Sir Run Run Shaw, the legendary Hong Kong entertainment mogul and philanthropist, has died at the age of 106 in his home in Hong Kong.
“It is with deep sadness that Television Broadcasts Limited announces the passing of Sir Run Run Shaw,” the television station, founded by Shaw, reported on Jan. 7.
“Although we knew this day would come, no words can adequately express our sorrow and lessen our sense of profound loss. He will be sadly missed by all of us at TVB,” the report said.
Sir Shaw, born as Shao Yifu, was the most influential pioneer in the Chinese-language cinema industry. With his brother Runme, he co-founded Shaw Brothers Studios in 1957, one of the world’s largest movie companies, and then in 1967 Hong Kong’s top broadcaster TVB.
His movie studio brought Chinese-language cinema, mainly kung-fu–Chinese classic martial arts–films, to international audiences in the 1960s. It has produced around 1,000 movies since 1958, and movie stars and directors from across Asia have launched their careers through Shaw’s movies and TV empire, including award-winning actors Chow Yun Fat, Maggie Cheung, Andy Lau, and also movie director John Woo.
In remembering Sir Shaw, William Pfeiffer, chief executive officer of Dragongate Entertainment Ltd. and former head of Celestial Pictures Ltd., said: “He really will be considered as a great pioneer in Chinese film-making history. He certainly was the shining light in Hong Kong’s illustrious film industry.”
Celestial Pictures Ltd. acquired a library of about 760 films from Sir Shaw in 2000.
Figures from across Hong Kong’s entertainment industry paid tribute to Sir Shaw, including actor Chow Yun Fat who told local press: “I would have no career if it were not for Mr. Shaw.”
Director Wang Jing wrote on Weibo, a Chinese version of Twitter: “Mr. Run Run Shaw was the boss I respected most and the most successful film maker and a major philanthropist. May he have a smooth journey. R.I.P.”
According to a Hong Kong Film Archive chronology, Sir Shaw was born in 1907 in Ningbo, a coastal city of China’s southern Zhejiang Province. At the age of 19, he was sent by his elder brother Runje, who founded Unique (Tianyi) Film Productions in Shanghai in 1925, to the then-British colonies of Singapore and Malaysia to help their brother Runme distribute silent films in the South-Asia region. This turned out to be a very successful venture.
Sir Shaw moved to Hong Kong in 1957 where he and his brother founded Shaw Brothers Studios in eastern Hong Kong’s Clearwater Bay in 1958, which was at one time the world’s largest privately owned movie production.
Credited by Hong Kong media as the most influential figure in the entertainment industry, Sir Shaw co-founded TVB and turned it into a successful television and entertainment empire, shaping the modern popular culture of Hong Kong and global Chinese communities.
TVB is the world’s largest producer of Chinese-language programs. Sir Shaw served as its executive chairman until late 2011 when he retired at the age of 104, after selling his controlling stake in TVB and the property at Clearwater Bay to a group of investors led by ITC Corporation chairman Charles Chan. Shaw was renamed chairman emeritus in 2012.
Secret of Longevity
Sir Shaw remained very healthy past his 100th birthday. He once told the media the secret to his longevity. “The secret lies in exercising, which is very important. I practice qigong for 45 minutes every morning, walk while I am at home, and I used to play golf every Thursday.”
His other health secrets are about staying away from bad things. “There are three kinds of thing I would never do. First, I don’t gamble. Second, I don’t drink. And third, I don’t do anything abnormal,” he said.
Sir Shaw was also a well-respected philanthropist, giving millions to charity through his charity foundation. He made generous donations to schools and hospitals in Hong Kong and China, including sizable donations for the establishment of The Shaw College at the Chinese University of Hong Kong in the 1980s and the Run Run Shaw Institute of Chinese Affairs at Oxford University in 1990.
Over the years he donated more than 4.5 billion yuan (about US$740 million) to charities in mainland China, and in 2008 he was granted a lifetime honorary award from the China Charity Award by China’s Ministry of Civil Affairs, recognizing his support for benevolent causes. More than 6,000 buildings, mostly used for education, across China have been named after him due to his donations.
In 2002, Sir Shaw established the annual “Run Run Shaw Award,” sometimes referred to as Asia’s Nobel Prize, to honor excellence in the fields of astronomy, life sciences, and medicine with each receiving a US$1 million prize.
He also founded The Sir Run Run Shaw Charitable Trust and The Shaw Foundation Hong Kong, dedicated to the promotion of education, scientific and technological research, medical and welfare services, and culture and the arts.
Sir Shaw was appointed a Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 1974. He was knighted by Queen Elizabeth in 1977, the first person in Hong Kong’s entertainment industry to be knighted by Britain’s Queen.
In 1998 Sir Shaw received the Grand Bauhinia Medal from the Hong Kong government, and in 1990 the Chinese Academy of Sciences named an asteroid “Run Run Shaw” after him to recognize his contribution to the development of China’s education.
Translated by Euly. Written in English by Christine Ford.