Much much better late than never. Many American moviegoers have only just met the serene gaze and enigmatic poise Chow Yun-Fat, 45, displays as a venerated warrior in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
. Residents of Hong Kong, however, have known the actor for 25 years—first on TV, then as the leading man of more than 70 films that have made him a superstar throughout Asia. "I think Chow Yun-Fat is the perfect man," raves his Crouching Tiger
costar Zhang Ziyi, 22. "You can tell from the kindness on his face that he knows how to love and take care of people." His own 5'11" frame gets tended with Zen-like simplicity. "I don't like muscles too much," says Chow. "Flexibility and a relaxed look are most important." Thus, each day at his Hong Kong home begins with 15 minutes of tai chi and often includes a hike in the surrounding hills or a dip in the South China Sea. Swimming "makes me look tan and reminds me of my boyhood," explains Chow, who was raised on nearby Lamma Island, the son of a farmer mother and an oil tanker seaman father. Chow's evenings end with his moisturizer-wielding wife. "I have to hound him. He's good enough to let me put some on his face," says Jasmine, 41, her husband's manager. "I want to replenish the moisture in his skin. If I don't, he won't do it himself." Why would he? "Every single wrinkle is a life experience and means a lot to me," Chow declares. "Money can't buy a wrinkle."