It’s been 46 years since Hong Kong’s most famous son died, leaving behind an unrivalled legacy in the world of martial arts and action movies. Bruce Lee is an icon of the 20th century and one of the first Chinese actors to become a household name in the West, thanks to his seminal performance in the 1973 blockbuster Enter the Dragon, shot on location in Hong Kong.
Yet little is left of the Hong Kong that Lee knew, and fans making the pilgrimage to the star’s hometown are invariably disappointed by the city’s scant memorials to its number one son. After all, Memphis cashes in on the Elvis phenomenon and Liverpool has built an entire tourism industry around the Beatles – but Bruce Lee is all but ignored in his home city. Indeed, the only permanent memorial to Lee is his statue on the Avenue of Stars on the Kowloon waterfront, which re-opened earlier this year.
In truth, Hong Kong is a city that doesn’t concern itself much with the past – it’s far too busy looking to the future – and most sites associated with Lee have been flattened, built upon, or amalgamated into glittering new projects. But there are still some sites worth the pilgrimage, from shooting locations to important places associated with his private life.
While Lee’s childhood home at 218 Nathan Road in Kowloon has been swallowed by a shopping centre, the mansion he lived in at the peak of his fame still exists at 41 Cumberland Road in Kowloon Tong. Yet even this has been neglected. Operating for years as a rooms-by-the-hour love motel, it’s currently undergoing renovation to be re-opened as a Chinese language and music school.
Several shooting locations from Lee’s most famous movie, Enter the Dragon, survive intact – at least for the time being. You can still take a sampan ride in Aberdeen Harbour, just as Lee did before setting sail for the fictional Han’s Island.
The old stone jetty that served as the landing spot on the island is still very recognisable and can be reached by a narrow, gated path between the American Club and the Pacific View Apartments in Tai Tam Bay. Sadly, the tennis courts that staged the epic climactic battles in the movie now lie under the massive Pacific View buildings.
One of the best-preserved filming locations is at Tsing Shan Monastery in Tuen Mun. This was where Lee’s often-quoted ‘finger pointing to the moon’ sequence from Enter the Dragon was filmed, and there are plaques and life-size cardboard cut-outs of Lee to mark the precise location.
Meanwhile, the supposed family grave that Lee visits in the same movie is untouched and stands in the Muslim Cemetery that’s on the uppermost layer of the Hong Kong Cemetery in Happy Valley.
But if you only have time to take in one Bruce Lee site in Hong Kong, make sure it’s the exhibition at the Hong Kong Heritage Museum in Sha Tin. There you can see his training equipment, clothes, diaries, sketches and various artefacts from his movies – including the yellow-and-black jumpsuit from Game of Death. You’ll have to be quick, though: the exhibition is due to close in July 2020. And given that Hong Kong reinvents itself at the speed of a Bruce Lee punch, who knows if there will ever be another