BEIJING - In the photo, she is seen walking swiftly to a waiting car, keeping a low profile in black attire, cap and dark glasses.
But the man behind Fan Bingbing gives the plot away to waiting paparazzi. He is holding a big umbrella - it must be to shield a celebrity from prying eyes, what else?
The photo, snapped outside Beijing airport on Monday (Oct 15), marks the first time that China's most famous actress has been seen in public in more than three months.
Dubbed the nation's highest-paid celebrity for the past four years by Forbes magazine, her tax-evasion struggles with the authorities had kept fans riveted for months.
Rumours floated that she had been arrested and that she had even tried to escape to the United States with the help of gongfu star Jackie Chan.
Things were made clearer on Oct 3 when the authorities slapped a fine of 883 million yuan (S$176 million) on the 37-year-old.
The official Xinhua news agency said an investigation by the Chinese tax authorities found that Fan had split her contract to evade taxes of 7.3 million yuan over payments for her role in Air Strike, a film due to be released this year.
Fan and companies she represented also evaded 248 million yuan in additional taxes, Xinhua said, but gave no details regarding this figure.
The announcement of the fine was followed by a Weibo post from Fan who broke her months-long silence to state that she was "deeply ashamed" over the under-reporting of income.
The actress, who has appeared in the X-Men and Iron Man film franchises, said she was sorry for having "lost self-discipline in the face of monetary benefit".
"I have experienced unprecedented pain and agony in recent months," she wrote. "I have reflected on my actions. I am ashamed of what I have done, and I deeply regret my actions. I apologise sincerely to everyone."
While some netizens were upset that she had been spared a jail sentence, others noted that a 2009 amendment to China's Criminal Law provided for a fine to be levied on a first-time offender.
But some tax officials probing her case were punished for "poor management".
At least five people have been disciplined, including the head of the taxation bureau in the eastern city of Wuxi, where Fan's company is based, Xinhua reported.