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Revealing Bruce Lee's secrets

  • Source: Global Times
  • [09:13 November 26 2010]
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Bruce Lee as he appears in a California wax museum. Photo: AFP

By Chen Xiaoru

Everyone knows Bruce Lee, the world's most famous martial arts practitioner and eternal film star. But not everyone knows about Bruce Lee, the expert cha-cha dancer, the aggressive street fighter, the man who had more than one girlfriend at a time. Some of the secrets of Lee's private life are being revealed at a gallery in the Yonghua Cinema City in Xujiahui.

Tomorrow is Bruce Lee's 70th birthday. To celebrate it and promote the new film Bruce Lee, My Brother, 44 rare candid photographs have been selected and authorized by the Lee family to go on display for the first time on the Chinese mainland.

A special guest at the opening of the exhibition was Bruce Lee's youngest brother Robert Lee who brought some special memories. "I recall the time that my brother and I attended a cha-cha competition. It was fun. Lee had a few girlfriends at that time, and he did not want to upset them by choosing just one to accompany him to the contest. But he was determined to take part because he loved cha-cha dancing, so he asked me to be his partner."

The curious combination of an 18-year-old Bruce Lee, and a diminutive 15-year-old younger brother won first prize at the 1958 Hong Kong Cha-Cha Dancing Open Tournament after the two had practiced every day for three months. And that moment with Lee and his younger brother dancing together in ballroom dance attire is one of the priceless moments on show at this exhibition.

Two special girls feature in Lee's pictures. They were both rumored to be Lee's girlfriends before he went to live in the US. One is Wen Nü, his qing mei zhu ma, or childhood sweetheart. Both their fathers were Cantonese Opera stars. Lee and Wen grew up together and developed a close friendship. When Lee appeared in a 1957 film called Tian Jie'er, or Sweet Girl, he featured in a scene where he dances with Wen.

However Lee's parents had their eyes on another girl, Cao Ming'er, and wanted the two to marry. But after Lee went to the US, they lost contact with each other, Robert Lee said.

According to his young brother Robert, Lee was very popular among girls and always had more than two girlfriends at a time. "How could my elder brother have two girlfriends at a time? He was very handsome and knew how to communicate with girls. He never formed a special attachment to a single one, because he did not want to upset the others," Robert Lee said.

Lee inherited his performing talents from his father, Lee Hoi-chuen, a leading Cantonese Opera actor and film actor of the day. The exhibition includes a photograph of the newly born Lee and his father. Lee's father has just stuck the artificial mustache and eyebrows he used in a traditional opera performance onto the baby's face.

Lee started his acting career early when he appeared in the 1941 film Golden Gate Girl when he was only a few months old.

Lee's father taught the very young Lee taijiquan (tai chi). "Lee's father practiced taijiquan because traditional opera performers needed to be trained in martial arts to perform," said one of the organizers of the exhibition surnamed Ping.

Lee started his professional martial arts training when he met Yip Man who became the artist's biggest influence. Lee began training under Yip Man in 1954 when he was 13 learning the wing chun martial arts form (and you can see them both together here as well). This helped Lee later develop his own martial arts style, jeet kune do.

Lee did not originally take up martial arts out of interest.

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