Zhou Xuan

Zhou Xuan (- ) was a popular Chinese singer and film actress. By the 1940s, she had become one of the Seven great singing stars. She is probably the most well-known of the seven, as she had a concurrent movie career until 1953.


Zhou was born Su Pu (蘇璞), but was separated from her natural parents at a young age and raised by adoptive parents. She spent her entire life searching for her biological parents but her parentage was never established until after her death. At the age of 13 she took Zhou Xuan as her stage name, 'Xuan', which means beautiful jade in Chinese.


Zhou started acting in 1935, but she achieved stardom in 1937 in Street Angel, when director Yuan Muzhi cast her as one of the leads as a singing girl.

"Golden Voice" was Zhou's nickname to commend her singing talents after a singing competition in Shanghai, where she came in second. Zhou rapidly became the most famous and marketable popular singer in the gramophone era up to her death, singing many famous tunes from her own movies. Her frail but eminently musical voice captured the hearts of millions of Chinese of her time.

After introducing "Nightlife In Shanghai" (夜上海), Zhou returned to Shanghai. She spent the next few years in and out of mental institutions owing to frequent breakdowns. Through the years, Zhou led a complicated and unhappy life marked by her failed marriages, illegitimate children and suicide attempts.

Having made a total of 43 movies. Her favourite film was always Street Angel (馬路天使). This contained two theme songs: "Four Seasons Song" (四季歌) and "The Wandering Songstress" (天涯歌女) which enjoyed long-lasting popularity.

Her recordings can be found through CRC Jianian, a joint-venture between the Chinese government and American publishers.


In 1957 she passed away in Shanghai in a mental asylum at the age of only 39 during the Anti-Rightist Movement. A possible cause of death may be encephalitis following a nervous breakdown.

Zhou Xuan was survived by 2 sons, Zhou Wen and Zhou Wei, born of different fathers. According to Zhou Wen's biography, the younger one, Zhou Wei, was the son of Tang Di (唐棣), while the father of Zhou Wen is unknown. Zhou Wei currently lives in Toronto performing at times in the TTC subways, and participating in various musical projects, including teaching. He is known as a flautist.

He has two lovely daughters, both musicians carrying on Zhou Xuan's legacy. The elder of the two, Zhou Xiaoxuan, is an accomplished classical pianist trained at Concordia University and now living in Beijing.


To this day, Zhou Xuan's songs still remain a staple in many Golden Oldies collections in Mandarin popular music.

There have been 2 biographies written by Zhou Xuan's surviving family members. The book My Mother Zhou Xuan (我的媽媽周璇) was written by Zhou Wei and his wife Chang Jing (常晶); while a later book, Zhou Xuan Diary (周璇日記), was written by Zhou Wen.

Biography controversy

After Zhou Wen's biography was published, Zhou Wei accused Zhou Wen for altering Zhou Xuan's diary and copying the contents in an attempt to mislead readers into distorting the image of Zhou Xuan. The rebuttal also revealed that Zhou Wen had hated Zhou Wei since their young age. Zhou Wen was sent to adoption after birth, followed by alleged dark influences. Zhou Wei then legally inherited Zhou Xuan's wealth over Zhou Wen.


An adaptation of the life of Zhou Xuan was TVB's Song Bird (天涯歌女) in 1989, starring Nadia Chan as Zhou Xuan and Leon Lai as her lover. In this series, Xuan's songs were re-written in Cantonese, sung by her in solo. In duets, she sang with him in the serial while (under the limits of Crown Records) Deric Wan replaced Lai's vocals in the soundtrack album.

Another adaptation, based on Zhou Wei's biography, is China serial titled Zhou Xuan (周璇), starring Cecilia Cheung. This version of the story was accused by Zhou Wei as false representation of Zhou Xuan, and damaged the reputation of Zhou family.

Movie Credits

  • 狂歡之夜 (1935)
  • Street Angel (馬路天使, 1937)
  • 西廂記 (1940)
  • 孟麗君 (1940)
  • 夜店 (1947)
  • 長相思 (1947)
  • 清宮秘史 (1948)
  • 花外流鶯 (1948)
  • 歌女之歌 (1948)
  • 莫負青春 (1949)
  • 花街 (1950)


External links

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