Sha Tin is best known as the home of one of Hong Kong's two racecourses. But otherwise, it's a bit of a cultural desert.
At least, it was until the Hong Kong Heritage Museum threw open its doors.
Notable features include a collection of beautiful Chinese paintings by the acclaimed artist Zhao Shao'ang, as well as a comprehensive and colorful exhibition tracing the development of Cantonese opera.
Hong Kong Heritage Museum is a cultural beacon in Sha Tin District — Photo courtesy of Hong Kong Heritage Museum
Located within a wooded setting just out of view of Sha Tin's towering housing complexes, Hong Kong Heritage Museum is patterned after the traditional si he yuan, a compound of harmoniously blended houses built around a central courtyard.
But people don't just come here for the quaint architecture; the extensive museum is divided into 12 exhibition galleries, each a treasure trove of relics that express the history, culture and arts of early Hong Kong and the nearby South China region.
And now, in collaboration with the Bruce Lee Foundation in the United States, Hong Kong Heritage Museum has organized an exhibition that looks at Bruce Lee as not only a film star and martial artist, but also a cultural phenomenon.
The exhibition has more than 600 invaluable items of Bruce Lee memorabilia provided by local and overseas collectors and organizations.
On one level, there's everything that any Bruce Lee junkie could wish for, like costumes; movie stills and posters; nunchaku; and an especially scary-looking, three-section cudgel.
Old-style TV sets broadcast film clips with Lee uttering his signature war cry that’s somewhere between a yelp and a whoop and a shriek – and nigh impossible to render in print.
And there’s a touching handwritten letter dated January 1969, headed “My Definite Chief Aim,” which declares Lee’s ambition to scale the dizzy heights of Hollywood.
More subtly, a great deal of space is given over to the more cerebral side of Bruce Lee, as well as background information about his pre-kung fu years.
School reports and film of him dancing the cha-cha seem a world away from Enter the Dragon, as does a library of 2,500 books – although only a handful is on display – containing works by the likes of Sophocles and Bertrand Russell.
The exhibition explains that Lee’s poems "express his emotional sensibility towards love, friendship and life," while his correspondence to friends, rather "shared his thoughts on his aspirations, martial arts and life.”
However, it’s a rhetorical question from Bruce Lee himself that really sums up the man behind the all-action hero.
“You know what I want to think of myself? As a human being.”
Visitors will be able to gain a greater insight into Bruce Lee's achievements and contributions, as well as his significance in popular culture, at Hong Kong Heritage Museum.