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August 9, 2011

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Home » Metro » Entertainment and Culture

Likely martial arts site to be saved

SHANGHAI'S cultural heritage authority yesterday reversed itself and decided to protect four century-old buildings that might be the center of the former Chin Woo Athletic Association founded by Chinese martial arts master Huo Yuanjia in the 1900s.

The plan to dismantle the four Spanish-style buildings in Yangpu District caused public outrage on microblogs last week.

Officials with the cultural heritage authority of the district said the buildings were not given protected status because they could not confirm they were owned by the Chin Woo Athletic Association.

People protested online that the buildings must be protected because of the status of Huo, who died within months of the establishment of the association. He was widely admired as a Chinese national hero for defeating foreign fighters in highly publicized kung fu matches. He became popular again in China and abroad after Jet Li played Huo in the 2006 film "Fearless."

As one of the first public martial arts institutes in China, Chin Woo was intended to create a structured environment for teaching and learning martial arts as opposed to the secretive training common up to that point.

"The authority has decided to retain the buildings anyway because it is a century-old structure that deserves protection, as well as considering the opinions from local people," said an official with the Shanghai Municipal Administration of Cultural Heritage.

The official said the authority previously planned to demolish the buildings because they found they probably were rebuilt on the former address of the association and had no business with the association.

The four buildings built in 1916 were likely the second center for the association after Huo's death in 1910, said Xu Liyong, a Shanghai chorography expert. Xu said its old headquarters was destroyed by typhoon in 1915. The association was forced to move out of the buildings in 1923 because of poor business, and the buildings have been abandoned since then, he said.

Restorations will be launched soon, the cultural heritage official said.

The two-and-half-story wooden and brick structures are in poor condition, but some old-style ceramic walls, curved doors and wooden stairs can still be seen.

Two 2-meter-tall Gothic doors with colorful windows remain on the second floor of one of the buildings.


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