Face to face with Bruce Lee

BY: Daily Graphic

As a young lad growing up in Ghana, I came to know about Bruce Lee and so the name is not unfamiliar to me. Like my age mates, we knew him as the most popular movie actor, director and martial arts expert whose dexterity at Kung Fu was unmatched.

In the 1960s, Bruce Lee captured the screens with his martial arts in movies to the extent that those of us who were children had to do menial jobs to earn some money in order to go and watch Bruce Lee movies. His exploits made most of us believe that all Chinese were experts in Kung Fu.

It was only during a visit to Foshan City in China recently that I became fully aware of who Bruce Lee really was and also admired the great efforts of the Chinese to keep his memory alive, especially among visitors to China.

In the Li Xiaolong Park , various pictures of the movie star had been posted on walls and in some halls to educate visitors about the life and achievements of Lee. 

Standing on a rostrum inside the walled park was a big sculpture of Lee, which attracts thousands of visitors daily. Here, Kunfu Fu demonstrators are on hand to perform some martial arts to entertain visitors.

According to officials of the park, the city authorities decided to establish the park to immortalise Lee who hailed from the area, and also promote Kung Fu.

While hundreds of visitors from China, United States of America, Canada and other parts of the world visit the park daily, the number increases to about 7,000 and sometimes more during public holidays with each visitor paying an entrance fee of RMB 30.00 (about $5).

Lee, whose original name was Lee Jun Fan, was born on November 27, 1940 and died 41 years ago at a prime age of 32. He received the name "Bruce" from a nurse at the hospital where he was born. 

The future star appeared in his first film at the age of three months, when he served as the stand-in for an American baby in Golden Gate Girl (1941).

He appeared in roughly 20 films as a child actor, beginning in 1946 and also studied dance, winning Hong Kong's cha-cha competition, and would become known for his poetry as well.

In 1953, Lee developed his passions into a discipline, studying Kung Fu. He gained a measure of celebrity with his role in the television series, The Green Hornet, which aired in 26 episodes from 1966 to 1967. He went on to make guest appearances in television shows.

Lee died on July 20, 1973, in Hong Kong, at the age 32, just one month before the premiere of his movie, Enter the Dragon . The official cause of his sudden death was a brain edema, found in an autopsy to have been caused by a strange reaction to a prescription painkiller he was reportedly taking for a back injury. 

Controversy surrounded Lee's death from the beginning, as some claimed he had been murdered. There was also the belief that he might have been cursed, a conclusion driven by Lee's obsession with his own early death.