Zhang Ziyi (born 9 February 1979) is a Chinese actress. The characters of her name can be literally translated as ZhÃ„Âng (meaning an essay or a chapter of a book, or something beautiful or meant to be displayed, is a surname, not to be confused with the more common ZhÃ„Âng Ã¥Â¼Â ), ZÃ‡Â (child), and YÃƒÂ (harmony, pleased or happiness). Her name is sometimes seen in the Western order (Ziyi Zhang).
Born in Beijing in the People's Republic of China, Zhang joined the Beijing Dance Academy at the age of 11, and at 15 she entered China's prestigious Central Academy of Drama.
At the age of 19, she was offered her first role in world renowned director Zhang Yimou's The Road Home, which won the Silver Bear award in the 2000 Berlin Film Festival. Zhang further rose to fame due to her role in the phenomenally successful Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, for which she won the Independent Spirit's Best Supporting Actress Award and the Toronto Film Critics' Best Supporting Actress Award. She went on to make Hero which was a huge success in the English-speaking world and an Oscar and a Golden Globe contender. Her next film was the avant-garde drama Purple Butterfly which competed at the 2003 Cannes Film Festival. She went back to the martial arts genre with House of Flying Daggers, which earned her a Best Actress nomination from the British Academy of Film and Television Arts.
For her next drama 2046, directed by Wong Kar-wai, starring many of Asia's best-known actresses, Zhang won the Hong Kong Film Critics' Best Actress Award and the Hong Kong Film Academy's Best Actress Award.
Showing her whimsical musical tap-dancing side, Zhang starred in Princess Raccoon directed by 82-year-old Japanese legend Seijun Suzuki who was honored at the 2005 Cannes Film Festival.
She plays the leading role of Sayuri in the adaptation of the international bestseller Memoirs Of A Geisha, with her Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon co-star Michelle Yeoh, as well as Gong Li and Ken Watanabe. The movie was produced by Steven Spielberg, directed by Rob Marshall, and released in December 2005. Zhang has received a Best Actress - Drama Golden Globe nomination for her role. Zhang has also been known to sing, and was featured on the House Of Flying Daggers Soundtrack with her own musical rendition of the ancient Chinese poem 'Jia RÃƒÂ©n Qu' (Ã¤Â½Â³Ã¤ÂºÂºÃ¦â€ºÂ², The Beauty Song). The song was also featured in a scene in the film.
On 27 June, 2005 it was announced that Zhang had accepted an invitation to join the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS), making the actress amongst the ranks of those able to vote on the Academy Awards. Her formal welcome to AMPAS occurred in Beverly Hills, California on 21 September of that year.
Zhang has been taking English lessons. She stated in a 2003 interview that she had started them after she began receiving more and more fan mail from the United States. (One of the supplementary documentaries on the American Hero DVD features Zhang speaking in English, and her dialogue in Memoirs of a Geisha is almost entirely in English.)
As part of a self-taught crash course in the language prior to filming Geisha, Zhang listened to and repeated words and phrases she heard on television commercials and music CD's. One of the English-language recording artists she was listening to during this time was Eminem, which apparently led to some embarrassing moments for the actress: "I don't always know what (Eminem) is talking about, so I write down the lyrics and repeat them. Later, I understood how rude they were."