The Jet Age

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It is rather disarming to meet Jet Li in the flesh. You think of all the times you’ve seen him on screen, beating people to a bloody mess, and you muse on the fact that he could knock you out with a single well aimed chop, should the interview go badly. But there he is before you—slim, smiling and given to speaking about karma, oneness and non-violence.
I went to see Li in Beijing the other night, at the offices of his year-old charity, the One Foundation, and expected a long wait in some antechamber, chaperoned by hovering PRs, while the great man readied himself. But no. He walked into reception as soon as I arrived, hand extended and eager to talk about his philanthropic work, which he refers to as the “third phase” of his life (becoming a wushu master was the first, and making movies the second). I’ll write about our meeting, and profile Li at length, in a future issue of TIME, but for now I do ask that you take a look at his charity. It’s based on a very simple proposition: if everyone donated one RMB once a month, there would be vast amounts of money with which to relieve suffering. Not all of the One Foundation’s money is raised in this incremental way—it has received very large corporate donations—but a good deal really does come from ordinary people, via SMS, PayPal, bank and post office payments and other means (if you eat at certain restaurants or make a purchase at certain shops in China, for example, one RMB is donated to the foundation). Much has already been spent on earthquake and flood relief work in China and Myanmar. In the latest initiative, the One Foundation is to give 10 Chinese NGOs grants of $1 million RMB each. Perhaps you’ve never warmed to Li’s movies, but it’s hard to not be impressed by his new, off camera career.