Joan Chen
Joan Chen
Biographical Information
Real Name: Chong Chen
Born: 26 April 1961
Age: 55
Height: 5'4
Originally From: Shanghai, China
Family: Peter Hui (Husband)

2 children
Jim Lau (Ex- Husband)

Twitter: @joanchenchong
Personal Information
First appearance: The Wayfarer
Portrays: Empress Chabi

Joan Chen (26 April 1961) is a Chinese actor. She portrays Empress Chabi on Marco Polo.


Born into a family of doctors and educated in China at the Shanghai Film Academy and the Shanghai Institute of Foreign Languages, Joan Chen was discovered by veteran Chinese director Jin Xie while observing a filming with a school group. Her performance in Xiao hua (1979) (A.K.A. "The Little Flower") won China's Best Actress award, and resulted in the Chinese press dubbing her "The Elizabeth Taylor of China" for having achieved top stardom while still in her teen years. She came to the U.S. to attend college in 1981, first at the State University of New York at New Paltz, later at California State University at Northridge. She a succession of small parts in movies and T.V., with her first break coming in 1986 when, in true Hollywood legend, producer Dino De Laurentiis noticed her in the parking lot of Lorimar Studios and cast her in Tai-Pan (1986). The film bombed, but it led to her being cast as the ill-fated Empress in Bernardo Bertolucci's The Last Emperor (1987), which won critical acclaim. This, and her role as enigmatic mill owner Josie Packard in the cult TV series Twin Peaks (1990), are her best-known roles in Europe and North America. However, Hollywood's practice of type-casting East Asians has led to a dearth of major roles for Chen since then, and in recent roles, she has often been cast as a villainess.

After taking a few years off to start a family, Joan returned to the screen in important supporting roles playing women in early middle age, such as the mother of a principle adult character. As a result, her career is flourishing again on both sides of the Pacific. Her two directing efforts were well-received critically, and in a 2008 interview she revealed she planned to direct again but was putting that off until her daughters were grown, since directing took her away from them too much, whereas acting could be done on a part-time basis. 


  • Cancelled proceedings to adopt a child when she became pregnant with daughter Angela Frances in October of 1998.
  • While preparing to shoot a period piece called "Fu Song", she discovered she was pregnant and took a break from the film. Later gave birth to a second daughter.
  • Selected by Self magazine as one of "The Nine Best Bodies for the 90s".
  • Member of the jury at the Berlin International Film Festival.
  • Speaks Mandarin, English and Shangainese.


Year Title Role Notes
1977 Qingchun Shen Yamei Movie
1979 Hearts for the Motherland Huang Sihua Movie
1981 Awakening Su Xiaomei Movie
1988 Heartbeat Cathryn 1 episode
1990 Twin Peaks Jocelyn Packard 30 episodes
1997 THappily Ever After: Fairy Tales for Every Child Princess Jade TV Series
1999 In a Class of His Own Linda Ching TV Movie
2012 White Frog Irene Young Movie
2013 Serangoon Road Patricia Cheng 10 episodes
2014 Marco Polo Empress Chabi 10 episodes