Xu Jinglei Topples Zhou Xun as China’s Top Grossing Actress

Who is China’s top grossing actress at the box office over the last ten years? Surprisingly, it is not Zhang Ziyi (章子怡) nor Zhou Xun(周迅), but rather Xu Jinglei (徐静蕾)!

A group of renowned Chinese film critics came together to rank the list of actresses and the box office sales figures of the films they starred in. The shortlisted actresses include Xu Jinglei, Zhang Ziyi, Zhou Xun, Vicki Zhao (赵薇), Li Bingbing (李冰冰), Fan Bingbing (范冰冰) and Tang Wei (汤唯).

With an aggregate score of 0.875, Xu Jinglei was named the top grossing actress of the decade! Second and third place went to Zhou Xun’s .788 and Li Bingbing’s .766 aggregate scores respectively.

How The Scores Add Up

Some may question the accuracy of the calculations. Surely, the internationally acclaimed Zhou Xun with 17 films under her belt should beat the lesser known Xu Jinglei?

If the scores are based on the actresses’ combined box office grossing of their movies, then Zhou Xun may be the winner. The 17 movies she was in grossed a total of 2.9 billion RMB.

However, the calculations are not based on box office figures alone, but rather factors in the actress’ screen time in each film; a lead role will earn a coefficient of 1 whereas a special appearance will get a coefficient of 0.1. Xu Jinglei was a lead actress in 7 of her movies, which boosted her aggregate score immensely.

Xu Jinglei a Cherished Mainland Actress

Although not many viewers outside of China may know who Xu Jinglei, she is a household name in mainland China. Xu Jinglei is often cast in leading female roles in Chinese productions. Four of her films, The Warriors <投名状>, Go La La Go! <杜拉拉升职记>, Dear Enemy <亲密敌人> and Cherish Our Love Forever <将爱情进行到底> grossed a total of more than 1 billion RMB in mainland box office sales.

Standing out from the rest of the pack, Xu Jinglei shines in her multi-faceted talents. She is adulated not only as an actress, but also as a writer and to a larger extent, a director.

China’s Four Little Fadans

A fadan refers to the leading actress in a Chinese Opera. On the silver screen, four actresses, Zhang Ziyi, Zhou Xun , Xu Jinglei, and Zhao Wei, dominate and earned the label “Four Little Fadans”.

It is a fact that Chinese actresses are slowly but surely gaining a foothold in the global entertainment industry. Zhang Ziyi burst into the Hollywood scene in 1999 and quickly shot to stardom in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon <臥虎藏龍>. But in China, she already made a breakthrough at the tender age of 19. In Zhang Yimou’s (張藝謀) internationally acclaimed The Road Home <我的父親母親>, Zhang Ziyi won Best Actress at the Hundred Flowers Awards in 2000.

Before Zhou Xun started appearing in Hong Kong films, she was famous in China as Huang Rong, the female protagonist in Jin Yong’s (金庸) The Legend of the Condor Heroes <射鵰英雄傳>. Upon her debut in Hong Kong, she went on to win countless commendations and her singing career also took off.

Zhao Wei rose to prominence as the adorable and playful Xiao Yanzi in Princess Pearl <還珠格格> in 1999. With the launch of the television drama, her singing career also took off. With that, she began her career on the big screen. For her achievements in film, television, and music, the Japanese media dubbed her China’s number one actress in 2007.

Recently, Zhou Xun and Vicki Zhao’s Painted Skin 2 <画皮2>  even managed to achieve the unimaginable – their movie broke 12 records in the entertainment industry in China, including the first Chinese-language film ever, to gross more than 700 million RMB at the box office.

Two Bingbings

Though late to the scene, the two Bingbings rose fast to catch up with the Four Little Fadans. The combined force of the two Bingbings are undeniable, especially with Li Bingbing’s successful entry in Hollywood.

Oldest in the group, Li Bingbing entered the industry late but quickly earned acclaim for herself. After her performance in The Young Justice Bao <少年包青天>, she was approbated as a wuxia maiden. In 2011, she made her first foray into American films in Wayne Wang’s Snow Flower and the Secret Fan <雪花與秘扇>. In the same year, she also co-produced and co-starred with Jackie Chan (成龍) in the film, 1911.

Viewers who watched Princess Pearl would no doubt remember Jin Suo, played by then-new actress, Fan Bingbing. When Fan Bingbing joined Huayi Brothers in China, her acting career officially took off. She took up several television dramas and within these 10 years, she has already appeared in 26 movies! Fan Bingbing is also known as a fashion icon throughout the world, endorsing multiple luxury brands.

Tang Wei

Tang Wei’s break into acting started when she met playwright and director  Stan Lai (賴聲川). Stan recommended Tang Wei to several directors and thus began her acting career in China. She later rose to fame when she was selected among 10,000 actresses to play the role of Wong Chia Chi in Lee Ang’s (李安) Lust, Caution. Her sexual scenes in the show raised many controversies but also raised her prominence.

One thing is for sure – these screen goddesses are going to continue to rule the big screen, and viewers are loving them for it!

This article is written by Karen for JayneStars.com.

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  1. I didn’t even know Zhou Xun was China’s Top Grossing Actress. This is because she has the star power to pull in the crowds or because she so happens to be in box office movies? I find it hard to believe cinemagoers rushing in to watch her.

    1. Funn,
      “Painted Skin 2” helped Zhou Xun a lot, since the film earned 702 million RMB at the box office. She is in all the right projects, especially with critically acclaimed directors.

      However, box office weight does not equal top income earner. Last year, Fan Bingbing earned more due to her commercial endorsements.

    2. The 4 little fadans are aging quickly and it’ll be interesting to see who fills the vacuum. I can only see Ni Ni becoming a powerhouse actress.

      1. They look pretty good for their ages and aging much better than their western counterparts. More power to older actresses!

      2. How about those who gained popularity through mainland series like Cecilia Liu, Annie Liu and Yang Mi. Their turns are just round the corner.

        Never fancied both BingBing as they appear to be walking adverts for plastic surgery and of course if you’ve costarred with Jackie, exposure is always double.

  2. xu jinglei is not consider pretty. But she has this mysterious aura around her, her look grow on you. Actually prefer xu jing lei over zhou xun. Never thought zhou xun as pretty nor her acting special. Overall like xu jinglei acting and look better.

    1. nicely said on Xu Jinglei, if not mistaken she is a director as well?

      yeah, she has this kind of mysterious aura

    2. Why so much superficial emphasis on actresses having to be pretty? Seasoned actresses like Helen Mirren and Meryl Streep didn’t need to be gorgeous to win accolades for their craft. Lucky for them that they’re westerners and don’t have to be criticized by Chinese critics for not looking like beauty queens.

  3. Xu Jinglei is my dream girl.
    Yes, even better than Zhang Ziyi and I saw her bare back in “Hero” and “2046”.

    1. Wow, I suddenly realized how sad this post is. At least I saw Tang Wei’s butt in “Lust, Caution”.

      Damn you China censorship laws, look what you have reduced me to.

  4. I go ga ga over Zhou Xun acting. First saw her in “Perhaps Love” then went on to see every movies she stared in except 1911 and the very early ones.
    To me she is Best Actress material without a doubt, that is the very reason I want to appreciate her films.

  5. I like both Xu Jinglei and Zhou Xun’ acting. They both can turn a terrible movie script into something that can be enjoyable to watch. Painted Skin 2 had a terrible script, but Zhou Xun’s acting saved the movie.

    1. Disagree ** To some it may look as if ZX saved the movie but this is only because she had more screen time than Vicki and her role required her to be lustful/seductive/ (that topless water scene with Chen Kun). I take VZ any time.

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