Saturday, February 17, 2018

Kwan Tak Hing

Have you heard of Kwan Tak Hing?  With the new Marvel movie "Black Panther" coming out this week and all its hype and acclaim of being a black superhero movie,  there was a time when Wong Fei Hung and Kwan Tak Hing were superhero household names for us Chinese kids.  Who are they?

Since its New Year for us of Chinese decent, I thought it might be fun to look back and see what growing up Chinese was like for us as kids.  I was a kid of immigrant parents, living in an ethnic enclave known as San Francisco Chinatown.  Four of us lived in a single room apartment until we were accepted to live in a government housing 'project'.  As kids, we had very little of anything material, but we did have fun and our own ways of entertaining ourselves.  I remember that for twenty-five cents, we could go to the movie houses that screened Chinese movies and hang out all day.  Mostly, we were bored with the typical movies being shown, but often the theater would screen "Wong Fei Hung" movies.

This is a controversial photo of Wong Fei Hung as
there are no confirmed photos of him

Wong Fei Hung was our Chinese Superhero and he was a real person.  A master of Kung Fu and a doctor, he was the predecessor to Bruce Lee for a whole generation of Chinese kids.  He was masterfully portrayed by Sifu Kwan Tak Hing for over 100 movies.  We would go to these movies and stay all day watching the movies over and over again, waiting for the fight scenes.  Most of the movies were black and white back then and were in Cantonese, but we got a lot from them in terms of entertainment, language skills, moral lessons, and cultural pride.  Outside of the few who remember him, Sifu Kwan Tak Hing is not given enough credit for his acting.  Actors like Jet Li, Jackie Chan, and Gordon Liu who did their own versions of Wong Fei Hung are ones who are most usually associated with Wong Fei Hung.  What makes the movies of Kwan Tak Hing different was the moral lesson that after Wong Fei Hung defeated his mortal enemies, he would heal them when possible to show them the error of their ways.  

Fortunately, YouTube has brought some of the Gwan Tak Hing moves back for me to see and remember.  You can see in a few of these clips that Sifu Gwan Tak Hing was quite remarkable and highly skilled.  Remember, they did not have a lot of gadgets and special effects so a lot of what he is doing is real.  He was the real-life "Black Panther" style hero for us Chinese kids and I'm sure shaped the lives of many in my age group.

Enjoy some of these scenes (with English subtitles)

Sifu Kwan Tak Hing died quietly in Hong Kong in 1969 at age 91!

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