Visiting historic martial arts sites in China is an awesome way to soak up some essential kung fu history. So get packing — we’ve got the top 4 travel destinations right here in Foshan, China, where you can see some very cool sites dedicated to the legendary Wong Fei Hung, Ip Man and Bruce Lee.
Foshan, located in Guangzhou province, is steeped in kung fu history. It’s got museums and crazy theme parks chronicling the stories of Hung Gar’s revolutionary leader Wong Fei Hung, Wing Chun’s most famous master Ip Man, and of course Ip man’s most famous student – Bruce Lee.
These experiences will offer beginners an incredible window into Chinese martial arts, and seasoned players will tingle getting close to so many breathtaking artifacts – including vintage weapons and training equipment, stunning sepia photos, faded costumes and rare movie clips. There are also live Kung fu and lion dances – bonus! – and don’t forget to exit through the gift shop.
Yes, it’s confusing – there are actually two different Wong Fei Hung museums in Foshan, located pretty far apart. But we’ve been there, and if you have the time — and are a true Hung Gar fan or student – we recommend both.
Wong Fei Hung (July 9, 1847 – May 24, 1924) was Southern China’s most famous Kungfu folk hero and revolutionary. He was friends with Sun Yat Sen and fought patriotically for the Republic of China. There are dozens of Hong Kong movies chronicling his life, including Jet Li’s One Upon a Time In China series. Besides being the epic master of Hung Gar, Wong was also a famous doctor, acupuncturist and herbalist.
The first stop for both Hung Gar and lion dance fans is a bit off the beaten track, but really worth the effort. The Wong Fei Hung Lion Dance Martial Arts Museum is in Luzhou village on the outskirts of Foshan city. (address: Beishe Main Street, Nanhai District, Foshan 528000, China. +86 757 8689 6989).
Luzhou is Wong Fei Hung’s birthplace, and this center has a folksy charm crafted out of his former residence. It contains a number of interesting exhibits that chronicle Wong’s life and Guangdong history of Hung Gar.
Outside there’s a courtyard with a ginormous lion dance head – it’s irresistible for selfies. It’s also fun to pose with statues of some of the most famous Kung Fu masters, the Ten Tigers of Guangdong. Don’t miss one of the spectacular daily performances of lion dance – this is the modern competition version – with crazy acrobatic, jumps and stunts on high poles.
Then jet into Foshan city proper and head to the Ancestral Temple complex on Zumiao Road. (Zumiao Road, Chancheng District, Foshan 528000 +86 757 8225 3340. You can also take the metro to Zhu Miao station.) Here you’ll find the newer, but bigger and glossier, Wong Fei Hung Memorial Hall (also spelled Huang Feihong). Situated across from some hideous shopping centers, the temple complex is a beautiful place to spend some quality time.
This is a real treasure trove of Wong Fei Hung and Hung Gar memorabilia. You’ll find gorgeous old photos, weapons, art, and a replica of Wong’s famous medical clinic Po Chi Lam with info on Chinese medicine and acupuncture. The exhibits cover Hung Gar kung fu and history, local revolutionary history, and a big multimedia exhibit devoted to Wong Fei Hung movies. It’s all really well curated, and the information on exhibits is detailed.
Outside in the courtyard they offer Kung Fu demos and lion dancing performances several times daily. It’s a bit touristy — but not in a bad way — and there are some colorful shopping stalls there where you can get jade seals made with your name in an hour, Foshan paper cuts, and other nice folk-craft (or plastic crap!) souvenirs.
But wait, there’s more. The Ancestral Temple complex has now also opened the Ip Man Museum – dedicated to Foshan’s other most famous martial artist. Ip Man is the most renowned grandmaster of Wing Chun, (and maybe just as famous for being Bruce Lee’s teacher.)
He too was a hero of the people for his bravery and spirit fighting the Japanese in World War II. Ip Man lived in Foshan until he moved to Hong Kong in 1949; there are lots of HK martial arts films chronicling his story as well, most recently starring Donnie Yen.
Here at the Ip Man Museum you’ll find a super display of photos, artifacts and even a wooden dummy to hit a few times. For real inspiration, don’t miss the video with rare footage of Ip Man hitting the dummy himself.
The complex here also houses the Confucius Temple and the Zumiao Museum which puts on some cool art exhibits. The whole experience is worth a few hours or even a lazy day exploring it all. Or for some simpler nature meditation (and great Instagram photos) just stroll around the lovely ponds, fountains and colorful flowers and trees.
One thing about modern China — it’s always ready to jump on the opportunity to create another mind-boggling tourist attraction if there’s money to be made. When the People’s Republic opened up after Nixon, Mainlanders “discovered” Bruce Lee – who was nowhere near as famous in China as he was in the West.
But kung fu’s biggest brand could hardly be ignored by Foshan promoters – and thus Bruce Lee Paradise – a huge, 3,000-acre theme park in Shunde — pays homage to the Little Dragon. Authentic? Kind of. It claims to be the “ancestral home” of Bruce Lee, but, um, actually his birthplace was San Francisco. (OK, well, his father was from Shunde.)
However it DOES have an awesome selfie backdrop – the World’s Largest Statue of Bruce Lee. Yes. Nearly meters tall, it cost 2 million RMB to create in bronze. Also look for the outsize phoenix statues – which are in the Guinness Book of World Records as the biggest stone-carved phoenix in the world. So random!
For Kung Fu purists there is a decent Bruce Lee Commemorative Museum that offers ever-thrilling fight scene montages from his films and info about Lee’s life. Still, any Millennial worth their salt could likely glean as much from an internet surf on the couch from a thousand miles away.
However, this is a pretty park, perhaps geared a bit more for Chinese tourists who come to enjoy the big lake’s wooden raft rides, some small art museums, a sad display of farm animals (ironically called “happy farm”), and a few bumper cars.
And that said, the nature here is really the big draw and worth the visit — hiking in the pretty mountains and lakes is lovely. The surprise highlight — this Pearl River Delta “paradise” is home to “Egret Island” where thousands of egrets fly at dawn and dusk. This may actually appeal to martial artists who study Crane Style!
Foshan’s about a two-hour drive from Hong Kong. A visit to these unique sites will truly connect you to three of the world’s most beloved heroes of Chinese martial arts — and leave you with a visceral sense of Guangdong’s place in Kung Fu history.