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Lai Man-Wai
Lai in 1913 in Zhuangzi Tests His Wife
Born 1893
Died October 26, 1953 (aged 60)
Occupation Film director
Known for Father of Hong Kong Cinema
  • Yan Xianxian
  • Lim Cho Cho
Children Lai Hang (1928-1965)
Lai Suen (b.1931)
Relatives Lai Cheuk-Cheuk (niece)
Gigi Lai (grand-daughter)
Chinese name
Traditional Chinese 黎民偉
Simplified Chinese 黎民伟

Lai Man-Wai (Chinese: 黎民偉; pinyin: Li Minwei; 1893–1953), also romanised as Lay Min Wei or M.W. Ray, considered the "Father of Hong Kong Cinema", was the director of the first Hong Kong film Zhuangzi Tests His Wife in 1913. In the film, Lai played the role of the wife, partly due to the reluctance of women to participate in show business at the time.


Li Minwei, Liang Linguang, and Hou Yao
Lai Man-Wai (left), with photographer Liang Linguang (middle) and director Hou Yao (right), in the 1920s

Born in Japan, of Xinhui, Guangdong origin and raised in Hong Kong, he joined Sun Yat-sen's Kuomintang party in 1911 and helped make anti-warlord movies. He was an active director during the golden years of the Shanghai movie industry from 1921 to 1928. In 1923, he founded the China Sun Motion Picture Company with his brother, Lai Pak-Hoi, in Hong Kong which later relocated to Shanghai. In 1930, he co-founded one of the "Big Three" studios of the 1930s, Lianhua Film Company, with Lo Ming Yau. Lianhua, together with other leading Shanghai studios, was destroyed when the Empire of Japan attacked Shanghai in 1937. Lai returned to Hong Kong in 1938 and retired.

He was married to Lim Cho Cho, a Vancouver-born actress. His daughter and granddaughter Gigi Lai are both actresses.


His story was documented in Lai Man-wai: Father of Hong Kong Cinema by Choi Kai-kwong in 2001.

Lai Man-Wai is portrayed in Stanley Kwan's 1991 biopic of actress Ruan Lingyu, Center Stage by Hong Kong actor, Waise Lee.

Partial filmography

  • Zhuangzi Tests His Wife (1913)
  • Romance of the Western Chamber (1927) directed with Hou Yao
  • A Page of History (1941). Documentary. Lai Man-Wai followed Sun Yat-sen during the 1920s.
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