Jackie Chan was born in Hong Kong on April 7th, 1954. His parents, Charles and Lee-lee Chan named him Chan Kong-sang which means “born in Hong Kong.” Jackie weighed 12 pounds when he was born and his mother required surgery to deliver him. Charles borrowed money from friends to pay for the operation, turning down the doctor’s offer to take the child in payment
Although Jackie’s parents were poor, they had steady jobs at the French embassy in Hong Kong. Charles was a cook and Lee-lee was a housekeeper. Together, the Chan family lived on Victoria Peak in Hong Kong. During his childhood, he suffered from terrible poverty.
When Jackie was young, his father would wake him early in the morning and together they would practice kung fu. Charles Chan believed that learning kung fu would help build Jackie’s character, teaching him patience, strength, and courage.
Chan attended the Nah-Hwa Primary School on Hong Kong Island, where he failed his first year, after which his parents withdrew him from the school. He used to spend his travel money on food and went to home by walk and used to fight on the way with Caucasian kids attending special schools in the area. He was not academically bright, failing to pass Primary 1 as his peers moved on to Primary 3. This was noticed by Charles, who decided to enrol the boy, now 7, at China Drama Academy,a Peking Opera School, operated by Shu Master Yu Jan-Yuen.
Walking in with his dad, Jackie saw tens of kids, between 7 and their early teens, somersaulting and playing with swords and sticks. He recalls that he felt like kids must feel today on entering Disneyland. He would never return to academic education. Though he speaks 7 languages, he still cannot read or write with great proficiency, and has someone else write his scripts for him. He said the hardest thing about acting is speaking in English. Doing stunts are easy for him compared to speaking in English.
He trained rigorously for the next decade, excelling in martial arts and acrobatics. Eventually, Jackie’s mother left too, to join Charles in Australia, Jackie being adopted by the single-minded Master.
During Jackie’s time at the school, he learned martial arts, acrobatics, singing, and acting. The school was meant to prepare boys for a life in the Peking Opera. Chinese opera was very different from any other kind of opera. It included singing, tumbling, and acrobatics as well as martial arts skills and acting. Students at the school were severely disciplined and were beaten if they disobeyed or made mistakes. It was a very harsh and difficult life but Jackie had nowhere else to go, so he stayed. He rarely saw his parents for many years.
While at the China Academy, Jackie made his acting debut at age eight in the Cantonese movie “Seven Little Valiant Fighters: Big and Little Wong Tin Bar.” He later teamed with other opera students in a performance group called “The Seven Little Fortunes.” Fellow actors Sammo Hung and Yuen Biao were also members. Years later the three would work together and become known as The Three Brothers. As Jackie got older he worked as a stuntman and an extra in the Hong Kong film industry.
When Jackie was 17, he graduated from the China Drama Academy. Unfortunately the Chinese opera was no longer very popular, so Jackie and his classmates had to find other work. This was difficult because at the school they were never taught how to read or write. The only work available to them was unskilled labour or stunt work.
Each year many movies were made in Hong Kong and there was always a need for young, strong stuntmen. Jackie was extraordinarily athletic and inventive, and soon gained a reputation for being fearless; Jackie Chan would try anything. Soon he was in demand.
Amidst some difficulty finding stunt work and following some of his early commercial failures in the acting realm, Chan joined his parents in Canberra in 1976. While there he briefly enrolled at Dickson College and worked in construction.
Jackie was very unhappy in Australia. The construction work was difficult and boring. His salvation came in the form of a telegram from a man named Willie Chan. Willie Chan worked in the Hong Kong movie industry and was looking for someone to star in a new movie being made by Lo Wei, a famous Hong Kong producer/director. Willie had seen Jackie at work as a stuntman and had been impressed. Jackie called Willie and they talked. Jackie didn’t know it but Willie would end up becoming his best friend and manager. Soon Jackie was on his way back to Hong Kong to star in “New Fist of Fury.” It was 1976 and Jackie Chan was 21 years old.
Jackie Chan began his film career as a stuntman in the Bruce Lee films Fist of Fury(1972) and Enter the Dragon (1973).
Once Jackie got back to Hong Kong, Willie Chan took control over Jackie’s career. To this day Jackie is quick to point out that he owes his success to Willie. However, the movies that Jackie made for Lo Wei were not very successful. The problem was that Jackie’s talents were not being used properly. It was only when Jackie was able to contribute his own ideas that he became a star. He brought humour to martial arts movies;
his first success was “Snake in Eagle’s Shadow.” This was followed by “Drunken Master” (another blockbuster) and Jackie’s first ever directing job, “Fearless Hyena.” All were big hits.
Chan’s fortunes improved when he began to experiment with comic characterizations. The switch brought a fresh perspective to a genre whose original principles Lee had taken to their limits, and allowed Chan to take advantage of the acting skills he had learned at the opera school.
Following the death of martial arts legend Bruce Lee, the search was on for an actor who could inspire audiences to the same degree; every young martial artist was given a chance. Chan decided that rather than emulating Lee (and thus living forever in his shadow), he would develop his own style of filmmaking. His directorial debut The Young Master (1980) was a milestone in martial arts films, being one of the first to effectively combine comedy with action. This set the tone for many of his future films, which combined slapstick humour with high-energy martial arts action.
In his early career, he was almost cast aside as just another in a long line of failed Next Bruce Lees. In perfecting his craft, he’s broken his nose three times, and also cracked his ankle, most of his fingers, both his cheekbones and his skull (patched together with a steel plate). But finally, after nearly 40 years in the business, he has reached worldwide stardom.
Jackie was becoming a huge success in Asia. Unfortunately, it would be many years before the same could be said of his popularity in America. After a series of lukewarm receptions in the U.S., mostly due to miscasting, Jackie left the States and focused his attention on making movies in Hong Kong. It would be 10 years before he returned to make Rumble in the Bronx, the movie that introduced Jackie to American audiences and secured him a place in their hearts (and their box office). Rumble was followed by the Rush Hour and Shanghai Noon series which put Jackie on the Hollywood A List.
Despite the minimal formal education he received, he was made an honorary doctor of social science of the Hong Kong Baptist University, and an honorary fellow of the Hong Kong Academy of Performing Arts.
Though he could not read or write, Jackie Chan was able to achieve such greatness due to his hard work in his chosen field of martial arts. His innovative efforts in adding a comic touch to martial arts films proved to be a great success.
Quotes of Jackie chan
“ I’m crazy, but I’m not stupid.”
“ I never wanted to be the next Bruce Lee. I just wanted to be the first Jackie Chan.”
“ Do not let circumstances control you. You change your circumstances.”
“ Why do you want to destroy life, when you can make it better?.”
“ Exactly, how can you fill your cup if already full? How can you learn Kung Fu, you already know so much. No Shadow Kick, Buddha Palm! Empty your cup.”
” Don’t try to be like Jackie. There is only one Jackie. Study computers instead.”
“ Great Success comes only with Great ambition”.