In today’s action-packed cinema, it is almost de rigueur to see a computer-generated alien take over the world in a fierce battle between the human race and beings unknown. Our heroes have become men in iron suits, hammer-wielding (and extremely good-looking . . . just being Thorough with my details here) gods of other realms and even a super man, who has been saving the cinematic world since 1978. I sometimes wish the on-screen fighting, sans CGI (computer-generated imagery) and fictitious beings, would involve some major kicks, a few killer punches, and the familiar “yaaa” of a martial artist flying through the air, about to defeat his foe in one slow-motion flying kick. Now that, is action.
Kickin’ his way into the martial arts scene in 1982 with the film Shaolin Temple was Li Lianjie. Better known as Jet Li to his fans worldwide, this tough fighter trained in wushu (martial arts) from the age of eight, and has also had training in Baguazhang, Taijiquan, Xingyiquan, Zuiquan, and Tanglangquan. He got his celebrity name after a Filipino publicity company decided “Jet” was an apt description for his speed and agility. Born in 1963 in Beijing, Jet Li was reborn after the same company “likened his career to an aircraft taking off”: this Chinese actor’s career has indeed had a speedy rise.
In 1998, Jet Li became seriously involved in Tibetan Buddhism. He believes all religions teach the same goals: “Every religion boils down to love, to a respect for all living things, to choosing peace over violence as a means of resolving a conflict. The essence is universal; it is only the means to the end that varies” (The Hollowverse: The religions and political views of the influential). In an article published by Dharma Drum Mountain (DDM) in 2003, when Jet Li met DDM founder Master Sheng Yen, Li revealed that the physical toughness he gained from martial arts did not translate into a similar mental strength. Only through the practice and study of Taiji and yin-yang did Li eventually find peace: “He gathered strength from Buddhism and gained enough wisdom and strength to break the bond of fame that has tied him down for many years,” the article reports.
Li became such a devout Buddhist under Vajrayana master Palme Khyentse Rinpoche that he considered forgoing his career. However, Rinpoche advised him otherwise, and Li remained a star but used his influence to spread Buddhism through his films and foundations. In 2007, Li initiated a