Real name: Li Lian Jie
Birthdate: April 26, 1963
Partner: Nina Li Chi
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Jet Li (born April 26, 1963) is a Chinese martial artist, actor, Wushu champion, and international film star. After three years of intensive training, Li won his first national championship for the Beijing Wushu Team. After retiring at age 17, he went on to win great acclaim in China as an actor making his debut with the film Shaolin Temple (1982). He went onto appearing in many critically acclaimed and martial arts epic films most notably the Once Upon a Time in China where he portrayed folk hero Wong Fei Hung. His first role in a Hollywood movie was as a villain in Lethal Weapon 4 (1998), but his first Hollywood film leading role was in Romeo Must Die. He has gone on to star in many Hollywood films mostly recently starring in the action film War (2007).
Li was born Li Lianjie in Beijing, China. His father died when he was two. His mother took him to the Beijing Amateur Sports School at the age of eight. Li participated in the sport of wushu in the non-sparring event. He began his wushu on the Beijing Wushu team, an athletic group organized to perform martial arts forms during the All China Games. As a member of the team, he received wushu training and went on to win fifteen gold medals and one silver medal in Chinese wushu championships:
- 1974 — Youth National Athletic Competition: broadsword form gold medal, optional empty-hand form gold medal, all-round gold medal;
- 1975 — Third Chinese Wushu Championships: long fist form gold medal, spear form silver medal
- 1977 — National Wushu Competition: long-fist form gold medal, broadsword form gold medal
- 1978 — National Wushu Competition: long-fist form gold medal, optional empty-hand form gold medal, broadsword form gold medal, all-round gold medal;
- 1979 — Fourth Chinese Wushu Championships: long-fist form gold medal, optional empty-hand form gold medal, broadsword form gold medal, sparring form gold medal, all-round gold medal.
The fame gained by his sports winnings led to a career as a martial arts film star, beginning in mainland China and then continuing into Hong Kong. Li acquired his screen name in 1982 in the Philippines when a publicity company thought his real name was too hard to pronounce. They likened his career to a plane taking off quickly, so they placed the name Jet Li to the movie posters. Soon everybody was calling him by this new name. It was based on the nickname, Jet, given to him as a child, due to his speed, when training with the Beijing Wushu team. He made his debut with the 1982 film Shaolin Temple.
Some of his more famous Chinese films include:
- The Shaolin Temple series (1, 2 and 3), which are considered to be the films which sparked the rebirth of the real Shaolin Temple in Dengfeng, China;
- The Once Upon a Time in China series (Chinese title: Wong Fei Hung), about the legendary Chinese folk hero;
- Fist of Legend (Chinese title: Jing Wu Ying Xiong), a remake of Bruce Lee's Fist of Fury (Jing Wu Men in Chinese, named after the martial arts school);
- The Fong Sai-Yuk films Fong Sai-Yuk and Fong Sai-Yuk II (1993), about another Chinese folk hero.