Zhou Xuan (1920-1957) was once the most popular actress in China's entertainment industry. Although her brilliant screen images were known to millions of fans, her personal life always remained a controversial mystery.
A Mysterious Birth Identity
There was always a dispute about Zhou Xuan's real identity. Recently, her second son Zhou Wei, now a middle-aged man in his 50's, unveiled some of the truth after searching for years.
Born into a "Su"-surnamed family in Chang Zhou city of east China's Jiang Su province around 1920 (the exact year was lost of track), Zhou Xuan's original name was Su Pu. At the age of 3, she was swindled by her mother's brother, an opium addict, to another city and was sold to a "Wang"-surnamed family, there they called her Wang Xiaohong. Later, she was again sent to a "Zhou"-surnamed family, and they changed her last name to "Zhou".
In 1932, Zhou Xiaohong was first introduced to a song and dance ensemble and got her stage name Zhou Xuan (as 'Xuan' means beautiful jade in Chinese).
Since 1936, she began her stardom in a series of films including contemporary hits like "The Angel in the Street", "Dark Night", "Night Inn", "Menglijun", "Recall to the Jiangnan" etc. In "the Angel in the Street", Zhou Xuan portrayed a female singer who despite of suffering great insult, still held an aspiration toward future. The film soon turned out to be a great success. What's more, its two theme songs "the Seasonal Song" and "The Female Singer" that she sang also enjoyed long lasting popularity. From then on, Zhou Xuan became one of the top female singer-actresses in China.
Later, during the war period, Zhou Xuan remained in the occupied area, and continued to film some 20 more movies.
After the war was finished, Zhou Xuan was invited to shoot films in Hong Kong. In 1947, her fabulous performance in the flick "Recall to Jiangnan" --in which she vividly played two totally different types of women at the same time, one was an innocent county girl, the other was a spoiled party girl, pushed her into the spotlight again. Gradually, the name "Zhou Xuan" became a trademark to guarantee a box-office hit. And her popularity soon spread beyond China's borders into the whole of Southeast Asia.
In 1957, Zhou Xuan died of cephalitis. She was only 37.
In her short lifetime, Zhou Xuan shot a total of 43 movies. However, she was happy with very few of them. Once actor Zhao Dan met her in Shanghai after they hadn't seen each other for a long time, he asked Zhou Xuan what she had done over the past few days. She replied: "Don't mention it, none of the films I've played recently is what I like. My favorite has always been the "Angel".
Overseas media once referred to "the Angel in the Street", Recall to Jiangnan" "Night Inn", "the Secret History of the Qing Dynasty" as four of her major works.
In 1995, China's Broadcast and TV Department organized a ceremony to celebrate the 90th Anniversary of China's Film Industry. At that event, Zhou Xuan was given a posthumous award for her contributions to China's entertainment field.