SHIYAN, Central China, Oct. 16 (Xinhua) -- China will host the biggest-ever world martial arts competition in the hinterland city of Shiyan over the next three days in a move to promote the Asian economic powerhouse's traditional culture internationally.
More than 2,200 contestants from 83 countries and regions will compete in the 4th World Traditional Wushu Championships in Shiyan, near the Wudang Mountain, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the cradle of a main sect of Chinese martial arts as important as the Shaolin style.
In a flurry of spectacular fireworks of various colors and shapes, the opening ceremony of the championships began late Saturday in a newly-renovated stadium, with an enthusiastic crowd of more than 5,000 in it.
Hollywood star and martial artist Jackie Chan said that he is proud to have seen people from all over the world come to learn martial arts in China and that he hopes the sport will become a formal medal event at the Olympic Games. "Chinese culture will be better understood this way," he added.
During the three-day championships, contestants from 196 delegations will participate in 300 events, from Shaolin boxing, Wudang boxing, Tai chi chuan to those using weapons like swords and spears.
"Contestants outnumber those in previous championships, making this year' s event the biggest ever in the field of Chinese martial arts." Wang Xiaolin, general secretary of the International Wushu Federation, said in a press conference before the opening ceremony.
"Wushu originated in China but belongs to the world. It is not only a sport but also a part of Chinese culture. The championships will have a far-reaching effect on the promotion of Chinese martial arts around world as China is set to enhance its cultural and soft power," Wang said.
The International Wushu Federation has made great progress in spreading Wushu to the rest of the world since it was established in 1990 and a total of 139 countries and regions have joined the federation, which is one of only a few international sport organizations headquartered in the Chinese capital city of Beijing.
Wang said that his federation has held a series of world championships and world cups, given lectures to martial arts coaches and judges worldwide, and helped China send coaches to some foreign countries.
A number of Confucius Institutes, non-profit public institutions that aim to promote the Chinese language and culture worldwide, also teach Chinese martial arts and make the sport more popular in the U.S. and Europe, he said.
"We have been trying to push Wushu to become an event at the future Summer Olympic Games. There is, of course, a long way to go and currently we are mulling simplifying the sport and make it accepted by Pan-American Games and All-Africa Games first."