PEKING (AP) _ More than 500 Chinese actresses have auditioned for the demanding lead role in the film adaptation of Bette Bao Lord's best-selling novel ''Spring Moon.''

The story of a woman who was born in the last days of China's Qing dynasty, which ended in 1911, and lived through China's two revolutions and the first two decades of communist China requires an actress capable of aging from 15 to 90.

''I am looking for a very beautiful girl with a high degree of intelligence,' ' said casting director Alixe Gordin, who is also considering actresses in Hong Kong, New York, Los Angeles and Taiwan.

She said she's particularly interested in the Chinese actresses because they have a way of moving and speaking that is more traditionally Chinese and closer to that of the story's central character.

The auditions have been hampered by differences between Chinese and Western customs, said Ying Ruocheng, an actor-director who is one of China's vice ministers of culture and co-producer for the film. In China, directors simply choose actors they have seen for parts, and ''no actor or actress would deign to be auditioned, so we are doing something quite unusual,'' he said.

Also, Chinese actresses do not have portfolios, photographs of themselves, resumes or even telephones.

The movie being made by Alan Pakula, will begin shooting next fall on location

However, renovation of many scenic sites in China for tourism has made it more and more difficult to find old areas to use for movie scenes, said Ying. It will be shot mostly in the Shanghai and Yangzhou areas, with help from the Shanghai Film Studio.

One of the major challenges will be to teach standard English to the Chinese in the 75-member cast. All of the parts are for ethnic Chinese except for one minor one, Ms. Gordin said.

Asked how Chinese actors and actresses, who normally collect low wages, would be paid for their work in the film, Ying said the main roles would be on individual contract.

''How that money finds its way to the actors' pocket is another question,'' he said. The studios will get a large share and the actors also will have to pay taxes.

Ying said the financial terms will be worked out carefully before any work begins to avoid problems that have plagued other joint film projects.

There is nothing in the book that the Chinese will not agree to include, Ying said. However, many Chinese are sensitive about an incestuous affair Spring Moon has with her uncle, he said.

But Ying said he tells those who protest, ''This was part of feudal society and in classical works of China incest was a recurring theme, so why should you object?''