Feature: A sports collector's journey to opening a museum in China's Hainan

2024-March-28 10:05 By: Xinhua

HAIKOU, March 28 (Xinhua) -- U.S.-raised Xie Fei has turned his lifelong passion for collecting sports memorabilia into a unique contribution to China's sports culture.

Residing on Hainan Island, Xie has established an extensive private sports museum in Fushan, Chengmai County, a way he preserves the history of Chinese sports.

"This has been my biggest hobby," said the 42-year-old, who began collecting sneakers and jerseys back in high school in California and continued his passion in Beijing during his college years. "I have devoted more than two decades to it."

Items from NBA stars Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, and LeBron James feature prominently in Xie's Tianfu Sports Museum. These items mark the beginning of his collection journey, which, however, extends far beyond that.

Around 25 years ago, Xie returned to China for higher education and in 2002 started his own business in Hainan - a resort hotel in Fushan, which highlighted local coffee and showcased his sports memorabilia.

"At that time, I thought I had many sports collections, and instead of keeping them at home, I wanted to showcase them at the hotel. It might appeal tourists and neighborhood residents," said Xie.

Indeed, many tourists expressed interest in the exhibition, leading to more permanent displays, and eventually, the official opening of his museum in a vacated four-story building.

At that time, Xie, who just returned to China and was still not fluent in Mandarin, found that the museum could be a bridge connecting him to others. His collection began to expand beyond the NBA, embracing a richer tapestry of Chinese items. Since then, he has been searching for more Chinese sports collections.

Jerseys from China's women's volleyball team, the signature of China's first Olympic champion Xu Haifeng, and the torch of the Beijing Olympic Games - As his valuable collections expanded, he began to feel more responsibility.

According to Xie, the collections preserve the history of Chinese sports and the country's Olympic spirit. "These collections have rich value in educating people," Xie stated.

Therefore, Xie decided to donate all his over 2,000 collections to the government while continuing to exhibit them for free in his museum. He funds the museum's maintenance with the proceeds from his hotel and often invites sports experts to hold seminars there.

In recent years, he has frequently taken his collections to schools to teach children about the history of Chinese sports. He has also built a swimming pool and a basketball court next to the museum for local teenagers to use for free.

"Sports are the best education," said Xie. "I hope the next generation will learn from these collections and the stories behind them."

As China decided to establish a free trade port system in Hainan in 2018, Xie wanted to contribute more to the island where he has lived for more than 20 years.

"To promote the construction of the free trade port, promoting Hainan's local culture is important, and sports are one of the key elements," he remarked.

Since then, Xie has started collecting local sports memorabilia. During this process, he found that local sports history was incomplete, so he contacted local scholars and began compiling and filling in the gaps.

From the medal of Hainan's first-ever Games to the traditional sports equipment of local Li and Miao people, after several years of effort, Xie's museum has been able to organize a special Hainan sports exhibition while also delving into more detailed historical research.

But the museum owner's efforts do not stop there. Looking forward, he has set a new goal.

"I want to build a new museum, one that features only Hainan sports collections," said Xie. "I want everyone to know how vibrant Hainan's sports culture is."

Editor: WRX
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