House that Jackie Chan wants to build

March 2nd, 2009 - 9:29 am ICT by IANS  

Hong Kong, March 2 (DPA) It’s not the house that Jack built but rather the old houses that film star Jackie Chan wants to rebuild that is giving Hong Kong authorities a headache.

For 10 years, the movie star has paid millions of US dollars to store a collection of seven antique wooden Chinese houses amassed over 20 years in warehouses in the former British colony.

The plan was to have the houses rebuilt to form a tourist attraction or living museum to showcase the culture and skills of China’s past along with a collection of the star’s props and awards.

Ideally, Chan, who inherited his love of old houses from his late father, would have liked the site to be in his birthplace of Hong Kong.

However, in Hong Kong, where land is scarce and property commands some of the highest prices per square metre in the world, it proved a mission impossible - even for an action hero of Chan’s status.

Earlier this month, the 54-year-old announced he had given up hope of the Hong Kong government finding him a plot on which to build his houses despite a decade of pleading.

Instead, in a move that is embarrassing to Hong Kong, he plans to take his houses to Singapore after officials there jumped at the chance within days of a casual conversation with the star, offering him space at a new university scheduled for completion in 2011.

The move was described as a “slap in the face” for Hong Kong by tourism sector lawmaker Paul Tse, who said Chan was a living icon in Hong Kong and should be protected by the city.

“This could have been a tourist attraction for Hong Kong,” Tse said. “What has Singapore got to do with Jackie? He’s been the tourism icon for Hong Kong for many years.”

Chan said he has done his best to keep the houses in Hong Kong but it took Singapore 10 days to make a decision that Hong Kong could not reach in 10 years.

“Too many consultations are required,” Chan said after the Singapore plan was made public. “… They [the government] are too afraid to be criticised and would rather do nothing.”

“It’s not me letting Hong Kong down,” he added. “I already did my best. Government officials and legislators should not bemoan me for this because I’ve been pleading with a lot of people just to give me a piece of land.

“And now it’s all gone to Singapore, all my props and awards, Now if you want to see a Jackie Chan museum, you will have to go to Singapore.”

According to Chan’s Singapore-based property manager, Simon Kwan, the houses date back to the Ming (1368-1644) and Qing (1644-1911) dynasties and are worth more than $67 million.

They consist of seven wooden housing structures, each around 600 square metres, plus foundation stones and a performing stage dating back more than 200 years.

Kwan said the houses would be a great asset to Singapore.

“They really are lovely houses and show the craftsmanship and culture of the Anhui province, where they originate from,” he said. “Jackie bought them because his dad loved houses like this.”

While Chan wanted to donate them to Hong Kong, he is also happy they are going to Singapore, Kwan said.

“He loves Singapore,” Kwan said. “He thinks it’s the best place to donate his houses to provide education and let the people appreciate them.”

The incident echoes that of another Hong Kong action hero: Bruce Lee. For years, fans of the kung fu actor who died in 1973 pressed the Hong Kong government to convert his former Hong Kong home into a museum and memorial to the star.

At one stage, the house that Lee affectionately called the Crane’s Nest, was being used as a “love hotel”, where rooms were rented out at hourly rates in most cases to couples engaged in illicit affairs or men hiring prostitutes.

It was only when the owner of the house said he would consider donating the 10-million-US-dollar property that tourism officials began studying overseas examples for museums for famous personalities, such as the Beatles Story in Liverpool and Elvis Presley’s Graceland mansion in the United States.

It is now expected to be developed into a major tourist attraction for the city, possibly including a library and shop for fans of Lee, who starred in films including Fists of Fury and Enter the Dragon

But there is also hope for Hong Kong fans of Jackie Chan. This week, after news of the Singapore plan was made public, the Hong Kong government confirmed it had identified two sites that might be used for Chan’s antique houses and said it was still in talks with Chan.

Chan, however, is less optimistic, saying the move to Singapore was set, barring a miracle.

“I am really touched by the Singaporean government’s quick reaction,” he said. “If I give Hong Kong’s government 10 days, or even a month, will they give me an answer? I don’t think so.”

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