Rising Chinese Actor Gives up Career For His Faith

20 years ago actor Ryan Jiang left his home for freedom, 17 years later he is back on stage

By Shiwen Rong

NEW YORK—Almost 20 years ago, actor Ryan Jiang had to give up his promising acting career in China for his faith.

Today, he is back in a new feature movie called “Origin Bound.”

Inspired by his own life story, the movie has touched the hearts of people from around the world.

“When I face a difficulty, I will remind myself that I have a goal and I will overcome it in the end,” Ryan told NTD, where he was a former employee.

Ryan said he had always wanted to be an actor since when he was a kid. From that time on, he strove to realize his dream.

“The most exciting thing about acting is to experience different emotions and different walks of life,” he said.

Ryan Jiang rising acting career
Ryan Jiang has always wanted to be an actor when he was a kid. (Ryan Jiang)

Since 1990, Ryan had been active in the film and television industry in China. During his eight-year career, he was cast in more than 10 television series.

He appeared as one of the three princes in the popular TV drama “Yong Zheng Dynasty” in 1998, and his acting career took off from there.

Ryan Jiang in Yong Zheng Dynasty
Ryan Jiang plays the third prince in ‘Yong Zheng Dynasty’, a popular Chinese TV drama. (Ryan Jiang)

Upside down

After becoming more well-known, he still felt something was missing in his life.

Since Ryan was a child, he had been interested in Buddhism and reincarnation.

In 1998, during filming, a colleague introduced him to Falun Gong, also called Falun Dafa.

Falun Dafa is a Buddhist-school spiritual practice introduced to the public in China in 1992 by founder Li Hongzhi. The teachings of Falun Gong are based on the principles of truthfulness, compassion, and tolerance.

Its five sets of meditation exercises spread rapidly throughout China by word of mouth, as people experienced miracles of health and moral improvement.

Ryan Jiang reading ZFL
Ryan Jiang reading Zhuan Falun, the main book of Falun Gong. (NTD Television)

Ryan always had a question in the back of his mind about the meaning of life.

After reading “Zhuan Falun,” the main book of Falun Gong, he knew the practice was what he had been searching for.

“Before, I was always searching for the meaning of life,” he said. “That book [Zhuan Falun] has answered all my life’s questions.”

However, he never thought everything in his life would be turned upside down so soon.

In July 1999, the Chinese communist regime launched a nationwide persecution of Falun Gong. Practitioners were sent to prisons, labor camps, and brainwashing centers, where witness accounts report that they are often tortured in an attempt to coerce them to give up their faith.

“For me, the start of the persecution was the low point of my life,” Ryan said. “Because of this, I lost the legal freedom to practice my faith in every environment [in China].”

“It was also the biggest challenge in my career.”

When the persecution just started, he went to Tiananmen Square to seek for justice for Falun Gong and urge the regime to better understand the practice. He was arrested. 

“I was lucky compared to other practitioners who went through much tougher persecution—some even lost their lives,” he said. “I was only jailed for one night.”

Ryan now faced the choice between his career and his faith.

“When film directors and producers approached me, they wanted me to promise that I won’t practice Falun Gong anymore,” he said. “I even needed to sign an agreement that I’m not a practitioner.”

On April 25, 2000, Ryan was arrested again. For 24 hours, he was locked up in a very small room without food, drink, or anything to rest on.

After being released the second time, he decided he had to leave home.

Big Revival

He left his parents and moved to Ireland to study, and later moved to New York City in the hopes of finding an opportunity to engage his passion for acting again.

Leaving China wasn’t an easy choice for Ryan, as his parents couldn’t understand him, but he said he felt deeply that a person who has faith has a guiding light in life.

Before he discovered “Origin Bound” producer New Century Film, Ryan worked as a Chinese language anchor at NTD Television, an independent media based in New York.

New Century Film is an independent film production company that was established in 2017. The company, based in Upstate New York, says it focuses on moral values in the short films and feature films it produces.

After 17 years, Ryan says he is back doing what he loves. He has already acted in several short films, as well as the new feature movie “Origin Bound.”

Origin Bound
Main character Ryan Jiang in feature film Origin Bound, produced by New Century Film. (New Century Film)

“I hope that with the movie ‘Origin Bound,’ I can continue my acting career, and work on movies that bring out those righteous values, important values,” Ryan said.

The film has already received international attention. Most recently, Ryan won the best actor award at the Wales International Film Festival. The film was also named best feature film at “The Greatest Show of All Time” film festival in New York.

Best feature film
‘Origin Bound’ won the best feature film at ‘The Greatest Show of All Time’ film festival. (Ryan Jiang)

For Ryan, no matter what kind of difficulties he encounters, he said his heart is always determined and at peace because he knows he is going in the right direction.

He said that his decision to put his faith first all those years ago has left him with no regrets.