Kung Fu was a 1970s TV series which presented the adventures of Kwai Chang Caine, a half-white/half-Chinese Shaolin monk wandering throughout the Wild West, helping people along the way with sage wisdom for the good people and devastating expertise in martial arts for the bad ones.
When it premiered, it was a unique Western series with an Asian lead character (albeit played by an actor with no Asian ancestry) who refused to use a gun and looked out for the innocent, especially the minority groups that the genre typically ignored. The emphasis of the series was very much on philosophy, particularly Eastern philosophy, rather than gunplay.
While it has elements of a Stern Chase (given that he is wanted for killing the Chinese Emperor's nephew after he fatally shot his beloved master in cold blood), it was usually not a pressing matter for the character outside the occasional bounty hunter. Caine is also a stern chaser, looking for his half-brother. He often enters a town only a few days after his brother has left it.
It has since become seen as the archetypical Walking the Earth show with a wandering adventurer who has higher spiritual aspirations, but is still ready to get tough when called for. Some of its dialogue became cliches in their own right (calling students "Grasshopper", and "When you can take the pebble from my hand, it will be time for you to leave" are two of the best known of these).
A Sequel Series, Kung Fu: The Legend Continues, featured Caine's Identical Grandson and his own estranged son, a modern day cop. It lasted longer than its namesake, though it failed to gain nearly so much attention. Kung Fu 3D was a series of 12 Webisodes hosted on the Warner Brothers website in 1999; while it featured a character named Kwai Chang Caine voiced by David Carradine, it deviated from the show's canon. Caine is left on the temple's steps by his mother as a baby, and he is in search of his father instead of his brother. The web series had No Ending.
Either invented or introduced the concept of a kung-fu Western to... well, Western audiences.
If you're looking for martial arts tropes, see This Index Knows Kung Fu.
- Adventure Towns
- Annoying Arrows: In one episode, one of Caine's enemies (a rogue Shaolin monk) attempts to assassinate Caine (before a commercial break, of course), by shooting him in the back with an arrow while he is meditating. In a later scene after the commercial break, Caine pulls what is probably one of his finer moments by confronting his assailant, reaching around, pulling the arrow out of his back, and then contemptuously throwing the arrow at his enemy's feet.
- Asians Speaking English/Translation Convention
- Catch Phrase: "Grasshopper" among others.
- Does Not Like Shoes: One of the only times Caine wears footwear is to attend a wedding.
- Fighting Series
- Flashback Echo
- Handicapped Badass: The blind Master Po.
- Humble Goal
- Koan: Well yes, naturally.
- Magical Asian: Masters Po and Kan to Caine and Caine himself to most white people he meets.
- The Man They Couldn't Hang: In "The Nature of Evil".
- Martial Pacifist: Caine never wants trouble, but woe be anyone who forces him to fight.
- Punishment Box: Caine finds himself in a two-man Box, and teaches the other man in the box to meditate so as to avoid the torturous aspects of being in the box. The guards & other prisoners are amazed that they're able to leave under their own power instead of being carried out.
- Stern Chase
- Strictly Formula: In each episode Caine basically goes to a town, townspeople don't like him, finds open-minded ally, finds enemy, must fight, makes monk-ly decision concerning friend and enemy, flashback to the power of five, win fight, credits roll.
- Walking the Earth
- Warrior Poet
- The Western
- When You Snatch the Pebble: The line comes from a flashback to Caine's youth.