Li Lihua, nicknamed "Xiaomi" (little kitten), born August 17, 1924 (Lunar July 7, 1924) in Hebei, is the fifth child of famous Peking opera performers, Zhang Shao Chuan and Li Gui Fung. She began basic training of Peking opera around age 11, made her first movie Three Smiles (San Xiao) in Shanghai at age 15, and became an overnight sensation. Her film career spanned over three decades, a rare feat in this fast-changing industry. Adept at diversified roles and excelling in femme fatale parts, she often played strong feminist characters of courage, patriotism, wiles, and dignity. Her versatility allowed her to shine in comedies too.

Her fame spread far and wide and she was interviewed and featured in the LIFE magazine in the early 50's. In 1955, she starred in Blood Will Tell which was the first color movie in Hong Kong. In 1956, she went to Hollywood to star with Victor Mature in China Doll (Fei Hu Jiao Wa). In 1959, she married fellow actor & director, Yien Chuen.

Joining Shaw Brothers in 1960 she and Yien Chuen worked together in The Grand Substitution, The Magnificent Concubine, Empress Wu etc. She won the Best Actress Award at the 3rd and 7th Golden Horse Film Awards in 1964 and 1969 with her performances in Between Tears and Laughter and The Yangzi Jiang Incident. Li and Yien Chuen emigrated to US in 1972. She received a special commemorative award at the 30th Golden Horse Film Awards in 1993.

Li has two daughters, one from her previous marriage. After Yien Chuen's death in August 1980, Li Lihua continued her retired lifestyle in U.S.until her childhood sweetheart, Wu Zhong Yi, sought her out, began an ardent courtship and finally won her over. In 1994, at age 70, she recorded a new CD for EMI Singapore. In it she revived some of her old songs and also sang three new songs. She now lives in Hong Kong and is enjoying her twilight years with charity work appearances, delving in Chinese calligraphy and art, and rekindling her operatic interest periodically. She travels to the United States occasionally to visit her daughters and granddaughters.


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