China Chow: Three Days in Beijing

The New York-Based Celebrity Talks Art, Ancestry and Chow Yun-Fat

Art-scene culturista China Chow poses with cult photographer Chen Man, hangs with Tilda Swinton, and strolls through the Forbidden City in this visual diary documenting three jam-packed days in Beijing. The granddaughter of lauded opera performer Zhou Xinfang, and daughter of famed restaurateur Michael Chow and the late, iconic fashion model Tina Chow, China grew up surrounded by America’s artistic glitterati and occasionally modeled in campaigns for the likes of Lane Crawford, Barneys New York and Karl Lagerfeld. “I learned so much from the artists that I got to know as a child growing up in New York,” she explains. “In particular, those who were around the most really made an impact on me: Jean-Michel Basquiat, Keith Haring and Andy Warhol.” Currently hosting Bravo’s Work of Art: The Next Great Artist alongside famed auctioneer Simon de Pury, Chow helps judge the work of up-and-coming artists competing for a solo exhibition at the Brooklyn Museum and a cash prize of $100,000. This month Chow makes a return to her former profession and graces the cover of Vogue China. In town for the Boss Black fall/winter 2012 fashion show, the sophisticated presenter took a moment of out her hectic schedule to reflect on China and a childhood spent at Mr. Chow.

What is your favorite memory of dining at Mr. Chow as a child?
One of my fondest memories was the night that my father threw an incredible party to celebrate bringing the Beijing Opera to Lincoln Center in New York City. My grandfather, Zhou Xinfang, who has been featured on the Chinese postage stamp, is considered to be a national treasure in China. He founded the Qi style and was Beijing Opera's most celebrated renaissance man of the 20th century. That night was all about honoring his legacy, his country and my family's heritage. Although I was extremely young at the time, the significance of the event was not lost on me.

What was one of your highlights from your first trip to Beijing?
A few years back, my father told me that the newspapers in Hong Kong had written a story about Chow Yun-Fat being Zhou Xinfang's grandson. According to the story, Yun-Fat's father was my father's half brother. Chow Yun-Fat walked the runway for the finale at the Hugo Boss show and stayed for the after party. No one in my family had ever met him before, and I was anxious to confirm the story. Being one of the biggest superstars in China, he was surrounded by a swarm of security guards, but Tilda [Swinton] and her boyfriend Sandro [Kopp] gave me a pep talk and encouraged me to seize the moment. I was escorted through security, but in the end, the result of my query was quite anti-climactic. He was not my cousin after all. He had heard the same story and informed me that his family was from a completely different region altogether. But he did suggest that if we dug deeper, perhaps we'd find common ancestry. When I phoned my father to give him the news, he responded with, "Too bad. His loss." Ha!

If you could, what treasure would you take from the Forbidden City?
The best treasure, hands down, was being able to experience it: its history and its incredible architectural vastness.

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