Yuen Siu-tin, was a martial arts instructor, lived in Guangzhou, China. An expert from the Peking Opera School run by Sifu Yu Jim Yuen, Simon graduated to instructor and later joined films. He appeared in some of the 99 Huang Fei Hong films that starred the late Kwan Tak Hing as Master Huang.
Five of his 12 sons have carved notable, knockabout careers in movie action: Wo-ping, (the renowned action choreographer), his eldest son, Cheung-yan, Chun-yeung, Sun-yi and Yat-choh. His extended family has won most of the 18 Hong Kong Film Awards for best action choreography. Wo-ping got one for the epochal grudge matches between Donnie Yen and Jet Li in Tsui Hark's Once Upon a Time in China II.
Simon Yuen, the veteran of the Peking Opera School, appeared in well over a 100 black & white Cantonese custom dramas before his eldest son, Yuen Woo Ping cast him as the Snake Fist Master in “Snake in the eagle’s shadow” a Seasonal Films production he later went on to star in the even more successful “Drunken Master” and the stunning Dance of the drunken mantis.
Siu Tin was trained in the Peking Opera and had found work on a long running series of films chronicling the exploits of Wong Fei Hung, a Chinese folk hero. Having trained Wo Ping in Peking Opera, his father introduced the young man to producers of the series who gave Wo Ping work during the ‘60’s. As kung fu films gained popularity in the early ‘70’s, Wo Ping migrated to Shaw Brothers who used him in small parts and as a kung fu fighter and a stuntman in such films as The Chinese Boxer (1970) and Duel of Fists (1971).
In 1978, at the age of 67, Simon’s career boosted as he played the sifu of a young Jackie Chan in both Snake in the Eagle’s Shadow and Drunken Master, and Simon would later do films for the Shaw Brothers. Snake in the Eagle’s Shadow was the first film Wo Ping directed, although he was action director since 1971.
Now very much in demand, Yuen was deluged by offers of cameo roles in endless cash-in projects: During the filming of “Sleeping Fist” in Taiwan he was obliged to change hotels each night to avoid the unwanted attentions of Triad-affiliated producers eager to secure his services.
In 1979, Wo Ping formed the Wo Ping Films Company (his own production and choreography company) whose first project was The Buddhist Fist (1979) which co-starred Siu Tin who appeared in many of his son’s films, often as an elder drunken boxing master or mischievous beggar.
The timing proved fortuitous, as kung fu was fast securing a following outside of China. Unfortunately, Yuen Siu Tin died in 1980, whilst filming “Magnificent Butcher” with Sammo Hung. His scenes were later re-shot with Fan Mei San.
His last completed movie the “Buddhist Fist” again directed by Yuen Woo Ping stands as a fitting testament to this magnificent actor. However, he has made an impact in the world of kung fu films and will be forever known as the Drunken Master.