[FOUNTAIN]Enter the dragonHe was born by cesarean section on April 7. 1954. His father, Charles Chan, had to borrow money to pay the hospital bill for his birth. Mr. Chan was a chef and his mother was a maid, and the baby was born to poverty. He was named Kong-Sang, meaning “born in Hong Kong.” Every morning, his father woke him up early for kung fu practice. He believed that learning the martial art would teach his son patience, courage and power. When the son turned 7, the family immigrated to Australia to make a better living, but young Kong-Sang was left alone in Hong Kong. Thinking that learning a skill was essential for survival, Mr. Chan put his son into the Chinese Opera Research Institute in Hong Kong.
The institute trained actors for the traditional Peking operas, and there he learned martial arts, stunts, singing and acting. The school offered a very strict curriculum, and when a student made a mistake, teachers would use the rod on him. The young boy endured the harsh program because he had nowhere else to go. When he turned 17 and graduated from the institute, he had a hard time finding a job. By that time, Peking opera was out of fashion, and the institute did not even teach the students how to read. So he went to join his parents in Australia and worked briefly as a construction worker. He was known as “Jackie” thereafter. And finally an opportunity came to him. He did his best whether he got a small acting part or a stunt double, and his performances captured the attention of the Hong Kong film industry. At age 22, he earned a stage name, Sing Lung, meaning “to become a dragon.” The kung fu comedies “Eagle’s Shadow” and “Drunken Master” became huge successes and made him a star.
Mr. Chan’s weapon of choice was always his body. He always sets his watch 15 minutes early. Having withdrawn from regular education in the first grade, his tactic of survival was to move faster than other people. He would personally act out dangerous scenes without stunt doubles. As a result, he once broke his ankle and his arm was cut by a knife. He lost his hearing in one ear, and he broke his nose three times. He even fractured his skull once, and his life was in peril. After struggling and working so desperately, he reportedly accumulated several hundred million U.S. dollars in assets.
A few days ago, Mr. Chan said he would donate half his fortune to charity. He said that he admired the charity efforts of Warren Buffett and Bill Gates. In China, when a boy is born, the parents would pray for the son to become a dragon. Finally, Kong Sang lives up to his name, Lung, a dragon.
by You Sang-chul
The writer is the life and style news director of JoongAng Daily.
More in Columns
A cautionary tale
A government in disarray
China’s thin skin
The Korean War from China’s view
Who’s laughing now?