When two dragons fatefully met on the Hong Kong ferry

By Cynthia Ning

It was a clear and sunny day in Hong Kong as Yuk Hung Ning set out on his usual route to work. Whispers and silent onlookers gazed at a familiar figure sitting by himself near the bow, it was Bruce Lee.

A young man at the time with confidence through the roof, Yuk Hung approached the icon with a friendly hello and smile. Bruce Lee warmly returned his greeting and offered the seat next to him, chatting throughout the journey until they parted ways. Yuk Hung recalls their encounter fondly.

“This was in 1972, I was around 20 years old and he was just in his thirties,” said Ning.

“Bruce Lee was around my height, maybe just a little bit taller, and was wearing everyday clothing when we met. It’s only when he takes his shirt off that you can see his muscles. He was very friendly, and we had a pleasant chat.”

Although he was now one of the most recognised people globally with his newly found fame, he still caught public transport, wore casual clothing and carried himself with a gentle yet undeniable radiating presence.

Yuk Hung said that he loved Bruce Lee’s style.

“Before, the kung fu stunts were very exaggerated and looked acted out. Whilst Bruce Lee did real kung fu which he made world famous through his film and television work.”

Lee trained under grandmaster Yip Man learning Wing Chun and pursued an acting career after his studies in Seattle, landing a co-starring role as Kato in The Green Hornet (1966).

Yuk Hung remembers watching and enjoying the show in Hong Kong.

“Yes, but because of the Western storyline and English dialogue, it was difficult for me and other locals to understand the plot,” he said. “Bruce Lee was also always wearing a mask, so no-one recognised him.”

A rising Hollywood star, Lee returned to Hong Kong to create local films with a mostly American cast and crew showcasing his talent and immortalised his legacy in Enter The Dragon (1973).

Bruce Lee made five feature-length films before his untimely passing in 1973. His work has paved the way for many Asian artists in Hong Kong and Hollywood over the decades and continues to do so as a philosopher and martial arts legend on screen.

Featured image: Yuk Hung Ning standing next to his friend Bruce Lee in Kogarah. Photo: Cynthia Ning

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