the LEGEND of WONG FEIHONG
Dr Iwan suwandy,MHA
cOPYRIGHT @ 2012
THIS STORY OF WONG FEI HONG DEDICATED TO MY SON ALBERT AND ANTO JIMMI AS THE REMEMBRANCE DURING THE YOUNG BOYS THEY LOOK AT THE WONG FEI HONG FILM VCD WITH THEIR GRANDPA DJOHAN OETAMA
Claimed to be the only known photograph in existence of Master Wong Fei-Hung – Some dispute this
The statue sitting in the Wong Fei Hung Museum in the Fu Shan district of China.
Jet Li playing the role of Wong Fei-Hung in Tsui Hark’s “Once Upon a Time in China II”
| Wong Fei-Hung was born in 1847 in the Fushan district of China. He died in 1924 of natural causes. His contributions to modern day Hung-Gar are unmatched, and can be considered one of the forefathers of modern day martial arts. He was renowned for protecting the weak and helping the poor. Wong Kay-Ying was his father, who was a physician and great martial arts master also..
Wong Fei-Hung’s father ran a famous medical clinic called Po Chi Lam, and Wong Fei-Hung grew up there, assisting his father. He learned traditional Chinese medicine, and also learned many important values such as generosity and compassion. Wong Kay-Ying always treated a patient, even if he or she couldn’t afford any treatment.
The Ch’ing Dynasty consisted of Manchu emperors, who had conquered China from there home in Manchuria. They were foreign invaders to the southern Chinese.
The southern Shaolin Temple in Fukien was a place where the resistance would go to train to fight against the Ch’ing. The temple was first burned down in 1734, but the few monks and students who survived traveled across China
teaching their skills to others worthy
enough along the way. Variations on the Southern Shaolin styles soon emerged such as
Wing Chun Kungfu style (Bruce Lee’s original style)
and Hung Gar Kung Fu style (Wong Fei-Hung’s style).
The father of modern day Hung-Gar was Hung Hei-Kwun (another martial arts master that was portrayed by Jet Li in New Legend of Shaolin).
At first Wong Fei-Hung’s father was reluctant to teach him Hung-Gar, but his martial arts training soon began by his father’s teacher, Luk Ah Choi. Luk Ah Choi taught Wong Fei-Hung the basics of Hung Gar. After, Wong Kay-Ying took over his son’s training. By his early 20’s, Wong Fei-Hung had made a name for himself as a dedicated physician and a martial arts prodigy. In addition to becoming a master of Hung-Gar, he created the tiger-crane style and added fighting combinations now known as the “Ten Forms Fist
/ Sup Ying Kuen”, which consisted of the set of 10 individual fighting stances of: Dragon, Tiger, Crane, Snake, Leopard, Wood, Metal, Earth, Fire, and Water. Wong Fei-Hung was also skilled with many weapons, especially the long wooden staff and the southern tiger fork. On one occasion where he utilized his skill with the staff was when he defeated a thirty-man gang on the docks of Canton (Similar scene is Once Upon A Time in China I). He also protected the weak and poor from both criminal gangs and government forces. Wong Fei-Hung, like his father before him was know as one of the TEN TIGERS of CANTON. A title bestowed on the best of the best martial artists of the time.
Wong Fei-Hung’s son, Wong Hawn-Sum, followed his father’s ways of defending the weak. Unfortunately, he was killed in the 1890’s after being gunned down by the gang Dai Fin Yee. After this tragedy, Wong Fei-Hung vowed never to teach his remaining 9 sons martial arts to protect them from challengers seeking fame.
If ever there really existed a true hero of martial arts, a person worthy of that title would definitely be Wong Fei-Hung.
|Wong Fei Hong or Huang Fei Hung (traditional Chinese: 黃飛鴻; simplified Chinese: 黄飞鸿; pinyin: Huáng Fēihóng; Cantonese Yale: Wòhng Fēihùhng) (1847–1924) was a martial artist, a medical doctor of traditional Chinese medicine, and revolutionary who became a Chinese folk hero and the subject of numerous television series and films.As a healer and medical doctor, Wong practiced and taught acupuncture and other forms of traditional Chinese medicine at ‘Po Chi Lam’ (寶芝林), his private practice medical clinic in Foshan, Guangdong Province, China, where he was known for his compassion and policy of treating any patient. A museum dedicated to him was built in Foshan.Amongst Wong’s most famous disciples were Lam Sai Wing, Leung Foon, Tang Fung, and Ling Wan Gai. He was also associated with Chi Su Hua, aka Beggar So.Wong Fei Hung (Cantonese) or Huang Fei Hong (Mandarin), was a real life person and Kung Fu Grand Master who lived in Foshan City. He was a renowned Doctor of Traditional Chinese Medicine, and a Kung Fu Grand Master. He was supreme in the Hung Ga form of Kung Fu. There is a school and museum dedicated to him in Foshan city today, located near Xi Qiao Shan. China Expat’s knows this well – we can see it from our office.Spelling and pronunciation:
This is basically a nightmare! We will use the official Mainland Cantonese, which is Wong Fei Hong. Wong Fei Hung is Hong Kong Cantonese. Huang Fei Hong is Mandarin. Now lets try ‘Hung Ga’ … well, there are around 20 different spellings of this worldwide, of which frequent alternatives are ‘Hun Gar’, ‘Hung Gar’, and ‘Hung Ga’. As this is a Cantonese name, and Cantonese cannot pronounce the letter ‘r’ and also drop last letter ‘g’ to a silent component – so you can see why we end up in a muddle. We will use the official Maniland Cantonese ‘Hung Ga’Then of course, Chinese people love to play tricks with langauge, and you may consider this name to also mean yellow (wong, huang) vs (fei) red (hong). Hung in HK Cantonese can mean ‘red’ or other things. And of course, the Characters are not correct – but the implied meaning is, and is presented as a joke or test – depending upon your personal perspective. Here is China!
Legend has it that Wong Fei Hung was born in Foshan on the ninth day of the seventh month of the twenty-seventh year of the reign of Emperor Daoguang (1847). When Wong was five, he began his study of martial arts under his father Wong Kei Ying, one of the Ten Tigers of Canton. To supplement his poor family’s income, he followed his father to Foshan, Guangzhou and throughout the rest of Guangdong Province to do martial arts performances and to sell medicines.
Well within his youth, Wong began showing great potential as a martial artist. At the age of thirteen, while giving a martial arts demonstration at Douzhixiang, Foshan, Wong Fei Hung met Lam Fuk Sing, the first apprentice of Tit Kiu Saam, who taught him the “tour de force” of Iron Wire Fist and Sling, which helped him become a master of Hung Gar. When he was sixteen, Wong set up martial arts schools at Shuijiao, Diqipu, Xiguan, Guangdong Province, and then opened his clinic ‘Po Chi Lam’ (寶芝林) on Renan Street in Foshan. By his early 20s, he was fast making his mark as a highly-respected physician and martial artist.Later years
As a famous martial arts master, he had many apprentices. He was successfully engaged by Jiming Provincial Commander-in-Chief Wu Quanmei and Liu Yongfu as the military medical officer, martial art general drillmaster, and Guangdong local military general drillmaster. He later followed Liu Youngfu to fight against the Japanese army in Taiwan. His life was full of frustration, and in his later years he experienced the loss of his son and the burning of Po Chi Lam, an academy that went unsurpassed in martial arts competitions. On lunar year, the twenty-fifth day of the third month in 1924, Wong Fei Hung died of illness in Guangdong Chengxi Fangbian Hospital. His wife and two of his prominent students, Lam Sai-Wing and Tang Sai-King, moved to Hong Kong, where they continued teaching Wong’s martial art. Wong became a legendary hero whose real-life story was mixed freely with fictional exploits on the printed page and onscreen.
|Martial ArtistWong was a master of the Chinese martial art Hung Fist. He systematized the predominant style of Hung Fist and choreographed its version of the famous Tiger Crane Paired Form Fist, which incorporates his “Ten Special Fist” techniques. Wong was famous for his skill with the technique known as the “Shadowless Kick”. He was known to state the names of the techniques he used while fighting.Wong Fei Hung also became adept at using weapons such as the wooden long staff and the southern tiger fork. Soon after, stories began circulating about his mastery of these weapons. One story recounts how he defeated a 30-man gang on the docks of Canton using the staff.Wong is sometimes incorrectly identified as one of the Ten Tigers of Canton (a group of ten of the top martial arts masters in Guangdong near the end of the Qing Dynasty (1644–1912). His father Wong Kei Ying was one of the Ten Tigers, but Wong Fei-Hung was not. Due to his heroic efforts in defending China’s pride during a period when Chinese morale was at an all time low, Wong Fei-Hung is sometimes known as the “Tiger after the Ten Tigers.”Note:
For those new to Chinese Kung Fu and Martial Arts in China, please accept that fighting skills are always only one aspect of the Art. They are always complimented by Philosophy, Mental agility, Medicine, use of weapons, and other skills such as true Lion Dance and especially Chinese Calligraphy.It is said that a Chinese Grand Master of Kung Fu uses identical movements when wielding a Calligraphy brush and a sword. A fine example of this can be demonstrated in the excellent movie ‘Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon’ which stars Jet Li as a bonus! One subplot centres around a Grand Master being requested to find the 20th way of writing the character for ‘Sword’ Eventually he solves the conundrum, and writes the new character in a large sand box using continuous and unbroken strokes of a sword.Tourism:
Please note we live in Foshan, and Candy (Jonno’s PA) lives about half a mile from the Wong Fei Hong school and museum based in Xiqiao. We know this area very well, and though never claiming to be ‘travel agents’, we can get you a great deal at local prices. We can also make enjoyable excursions for partners who are not into Kung Fu studies, but travel with you.
|Wong Fei Hung 黃飛鴻 – The Hung Gar Kuen Hero Who Fought 30 Gangsters By Himself AloneWong Fei-hung (July 9, 1847 – May 24, 1924) was a Chinese martial artist, a traditional Chinese medicine physician, acupuncturist and revolutionary who became a folk hero and the subject of numerous television series and films. He was considered an expert in the Hung Ga style of Chinese martial arts. Wong is visibly the most famous Hung Ga practitioner of modern times. As such, his lineage has received the most attention.As a physician, Wong practiced and taught acupuncture and other forms of traditional Chinese medicine at Po-chi-lam (寶芝林), his private practice medical clinic in Foshan, Guangdong, China. A museum dedicated to him was built in Foshan. Wong’s most famous disciples included Wong Hon-hei (his son), Lam Sai-wing, Leung Foon, Tang Fung, Wong Sai-wing and Ling Wan-kai. Wong was also associated with “Beggar So” of the Ten Tigers of Canton.BiographyWong was born in Foshan during the reign of the Daoguang Emperor in the Qing Dynasty. At the age of five, he started learning Hung Ga from his father, Wong Kei-ying. When he was 13, he learnt the Tour de Force of Iron Wire Fist and sling from Lam Fuk-sing (林福成), a student of “Iron Bridge Three” Leung Kwan, after meeting Lam in Douzhixiang during a martial arts street performance. He learnt the Shadowless Kick from Sung Fai-tong (宋輝鏜) later.In 1863 at the age of 17, Wong set up his first martial arts school in Shuijiao. 26 years later in 1886, he opened his Po-chi-lam (寶芝林) clinic at Ren’an. In 1919, Wong was invited to perform at Chin Woo Athletic Association’s Guangzhou branch during its opening ceremony.Wong died of illness on May 24, 1924 in Chengxi Fangbian Hospital in Guangdong. He was buried at the foot of Baiyun Mountain. Wong’s wife, Mok Kwai-lan (莫桂蘭), and his two sons, along with his disciples Lam Sai-wing and Tang Sai-king (鄧世瓊), later moved to Hong Kong and established martial arts schools there.In legend, Wong was recruited by Liu Yongfu, commander of the Black Flag Army, to be the army’s medical officer and martial arts instructor. Wong also instructed Guangdong’s local militia in martial arts. He followed Liu’s army to fight the Imperial Japanese Army in Taiwan before as well.
LifeWong married four times in his life. His last wife, Mok Kwai-lan, died in Hong Kong on March 11, 1982. He had four sons. The oldest, Wong Hon-sam (黃漢森), was shot to death by a colleague in a drunken brawl in 1923.Wong was a master of Hung Ga (also called Hung Fist). He systematized the predominant style of Hung Ga and choreographed its version of the famous “Tiger Crane Paired Form Fist”, which incorporates his “Ten Special Fist” techniques. Wong was famous for his skill with the technique known as the “Shadowless Kick”. He named the techniques of his skills when he performed them.Wong was adept at using weapons such as the staff and southern tiger fork. One tale recounts how Wong defeated a group of 30 gangsters on the docks of Guangdong using the staff.Wong is sometimes incorrectly identified as one of the “Ten Tigers of Canton”. His father, Wong Kei-ying, was one of the ten but he was not. Wong is dubbed as “Tiger after the Ten Tigers” for his heroic efforts to defend the pride of the Chinese when the Chinese faced oppression from foreign powers.
THE STORY OF WONG FEI hONG
Wong Fei-hung (aka Huang Fei-hong)
is one of the most revered folk heroes in China, particularly among residents of Guangdong Province and Hong Kong where he came to be immortalized on screen more often than any other historical figure in the world. Although he died long before his fame spread into the film arena and elsewhere, this figure has come to epitomize the ideal Chinese hero.
For the past 70 years, mostly fictional exploits of Wong Fei-hung and his top martial arts students have been retold in serialized novels, TV series and in over 100 martial arts films. Wong has been repeatedly portrayed by such illustrious screen-fighting legends as Kwan Tak-hing, Jackie Chan and Jet Li. While relatively little is known about his personal life, this celebrated kung fu expert and healer has become a symbol of Chinese pride and has left an indelible mark on Hong Kong cinema and the martial arts world.
“Every great civilization has its cultural heroes. America has Davy Crockett; the British have Robin Hood. The Chinese have Wong Fei-hung, master of the martial arts and healing.”
In Chinese kung fu, one’s martial arts lineage is of nearly equal importance to one’s family lineage. The handing down of kung fu techniques from sifu (teacher) to student is of grave importance as many of the forms and techniques widely used today can often be traced back to a single figure. Such is the case for the Southern Fist technique which would become the basis for Wong Fei-hung’s Hung Kuen or Hung Fist style, a branch of Southern Shaolin kung fu.
Avid kung fu movie fans have likely seen at least one movie dealing with the destruction of the Southern Shaolin Temple. While the facts of this event and even the existence of the temple itself remain shrouded in myth, it is known that the Qing Dynasty began to look on the martial arts-trained monks of Shaolin as a potential threat and this forced many of the temple’s students to take their training underground.
Through years of rigorous and highly disciplined training these monks had become highly skilled in unarmed and armed combat. They had been recruited by emperors and warlords to fight invaders and Japanese pirates. In addition, they had for years trained emperors and generals in their fighting arts. Shaolin had long been seen as an ally of the government but during the Qing Dynasty, the temples became havens for rebels.
In the mid-1700s,
the Manchu government reputedly sacked the Southern Shaolin Temple and the surviving monks and lay students scattered throughout Southern China, particularly in the Guangdong region. One such student of notable skill was Hung Hei-kwun who settled near the city of Guangzhou and began teaching martial arts. His most successful student was Luk Ah-choy. Luk, himself a monk handed down his skills to Wong Tai. Wong Tai handed down his knowledge to his son, Wong Kai-ying. Wong Kai-ying became the father of Wong Fei-hung and in due time passed on what had become the family’s martial arts to his son.
Wong’s father was himself a folk hero of considerable distinction. He was a member of the Ten Tigers of Guangdong, all martial descendents of the Southern Shaolin Temple. Although it is unlikely that they interacted with each other much, if at all, the Ten Tigers of Guangdong were reputed to be the greatest fighters among their generation in Southern China. Like Wong Fei-hung, their exploits became the subject of popular stories.
Wong Fei-hung was born in 1847 at the end of the Qing Dynasty, by some accounts in Foshan, a city within Guangdong Province which borders Hong Kong in Southeast China. According to an alternate legend, his father would not teach Fei-hung martial arts for fear that it might endanger his life. Still desiring to learn, Fei-hung purportedly took lessons from his father’s master. More likely, Wong learned directly from his father.
The young Fei-hung was known to travel frequently with his father and perform kung fu in the streets for money, as seen in the 1993 kung fu movie IRON MONKEY. As a young adult, he took on the responsibility of becoming a martial arts instructor to the 5th Regiment of the Cantonese army as well as the Guangzhou Civilian Militia. He became quite involved with the local government after having trained two generals and becoming the assistant to the governor of the Fujian province.
Much of the political turmoil surrounding Wong as fictionally depicted in ONCE UPON A TIME IN CHINA and its sequels centered on a popular uprising where the people of Fujian demanded that the governor be appointed head of a new democratic state. Wong was to become the commander-in-chief. This riot was suppressed by thousands of government troops. This put an end to Wong’s political career as he fled to Guangzhou. There, Wong opened an herbal medicine shop called “Po Chi Lam” and took on a number of martial arts students.
Wong was married four times and endured the loss of his first three wives to illnesses. His fourth wife, Mok Kwai-lan was only a teenager when she married the elderly Wong. He lived to the age of 77 and died in 1924. This was not long after Po Chi Lam was burned down during the Guangzhou Merchant Corps Rebellion.
As a martial artist, Wong Fei-hung was famed for his skill in Hung Kuen. Early films depicted Wong performing what became signature forms such as the Iron Wire Fist, Five Forms Fist, Vanquishing Fist, and the Shadowless or No-Shadow Kick. Wong was also known to have excelled at the traditional Southern Chinese art of Lion Dancing. In Guangzhou, he was known as the “King of the Lions,” a title borrowed for one of the many Cantonese movies made about him.
Wong had a number of students to pass on his martial arts training. Notable disciples included Leung Foon, Ling Wan-kai, Chan Tin-biu, and Lam Sai-wing (aka Butcher Wing). While Wong spent little time in Hong Kong during his life, possibly as a result of killing a man in a street fight, his students set up academies in Hong Kong, the most famous run by Lam Sai-wing who also published several widely distributed fist form manuals. Lam had a number of students in Hong Kong, one of them was Lau Cham, father of future legendary kung fu moviemaker Lau Kar-leung and a kung fu consultant on the initial Wong Fei-hung films.
It wasn’t until a decade after his death that Wong Fei-hung’s legend began to seep into popular culture with the serialized publication of the Legend of Wong Fei-hung, authored by Chu Yu-chai, another one of Lam Sai-wing’s students. The topic of this fictional account, printed in local newspapers, propelled Wong Fei-hung’s posthumous fame to mythic proportions with heroic tales embellished by the author’s imagination.
It is suggested by Hong Kong film critic Po Fung that Chu’s writing was highly flawed by literary standards. It typically put Wong Fei-hung into crude plots involving simple challenges against an endless assortment of villains. Po unflatteringly describes the stories as repetitive and boring and reserves praise only for Chu’s authentic depiction of Guangdong customs. Of more noteworthy importance in its relevance to the Wong Fei-hung legend is Chu’s worldly and aggressive depiction of the hero which includes references to smoking opium and being a combative youth. In subsequent years, this rugged persona would gradually be replaced by the more idealistic and Confucian image depicted on screen.
The first feature film concerning the exploits of Wong Fei-hung appeared in 1949 and created a sensation that lasted for over a decade. THE STORY OF WONG FEI-HUNG: PART ONE was director Wu Pang’s adaptation of a radio drama, itself based on Chu Yu-chai’s novel. Chu was a consultant on the film, as was Wong Fei-hung’s son Hon-hei and his surviving wife Mok Kwai-lan. Mok also played a fighting role in PART THREE.
Cast in the starring role was a 44-year-old, steely-eyed Chinese opera performer named Kwan Tak-hing who had earlier toured China in support of the war movement against Japan during World War II. With morale still low in Hong Kong following the end of Japanese occupation, Kwan’s portrayal of a famed kung fu hero proudly fighting against challengers with realistic techniques must have struck a chord with audiences. Not only did Wu Pang direct three close-knit sequels but he went on to film over 50 more serial features through 1961 with Kwan in the lead. Nearly half were released in 1956 alone during an unprecedented peak for a film franchise
Promotional flyers for WONG FEI-HUNG, PART 2: WONG FEI-HUNG BURNS THE TYRANTS’ LAIR (1949). Image courtesy of Jean Lukitsh.
The Wong Fei-hung films began during a surge in martial arts movie production in Hong Kong after Word War II and were virtually the only films of their kind to survive a genre decline in the early ’50s. This could be partly attributed to the success of their stars. Kwan was a gifted performer with tremendous presence who grew to be nearly as legendary as the character he portrayed so often. In addition to substantial acting and opera experience, Kwan was skilled in White Crane kung fu and managed to adapt it with the aid of the Lau family to fill in for Wong Fei-hung’s Hung Kuen techniques. Playing opposite Kwan in the majority of the Wong Fei-hung films was Sek Kin, another screen legend, trained in several northern kung fu disciplines. Sek was always defeated by Wong and yet generally lost graciously, thus making him just as popular among audiences. Sek would eventually gain worldwide fame in 1973 when starred as the villainous Mr. Han in ENTER THE DRAGON.
In the first four Wong Fei-hung films, great attention was paid to realistic action choreography and stunt work that set a new standard for its time, where previously Shanghai and Hong Kong martial arts cinema had been dominated by fantasy wuxia conventions. Takes were very long and stunt actors were required to come up with long sets of sparring routines, many of them improvised on the spot. A high volume of Wong Fei-hung films in a short amount of time provided the perfect test bed for the martial artists, Cantonese opera performers and stuntmen and women working on the series. In these films we can find the roots of what would become the kung fu movie genre leading up to as far as Jet Li’s FEARLESS. It was on the set of these early kung fu films that future martial arts action directing masters Lau Kar-leung and Yuen Wo-ping learned their craft.
Even while Lau Kar-leung and his cohorts honed their skills behind and in front of the camera for what would become the foundation for the ’70s martial arts boom, the emphasis on shooting quality action scenes gradually decreased as the speed of shoots increased to meet demand. Action choreography would not take its next evolutionary step until the late 1960s when director Chang Cheh teamed with some of the same stuntmen from the Wong Fei-hung series to produce cutting-edge action choreography for his slick Mandarin-language wuxia and kung fu films. By this point, the Wong Fei-hung series was fading into irrelevance despite a brief comeback from 1967 to 1970.
It could be argued that the downfall for the Wong Fei-hung series was its descent into Confucian morality. It was a Chinese-styled “Disneyfication” of of history and myth that, along with the increasingly stiff action choreography, would look increasingly out of step with edgier action film trends developing in the 1960s. Kwan Tak-hing’s depiction of Wong Fei-hung had evolved over the years to embrace the kind of high-minded virtuousness that was already widely reflected by heroes in the wuxia genre. Unlike his early depictions on screen, Wong was no longer the aggressive fighter quick to throttle his adversaries as described in Chu Yu-chai’s novel and depicted in the first few movies. Over time, the character became intertwined with the aging actor and it was increasingly difficult to tell the two apart, especially since the unembellished accounts of Wong Fei-hung’s real life had been almost completely consumed by the fictional accounts.
By the time that the original Wong Fei-hung series finally came to an end with the release of WONG FEI-HUNG: BRAVELY CRUSHING THE FIRE FORMATION in 1970, a total of 77 movies had been released with Kwan Tak-hing starring in all but three. Although Kwan and Sek would find opportunities to reprise their characters in supporting roles, their time as the bearers of the Wong Fei-hung legend had come to an end. In addition, Cantonese-language cinema was in decline and young audiences were itching for a new kind of action. The Wong Fei Hung series stuntmen were finally getting to unleash their full potential in the martial arts films of Golden Harvest and Shaw Brothers. For the legend of Wong Fei-hung it was only a transitional state as the next generation took their turn at telling the story in a new way.
The influence of the early Wong Fei-hung movies on the kung fu boom of the 1970s cannot be understated. Many of the actors in the original series were parents or mentors of future kung fu movie legends like Bruce Lee, Yuen Wo-ping and Lau Kar-leung. Some would pass the torch by appearing alongside next generation stars. Kwan Tak-hing reprised his famous role in several new Wong Fei-hung films produced by Golden Harvest including THE SKYHAWK (1974), THE MAGNIFICENT BUTCHER (1980) and DREADNOUGHT 1981). Meanwhile, Sek Kin re-teamed with Wong Fei-hung series filmmaker Wong Fung by co-starring in RIVALS OF KUNG FU (1974).
Many of the supporting cast from the original series would turn up in new martial arts movies as well. Series regular Walter Tso made a comeback as an elder in many Shaw Brothers martial arts movies during the late 1970s and early ’80s. By far, the biggest comeback by an elder veteran of the Wong Fei-hung series was by none other than Yuen Clan patriarch Simon Yuen who was brought in by his son, Wo-ping to portray an iconic kung fu master for several films including the biggest Wong Fei-hung movie since Wu Pang’s 1949 serial premiere.
Jackie Chan’s breakout role in DRUNKEN MASTER (1978) was as a younger and more irresponsible Wong Fei-hung, re-tooled for a new generation of viewers. Unlike previous portrayals of Wong, Chan and director Yuen Wo-ping realized that rather than focus on the noble deeds of his later life, it would be more interesting to see how he might have developed into the legend with more of an irreverent twist in keeping with their sensibilities. Having created a unique action comedy formula in their previous film, SNAKE IN THE EAGLE’S SHADOW, Chan and Yuen brought physical slapstick humor Wong Fei-hung for the first time. Creating a story of a mischievous adolescent Fei-hung who must overcome his own faults proved to be a huge success and turned Chan into Hong Kong’s new martial arts superstar. Like Wu Pang’s 1949 film, the success of DRUNKEN MASTER led to a series of mostly inferior knockoffs. Jackie Chan, who was looking to break out of the period kung fu scene, would not revisit this character in a sequel until 1994.
Wong Fei-hung was featured in a variety of films of the classic kung fu era (1970-1985) with different actors taking on the mantle and virtually all of them had Yuen Wo-ping, Lau Kar-leung or Sammo Hung involved in one way or another. Talented filmmaker Ho Meng-hua had Yuen assist him in directing kung fu cinema’s greatest character actor, Ku Feng, in one of his few starring roles as Wong Fei-hung in Shaw Brothers’ THE MASTER OF KUNG FU (1973). In this film Ho took an unusual approach by putting Wong into a more realistic and gritty setting, likely influenced by the hard-biting, karate-styled martial arts action that followed in the wake of Bruce Lee’s THE BIG BOSS (1971) and Chang Cheh’s THE BOXER FROM SHANTUNG (1972). Yuen’s other Wong Fei-hung entries were DRUNKEN MASTER, DREADNAUGHT and THE MAGNIFICENT BUTCHER which was a rare collaboration with Sammo Hung who played Wong’s famous student Lam Sai-wing. In addition to this film, Hung co-starred and choreographed the action for THE SKYHAWK.
Working at Shaw Brothers, Lau Kar-leung was not to be outdone by his peers at Golden Harvest. He cast his emerging star protégé Gordon Liu as Wong Fei-hung in CHALLENGE OF THE MASTERS (1976). Lau followed this up in 1981 with MARTIAL CLUB where Liu again portrayed Wong. Of all the classic kung fu era Wong Fei-hung films, these two arguably stay closest to the moral-driven films of Kwan Tak-hing’s era. Also, as the only martial descendent of Wong Fei-hung who was directing films at the time, Lau had a unique opportunity to explore the intricacies of Hung Fist in ways that no other martial arts filmmaker could. Lau visited the topic of Wong Fei-hung only twice but repeatedly worked authentic Hung Kuen forms into the choreography of many of his films.
The 1970s saw the rise of television in Hong Kong as a major competitor to film and it was inevitable that the tales of Wong Fei-hung would find their way onto television sets. What no one could have predicted is that a TV series would ultimately have as much if not more impact on the future development of the Wong Fei-hung legend than any feature film or novelization. In 1976, Kwan Tak-hing portrayed Wong Fei-hung in a 13-part series for TVB. The series delved into the historical backdrop of Wong Fei-hung’s era in greater detail than any film had previously. It developed elements that would become a staple of not only future incarnations of the Wong Fei-hung legend but also a sizable number of loose spin offs. It was in this series that Wong Fei-hung was introduced to historically-inspired plots involving slave trading, opium smuggling and underground sects. It was from this broad historical perspective that filmmaker Tsui Hark approached the Wong Fei-hung legend with the highly ambitious “wire-fu” epic, ONCE UPON A TIME IN CHINA, a film that briefly rekindled the kung fu movie genre in the early 1990s amid an explosion of advanced, wire-enhanced stunt work.
Tsui Hark enjoyed a rare level of commercial and artistic success in Hong Kong as a director, producer and occasional actor. He first established himself as one of Hong Kong’s emerging New Wave directors with his debut, a horror-wuxia hybrid titled THE BUTTERFLY MURDERS (1979). Taking his experience in studying American film, his limitless imagination and his tireless devotion to the craft, Tsui began a career of redefining genres within the Hong Kong film industry. ZU: WARRIORS FROM THE MAGIC MOUNTAIN (1983) brought Hollywood special effects to Hong Kong, A BETTER TOMORROW (1986) created the heroic bloodshed craze and A CHINESE GHOST STORY revolutionized the classical Chinese ghost story. With success in just about every other film genre it was only a matter of time before Tsui turned his attention to the kung fu genre.
After the success of THE SWORDSMAN (1990), which revitalized the wuxia film, Tsui began work on an epic reworking of the Wong Fei-hung legend. This time, Wong would be portrayed neither as a Confucian master who uses martial arts only as a last resort or a comically naive bumpkin, but as an intense and commanding martial artist in his prime. Jet Li, a mainland Chinese actor and wushu champion was chosen over local talent to become this latest incarnation. Li, with his boyish looks and astounding wushu abilities had starred in several mainland-produced kung fu films promoting the new Shaolin Temple.
Tsui Hark’s ONCE UPON A TINE IN CHINA (OUATIC) premiered in 1991 and was a huge success. Jet Li went on to play the same character in three sequels. Vincent Zhao played Wong in the fourth installment.
The commercial success of this film franchise guaranteed that kung fu films would rule the box office for at least the first half of the decade as numerous period martial arts films appeared shortly after. Director and choreographer Yuen Wo-ping, who had helped to create the comic Wong Fei-hung in DRUNKEN MASTER, returned to the legend in 1993 with IRON MONKEY. Yuen went even further back to create a fictional account of an adolescent Fei-hung. The young Fei-hung was portrayed by Tsang Sze-man, a talented young girl who gave a surprisingly impressive performance. Visually, the highly-stylized film is a huge departure from the more authentic martial arts seen in the original film series. Yuen’s best wirework was on full display and created a fun, if purely fantastical representation of Fei-hung’s childhood.
One of the most entertaining films to feature Wong Fei-hung during this period was conceived by Jackie Chan as an answer to the excessive wire-enhanced kung fu seen in the films of Tsui Hark and Yuen Wo-ping. DRUNKEN MASTER 2 (1994) brought back Chan’s breakthrough 1978 role as a bungling drunkard who must rise above his faults to defeat the villain. Although past his physical prime, Chan gave the performance of a lifetime in this film which featured more authentic kung fu without the use of wirework to give the martial arts a superhuman quality. Like Chan’s previous film, DRUNKEN MASTER 2 used Wong’s name but made little effort to accurately recreate the man or what is known of his life. The film also provided a historic teaming of Jackie Chan with Lau Kar-leung, although it was short-lived. Creative differences compelled Lau to leave the production early and tackle DRUNKEN MASTER 3. This was a sequel in name only and a poor one at that
Since the release of DRUNKEN MASTER 2, Hong Kong’s film industry has shrunk and kung fu movie production has gone into indefinite hibernation apart from the occasional genre work of Yuen Wo-ping. Wong Fei-hung has not been seen on the big screen in nearly a decade, apart from Sammo Hung’s East-meets-West actioner ONCE UPON A TIME IN CHINA AND AMERICA and his brief and simplified portrayal of Wong Fei-hung in Disney’s AROUND THE WORLD IN 80 DAYS. In Chinese territories, kung fu on television remains popular and several Wong Fei-hung series have aired such as TVB’s WONG FEI-HUNG: MASTER OF KUNG FU (2004).
As entertaining as many of the existing Wong Fei-hung films may be, none can claim to be a definitive filmic depiction. Each has its own strengths. Tsui Hark’s OUATIC series is the best-rounded in terms of story development and provides an excellent starting point. However, its martial arts action is dominated by contemporary wushu and extensive wirework that falls far from Wong Fei-hung’s Hung Kuen skills and its initial depiction in the films of Kwan Tak-hing. Jackie Chan’s DRUNKEN MASTER films are genre masterpieces but awful representations of Wong Fei-hung. Lau Kar-leung’s two films, CHALLENGE OF THE MASTERS and MARTIAL CLUB, are closer in spirit to the original film series but they also share the same simplistic plotting. They do possess some of the best Hung Fist-inspired choreography of any of the Wong Fei-hung films, although not as good as some of Lau’s other films
Audiences can find parodies of the original Wong Fei-hung legend in a number of Hong Kong films. From the maniacal mind of Wong Jing, LAST HERO IN CHINA is a complete parody of Wong Fei-hung as depicted in Tsui Hark’s OUTIC. It’s made funnier by having Jet Li lampoon his own previous performance. Kwan Tak-hing briefly reprised his role in ACES GO PLACES IV while Sek Kin participated in a humorous spoof of the original series in Sammo Hung’s THE MILLIONAIRE’S EXPRESS. Stephen Chow even paid tribute to the original series in ROYAL TRAMP where he and an opponent mimic the distinctive poses Kwan and Sek would assume when facing each other.
This all proves that the legend of Wong Fei-hung, in all of its states, has become as much of an integral part of popular culture in Southeast China as wuxia novels and Bruce Lee. Thanks to home video and the internet, the popularity of Wong Fei-hung has grown even more throughout the world.
Whether fact or fiction, Wong Fei-hung is remembered as a Chinese patriot, a healer, a philosopher, and a superb martial artist who stood for the rights of the oppressed within a country long plagued with corrupt leadership and foreign invasion. Yet the more we see Wong portrayed in film, the less we really know the man. While still hugely popular in China, little serious effort has been made in film or fiction to chronicle an accurate version of his little-known life. Portrayed as a budding martial artist, an immature young adult, an austere patriot, or as a Confucian father figure, the real Wong Fei-hung continues to elude us. Perhaps this is not so important. Like all great heroes of history, the legend of Wong Fei-hung will undoubtedly continue to inspire and entertain people around the world for years to come.
The Music of Wong Fei-hung
Over the years, Wong Fei-hung has become closely associated with a distinctive theme song. Wu Pang’s original series frequently used an old folk tune titled “On the General’s Order.” The late composer James Wong rearranged this music with new lyrics for Tsui Hark’s ONCE UPON A TIME IN CHINA. The result was a powerful ballad titled “A Man of Determination” (aka “A Man Should Better Himself”), originally sung by artist George Lam and later by action star and singer Jackie Chan for the closing credits to OUATIC 2.
“A Man of Determination” (WONG FEI-HUNG theme song / nan er dang zi qiang)
Written by James Wong and originally performed by George Lam
With a defiant spirit, I sneer at all adversity.
With a spirit burning hotter than the red hot sunlight,
With daring forged of iron, with character forged in steel,
With the broadest aspirations, with a far-sighted vision,
I vow to push myself to become a true hero.
To become a great hero, each day you have to push yourself:
A man’s spirit should burn brighter than the red hot sun.
I’ll gather the power of the seas and the skies,
I’ll rend the heavens, and split open the earth,
Just so I can seize upon my dreams.
Gaze upon the lofty, azure waves and the vast blue skies:
That is me, the man of determination.
Step confidently and stand boldly, like pillars of the nation! Become true heroes!
Use my example to ignite a hundred souls, shining forth like a thousand points of light.
To be a true hero, your soul and your courage must burn, burn brighter than the red hot sun
Wong Fei-Hung cinematography
2004 – Around the World in 80 Days
1997 – Once Upon a Time in China and America
1994 – Drunken Master 2
1994 – Once Upon a Time in China 5
1993 – Iron Monkey
1993 – Last Hero in China
1993 – Once Upon a Time in China 4
1993 – Once Upon a Time in China 3
1993 – Kickboxer
1993 – Fist from Shaolin
1992 – Once Upon a Time in China 2
1992 – Martial Arts Master Wong Fei-Hung
1991 – Once Upon a Time in China
1986 – Millionaire’s Express
1981 – Dreadnaught
1981 – Martial Club
1980 – The Magnificent Kick
1979 – Butcher Wing
1979 – The Magnificent Butcher
1978 – Drunken Master
1977 – Four Shaolin Challengers
1976 – Challenge of the Masters
1974 – The Skyhawk
1974 – Rivals of Kung Fu
1970 – Wong Fei-Hung: Bravely Crushing the Fire Formation
1969 – Wong Fei-Hung in Sulphur Valley
1969 – Wong Fei-Hung’s Combat with the Five Wolves
1969 – Wong Fei-Hung: The Duel for the Shark Reward
1969 – Wong Fei-Hung: The Conqueror of the Sam-hong Gang
1968 – Wong Fei-Hung Conquers Mooi Fai Chong
1968 – Wong Fei-Hung: The Eight Bandits
1968 – Wong Fei-Hung: The Duel against the Black Rascal
1968 – Wong Fei-Hung Challenges Ng Yong Seng
1968 – Wong Fei-Hung: Duel for the Championship
1967 – Wong Fei-Hung against the Ruffians
1961 – How Wong Fei-Hung Smashed the Five Tigers
1960 – Wong Fei-Hung’s Battle with the Gorilla
1960 – Wong Fei-Hung’s Combat in the Boxing Ring
1959 – Wong Fei-Hung on Rainbow Bridge
1959 – The White Lady’s Reincarnation
1959 – How Wong Fei-Hung Defeated the Tiger on the Opera Stage
1959 – Wong Fei-Hung Trapped in the Hell
1958 – How Wong Fei-Hung Pitted an Iron Cock against the Eagle
1958 – Wong Fei-Hung’s Victory at Ma Village
1958 – Wong Fei-Hung’s Story: Five Poisonous Devils against Twin Dragons
1958 – How Wong Fei-Hung and Wife Eradicated the Three Rascals
1958 – How Wong Fei-Hung Stormed Phoenix Hill
1958 – How Wong Fei-Hung Subdued the Invincible Armour
1958 – Wong Fei-Hung Seizes the Bride at Xiguan
1958 – Wong Fei Hung’s Battle with the Five Tigers in the Boxing Ring
1958 – Wong Fei Hung Saves the Kidnapped Leung Foon
1958 – Wong Fei-Hung’s Fierce Battle
1957 – Wong Fei-Hung’s Rival for a Pearl
1957 – How Wong Fei-Hung Spied on Black Dragon Hill at Night
1957 – How Wong Fei-Hung Smashed the Flying Dagger Gang
1957 – Wong Fei-Hung, King of Lion Dance
1957 – Wong Fei-Hung’s Battle at Saddle Hill
1957 – How Wong Fei-Hung Fought a Bloody Battle in the Spinster’s House
1957 – Wong Fei-Hung’s Three battles with the Unruly Girl
1957 – Wong Fei-Hung’s Fight in He’nan
1956 – How Wong Fei-Hung Pitted a Lion against the Unicorn
1956 – How Wong Fei-Hung Saved the Lovelorn Monk from the Ancient Monastery
1956 – Wong Fei-Hung’s Story: Iron Cock against Centipede
1956 – How Wong Fei-hung Set Fire to Dashatou
1956 – How Wong Fei-Hung Subdued the Two Tigers
1956 – Wong Fei-Hung’s Pilgrimage to Goddess of the Sea Temple
1956 – How Wong Fei-Hung Vanquished the Twelve Lions
1956 – Wong Fei-Hung’s Battle at Mount Goddess of Mercy
1956 – Wong Fei-Hung and the Lantern Festival Disturbance
1956 – Wong Fei-Hung Goes to a Birthday Party at Guanshan
1956 – Wong Fei-Hung’s Battle at Shuangmendi
1956 – Wong Fei-Hung’s Seven Battles with Fiery Unicorn
1956 – Wong Fei-Hung’s Fight in Foshan
1956 – Wong Fei-Hung at a Boxing Match
1956 – Wong Fei-Hung and the Courtesan’s Boat Argument
1956 – How Wong Fei-Hung Thrice Captured So Shu-lim in the Water
1956 – How Wong Fei-Hung Vanquished the Bully at the Red Opera Float
1956 – How Wong Fei-Hung Pitted Seven Lions against the Gold Dragon
1956 – How Wong Fei-Hung Fought Five Dragons Single-Handedly
1956 – How Wong Fei-Hung Thrice Tricked the Lady Security Escort
1956 – How Wong Fei-Hung Saved the Dragon’s Mother Temple
1956 – How Wong Fei-Hung Vanquished the Ferocious Dog in Shamian
1956 – Wong Fei-Hung’s Victory in Xiao Beijiang
1956 – Wong Fei-Hung Rescues the Fishmonger
1956 – Wong Fei-Hung Wins the Dragon Boat Race
1955 – The True Story of Wong Fei-Hung 2
1955 – Wong Fei-Hung’s Victory at the Fourth Gate
1955 – The True Story of Wong Fei-Hung
1955 – Wong Fei-Hung’s Rival for the Fireworks
1955 – How Wong Fei-Hung Vanquished the Bully at a Long Dyke
1954 – Wong Fei-Hung Tries his Shadowless Kick
1954 – The Story of Wong Fei-Hung and Lam Sai-Wing
1953 – How Wong Fei-Hung Defeated Three Bullies with a Rod
1953 – How Wong Fei-Hung Redeemed Haitong Monastery Part 2
1953 – How Wong Fei-Hung Redeemed Haitong Monastery Part 1
1951 – The Story of Wong Fei-Hung: Grand Conclusion
1950 – The Story of Wong Fei-Hung 4: The Death of Leung Foon
1950 – The Story of Wong Fei-Hung 3: The Battle by Lau Fa Bridge
1949 – The Story of Wong Fei-Hung 2: Wong Fei-Hung Burns the Tyrant’s Lair
1949 – The Story of Wong Fei-Hung 1: Wong Fei-Hung’s Whip that Smacks the Candle
the end@copyright 2012
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