Her most famous movie appearance was in Lee Ang's 2003 film 'Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon' (卧虎藏龙Wòhǔ Cánglóng), and shortly after she starred in Zhang Yimou's 'House of Flying Daggers' (十面埋伏shí miàn mái fú), but unlike other Chinese 'ambassadors', Zhang Ziyi has never become a consensus within China's borders.
It's not that Zhang doesn't have fans in China, but despite her international success it seems that many Chinese aren't feeling proud of her. When navigating the internet, numerous sites stating negative facts and expressing bad opinions about her are immediately found. Solid reasons which cannot be understood by non-Chinese or cruel popular criticism - What is the case when it comes to the mixed feelings many Chinese share towards Zhang Ziyi?
There's no one reason or one Chinese entity which I can represent here, but after reading some blogs and articles as well as chatting with some Chinese friends, there are some negative associations when it comes to Zhang Ziyi.
On a superficial level, while many westerners find Zhang very pretty, she doesn't fit the beauty standards (审美观) of many Chinese. It is a matter of taste that varies from one to another, but generally speaking, it seems that Chinese tend to appreciate more women with big eyes and a not-so-small-nose. Several Chinese models and actresses are considered more physically attractive than Zhang. When it comes to her profession, many share an opinion that Zhang Ziyi's acting skills (演技 yanji) don't match those of other famous stars. Her appearance in 'Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon' is regarded as not very impressive due to her 'unnatural acting'.
When it comes to China's tabloids, Zhang Ziyi is a big star. Many gossip stories concerning the actress have been published in recent years, with the big majority of them containing a negative flavor. Whether such stories are real and are in the public's interest is a good question, but they lead many Chinese to suggest that Zhang's character (人品) is problematic. She is often portrayed as greedy and insensitive.
Some stories that have been published include Zhang Ziyi promising to donate a big sum of money of a prize she won to the Sichuan earthquake's victims and eventually delivering only a small portion of it, the 'splashed-ink incident' (泼墨门 pomomen (names of scandals in China often end with the word 门 - door, gate, like the American 'Water-gate') in which an acquaintance of Zhang organized the vandalizing of a Zhang poster in Beijing, and dirt that a past friend of Zhang, Zhao Xinyu (赵欣瑜) shared with journalists, including 'revealing' that Zhang had cheated on her ex-boyfriend, Israel multi-millionaire Vivi Nevo, more than once when they were still together. Previously in Jan 2009 paparazzi photos of the two in indecent postures were published.
How much importance should be given to such gossip is up for every reader to decide. Zhang Ziyi will remain a success story in Chinese film industry, but she will continue to feel the thorns of critics and common individuals.