Chen Lihua ( 陈丽华; born 1941), rendered Chan Laiwa in Cantonese, is the founder and chairman of Fuwah International Group, one of Beijing’s largest commercial property developers. In 2014, Forbes ranked her as the 10th richest mainland Chinese, the richest women in China, and one of only 19 self-made female billionaires in the world. In 2015, touchscreen entrepreneur Zhou Qunfei surpassed Chen as China’s richest woman.
Chen is the founder of the China Red Sandalwood Museum, in which she is also the curator. She is also known as one of the cultural diplomats of China.
Chen Lihua was born in 1941 in the Summer Palace of Beijing, China. She is a descendant of a noble Manchu family of the Yellow Banner. At the time of her birth, the Manchu Qing dynasty had collapsed and her family became poor.
Poverty forced Chen to leave high school and started her own furniture repair business. In the early 1980s, Chen moved to Hong Kong and continue her business of buying and re-selling furniture. Her business in Hong Kong was successful enough that she accumulated enough money to buy 12 villas.
In late 1980s, she moved back to Beijing to expand her real estate business. She founded Fuwah International Group in the early 1990s. Though its predominant business is real estate, the company also has a diverse portfolio in the fields of agriculture, tourism, electronics, hospitality and red sandalwood art production, etc.
In recent years, Chen has handed over daily management of her ventures to her son, preferring to concentrate on her museum instead.
She founded the China Red Sandalwood Museum in 1999, where she invested 20 Billion Yuan. The museum covers an area of 25,000 square meters. She attributed her love of red sandalwood from the childhood years she spent in Summer Palace, where furnishings are made of the timber.
Chen is also known for her social responsibility and philanthropy. Fu Wah donated 130 million yuan for disaster relief in 2005 and 265 million yuan in 2004.
Chen is married to Chinese actor Chi Zhongrui, who is known for his portrayal of the Tang dynasty monk Xuanzang. She has one son and two daughters. She now resides in her Chinese Red Sandalwood Museum.