Even if you’re not a fan of identity politics being a big part in Hollywood casting choices, you’d still know that anyone other than an Asian playing as the eponymous male-disguising female lead of the upcoming Disney live-action adaptation of Mulan would be sacrilege. Thankfully, the entertainment giant had more than enough common sense to get Liu Yifei, a beautiful Chinese actress who’s had roles in a handful of Wuxia movies and TV shows, making her more than qualified to be the girl that fights a war in her father’s stead, brings honor to her family, talks to a dragon comedian and sings dramatically in front of a mirror (although it seems the movie isn’t going to be a musical).
Still, even though the actress who’s going to be the iconic Chinese legend and heroine is already set in stone, it’s still nice to have some fan casting for Disney’s one and only East Asian princess. Because while Yifei is more than worthy to be the girl who does the entire Chinese army’s job—after all, she was once hailed as one of China’s most bankable actresses—so are other actresses of Chinese lineage. Here are a few names we have in mind, and they’re all beautiful and talented enough to be Mulan.
15. Jamie Chung
Perhaps the most Hollywood of all the girls on this list would be Jamie Chung. While technically Korean-American, she’s often mistaken for Chinese which is why we’ve added her here. Plus, she’s already in Once Upon a Time as Mulan, so it wouldn’t have hurt to cast her in the movie. And we know you’d like to forget that atrocious Dragonball live-action movie by Tinsel Town, but Jamie was there. She was also in the remake of the 80s horror-suspense slasher Sorority Row, where she was the third to die—an achievement for a non-lead role in the genre. Lastly, she was in Sucker Punch, Zack Snyder’s girl power-powered half-Inception half-anime and video game tribute, where she played Amber, the quintet’s pilot. She also voiced college student and super-heroine Go Go Tamago in Big Hero 6.
14. Yang Mi
It takes talent to portray Fa Mulan, one of the most important women in Chinese history or literature (because scholars are debating whether she really existed or not). Thankfully, Yang Mi got that part nailed down, plus she’s got that classic Chinese beauty. So if she were Mulan, the guy who’d fall for her hypothetical on screen male guise should consider himself lucky. Yang Mi’s got quite a lot of experience when it comes to period dramas and films—a big help for an actress playing Fa Mulan. She’s had a major role in the TV hit Chinese Paladin 3, The Return of the Condor Heroes and most notably, Palace, where she not only got her breakthrough role, but also sang the opening theme. Indeed, Yang Mi has brought honor to her family.
13. Shu Qi
Shu Qi is regarded as one of the most beautiful actresses in China. Plus, she’s also one of the highest paid actresses in the country. All of this, despite the fact that she’s Taiwanese. But before her big break, she was under the management of a Hong Kong producer of Hong Kong Category III films. That means softcore adult films. Thankfully, those days are behind her, as she’s already considered as a much more serious actress nowadays. Plus, she’s also seen success not only in China and East Asia, but also worldwide. Aside from her participation in critically acclaimed movies such as If You Are The One and Journey to the West: Conquering the Demons, she’s also appeared in The Transporter as the brave girl Lai Kwai, and a small but significant role in the Hollywood rom-com New York I Love You.
12. Isabella Leong
In The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor, the son of legendary treasure hunter and mummy slayer Rick O’Connell, played by Brendan Fraser, drops out of college to dig up Chinese archaeological sites and gets a beautiful Chinese girlfriend, Lin. Despite her seemingly cute and meek face, Lin’s quite the fighter, and she also knows a lot about secret ancient magic. The actress who played her is named Isabella Leong, a Macanese actress who’s also known by her Portuguese Macau name Luisa Isabella Nolasco da Silva. Quite the mouthful. Other than being in the fourth installment of The Mummy franchise, she’s also been in A Chinese Tall Story, which is a romance between an alien and a monk, and Isabella plays the daughter of a police officer that doesn’t know her.
11. Juju Chan
JuJu Chan is a Hong Kong actress best known to American audiences for her role in Netflix’s Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: Sword of Destiny. Chan might be the most qualified actress on the list as far as physical competences go: having been nicknamed both the next Michelle Yeoh and the female Bruce Lee by fans, she is a taekwondo black belt holder, Kung fu actress and had represented Hong Kong in numerous competitions. Plus, playing Bruce Lee’s kung fu sister in The Young Boxer led her to become the only female actress in Hong Kong to master the nunchakus and the double nunchakus. Aside from being a martial artist on screen and in the ring, Juju is also fondly called the “Beauty Queen”, having joined and won numerous beauty pageants.
10. Fan Bingbing
One of the biggest letdowns of X-Men: Days of Future Past is the fact that they promoted Blink, a female mutant with teleportation powers, before the movie got aired, only to have her do very few things on screen. Nevertheless, her short time in the limelight was impressive, but it’s still a shame that the character, as well as the actress Fan Bingbing, was underutilized. It was a missed opportunity, as Fan Bingbing is hailed as one of the most beautiful, most talented and most popular Chinese actresses out there. In fact, she already has quite a career in the country. Her most prominent movies were Shinjuku Incident and Shaolin. And outside of China, aside from X-Men, she’s been in the Korean war film My Way and in the French film Stretch.
9. Bianca Bai
The Taiwanese love their retitled adaptations of Japanese shoujo (teenage girl-centric) romance manga. And if the Taiwanese love those sorts of things, then it should go without saying that Bianca Bai, who’s played in two adaptations, gets lots of love. She’s had a minor role in Mischievous Kiss, and the lead Gong Xi in Extravagant Challenge, the retitled adaptation of Skip Beat. For the uninitiated, both adaptations are about a college student who drops out of college so she can support her childhood friend and long-time crush’s dream of being an actor, only to find out that he’s cheating on her with his manager, so she sets out to be a star herself as revenge. And it looks like the beautiful Bianca Bai doesn’t have to in real life; she’s already famous.
8. Hsu Wei-ning
We’ve already mentioned how big retitled Taiwanese adaptations of Japanese shoujo romance manga are in Taiwan. But how good and faithful are these adaptations? Well, very. Just look at Mesmerizing Kiss, which was lauded as one of the most faithful adaptations of the bestselling manga by Kaoru Tada. The show owes it to high production values, top-notch writing and of course, colorful characters. Especially Pei Ziyu, the series’ second female lead, who was played by Hsu Wei-ning. Wei-ning, also known as Tiffany Ann Hsu, or even just Ann Hsu, graduated in Drama Acting from the Chinese Cultural University, and then went on to be one of Taiwan’s biggest stars. Aside from Mesmerizing Kiss, she’s also been in Autumn’s Concerto and The Way We Were.
7. Li Bingbing
Li Bingbing has a more than a decent resume when it comes to kicking on screen butt. She got big in China thanks to her spectacular performance in Zhang Yuan’s Seventeen Years, which earned her the Best Actress Award at the 1999 Singapore Film Festival. A few years after winning various awards in the Chinese movie industry, she moved on to international roles. There’s The Forbidden Kingdom, where she played opposite Jackie Chan and Jet Li, Resident Evil: Retribution, where she played as Ada Wong and Transformers: Age of Extinction. So don’t feel bad for watching that drivel; at least you saw Li Bingbing in action.
6. Gemma Chan
We’ve already had a Hollywood actress with Korean blood, so it’s only fair for a British actress of Chinese blood to be considered worthy to be Mulan, right? And it’s not only her Chinese ancestry that makes her deserving to step in Mulan’s flats or combat boots, but also her acting chops. She’s been in Doctor Who as Mia Bennett and the sci-fi drama Humans, where she played robot assistant Anita. Gemma’s also been on the big screen. She appeared in the 2010 World War II noir film Shanghai, the coming of age romantic drama-comedy Submarine, Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruits and The Double. With her being able to pull off all sorts of roles, it wouldn’t be surprising if Gemma Chan could make a solid Mulan.
5. Celina Jade
China’s box-office queen Celina Jade started her acting career as the leading lady of actor Wu Jing in Legendary Assassin. Born to Christina Hui and American Kung Fu star Roy Horan, Jade is no stranger to martial arts, having learned taekwondo, archery and shooting from her father. With an intensive background in martial arts, it’s no surprise that her first Hollywood movie was The Man with the Iron Fists. From there, she moved on to bigger roles, most notably as Shado in The CW series Arrow. Her latest movie, Wolf Warrior 2, became China’s biggest box-office hit beating Stephen Chow’s The Mermaid. Finally, she’s not only an actress but also a rising singer as well, as she just released her first album titled Celina which she wrote herself.
4. Puff Kuo
It’s not unusual for East Asian actresses to be big enough to be big in another East Asian country. Just like Puff Kuo, member of the Taiwanese pop group Dream Girls, who was famous enough to be in the second season of We Got Married, a Korean TV show where celebs are paired up and made to live a domestic life. Puff Kuo was paired with Kim Hee-chul, member of K-Pop supergroup Super Junior. The tandem was well-received, as a lot of viewers thought they had chemistry together. After her stint in the show, she and her girl group became even bigger in Korea. On top of her talent, she’s also quite the sight, as she’s consistently been topping FHM Taiwan’s 100 Sexiest Women. Lucky Hee-chul.
3. Cyndi Wang
In most of the world, West Side Story is a Romeo and Juliet-inspired Broadway play set in New York City. But for Taiwan, West Side Story—or rather, Westside Story—is a hit TV drama based on a Taiwanese comic book about hot-blooded boys and the girls they want to get. In the show, one of the most important characters is the pretty, innocent-looking, yet flirtatious and desperate teenage escort Shen Yin He. Cyndi Wang, the actress who portrayed this vixen, was able to convincingly play the role on all levels. Given how she was able to fill the schoolgirl shoes of a complex character, there’s no doubt that Cyndi Wang would definitely make a good Mulan. And that was fourteen years ago—imagine how great an actress she is now.
2. Vivian Hsu
One of the most recognizable Taiwanese singer-actresses outside of their home country is Vivian Hsu. In the ’90s, she made huge waves in East Asia, especially Japan, where she became a huge celebrity and the vocalist of Black Biscuits, a J-Rock band which released four singles that reached the top 5 of the Oricon (Billboard for Japanese music) singles chart and number 6 of the album chart. Her career started when she won first place for Talented Beautiful Girl, a TV contest for Taiwanese channel CTS in 1990. She then moved on to join an all-girl trio Girls, modeling and finally, to singing and acting. And as an actress, she was in The Accidental Spy with Jackie Chan and Love Storm, with F4 members Ken Chu and Vic Chou.
1. Joanne Tseng
A lot of celebrities either don’t have a college degree, or have a college degree that is completely unrelated to what they do. Joanne Tseng is an exception to the rule, as this beauty and brains has a Drama and Theater Degree from the National Taiwan University of Arts. On top of that, she can also play the piano, flute and violin, making her a talented and well-rounded performer. She’s one of the biggest actresses in Taiwan, as she has been on a TV series almost every year ever since her debut in the dance-musical Top of the Forbidden City in 2004. She’s also had a musical career in a pop duo named Sweety back in 2003, and continued to have a solo career after the group broke up in 2006.
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