Cheng Pei Pei: Queen of Swords

Cheng Pei Pei as Golden Swallow in Come Drink With Me (1966)

Born in Shanghai, made in Hong Kong, and matured in Los Angeles, Cheng Pei-Pei has remained one of the most likable and breathtaking stars in the Chinese-language film industry. From her early years as a Shaw Brothers’ up-and-coming star doing genre pictures, to her box-office breakthrough in King Hu’s 1966 Come Drink with Me, to her television work in Los Angeles, to her film comeback in Stephen Chow’s Flirting Scholar and Ang Lee’s Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, Cheng Pei-Pei has resembled the wandering heroines that brought her international fame; cool but passionate, poised but lethal, an adaptable drifter with a warrior’s tenacity.

Ahead of our Chinese New Year screening of Come Drink with Me on February 11 (**scroll down to the bottom of the post for the special treat we have planned!**), we take a look at some of Cheng’s most memorable films and movie moments from her accomplished career.

Come Drink With Me (1966)

The role ingrained in moviegoers’ minds is Cheng wielding two swords in her most iconic film, Come Drink with Me, when she was just 20-years-old and signed to the Shaw Brothers Studio. Cheng Pei-Pei stars as warrior woman Golden Swallow, out to rescue her kidnapped brother from bandits with the aid of Yueh Hua’s amiable rogue Drunken Cat. A colourful costume drama with exciting choreography, comedy and song, this is the movie that kickstarted the martial arts film as a worldwide Hong Kong craze.

The Shadow Whip (1970)

That’s not all… Cheng can crack a mighty whip as well. Here she is radiating her trademark charm in The Shadow Whip.

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000)

Jeffrey M Anderson from Combustile Celluloid once wrote: “Cheng’s performance has a dancer’s grace and razor-sharp intensity; if her sword doesn’t get you, her eyes certainly will.” – proven here in this clip of Pei Pei as The Jade Fox meeting with Inspector Tsai in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.

Lilting (2014)

In 2014 she starred in the acclaimed indie-film Lilting and was lauded for a performance as a grieving mother looking for closure.

Meditation Park (2017)

Despite hanging up her swords, Cheng is still busy charting the world and flying to different cities to film. Most recently, Cheng starred in the VIFF 2017 opening film, Meditation Park, about a devoted Chinese-Canadian wife and mother in East Vancouver whose life and family are forever altered after she discovers an orange thong in her husband`s pocket, forcing her on a journey of truth and liberation.  The bittersweet comedy, written and directed by Vancouver-based Mina Shum, is out in theatres from March 9.

Come Drink With Me will screen at VIFF Vancity on February 11, 9:45PM, for Chinese New Year. Tickets available at

We have a special treat for Hong Kong movie fans! Before the screening of Come Drink With Me, we will be unveiling three 35mm trailers recently rediscovered among a treasure trove of film reels in the backrooms of the Rickshaw Theatre on Hasting Street.

The trailers date back from the early 1980s, when the Rickshaw was still a cinema owned and operated by the famous Shaw Brothers, the Hong Kong movie moguls who did so much to popularize kung fu movies in the West (and who produced Come Drink With Me). The trailers are for the following films: Men From The Gutter (1983), My Mind/Your Body (1985) and Lion vs Lion (1981)



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