Taiwan entertainer and philanthropist Sun Yueh dies, aged 87

Originally an actor playing gangsters, he became known as an activist for several causes

Actor and philanthropist Sun Yueh.

Actor and philanthropist Sun Yueh. (CNA photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) – Movie star, comedian, anti-smoking activist and all-round charity volunteer Sun Yueh (孫越) passed away at the age of 87 Tuesday.

Sun died of septicemia in combination with multiple organ failure Tuesday evening, National Taiwan University Hospital announced Wednesday. He had been taken to hospital last month with a case of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, but partly due to his high age, he had been unable to recover and was transferred to intensive care, reports said.

To more recent generations, he will be remembered mostly as “Uncle Sun,” an avuncular person working on a wide range of charity causes, including anti-smoking campaigns and assistance to the elderly and infirm.

Yet, Sun, born in China in 1930, started out playing the roles of evil gangsters and communist agents in Taiwanese movies, and later admitted he had been a heavy drinker, gambler and womanizer.

After turning from action and crime movies to comedies, he went yet through one more transformation before restricting his movie appearances and eventually retiring altogether.

He won a Golden Horse Award, the Chinese-language movie world’s equivalent to an Oscar, for his performance as a ragged old soldier whose adoptive daughter becomes a singer in the 1982 movie “Papa, Can You Hear Me Sing?”

He went on to play another old soldier who buys a young indigenous bride in “Old Mo’s Second Spring” and an aging gay father figure who helps young runaway gays in “The Outsiders.”

As he was closing off his movie career, he became a Christian and became involved in charity work, campaigning against smoking, drugs, child prostitution, environmental pollution, and in favor of blood donations.