Gordon Liu

Gordon Liu (Lau Kar-fai simplified Chinese: 刘家辉; traditional Chinese: 劉家輝; pinyin: Liú Jiāhuī; Wade–Giles: Liu Chia-hui; Jyutping: Lau4 Gaa1 fai1); born Sin Kam-hei (simplified Chinese: 冼锦熙; traditional Chinese: 冼錦熙; pinyin: Xiǎn Jǐnxī) August 22, 1951) is a Chinese martial arts film actor and martial artist. He became famous for playing the lead role of San Te in The 36th Chamber of Shaolin (1978) and its sequels. He later became known for his two roles in Quentin Tarantino's Kill Bill films: Johnny Mo, the leader of the Crazy 88 Yakuza gang in Volume 1 (2003); and kung fu master Pai Mei in Volume 2 (2004).

Gordon Liu
Sin Kam-hei (simplified Chinese: 冼锦熙; traditional Chinese: 冼錦熙; pinyin: Xiǎn Jǐnxī)

(1951-08-22) August 22, 1951
OccupationActor, martial artist
Years active19732011
Ma Fei-feng
(m. 1991; div. 2009)
  • Angie Liu (daughter), with first wife
  • Bonnie Liu (daughter), with first wife
  • Kris Liu (son), with Ma Fei-feng
  • Sonia Liu (daughter), with Ma Fei-feng
Chinese name
Traditional Chinese劉家輝
Simplified Chinese刘家辉

Early life

He was born Sin Kam-hei in Guangdong Province, China in August 22, 1951,[1] prior to his adoption into another family.[2] Liu is often wrongly cited as being the adopted son of Lau Cham, and adoptive brother of famed directors / actors Lau Kar-leung (Liu Chia-liang) and Lau Kar-wing (Liu Chia-Yung). In fact, he was not adopted by the Lau brothers' family, he is actually just Lau Cham's godson.[3]

In his youth, he skipped school to train in Chinese martial arts without his parents' knowledge. He trained at Lau Cham's martial arts school of Hung Gar discipline, which descended from Wong Fei-hung's grand student (father to Lau Kar Leung). Lau Cham's wife assisted in his training and due to the friendship and respect he felt for his sifu (master/teacher) and his wife, he took on the name Lau Ka-fai. As he grew up, he found a job as a shipping clerk to make ends meet. His interests had always been towards martial arts and he was eventually offered a role by Lau Kar-leung.


Liu’s first break was with Chang's Film Company (a Shaw Brothers subsidiary operating in Taiwan) acting small parts for such films as 5 Shaolin Masters, Shaolin Martial Arts, and 4 Assassins. He starred in Challenge of the Masters (1976), as the folk hero Wong Fei Hung, and was featured in Executioners From Shaolin (1977) before starring in his signature role as Shaolin hero San Te in The 36th Chamber of Shaolin.

The tale of the imperialistic struggle, while not a new one, was significant for the intense focus placed on the inner workings of Shaolin Temple itself. San Te, Liu’s character, overcomes the temple's thirty-five chambers as he unwittingly undergoes the rigorous training regime imposed by the temple’s Head Abbott on the pretext of “earning” a right to study martial arts there.

The “zero-to-hero” tale turned Liu into an international icon in spite of a frame far slighter than that of the folk hero himself (known as “Iron Arms” for the muscularity of his physique) and paved the way for a very healthy working schedule into the mid-1990s, even as younger, more agile martial artists eventually emerged. By the late 1980s he had begun accepting smaller roles such as in Lau Kar-leung's Tiger on the Beat.

Liu has also been active in television, and was contracted to Hong Kong's TVB company for many years, continuing playing roles as a martial arts master. Though still performing some martial arts roles, he is at home as well in comedic, self-deprecatory or emotional characters. His second-most common role in TVB has been playing a Hong Kong Police Force officer.

Quentin Tarantino has long been a fan of Liu, and had one day hoped to find him a role in one of his movies. This eventually came to pass with the roles of Johnny Mo and Master Pai Mei in both Kill Bill films (incidentally, in one version of the script for the second film, Liu's lips would be speaking Cantonese while his voice, dubbed by Tarantino, would be in English — imitating a bad dub job). His roles in Kill Bill raised Liu's profile again and a renewed interest was shown by Chinese producers; since Kill Bill, Liu has returned to doing movies while continuing to do television for Hong Kong's TVB station.

In 2008, Liu added a Bollywood film to his profile. Collaborating with Indian actor Akshay Kumar who is a top-billed Bollywood actor and also a martial arts performer in a film titled Chandni Chowk To China (CC2C). He played the role of the villain, Hojo, a smuggler and a well-trained martial artist. Before this, he appeared as himself (along with his mentor Lau Kar Leung) in the 2009 film Dragonland, the first Italian documentary about martial cinema history, by Lorenzo De Luca. Liu attended as special guest star at the premiere in Rome, meeting his Italian fans for the first time. During August 2011, Liu had a stroke and put all his plans on hold to recover. Liu had cancelled all public engagements as of March 2012.[4]

Personal life

Liu has been married twice. He has two daughters, Angie and Bonnie, from his first marriage which ended in 1986, and a son Kris (冼峻龙) and daughter Sonia (冼咏珊) from his second marriage with Ma Fei-feng (马飞凤) of Thai-descent which ended in 2009.[5]

In August 2011, while in To Kwa Wan performing with his band, Liu had a stroke and hit his head. He had partial right-sided paralysis and a speech impairment as a consequence of the stroke; he talks with a slur and needs a wheelchair to travel. To complicate matters, his estranged family (from his second marriage) had begun pressuring him for money. Depressed at his physical state and family complications, he isolated himself in a nursing home. In June 2012, Liu decided to divorce his second wife and focus on his recovery.[6]

During his medical crisis, Liu entrusted his assets to his assistant and spokesperson, Eva Fung. However, the two had a falling out, and Fung refused to return his assets. Because of the mounting medical expenses, Gordon's finances were thin and needed the remainder of his assets to sustain him.[7] Liu attempted to settle the matter in court against Fung. She reluctantly accepted the subpoena. By April 29, 2014, just a day before the court date, Fung agreed to return Liu's assets with interest. Subsequently, Liu arranged for actress Amy Fan to become the legal guardian of his assets; Fan has assisted Liu with managing his affairs as he has physical limitations because of his health.[8] In 2015, it was reported that he no longer spoke with a slur but continued to use a wheelchair, and that he had resided at a nursing home for several years.[9]


Year Title Role Notes
19745 Shaolin Masters
Shaolin Martial Arts
19754 Assassins
The Monk
1976Challenge of the MastersWong Fei-hung
7-Man Army
Bloody Avengers
1977He Has Nothing But Kung Fu
Executioners From Shaolin
1978Breakout from Oppression
The 36th Chamber of ShaolinSan Te
Heroes of the EastAh To
Shaolin Mantis
1979Fury in The Shaolin Temple
Dirty Ho
Spiritual Boxer II
1980Clan of the White LotusHong Wen-Ting
Return to the 36th Chamber
Fists and Guts
1981My Young Auntie
Shaolin and Wu Tang
Martial ClubWong Fei-hung
1982Raiders of Buddhist Kung Fu
The Shaolin Drunken Monk
Legendary Weapons of China
Treasure Hunters
Young Vagabond
Cat vs Rat
1983Lady Is the Boss
Crazy Shaolin Disciples
Tales of a Eunuch
Eight Diagram Pole FighterFifth Yang
1984Shaolin Warrior
1985Disciples of the 36th Chamber
1987My Heart Is That Eternal Rose
1988Legend of the Phoenix
Tiger on Beat
1989A Fiery Family
Code of Fortune
Avenging Trio
Ghost Ballroom
The Killer Angels
1990Tiger On The Beat II
A Bloody Fight
1991China Heat
1992Killing In The Dream
1993Cheetah On Fire
Flirting Scholar
Deadly China Hero
Legend of the Liquid Sword
Bogus Cops
The Buddhism Palm Strikes BackFor-wan Tse-san
The Mystery of the Condor HeroYuen-tsan
1994Drunken Master III
American Shaolin
Funny Shaolin Kids
1995Lethal Girls 2
1996Journey to the West(TV series)
1998Journey to the West II(TV series)
1999Generation Pendragon
The Island Tales
2000The Heaven Sword and Dragon SaberSing Kwan
The Legend of Lady YangChan Yuen-lai
2001A Step into the Past(TV series)
2002Drunken Monkey
2003Star RunnerCoach Lau
The King of Yesterday and Tomorrow(TV series)
Kill Bill: Volume 1Johnny Mo
2004Kill Bill: Volume 2Pai Mei
Shaolin Vs. Evil DeadPak
2005Dragon Squad
A Chinese Tall Story
Real Kung FuLin Yung(TV series)
2006Mr. 3 Minutes
A Pillow Case of MysterySima Jui-fung(TV series)
2007Shaolin Vs. Dead: Ultimate Power
On the First BeatMoon Gei(TV series)
2008Heroes of Shaolin
Best Bet(TV series)
Dragonland Himself(Documentary)
True LegendOld sage
The Four(TV series)
2009Man in Charge(TV series)
Chandni Chowk to ChinaHojo
Chinese Paladin 3Evil Sword Immortal(TV series)
2010Hot Summer DaysFai
A Pillow Case of Mystery IISi Ma Jeui-fung(TV series)
Beauty Knows No PainNg Lap-chau(TV series)
2010-2011Links to TemptationLam Chung-pau(TV series)
2011Relic of an EmissaryYim Chun(TV series)
Curse of the Royal Harem(TV series)
Flying Swords of Dragon Gate
2012NightfallRetired CID officer
The Man with the Iron FistsThe Abbott
Kill 'Em AllSnakehead

See also


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