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Sports collector's museum is a triumph of dedication

Xinhua | Updated: 2024-04-02 08:06
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US-raised Xie Fei has turned his lifelong passion into a unique contribution to China's sports culture.

Residing on Hainan Island, Xie has established an extensive private museum, filled with his personal collection of memorabilia, in Hainan's Fushan town of Chengmai county, to preserve the history of Chinese sports.

"This has been my biggest hobby," says 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 items in my collection, and instead of keeping them at home, I wanted to showcase them at the hotel. It might appeal to tourists and neighborhood residents," Xie says.

Indeed, many tourists expressed an interest in the exhibition, leading to more permanent displays, and eventually, the official opening of his own museum in a 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 items to add to his collection.

Jerseys from China's women's volleyball team, the signature of China's first Olympic champion Xu Haifeng, and a torch from the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games are among the items collected. As his valuable collection expanded, he began to feel more responsibility.

According to Xie, the collection preserves the history of Chinese sports and the country's Olympic spirit. "The collection has rich value in educating people," Xie says.

Therefore, Xie decided to donate his more than 2,000 items 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 items from his collection 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 provide the best education," Xie says. "I hope the next generation will learn from the items in the collection 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, enhancing Hainan's local culture is important, and sports are one of the key elements of doing that," he says.

Since then, Xie has started collecting local sports memorabilia. During this process, he found that records of local sports history were 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 collector'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 memorabilia," Xie says. "I want everyone to know how vibrant Hainan's sports culture is."

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