Bruce Lee. /Photo via brucelee.com
There is no doubt the world is still experiencing surges of kung fu craze fueled by Bruce Lee, one of the greatest movie star and cultural icon, even after the 77th anniversary of his birth on Monday.
Born in San Francisco in 1940, Bruce Lee spent most of his childhood growing up in Hong Kong. It was the martial art that shaped his future, propelling him down a path to super movie stardom, martial arts fame, and legendary life story and philosophy that lately inspire millions upon millions of people nowadays – even 44 years after his death.<
A 7.6-foot-tall bronze statue of martial arts star Bruce Lee in Los Angeles' Chinatown. /Xinhua Photo
Penetrating kung fu craze into the West
Lee is worldwide renowned as the martial artist who really started the kung fu craze around the world and has elevated the kung fu film genre to a new level of popularity and acclaim, sparking a surge of interest in Chinese kung fu in the West in the 1970s. Lee's first major role in the 1971 film "The Big Boss" instantly propelled him to stardom across Asia. Later, Lee exploded in popularity in Hollywood via his remarkable performance in Warner Brothers' Enter the Dragon (1973). In 1993, Lee honored with a star on Hollywood Walk of Fame.
Foundation named after Bruce Lee was founded in 2002, aiming to provide financial assistance to students and families within the US, as well as encourage people to strive for honest self-expression in alignment with their mind, body, and spirit.
Nowadays, the most-viewed video on Youtube about Lee has received more than 75 million hits. People are still willing to see films and documentaries about his legendary martial expressions, wonder about his mysterious death and imitates his martial art movements. After all these years, Lee's spirit is still inspiring the generations: to bridge culture gaps across countries via the promotion of Chinese kung fu.<
Fans of legendary kung fu movie star Bruce Lee perform in the World Expo Park in Shanghai, east China. /Xinhua Photo
A global calling card of China: Kung fu
Of those films that perform reasonably well overseas, kung fu genre movies definitely rule. This year's Ugandan film "Bruce U" inspired by legendary Bruce Lee, had taken the country's box office by storm. Also evidently, one of the most commercially successful Chinese films overseas is "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon," with 128 million US dollars in box-office receipts from the North American region alone.
The kung fu movies have succeeded in breaking down national, cultural, and linguistic barriers as well. For example, the animated movie franchise "Kung Fu Panda" harmoniously bringing the Chinese cultural setting to the tune of American humor, has delivered universal entertainment over the past 10 years.
But Chinese kung fu is more than the "action-packed" portrayal seen in movies – it has penetrated into people's daily lives. As one of the earliest and longest lasting sports, kung fu is different from boxing or weapon skills and some sighting stunts as it advocates virtue and peace, instead of aggression and violence.
Just as Bruce Lee said, "Kung fu is practiced not just to smash stones or wood boards, but to have an impact on our thinking and way of life." Kung fu styles including Shaolin, Tai Chi, and Qigong have many followers worldwide.
The 7th World Kungfu Championship was held in early November in the city of Emeishan in southwest China's Sichuan Province, with more than 2,400 Chinese and 1,400 overseas competitors from 56 countries and regions, joining into the annual "Martial Arts Olympics."
Thanks to Bruce Lee, Chinese Kung fu nowadays has been enjoying a drastic increase in popularity worldwide riding upon the wave of Chinese culture craze.