Cheng Peipei in Lady Hermit

She was the first modern day action film heroine and is revered by many to this day. Though her major films were in the 1960's, she still acts from time to time and just had a major part in the film Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon as the evil Jade Fox.

Cheng Pei-pei was born in Shanghai in 1946. Before she relocated in Hong Kong in 1960, she was a high school student and had learned ballet for six years. She passed an entrance exam to be a student in the performing arts institute, Nanguo Shihyan Jyutuan. Then she entered the Shaw Bros as an actress.

She was trained in dancing more than the martial arts, but was interested in acting and graduated from the Southern Screen Experimental Theater in 1963 and was hired by the Shaw Brothers. Under the Shaw Brothers she acted in musicals and dramas until she was chosen by a little known director named King Hu to star in his film Come Drink with Me.

Her first movie was called ‘The Lotus Lamp, Baolian Deng’, in which she acted as a male in 1963. She became famous after performing in ‘The Love’s Rock, Cingren Shih’ directed by Poon Lui, in 1964. She won an international prize as the best new actress.

In the Shaw Bros alone, she altogether made 20 movies, among which there were 14 wusia movies such as ‘Come Drink with Me, Dazui Sia,’ in 1966, ‘The Golden Swallow, Jin Yanzih,’ in 1968, ‘The Jade Ranshak, Yu Luosha,’ in 1968, ‘Dragon Swamp, Dulong Tan,’ in 1968 and ‘The Lady Hermit, Jhong Cyui Niangzih,’ in 1971.

She also made 6 motion pictures, such as ‘The Love’s Rock, Cingren Shih’ in 1964, ‘Songs of the Orchid Island, Lanyu Jhige’ in 1965, ‘Hong Kong Nocturne, Siangjiang Hua Yue Ye’ in 1967. She was very mobile and her poses were elegant, because of her ballet and classical Chinese dance background.

In Come Drink with Me, Cheng Pei Pei plays Golden Swallow, a remarkably swift and deadly swordswoman and her performance is simply dazzling. She is so graceful and charismatic that you get totally swept up with this lone woman taking on and defeating much greater forces. The scene in the inn and the one at the temple are the stuff of legend.

When the process of filming ‘Come Drink with Me’ started in 1964, the position of the heroine, Jin Yanzih, was about to be given to Siu Seung, because Siu had studied northern martial arts. But the director Hu King preferred Cheng Pei-pei, who, as a well-trained dancer, could match the pace of the fighting scenes. After Ren Ren Shaw agreed, Cheng Pei-pei gained this opportunity. This movie helped her to reach stardom, and she was elected to be the “Queen of the wusia movie” in 1969.

She left the silver screen to get married in 1970. The movie ‘The Shadow Whip, Yingzih Shenbian’ directed by Lo Wei was her final movie before her marriage. Then she moved to the States and studied dancing at the university. She opened her own dancing school, and she danced on the stage with her students.

In 1973 she returned to the filming studio to make two boxing movies; one was called ‘None but the Brave, Tie Wa’ directed by Lo Wei, and the other was called ‘Whiplash, Hu Bianzih’ by Ding Sin Saai. Then she went back to the States again. She formed a modern dance troupe using “LA” as its name, and they performed in Taiwan. In 1980 she played in a wusia series called ‘Siaying Siangzong’ on TTV in Taiwan. Since she played the role of Jin Yanzih, she has impressed audience with her good looks, her cool-headedness, her fast and stylish body movements. She is one of the best actresses in the wusia movie genre.