Wong Fei Hung through the years

Box-office hit Drunken Master shot actor Jackie Chan (right) to fame.
Box-office hit Drunken Master shot actor Jackie Chan (right) to fame.PHOTOS: GOLDEN VILLAGE PICTURES, ST FILE, SOHU
Box-office hit Drunken Master shot actor Jackie Chan (right) to fame.
Box-office hit Drunken Master shot actor Jackie Chan (right) to fame.PHOTOS: GOLDEN VILLAGE PICTURES, ST FILE, SOHU
Box-office hit Drunken Master shot actor Jackie Chan (right) to fame.
Box-office hit Drunken Master shot actor Jackie Chan (right) to fame.PHOTOS: GOLDEN VILLAGE PICTURES, ST FILE, SOHU
Box-office hit Drunken Master shot actor Jackie Chan (right) to fame.
Box-office hit Drunken Master shot actor Jackie Chan (right) to fame.PHOTOS: GOLDEN VILLAGE PICTURES, ST FILE, SOHU

Real-life gongfu master Wong Fei Hung (1847-1924) is one of the most beloved folk heroes among Chinese people worldwide. The Foshan, Guangdong native is known for the Hung Gar style of martial arts with moves such as the famous Shadowless Kick.

The subject of numerous films over more than six decades, he has become a symbol of justice, honour and nationalistic pride.

Taiwanese heart-throb Eddie Peng is the latest actor to play Wong in Rise Of The Legend, which opens in cinemas tomorrow.

Life! looks at some of the most memorable film versions of the role over the years.

KWAN TAK HING

Movies: Kwan, who died in 1996 at the age of 91, was the first to bring Wong to the big screen in the 1949 film The True Story Of Wong Fei Hung: Whiplash Snuffs The Candle Flame, which kickstarted audiences' fascination with the folk hero.

The actor, considered by many as the first real gongfu star, would go on to play Wong in another 76 films, including 25 in 1956. Kwan was so closely associated with the role that in real life, he was often referred to as Master Wong. Some of his most popular Wong Fei Hung films were the ones in which he acted opposite Shek Kin, who was deliciously evil as Wong's nemesis.

Why he was good: Going by sheer volume alone, Kwan reigns as the definitive Wong Fei Hung. Audiences also loved the way his portrayal brought a strong sense of stern righteousness to the role and no one could doubt his incredible screen presence.

What could be improved: As venerated as Kwan was for his portrayal, viewers expressed the opinion that it was often too one-dimensional, even predictable.

JACKIE CHAN

Movies: Drunken Master (1978), Drunken Master 2 (1994)

Why he is good: Minting his unique brand of action comedy in one of his earliest lead roles, Chan, 60, played a younger and more reckless version of Wong. Drunken Master was a huge box-office success, earning close to HK$7 million and turning the actor into a big martial arts star.

What could be improved: As popular as the film was, viewers rarely associated Chan with Wong because his portrayal was too playful.

Instead, the film established him as the master of the comedic gongfu genre, considered refreshing at the time when the industry was inundated with straightforward action flicks.

JET LI

Movies: Once Upon A Time In China (1991), Once Upon A Time In China II (1992), Once Upon A Time In China III (1993)

Why he is good: For all moviegoers after Kwan's time, Li is the quintessential Wong. In three classic films of the gongfu genre, the 51-year-old reinvented the martial arts legend to be more graceful, suave and a lot more charismatic than before. Of course, credit must be given to film- maker Tsui Hark for staging the balletic fight spectacles.

What could be improved: People had little to complain about Li's portrayal, other than the fact that he was a little too stoic at times.

VINCENT ZHAO

Movies: Once Upon A Time In China IV (1993), Once Upon A Time In China V (1994)

Why he is good: Taking over from Li in the fourth and fifth instalments of the film series, Zhao, 42, essayed a calmer, more laidback and, according to detractors, more wooden Wong than his predecessor.

Zhao, a multiple champion of national martial arts competitions in China, was just as good as Li in the gongfu action sequences, but his was a more muscular style compared with Li's graceful, fluid moves.

What could be improved: Although Zhao was not the best actor, he was unfairly slammed for being a poor imitation of Li. Looks like it was just a case of really unfortunate timing for Zhao, who had the impossible job of succeeding the awesome Li after three superb movies.

EDDIE PENG

Movies: Peng, 32, plays Wong in Rise Of The Legend, an origins story that looks at his childhood and the motivation that drove him to fight for justice. The film also stars Angelababy, Jing Boran and Tony Leung Ka Fai.

Why he is good: Easily the best-looking Wong of the lot, the Taiwanese heart-throb could be the key to introducing the character to a new generation of viewers.

Peng's swagger and mischievous smirk are also fitting for the impetuous, slightly arrogant version of Wong in this film interpretation. He makes every punch and kick look convincing in this new movie.

What could be improved: His asset could be his downfall as nitpicky filmgoers may find his pretty face too modern for the role.