Legend of Shaolin Kungfu 

With the incredible success of the truly realistic kungfu series Legend of Shaolin Kungfu 1 in not just China, but also Japan, not only has Fuji TV continued to acquire the Japan rights to Legend of Shaolin Kungfu 2: Thirteen Cudgel Monks, but is also co-producing Legend of Shaolin Kungfu 3: Story of Xilu, that is scheduled for production sometime in July, announces director Du Xiao at a press conference on June 29, attended by the cast Yuen Biao, Ji Chun hua, Li Yuan, Xie Miao, Sun Hui Ning, etc.

Meanwhile, Legend of Shaolin Kungfu 2, which just debuted in Beijing, will be airing over Henan, Shandong, Chongqing, and Zhejiang Satelitte TVs on July 6.

Yuen Biao, who is currently doing 《下南洋》 Heading to Southeast Asia, starring Tong Da Wei, Eva Huang Shengyi, Tong Lei, Zhang Mo, Wu Ma, a 40 part series about the hectic lives of Chinese immigrants in Southeastern part of Asia in the early 1900s, says that there are very few productions with authentic martial arts sequences these days, with over reliance on special effecfs. But as Legend of Shaolin Kungfu 2 woos the audience with real kungfu, he was very glad to have accepted this work and thoroughly enjoyed being on the set. He gets to fight from the beginning to the end, spending 120 days on action scenes alone, and would get injured at times. Playing the head monk of martial arts skilled in Iron Robe, Yuen Biao was blocking a blade with his bare palm when he somehow got cut, and had 4 stitches.

Du Xiao says emphatically that Legend of Shaolin Kungfu franchise is a kungfu production, where everything is more realistic, with some true to life events as the basis, while wuxia is more romantic, with more fantasies. He hopes to spur the new age of kungfu productions.

Being on a bigger scale, Thirteen Cudgel Monks has several highly epic battle scenes involving large sets and numerous extras. It also features a bigger variety of martial arts styles, courtesy of its two teams of martial arts choreographers, one led by Yuen Bun, another by Ching Siu Tung’s protégé Li Cai, and they were often competing to do better than the other.

Ji Chun Hua, 48, laments, “Having been training in martial arts for ages, I may look tough, strong and formidable but on this work, I was starting to get worried. I did every fight scenes personally, initially, I thought I was still like the youngsters, but during a fight scene, I was struck by pain in the chest. It was then that I realised I was getting on in years. However, I still encourage these youngsters to perform their own stunts rather than relying on doubles, for this is a good form of training.”

Having been playing the villain for most of time, Ji Chun Hua hopes that some day, he would get to play a Shaolin abbot.

Legend of Shaolin Kungfu 3: Story of Xilu will be filmed in western parts of China. The script will carry even more inscrutability and novelty in terms of storytelling, while the Shaolin monks will be taking up even greater responsibilities. It will continue to blend the inner cultivation of kungfu with the Buddhist studies. The original cast members are expected to return, while a few unannounced celebs, possibly with some from Japan, will be joining too.

Hopefully, in the Story of Xilu, they will address some flaws in Thirteen Cudgel Monks, the biggest issue of which is the jarring editing that keeps switching between different scenes after barely a few lines of dialogues. And hopefully, it will finally strike a balance between the first two, where in the first, the master is all talk and no action, while in the second, there is too much focus on the master, rather than giving more chances to the younger martial arts stars to shine, especially towards the end, when the baton should have long been passed on. And may there be better account of the progression of the level of their martial arts skills and more extended training scenes.

In the meantime, Li Yuan is doing another TV series, 《风起第一关》 Feng Qi Di Yi Guan, by director Li Wen Qi, that revolves around a major war at Dashi River, Shanhai Pass in 1644. Playing a brigand chief Black Dragon who is sincere, aggressive, cheeky, arrogant, and has plenty of romantic scenes, Li Yuan will have more drama scenes compared to action. Li Qi Wen told him, “Li Yuan, everyone knows that you fight well. But on this work, I hope that you will have a breakthrough in acting.”  Dongfang Today, QQ 


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