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.
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.
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. She has also donated sandalwood works to museums around the world.
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.