Then ten years later, four decades after he kept it real with Nixon and expressed desire to defend his one billion countrymen, Jet Li experienced a cataclysmic incident that shook him to the core. The 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake was the world’s third-largest and fifth-deadliest, and triggered the first-deadliest tsunami in recorded history on December 26, which killed over 230,000 people in South and Southeast Asia, and almost claimed him, his then-four-year-old daughter Jane, one-year-old Jada, and their nanny while they vacationed in the Maldives. That fateful event changed his life forever.
Just a few days after, and because of his near-death experience, Jet Li announced plans to start the One Foundation, a Chinese NGO officially founded on April 19, 2007 dedicated to disaster mitigation, children’s welfare, training of public welfare professionals, and support for grassroots charities. Their slogan is simple: one person plus one dollar (or Yuan) every month equals one big family, which implies that philanthropic responsibilities shouldn’t be solely carried on the shoulders of companies and governments, but extend to every human being. They’ve since become one of China’s most charitable and transparent organizations, zeroing in their efforts on prevention and preparedness instead of response and reconstruction — treating the cause and not the symptom in the context of disaster risk management and humanitarian response — and are a sound model of an embezzlement-proof NGO for others across the world to adopt.
From 1974 to 2004 to the present and beyond, Jet Li the kid, the lover, the movie star, and the philanthropist, has kept it real with Nixon, his wife, family, his movies, but most importantly, himself. We’ve learned that at his core he’s a lover, not a fighter. A life full of promises kept to loved ones, resolute vision in his works, and a tangle with a tsunami culminated to wash ashore a silver lining that not only swept away his ego, but also surfaced a newfound purpose, one that he has since devoted his entire self to, marking the beginning of a philanthropy imbued with introspective depth and humanitarian sensibilities for not only his countrymen as he had initially wanted, but for the whole world as one.