Date of Birth:
The biography of Jet Li starts on April 26, 1963 in Beijing, China. He was born Li Lianjie.
The Early Years:
We all come upon adversity in life. Unfortunately for Li, his came in the terrible form of his father dying when he was only two years old (he was the youngest of five- two brothers, two sisters). Li's mother was quite protective of him, not even allowing him to learn to ride a bicycle until his early teens.
Martial Arts Training:
At the age of eight, Li was enrolled in a summer course at what is now called the Beijing Sports and Exercise school where his potential in Wushu (sports form of Chinese combat arts) was discovered. From there he became hooked, eventually participating on the Beijing Wushu Team at the All China Games. Mostly under the tutelage of Wu Bin- a world-renowned wushu coach- Li claimed 15 gold medals and one silver at Chinese wushu championships.
In addition, Li has put in significant time learning Baguazhang, Tai Chi, Xingyiquan, Zuiquan, and Tang lang quan.
The transition to film in China/Hong Kong was easy for Li, as he had gained notoriety for his wushu prowess. He made his debut in the 1982 film Shaolin Temple
and continued with a series of these pictures. He also took part in The Once Upon a Time in China
series, Fist of Legend
, a remake of Fist Of Fury
, and more.
Li made his American film debut in Lethal Weapon 4 (1998). He then took on the lead role in the hit Romeo Must Die (2000). Since then Li has taken roles in several films, including making an appearance in Forbidden Kingdom with Jackie Chan (2008).
Receiving His Screen Name:
In 1982, a publicity company in the Philippines found his real name too difficult to pronounce. He had been given the nickname "Jet," due to the agility and grace of his earlier days in wushu competition. Considering this and the fact that the publicity company likened his career to an aircraft taking off, the name Jet Li was used. Clearly, it stuck.
In 1987, Li married Huang Qiuyan (Beijing Wushu team member and Shaolin Temple
co-star). They had two daughters together and divorced in 1990. In 1999, he married Hong Kong actress Nina Li Chi (born Li Zhi). He had daughters Jane (born in 2000) and Jada (2002) with her.
Li is a practitioner of Tibetan Buddhism. Lho Kunsang of the Drikung Kagyu lineage of the Kagyu school is his master.
Interesting Jet Li Facts:
- Li was in the Maldives when the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake hit, which resulted in a tsunami. He suffered a minor foot injury from a piece of floating furniture while bringing his four year old daughter to safety. The two were by the pool and above the beach when the terrible natural disaster came to bear.
- Li played a disillusioned captain whose wife was murdered by crime lords in the 1995 film High Risk. One of the characters in the film actually made fun of Jackie Chan, an actor that director Wong Jing once had a bad experience with. Later, Li would apologize for taking part in the movie.
- In 2007, Li started his own non-profit organization called, The One Foundation. It supports international disaster relief efforts, which is something close to his heart after surviving the 2004 tsunami.