Hu Bing is happy to be a handsome old man

Hu Bing.

With a successful career under his belt, Chinese model-actor Hu Bing is content with life and has no qualms turning 50 in a few years' time

Top Chinese model-turned-actor Hu Bing has always appeared cool and aloof, whether in stylish fashion shoots or in his television roles in dramas such as Adieu (2002) and If I Love You (2013).

In person, however, the dashing 46-year-old is surprisingly chatty, openly dishing out his thoughts even on personal matters, such as marriage and ageing.

Ask the bachelor about this stark contrast to his image and he bursts out laughing.

"Is it because I have such small eyes that people cannot see that I am actually looking at them with such tender affection?

"I know everyone always says that I look very cool and reserved, but if you know me outside of work, I am actually very warm - sometimes, even a little childish," he tells The Straits Times in Mandarin.

In town for the opening of luxury clothing label La Perla's new boutique at Takashimaya Shopping Centre, he adds with a grin: "People close to me tell me, 'You're sometimes so silly.' And I have to agree."

Is it because I have such small eyes that people cannot see that I am actually looking at them with such tender affection?

CHINESE ACTOR HU BING, joking about his cool and aloof public image

Perhaps it is this playful demeanour that contributes to his youthful looks. He easily looks a decade younger than his age.

He is certainly aware of this, which is why he says he has no qualms about hitting the 5-0 milestone in a few years' time.

"I'm already in my 40s and everyone says I am still handsome. Maybe I'll get a few more wrinkles and my hair will turn completely white, but I don't think I'll be very ugly.

"I'll just be a handsome old man," he says with a chuckle.

"Besides, I have had a very fulfilling life and career. I think I've done a lot, so there are no regrets. I always look ahead to the future."

Indeed, he has found much success in his career, especially in the world of fashion.

The former Olympic rower, who switched to modelling in 1990 after suffering a back injury, has fronted numerous magazine covers as well as walked the runway for many major international fashion labels.

Italian fashion designer Valentino was so impressed with Hu that he dubbed him "China's best male model" in 1993.

But he became a household name in China only after trying his hand at acting, playing rich dreamboats in the hit TV dramas Pink Girls (2001) and Saying Goodbye (2002).

Although he continues to straddle modelling and acting, he confesses that he finds more satisfaction in acting because it is more challenging.

Last year, he was the subject of much online chatter when he shed his prince charming image to play a vicious villain in the fantasy drama Ice Fantasy (2016).

His fans - he has close to 12 million followers on his Weibo account - as well as other TV viewers were stunned to see this side to him.

"What's interesting is that even though my character was so mean and horrible, I had fans telling me that they liked it.

"I guess they wanted to see what else I could do besides my usual gao fu shuai roles," he says, using the Chinese term that means "tall, rich and handsome".

He adds: "I am really grateful to the Ice Fantasy director for giving me the chance to do something so different for a change.

"But I'm actually a really funny guy, I really hope I'll get to act in a comedy some day."

Another item to be checked off his life list is to get married - but at his own pace.

Hu, who does not have a girlfriend, says: "My dad certainly wants to see me tie the knot, but these things can't be rushed.

"I would like to, but I guess I'll have to leave it to fate."

•Follow Yip Wai Yee on Twitter @STyipwaiyee

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 31, 2017, with the headline 'Happy to be a handsome old man'. Print Edition | Subscribe