BEIJING • Cherie Chung has lived alone for almost 10 years now and she enjoys her solitude.
After the death of her husband, advertising executive Michael Chu, in 2007, the former actress has led a fulfilling life, pursuing interests such as philosophy, music, photography, reading, gardening and cooking.
"My life is the happiest now," she said in an interview with Lianhe Zaobao.
She was baptised a Catholic in 2009, in accordance with her late husband's last wishes.
A keen photographer, she has held exhibitions of her works and most recently collaborated with South Korean skincare company AmorePacific to photograph the natural and cultural scenery of Jeju Island.
She is also a frequent visitor to Singapore - where a younger sister lives - and France.
Chung, 57, starred in iconic Hong Kong films including Once A Thief (1991), An Autumn's Tale (1987) and Peking Opera Blues (1986), but it is a life she does not miss.
"One day, I suddenly found that I didn't like others giving me a timetable, dictating what I do at what time. I wanted to control my own time. Now, I'm very happy, doing the things I choose and like every day. If I feel like being on my own, I am. If I don't feel like meeting people, I don't. Everything is controlled by me."
She was speaking at French jeweller Chaumet's event in Rosewood hotel in Beijing, where she and fellow guests, actresses including Gao Yuanyuan, Kirsten Dunst and Audrey Tautou, were dubbed "two generations of goddesses" by the Hong Kong media.
What do you think of being dubbed a "goddess"?
Every actress is a goddess now. But I'm not a goddess, I've never put this title on myself, so I have no burden. The world is so big, with so many beautiful women. I've never felt I'm beautiful, so I dare not watch my movies. I'm conscious that they're not perfect.
Actresses have nips and tucks to look young. Will you?
Do I need it? I dare not. Everyone knows what I look like. If I became too beautiful suddenly, I couldn't accept it either. I don't have to be too beautiful. Age is age. It doesn't matter if no one looks at me. If they don't like looking at me, they don't have to.
Which fashion designers do you follow?
I don't particularly follow fashion trends. I also like architecture, music, furniture and design, which are in the same vein as fashion. I like some less mainstream brands, such as Nordic brand Acne and French brand Jacquemus. I like freshness and understanding young people's ideas through fashion. I think you must dress to fit the occasion and your age.
But you look young enough to dress younger.
(Laughs and blushes) I'm now more concerned about the shapes and contours of clothes and the tricks to looking thin.
Your daily interests are gardening and cooking.
My house has a balcony on which I plant spices, which I use when I'm cooking. My balcony is covered and not suitable for planting flowers, but orchids grow well on it, so a lot of orchids have been planted there. I love gardens and often go hiking. Every time I go to Singapore, I'll go to the Botanic Gardens.
How often do you visit Singapore?
Twice a year. I like the tropical climate. When Hong Kong is too cold, I go to Singapore. I like how Singapore has a lot of outdoor restaurants. I like the heat, but not all year round.
How do you stay in good health?
Life must be interesting so you have something to look forward to when you get up every morning.
I like the morning air, sun and breeze. I have an assistant only when I'm working. Usually, I take care of big and small things personally, going to the market early in the morning, planning my next trip. For example, I do my homework before I go to France, planning what to eat and what to see. I like travelling alone. Sometimes I'm alone on the road, sometimes I meet friends there.
I enjoy my solitude very much. I like to be alone.
Has it always been like that?
Of course it was different before. I had a companion. To live is to understand that life isn't perfect. If you don't understand that, you will always feel that life is lacking.