A photo of a woman in traditional Chinese dress has been shared hundreds of times in social media posts that falsely claim it depicts a female security escort during the Qing Dynasty. The photo in fact shows martial arts actress Jade Xu posing in costume on the set of a fictional film.

"A photo of a young female security escort practising martial arts during the late Qing Dynasty," reads this Facebook post written in traditional Chinese on February 24, 2023.

The accompanying photo shows a woman dressed in traditional clothing holding a martial arts stance. The post has been shared more than 200 times.

The Qing Dynasty was the last of China's Imperial eras, with the Manchu people ruling from 1644 to 1912.

Historians note that security companies, known as "biaoju", provided armed escort protection and insurance services and transported goods while also acting as bodyguards for travelling merchants.

The post's caption goes on to describe her coarse garments and plain features, as well as her "large feet which would only be 'looked down on' during an era time bound feet were considered the standard of beauty".

It further claims that unskilled, poor people at the time would not have a chance at survival, but the woman managed to rise against the odds with her abilities.

"Such independent women are common in modern society, but they were not always seen and understood in the old society. But now they are worth respecting," the post reads.


Screenshot of the Facebook post, taken on March 17, 2023.

The photo was shared alongside similar claims on other social media platforms including Twitter, Weibo, the Chinese aggregator site Toutiao, and the Chinese version of TikTok, Douyin.

Some users appeared to believe the photo genuinely shows a female bodyguard from the Qing Dynasty.

"Such big feet in Qing Dynasty!" writes one user under a post.

"She would be a star if she lived in modern times," says another.

In fact, the photo shows Chinese-American actress Jade Xu in costume on the set of a 2012 film.

Actress on set

A Google reverse image search found the photo on the film site IMDb, which said the picture showed Xu playing the role of Sister Mahjong.

Xu played the part in the 2012 movie Tai Chi Zero and the sequel released in the same year, Tai Chi Hero.

Described as a "steampunk martial arts epic", the movie is a fictionalised version of the events that led to the Chen family-style Tai Chi being taught to the first person outside the family.

Below is a screenshot comparison of the photo in the misleading posts (left) and the photo on IMDb (right):


Screenshot comparison of the photo in the misleading posts (left) and the photo on IMDb (right).

A further keyword search found the same photo published on Xu's official website here. The photo is part of a gallery showing Xu's career as an actress.

AFP also found this photo posted on Xu's official Facebook account on November 4, 2013, where she is seen dressed in the same costume with the same hairstyle.

"Making friends on the set of Tai Chi Zero," the post's caption says.