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Actress Zhao Wei was mysteriously scrubbed from the Chinese internet overnight in August, but her work as an actress and a director lives on. Photo: Getty Images

From Mulan to Shaolin Soccer, five memorable movies by Zhao Wei, the Chinese actress, film director and businesswoman China apparently wants its people to forget

  • Zhao Wei was one of the most influential Chinese actresses in the early 2000s, and well-known across Asia with numerous accolades under her belt
  • We look at her beginnings as the star of My Fair Princess, co-starring Fan Bingbing, and the five films she will best be remembered for

It remains unclear why top Chinese actress Zhao Wei was obliterated from China’s cyberspace overnight in August, but her legacy – as both a talented artist and shrewd businesswoman – lives on.

Zhao was one of the most influential Chinese actresses in the early 2000s, and well-known across Asia with numerous accolades under her belt.

Her big break, My Fair Princess (1998-1999), introduced her to audiences as the endearing Xiao Yanzi (“Little Swallow”), a headstrong and rebellious orphan who gets mistaken for a long-lost daughter of Qianlong, a Chinese emperor during the Qing dynasty.

The hugely successful television series propelled Zhao and her co-stars, including Fan Bingbing and Taiwanese actress Ruby Lin Xinru, to instant stardom.
Ruby Lin Xinru, Zhao and Fan Bingbing in My Fair Princess.

In recent years, Zhao has spent as much time behind the camera as in front of it, and her directorial debut in 2013 was seen as a resounding success. So Young portrays the joys and pain of university student Zheng Wei (played by Yang Zishan) and her friends as they try to chart their own paths upon graduation.

This coming-of-age tale grossed more than 700 million yuan (US$108 million) and cemented Zhao’s transition from a teen idol to a director with her own vision.

With Zhao’s jarring disappearance from the Chinese internet, we look back at five films that she will be best remembered for.
Zhao in a scene from Dearest, which is based on a true story.

Dearest (2014)

Based on a true story, Li Hongqin (played by Zhao) starts a heartbreaking chase after her foster child when the child is violently taken from her. He turns out to be the abducted son of Tian Wenjun (played by Huang Bo) and Lu Xiaojuan (played by Hao Lei).
Zhao stars as the titular character in Mulan.

Mulan (2009)

Zhao stars as Mulan, the courageous yet impulsive folk heroine who takes her father’s place in the army. After she is forced to reveal her true identity to sub-commander Wentai (Chen Kun), an unlikely romance develops and blossoms into an alliance as the duo rise through the ranks to become generals. This rendition of Hua Mulan’s tale adds a twist to their fates.
Zhao plays a baker who uses tai chi to make buns in Shaolin Soccer.

Shaolin Soccer (2001)

A Stephen Chow Sing-chi classic, this wild comedy marries soccer and martial arts with tacky brilliance. When disgraced former player “Golden Leg” Fung (Richard Ng Man-tat) meets unsuccessful Shaolin monk Sing (Chow), he discovers Sing has astonishing legwork that makes him perfect for soccer.

The two form a soccer team with Sing’s fellow Shaolin monks against Fung’s former teammate and rival Hung (Patrick Tse Yin) for money that would lift them out of destitution. Zhao plays Sing’s love interest, Mui, a baker who uses tai chi to make buns.

A still from Painted Skin.

Painted Skin (2008)

In this film adapted from a traditional Chinese horror story of the same name, Zhao plays Pei Rong, the dutiful wife of general Wang Sheng (Chen Kun). Wang is seduced by Xiaowei ( Tang Wei), a human-heart-devouring fox spirit masquerading as a beautiful girl. Pei Rong tries to rescue her husband from Xiaowei, enduring gruesome transformations in the name of love.
A still from Three with Louis Koo and Zhao.

Three (2016)

A gripping stand-off ensues when a thug (Wallace Chung Hon-leung) is sent to hospital with a gunshot wound to the head. Zhao Wei plays Tong Qian, a neurosurgeon whose professionalism and medical integrity is tested by Ken (Louis Koo Tin-lok), a relentless police inspector who wants the criminal patient dead to cover up his colleague’s misfire.