Li Lianjie (born April 26, 1964), better known by his stage name Jet Li, is a Chinese-Singaporean martial artist, actor, wushu champion, and international film star. After three years of intensive training with Wu Bin, Li lianjie won his first national championship for the Beijingporn Wushu Team. After retiring from wushu at age 17, he went on to win great acclaim in China as an actor making his debut with the film Shaolin Temple (1982). He went on to star in many critically acclaimed martial arts epic films, most notably the Once Upon A Time In China series, in which he portrayed folk hero Wong Fei Hung. His first role in a Hollywood film was as a villain in Lethal Weapon 4 (1998), but his first Hollywood film leading role was in Romeo Must Die (2000). He has gone on to star in many Hollywood action films, most recently starring beside Jackie Chan in The Forbidden Kingdom (2008), and as the titular villain in The Mummy: Tomb Of The Dragon Emperor (2008) opposite Brendan Fraser. He is set to star in the upcoming film The Expendables.
Li was born Li Lianjie in Beijing, People's Republic of China. Li's father died when he was two, leaving the family to struggle on its own, with Li being the youngest of two boys and two girls.
When Li was eight his talent for wushu was noticed at a summer course at school, and he began his practice there. Li participated in the sport of wushu in the non-sparring event. He began his wushu on the Beijing Wushu Team, an athletic group organized to perform martial arts forms during the All China Games. As a member of the team, he received wushu training and went on to win fifteen gold medals and one silver medal in Chinese wushu championships. According to Li, once, as a child, when the Chinese National Wushu Team went to perform for President Richard Nixon in the United States, he was asked by Nixon to be his personal bodyguard. Li replied, "I don't want to protect any individual. When I grow up, I want to defend my one billion Chinese countrymen!" which earned him much respect in his homeland.
After almost nine years of training, Li has studied some styles of wushu, especially Changquan (Northern Longfist Style). He has also studied other arts including Baguazhang (Eight trigram palm), Taijiquan (Tai chi), Xingyiquan (Shape intent fist), Zuiquan (Drunken fist), and Tang lang quan (Praying mantis fist). He didn't learn Nanquan (Southern fist), because they're focusing only in the Northern Shaolin Styles. He has also studied some of wushu's main weapons, such as San jie gun (Three sectional staff), Gun (Staff), Dao (Broadsword), Jian (Straight sword) and many more.
Li is a practitioner of Tibetan Buddhism. His master is Lho Kunsang of the Drikung Kagyu lineage of the Kagyu school.
In 1987, Li married Beijing Wushu Team member and Kids from Shaolin co-star Huang Qiuyan, with whom he had two daughters. They divorced in 1990, Since 1999, he has been married to Nina Li Chi (born Li Zhi), a Shanghai-born, Hong Kong-based actress. He has two daughters with her as well, Jane (born 2000) and Jada (born 2002).
Li was in the Maldives when the tsunami hit during the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake. Although it was widely reported at the time that he had died during the disaster, he only suffered a minor foot injury, caused by a piece of floating furniture, while he was guiding his 4-year-old daughter Jane to safety. The two were by the pool and slightly above the beach when the wave came ashore.
Li took up Singapore citizenship in 2009, following in the footsteps of Chinese actress Gong Li. Many people have considered him a hypocrite for expressing his love of China and then secretly changing his citizenship. When confronted by reporters, he stated, "the earth is my home."
Li has been a "philanthropic ambassador" of the Red Cross Society of China since January 2006. He contributed 500,000 yuan (US$62,500) of box office revenues from his film Fearless to the Red Cross' psychological sunshine project, which promotes mental health.
In April 2007, touched by his near-death experience in the Maldives during the 2004 tsunami, Li formed his own non-profit foundation called The One Foundation. The One Foundation supports international disaster relief efforts in conjunction with the Red Cross as well as other efforts, including mental health awareness and suicide prevention. Since the starting of the foundation, Li has been involved with seven disasters, including the Sichuan earthquake.