Tucker and Jackie Chan. Because she didn't speak English at the time, Zheng had to receive translations from Chan. The actress eventually taught herself English by listening to songs by rapper Eminem. "Later, I understood how rude [the lyrics] were," she later laughed.

Offers for other American films began to pour in for Zhang, and she appeared in 2004's House of Flying Daggers, and 2005's Memoirs of a Geisha, also starring Crouching Tiger co-star Michelle Yeoh. In 2009, she starred in a remake of Horsemen with Dennis Quaid.

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