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Eldest Sister, Phoebe Lee’s impression of Bruce Lee – “Family & Filial Piety Come First"

January 7 2017 at 8:27 AM
LJF  (Login LJF)

Response to Bruce Lee’s 2nd Elder Sister, Agnes Lee’s Roots Search In Shunde (aka Shun Tak)

((Source: Yi Du (aka First Read) dated 26 April 2015, adapted from 2008 Guangdong newspaper))

1) Returned to Shunde during childhood days; favored double layered steamed milk
In 2008, the world largest Bruce Lee’s Memorial Museum was established in Jun’an Town at Shunde of Foshan, Guangdong. Bruce Lee’s eldest sister, Phoebe Lee who is residing in the U.S. now, was invited to the opening ceremony. In her speech at the dinner feast, Phoebe used a phase, “Family and filial piety comes first” to describe her impression on her brother, Bruce.

Bruce was the 4th child among the five siblings. Phoebe (Chau-Yuen) is the eldest, followed by Agnes (Chau-Fung), Peter (Chung-Sum), and the youngest is Robert (Jan-Fai). Their sibling’s relationship was very close and cordial. Phoebe watched Bruce grew up and attained his fame. Bruce’s father, Lee Hoi-Chuen (aka Lee Moon-Chuen) was one of the prominent Four Cantonese Opera Comedians. He bought the whole family back to Shunde’s ancestral house once. Phoebe still remembered clearly about the trip back to the hometown in Shunde. She said, “It was 1945, Bruce was five and I was eight. The whole family returned to Shunde (for about 2 weeks). Our mother, Grace Lee was with us. The little Chinese junk we took was very small and there’s only a small room in the junk. The current of Kum Chuk river (in Shunde) was very swift and rapid, thus, the little junk had to be towed or pulled by men when it’s moving against the current upstream.” Phoebe continued, “Bruce loved to eat Shunde’s famous doubled layered steamed milk (sort of milk pudding), and the bovine liver among the beef organs. At night, we all slept in the ancestral hall and because the children were afraid of darkness and ghost, so, all the siblings and our mother squeezed together in one bed and slept horizontally.

2) Kneeling & bowing from the funeral parlor’s doorstep to father’s coffin
In the eyes of his eldest sister, Bruce though, was quite an impatient person but he had great ambition and perseverance. Phoebe said, “He was especially filial to our parents and he cared a lot about his family. In 1965, our father passed away in HK. Bruce rushed back from the U.S. (Note: he was the last sibling to return on day 6th of his father’s passing and it was just a day before the burial of his father). Upon reaching the Kowloon funeral parlor, he knelt down at the doorstep immediately and bowed his head against the floor while advancing towards our father’s coffin on his knees. (Note: Chinese tradition of showing filial piety) Among all our siblings, he was the only who did that traditional act. He was really upset and wept uncontrollably aloud in front of our father’s coffin.

While mourning sorrowfully, Bruce cried to our late father, “Pa, I’ve achieved success today! Why won’t you bother to take another look at me now?!” His true emotions really touched every relatives and friends in the mourning hall. Phoebe said, “Because back then, when Bruce dropped out from his university and pursued his martial arts career, our father was against this idea and did not support him. Bruce promised that he was going to let father see him realizing his goal and attain success. Unfortunately, father didn’t live to the day when Bruce became famous few years later. In Phoebe’s memory, Bruce always placed his family and filial piety in the first place. She remembered when he was still a kid making Cantonese films in HK, he would always give HK$50 to his elder sister or personally bought her jewelry items whenever he got his pay.

After Bruce went over to the U.S., he would always remit money to his parents and at the same time sent gifts, such as wallet, purse, decoration ornaments etc. to his sisters or brothers. Phoebe said that in Chinese traditional culture, filial piety is of very significant importance. It’s also a tradition of Lee’s family. According to the family’s record, Bruce’s grandfather was a mute but he was very kind-hearted. During a time where all were fleeing from calamity, it was Bruce’s grandmother who carried his grandfather on her back and fled for their lives. Bruce’s father, Lee Hoi Chuen was born in Shunde. At the age of 8, Lee Hoi Chuen already knew how to catch fishes in the river and then sold them in the market. All the money he earned would be given to his mother who would then return a portion back to his son. This good family’s traditional virtues greatly influenced Bruce.

When Phoebe attended the opening ceremony of the Bruce Lee’s Memorial Museum and saw the global influence of Bruce, she commented that she was very excited and almost speechless. She said that if her mother in the heaven, sees Bruce’s today achievement, she would be very, very happy.

Robert and Phoebe: 1)



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  • Phoebe Lee’s Radio Interview on Bruce Lee - LJF on Jan 7, 2017, 8:37 AM
  • Re: Eldest Sister, Phoebe Lee’s impression of Bruce Lee – “Family & Filial Piety Come First" - Chris Richards on Oct 6, 2017, 5:45 AM
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