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Yao Ming tops Forbes Chinese celeb rankings
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The basketball star Yao Ming topped the Forbes list of Chinese celebrities for the fifth time, staying top of this year's list which was unveiled Tuesday.

Forbes, which has been producing annual Chinese mainland celebrity rankings since 2004, released its latest list on Tuesday amid stars' skepticism and the public's anticipation.

Like in the previous year, NBA star Yao Ming topped the new list of 100 celebrities with the most frequent media exposure and a pre-tax yearly income of 387 million yuan (US$54.5 million), also the highest among all.

Olympic champion hurdler Liu Xiang followed Yao Ming closely like last year. Rising basketball player Yi Jianlian, ranked No. 4, is the only other sports star on the top 10.

Martial-arts superstar Jet Li, who failed to enter the top 100 last year, soared to No. 3 with the reason given by Forbes that the kung-fu king has had three new films since the last ranking ("The Warlords," "The Forbidden Kingdom," and "The Mummy 3"), and his heartfelt devotion to charity work (Jet Li runs the disaster-relief One Foundation) also added to his score.

Hollywood-bound actress Zhang Ziyi leads the female front-runners. She will have two films opening soon this year, including her new Hollywood effort "The Horsemen" and Chinese director Chen Kaige's biopic of Peking opera master Mei Lanfang. Her high-profile romance with multimillionaire Vivi Nevo also contributed to her high media expose.

Following Zhang Ziyi on the list are actresses Fan Bingbing, Vicki Zhao Wei, Zhou Xun and Li Bingbing, all among the most active contributors to the Chinese entertainment industry.

Zhao Benshan, one of the country's most prominent comedians, wrapped up the top 10 for his efforts in perpetuating the northeastern Chinese folk culture Er Ren Zhuan, Forbes says.

Every year the list features some up-and-coming new stars and this year they included Zhang Hanyu (96th), lead actor in Feng Xiaogang's sold-out blockbuster film "The Assembly," and grass-roots actor Wang Baoqiang (38th), whose humble character in the extremely popular army telenovela "Soldier Sortie" has become everyone's latest favorite. Wang Baoqiang said via his agent that he was invigorated by the Forbes mentioning.

Yet skepticism exists for other stars, as they either claimed that their incomes listed by Forbes were far too exaggerated or refused to offer any comments.

While most of the public view the annual list as a source for chitchat topics, Yang Linran, who led the list production, admitted the income part relied largely on estimation but the list as a whole is a comprehensive one reflecting the stars' social influences. The rankings are set to serve as a reference for endorser-seeking businesses, Yang added.

(CRI March 12, 2008)

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