Releasing masculinity for a more just world: Lessons on how to be water in Hong Kong

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3 Scopus citations


This article develops a feminist reading of the biographical action series featuring Ip Man, the Wing Chun grand master lionized for mentoring Bruce Lee, as a set of culturally inflected practices in order to probe the sociohistorical structure that embeds and overdetermines these productions and allows for new, subversive potentialities. Building upon situated engagement, my analysis traces how the hypermasculine violent yanggang aesthetic tradition takes on new life by reclaiming women's voices in the Ip Man film franchise. I also identify the ways in which this filmic remaking of Ip's life story builds an alternative embodiment that unsettles musculature as the ground of colonialist/nationalist dominance and lays the basis for a new horizon of justice encapsulated by the flexible and elastic Be Water sensibility. As human beings are facing the common threat posed by prevailing toxic masculinity, these lessons, I argue, are crucial for us to find a path through the turbulence and build a more peaceful world.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)683-704
Number of pages22
JournalJournal of Asian Studies
Issue number3
StatePublished - Aug 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The original idea for this project was developed during a graduate seminar on masculinities that I took with Dr. Karen J. Leong at Arizona State University, and I am very grateful for her inspiration. I also want to thank Noah J. Springer, whose professional editorial support was instrumental for me to complete this project, and two anonymous reviewers for their insightful comments and suggestions. This research is supported by the Research and Creative Activities Support Program Grant of the University of Kentucky.

Publisher Copyright:
Copyright © The Association for Asian Studies, Inc. 2021.


  • Be Water philosophy
  • Bruce Lee
  • Hong Kong
  • Ip Man
  • justice
  • masculinity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cultural Studies
  • History


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