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"Don't be sad, Dr. Jones. You will soon be joining him."
―Lao Che, after Wu Han is killed.[src]

Lao Che was a ruthless Chinese crime lord who made a number of attempts on the life of Indiana Jones in the early 1930s. Lao was the father of three sons: Chen, Kao Kan and another. All three of his children had different mothers.


Lao Che was born in 1885.[1] Based in Shanghai, China, Lao Che became one of the city's most notorious gangsters by using his sharp mind and ruthlessness to work his way up from being a petty thief and loan shark,[2] making his fortune in opium and white slavery.[3] As a criminal entrepreneur, Lao owned both legitimate and illegal businesses, including pharmaceutical and export companies, and several taverns and nightclubs, such as the Lotus Eaters. His nightclub, Club Obi Wan, served as a front and the base of operations for his criminal activities, which was regularly frequented by many of Shanghai's most prominent citizens, providing lavish entertainment, fine food, and for those who wish it -- a discreet, seemingly safe venue for indulging in darker pleasures like gambling and prostitution.[1] His sons, Chen and Kao Kan, also served as the chief lieutenants of his criminal empire, although Kan was his favorite while Chen was ignored by him many times.[2]

A tactic Lao frequently used was to keep cremated ashes of deceased family members as collateral for loans given out. This habit helped start his collection of rare and royal ashes.[2] Despite the dark nature of his business, however, Lao kept many reporters on his payroll to pose as a legal entrepreneur. In 1924, Lao was responsible for the murder of a watchmaker who refused to pay protection money on his shop.[4]

Indiana Jones' first run-in with Lao was in 1933 at the Lotus Eaters, when Jones discovered that the gangster had, in essence, enslaved Indy's friend Wu Han by holding captive the remains of the young scholar's family. Jones managed to surreptitiously steal the remains from under Lao's nose, thereby gaining Wu Han's freedom. When Lao Che became aware of the ruse, he sent assassins after Jones but they were defeated the next day on board a train out of Shanghai.[3]

A Manchurian government official hired Lao Che to secure the ashes of Nurhachi, the first emperor of the Manchu Dynasty, which had been stolen by thieves in 1903.[5] In turn, Lao commissioned Indiana Jones in 1935 to recover the remains of Nurhachi in exchange for the diamond known as the Eye of the Peacock. Lao sent Kao Kan to steal the urn, but Jones caught him, and Kao Kan's left hand was wounded in the process. The next day, Lao met with Jones at Club Obi Wan to complete the trade as originally planned: Nurhachi's ashes for the diamond. After examining the ashes, Lao double-crossed Jones by poisoning him then offered the antidote only in exchange for both valuables. Desperate for a bargaining chip, Jones grabbed Lao's trophy girlfriend — Club Obi Wan singer Willie Scott — as a hostage. The situation turned violent when Chen shot Wu Han acting as the archaeologist's back-up, and Jones retaliated by killing Chen with a flaming skewer. Lao called in his men to deal with Jones, but Jones and Scott escaped through a window with the antidote.[6]

Lao Che and his surviving son Kao Kan chased them by car to Nang Tao Airport where Jones unwittingly left the country aboard a plane owned by one of Lao's legitimate businesses, Lao Che Air Freight. Though Jones taunted Lao with a farewell message, Lao smiled, knowing that he held the upper hand with his loyal pilots.[6]

Contacting the plane, Lao had the pilot and co-pilot fly off course over the remote mountains on the border with India, and dump the plane's fuel and parachute out, intending to kill Jones and his companions in a plane crash. However, the attempt failed as Jones, Scott and Short Round managed to survive.[6]

Personality and traits[]

A ruthless crime lord, Lao Che controlled Shangain's criminal underworld with an iron fist.[2] Like so many of the city's notorious gangsters, Che enjoyed cultivating his image as a legitimate businessman despite his shady dealings, gaining a reputation over the years as a patron of the arts and philanthropist.[4] His sons Chen and Kao Kan were also involved on his businesses, though Lao favored Kao over Chen.[2]

Behind the scenes[]

Lao Che was portrayed by the late Shanghai-born and raised Chinese actor Roy Chiao in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. He was voiced by Ron Taylor.

During the development of the film's script, written by Willard Huyck and Gloria Katz, Lao Che's name was spelled "Lao She", named after the Chinese novelist of the same name. Additionally, a sequence in which Lao Che went after Indiana Jones and his party on the Great Wall of China in a motorcycle chase was considered; however, after China banned filming on the Great Wall, the idea was discarded, with a pursuit on motorcycles ultimately being recycled for Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.[7]

Before the death of Chiao, fans had called for the return of Lao Che in Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, with Chiao reprising his character. Director Steven Spielberg had stated he was open to re-using the character, and that Chiao, as well as Ric Young who played Kao Kan, was interested in returning for the fourth film.

Lao Che's name appeared on windows and boxes outside a fireworks factory in the trailer for the then-untitled Indiana Jones and the Staff of Kings video game. The more recent trailer showed Indiana Jones drinking at Lao Che Cocktails before being approached by two men who have heard he is "looking for the boss". Lao Che himself didn't make an appearance in the final product though his name is referenced through Lao Che Lounge.

Lao Che in minifigure form

There were plans by Hasbro in 2009 for an Adventure Heroes set with action figures of Indiana Jones (in his Tuxedo suit) and Lao Che, but the toyline was cancelled before the set could be made.[8]

In LEGO Indiana Jones: The Original Adventures, Lao's role mirrors that from the film. In the sequel, however, Lao is apparently killed during the car chase in Shanghai as only Kao Kan appears during the airport scene.



Notes and references[]