Burning Asia: Bruce Lee’s Kinetic Narrative of Decolonization

By M. T. Kato

Modern Chinese Literature and Culture, vol. 17, no. 1, pp. 62-99

This article explores the political significance of Bruce Lee’s artistic expression in the socio-historical context of Asia in the 1970s. As the vanguard of the “kung fu cultural revolution” originated in Hong Kong, Lee’s aesthetics spawned decolonizing imagery and narrative for the Asian masses. Through a critical examination of Lee’s symbolism and choreography, the author attempts to delineate a narrative of liberation in the symbolic realm. The allegorical association of Lee’s kinetic narrative with the struggle of Asian masses for liberation is illuminated by the configuration of the social subject which traverses the symbolic and the real. In particular, the author sees the transcendence of the dialectic of Pan-Chinese nationalism and imperialism in Lee’s kinetic narrative as a metaphorical expression of the evolutionary path of the mass movement in Asia (e.g., Hong Kong, Thailand, Philippines, etc) from subaltern nationalism to democratization. The organic ties thus forged enable one to approach the social subject of decolonization in Asia at the dawn of globalization.