Nationality: Chinese American
Residence: Houston, Texas
Date of Performance/Collection: April 27, 2017
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s): Cantonese
Informant is a Chinese American student at USC from Houston, Texas. Her parents were born in China, but she was raised in the United States. This is a story that she was told when she was younger.
“So, uh, this is one of the stories that my dad used to tell me about when I was younger. It’s about a person called Wong Fei Hung, who was a legendary Chinese martial artist who was born sometime in the late 1800’s. So it was actually a real person haha. But there are many stories about how he was the greatest kung fu martial artist of his time, and had mastered many of the kung fu styles, including one that he had made famous, called the Hung Gar style or something. One of the stories goes that he helped to save parts of China from the Imperial Japanese Army by teaching the local farmers kung fu so that they could fight back, and then leading them against the Japanese troops to save their lands. He’s a pretty big deal in China, so I guess its pretty cool because he was a real person and not just a myth. I’m not sure if all the stories I heard were completely true however.”
Did you ever do kung fu?
“Oh no not me hahaha. But this is a famous story for a lot of Chinese people, so you don’t have to be a kung fu student to have heard of it.”
This is an example of a legend about a person who actually lived in real life and did important things, but the stories told about them may have been exaggerated or made up to make them seem like an even bigger deal. I have also heard about this story from my Vietnamese dad, so it is a very popular tale in Asia.
For another modern version of this story, see the movie Rise of the Legend (2014), a Chinese film on Netflix that tells about the Wong Fei Hung legend and how he rose to fame and saved his town.