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Kung Fu King Still Bewitching Visitors


Bruce Lee, the Hollywood star and Chinese martial arts master who was deemed an icon of Hong Kong and remembered for building a strong-man image for Chinese in Western eyes, is still bewitching thousands of people 30 years after his death.

A memorial dedicated to the Hong Kong martial arts legend in his ancestral hometown in the southern province of Guangdong has been teeming with visitors since it opened late last month.

The memorial, featuring more than 500 items on Lee, including letters, film posters, photographs and other memorabilia, is housed in a tea shop in Shunde, some 60 kilometers (37 miles) northwest of Hong Kong, where Lee's father and grandfather were born.

The venue was financed by Huang Dechao, a retired civil servant and fan, who spent about a decade collecting items featuring Lee.

"Not only people in Lee's hometown take pride in him, he makes all Chinese feel proud," said Huang.

Lee, who was born in San Francisco but grew up in Hong Kong, died in Hong Kong suddenly on July 20, 1973 at the age of 32 of cerebral edema, but the cause of the brain swelling remains a mystery.

Bruce Lee visited Shunde only once, when he was five.

He was already a young actor and a student of martial arts when he was sent back to the United States at age 17 by his Chinese opera singer father for getting involved in too many fights.

In the United States, he created his own genre of martial arts, Jeet Kun Do, a combination of Chinese Kung Fu and boxing popular in Western countries, and set up a Kung Fu school.

Lee came back to Hong Kong in the early 1970s to restart his film career, and made four movies, including the unfinished "Game of Death." His martial arts movie classics include "The Way of the Dragon" and "Fists of Fury."

Lee's most celebrated film "Enter the Dragon" was the first martial arts film to receive backing from a large Hollywood studio, Warner Brothers.

Since his death in 1973, pictures of Bruce Lee have often appear on the Internet, in hot-selling books and magazines, video discs, and ads, while a website is open and souvenirs of Bruce Lee, including T-shirts and ceramics are diverse.

Hao Gang, head of the International Society of Research on Bruce Lee and His Jeet Kun Do and president of Hunan Physical Culture College, said practicing martial arts nowadays is quite different from Bruce Lee's time.

"Today people no longer learn martial arts for the purpose of fighting others and Kung Fu has for the most part become an art to help body-building and cultivate one's morality," said Hao.

According to Hao, more than 40,000 people have studied Jeet Kune Do at his college, in Loudi City, central China's Hunan Province.

The traditional Chinese martial arts have now become popular in 86 countries and regions.

In the Chinese mainland alone, over 60 million have been practicing martial arts, said sources from the China Martial Arts Association.

With the door of the Olympic Games still open, unremitting efforts have been made to enlist martial arts as an Olympic sport.

(Xinhua News Agency April 26, 2002)

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