The Hong Kong Heritage Museum is celebrating the legacy of legendary martial artist and movie star Bruce Lee in an exhibition called “Bruce Lee: Kung Fu-Art-Life.”
The museum exhibition, jointly organized with the Bruce Lee Foundation, runs until July 2018 and contains 600-plus items of fascinating Bruce Lee memorabilia plus a 75-minute documentary called The Brilliant Life of Bruce Lee with archival footage and interviews with his contemporaries.
Easily accessible via the Hong Kong subway (MTR) system, the Hong Kong Heritage Museum is located at Sha Tin in the area known as the New Territories, formally rural land adjacent to the border with mainland China that is now home to huge residential apartment complexes. Parenthetically, admission is usually free to Hong Kong museums on Wednesdays.
Born in San Francisco but growing up in Hong Kong, Lee died suddenly at age 32 in Hong Kong on July 23, 1973. The son of a Chinese opera actor, Bruce Lee was a child star who got his first acting gig at 3-months-old in a film called Golden Gate Girl.
Lee studied Wing Chun under grandmaster Ip Man (who is the subject of several recent Hong Kong biopics currently available on Netflix) and later created his own style, Jeet Kune Do (“the way of intercepting the fist”) which is now known as Jun Fan Jeet Kune Do after Bruce Lee’s Chinese given name. Lee taught martial arts in the U.S. before returning to Hong Kong when his Hollywood career stalled in the early 1970s after the one-season run of The Green Hornet TV series, in which he famously played the title character’s crime-fighting partner, Kato.
Picture taking isn’t permitted inside the exhibition area for copyright and other reasons, but visitors to the museum will learn a great deal about the beloved martial arts icon who is credited with igniting interest in kung fu and other disciplines around the world, and who was also an avid reader, poet, and philosopher.
According to daughter Shannon Lee, Bruce Lee Foundation chair, the collection contains “Bruce Lee’s personal writings, costumes, library collection, training equipment and other artifacts specially selected for this exhibition…[which] marks the first time that the Bruce Lee Foundation and my family have loaned such a large amount of my father’s personal effects to a major exhibition anywhere in the world.”
The charismatic Lee is best known for his films The Big Boss, Fists of Fury, Way of the Dragon, Enter the Dragon, and Game of Death, which became cult classics.
Some of the memorabilia that museum visitors will encounter include Bruce Lee’s classic yellow track suit from Game of Death, his handwritten fight choreography storyboards from Enter the Dragon, his handwritten daily workout regiment, Bruce Lee’s original wooden training dummy along with a 3D animation of Lee and Ip Man training on the device, Kato’s original bow tie, and the original plaster face cast that was used to mold Kato’s TV mask.
Items also include actual training equipment such as Bruce Lee’s nunchucks, a notebook carefully setting forth cha-cha dance steps that Lee performed in two movies as a young actor, and numerous posters, stills, and behind-the-scenes photos of Lee’s acting career, plus acting awards, and magazine covers. The collection even includes a January 1969 handwritten affirmation in which Bruce Lee vows to achieve worldwide fame and fortune as an actor while simultaneously achieving inner harmony and happiness.
“Tragically curtailed, his life was a glorious one, and 40 years after his death, the celebrity of Bruce Lee continues to endure and exert an influence across nations, races and ages…Visitors will be able to gain a greater insight into his achievements and contributions as well as his significance in popular culture, as the exhibition takes a new angle in presenting the legend of Bruce Lee,” the Hong Kong Heritage Museum explains.
[Featured Image by Robert Jonathan]