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Bruce Lee was a Hong Kong and American actor, film director, martial artist, martial arts instructor, philosopher, and founder of the martial art Jeet Kune Do, one of the wushu or kungfu styles. Lee was the son of Cantonese opera star Lee Hoi-chuen. He is widely considered by commentators, critics, media, and other martial artists to be one of the most influential martial artists of all time and a pop culture icon of the 20th century.He is often credited with helping to change the way Asians were presented in American films.
The son of Cantonese opera star Lee Hoi-chuen, Lee was born in the Chinatown area of San Francisco, California, on November 27, 1940, to parents from Hong Kong, and was raised with his family in Kowloon, Hong Kong. He was introduced to the film industry by his father and appeared in several films as a child actor. Lee moved to the United States at the age of 18 to receive his higher education at the University of Washington in Seattle, and it was during this time that he began teaching martial arts. His Hong Kong and Hollywood-produced films elevated the traditional Hong Kong martial arts film to a new level of popularity and acclaim, sparking a surge of interest in Chinese martial arts in the West in the 1970s. The direction and tone of his films dramatically changed and influenced martial arts and martial arts films in the US, Hong Kong, and the rest of the world.
He is noted for his roles in five feature-length martial arts films in the early 1970s: Lo Wei’s The Big Boss (1971) and Fist of Fury (1972); Golden Harvest’s Way of the Dragon (1972), directed and written by Lee; Golden Harvest and Warner Brothers’ Enter the Dragon (1973) and The Game of Death (1978), both directed by Robert Clouse. Lee became an iconic figure known throughout the world, particularly among the Chinese, based upon his portrayal of Chinese nationalism in his films and among Asian Americans for defying stereotypes associated with the emasculated Asian male. He trained in the art of Wing Chun and later combined his other influences from various sources into the spirit of his personal martial arts philosophy, which he dubbed Jeet Kune Do (The Way of the Intercepting Fist). Lee held dual nationality in Hong Kong and the US. He died in Hong Kong on July 20, 1973 at the age of 32, and was buried in Seattle.
Bruce Lee was named by Time magazine as one of the 100 most influential people of the 20th century. In April 2013, he was posthumously awarded the prestigious Founders Award at The Asian Awards.
There are several sites dedicated to Lee around the world:
A 2.5 m (8.2 ft) bronze statue of Lee was unveiled in Hong Kong in 2005, on what would have been his 65th birthday. The day before the Hong Kong statue was dedicated, the city of Mostar in Bosnia and Herzegovina unveiled its own 1.68 m (5.5 ft) bronze statue; supporters of the statue cited Lee as a unifying symbol against the ethnic divisions in the country, which had culminated in the 1992-95 Bosnian War. Another statue of Lee was unveiled in Los Angeles, in the Chinatown neighborhood, on June 15, 2013. It stands at 7 ft (210 cm) tall and was made in Guangzhou, China.
On January 6, 2009, it was announced that Lee’s Hong Kong home (41 Cumberland Road, Kowloon, Hong Kong) would be preserved and transformed into a tourist site by Yu Pang-lin. Yu died in 2015 and this plan did not materialize. In 2018, Yu’s grandson, Pang Chi-ping, said: “We will convert the mansion into a centre for Chinese studies next year, which provides courses like Mandarin and Chinese music for children.”
A theme park dedicated to Lee was built in Jun’an, Guangdong. Mainland Chinese only started watching Bruce Lee films in the 1980s, when videos of classic movies like The Chinese Connection became available. Films like Enter the Dragon and Fists of Fury were banned by Mao as spiritual pollution and rightist sentimentality.
In April 2014, Lee was named a featured character in the video game EA Sports UFC, and is playable in multiple weight classes.