Gong LiCredit: biographyworld.net

For the sake of this article, I've pushed politics to one side and defined China as including Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan.

Gong Li

Born on the last day of 1965 in the PRC's Liaoning province (which abuts North Korea), Gong is the oldest lady on this list, but deserves top ranking because she's the queen of her nation's beauties, and her allure has yet to abate.

Gong (pictured top) owes much of her international fame to Zhang Yimou, the movie maker who was also her lover during the late 1980s and early 1990s. Her breakthrough role came in the film which also established Zhang's reputation overseas, Red Sorghum (1987). For both, Raise the Red Lantern (1991) was another triumph. More recently, they worked together on the 2006 made-in-China blockbuster Curse of the Golden Flower, which also starred Taiwanese pop star Jay Chou and Hong Kong's Chow Yun-fat. Gong has taken on a smattering of English-language roles, notably the aunt of the eponymous serial killer in Hannibal Rising (2007).

Between 1996 and 2009, Gong was married to Ooi Hoe Seong, a Singaporean businessman. During this period she became a Singaporean citizen; the couple had no children. According to some reports, Gong now spends much of each year in France with a Frenchman over a decade her junior.

Lena YangLena YangCredit: AsiaWiki

She's drop-dead gorgeous but doesn't have to worry about unwanted attention from overamorous men. An accomplished martial artist, Lena Yang (Chinese name: Yang Qingqian) is very capable of taking care of herself.

Born on September 20, 1986 and calling Shanghai home, Yang rose to prominence in 2009, when she won the Hong Kong International Wushu Competition. (Wushu is a relatively modern sport in which martial artists are awarded points for punches, kicks, stances, balances, jumps and other actions.) 

Within a year she'd appeared in music videos, recorded pop songs, and made several TV ads. Her 2011 appointment as brand ambassador for a Taiwanese computer game, "Swordsmen Online," brought a legion of new fans. Her outfit, consisting of a tight bikini top, pink miniskirt and boots, was implausible yet eyecatching. Her wushu skills made all the difference, enabling her to wield the long sword with grace and style.

Pei SiraoPei SiraoCredit: Creative Commons

A native of the northern province of Jilin, Pei was born in 1990 and graduated from Beijing Contemporary Music Academy in 2010. The kind of girl whose natural charm could win over the world's most vindictive mother-in-law, she has graced the covers of the Chinese-language editions of Elle, Marie Claire and other notable magazines.

Pei, who uses the English name Shirley, is unusually tall for a Chinese lady (174cm). She's done every kind of mainstream modeling during her career, plus some shoots in which she's veered close to the ultra-sexy territory usually associated with her compatriot, Luvian Ben Neng.

Mandy WeiCredit: AsiaWikiMandy Wei

Success came easily to Taipei-born and educated Wei, who's now aged 30. Within two years of graduating from university, she had worked as a presenter on the Taiwanese edition of MTV, and been cast in two television dramas.

Often wrongly thought to be of mixed Asian-Western descent because of the shape of her eyes, Wei (Chinese name: Wei Man) has enjoyed consistent success in both modeling and acting. Among the brands this 168cm-tall beauty has been associated with is 7-Eleven, Taiwan's leading convenience-store chain.

 Zhang YouZhang YouCredit: AsiaWiki

Born in Jiangsu province on April 8, 1991 (or 1989, according to some sources), Zhang is 162cm tall and has a F-cup chest which is seldom covered as much as her grandmother, probably, would think appropriate. As well as lingerie and bikinis, she's modeled pseudo-traditional Chinese garments, the latter showing a good deal more cleavage than would have been normal during the imperial era.

Zhang is a very common Chinese surname; her given name means "excellent" or "superior." She sometimes uses what Chinese people consider an "English name" - Ayoyo.

Honorary Mention: Gemma Chan

Gemma ChanCredit: Wikimedia CommonsFrom a Western perspective, Chan isn't Chinese, which is why she's not among the five listed above. She was born in London in 1982 and has lived in the UK all her life. Her father grew up in Hong Kong while her Chinese-born mother spent her childhood in Scotland. Like many other ethnic Chinese children in the West, Chan benefited from having parents who prioritized education. In addition to being able to play both violin and piano, she has a degree in law from Oxford University. After graduating, she was offered a job by one of London's most prestigious firms of solicitors, but turned this down to pursue modeling and acting. Her TV credits include a 2010 episode of Sherlock, and a 2009 special episode of the cult TV science-fiction series Doctor Who. Her film appearances include the recent adaption of the Martin Amis novel London Fields.