November 18, 2005

China kung fu temple switches on to reality TV

BEIJING (Reuters) - China's ancient Shaolin Temple, made
famous in the West by Grasshopper in the 1970s "Kung Fu"
television series, is entering the age of reality TV with a
show its own.

"Chinese Kung Fu Star Search" will invite viewers to vote
for their favorite martial arts masters by text messages or
through the Internet after each episode, due to hit living
rooms across China in March, Xinhua news agency said on Friday.

"Regardless of nationality, skin color or style, anyone who
practises Chinese kung fu is welcome to take part," Xinhua

"But all contestants must be men and Shaolin monks are not
allowed to participate."

The eight-month contest is aiming to knock the "Inner
Mongolian Cow Sour Yoghurt Supergirl" show from top spot in
China's ratings.

More than 400 million of China's 1.3 billion people tuned
in to August's final round of the "Supergirl" competition, a
Chinese version of the "American Idol" show.

In the Shaolin show, judges and viewers will rank
contestants by virtue, kung fu and artistry until they settle
on a final 108, the same number as the rebellious heroes from
the classic Chinese novel, "Outlaws of the Marsh."

The finalists would then get the chance to perform
alongside "top international actors" in a big-budget movie and
television series based on true stories from the 1,500-year-old
temple in central Henan province, Xinhua said.

It is all part of abbot Shi Yongxin's efforts to promote
the temple, which has inspired countless movies in China and
Hong Kong but is perhaps best known in the West as the training
grounds of David Carradine's main character, Kwai Chang Caine,
in "Kung Fu."

Shi has been trying to protect the Shaolin name by applying
for international trademarks and to update the image and
facilities of the once-secretive temple, now a popular draw for
Chinese and foreign tourists.