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The entire $714 million fortune of a martial arts star was donated to charity

Updated: Oct 16, 2021

By: April Carson

The incredible true story of how one man built up his wealth over decades to give away nearly all of it.

Chow Yun Fat was born in Hong Kong to a mother who worked as a cleaner and a vegetable gardener, and a father who worked on a Shell Oil Company tanker. Chow resided in a farming community all his life, without electricity in his home.

His father was a day laborer who rose at dawn to assist his mother sell herbal jelly and Hakka tea-pudding on the streets; he went to work in the fields after school.

When he was ten years old, his family moved to Kowloon from Guangzhou, and at 17, he quit school to support the household by doing odd jobs including bellboy, postman, camera salesman, and taxi driver.

Danny's life began to alter after college, when he answered an newspaper ad and was cast as a successful actor-trainee by a local television station. He agreed to a three-year contract with the studio and made his acting debut under the terms of that agreement.

Chow's popularity grew in countries all over the world, and he became a heartthrob and familiar face in international soap operas. In an interview this year, the 63-year-old Chinese actor said he planned to give his entire $714M ($627,350/£563,400) fortune to charity.

He said: "I'm not doing this for the money, but I want to be able to contribute and help. As an actor my whole life, I can also do more by making myself known. It's my own path… we donate $100M each – so $500M – and it is going to provide education to street children in the Philippines and do some other things there."

People who donate to charity can get a tax deduction for their donations, but Chow said that his intentions were not about getting that kind of financial benefit.

Despite his enormous wealth, Chow Yun Fat leads a very modest life, with reports suggesting he spends just $800 HKD every month on himself. That's around $100 US (€90/£80)

Chow is primarily notable in Asia for his associations with filmmaker John Woo in the heroic bloodshed film A Better Tomorrow, The Killer, and Hard Boiled; and in the West for his parts as Li Mu-bai in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and Sao Feng in Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End) He has been active on the Hong Kong film scene since the early 1980s.

During the last decade, Chow has amassed a great deal of money and his net worth is reported to be $5.6 billion HKD, equivalent to $714 million USD.

With this great wealth, it's easy to believe Chow Yun Fat enjoys a luxurious lifestyle that includes pricey automobiles and opulent homes. Instead, Chow is presented as being thrifty – frequently choosing to travel by bus or volunteer rather than purchasing himself presents.

In a recent interview with, Chow revealed that he spends just $800 HKD each month. He has been using an early-generation Nokia phone for over 17 years, and he replaced it with a smartphone two years ago – because his old Nokia stopped working. Chow is not ostentatious, and he is frequently seen rummaging at discount stores. “I don't wear clothes for other people,” Chow stated. "It's fine as long as I'm comfortable with it."

Chow spends his spare time hiking and running, and when he is recognized, he will frequently stop and pose for the cameras.

Chow's wife, Jasmine Tan, previously revealed his fortune and his intention to contribute it to a variety of foundations. Chow and Tan have been establishing their own charity since 2012, with Jasmine behind him in supporting his decision to donate money to a variety of causes.

“The money isn't mine,” he clarified. “I'm simply keeping it secure for the time being.”

"Money isn't the key to happiness," he said. He went on, "My goal in life is to be happy and normal. The most challenging aspect of life isn't how much money you earn; it's maintaining a peaceful mindset and living your remaining years in a simple and carefree manner."

In 2014, Chow stood out as a speaker for the Umbrella Movement in Hong Kong. He spoke out in support of the city's democratic protesters.

Chow also voiced his support for the Hong Kong protests despite being unable to work in mainland China. According to this source, Chow Yun-fat said he would just produce less after being banned from mainland China for supporting the pro-democracy demonstrations in Hong Kong.

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