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Ip Man (Tony LEUNG): Born at the end of China's Qing Dynasty (1644- 1911), Wing Chun grandmaster Ip Man was the son of a wealthy family in Foshan, Guangdong Province. Ip Man was obsessed with kung fu from the time he was a child, studying the elite form of Wing Chun with the legendary teacher, Chan Wah-shun. Never needing to work or think about money before the age of forty, he devoted himself to the study of Wing Chun. Foshan was the center of the southern Chinese martial arts world during the Republican era. Ip Man frequently engaged in tests of skill with Foshan's martial artists, but unlike them, he didn't open a school: it was his passion, not his livelihood. After the Japanese invade Foshan, they take over his family home and push him and his family into devastating poverty. At the end of the Civil War, owing to his wartime affiliation with the KMT, he fled China to Hong Kong and was never able to return. In Hong Kong, he begins to teach Wing Chun in order to make a living, and transforms this once-exclusive martial art into a popular form that now has adherents all over the world.

Gong Er (Ziyi ZHANG): Gong Er grows up in a prominent martial arts family in northeast China, the daughter of Master Gong Baosen, leader of the Northern martial arts world, and a strong proponent of the Bagua form of fighting. She grows up amongst fighters, and watching her beloved father's battles. She has become a highly talented fighter herself. As his only surviving child, she would have been his successor had she been born a boy. Her father wants her to leave the martial world, marry and become a doctor. She is single-mindedly devoted to her family and its martial tradition. She has mastered the sinuous, lethal form of Bagua, including the Gong family's famous '64 Hands' technique. She is as proud, strong and righteous as any classical hero in the martial arts tradition.

The Razor (CHANG Chen): He is a master of the explosive Baji form of kung fu and a hot-blooded loner with an air of mystery. He's a patriotic idealist who has joined the Nationalist government's secret police. His role is to hunt down and assassinate traitors. He has a fierce reputation and a strong moral code. After the Communists' victory in 1949, he made his way to Hong Kong, deserted the Nationalist Party and organization and opened the White Rose Barber Shop.

Gong Baosen (WANG Qingxiang): Gong Er's father. A highly-respected Grandmaster from the Northeast and the undisputed leader of the Northern martial arts world. He is the first person to combine the martial arts styles of Xingyi (which features many animal-based forms) and Bagua (which is based on the hexagrams of the esoteric, ancient text, the I Ching), into one school. Master Gong has never lost a fight in his 6 life and is universally respected. However, he is less concerned with personal glory than the promotion of a new generation of kung fu masters so that the great traditions of the martial world may live on. He maintains the highest standards and has equally high expectations of the people around him. He strives to inspire patriotism and achieve national salvation through the martial arts.

Jiang (SHANG Tielong): As an executioner during the Qing Dynasty, he became an outcast in the Republican era. Master Gong, recognizing that he had a loyal and honest character as well as a fierce air, took him into his household and asked him to be Gong Er's guardian; her 'Lucky Star', to protect her and watch over her. He is never seen without his pet monkey.

Ding Lianshan (ZHAO Benshan): A Manchurian kung fu master who studied alongside Master Gong when they were younger. The two share the same vision but work very differently. Gong is the public face of their movement while Ding works out of view. As the leader of an anti-Japanese resistance force, the Japanese have placed a warrant out for his arrest. He operates in the shadows and hints that he has been a secret player in historical events. In Foshan he is a hotel cook; no one would ever guess at his powers or his past.

Ma San (ZHANG Jin): A Northern based master of Xingyi and a leading disciple and designated successor of Master Gong, Ma San was a poor orphan who Master Gong took in and named 'San' ('three') to evoke a saying from the martial world about the value of humility. Yet he is deeply ambitious and covets power, wealth and status. How far will he go?

San Jiang Shui (XIAO Shenyang): He is a small-time criminal, a bandit from the Northeast, who hangs on the fringes of the martial world, deferential to his superiors but not above bullying or pushing people around when he thinks he can get away with it. He ends up in Hong Kong. Who will he make his master?

Zhang Yongcheng (SONG Hye Kyo): The high-born wife of Ip Man and the mother of his children, she is a woman of few words. She and Ip Man don't need to speak to understand one another well. When the war comes to Foshan, they may lose much that is precious, but neither she nor Ip Man ever lose their dignity.

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