Striving for his best with mindfulness and diligence in every step of his career, award-winning actor, writer and Global Brand Ambassador of Montblanc Chen Kun distinguishes himself as one of the finest artists of his generation and a master of his craft.
As with all things in luxury, the finest work in life is neither a natural occurrence, nor a chance discovery. On the contrary, it is made, with concerted efforts, thought and care. Even diamond, gold and precious metals, when found in its natural state, need to be mined, studied, measured and crafted before it could amount to anything meaningful. Going by the work of award-winning Chinese actor and writer Chen Kun, following this principle, we can easily identify the star of The Yinyang Master and Montblanc Mark Maker as one of the finest artists on screen.
Chen Kun’s performance in the epic period series The Rise of Phoenixes is a masterpiece to behold. In it he plays the demanding role of Ning Yi, an exceptionally perceptive and righteous prince with a legitimate cause for vengeance following the wrongful deaths of his loved ones. In pursuit of truth, justice and peace, he is forced to live under the cover of a care-free persona and tread on thin ice.
As the heavy plot unfold like an abstract strategy game of Go (Weiqi) over a whopping 70 episodes, Chen Kun’s multi-layered character plays out like a grand piece of symphony, encompassing a rich spectrum of nuances and timbres. Delivered with the utmost precision and control, his performance evokes an almost palpable sense of craftsmanship.
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Moved by excellence and passion in everything he does, Chen Kun approaches acting and life like the artisans at Montblanc, with meticulous care and mindfulness, making him an artist with a rich mind and a keen writer. Having discovered the power of introspection from walking, the actor hailing from Chongqing even initiated Power to Go with the aim of encouraging his peers and the public to find some me-time by taking long walks outside the home or workplace as a means of clearing the head, reorganising our thoughts and contemplating the meaningful pursuits in life and career.
As a veteran, Chen Kun has also founded a performance studio, The Dome Studio, alongside actresses Zhou Xun and Shu Qi, and filmmakers Chen Kuo Fu and Wuershan, creating a safe space to nurture the next generation of actors with their experience.
In the wake of his appointment as a Montblanc Mark Maker, Augustman Malaysia took the initiative to reach out to Chen Kun and we are pleased that the actor has graciously obliged us with an exclusive cover story for our latest edition of MVMT.
Over the years, you have distinguished yourself as one of China’s finest artists and a Montblanc Mark Maker – how would you describe your mark; what values and qualities do you wish the next generation to remember you by?
As an actor I do what I love with passion and a sense of duty. For an actor, there is no higher honour than when the character he plays is remembered. I continue to strive with the same passion that younger performers exhibit. Passion can drive one to overcome exhaustion and keep one going.
Much to our pleasant surprise, we found out from one of your fans’ videos that you had to learn Indian songs earlier on in your career – what’s the story behind this?
Before I was admitted into Beijing Film Academy to learn acting, I was a solo singer in China Oriental Song and Dance Ensemble many thanks go to my vocal teacher, Wang Mei Yan (王梅言), who taught me when I was younger. She unearthed my vocal talent, opening the doors to music in my life. China Oriental Song and Dance Ensemble is a national outfit. Not only has it spread the Chinese arts of singing and dancing to other parts of the world, but it has also introduced cultures from other parts of the world to the Chinese audience.
Perhaps it was my looks and voice that stood out. Upon admission into the troupe, I was entrusted to sing Indian numbers, as well as songs in other minority languages. To sing in foreign languages, not only does it demand correct pronunciation and intonation, but I had to also channel the right emotion. I learnt not only the pronunciation of Hindi words, but also immersed myself in Indian films. They had a profound impact on me. It became especially helpful in my subsequent acting career.
How important is culture to you and what importance does being exposed to other cultures outside of China have for you and your work?
Acting is a vocation that requires lifelong learning. Actors are the messengers of society and culture. It is exceedingly difficult to convey the message of cultural and heritage works without an in-depth understanding of culture. Though I am fascinated with Chinese traditional art, I still learn about the cultures of different countries. Like the world’s oceans, culture and art know no borders. This is reflected in my line of work too. A character can elicit the same emotional response from audiences in spite of vast cultural differences. Emotion is universal.
“Actors are the messengers of society and culture… Though I am fascinated with Chinese traditional art, I still learn about the cultures of different countries. Like the world’s oceans, culture and art know no borders.”
“A character can elicit the same emotional response from audiences in spite of vast cultural differences. Emotion is universal.”
As society progresses, financial issues and limited opportunities continue to plague the younger generation, with more and more falling victim to depression and high pressure – as one who has gone from nothing to proven success, what wisdom would you dispense?
The saying that carries the meaning “be the best version of yourself, but never impose yourself on others” (莫失己道,莫扰他心) bears an influence on me. I believe that for as long as I focus on myself, and my intention is pure, I will find peace and the strength to keep going. Even now, I am still just as passionate about acting and I look forward to my next character.
What was the single most challenging role in your career and what did you do to overcome it?
For me, every character possesses its own set of challenges. In my last role in TV series The Wind Blows From Longxi (风起陇西), I played double agent Chen Gong (陈恭), a nondescript experiencing the ebbs and flows of troubled times. For that, I chose a nuanced portrayal of the character, moulding myself after the Chinese proverb 一默如雷, meaning even without making a sound, I leave behind an impression as loud as a thunder. The challenge was new to me. Never in my previous works had I ever done such a performance. But I believe the most formidable role is always the next.
“The saying ‘be the best version of yourself, but never impose yourself on others’ (莫失己道,莫扰他心) bears an influence on me. I believe that for as long as I focus on myself, and my intention is pure, I will find peace and the strength to keep going.”
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“I chose a nuanced portrayal of the character, moulding myself after the Chinese proverb 一默如雷, meaning even without making a sound, I leave behind an impression as loud as a thunder.”
In the Montblanc campaign #WhatMovesYouMakesYou, you mentioned about “internal dialogue” – please elaborate on this process and how does it help you as an actor?
Introspection is something everyone should do. From the internal dialogue, one gains a sense of clarity, understanding what one truly aspires to accomplish. It gives me massive help as an actor. It helps me immerse myself into the character, to converse with other characters, to see life through the lens of my character, and to experience the character’s joy and sorrow.
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“From the internal dialogue, one gains a sense of clarity, understanding what one truly aspires to accomplish. It gives me massive help as an actor.”
In addition to acting, you’ve also inspired and helped many by introducing the benefits of walking and self-reflection through Power to Go and authoring books about walking – when did you first discover the power of walking and how does it work for the general public, especially in this increasingly fast-paced “digital” era?
When I started, walking was only a habit. Along the way, I found inner peace. A walk like this can be beneficial. I recommend it to everybody. As our lives become increasingly hectic, time for self-care dwindles. Self-care isn’t limited to travelling on foot; there are other ways. I hope everyone can set aside some time and spend it with just themselves.
“When I started, walking was only a habit. Along the way, I found inner peace.”
Is this method of walking also in keeping with the age-old saying, “The journey matters more than the destination?”
Indeed it is the journey, not the destination, that counts. This year marks the 12th anniversary of Power to Go. As the project develops further, we have moved beyond just walking. I hope it will become an open platform, whereby participants can discover their own ways to self-reflect.
What is your attitude on set when interacting with the younger generation of talents?
I admire them greatly, but at the same, there are some aspects that shall remain my own.
Apart from good entertainment, actors, artists, filmmakers and writers share the common purpose of telling great stories – what kinds of stories are you most passionate in telling, and what do you look for from the roles/scripts offered to you these days?
I grew up in Chongqing, surrounded by folklore and oriental fables. Those stories and the characters kept me company during my lonely childhood. They helped unfurl my imagination. Ever since becoming an actor, I have hoped to transmit the idyllic life of our generation back then. I would love to work with like-minded directors to bring oriental myths and historical accounts to the big screen. I hope the world will someday witness the oriental allures that have been passed down through the ages.
What more do you wish to contribute going forward as a Mark Maker?
Don’t lose sight of the reason you took up the challenge, savour every moment of the process.