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The Dragon's back

On the 40th anniversary of his untimely death, Bruce Lee finally gets the exhibition he deserves, at the Heritage Museum, writes Vanessa Yung

 

On the 40th anniversary of his untimely death, Bruce Lee finally gets the exhibition he deserves, at the Heritage Museum, writes Vanessa Yung.

Hong Kong's most famous son has returned, in spirit at least, in the form of an exhibition at the Hong Kong Heritage Museum. Scheduled to remain for five years, the 600 items will shed light on Lee's private and public lives for new and old fans alike.

The exhibition opened on July 20, the 40th anniversary of Lee's death in 1973, when he was just 32. It is one of the biggest collections of Bruce Lee artefacts ever assembled, and includes family memorabilia, personal effects, movie collectables and artworks by fans, including a 3.5-metre statue by sculptor Chu Tat-shing.

Silver Cheung Sai-wang, the exhibition's art director, says the venue is designed to reflect Lee's spirit, as well as to engage a younger audience. Cheung says he is a fan who imitated the star's kung fu poses when he was young. Cheung's tribute to the star is a series of videos at the entrance and exit.

The exhibition space is designed with nostalgia in mind, and will take visitors back in time while highlighting Lee's legacy. This is accomplished by using multimedia works, like animator Shannon Ma Fu-keung's 3-D animation of Lee demonstrating his martial arts skills.

A vintage television playing footage of Bruce Lee doing the Cha-Cha takes up a corner of the exhibition space (Lee won a cha-cha competition in 1958). 

Other items include family photos, and a letter to his wife Linda. Film sets, including Enter the Dragon, Fist of Fury and Game of Death are re-imagined and turned into spaces with posters, footage, stills, costumes, and props.

Lee's fight choreography notes for Enter the Dragon and the yellow tracksuit he wore in the unfinished Game of Death are also must-sees.

Other highlights include The Brilliant Life of Bruce Lee, a documentary produced by the Federation of Hong Kong Filmakers in 2009 that has been trimmed to 75 minutes for the exhibition, features interviews with Lee's family, friends and co-stars. Also on display is a replica of Lee's 1969 "Definite Chief Aim" statement that outlined his goal of becoming the "first highest paid Oriental super star in the United States".

Lee's daughter Shannon, chairperson of the Bruce Lee Foundation, which has loaned 400 items to the exhibition, says the item that best illustrates Lee's dedication to his martial arts skills is a miniature tombstone, with the engraving: "In memory of a once fluid man crammed and distorted by the classical mess."

"It's a physical representation of his leaving behind his traditional martial art ... and [being] reborn as a fluid man combating in a free way," says Shannon Lee during a guided media tour.

"He felt that Wing Chun [had] been limiting him, and so he let go and moved on. It marks the start of Jeet Kune Do ... [and shows him as] a true artist," adds Shannon.

A pop-up space featuring other rare items from collectors will change every six months.

vanessa.yung@scmp.com

 

Hong Kong Heritage Museum, 1 Man Lam Rd, Sha Tin, Mon, Wed-Fri, 10am-6pm, Sat, Sun and public holidays, 10am-7pm, closed Tuesdays, HK$10, free on Wed. Inquiries: 2180 8188

 

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