Miyoshi Umeki, the first (and only) Asian actress to win an Oscar died last week from cancer. Her Oscar arrived once she played opposite Marlon Brando in Sayonara (1957) --Brando was a good luck Oscar charm for a lot of other actors wasn't he? Miyoshi won her Oscar in late March and was on the cover of TIME for her work in Broadway's Flower Drum Song by December. Quite a year she had in '58, huh?
Discussions of Oscar and ethnicity go way back but they usually focus, rather simplistically, on the black & white topic. Since Umeki's Oscar win I believe only four actresses of Asian descent have made the Oscar shortlist: Shohreh Aghdashloo (03), The Tilly sisters (a decade apart in 85 and 94), and Rinko Kikuchi just last year. And they're all in the supporting category [src]
There've been more men. But unless I'm forgetting someone and apart from arguably Ken Watanabe (The Last Samurai) no major Asian movie stars have ever been nominated for an Oscar. Most of the nominees have not been particularly famous prior to their honors. In other words there's no Tony Leungs, Gong Lis, Toshirô Mifunes, Aishwarya Rais or Maggie Cheungs in Oscar's history book.