The news that Taiwan model Lin Chi-ling would star in Hong Kong director John Woo's new film The War of Red Cliff as Xiao Qiao, an ancient Chinese beauty during the Three Kingdoms (220-280), hit like a bomb on the Chinese mainland and raised a wave of protest on the Internet.
Starting Sunday some 10,000 people had signed a petition protesting Lin's role on tianya.com, one of China's most popular Web sites. Eighty percent of an estimated 5,000 people in an online survey by Sina.com also protested Lin's taking the role of Xiao Qiao.
Their biggest concern is that the Taiwan model, without any acting experience, would damage Xiao Qiao's reputation as one of the most beautiful women in Chinese history.
Xiao Qiao, wife of Zhou Yu (175-210), military commander of the Wu State emperor, is remembered for beauty that "can make birds alight and fish drown, the moon hide and the flowers blush for shame at the sight of her face," according to the description in The Romance of the Three Kingdoms by 14th century Ming author Luo Guanzhong.
"Given her age and her modern look, the thirty something model faces a real challenge in portraying a classic teenage Chinese beauty," one netizen wrote.
Respondents resented Lin's unnatural childlike voice. "The image and reputation of Lin forms a strong contrast with that of Xiao Qiao. Having Lin in the film makes me worried the film would become a porn movie," said an online postage.
Lin has not responded to the Chinese mainland protests. Instead, according to her publicist surnamed Fan, Lin said that she would reread Luo's The Romance of the Three Kingdoms to learn more about Xiao Qiao. "Lin won't let anyone down," Fan said.
Filming is scheduled to start at the end of the year or early next year.
(Shenzhen Daily May 11, 2006)