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It’s 10am at Ghim Moh Market and the produce-filled aisles bustle with aunties, uncles and domestic workers bearing bulging bags, some trundling shopping carts laden with groceries. The air is humid with the chatter of stall vendors and bargaining customers. In the thick of it all stands Li Nanxing, grasping a gleaming red snapper at the fishmonger’s stand with his bare hands. He is inspecting it like a seasoned housewife. “You see? This is good, because it’s shiny,” he informs us in endearing, heavily Singlish-accented English. He pulls back the head of the fish to reveal its gills. “Very fresh, ’cos it’s red”. He brings the creature close to his nose and sniffs it. “You don’t want it if it’s dried up or if [the gills are] pink”.

The son of a fisherman father and garment factory worker mother knows what he’s talking about. Especially since, unbenownst to many, he owns a fish farm in Lim Chu Kang. Li Nanxing, veteran actor of 33 years, Ch 8 Ah Ge (“big brother”), is many things to many people. If you’re a baby boomer or a child in the ’80s, you’ll remember him as a scrappy juvenile delinquent in On The Fringe. Safe to say almost everyone knows him as the cool gambling god Yan Fei in the 1993 drama The Unbeatables. He even has millennial fans, thanks to his appearances in recent dramas like C.L.I.F 4 and Dreammakers II. “You’re so lucky,” sighed our 26-year-old cousin when she learned we were meeting LNX.

In real life, though, he’s always been a bit of an enigma. Those who have met him have remarked that he can be quite reticent, with an aura of melancholy that lends gravitas to the brooding heroes he plays on TV. Today, though, we see a new side to Li Nanxing. As someone who has been through it all — acting success barely out of his teens, then a bitter divorce with actress-turned-property agent Yang Libing, crushing debts from a failed business venture, subsequent gambling and drinking addictions — he confirms now that life is indeed good. A calmer, domesticated, fish farm- and kitchen-loving LNX has emerged.

The numerous Instagram posts (put up by his manager, but still!) of him cooking various dishes at his spacious semi-detached home tells us so. There’s LNX presiding over a home-cooked Peranakan feast. Oh, he’s made fish head curry. And there he is, stirring batter for durian cake at his uncle’s durian plantation in Malaysia. He looks even happier in the flesh this morning, relaxed and casually shooting the breeze with stall vendors who clearly adore him. He walks tall and purposefully, cutting a commanding figure even in the market-appropriate T-shirts that the 8 DAYS stylist has picked for him. His hair is lush, his tanned skin glowing and sprinkled with just a few lines around his eyes, his limbs sinewy and strong. He’s 54 but could pass off for 45.

More at https://www.8days.sg/sceneandheard/celebrities/li-nanxing-once-worked-as-a-hollywood-calefare-to-clear-his-2-10709668