Course:ASIA321/2022/Chen Daoming

From UBC Wiki


Chen Daoming

As a famous and brilliant Chinese actor, Chen Daoming (Chinese: 陈道明) is well-known to Chinese audiences for his hard and professional work in various films and television series, and the many awards he has received in his acting career. ChenDaoming’s dedicated acting skills and humble personality are able to separate him from the norms, thus generating a renowned reputation in the eyes of the public as well as film directors. For this wiki page, we aim to explore detailed information about Chen Daoming, including his life roles, screen roles, reception, and critical debates and reviews revolving around him. This page mainly targets viewers, especially non-Chinese speakers who are interested in learning stories of Chen Daoming, as well as for those who shared their interest in studying actors in Mainland China.


Chen Daoming was born on April 26th, 1955 in Tianjin. In 1971, he was admitted to Tianjin People’s theater to study stage acting. Later in 1978, he was admitted and graduated from the Central Academy of Drama. Chen received his first outbreak in the 1988 television series The Last Dynasty, playing the last emperor of China Puyi, which became a huge hit in the whole country in 1990[1]. The role of Puyi was initially given to another actor Jiang Wen, but because of Chen’s outstanding acting in the audition and his appearance being “quite appealing to audiences” [2], he was cast as Puyi instead by the decision of the whole production team. Such a decision was later proved correct, as Chen’s extraordinary acting won him both the Golden Eagle Award for Best Actor, and the Flying Apsaras Award for Outstanding Actor in 1988. This was his first ever role on screen. Following this successful initial debut, Chen made another classical portrayal of the character Fang Hongjian in the television series Fortress Besieged in 1990. His performance won him another Flying Apsaras Award for Outstanding Actor in the same year and making him one of the top actors in mainland China[2]. This marked the continuous climbing of Chen’s acting career, and he leaves audiences with many classic character portrayals, such as Kangxi Emperor in the 2000 TV series Kangxi Dynasty, Qin Shi Huang in the 2002 film Hero, and many more. In 2018, Chen was appointed as the president of the China Film Association, further marking his magnificent achievement in his career path.

Chen Damong’s achievement is not only limited to his on-screen performance. In 2011, he starred in the play “The Sorrow of Comedy” directed by Xu Ang. The play created the biggest hit in Chinese theater history: tickets were sold out for all 18 performances one week before the opening, reaching a box office of a stunning nearly 3.5 million[3]. Chen also started working as a producer in 2022 and participated in the making of Ode to the Spring[4].

Chen met his future wife Du Xian in Tianjin in 1978, who was a news presenter on CCTV at the time. Although Chen has not gained any of his fame back then, the two fell in love and had a daughter in 1985[5]. Despite her resignation from her job in 1992, the two continued to support each other and were perceived as a great couple.

Life roles

Chen Daoming did not ever think about being an actor for his future career. However, when Chen Daoming was in high school, he coincidently passed the Tianjin People's Art Theatre audition due to his acting talent, which led to his experience of attending the Tianjin People's Art Theatre to study stage drama as a student[6]. At the Tianjin People's Art Theatre, he finally found his interest in acting and decided to explore it further. After he graduated, he successfully got into The Central Academy of Drama to study the theory of performance for college. From 1982 to 1984, Chen Daoming was the director of the TV Drama Art Committee of the CCTV TV Drama Production Center. While he was in the TV Drama Production Center, he also got involved in several TV shows to gain fame[7].  

Chen Daoming is also a husband. When he first entered the entertainment industry, he met his wife, Du Xian 杜宪, a student at the Communication University Of China. Du Xian 杜宪 was not only a good student at school but also good-looking and had a prominent family. When Chen Daoming first met his wife, he was an actor without fame. Du Xian's uncle was the one who bought them together. Chen Daoming was a college of Du Xian's uncle. Due to Chen Daoming's high emotional intelligence, Du Xian's uncle was comfortable speaking to Chen Daoming, which helped them to build a good relationship. One day, Du Xian went to visit her uncle, and her uncle was worried about Du Xian's personal life and wanted her to find a boyfriend. Du Xian's uncle then introduced Chen Daoming to her. With Chen Daoming's communication skills, the two of them quickly fall in love with each other. When Chen Daoming and Duxian met each other, Chen Daoming was still at Tianjin People's Art Theatre, but Duxian was studying at the Communication University Of China in Beijing. To solve the long-distance relationship problem, Chen Daoming studied acting further at the Central Academy of Drama in Beijing[8]. After graduation, Du Xian 杜宪 was assigned to the CCTV news as an anchor. Chen Daoming and Duxian got married in the year of 1982. Their daughter was born in the year of 1987 named, Chen Ge 陈格[7].

His experiences and talents related to acting all made Chen Daoming a great actor. Instead of being an actor, Chen Daoming is also a member of the China Television Artists Association and the Chairman of the China Film Association[9].

Screen roles

From Stage to Screen

After graduating from the Central Academy of Drama in 1981, Chen Daoming worked at China Television Production Center (CTPC) until 1984. He received his first ever on-screen role in the movie A Storm is Coming Tonight (1984), but to him, it was a challenge. Previously, Chen was mainly an on-stage actor, meaning he wasn’t confident or familiar enough with playing roles in films. He was once confused about many instructions given by the director when he shot A Storm is Coming Tonight (1984), and even considered quitting his job[10]. However, by chance and maybe by his “aura” as well, he was cast as Puyi in The Last Dynasty (1988). Although, the filming process was rough; the 28 episodes TV series took 4 years or so to complete filming stage because the recording was once lost due to a fire accident. At the same time, a similar but much more recognized film The Last Emperor (1987) was made by the famous director Bernardo Bertolucci, and the lead star John Lone became one of the most famous Chinese actors in the world for his portrayal as Puyi also left immense pressure the entire production team. But lucky, thanks to Chen Daoming’s amazing performance, especially for showing the complex inner thoughts of Puyi, the series quickly became the most popular show for Chinese audiences at the time, and it even secured Chen two awards for Best Actor in the next year. Since then, Chen has starred more and more movies and TV series, playing an active role on- and off-screen even until this day.

Chen Daoming as Emperor Kangxi in Kangxi Dynasty (2001)

Roles of Emperors/Leaders

Many Chinese audiences are quite familiar with Chen Daoming for his portrayal of emperors/kings. His first role in television series was Emperor Puyi, which left a remarkable impression on the audience. But nowadays, when asked which character Chen Daoming played is the most classic, many would probably agree about the Emperor Kangxi, in Kangxi Dynasty (2001). According to the director of Kangxi Dynasty Liu Dayin, he originally wanted to cast Jiang Wen as Kangxi, which was similar to the casting of The Last Dynasty (1988), but because Jiang Wen wanted to pursue his career in the film industry, he cast Chen Daoming instead, partially because of his success of the role of Puyi[11]. To perfect this role, Chen went to the Forbidden City every day and read as many of the historical records about the Qing Dynasty. Additionally, he also made many improvisations, such as when Kangxi found out that his eldest son did not tell him that he was once captured and released by his enemy, he slapped his son twice. This moment was never in the script[11], but it shows how Kangxi was angry at his son for not living up to his expectation and his remorse as a father. After the series went on TV, it received a 13% viewing rate, surpassing its predecessor Yongzheng Dynasty (1999), and Chen’s acting was widely praised among the audiences.

Chen Daoming continued to take on more of the leader types role after this, for example, he played Emperor Qin Shihuang in the film Hero (2002), Dorgon in the TV series Hun Duan Qinhuai (2002), King Goujian in the TV series The Great Revival (2005), Liu Bang in the TV series King’s War (2012), president Chiang Kai-shek in the film Back to 1942 (2012), and most recently, King of Qing in the TV series Joy of Life (2019). All these characters share similar qualities: authoritative, commanding, and masculine. But at the same time, he granted each of these characters individuality and some levels of uniqueness, making them stand out from each other, such as Puyi’s conflicting inner world, Qin Shihuang’s ambition, Liu Bang’s ruffian, etc. When asked by the media: “Mr. Chen Daoming, does playing these many emperors affect your life?” Chen answered: “Zhen think it does not affect me.”[12], in which the word “Zhen”(朕) means “I” when the speaker is an emperor. Such an answer was obviously just for fun. Although Chen Daoming played many emperors with similar qualities, Chen in real life is merely a dedicated actor who always tries to perfect his roles in films. Just as the Hong Kong actor Eric Tsang commented: “Chen Daoming is a particularly treasured actor, and very few actors can perform with such a calm heart”, Chen Daoming treated acting as a serious job and duty, and separated his own life from his characters, making him an ideal model for all Chinese actors.

Return to the Stage

Chen Daoming briefly returned on stage to star in the play The Sorrow of Comedy (2001), partnered up with his former classmate He Bin. After exactly 30 years since his last appearance in a play, Chen took this opportunity extremely seriously. During the rehearsal, to make sure the actors will not get sick because of large temperature differences, Chen never turned on the air conditioner in the rehearsal room, making it the hottest place in the theatre[13]. And contrast to many of his previous works, this play is a comedy, which made Chen nervous for both his long time away from the theatre and the type of character opposite to his usual role. But his hard-working attitude no doubt made his character work: in the 118 minutes play, when the government censor Chen played appeared on stage, audiences laugh 49 times in total[14]. A stunning $3.5 million box office was reached in the end, making the comedy a huge success.

Main Movies
1984 A Storm will Come Tonight 今夜有暴风雪
1989 The Empress Dowager 一代妖后
1999 My 1919 我的1919
2002 Hero 英雄
2006 Infernal Affairs Trilogy 无间道
2009 The Founding of a Republic 建国大业
2010 Aftershock 唐山大地震
2011 Beginning of The Great Revival 建党伟业
2012 Back to 1942 一九四二
2014 Coming Home 归来
2021 My Country, My Parents 我和我的父辈
Main TV Shows
1988 The Last Emperor 末代皇帝
1990 Fortress Besieged 围城
1999 Mr. Ma & Son 二马
2001 Kangxi Dynasty 康熙王朝
2007 The Great Revival 卧薪尝胆
2007 A Love Before Gone With Wind 北平往事
2007 Where is Our Youth Age / We 我们无处安放的青春
2010 Cell Phone 手机
2017 The First Half of My Life 我的前半生
2019 Joy of Life 庆余年
2020 My Best Friend’s Story 流金岁月

Substantive analysis of the celebrity's profession

Critical Analysis of the Actor from the Movie Aftershock (2010)

Chen Daoming is the protagonist in the movie Aftershock 唐山大地震. Chen Daoming’s character is named Wang Deqing (王德清), who is the foster father of the girl Fang Deng (方登), who her biological parents abandoned her in the Tang Shan earthquake. The film references an actual historical event, an earthquake in Tang Shan in 1976, which caused 242769 loss of lives.

Aftershock 唐山大地震 (2010)

There is one scene in the movie in which the family, including Wang Deqing (王德清), Fang Deng (方登), and the granddaughter unite together for a family meal on Chinese New Year. The director Feng Xiaogang (冯小刚), used a close-up of the family to allow the audience to see how Wang Deqing and Fang Deng are real family members after all the years living together. The director also identified Wang Deqing’s love to his daughter by using the close-up. Fang Deng was telling Wang Deqing that she will be married soon. Wang Deqing quickly replied to her by saying that “ I just want him to be good to you.” The quote shows a strong connection between the character Wang Deqing and the actor Chen Daoming. Chen Daoming is also a father in real life with his only daughter Chen Ge (陈格). The quote could also tell the audience about Chen Daoming’s personality in real life, which is to treat people well and with care.

Chen Daoming did not ask for salary for his role in the movie The Tang Shan Great Earthquake since he genuinely experienced the Tang Shan Earthquake. Tianjin is in the same earthquake zone. The earthquake knocked down 40 percent of the houses in Tianjin[15]. Chen Daoming lived on the third floor, and the whole wall of his home was destroyed. "It was a plot for me that needed a release after all these years," Chen said. Chen Daoming also helped the director Feng Xiaogang improve the movie’s details with his memory of the event. The Tang Shan Great Earthquake is a way for Chen Daoming to tell the audience about his real-life experience that has a memorable memory[15].

Chen Daoming has often been described as a low-key person who does not like to do interviews to publicize his films. However, he told the director Feng Xaiogang that “You can do whatever you want to publicize this movie.” This shows Chen Daoming’s code-switch for the movie since it highly relates to his experience[15].

Critical Analysis of the Actor from the TV Show Fortress Besieged (1990)

Chen Daoming's character Fang Hongjian has been well received over decades, with critics praising Chen Daoming as the "Fang Hongjian in the book." In the scene in which Fang Hongjian appears and ascends from the cabin to the deck, dressed in a tropical sports suit, with a white cap, white shots, shite shoes and socks, and two think suspenders. He was conversing with Ms.Su, saying, "I have been walking on the sea for more than a month. The weather is really hot. It is the image of war!" This short scene embodies two characteristics of Chen Daoming's performance[16]. The first one is the root of the drama when saying the script "the image of war." The lines suddenly changed to sonorous and abrupt emphasis[16]. His attention to detail all came from his drama skills. His experiences of acting in drama on the stage have provided him with the skill of the well presenting the lines to show the audiences the character's personalities directly. The second characteristic is slack improvisation. He was adding details to the character, which the author did not mention in the book. In the book, the author only mentioned "saying hi to the little brother.' Instead, Chen Daoming casually touches the child's head, picks up the children on the table, and helps him to open the tiny umbrella[16]. His actions are natural and vivid. As an actor who reads a lot, Chen Daoming believes that to be a good actor, it is necessary to analyze different personalities. His attention to detail in real life helped him better understand the characters and present them to the audience more naturally and vividly.

How Social Factors Influence His Career

There were arguments online saying, "Chen Daoming has a price without a market, which is why data traffic stars are gaining fame[17]. The shift in the industry is shifting how actors attract audiences. Many actors are filming their TikTok videos and selling products online to gain fame. However, Chen Daoming decided to keep his originality. He wants to be independent of social factors and not influenced by social trends. The rise of data traffic stars may cause actors like Chen Daoming not to have enough script to choose from. At the same time, he is only focusing on his works instead of the social expectations and how society defines him. Chen Daoming said, "I am serious and responsible for my work. I do not make fake products and live up to this work. Like my production of Comedy Sadness, whether the drama is successful doesn’t matter to me.[17]” The actor is only a job to Chen Daoming, and there is no specialty for this job. He disagrees that actors should have a higher level in the social hierarchy. Chen Daoming is spreading his ideas to his friends. One of his friends, Shen, said: “It's false not to pay attention. After all, this is the standard to evaluate your performance. But when I made Cell Phone, Chen Daoming taught me a lesson. He was very sincere and told me, 'This show is finished. It’s on the air, and what happens after that is none of your business. Whether it's good or bad, how it's evaluated that's for other people to decide. 'After that, I didn't pay as much attention as I did before.[17]" Chen Daoming also contributes to the entertainment industry by inspiring his friends in the industry. His words got famous on the internet, and many actors decided to shift their views about the industry and focus on their works.

Contributions to the Industry

Chen Daoming is the pioneer and representative of Chinese “literati opera.” Almost all of his performances are filled with the spirit of real literati. The use of Opera is one characteristic of Chen Daoming’s acting skills. Chen Daoming loves the Jing Kun opera and is a fan of the famous Kunqu actress Wang Fang (王芳)[16]. Chen Daoming usually performs with the singing voice and the body language of “Jing Kun (京昆).” Examples can be seen in “Two horses” and the “Kangxi Dynasty.” The body language of “Jing Kun” can be divided into two parts: the charming and beautiful feminine figure with flowing water sleeves and the magnificent, turbulent, and beautiful “masculine” figure[16]. Chen Daoming’s knowledge of traditional Chinese opera has shifted the ways of using acting to deliver messages. He also includes the characteristics of opera to show to the audiences and even his global audiences about the Chinese traditional culture.

As one of the most significant Beidou figures in the history of Chinese performing arts, Mr. Shi Hui is admired by his successor. Shi Hui can be said to be the typical spiritual father of Chinese acting school male actors. Another characteristic of Chen Daoming's performance is the inheriting of Shi Hui's performance[17]. The first one is the characteristic action. Aristotle said:" The essence of drama is action. It would be best if you had movement on stage. Movement, activity, is the basis of dramatic art.[17]" Chen Daoming perfectly inherits Shi Hui's key of involving actions that can represent the characteristics of a character. A character's emotions can not just be understood without acting on them. The only way for the audience to be influenced is to add specific typical actions to express the characters' emotions[17]. The second characteristic of Chen Daoming's inheriting of Shi Hui's performance would be including featured items in acting. In order to play the role of the old Ma in Two Horses, Chen Daoming personally went to the Panjiayu junk market to find a small comb, a small mirror, and a snuff bottle in that specific era[17]. The third characteristic is the repetition of action. In Legend of Chu and Han, Chen Daoming repeats the same actions over three times to give the audience a more profound memory of the character[17]. Chen Daoming's inherits of Shi Hui's performaces have helped the industry keep the typical Chinese performing art in mind.

Reception of the celebrity

ChenDaoming in “Infernal Affairs III”
ChenDaoming in “Infernal Affairs III” (2003)

Many voices are being raised regarding how ChenDaoming’s style of acting is viewed and judged in the eyes of Chinese public viewers through different time eras[18]. Before ChenDaoming stepped foot into the TV show industry, he started as a stage drama actor and film actor. Thus, It is not difficult to observe that his way of acting and different approaches he took toward the character in stage dramas, films and early TV series are relatively similar. Which has led to some early criticism where for the very first few films he played, such as “Guan Gong”(关公) back in the 1990s, “Peach Blossoms All Over The Sky” (桃花满天红), and “Dance Girl” (舞女) both shot in 1995, as well as “My 1919” (我的1919), which was back in 1999, etc. They are said to contain traces and techniques of stage drama type of acting[18]. Yet, this unique way of performing was later recognized by most viewers and even became an outstanding label when people discussed and compared ChenDaoming with other professional actors. However, later on in the year of 2001, ChenDaoming played the role of Emperor in the TV show named “Kangxi Dynasty”(康熙王朝) have, left an unforgettable image for viewers, as well as obtaining the 20th China TV Golden Eagle Award. Needless to say, due to the ever since success of playing the role of the Emperor, ChenDaoming is forever remembered and tilted as the ultimate actor for any ancient Emperor or king[18]. However, this might have led to criticism for his failure to correctly portray the role in the trio movie “Infernal Affairs III” (无间道3)[19]. In this film, ChenDaoming plays a role which is an undercover agent that was sent to engage in relationships with drug dealers to secretly provide relevant drug business information to the narcotics officers in order to take down the entire illegal organization. Thus, this character is supposed to offer viewers a low-key sense of feeling. But quite the opposite, ChenDaoming has made the character look and feel like a drug gang mafia, with an observable emperor or bossy type of acting style[19]. As a result, many viewers found it hard to remember the character due to ChenDaoming’s improbable performance in this last film of the goated trio series. This has caused a new form of criticism, in which ChenDaoming is said to be forever stuck and unable to withdraw from playing characters like the Emperor in the “Kangxi Dynasty”. And because of a large number of opposing voices towards the role in Infernal Affairs, ChenDaoming has then changed and reflected himself for future TV shows and films. Unsurprisingly, since that major failure, some public viewers in recent years have commented that his acting skills have further refined and progressed so that the awkward portrayal, such as in Infernal Affairs, has never been observed again[19].  

Critical literature review

Chen Daoming as Xiao Lin in Ground Covered with Chicken Feathers (1995)

Chen Daoming Performing Arts Research[20]

This article analyzed Chen Daoming’s different styles of portrayal of smaller characters and larger figures and his professional and admirable attitude toward acting. As known to many Chinese audiences, Chen Daoming is famous for his portrayal of many emperors, and one example analyzed in the article by Wang Jianping was The Last Emperor. Chen was highly praised by the author for not only playing a rebellious and proud Puyi who is much younger than himself in real life, but also for his professional attitude towards the character. Chen was described to have “read millions of words of historical materials of the Qing Dynasty, visited hundreds of relevant people studying the history of the Qing Dynasty, and invited experts in the history of the Qing Dynasty to give him lessons, which he made detailed notes”.

Even when playing some not-so-famous figures, Chen’s attitude never changed. The author stressed Chen's costume and body language in the television series Ground Covered with Chicken Feathers. Since the character he played was a normal undergraduate student who entered society for the first time, director Feng Xiaogang was worried that Chen would accept this role since Chen played an emperor in his previously successful debut in The Last Emperor. But to his surprise, Chen reassured that he will listen to Feng’s direction and that he “is not a lord this time” (这次不是爷). In the series, Chen wore a large pair of glasses, a T-shirt, “fat and ugly” pants, and a pair of slippers that made a loud noise when he walked. In addition, Chen’s natural bookish and nerdy look fits perfectly with the character Xiao Lin.

Chen is also described by the author to be an actor who can speak with his eyes[20]. In the final scene of the last episode of Ground Covered with Chicken Feathers (1995), with the Montage technique from director Feng Xiaogang, Chen’s character Xiao Lin in a suit is staring at his past self from far, in his old and ugly car washer uniform. There is no dialogue between them, but a clear contrast can be seen when they look into each other’s eyes: Xiao Lin in the suit had his mouth half open, and his eyes are blurred, and there is no light in them; but the car washer Xiao Lin is smiling, although his uniform is soaked with his sweat, his eyes are sparkling and passionate, as he talked to his customers. This scene is meant to show the difference between the same character at two different times, and Chen’s acting purely with his eyes clearly shows the intended differences even without a single word. Such a character contrasts drastically with many of his previous royalty portrayals of Puyi, but Chen Daoming's acting has successfully created the hardship of a newly graduated student.

Chen Daoming: A stubborn Person[21]

In Ding Chenxin’s article Chen Daoming: A Stubborn Person, Ding discusses Chen Daoming’s unique attitude of being aloof from material pursuit, which set him apart from other celebrities in Chinese showbiz. The author particularly focuses on Chen’s plain and honest attitude, especially when facing the media, and one example he used is when Chen Daoming was at the first conference of his movie Coming Home, when a reporter asked him how he felt about working with Gong Li and Zhang Yimou, Chen replied: “How can a well-educated man like you ask such a stupid question”[21]. The author argues that Chen is like the child who points out the emperor is wearing nothing, that he would not force himself to become a hypocrite, to give out the answer that the media wants to hear[21].

Ding also talked about Chen’s serious and even stubborn attitude toward acting. As one of the highest-paid Chinese actors, Chen always takes his work seriously, from his early work Fortress Besieged in 1990 to Coming Home in 2014. He never comes late nor leaves early, and he does not even bring a chair to the set so that he “won’t get too comfortable”[21]. As quoted by Chen himself: “Some say I'm hard to handle. Why? Because I demand a lot of myself, so I demand a lot of others as well” However, Chen did not seem to want to use his fame to change things, or to make public speeches, because he set a bottom line for himself as being a “person”[21]. He may not provide significant contributions to his friends, to showbiz, and to society, but as the bottom line, Chen never fails in his duty as a person.

Photo of Chen Daoming in The Sorrow of Comedy (2011).

the function of role as a media in modern society[22]

In this article, the author has raised the idea that characters that actors or actresses play in films could be a powerful form of media in the eyes of the public[22]. And this form of media is called "the stage communication" in which it serves as a way of communication that could spread crucial principles and connotations carried out by characters within those movies, films or stage dramas. Additionally, the author has further explained and analyzed the idea of a successful stage communicator by setting ChenDaoming as a particular example of an outstanding, acknowledged stage communicator in the sight of audiences[22].

The author has pointed out that a successful stage communicator like ChenDaoming, in particular, must carry a cheerful disposition and a knowledgeable academic background as well as humble characteristics accompanied by solid acting skills that serve as the foundation of a great stage communicator. And most importantly, the ability to dive deep and relate into the character's role, managing and matching details of the character[22].

The portrayal of Old Ma

The stage drama named "The Sorrow of Comedy" (喜剧的忧伤) in which the stage drama set the background during the time of World War II. The role that Chen Daoming played was an injured, smileless, antisocial trial investigator who extremely dislikes the joyful atmosphere within comedy, rarely expressing himself and often opposed to people's opinions resulting from the ongoing warfare[22]. At first, the trial investigator forbids all possible laughable punchlines within the shows. However, the smileless trial investigator was eventually convinced, persuaded, and impressed by an enthusiastic comedy scriptwriter who insisted on portraying joy and happiness for society. Yet, just when the trial investigator and the scriptwriter agreed about the show, ironically, the scriptwriter received a recruitment letter from the government asking him to participate in an upcoming battle. This means that the scriptwriter would be unable to complete the show to which he worked so hard to get permission. In response, the trial investigator wrote a revocation letter to the government despite the scriptwriter's effort and enthusiasm to complete the show. And after all, the trial investigator and the scriptwriter established an intimate relationship with one another. Overall, this short-stage drama has successfully conveyed the idea of preventing self enclosing towards social relations, as well as living an open-minded lifestyle, where one should always welcome, encourage and respect others' opinions and ideas[22].

The successful portrayal of “Old Ma” and what made it successful?[23]

"Old Ma" (老马) or "Ma Ze Ren" (马则人) are the names for the main character played by Chendaoming back in 1999 in a TV show named "Two Horses" (二马). This tv show was filmed and adapted from a novel by Mr. Hu Jieqing, which was officially published back in 1931 in mainland China. The main story focuses on Mr. Ma or Lao Ma, the father,  and his son, often being addressed as "little Ma" (小马); both originally came from Beijing, China, to London to inherit the family business. Interestingly, during that process, Lao Ma fell in love with the foreign landlord, and his son, little Ma, coincidently fell in love with the landlord's daughter. And this TV show was about the series of events they encountered during the one year trip to London.

In this article, the author has discussed and explained the possible reason for the successful Lao Ma portrayal[23]. The article mentioned that before any settlement being made for the selection of an actor that plays the role of Old Ma, the show directors studied and contacted the entire film industry, trying to find a suitable actor that fits the style of Old Ma. At that time, the famous and well-experienced actor, Jiang Wen, was very excited to be selected by the director. However, the director thinks that Jiang Wen's unique bossy feeling, given by his appearance and the way he speaks, might not be the best option, thus, choosing ChenDaoming because his temperament is closer to the character in the original novel. Additionally, ChenDaoming himself, after scanning through the character description, was deeply attracted by its setting and promised that if he failed to act as Old Ma, he would immediately retire from the industry.

After being selected, the first thing he did was to discuss and check with the dresser and director about the specific clothing and makeup designs for the character. It is said that even before the initial shoot, ChenDaoming was already calling himself "Lao Ma" for acting purposes[23]. Interestingly, he is so ahead or rushed because he thinks that anything related to the character Lao Ma should be his own business. As a result, ChenDaoming spends days in vintage markets, buying things out of his pocket, such as leather shoes, glasses, mustache brush, tobacco pipe, etc, to stay more attached to the character in the novel. Additionally, ChenDaoming even "borrowed" three days of the show director's spare time, inviting the director to live at his place without concerns about eating and sleeping. All of these actions were to ensure the successful portrayal of the main character due to his commitment and professionalism. Later on, during the shooting process, ChenDaoming would even add unique facial and physical expressions outside the script to prevent audiences from being drawn out of the act.

In conclusion, due to ChenDaoming's enthusiastic and non-stop exploration of the character, the TV show "Two Ma" (二马) successfully portrayed the conflicts of its love relation, the traditional view of filial piety, business hardship, his son's pursuit in love, along with his self-hatred feelings and struggles, losing pride of a father, etc. The unpredictable ups and downs in life and irretrievable father and son relations within the one-year trip to London made it exceptionally relatable for the views[23].

Critical debates

Criticizing young celebrities

As one of the greatest actors in China, Chen Daoming held a high position in Chinese showbiz, and his straightforward attitude, as mentioned in the previous article Chen Daoming: A Stubborn Person, leads him to publicly criticize others, specifically young celebrities. In the reality TV show Inheritor Chinese image in 2015, Chen was one of the judges along with other young celebrities. After watching a performance of traditional drum dancing by a group of teenagers from Chinese rural areas, some young judges started to criticize the performance openly, saying it lacked “creativity” and “individuality”[24], and one even asked, “can they feed themselves with this skill?” [24] Finally, Chen Daoming was enraged, and he yelled at those young judges “how dare you!”[24]. He then defended and praised the performers for their excellent synchronization and high-difficulty dance moves, and criticize the young judges for their lack of knowledge of traditional Chinese culture[24]. Even though some may think such a move should not have been done in front of the camera, it nevertheless showed that Chen is a caring and knowledgeable man.

Later in 2021, Chen Daoming criticized the so-called “data traffic stars” (流量明星) in a forum on Literature and Art in Beijing[25]. Chen claimed that they are no artists, and their presence has damaged the reputation of many other creators and Chinese showbiz and called them “plastic actors”[25]. Unlike his previous criticism, audiences were divided this time: many supported Chen, but others asked Chen why he wouldn’t criticize other “old artists”. But in the end, state media such as People's Daily came to support Chen, condemning these “plastic actors” even more, and putting things to an end. What Chen said may be ugly for the “data traffic stars” to hear, but it is also because of his criticism that these young actors and actresses are forced to improve themselves, which in the end will be beneficial for the overall Chinese showbiz in terms of actors’ quality.

Rumors about love affairs

For a long time till now, Chen Daoming and his wife Du Xian were seen as a perfect couple, for they fell in love with each other before Chen became famous. However, such a perfect husband had once been surrounded by rumors of cheating. An actress Zuo Xiaoqing, who became famous for her role as Juan Zi in the 2003 TV series Chinese Style Divorce, was at times questioned about how she was able to land a lead role, and she explained that this was because of the praise from Chen Daoming, who was the male protagonist in the series[26]. Such an explanation sparked rumors, and in 2009, a series of photos titled “Chen Daoming Visits Zuo Xiaoqing’s Apartment in Rain and Stays for 6 Hours” was found on the internet[26]. Both Chen and Zuo denied that they were in any romantic relationship, and none was heard from Chen’s wife Du Xian. One possible reason why this rumor drew attention was that Chen and Zuo both starred in the TV series The Great Revival in 2007, in which Chen played king Gou Jian and Zuo played Gou Jian’s wife Ya Yu. Combined with her character in Chinese Style Divorce was also involved in a romantic relationship with Chen’s character, it almost seems understandable why people would doubt their true relationship.

The rumor ended in 2010 when Zuo married billionaire Gao Quanjian, who was 20 years older than her, and they later had a daughter.[27]


Chen’s criticism of young actors has helped Chinese society adjust the atmosphere in the entertainment industry. In addition, Chen Daoming’s indifference to negative criticisms also proved how serious he treat acting as his life career. All the outside voices could not affect him, nor could they affect his quality of work. He is continuously producing more memorable characters for the audience. Chen Daoming has been in the acting industry for over 30 years, with 35 TV shows and 18 movies. Although the numbers may seem insignificant, undoubtedly, he is truly serious about every character. Being not in with the secular has become synonymous with Chen Daoming. His efforts and commitments have made him who he is, at the sametime, making him a respectable predecessor in the industry. His wise words have defined the right way for young actors and actresses in the industry. Chen Daoming often defined acting as a “sacred job.” He would not tolerate any disrespects for acting. He always says that people must put 100 percent of the effort when they decided to play cetain role. In his 30 years of career time, he has not been influenced by the negative ethos in the entertainment industry and has always guarded his bottom line to persue and present the best of his work for the viewers. Outside of his career, he casually defines himself as an ordinary person who lives happily in life. His acting skills shift how people usually view towards acting. He always uses his own way to deliver central messages within the character to the audience. His use of traditional Chinese culture in his works has also shown the world what Chinese traditional culture is about. It is such an honour to have Chen Daoming in the industry as such a unique figure.


  1. "CHEN DAOMING". Asia Pacific Screen Awards.
  2. 2.0 2.1 "32年后,《末代皇帝》演员近况,陈道明蓝天野越老越帅,美女演员却普遍息影 (Actors of The Last Emperor 32 years later, Chen Daoming and Lan Tianye became more and more handsome as they grew older, but beautiful actresses have generally disappeared on screen)". The Paper. 2020.12.28. |first= missing |last= (help); Check date values in: |date= (help)
  3. "陈道明携手何冰上演"高级喜剧" (Chen Daoming joined He Bing, staging "Advanced Comedy")". China News Services. 2011.07.01. Check date values in: |date= (help)
  4. "《你是我的春天》电影解析!个人可以投资吗?成本高不高!投资风险大不大!(Analyzing Ode to the Spring! Can individuals invest? Is the cost high? Is the risk high?)". Tencent.
  5. "陈道明老婆近照曝光 曾为央视新闻主播 (A recent photo of Chen Daoming's wife, former CCTV news presenter)". Sina Entertainment. 2013.11.05. Check date values in: |date= (help)
  6. Baidu陈道明/27674?fr=aladdin#1. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  7. 7.0 7.1 文人鉴史. 2020.11.20 Check date values in: |date= (help); Missing or empty |title= (help)
  8. Tencent. 2020.12.7 Check date values in: |date= (help); Missing or empty |title= (help)
  9.’s%20agent%20is%20Beijing%2018,anchor.%205%20He%20has%20a%20daughter%2C%20Chen%20Ge. CPOPHOME. Missing or empty |title= (help); Missing or empty |url= (help)
  10. "Before becoming the "last emperor", Chen Daoming was deeply stuck in self-doubt (在成为"末代皇帝"之前,陈道明曾深陷自我怀疑)". NetEase. 2020.12.28. |first= missing |last= (help); Check date values in: |date= (help)
  11. 11.0 11.1 "Behind the scenes of Kangxi Dynasty: Chen Daoming refuses to perform, Siqin Gaowa is afraid, and Gong Xuehua and Li Jianqun turn over (《康熙王朝》幕后:陈道明拒演、斯琴高娃害怕,宫雪花李建群翻脸)". NetEase. 2022.05.16. |first= missing |last= (help); Check date values in: |date= (help)
  12. "Chen Daoming was asked what impact his role as the emperor had on life? His answer is too humorous (陈道明被问一直扮演皇帝对生活造成什么影响?他的回答太幽默)". Tencent. 2021.11.14. |first= missing |last= (help); Check date values in: |date= (help)
  13. "Chen Daoming returned to the stage to perform comedy, which won more than a million box office tickets (陈道明回归舞台演《喜剧》 票房过百万未演先火)". 2011.06.29. Check date values in: |date= (help)
  14. ""The Sorrow of Comedy": Comedy is not cheap, its meaning is more than just funny (《喜剧的忧伤》:喜剧并不廉价 意义不止于好笑)". CRI Online. 2011.08.05. Check date values in: |date= (help)
  15. 15.0 15.1 15.2 "陈道明愿意零片酬出演《唐山大地震》". Baidu. 2021.1.13. Check date values in: |date= (help)
  16. 16.0 16.1 16.2 16.3 16.4 Zhao, Kun (2022.10). 我见陈道明:用角色与观众交流. Beijing United Publishing Co.,Ltd. Check date values in: |year= (help)
  17. 17.0 17.1 17.2 17.3 17.4 17.5 17.6 17.7 "陈道明表演艺术赏析研究". Zhi Hu. 2019.12.23. Check date values in: |date= (help)
  18. 18.0 18.1 18.2 "How to comment on ChenDaoming? 如何评价陈道明?".
  19. 19.0 19.1 19.2 "Why is Chen Daoming always not embarrassed? 为什么陈道明演霸总不尬不油?".
  20. 20.0 20.1 Wang, Jianping (2016.05.01). "陈道明表演艺术研究 (Chen Daoming Performing Arts Research)". Chongqing University – via CNKI. Check date values in: |date= (help)
  21. 21.0 21.1 21.2 21.3 21.4 Ding, Chenxin (2014.08.31). "陈道明:倔强为人 (Chen Daoming: A Stubborn Person)". 兰台内外: 23 – via CNKI. Check date values in: |date= (help)
  22. 22.0 22.1 22.2 22.3 22.4 22.5 "Stage Communication: the character role as a form of medium. 舞台传播:论以角色为媒介 (2015)".
  23. 23.0 23.1 23.2 23.3 "The Horses, ChenDaoming and Wang Hui《二马》中的陈道明和王晖. (1998)".
  24. 24.0 24.1 24.2 24.3 "陈道明节目现场发飙:连常识都没有就敢否定传统文化 (Chen Daoming was furious at the show: how they dared to deny traditional culture without even common sense)". Zhejiang News. 2016.01.08. Check date values in: |date= (help)
  25. 25.0 25.1 "陈道明首度批评谈流量明星:他们是被炒作出来的塑料演员 (Chen Daoming Criticized Data Traffic Stars for the First Time: They are Plastic Actors)". Sohu. 2021.09.12. Check date values in: |date= (help)
  26. 26.0 26.1 "如何评价左小青?(How to evaluate Zuo Xiaoqing)". Zhihu. 2021.02.01. |first= missing |last= (help); Check date values in: |date= (help)
  27. "如何评价左小青? (How to evaluate Zuo Xiaoqing?)". Zhihu. 2020.04.20. |first= missing |last= (help); Check date values in: |date= (help)


UBC Asian Centre, Bell Shrine, Winter 2013.JPG
This resource was created by Course:ASIA321.