Chen Zhen (traditional Chinese: 陳真; simplified Chinese: 陈真; pinyin: Chén Zhēn; Jyutping: Can4 Zan1) is a fictional character created by Hong Kong writer Ni Kuang. The character first appeared in the 1972 film Fist of Fury and was portrayed by Bruce Lee. Since 1972, Chen Zhen has been the subject of films and television series, including remakes and adaptations of Fist of Fury. Many notable actors have portrayed Chen Zhen on screen after Bruce Lee, including Jet Li and Donnie Yen. Chen Zhen's story varies in the different remakes and adaptations, but almost each has an ending similar to the original Fist of Fury. Chen Zhen is believed to be based on Liu Zhensheng (劉振聲), a real-life student of Huo Yuanjia, a martial artist who lived in the late Qing dynasty.
Chen Zhen is depicted as a student of the martial artist Huo Yuanjia, who founded the Chin Woo Athletic Association (also known as Chin Woo School or Jingwu School) in 1910. After Huo allegedly dies from illness, Chen Zhen discovers that his master was poisoned by their rivals from a Japanese dojo in Hongkou District, Shanghai. He seeks to bring the murderers to justice and embarks on a quest to avenge Huo and revive his master's legacy, the "Jingwu Spirit".
During the premiere of Legend of the Fist: The Return of Chen Zhen in September 2010, reporters asked Donnie Yen on how different his character was in comparison to the earlier versions of Chen Zhen. Yen replied that there were significant differences, and gave his definition of the character – "Chen Zhen is Bruce Lee." He said that Chen Zhen's image was crafted by Lee in Fist of Fury (1972) and further explained that certain features of his character were inherited from Lee's, such as the white Mao suit and the use of nunchaku. However, there were differences in movements and overall character design between his Chen Zhen and Lee's. Since Legend of the Fist: The Return of Chen Zhen pays tribute to Bruce Lee, Yen decided to retain the white Mao suit and the use of nunchaku in the final dojo fight scene, in addition to repeating Chen Zhen's famous line, "The Chinese are not sick men of East Asia!".
Appearances in media
Note: There are many remakes and sequels that are not possible to list here.
Fist of Fury (精武門), a 1972 film starring Bruce Lee as Chen Zhen. This was the first appearance of Chen Zhen on screen.
New Fist of Fury (新精武門), a 1976 sequel to Fist of Fury. In this film, Chen Zhen's fiancée (played by Nora Miao) meets a young Taiwanese boy, Lung (played by Jackie Chan), who will become Chen Zhen's successor.
Fist of Legend (精武英雄), a 1994 loose remake of Fist of Fury, starring Jet Li as Chen Zhen. In the film, Chen Zhen fought to salvage Jingwu School's reputation after Huo Yuanjia's death. He defeated a Japanese general responsible for his master's death and escaped from Shanghai.
Hero Youngster (少年陳真), a 2004 film starring Tsui Siu-lung as a young Chen Zhen. In this film, Chen Zhen rescues a Manchu princess, starting an adventure in which he helps the princess and a Chinese resistance fighter (played by Yuen Biao) defend China from Japanese invaders.
Legend of the Fist: The Return of Chen Zhen (精武風雲 - 陳真), a 2010 film starring Donnie Yen as Chen Zhen. In this film, after killing Huo Yuanjia's murderers, Chen Zhen leaves China to help the Allies fight the Germans in France during World War I. He returns to China after the war and joins an underground resistance movement in Shanghai to stop the Japanese from invading China.
The Fist (陳真), a 1982 sequel to The Legendary Fok. Bruce Leung reprised his role as Chen Zhen with a new storyline. This ATV production co-starred Candice Yu, Lau Wai-man, Choi King-fai and Bill Tung. In this series, Chen Zhen becomes a wanted criminal after avenging Huo Yuanjia. With assistance from the mayor of Shanghai, he escapes by faking his own death, moves to Beijing with Huo's son, and leads a reclusive life under a new name. Chen's identity is eventually revealed when he comes into conflict later with the Japanese official Sato. His life is placed in danger but it also ignites his nationalist fervor. While Sato plans his revenge, Chen resolves to reopen Huo Yuanjia's Chin Woo Athletic Association to spread the Chin Woo spirit, his late master's legacy.
Fist of Fury (精武門), a 1995 television series based on the 1972 film of the same title, produced by ATV and starring Donnie Yen as Chen Zhen. Yen has become synonymous with his role in other regions outside of Hong Kong with significant Chinese populations, such as Taiwan and mainland China.
Chen Zhen (陳真後傳), a 2001 Chinese television series that tells the story of Chen Zhen after Huo Yuanjia's death. Bruce Leung played Chen Zhen. The supporting cast includes He Qing, Ding Haifeng, Chen Baoguo, Shen Junyi and Jin Qiaoqiao.
Huo Yuanjia (霍元甲), a 2001 Chinese television series loosely based on Huo Yuanjia's life, with Chen Zhen's story as a subplot. Vincent Zhao played Huo Yuanjia and Wu Yue played Chen Zhen.
Huo Yuanjia (霍元甲), a 2008 remake of The Legendary Fok. Ekin Cheng played Huo Yuanjia and Jordan Chan played Chen Zhen. The fight scene in the last episode and the ending are reminiscent of Fist of Fury and the earlier adaptations.
Jingwu Chen Zhen (精武陳真), a 2008 sequel to Huo Yuanjia. Jordan Chan reprised his role as Chen Zhen.
Cheng Chao-an, a character portrayed by Bruce Lee in The Big Boss (1971)
^Chen Zhen learns karate during his overseas studies in Japan in Huo Yuanjia (2001).
^Huo Yuanjia teaches Chen Zhen the Mizong Fist in most of the adaptations, especially television series. In Fist of Legend, Huo Yuanjia's son, Huo Ting'en, teaches Chen Zhen the skill.
^Chen Zhen uses a nunchaku in Fist of Fury and many other remakes. In Fist of Legend, however, he uses an ordinary leather belt as if it were a nunchaku, rather than the weapon itself.