After China opened up to the world in the 1980s, Chinese people also welcomed a wave of Western entertainment. They now had heard Michael Jackson songs, watched Wham! perform live and were able to talk about Princess Leia and Hollywood’s sci-fi fantasy Star Wars.
And while Chinese fans have celebrated the artistic talents of many of Hollywood stars, they have also mourned their deaths. Only a day after China reacted to George Michael’s death — as one of the Wham! duo, he was the first Western artist to perform in China — many fans woke up to the news of Carrie Fisher’s death.
Fisher, one of the most prominent on-screen characters for her role as Princess Leia in the Star Wars franchise, died Tuesday in Los Angeles, according to a statement from her family. She was 60 years old.
Carrie Fisher in Star Wars (1977) as Princess Leia.
The American actress had been in critical condition and under intensive medical attention after suffering a heart attack on a flight en route from London to LA four days ago.
“In Star Wars she was our great and power princess … she will be missed by all,” said George Lucas, creator of the franchise, in a statement.
In China, where Fisher’s star power and character had mesmerized many, her death was sobering to fans.
Zhao Chen, owner of a Beijing tech startup and a Star Wars fan, said Princess Leia was such an inseparable part of the Star Wars' world.
"I'm saddened by the news but as a die-hard Star Wars fan, I can only hope that this fictional world will continue to perfect itself after her,” Zhao, who uses the moniker “Jedigger,” another Star Wars character, told CCTVNEWS.
Despite the huge existence of the franchise worldwide, the movie was never officially introduced on big screens in the Chinese mainland, except for occasional screenings during film festivals and on TV until the late 90s.
The VHS tape, and later introduction of VCDs and the Internet, contributed to the film series’ expanding its influence in the Chinese mainland. But it wasn’t until 1999 when the film’s fame soared among cinema goers with the debut of Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace.
Following Fisher’s death, many on social media platforms across the world are using the phrase, “May the force be with you,” which is commonly associated with the movie, to pay tribute to their beloved actress and an author who openly talked about her medical condition, inspiring many people with mental illness.
On China’s Twitter-like Weibo, fans are sharing their love for the actress.
“Princess Leia will live in my heart forever”, said @ChampagneAwai on Weibo.
“Such a dark day today,” said a user named @Easonchina expressed his sentiments on WeChat.
Carrie Fisher and co-stars Harrison Ford (R) and Mark Hamill (L)
Many celebrities, including Fisher’s co-stars, have also shared their experiences of working with her.
Harrison Ford, who starred with her in Star Wars as Han Solo, described Fisher as a "one-of-a-kind" who lived her life "bravely.”
Fisher is best known for playing Princess Leia in the first Star Wars trilogy, namely Star Wars (1977), Star Wars: Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back (1980) and Star Wars: Episode VI - Return of the Jedi (1983). Her final Star Wars appearance will be in the Star Wars: Episode VIII as Leia, which is scheduled to premiere in 2017. She also appears in the 2015 box hit Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens.