Lily Chen Foster, born in mid 1960s, whose original name is Chen Ye 陳燁, is a well-known actress in 1970s and 1980s China. Born in a turbulent time, she was sent to work as a laborer during the Cultural Revolution as soon as she turned 17. Luckily, she was discovered by the director of the Shanghai Children’s Theater and since then, her passion for theatre was ignited. She started getting main roles such as heroic female soldiers and Qing royals and was most critically acclaimed for portraying Empress Ci’An, or Empress of the East Palace. Along with Liu Xiaoqing, who played her on-screen rival— the notorious Empress Ci’Xi, the two friends were the blockbuster movie stars in many people’s memories in those years, when there was very limited entertainment.
In the mid-1980s, despite her rising fame domestically, Lily came to the US to study drama at the University of Houston and ended up settling here after meeting her husband, Charles Foster, a renowned immigration and human rights lawyer. Lily has been devoted to her family since then; they have two sons. The couple sits on many boards of nonprofits and is devoted to the Houstonian community.
View interview transcript PDF — Full interview materials on Rice Digital Scholarship