The next chapter in the Wing Luke Museum’s three-year cycle of exhibits about Bruce Lee showcases his martial-arts prowess as well as his TV and movie roles.

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The indelible image of Bruce Lee is the one that came before his death, the action hero crouched, ready to rumble, his sinewy frame glistening and shirtless.

But you’ll have to delve deep into the latest Lee exhibit, “Breaking Barriers,” at the Wing Luke Museum to find that iconic picture. Here, the blurry photos are of a more modest, baby-faced Lee with close-cropped hair, giving gung fu demonstrations around town like some struggling band hitting the dive-bar circuit.

Here are snapshots of Lee on stage with the Seattle Chinese Community Girls Drill Team in 1961; Lee putting on an exhibition at the Chong Wa Benevolent Association Hall in Chinatown in 1963; Lee giving lessons to Boy Scout Troop 54.

‘Year 2: Do You Know Bruce? Breaking Barriers’

10 a.m.-5 p.m. Tuesdays-Sundays, until 8 p.m. first Thursdays, through Sept. 4, 2016, Wing Luke Museum of the Asian Pacific American Experience, 719 S. King St., Seattle; $9.95-$14.95 (206-623-5124 or

The dozens of blown-up black-and-white photos and program guides leave the impression of an ambitious young martial artist who had a P.T. Barnum twinkle in his eye and energy to match.

“He was always promoting gung fu,” said his widow, Linda Lee Caldwell, who wandered around the exhibit hours before it was opened to the public earlier this month. “Martial art was his first love. It was not acting.”

A University of Washington dropout, Lee lived in Seattle for only five years, but the Emerald City has claimed the superstar as its own.

The city’s obsession hasn’t waned since his death in 1973 at age 32. Sales from the museum gift shop have increased by 100 percent and ticket sales have spiked 30 percent since the first Lee exhibit debuted last fall, according to museum administrators.

It’s arguably Wing Luke’s most successful, if not most high-profile show, with media and fans flying in from Hong Kong and Europe.

The latest montage is part of a rotating three-year exhibit, (it will end in September 2017), with much of the correspondence, film notes and photographs on loan from the Lee family. The artifacts range from photos from Lee’s formative years in Seattle to his Hollywood heyday.

Dozens of personal letters and telegrams are on display. But they lack the intimate details of the last exhibit, which had featured love letters and poems Lee wrote to his wife and to the city.

The letters featured now include industry insider exchanges, fan adulations and name dropping (notes from Jack Dempsey and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar).

The loosely based theme of the new “Breaking Barriers” exhibit focuses on how Lee broke the Charlie Chan-Fu Manchu Hollywood stereotype and persuaded mainstream America to look at Asian Americans in a more respectful light.

The exhibit’s most profound evidence of that is seen in toys and memorabilia from the TV series “The Green Hornet,” in which Lee starred as Kato.

When the series debuted in 1966, many magazine covers, advertisements and collectibles featured only the white lead actor, Van Williams. It wasn’t until the charismatic Lee earned a cult following — his fight scenes were the most memorable of that short-lived series — that the TV industry and mainstream media started to give Lee equal billing in the magazine covers and ads.

Fans who expect to see Lee the action hero will have plenty to feed their nostalgia. All of Lee’s signature moves — the acrobatics, the boxerlike footwork, the textbook-perfect kicks and the screeching — are featured in film clips, interactive displays and behind-the-scene accounts.

There are clips from Lee’s lesser-known roles: with Raymond Burr in “Ironside” and the ABC series “Longstreet,” and in one for trivia buffs, Lee’s first appearance in a Hollywood movie: “Marlowe,” in which he plays a dapper gangster who threatens James Garner and trashes his office with highflying kicks and chops.

Under glass are Lee’s scribbled notes for his fight scene with basketball star Abdul-Jabbar in “Game of Death.” The cursive text, written in ballpoint pen, offers a blow-by-blow account of how Lee wanted that epic fight to unfold: “low angle hand held camera toward Kareem, as Kareem snaps his front right hand/cut … flying back into shots from trampoline.”

There’s short, raw footage of Lee sparring. (Yes, he looks just as lightning-fast without any camera tricks or editing.)

Unlike most martial artists who at the time didn’t make contact or hit at full force while sparring, Lee put on pads and head gear and went at it, said his widow, a 1963 Garfield High grad. “He said, ‘You cannot learn to fight by pretending to hit someone, just as you cannot learn to swim by practicing on dry land.’ ”