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Last Updated: Friday, 18 November 2005, 12:06 GMT
Shaolin monks back TV talent hunt
Shaolin monk
Shaolin monks are famous around the world
China's ancient Shaolin Temple, famous for its kung-fu tradition, is to launch a TV show inviting viewers to vote for their favourite martial arts masters.

Chinese Kung Fu Star Search will ask viewers to vote by text message or the internet after each show.

"Regardless of nationality, skin colour or style, anyone who practises Chinese kung fu is welcome to take part," the Xinhua news agency said.

Contestants must be male, and Shaolin monks are not allowed to take part.

The series is part of abbot Shi Yongxin's efforts to promote the temple.

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

Finalists would then get the chance to perform in a big-budget movie and TV series based on stories from the 1,500-year-old temple, which has inspired countless movies in Hong Kong and China.

One of its leading claims to fame in the west is as the training grounds of David Carradine's main character, Kwai Chang Caine, in the film Kung Fu.

Another talent show, Inner Mongolian Cow Sour Yoghurt Supergirl, has been China's leading TV show of recent months.

More than 400 million people tuned in to August's grand final of the programme, based on the UK's Pop Idol format and named after its dairy sponsor.

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