Jet Li photo with daughters paints contrasting picture to Jackie Chan’s turbulent family life
- Li’s Christmas Day picture alongside his children shows happy private life
- Stark contrast to Chan, whose memoir reveals darker side and troubled past
They are good friends away from the film set, and divide opinion among martial arts fans as to who is the bigger star. But 2018 showed the vastly differing family lives of Jackie Chan and Jet Li.
Fans around the world were given a rare glimpse into Li’s private life when the Once Upon a Time in China and Romeo Must Die star posted a Christmas Day picture with his two daughters.
Jane, 18, and Jada, 15, have often been kept out of the spotlight by their famous father, but fans were grateful to see Li’s children looking healthy and happy.
Li himself has caused concern this year after struggling with hyperthyroidism – a condition which accelerates the body’s metabolism, causing unintentional weight loss and a rapid or irregular heartbeat.
Pictures of the 55-year-old looking frail went viral in the summer, but he later claimed he was “doing great and feeling great” – which appeared to be backed up by the Instagram snap.
His two daughters with former Hong Kong actress Nina Li Chi, whom he married in 1999, towered over their 1.7-metre tall father in their platform shoes, though, and Li could not have looked prouder.
He has also celebrated his daughters’ achievements in entrepreneurship and charity in other Instagram posts, and credits them with convincing him to take a role in the live-action remake of Disney’s Mulan, which is set for release in 2020, so that he could help champion Chinese culture.
Lethal Weapon 4 star Li also remains happily married to his wife, to whom he is so devoted he turned down Chow Yun-fat’s role in 2000’s Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon because he promised her he would not make any films during her pregnancy.
Li has said he wanted to repay his wife, a star in her own right before leaving the industry to focus on their family, for her dedication by leaving her his HK$2 billion (US$255.3 million) fortune.
Nina also has full control over their money. “When I’m out and want to buy a gemstone, I have to call my assistant and ask if he has money,” Li joked in an October interview on Chinese television talk show, A Date with Luyu.
But the harmonious familial life enjoyed by Li – who also has two children from his first marriage to the former actress Huang Quiyan – is in stark contrast to the experience of Hong Kong’s Chan, whose estranged daughter hit out at him last month.
Etta Ng Chok-lam married her Canadian girlfriend Andi Autumn in Toronto in November after claiming they had been left homeless because of “homophobic parents”.
They then headed to Hong Kong, where overseas same-sex partnerships are now recognised when granting visas.
Chan had Ng with actress and Miss Asia 1990 Elaine Ng Yi-lei, in an extramarital affair from his wife Joan Lin Feng-jiao, the former Taiwanese actress.
“United by love and law on our wedding day. We have all been hurt, but if you can dream of love you will find it,” Etta wrote on Instagram.
“We have been pursuing happiness since the day we were born. Abused as children who never felt love, we have so much to give,” she added.
“We have conquered our fears, accepted our faults, and now we understand that the people who hurt us are continuing to do so.”
Chan did not discuss his daughter in his new memoir, Never Grow Up, which was published earlier this month. But he did write about the effect his affair had on his marriage – which he reportedly claimed in 2015 he was “forced” into after Lin became pregnant with their son Jaycee Chan.
“In 1999, I made a serious mistake,” Chan wrote in his new book. “When the news broke about an affair I’d had that resulted in a child, the media frenzy was like a bomb going off. I wanted to phone Joan but I didn’t know what to say. I wouldn’t be able to explain this.”
The Rush Hour and Drunken Master star also discussed an incident of domestic violence in Never Grow Up – in which he described himself as having been a “nasty jerk” and a “real b******” who also blew his money on sex workers, alcohol and gambling in the past – when he threw Jaycee “across the room” into the sofa after an argument with Lin.
Chan has endured a strained relationship with his son. He said during an awards ceremony in Beijing in April 2011 that he would donate half of his money to charity when he dies, instead of giving it to Jaycee.
“If he is capable, he can make his own money,” Chan said. “If he is not, then he will just be wasting my money.”
In 2014, Chan travelled to Beijing in a bid to help Jaycee after his son, then 32, had been arrested on drugs charges. Police said they found 100 grams of marijuana at the home of the younger Chan – who faced criminal charges and sentences up to the death penalty or life imprisonment.
The older Chan, who had been China’s anti-drug goodwill ambassador since 2009, made a public apology for his son, who admitted he had been using drugs for eight years.
But the two then met up after Jaycee spent six months in jail, and appeared to reconcile.
“I hadn’t seen him for too long,” Chan said. “I feel he’s matured this time. We didn’t talk about unhappy things. It was all family chat. We talked into the night and didn’t sleep.”
Jaycee, who had teamed up to star with his father in 1911, saw his acting career nosedive after his arrest, and he now reportedly keeps a low profile in Taiwan, where he lives with his mother.
Despite giving up his United States citizenship in favour of Chinese citizenship through Hong Kong residency in 2009, in an effort to appeal to Chinese audiences, Jaycee struggled to follow in his father’s huge footsteps.
His albums and films had dismal sales despite heavy promotion – Double Trouble tanked at the box office in Hong Kong, grossing only US$9,000.
Perhaps Jaycee’s struggles with fame and fortune are precisely why Li has kept his children relatively hidden from the public eye.
Chan similarly hid Jaycee until his son decided to go into showbiz in 2004 – but Jaycee did not have the look or the martial arts skills to go far enough.
But on the contrary, he seemed to have just simply been sharing his joy his family brings him.