How did Bruce Lee die?

How did Bruce Lee die?
There has been much debate and fictional stories about exactly what caused Bruce Lee to die. For that reason, we receive many messages from people asking us - how did Bruce Lee die? We hope this article answers the questions that many martial artists are asking.

Let's put this straight. Much has been said about the way Bruce Lee died, most of it untrue. Despite all the fictional stories that have been told about his death, there is one thing that at least everyone can agree on; Bruce Lee was the most famous martial artist ever to have lived. What he did to promote martial arts and help people to learn how to defend themselves in a weaponless way can never be over estimated, not now and not in the future.

So lets start with the the official press release of Lee's death...

Bruce Lee died of a cerebral edema (an excess accumulation of water in the cellular spaces of the brain) - on the 20th July 1973. However, read on to find out how true this really was.


Bruce Lee's deathCause of the cerebral edema - allergic reaction to painkillers called Equagesic (pictured) - a drug used for short-term pain treatment accompanied by tension or anxiety.


Fact or Fiction? 

Apartment where Bruce Lee diedIt was on the 20th July 1973 at approximately 16:00 that Bruce Lee and Raymond Chow (Hong Kong film producer) drove to the house of Betty Ting Pei, pictured right, located at Flat 2a, 67 Beacon Hill Road, Kowloon Tong, Hong Kong. She was a popular Taiwanese actress and they wanted her to play a part in Lee's next coming move, Game of Death.

At around 19:30 Bruce complained of having a headache. At this point, Betty gave him some of her pain killers (Equagesic) which she had been prescribed by a doctor. Bruce then went to lie down on her bed to help relieve the pain, at this point Raymond Chow left the apartment to meet George Lazenby at the Miramar Hotel. Bruce was supposed to join him to meet George too.

At around 21:00 Raymond called Betty to ask why Bruce still had not arrive at the hotel to discuss the Game of Death with George Lazenby. Betty explained she tried to wake him up but could not. This worried Raymond and therefore within 30 minutes he arrived back at the apartment and just like Betty, he could not wake Bruce up.

Being concerned Raymond decided to ring Betty Ting Pei’s doctor up, Dr. Eugene Chu. The telephone was constantly engaged but finally he got through to Dr. Chu. He immediately came to Betty’s apartment but after 10 minutes he still couldn’t wake Bruce up.

After calling Bettys doctor Dr. Eugene Chu. it was decided that this was an emergency and Bruce needed urgent medical care. Ambulances were called which took Bruce to Queen Elizabeth’s hospital

Upon arrival at the hospital with a team of doctors waiting for him, he was pronounced dead.

Bruce Lee has diedAt 23:00 hrs Raymond Chow informed the world of the news (pictured).

Lee was only 32 years on his date of death. A funeral was held in Hong Kong and then his body was flown to the United States where he was buried at Lake View Cemetery in Seattle. Since, his son Brandon was buried next to him.

Brandon Lee was accidently shot while filming. The crew were supposed to use dummy cartridges, but instead a real bullet was found to have been used. Brandons grave is show on the right of Bruce's.

There are many fictional stories of how Bruce Lee died, however this article is the official press release behind it. Whether these accounts are true or not is a huge question of debate which should be kept in mind.

There are opinions that differ regarding how exactly Bruce Lee died however the events that took place as published in this article are the most accepted view not only of Lee's family and close friends but also the general consensus of martial artists around the world. On any matter, people have different views and we welcome any comments below this article.

See Bruce Lee's profile, including a list of martial arts movies he appeared in / directed

Bruce Lees grave

A Tragic Family

Almost 20 years after Lee's death came another tragic event for the family. Under strange and unproven circumstances, his son, Brandon was killed aged only 28 years. A mystery still surrounds this sudden occurance which happened on set.

For more information see the Death of Brandon Lee to learn more about the events that unfolded that day, as well as what could have been done to prevent it.


Do you like this article?


KeithBell's picture

Finally the answer I was looking for. It is confirmed what I thought - I heard you guys had access to the doctor in Hong Kong who did the autopsy, there's a lot of versions of this story on the net but i'm pretty sure this is the truth.
ajfresh's picture

The doctor won't talk ,he wants to save his life and family.
wacatz1's picture

It's still not adding up. This video does not mention anything about Raymond Chow being at the apartment prior to Lee being left alone with Pei.
BarryBJJ's picture

Equagesic?? I won't be taking that next time I feel ill
Russell's picture

This is the "official press release". But it is different then the official inquiry into his death........ Feel free to join my JKD group to get a deeper look into this.
Chaleira's picture

I just got through reading this, thanks for posting. Bruce is a legend and continues to be a great inspiration, even long after his death for many generations, and future generations to come, his name has been and will continue to be echoed. Truly missed~
jtol1's picture

Good article, the amount of times people ask me 'how did bruce lee die then?' wehn i mention his name is unbelievable, at least now i have a proper answer. Just i minor thing, i'm pretty sure brandon lees death was caused by a blank that had got stuck in the barel of the pistol when testing it, which was fired when a second blank was fired for the actual film as opposed to being killed by a real bullet. This information though is from wikipedia i believe, so take this as you will!
MMAwarrior's picture

This is true Bradon Lee died from a bulit that got stuck in the barral of a 44 revolver ,it was to be a blank round ,their was no gun powder in the shell but they did not reallize that their was still a live primer, when the shell was load into the gun & fired the live primer was still enough force to cause a fately gun shot.
ajfresh's picture

That's all a lie , they did'nt have a gun expert on the set he went home earlier. It was murder. You could've known if they checked the weapon, it was more than 50 people on that set someone saw something.
ajfresh's picture

he was murdered.
wacatz1's picture

He was murdered in my opinion too.
Russell's picture

The movie was not filmed in California and did not have to meet all the normal regulations that are done on most movie sets which resulted in a number of problems.What many people do not know is that earlier in the movie on a previous date, a live round was also found in one of the guns. Many say this has to do with Brandon wanting to reopen his fathers investigation( I wont go there). A gun with a "non filled" barrel was used during the accident with Brandon.The sad thing is, the scene was already shot, (you see it in the movie), but someone decided to shoot a different scene, one where he walks in with him holding a bag against his stomach,instead of coming through the window. All on a day when the weapons scenes were not suppose to be filmed and the weapons consultant was not there on that day to oversee any thing. The weapon was not checked properly and the tip of the "dummy" shell from an earlier firing had come dislodged and remained in the barrel unnoticed. The "blank" cartridge fired with enough force to propel the broken bullet tip out the barrel and into Brandon side.No one knew it at first until the scene was over.I wont go into any other details, but the doctors operated for six hours and there were complications, Brandon passed away in the hospital a little over 12 hours after the incident.
MMAwarrior's picture

Yes very sad indeed they just were talking about this on an episode of unsolved mysterys the other just gos to show you how in hollywood sometimes cutting conner on film set & saving money & time is more importent then a human life. they were saying that their were so many people involed in this that they cant really put anyone in jail for it. that messed up if you ask me surely you can narrow it down to someone can't they?
Russell's picture

I did not see the episode so I can not comment on what was said.I know also there was both union and non union workers on the set, so different regulations were involved adding to conflicts. There were a number of accidents on the set, including one that occurred on Brandon's birthday with an electrician and that started a series of other incidents that lead to rumors of a curse. I just think if it was in Hollywood Sifu Brandon would still be with us leading his fathers art for us. The sad thing was that if in Hollywood they would have use a gun with a filled barrel, and nothing would have ever shot out.
ajfresh's picture

did they say why he was electricuted?
ajfresh's picture

If htis was drug dealers or mobsters they would throw the book at them but when it is bruce or ihis son they are not important BS. They settled out of court.
ajfresh's picture

Again they settled out of court, they told the public that lie to cover the murder.
john2054's picture

I would like to say that with regards to Bruce Lees death, having read his biography I have pieced together a different order of events then the official verdict, or even the one which is promulgated here. That is Bruce had taken a penchant for eating Cannibis cookies prior to his desease. He didn't smoke the weed for fear of it interfering with his lungs (being the fitness fanatic he was, clearly this would never do). But drug use of any kind was a big taboo in China at the time, as perhaps it still is, and the press were unable and unperpared to even mention this in any of their findings on him after he died. Then he had been having an affair with this other famous film actress at the time, here named as betty ting pei, but after haven recently eaten the cookies he went for a lie down. Well unaware of what the star had been doing, betty was alarmed to find that she could not rouse him from his slumber when she tried to awaken Bruce from a nap. So she immediately called the ambulance, who in an alarmist fashion injected Bruce with drugs to 'snap him out of it'. But as anyone who has ever taken Cannabis will be able to verify, when you are stoned that is the last thing you will want to do! And that is what killed him, the drugs they gave him in hospital reacting with the cannabis already in his system. Thanks.
Tim-Bo's picture

I have a condition called stenosis. If I work out on my meds and my BP is to High I would stroke out and die, even two or three days after the actual event, it would be decieving to say that three days prior to my death my student hit me which cause the "Deadly Fist", Theory. It was health and meds with to much training which killed Bruce, he died doing what he loved, and was my inspiration for studying.
GrimCreeper's picture

you do know that it is impossible to die from marijuana. he would have had to have eaten almost his whole body weight in pure cannabis in under 15 min to even be 1000 times more likely that he had an allergic reaction to the painkiller.
ajfresh's picture

No that is not what killed him, He was'n t a drug user and why for the first time them finding cannibus in his stomach when an autopsy was performed. No you need to look at the time frame before he arrived to the hospital,He died at that woman's home, something happened between the time Bruce was there and the time of being at dinner, why didn'ttBetty call the police or ambulance then? check this article out, There is some facts to this article .
kenshin24's picture

this article is good. i love it, all the information that i needed to know
3powerchords's picture

Good article however this is the official press release, and there is a lot more behind it that I've come across reading books and watching interviews a couple of years ago about the doctors who examined him prior to his death on his first collapse 9-10 weeks earlier. I will not talk about it on here because it's all down to opinions and you could argue all day. Forget about the death touch (dim mak) and all that ****. But there are other things prior to his death that people should bare in mind.
ajfresh's picture

you may have seen books and interviews but one thing everyone that understood the lgic behind him , he had enemies , they were jealous of his fame, his mastery, his achievements and he would not bow to anyone's rulng his life in the movies, I won't say more, he was murdered. No matter how you twist it with books and interviews him and brandon were professionally murdered.
Medway Tai Chi Society's picture

Wow, you're really certain that it was murder... So much so, that you've made a dozen comments on the same article saying the same thing... Get over it already. Accidental death. Get off of his nut-sack!
Qualmpaw's picture

Your right , time to get over it. as his wife said , I prefer to remember him how he lived rather the how he died. We should all respect her wish, as he always said himself. "If I should die tomorrow," he often said, "I will have no regrets. I did what I wanted to do. You can't expect more from life." and a live worth living, is a life worth remembering.
rbmj's picture

"How the human race allows the information of this world to affect them, is the way their life will be." -Cabono
worldweb's picture

to me. bruce died of cerebral edema due to hashish he was taking. he was warned by his physician not to use it but he didnt follow his doctor's advice so eventually that caused his death. but there is also the possibility of the mafia using shaolins delayed death touch.
Medway Tai Chi Society's picture

No, it's not possible. "Delayed Death Touch" is absolute rubbish. It doesn't exist.
yamabushinoyamanashi's picture

With all due respect, and I cannot myself vouch for the effectiveness of Dim Mak, the late Mr. Frank Goody said that his Triad contacts informed him that Dim Mak WAS used to kill Bruce Lee. I truly believe that the Triads themselves and Frank Goody did believe that the triads had killed Bruce Lee through the use of Dim Mak (which can include poisons. If Dim Mak is absolutely impossible, then so is accupuncture. It follows that if one is valid, the other, based on exactly the same priciples, is also valid.
xxchicagobadboyxx's picture

There are 3 sponges that exist in the blood, which work to contain fluid in the intravascular compartment. They are sodium, blood urea nitrogen and glucose. Bruce maintained a dietary restriction, causing low sodium. Either, he didn't ingest enough sodium rich foods, or he drank excessive water, diluting his sodium level. This causes swelling of the brain, causing headaches, mild neurological impairment, and sometimes even seizures. His death was from hyponatriemia.
wacatz1's picture

Ganja never killed anyone. Hard work and exercise never killed anyone. Betty Ting Pei gave him the pills that killed him. Autopsy my ass. What kind of autopsy do you think they were conducting in the 1970s?! I'm sure moder-day forensics would have proven something different! This video does not mention Raymon Chow being there, at Betty Ting Pei's apartment, prior to Lee going to bed. It's still not adding up.
Drachatto's picture

Cannabis cookies are the easiest most assimilable digestible form of cannabis. These are medically approved and doctor prescribed all over the world completely harmless. Considering the strength of the cannabis in his time It was probably just relaxing. You have to remember Bruce was a pioneer in relaxation and martial arts. He believed you could fight longer faster and better if you were relaxed. He was the first martial artist to use hypnosis as far as I know. Some of his signature gestures and trademarks were actually hypnotic cues. I remember an autopsy addend declared that there were green herbs found in his stomach this is probably the longleaf grass of the day. There's an interaction between phenylpropanolamine And Equagesic which might be suspect. It could've been automatism. Could also have been foul play. He is said to have refused several protection rackets which threatened his life. The so-called accidental death of Brandon Is a typical legacy killing Some mobster can wave in the face of a action hero. Yes this still goes on even today. Jason Little Raven a friend of mine who worked on the set with Brandon Told me he smelled a rat. This is more evident in the medical care he received afterwards then in the accident itself.
Medway Tai Chi Society's picture

"You have to remember Bruce was a pioneer in relaxation and martial arts. He believed you could fight longer faster and better if you were relaxed." Hardly a pioneer - this is the same concept that has underpinned the internal arts for 500+ years... "He was the first martial artist to use hypnosis as far as I know." Ziranman has practices that might be referred to as hyponosis. Again, a centuries old art. Bruce Lee was a butterfly, flitting from this to that and eventually congealing everything he had learnt. The fact is, he didn't really develop anything 'new' - just to things from different places and put a new label on it.
Qualmpaw's picture

At first I felt I had a constructive argument regarding cannabis use. Thinking about it now I realize back then it may not have been grown organically and had many pesticides that could have built up in his brain, and the drug set it off. He also used tons of aspirins for headaches he frequently had. Although I really think there is more to it then that. First he did what he wanted against Chinese customs and was warned not to teach. Then comes Brandon mysterious death, I just cont see it as a coincidence. To think with all the guns used for movies , this has never happened (very strange) Also I feel positive Brandon was secretly investigating the truth, and was getting close. Maybe he already knew and was waiting for the right tome to expose the truth. Brandon was just beginning to really escalate in his acting career and that would have allowed him more popularity to be heard and time to ensure his safety. It’s all to coincidental. That's all I have to say
yamabushinoyamanashi's picture

Shihan Sensei the late Frank Goody told a group of students in a college gymnasium in 1981 that Bruce Lee was killed by the Triads using Dim Mak (T'ien Hsue, Tien Xue) which can include the use of poisons and strikes or touches to Ch'i (Qi) meridians and cavities and other methods. He stated that he knew this through contacts in the Triads.
Mishimat2's picture

Will found out the truth when the world end.