Mr CHOW Yun-fat
Doctor of Humanities, honoris causa (2021)
In Hong Kong, nearly everyone knows “Fat Gor”, or “elder brother Fat”, as Mr Chow Yun-fat is affectionately called. The movie star is truly a household name as his fans span all generations, and he is the city’s most beloved and popular public figure.
Mr Chow was born to a poor farming family on Lamma Island in Hong Kong in 1955. As his father passed away early, he had to help his mother till the land, feed the pigs, catch the fish, sell traditional tea-pudding and do other farm chores since a very young age. The tough life that Mr Chow led during his childhood not only forged his rustic and reserved personality, but also endowed him with a rich inner strength that has served him well in his subsequent journey through life. On moving to Kowloon, a fortuitous opportunity saw Chow, who was then 18 years old, enroll in TVB’s actor training programme, which led him to an outstanding career in entertainment.
The 1970s and 1980s was the golden age of Hong Kong’s popular culture and a period in which Hong Kong people forged their local identity. Drama series produced by local television stations penetrated into every home as watching television was the most popular entertainment. Thanks to his versatile acting skills, Mr Chow shot to fame in Chinese communities around the world for embodying the compassionate and virtuous character of the underdog roles he played in a wide range of productions. His renditions of Siu Wah-shan in Hotel, Hui Man-keung in The Bund and Linghu Chong in The Smiling, Proud Wanderer are still regarded as the yardsticks by which professional actors are judged. Up to now, Mr Chow has reportedly not watched The Bund, which was released in 1980. Yet, the charming dimples of a smiling Hui Man-keung have since enchanted countless souls, not just his on-screen lover Feng Ching-ching.
After his success on television, Mr Chow ventured into the movie industry. In 1976, he debuted on the big screen in The Reincarnation. In the following 45 years, he has worked with numerous eminent directors in more than a hundred films and won countless awards. At The 7th Hong Kong Film Awards in 1988, the biggest suspense among the audience was which of Mr Chow’s respective roles in three movies would see him crowned Best Actor ─ Samuel Pang in An Autumn’s Tale, Ko Chow in City on Fire or Chung Tin-ching in Prison on Fire. The award eventually went to Pang. At movie award ceremonies, Chow was virtually synonymous with the Best Actor award.
Charting Mr Chow’s career in those days, one could chronicle the golden period of Hong Kong cinema.
Mr Chow did not rest on his laurels on achieving fame in Asia. His passion for the film industry and drive for excellence saw him venture into Hollywood. Undaunted by language and cultural barriers, he starred in The Replacement Killers, The Corruptor and Anna and the King. He was the leading actor in director Ang Lee’s Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, which won four Oscars awards, including Best Foreign Language Film. To date, the film still holds the best box office record in North America, setting an example for oriental films that want to conquer the world market. Speaking of Mr Chow’s superb acting skills, Lee said: “The same glance could see the enemy as well as the lover.” In 2020, Mr Chow was ranked as one of the Top Ten National Film Actors to mark the 70th anniversary of the founding of new China.
Mr Chow has not forgotten to be himself on becoming an international superstar. To him, honour does not come with birth; nor could one take it with him on his death. In his role as Joe in Once a Thief, he says: “You know my character. I like to saunter, sometimes to the west and sometimes to the east. I like wandering.” Mr Chow likes acting, but he is even more determined to be true to himself. He has not wandered elsewhere because he likes Hong Kong, where you can often find him in the wet markets in the districts and hiking trails in the countryside. He has acted as Hong Kong’s ambassador to promote local business, notably the tourism industry. A dedicated philanthropist, he has donated $100 million of his wealth to set up a charitable foundation to help vulnerable groups.
We are deeply honoured that Mr Chow had come to Hong Kong Baptist University in 2004 to share his thoughts on his career in the film industry. In 2018, he starred in the film Project Gutenberg, which was directed by Chong Man-keung, an alumnus of the University’s School of Communication. The film won seven awards, including Best Film, at The 38th Hong Kong Film Awards. For his outstanding performance in the film, Mr Chow won Best Actor in the Chinese American Film Festival.
Mr Chow cares deeply about the growth of our students, and wants to offer them spiritual support and encouragement. He is very pleased to attend this honorary doctorate presentation ceremony with them. He also looks forward to sharing with them his professional experiences and creative ideas on acting for film and television.
Mr Chairman, the staff and students of Hong Kong Baptist University will benefit tremendously from Mr Chow Yun-fat’s professional skills and wisdom, admirable conduct and humanistic spirit.
I humbly request your honour to confer on Mr Chow the award of Doctor of Humanities, honoris causa.