Cross-cultural Encounters Bridging Time and Space: The Heroes in Contemporary Chinese Kung Fu Films

By Kay Li.

Published by The Humanities Collection

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

The aim of this paper is to explore the new directions the latest Chinese kung fu heroes are taking. There are two main trends: 1) attempts to revive the legendary heroes epitomized by Bruce Lee; and 2) exploring new directions through mixed genres such as the detective stories or the treasure hunters. The first trend features actors and actresses with real kung fu training, while the second trend showcases film stars with makeshift action training complemented by extensive use of stunts and CGI.
Bruce Lee’s (Lee Siu Lung) films are dominated by the actor, his unique fighting style and the polarizations between the West, the dominant Westernized cultures and the Non-West, and the dominated Chinese. The films often end celebrating the successful resistance of the once dominated group. After the untimely death of Bruce Lee, there were numerous young actors aspiring to be the new Bruce Lee. Most obviously, they named themselves after Bruce Lee by using his “Lung” meaning “dragon”, the most famous being Jackie Chan (Sing Lung). As of 2010, when these new kung fu films are being made, most of these actors are aging. A number of new kung fu films made by these actors shift the focus from real fighting to featuring the ageless kung fu spirit which enables the aging protagonists in the films to go on fighting.
Simultaneously, there are a number of high budget action films with attractive fighting sequences choreographed by seasoned kung fu actors/directors/producers such as Sammo Hung or John Woo and Tsui Hark. The actors are film stars with no professional kung fu training. Rather than showcasing real fighting, there are a ballet of actions augmented by incredible stunts and CGI. These films explore mixing genres, combining the Chinese kung fu elements with Western genres such as detective stories, spy thrillers, or treasure hunters.

Keywords: Cross-cultural Encounters, Chinese Kung Fu Films

International Journal of the Humanities, Volume 9, Issue 6, pp.65-76. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 816.066KB).

Dr. Kay Li

York University, Toronto, Ontario, Canada


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