The “Legend of Kung Fu – Return of the Dragon”, first showed in May, 2004 at the Red Theatre in Beijing, drawing a record of 4,401 performances in Beijing alone and 1,218 performances in countries throughout the world and entertaining over 3.8 million audiences.
By Edmund Smith-Asante, BEIJING, CHINA
Everyone on stage was Kung Fu fighting. It was at some points exciting but at other times it was a little frightening.
A female colleague who sat next to me clutched firmly onto my right arm during some of the frightening scenes, shutting tight her eye lids so she would not have to watch what she envisaged was going to be a bloody scene.
A team of African and Asian journalists in China on a media exchange programme were at the Red Theatre in Beijing to watch “Chun Yi -The Legend of Kung Fu” and what a treat it was!
How true the words of the popular award-winning disco single “Everybody was Kung Fu fighting” produced by Biddu and released by Carl Douglas in 1974, which went on to sell about 11 million copies and topped both the British and American music charts.
Mr. Douglas must have watched the Chinese martial arts to have described it so perfectly in the single.
I couldn’t help replaying that popular track with which we danced the bumps back in the days of the ‘70s ‘when we were we’.
“Everybody was kung-fu fighting
Those cats were fast as lightning
In fact it was a little bit frightening
But they fought with expert timing…”
In fact during those times if you took a dance partner who had a bony or stronger waist you risked a dislocation of your waist at a bump.
The visions I had of China before arriving in the country finally became reality. The drums sounded, the guttural sound of the trumpet was heard and the gong was beaten by the mallet, giving out that sonorous metallic sound, to signify the commencement of a fight as seen in movies.
It all felt as if we were watching one of those Chinese movies that were popular with us as children in the 1970s and 1980s such as “Snake in the Monkey’s Shadow”, “Enter the Dragon”, “Snake in the Eagle’s Shadow”, “Young Master”, “Fist of Fury” and “Drunken Master” among a host of other movies which starred popular actors such as Bruce Lee and Jackie Chan.
I remembered some of the names we gave to the protagonists and antagonists in those films we watched as children and youth. Names like “Guy Jesus” and “Killer Asra”.
The unmistakable unassuming master with the white long beard who could not be joked with was also on stage and we could feel we were watching a movie but we were at the same time part of that movie – only we were spectators.
The actors performed some deft moves which were sometimes beautifully choreographed in the many scenes that unfolded before us, as the legend was recounted to a little boy by one of the two masters who were part of the cast.
They used implements associated with martial arts – sticks, knives, spears, swords and shields and other sharp instruments and the stage props were excellent. At a point the actors mimicked the animals that were beamed on the props as they fought.
There was the leopard, the duck, mantis, snake, scorpion and the monkey among other animal styles which the actors performed excellently, drawing appreciation and sometimes laughter from the audience.
According to the legend as recounted, Chun Yi was a little boy who was taken to the master by her mother to understudy him but he was afraid to go. The reason he gave later was that he was afraid he would not be able to please the master.
After much insistence he finally agreed to go and he learnt the art of self defense. But somewhere along the line he thought he had become very strong and so nothing could harm him, but he was wrong as he became overpowered by lustful desires.
The moral of the story is that everyone needs to overcome his or her fears and that no-one must ever think that he or she is so strong because “when you are strong then you are weak.”
It also taught that one must not fear to go back to the things that are proper and makes him or her worthy or a strong person. In the case of Chun Yi, it was the beating of a wooden object that enabled him to stay focused and not stray from his purpose.
Kung Fu is not for violence or aggression but an art for self defense and it is practiced by warriors of peace (monks), who focus not only on themselves but on every other aspect of nature, the narrator said.
It was visibly a refreshing night for the journalists who could not hide their thrill of watching kung fu in action as they identified with it. The reception of the performance also showed that kung fu was a Chinese art that had been very well marketed. What art form can Ghana also market very well to the global community?
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The Legend of Kung Fu is the only Chinese show that holds daily residential performances both in China and abroad.
Since July of 2010, the show has simultaneously been performed daily at the Red Theatre in Beijing and the White House Theatre in Branson, MO, a newly purchased theatre of China Heaven Creation International Performing Arts Co., Ltd (CHC), a company based in Beijing which created the show, thus becoming it the most famous Chinese brand production in the international commercial show market.
This story was written on April 4, 2017