Earlier this week the actor David Carradine died.
In the early 1970s he starred in a television series of rare (good) quality called “Kung Fu”. It was about an orphaned Amerasian child in the late 19th century who was taken in by Shaolin Monks and brought up as one of them to become a Buddhist priest. Due to an accidental death, the royal family of China put a bounty on Kwai Chang Caine making him a fugitive for his life.
He flees to the wild west of America where he becomes sort of an existentialist cowboy. He wanders from town to town on foot helping people with Buddhist teachings, fending off exotic asasins hired by the Emperor of China, dodging bounty hunters, looking for his half brother Danny Kaine and addressing anti-Asian bigotry.
The television show Kung Fu was so well done, so deep and so educational I would call it “visual literature” rather than a television series.
I discovered the series in reruns when I was about 14, shortly after I started studying karate and getting interested in vegetarianism. The show, along with my karate instructor opened my mind to many new things, got me interested in all things Asian and changed the direction of my life.
I cherish this old television series as much as I value some of my favorite books.
I bought the series on DVD a few years ago. I was amazed at how well it held up over time and how good it was.
The man David Carradine was certainly not Kwai Chang Kaine, but he along with the producers of the Kung Fu television show helped bring that memorable character to life and I am sad at his passing.
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