Snake in the Monkey's Shadow

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Snake in the Monkey's Shadow
Directed by Cheung Sum
Produced by Alex Gouw
Starring John Cheung Ng-long
Wilson Tong Wai-shing
Charlie Chan Yiu-lam
Music by Chow Fook-liang
Cinematography Fan Chuan-lin
Distributed by Goldig Films LTD.
Release date
Running time
100 min.
Country Hong Kong
Language Mandarin

Snake in the Monkey's Shadow (a.k.a. Hou hsing kou shou a.k.a. Snake Fist vs. the Dragon) is a Hong Kong martial arts film made in 1979 and directed by Cheung Sum.


The story begins with a voiceover saying when the snake style of kung fu was at its peak a vicious fighter by the name of Hsia Sa was one of the greatest exponents of the style. The snake style can be a vicious style and Hsia Sa was a vicious fighter and had an ambition to dominate the fighting world and had killed many experts until one day he challenged a monkey style expert called Koo Ting-sang and they held a contest. As Hsia Sa is walking through a jungle he sees Koo Ting-sang appear from nowhere and jump tree from tree until he lands on the ground and demands why Hsia Sa has challenged him saying he wants to kill him.Hsia Sa says he is right and today he will die. Koo Ting-sang shocked by Hsia Sa words says he is conceited about his style and also remarks that while Hsia Sa snake style is great his monkey style can kill snakes and engages him in a lengthy fight and defeats and badly injures Hsia Sa. Although he could easily kill him Koo Ting-sang spares Hsia Sa life and Hsia Sa remarks that if Koo Ting-sang doesn’t kill him now he will regret it however Koo Ting-sang laughs of his threat saying if he can beat him once he can do it again and Hsia Sa staggers away.

The story then revolves around Lung, a poor, young fishmonger who aspires to learn kung-fu. After a late delivery of fish to the local, wealthy Yan family he is subjected to a savage and humiliating assault by two of Yan's sons. Although Lung's interest in kung-fu was limited to spying on a local school, this incident forces him to approach Teacher Ho, the Drunken-style kung-fu expert who runs the school. In spite of his plea for a place at the school Ho is adamant that the school is full. In order to get rid of Lung, the teacher tricks him into getting drunk resulting in Lung passing out. Lung awakes to find himself in the country-side faced with the presence of a deadly cobra. Enter Koo Ting-sang, a Monkey-form kung-fu expert, who saves Lung from the life-threatening predicament.

Lung returns to Ho and manages to talk his way into getting a place at the school, but only as a 'cleaner-up.' One day, Teacher Ho catches his students ganging up on Lung and, impressed by Lung's courage, gives him a place as a student. Lung pays a visit to Koo Ting-sang with a gift in acknowledgment of Koo's earlier favour; in turn Koo offers Lung tuition in Monkey-style, however upon learning that his would-be teacher is in fact a real monkey, Lung declines the offer. Instead, Lung shows off his newly acquired Drunken-style skill to Koo Ting-sang by taking revenge on the Yan brothers who have conveniently arrived to take control of Koo's land. A result of this revenge is for the Yan family to complain to Teacher Ho directly. Whilst Ho doesn't appreciate the attention brought about by his student's actions, he is less pleased about the Yan family's arrogant manner and a brawl ensues resulting in the Yan family returning home, beaten and humiliated. Whilst licking their wounds, the father is informed by an aide that two Snake-style experts happen to be passing through the area and so he summons them to assassinate Teacher Ho.

Lung arrives at the school to find Ho being attacked by the Snake-stylists, Hsia Sa and his partner. Despite helping his teacher the assassins defeat them both and kill Teacher Ho. Barely conscious, Lung staggers to Koo Ting-sang to describe what happened. Koo Ting-sang realises that he fought and defeated one of the Snake-style experts in the opening sequence to the movie and that they could be after him as revenge. Indeed, this turns out to be true and Koo Ting-sang, who could handle one "snake," is defeated by the combined power of two.

Lung, determined to avenge the death of Ho and Koo, constructs a training ground to develop his technique further. The viewer is taken through a prolonged scene involving Lung balancing upon pots and the use of an elaborate rotating wooden dummy, as well as a pivotal scene of Koo's master, a monkey, killing a snake. This sight gives Lung the idea of mixing some Monkey-style with his Drunken technique.

The final fight between Lung and the two Snake-style experts takes place on an open, grassy terrain. Lung symbolically bites the hand of his opponent, mimicking the way Koo's monkey killed the snake, and after a long and ardous fight Lung defeats and kills both experts and avenges Teacher Ho and Koo Ting-Sang


Various kung-fu styles are presented in the movie. Although styles with similar names are practiced in real-life, often the film presents its own take on each.

Drunken technique[edit]

Aside from the love of wine, a pillar of the style, as portrayed in the movie, appears to be the "Hooking technique". Training this technique involves the student attempting to, by use of the hooked forefinger, snatch tea cups that have been placed on poles situated around him. In opposition, the teacher will attempt to prevent the student from collecting any cups.

Teacher Ho sums up the style when he gives Lung some advice, "be calm and be gentle, with [a] supple waist. Steps must be light, as though slightly drunk. All movements smooth, no rigid muscles, everything relaxed... in particular your hands. Don't forget the secret is its deceptiveness."

Lung develops his own hybrid of the Drunken and Monkey styles however this is not necessarily related to the true Drunken Monkey style.

Snake form[edit]

A signature of this style appears to be the Snake-fist stance where either hand and arm is poised to resemble a provoked cobra. Striking is accompanied by a hissing noise and contact is made only by the tips of the fingers. In some scenes Hsia Sa is seen slithering about.

Monkey form[edit]

In addition to simply biting the opponent's hand, we see various actions particular to the style:

Tree-hopping. In the first proper fight-scene Koo Ting-sang uses his monkey technique against the snake-stylist Hsia Sa on the banks of the Pia Cha(?) river. At various points Koo Ting-sang is seen to leap from tree to tree clinging to the tree-trunk either by frontally embracing the trunk or wrapping his lower legs round the tree while keeping his back flat against the trunk. Despite being visually impressive, these moves would be difficult to execute in reality.

Four-limbed running is also demonstrated in various scenes.

Tiger Claw and Mantis-fist[edit]

The Yan family practiced this style. The Tiger-fist is seen with all fingers flexed into a paw-like shape, whereas the Mantis-fist is shown as having the index finger pointing straight down with the other fingers bunched into a fist. At one point, Lung and Koo ridicule the Mantis-fist by pointing out that the practitioner looks more like a crippled duck.

Noteworthy Dialogue (English dubbed version)[edit]

  • Just before Koo Ting-sang and the foremost exponent of the snake-style, Hsia Sa, engage in a fight to the death, Koo Ting-sang boasts, "I know that your snake-style's terrific, but my Monkey-technique can kill snakes!"
  • After being presented with a gift of wine from Lung (possibly cost Lung his entire savings), Teacher Ho offers, "Right! I'll take you... but as a cleaner-up!"
  • Reluctant to carry fish to a client, Lung to his co-worker, "You're a lazy old bastard!"


Prism Leisure Corporation

  • Released: June 17, 2002
  • DVD R2


Ventura Distribution

  • Released: June 15, 2004
  • DVD R1
  • John Chang compilation

Eastern Heroes Ltd.

  • Released: 18 May 1998

External links[edit]