Hollywood martial arts star Jet Li would quit movie making next month and turn to Buddhist studies in Qinghai-Tibet Plateau in Southwest China, sources close to him said.
Li planned to announce the decision on his 41st birthday on April 26, his friends and relatives in Beijing said.
Li was the highest-earning Chinese mainland entertainer last year, with an income of up to 140 million yuan (US$17 million), according to Forbes. His income even surpassed NBA star Yao Ming.
Li had repeatedly said previously he would turn to Buddhism after he spent 13 days studying Buddhism in Qinghai-Tibet Plateau. He participated in some Buddhist activities in Hong Kong and Taiwan recently.
Li reportedly has the support of his wife Nina Li, the 1996 Miss Asia.
However, Zhang Weiping, producer of Li’s box-office smash Hero and a close friend of Li, said the news was unfounded.
“Li called me from the United States several days ago. He said he was very satisfied with our cooperation in Hero and was looking forward to another project,” said Zhang.
However, Zhang confirmed that Li was a pious Buddhist.
“Once we were on the same flight to the United States. He practiced za-zen and prayed for more than four hours, during which time I fell asleep and woke up,” said Zhang.
Yet Zhang still insisted Li would not retire at the top of his career.
“He is only studying Buddhism and will not become a monk,” said Zhang.
Buddhist disciples are not rare among film stars. Twenty years ago, Hong Kong superstar Huang Yuanshen, hero of the famous TV series Legend of a Fighter (Huo Yuan-jia), became a monk at the prime of his career.
Jackie Chan and Eric Tsang are also pious Buddhists as were the late Anita Mui and Leslie Cheung.
(China Daily March 11, 2004)