Kung Fu (1972) TV Series Quotes (Season 1)

Kung Fu follows the adventures of a Shaolin monk, Kwai Chang Caine (played by David Carradine) who travels through the American Old West armed only with his spiritual training and his skill in martial arts, as he seeks his half-brother, Danny Caine. Kwai Chang Caine is the orphaned son of an American man, Thomas Henry Caine, and a Chinese woman in mid-19th century China. After his maternal grandfather’s death he is accepted for training at a Shaolin Monastery, where he grows up to become a Shaolin priest and martial arts expert. Flashbacks are often used to recall specific lessons from Caine’s childhood training in the monastery from his teachers, the blind Master Po and Master Kan.

I used to watch this show when I was a kid and inspired me a lot ;) Following are some quotes extracted from Season 1 of the show.

► ‘Of all things, to live in darkness must be the worst.’ -Young Caine
‘Fear is the only darkness.’ -Master Po
‘Never assume that because a man has no eyes, he cannot see.’ -Master Po
‘Close your eyes. What do you hear?’ -Master Po
‘I hear the water. I hear the birds.’ -Young Caine
‘Do you hear your own heartbeat?’ -Master Po
‘No.’ -Young Caine
‘Do you hear the grasshopper which at your feet?’ -Master Po
‘Old Man, how is it that you hear these things?’ -Young Caine
‘Young Man, how is it that you do not?’ -Master Po

► To hit a target… is to exercise the inner strength. Indeed there are two kinds of strengths. The outer strength is obvious: it fades with age and succumbs to sickness. Then there is the ch’i, the inner strength. Everyone possesses it, too. But it is indeed much more difficult to develop. The inner strength lasts through every heat and every cold. Through old age and beyond. -Master Kan

► ‘What happens in a man’s life is already written. A man must move through life as his destiny wills.’ -Caine
‘Yes, yet each man is free to live as he chooses. Though they seem opposite, both are true. I do not understand it.’ -Old Man
‘You have taken in much, old man, like the waters of the Tao.’ -Caine

► In the Shaolin temple there are three kinds of men: students, disciples and masters. Development of the mind can be achieved only when the body has been disciplined. To accomplish this, the ancients have taught us to imitate God’s creatures…. From the crane we learn grace and self-control. The snake teaches us suppleness and rhythmic endurance. The praying mantis teaches us speed and patience. And from the tiger we learn tenacity and power. And from the dragon we learn to ride the wind. All creatures, the low and the high, are one with nature. If we have the wisdom to learn, all may teach us their virtues. Between the fragile beauty of the praying mantis and the fire and passion of the winged dragon, there is no discord. Between the supple silence of the snake and the eagle’s claws, there is only harmony. As no two elements of nature are in conflict so when we perceive the ways of nature, we remove conflict within ourselves and discover a harmony of body and mind in accord with the flow of the universe. It may take half a lifetime to master one system. -Master Kan

► ‘Master Tae, What is the best way to deal with force?’ -Disciple Caine
‘As we prize peace and quiet above victory, there is a simple and preferred method…. Run away.’ -Master Tae

► Perceive the way of nature and no force of man can harm you. Do not meet a wave head on: avoid it. You do not have to stop force: it is easier to redirect it. Learn more ways to preserve rather than destroy. Avoid rather than check. Check rather than hurt. Hurt rather than maim. Maim rather than kill. For all life is precious nor can any be replaced. -Master Kan

► ‘You have learned discipline and acquired many new abilities. however never forget that a priest’s life is a simple one and must remain free of ambition.’ -Master Po
‘Have you no ambition, Master Po?’ -Disciple Caine
‘Only one. Five years hence, it is my wish to make a pilgrimage to the Forbidden City. It is a place where even priests receive no special status. There in the Temple of Heaven, will be a festival The full moon of May. It will be the thirteenth day of the fifth month in the Year of the Dog.’ -Master Po
‘That is not such a great ambition.’ -Disciple Caine
‘But it is ambition, nonetheless. Who among us is without flaw?’ -Master Po

► Remember always that a wise man walks with his head bowed; humble like the dust. -Master Kan

► ‘Master, do we seek victory in contention?’ -Disciple Caine
‘Seek rather not to contend.’ -Master Kan
‘But shall we not then be defeated?’ -Disciple Caine
‘We know that where there is no contention, there is neither defeat nor victory. The supple willow does not contend against the storm, yet it survives.’ -Master Kan

► ‘Please get up. Why have you come?’ -Master Kan
‘To confess my unworthiness, Honorable Sir. I have disgraced my teachers and shamed this holy place.’ -Caine
‘Tell me how.’ -Master Kan
‘I have senselessly ended a life.’ -Caine
‘You speak of the nephew of the Emperor. It was he, was it not, who ended the life of Master Po? Wasn’t Master Po wounded but still alive when you struck the fatal blow? That is so. Would you have wished to desert Master Po while he lived?’ -Master Kan
‘I could not find it within me, honored Sir .’ -Caine
‘The sin would have been to desert Master Po, or to remain, to senselessly accept your own death. Death does no one honor. The shame of his death does not lie on you but with the nephew of the Emperor. So shall it be recorded unto eternity. Now, go. For you may no longer remain here.’ -Master Kan

► Weakness prevails over strength. Gentleness conquers. Become the calm and restful breeze that tames the violent sea. -Master Kan

► ‘Master, our bodies are prey to many needs: hunger, thirst, the need for love.’ -Disciple Caine
‘In one lifetime a man knows many pleasures: a mother’s smile in waking hours, a young woman’s intimate, searing touch, and the laughter of grandchildren in the twilight years. To deny these in ourselves is to deny that which makes us one with nature.’ -Master Kan
‘Shall we then seek to satisfy these needs?’ -Disciple Caine
‘Only acknowledge them and satisfaction will follow. To suppress a truth is to give it force beyond endurance.’ -Master Kan

► ‘You sit by yourself grasshopper. What do you think of?’ -Master Po
‘My mother, my father. Both gone. I am alone.’ -Disciple Caine
‘You hear the flock of birds flying overhead? You hear the fish? The beetle? In this crowded place you feel alone. Which of us is the most blind? -Master Po

► To know nature is to put oneself in perfect harmony with the universe. Heaven and earth are one. So must we seek a discipline of mind and body within ourselves. -Caine

► ‘What endures, Master?’ -young Caine
‘The sun endures. The moon endures. Life endures.’ -Master Po

► What is a tree without roots? The deeper into the earth the roots reach, the stronger the tree. -Master Kan

► ‘What? Sad, grasshopper?’ -Master Po
‘My sadness is for you. Never to see the clouds. Never to see the sun on the water. Or the plumage of a bird.’ -Disciple Caine
‘Yet sometimes it is eyes that blind a man.’ -Master Po
‘How can this be?’ -Disciple Caine
‘Because he has eyes, he does not look. Is the bird only the color of his plumage?’ -Master Po
‘None should think so.’ -Disciple Caine
‘To be at one with the universe is to know bird, sun, cloud. How much would a man lose if he then loses his eyes?’ -Master Po

► ‘All life is sacred. Thus the joining together of man and woman is always honored. Apart there is no life. But from such union, life may proceed.’ -Master Kan
‘Then life must be always defended.’ -Young Caine
‘The thorn defends the rose. It harms only those who would steal the blossom from the plant.’ -Master Kan

► ‘Vengeance is a water vessel with a hole. It carries nothing but the promise of emptiness.’ -Master Po
‘Shall I then repay injury always with kindness?’ -Young Caine
‘Repay injury with justice and forgiveness, but kindness always with kindness.’” -Master Po

► Fear is the enemy. Trust is the armor. -Master Po

► He who conquers himself is the greatest warrior. Do what must be done with a docile heart. -Master Po

► Listen for the color of the sky. Look for the sound of the hummingbird’s wings. Search the air for the perfume of ice on a hot day. If you have found these things, you will know. -Master Po

► To feel shame for no cause is a waste. To feel shame for cause is also a waste; for you must rather spend time correcting that of which you are ashamed. -Master Po

► He who knows how to live need not fear death. He can walk without fear of rhino or tiger. He will not be wounded in battle…. In him the rhino can find no place to thrust his horn, the tiger no place to use his claws, and weapons no place to pierce…. Because a man who knows how to live has no place for death to enter. -Master Po

► To hate is like drinking salt water. The thirst grows worst. -Caine

► Hate is the tomb you weave. It will not save you from your suffering. -Caine

► To be one with yourself is a power within you. -Caine

► If a man dwells on the past, then he robs the present; but if a man ignores the past, he may rob the future. The seeds of our destiny are nurtured by the roots of our past. -Master Po

► ‘Deal with evil from strength, but affirm the good in man through trust. In this way, we are prepared for evil, but we encourage good.’ -Master Kan
‘And is good a great reward for trusting?’ -Young Caine
‘In striving for an ideal, we do not seek rewards. Yet trust does sometimes bring with it a great reward, even greater than good.’ -Master Kan
‘What is greater than good?’ -Young Caine
‘Love.’ -Master Kan
‘And what is love?’ -Young Caine
‘Love is harmony, even in discord.’ -Master Kan

► Each journey begins and also ends. -Master Po

► ‘When you leave these walls, you will come upon the many pillars of violence.’ -Master Kan
‘May not a man one with nature seeing such pillars avoid them?’ -Young Caine
‘Other men stumble in the way. They go in idlest search of peace.’ -Master Kan
‘Must I then tumble down these pillars?’ -Young Caine
‘Seek always peace. Wear no path for the footsteps of others unless the soul is endangered. We are all linked by our souls. To endanger one endangers all.’ -Master Kan
‘And if endangered, Master?’ -Young Caine
‘In such times the soul must be the warrior.’ -Master Kan

► ‘What the eye sees disappears with a blink or a wandering puff of breath. Where there was light the eye, denied, sees nothing. What the soul sees cannot be denied.’ -Master Kan
‘Will not the soul, too, see nothing when death blinks its eye?’ -Young Caine
‘No. The soul sees always.’ -Master Kan
‘Yet the body dies.’ -Young Caine
‘Does the sun die?’ -Master Kan
‘It does not shine at night.’ -Young Caine
‘It shines somewhere. You do not see it.’ -Master Kan

► Discipline your body, Grasshopper, that you may find a greater power. . . . Those who surrender themselves find inner strength…When the heart knows no danger, no danger exists. When the soul becomes the warrior all fear melts as the snowflake that falls upon your hand. -Master Po

► That prevails which refuses to know the power of the other. Where fear is, does not danger also live? And where fear is not, does not danger also die? Where the tiger and the man are two, he may die. Yet where the tiger and the man are one there is no fear. There is no danger. For what creature, one with all nature, will attack itself. -Master Po

► Be yourself and never fear thus to be naked to the eyes of others. Yet know that men so often mask themselves that what is simple is rarely understood. The dust of truth swirls and seeks its own cracks of entry and a tree falling in the forest without ears to hear makes no sound. Yet it falls. -Master Po

► ‘The hands. . . are the eyes and tongue of touch. Through them a man may reach out and see another’s feelings or speak his own.’ -Master Po
‘Is it not sad, Master, that the hands of a man may strike a blow as well as caress?’ -Young Caine
‘Pain and pleasure are like two bells, side by side, and the voice of each makes a trembling in the other.’ -Master Po
‘Are pain and pleasure then so alike?’ -Young Caine
‘Are the eyes and tongue alike. We see the butterfly and an ugly wound. The same tongue which screams also laughs.’ -Master Po

► If while building a house, a carpenter strikes a nail and it proves faulty by bending, does the carpenter lose faith in all nails and stop building his house? -Master Kan

► ‘Other men not knowing me, will find me hard to understand.’ -Caine
‘Accept the ways of others. Respect first your own.” -Master Po

► Peace lies not in the world…but in the man who walks the path. -Master Po

► To reach perfection a man must develop equally compassion and wisdom. -Master Po

► In a heart that is one with nature though the body contends, there is no violence. And in the heart that is not one with nature, though the body be at rest, there is always violence. Be, therefore, like the prow of a boat, it cleaves the water yet it leaves in its wake water unbroken. -Master Po

► ‘We learn to make powerful the force of our bodies. Yet, we are taught to reverence all against whom we may use such force.’ -Caine
‘When your life is threatened or the innocent life of another, you will be prepared to defend them.’ -Master Kan
‘Being thus prepared better than others, should I not always stand and fight?’ -Caine
‘Ignore the insulting tongue. Duck the provoking blow. Run from the assault of the strong.’ -Master Kan
‘Are these not the actions of a coward?’ -Caine
‘The wild boar runs from the tiger knowing that each being well armed by nature with deadly strength may kill the other. Running he saves his own life and that of the tiger. This is not cowardice. It is the love of life.’ -Master Kan

► ‘Master, are you never lonely?’ -Caine
‘Do you feel loneliness?’ -Master Kan
‘No. But I do not understand why, denied the experience of so many things that other men desire, I do not.’ -Caine
‘Man, like the animals, is meant to live together with others like himself. But the meaning of belonging to such a group is found in the comfort of silence and the companionship of solitude.’ -Master Kan
‘Is that why you let me enter and taught me?’ -Caine
‘We taught you, young man, because you already knew.’ -Master Kan

► ‘Look at the world you live in and this pool of fish. There are twelve fish, twelve worlds.’ -Master Kan
‘But only one pool.’ -Young Caine
‘Many. The one you see, the one I see, and the world of each.’ -Master Kan
‘Ten million living things have as many worlds. Do not see yourself as the center of the universe, wise and good and beautiful. Seek, rather, wisdom, goodness, and beauty, that you may honor them everywhere.’ -Master Kan

► ‘Where is evil? In the rat whose nature it is to steal the grain. Or in the cat, whose nature it is to kill the rat?’ -Master Po
‘The rat steals. Yet, for him, the cat is evil.’ -Caine
‘And to the cat, the rat.’ -Master Po
‘Yet, Master, surely one of them is evil.’ -Caine
‘The rat does not steal, the cat does not murder. Rain falls, the stream flows, a hill remains. Each acts according to its nature.’ -Master Po
‘Then is there no evil for men? Each man tells himself that what he does is good, at least for himself.’ -Caine
‘. . . a man may tell himself many things but is a man’s universe made up only of himself?’ -Master Po
‘If a man hurts me and I punish him, perhaps he will not hurt another.’ -Caine
‘And if you do nothing?’ -Master Po
‘He will learn he can do as he wishes.’ -Caine
‘Or, perhaps, he will learn that some men receive injury but return kindness.” -Master Po

► See the way of life as a stream. A man floats, and his way is smooth. The same man turning upstream exhausts himself. To be one with the universe, each must find his true path and follow it. -Master Kan

► The river seeks its own level. It will not fight the rock, it flows around it. The rock becomes a refuge in the river. -Master Po

► If you plant rice, rice will grow. If you plant fear, fear will grow. -Caine

► ‘We are taught that the most important gift of our natures is the reaching out to one another.’ -Young Caine
‘To say and to listen. To teach what we know truly to those who do not know. To send peaceful thoughts over the bridge of words. . . . Reach out. Yet be wary of what you allow yourself to grasp. . . . Guard above all things the purity of your vision.’ -Master Po

► If the jury cannot see innocence in my eyes, will they find it in a lawyer’s mouth? -Caine

► The world you live in is mysterious, exciting, unknown and mine is older, familiar, and calm. You will never know my world not I yours. . . . Can you see with my eyes? Think with my brain? -Master Kan

► Do not see yourself as the center of the universe wise and good and beautiful. Seek rather wisdom, goodness and beauty that you may honor them everywhere. -Master Kan

► Superstition is like a magnet. It pulls you in the direction of your belief. -Master Po

► Recognize that all words are part false and part true, limited by our imperfect understanding. But strive always for honesty within yourself. -Master Kan

► What is cowardice but the body’s wisdom of its weakness? What is bravery but the body’s wisdom of its strength. The coward and the hero march together within every man. So to call one man ‘coward’ and another ‘brave’ merely serves to indicate the possibilities of their achieving the opposite. -Master Po

► Those who speak convincingly of peace cannot go armed. Those who speak convincingly of peace must not be weak. So we make every finger a dagger. Every arm a spear. And every open hand an ax or a sword. -Master Kan

► Training in martial arts is for spiritual reinforcement but it is based on self-defense. . . . When attacked by more than one person, the enemy should be allowed to make the first move and thus create the beginning of his downfall. -Master Kan

► In every loss there is gain. As in every gain there is loss. -Master Po

► Young Caine, when I was a boy, I fell into a hole in the ground and I was broken and could not climb out. I might have died there but a stranger came along and saved me. He said it was his obligation. That for help he had once received, he must in return help ten others each of whom would then help ten others so that good deeds would spread out like the ripples from a pebble in a pond. I was one of his ten and you became one of mine. And now I pass this obligation on to you. -Master Po

References : The Raven’s Nest | Kung Fu Guide

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11 responses

  1. Is this show still running?

    September 26, 2012 at 3:46 pm

    • Not anymore friend. One of the channels in my country showed it some years ago :)

      October 1, 2012 at 8:06 am

      • Well… that sucks. But! I know it’s on dvd somewhere on Amazon. I’ll find it. I’m so obsessed with things like this :D

        October 5, 2012 at 1:17 am

      • Well, yes. But fortunately complete series is on DVD. So that you can purchase it from a shop. Here’s the Amazon link if you wish to buy ;)

        Kung Fu: Complete Series

        October 5, 2012 at 7:47 am

      • individuallyone

        Thank you so much! Saves me the trouble of searching :)

        October 9, 2012 at 11:35 am

      • Anuradha Edirisuriya

        No problem ;)

        October 9, 2012 at 8:34 pm

  2. I was recently discussing the TV series Kung Fu with my wife…saying how much I enjoyed watching it as a child. She purchased the series and gave it to me for my birthday and I’m very happy to say the show is even more inspiring as an adult…I hadn’t seen the show for thirty odd years, but it hasn’t dated and the wisdom contained in each episode is still pertinent and thought provoking…Kung Fu should be mandatory viewing for World Leaders!

    Great post, thanks a lot!~

    April 16, 2013 at 1:42 am

  3. MrC

    I remember watching this show when I was a kid as well. A couple years ago I bought the entire 3 seasons and I watch them often mostly to understand the teachings of Taoist and Buddhist wisdom. It is truly heartfelt. Each message is umbrellaed with what Master Kan would say is a balance or harmony, the yin and the yang. Remember, strive to be centered!

    July 21, 2013 at 11:16 am

  4. Verona

    Enjoyed these quote from the series…thank you for posting them. Now I have to find the DVD set! :-)
    I was in my impressionable, young teen years, very Catholic and very set on becoming a nun in the Poor Claire’s order, when this show was running. This show was so unique in that it embraced Eastern teachings. “Kung Fu”, kinda gave me permission to study other spiritual paths and philosophies as I studied the Bible. When my folks walked into my room and saw dozens of leaflets and brochures of different religions on my bed, they thought I was going to defect! LOL!!
    Now, I have embraced a life philosophy which promotes Harmony, Honesty, Compassion and a respectful, mindful regard for Life.

    October 1, 2013 at 4:08 am

  5. Vivien

    Can I Find all this On a CD?

    October 13, 2013 at 1:49 pm

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