Note: The headline of the article had previously listed 1930 as the year of Yu’s birth. Chinese media lists 1928 as Yu’s year of birth and the headline has been updated to reflect that.
One of the most prominent actors in 1950s and 60s Hong Kong cinema, actress Yu So-chow died of pneumonia last week in San Francisco, California. She was 88 years old.
Born in Beijing, Yu was the daughter of Peking Opera master Yu Jim-yuen, the master of the famous “Seven Fortunes” that included Sammo Hung, Jackie Chan, Yuen Biao, as well as Yuen Wo-ping and Yuen Qiu. In addition to serving as big sister for her father’s students, Yu herself also began performing in Peking Opera at the age of nine.
Yu began her film career in 1948. One of the few actresses who was actually well-versed in martial arts, Yu acted in over 170 wuxia films during her 18-year career, including the Buddha’s Palm (如來神掌) series, and was regarded as one of the greatest heroines of classic Cantonese cinema. However, due to her strong accent, most of her Cantonese film roles were actually dubbed on the set.
She also took a sisterhood vow with seven fellow Cantonese Opera actresses, forming the “Eight Peonies”.
After learning of her death, Jackie Chan told the local media, “I’ve once said that Chan Chi-ping is the father of Chan Kong-sang (Chan’s birth name), Yu Jim-yuen is the father of Jackie Chan, and Yu So-chow is his big sister. She lived a fruitful life and left behind many great films that we can all be proud of. I was her fan and her family. We’ll remember her and miss her forever.”
In 1966, Yu married Cantonese Opera actor Mak Bing-wing and retired from acting after acting in over 200 films. She later moved to the United States, where she lived for the rest of her life.
Yu is survived by her three children (Mak passed away in 1984). Her funeral will be held in San Francisco on May 22nd.