Profile of Gordon Liu

Name: Gordon Liu (born Xian Qixi and also known as Liu Chia-Hui)
Aliases: Master Killer, Hojo
Date of Birth: August 22, 1951 (Year of the Sheep)
Birth sign: Sagittarius
Height: 5’ 9” (1.75m)
Country: Guangdong, China

Here’s a YouTube tribute we found to get started with!

Biography

1970's selfie! The 36th Chamber

1970’s selfie! The 36th Chamber

On the face of it, one would be hard-pressed to recognise the link between arguably one of the greatest kung fu films and one of the most influential hip hop albums, ever made. But if you could and you did, then you would know Gordon Liu as the star of The 36th Chamber of Shaolin and the rest, as they say, is pure semantics.

We begin our tale of a truant seven year-old Gordon, “I was naughty and quite a rebel when I was young,” practising kung fu at the legendary Lau Gar school under renowned Sifu Lau Charn (later to become his godfather), having moved from Guangdong to Hong Kong at a young age. One could say Gordon had landed on his cat-like feet, for his new Master took a liking to the young student and vigorously trained him in the Southern Shaolin martial arts (solid and compact fighting styles with lower and wider stances, a product of the marshy and congested regions of Southern China).

As so often happens in those moments of inexplicable providence, Gordon had walked into a family with a rich tradition of authentic martial arts; Sifu Lau Charn was a disciple of Lam Sai Wing, who in turn was a disciple of the legendary Chinese folk hero Wong Fei Hung who was a master of the Hung Ga Kuen martial arts style (a precursor to Wushu and other kung fu styles, dating back to the mid-1700s). It was here that Gordon learned his craft (specifically Hung Fist as his primary form of Kung Fu), spending years honing his skills that would later appear so effortless on-screen: deep low stances, strong hand techniques and the versatile tiger claw. To give you an idea of the intense training regime, consider that students traditionally spent up to three years in stance training alone!

Cinematic Transition

Tiger stance, Gordon Liu

Tiger stance, Gordon Liu

After a short stint as a shipping clerk, Gordon entered the world of cinema as a stunt man and progressed to martial arts instructor. Working for Shaw Brothers saw Gordon appear in small roles in films such as Shaolin Martial Arts and Five Shaolin Masters; however Liu’s first starring role wasn’t far off.

Several run-of-the-mill films later, now under the direction of the Lau Brothers (sons of Liu’s godfather), saw Gordon shaving his head and step into the shoes of San Te, the iconic role of the Shaolin hero that would see Gordon propelled to the dizzying heights of success and international stardom.

The film owed its success not so much to the display of Shaolin Kung Fu than to the inner workings of the Shaolin Temple, whereby the hero progresses through the chambers as he trains to ultimate victory, and finally establishes the 36th chamber as a place for the common people to learn the arts; according to Gordon, “The reason for creating this character (San Te) was to introduce Shaolin Kung Fu to the common people. By teaching the common people, Shaolin Kung Fu could be propagated.”

And it certainly was; at least on film. Subsequent Liu films incorporated Shaolin in varying degrees, working to a tried and tested formula that never quite emulated the success of 36th Chamber (including several sequels to the aforementioned) but nevertheless ensured Gordon released a tremendous volume of work over the years.

Resurgence

Whilst Gordon was still a fan favourite over the years, and particularly to those who grew up with his movies, fame came a-knocking once more when acclaimed director Quentin Tarantino cast him in the roles of masked, yakuza bodyguard Johnny Mo (still bald!) in Kill Bill, Volume 1, 2003 and white-haired, Kung Fu master Pai Mei in Kill Bill, Volume 2, 2004, thus presenting to a whole new generation of fans, keen to view his earlier works! Of that period, Gordon has this to say: “I had never heard of Quentin Tarantino in the beginning. I had no idea what kind of director he was…This was the first time I worked with a Western director. One of the first things I noticed about Quentin was that he wasn’t a hard-core strict director, but was quite friendly and really enjoys his job, although in my eyes, I do think Quentin can be quite childish!”

The year 2008 saw Gordon make his first ever Indian release when he was invited to co-star alongside Bollywood superstar Akshay Kumar in the blockbuster production Chandni Chowk To China as Hojo, a smuggler, defeated by the eponymous hero but helping Gordon amass a huge Indian fan base in the process, which certainly does the great man no harm.

No, I'm the man! Kill Bill Vol.2

No, I’m the man! Kill Bill Vol.2

August 2011 would see Gordon begin the toughest fight of his life as a major stroke left him completely paralysed on his right side, meaning a long and painful road to recovery. Various health complications, including financial and personal problems, meant the curtains might be closing on a long and illustrious career, but ever the fighter, and with the love and support of his family and friends, Gordon has beaten the odds and bounced back, going on to co-star in the RZA’s (of Wu-Tang Clan fame) The Man with the Iron Fists, 2012, with Oscar-winner Russell Crowe no less!

Few can doubt Gordon’s work ethic, commitment to kung fu and passion for life in general. He is privileged to have worked with some of the biggest names in the movie industry spanning four decades and, barring a relapse, shows no sign of stopping! He is a role-model in the truest sense, able to produce fantastic displays of martial arts but not so self-centred that he can’t parody his own skills and unexpectedly demonstrate an aptitude for comedy. We wish Gordon well for his future projects and health and we at KFK are sure all our readers will agree with us when we say: Gordon, we salute you!

Gordon wisdom

  • “What is kung fu? I believe it is people’s will, not merely the punches and the kicks.” 

Quotes

  • “During my time here with Shaw Studios, I didn’t really consider it as a company. I saw it as a big family. Everyone from different sections of the company worked together happily. When we saw our boss, it was more like seeing a father. He gave all of us plenty of opportunities to learn and create lasting memories.”
  • “I think all the fame that came from “36th Chamber” wasn’t because of me. It resulted from the collective work of the plot, the company and my director’s efforts. I only hoped I did my very best with heart and energy to play the role as expected. I didn’t have any anticipation of getting fame or success from the movie. I remember it was actually a very difficult point in my acting career, because I’m only human, and some of those moves were quite challenging, and I hadn’t mastered them yet.”
  • “Take, for example, the scene from the movie (36th Chamber) where I had to jump into the water. There’s no lesson you can learn beforehand on how to jump in. You just have to have the courage to just do it and jump. I was injured many times throughout the shoot, but never did I tell anyone about it. I only continued with the shoot to the best of my ability as I had a responsibility to finish it so my producer and director had a movie at the end.
  • “The actual story behind “36th Chamber” is a simple plot of how a teenager protests against the Manchurian government and the Ching dynasty, and so he learns Shaolin kung fu. I think people nowadays still appreciate the film because of how genuine it is, from the kung fu performed without any camera tricks, to how there’s logic and philosophy behind learning kung fu and striving to stick up for what you believe in.”
  • “Kung fu movies are part of our culture. In the 1970s, many kung fu heroes were acknowledged and they taught the public not to commit crimes, protect the people, etc. The films weren’t really for entertainment but were more like social lessons. Teens nowadays think heroes mean Spiderman, Superman, Harry Potter, something like that… No Wong Fei Hung kind of hero.”
  • “Kung fu movies from the ’70s relied solely on the actors themselves and their kung fu performances. But in the 21st century that’s not what movies are after. All they care about is the end product, the perfect picture. Personally, I think a combination of genuine kung fu and some special effects will give the perfect result.”

Here’s one last YouTube tribute as we near the end

LINKS

Official Website
Facebook Page

Filmography

YearTitleRole 
19745 Shaolin Masters
1974Shaolin Martial Arts
19754 Assassins
1976Challenge of the MastersWong Fei Hung
19767 Man Army
1976Bloody Avengers
1977He Has Nothing But Kung Fu
1977Executioners From Shaolin
1978Breakout From Oppression
1978The 36th Chamber of ShaolinSan Te
1978Heroes of the EastAh To
1978Shaolin Mantis
1979Fury in the Shaolin Temple
1979Dirty Ho
1979Spiritual Boxer II
1980Clan of the White LotusHong Wen-Ting
1980Return to the 36th Chamber
1980Fists and Guts
1981My Young Auntie
1981Elders
1981Shaolin and Wu Tang
1981Martial ClubWong Fei Hung
1982Raiders of Buddhist Kung Fu
1982The Shaolin Drunken Monk
1982Legendary Weapons of China
1982Treasure Hunters
1982Young Vagabond
1982Cat Vs Rat
1983Lady Is the Boss
1983Crazy Shaolin Disciples
1983Tales of a Eunuch
1983Eight Diagram Pole FighterFifth Yang
1984Shaolin Warrior
1985Disciples of the 36th Chamber
1987My Heart Is That Eternal Rose
1988Legend of the Phoenix
1988Tiger on the Beat
1989A Fiery Family
1989Code of Fortune
1989Avenging Trio
1989Ghost Ballroom
1989Killer Angels
1990Tiger on the Beat II
1990A Bloody Fight
1991China Heat
1992Killing in the Dream
1993Cheetah on Fire
1993Flirting Scholar
1993Deadly China Hero
1993Legend of the Liquid Sword
1993Bogus Cops
1993The Buddhism Palm Strikes BackFor-wan Tse-san
1993The Mystery of the Condor HeroYuen-tsan
1994Drunken Master III
1994American Shaolin
1994Funny Shaolin Kids
1995Lethal Girls 2
1996Journey to the West
1998Journey to the West II
1999Generation Pendragon
1999The Island Tales
2000The Heaven Sword and Dragon SaberSing Kwan
2000The Legend of Lady YangChan Yuen-lai
2001A Step into the Past
2002Drunken Monkey
2003Star RunnerCoach Lau
2003The King of Yesterday and Tomorrow
2003Kill Bill Vol.1Johnny Mo
2004Kill Bill Vol.2Pai Mei
2004Shaolin vs. Evil DeadPak
2005Dragon Squad
2005A Chinese Tall Story
2005Real Kung FuLin Yung
2006Mr. 3 Minutes
2006A Pillow Case of MysterySima Jui-fung
2007Shaolin vs. Dead: Ultimate Power
2007On the First BeatMoon Gei
2008Heroes of Shaolin
2008Best Bet(TV series)
2008DragonlandHimself(Documentary)
2008Chandni Chowk to ChinaHojo
2008True LegendOld sage
2008The Four(TV series)
2009Man in Charge(TV series)
2009Chinese Paladin 3Evil Sword Immortal
2010Hot Summer DaysFai
2010A Pillow Case of Mystery IISi Ma Jeui-fung
2010Links to TemptationLam Chung-pau
2011Relic of an EmissaryYim Chun
2011Curse of the Royal Harem
2011Flying Swords of Dragon Gate
2012NightfallRetired CID officer
2012The Man with the Iron FistsThe Abbott
2012Kill 'Em All (2012 Film)Snakehead
2012Painted Skin: The Resurrection

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Olivier is an enthusiastic film lover of all things martial arts!

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