‘Mandarin Marilyn Monroe,’ famous for song about barbecue pork buns, dies aged 82

Diana Chang Chung-wen in the starring role of the Shaw Brothers film The Amorous Lotus Pan. Screengrab via YouTube.

Diana Chang Chung-wen, one of Hong Kong’s brightest starlets from 1960s, has passed away at the age of 82.

Headline Daily reports that Chung’s family confirmed today that she died in Texas on Friday, Feb. 15 of natural causes.

Chang was born in 1936 in Hubei, China, and rose to fame during the 50s and 60s, appearing in more than 30 films by the famed Shaw Brothers Studio.

One of her most famous film appearances was her starring role in the 1964 Shaw Brothers film The Amorous Lotus Pan about a woman in an arranged marriage who falls in love with her husband’s brother.

To promote the film, Chang embarked on a three-month US tour accompanied by Bruce Lee, who would not only dance the cha-cha with her on stage each night, but also acted as her bodyguard.

(It was during this three-month tour that the infamous Bruce Lee and Wong Jack Man fight took place in San Francisco.)

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Chang was known for her sex appeal, and was given many nicknames by reporters covering her tour, including “the most beautiful creature,” “the fire-breathing lass,” and “the Mandarin Marilyn Monroe.”

Ming Pao reports that Chang retired from the film industry in 1966 after marrying a German man, and later settled in the US.

She’s most famous for singing the Mandarin version of the Rosemary Clooney hit Mambo Italiano — only the Mandarin version is actually an ode to “char siu bao,” or “steamed barbecue pork buns.” The chorus literally translates to, “Barbecue pork buns, who likes to eat barbecue pork buns?” instead of Clooney’s “Hey, mambo, mambo Italiano.”

(The Mandarin version celebrates other buns, too, including lotus seed buns, Shanghai buns, “mantou” rice buns, cabbage and pork buns, and so on.)


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