FAMOUS for his acrobatic fighting style and signature stunt movies, Jackie Chan is a kung fu movie legend with millions of fans around the world.
Starring in more than 100 movies has not only secured him a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, but also turned him into a Chinese cultural icon.
Together with Shanghai-native National Basketball Association star Yao Ming and famous pianist Lang Lang, Chan has been selected as an image ambassador for the upcoming World Expo 2010 Shanghai.
Two of them, Chan and Yao, flew to the southern California town of Pasadena at the start of the year to feature on the Expo Shanghai float in the 121st Tournament of Roses Parade, one of the most famous and traditional New Year's Day celebration activities in the United States.
Chan discussed his contribution to Chinese culture as well as the work of being an Expo ambassador after the parade finished.
Q: What's your impression of the Expo Shanghai float at the Tournament of Roses in Pasadena?
A: I was quite proud to see a Chinese float in an influential foreign country like the US.
It seems that many big international events have occurred in China in recent years, the Olympics, World Expo and the Asian Games. I'm touched to see so many people devoted to working for the events.
Q: What was it like as one of the few on the float for the entire parade?
A: Oh, that was tiring. I could hardly move my shoulders the next morning after waving and smiling to the crowd for the three-hour parade.
My arms gave out, my face muscles stiffened and the seat was so small. But I was happy to hear people of different races chanting "Jackie Chan" along the road.
Q: You seem to be a popular image ambassador for big events. What do you think of the job?
A: Yes, I was selected to be the image ambassador for the Beijing Olympics in 2008 and this time for Expo Shanghai. Also, I will work for the Asian Games to be held in Guangzhou. The government and organizers call me whenever there's an overseas promotion for big events.
Of course I'm happy to be an image ambassador, and if my influence helps I am pleased to do the job. It's tiring being Jackie Chan, but it's also a self-improvement process as I learn a lot by doing this.
Q: Are you comfortable being a cultural icon and even a symbol for Chinese culture?
A: It never occurred to me to symbolize Chinese people or Chinese culture, nor did I deliberately build myself into this. I originally went into the film industry to make money and earn a living.
But as I grew up, I came to realize that incorporating martial arts (in my movies) was a quick shortcut to easy fame.
That's why I chose to do my own stunts without any assistance or technology. In this sense, I subconsciously promoted Chinese culture, especially kung fu, to foreigners. The pressures are heavy but I feel my efforts paid off.
I'm proud to have turned myself from a rough, redneck chap into a civilized man, although still not a well-educated one. It's an honor to showcase China's image and culture to the world.
Q: As an image ambassador for World Expo Shanghai, what will you do to promote the event?
A: The next couple of months will be critical, although I have already been busy attending promotion sessions and recording songs for Expo.
I have a new project to start in April but I will set aside May for the Expo opening ceremony and other major events. Whenever Expo calls, I'll be there. If I really cannot make it, I will take turns with Yao Ming to fulfill our responsibilities.
Q: What else do you think Shanghai should do to support the event?
A: As image ambassadors we exert our fame to push the event, but what's more important is for every resident to be rallying all Shanghai people to support Expo.
Not only me as an image ambassador. Let's all get prepared to warmly welcome 70 million visitors from all over the world.