#Throwback Thursday: Bruce Lee's Seattle Days

Seattle would first serve as Bruce Lee's home away from home and then his final resting place
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Do you know Bruce? The rhetorical question is top of mind this week as the new exhibit titled with that same phrase opened at the Wing Luke Museum of the Asian Pacific American Experience this past Saturday. We all know Bruce Lee as one of the most influential martial artists of his time and if you're into Kung Fu movies, The Way of the Dragon is probably a favorite. Perhaps what is lesser known around the world is that this prominent figure, a man who broke restrictive media stereotypes of Asian Pacific Americans, spent a great deal of his life right here in Seattle. His time in Seattle was challenging and a time of much sacrifice, but was also a time for a great deal of personal growth.

Lee was born in San Francisco and raised in Hong Kong until his teen years. When he was 16, he was trained in a strategy-based and specialized form of martial arts called Wing Chun. At 18, Bruce returned to the states to complete his higher education at Edison Technical School (now Seattle Central College) and then at the University of Washington. Here, he met his future wife, a Seattleite, Linda Emery. 

Seattle was also the place where he launched his first martial arts studio, worked at the legendary Ruby Chow's restaurant on First Hill (the first Chinese restaurant outside of the Chinatown-International District), formed lasting philosophical roots, and ultimately was laid to rest. In honor of Throwback Thursday and the opening of The Wing's newest exhibit, we honor Bruce Lee's legacy with some old pictures and some words from Lee's daughter, Shannon, and his wife, Linda.

"The exhibit is really giving a glimpse into the journey that ended ultimately in what you see on screen in Enter the Dragon, but what started here (in Seattle), in a very simple way," says Shannon Lee. "We want to layer his humanity on top of the celebrity; we want to see that thing we can all understand, and see how sort of amazing he was for a 22-year-old kid. He passed away when he was 32, so he was still very young in terms of what the rest of us try to accomplish in our lives over a much longer time period. But, to see that he had this spark and this depth of self-awareness at such a young age and the amount of work and effort he put into cultivating that into what we all know today as the iconic Bruce Lee...I think it will be amazing for people to encounter that [at The Wing]."

"The family of Bruce is very honored that The Wing is putting on this exhibit of Bruce artifacts on display," says Linda Lee. "What is so meaningful to me is that the life of Wing Luke in some respects parallels what Bruce was doing during his time in Seattle.  Because Wing Luke was fighting against racial profiling, racial discrimination in the early '60s and Bruce Lee was doing the same thing by having friends of all different races and never discriminating against whatever race you were.  I think that it’s so interesting that the Wing Luke and Bruce Lee are coming together, it’s very meaningful."


Lee with Linda Emery, his future wife, in Seattle
PHOTO COURTESY OF WING LUKE MUSEUM OF THE ASIAN PACIFIC AMERICAN EXPERIENCE


Bruce Lee practicing with a Wing Chun wooden dummy
PHOTO COURTESY OF WING LUKE MUSEUM OF THE ASIAN PACIFIC AMERICAN EXPERIENCE


Bruce bundled up for winter weather in Seattle
PHOTO COURTESY OF WING LUKE MUSEUM OF THE ASIAN PACIFIC AMERICAN EXPERIENCE


Bruce Lee with wife, Linda, and two children, Shannon and Brandon, c. 1970
PHOTO COURTESY OF WING LUKE MUSEUM OF THE ASIAN PACIFIC AMERICAN EXPERIENCE


Graves of Bruce Lee and son, Brandon Lee at Lakeview Cemetery, Seattle
PHOTO CREDIT: TONY FISCHER/FLICKR

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