Fans of martial arts superstar Jet Li are praying for his health after shocking recent photos revealed the extent of his hyperthyroidism and spinal problems.
Martial arts legend Jet Li is battling illness
The Hollywood icon, who starred in Lethal Weapon 4, Romeo Must Die and more recently The Expendables 2, revealed five years ago he has been suffering from hyperthyroidism.
A recent photo of him visiting a temple in Tibet has been widely circulated with many people taken aback by Li’s frail appearance. The photo also showed he had to be assisted while he walked.
Last year, the 55-year-old Beijing-born actor spoke about his illness after a long absence from the public eye at One Foundation’s charity dinner in the Chinese capital.
The actor said he had been diagnosed with an overactive thyroid in 2010 and although he took medication that kept his illness in check, the condition kept coming back.
Hyperthyroidism causes changes in a person’s metabolism and heart rate and is usually treated through medication. It affects 1.6 per cent of the population in the US alone.
Li says his strong belief in Buddhism as well as meditation and scripture reading help stabilize his condition.
Li has said that his resting heart rate can go up to 130 beats per minute because of his illness, and that he cannot do any rigorous exercise.
He revealed he had been warned by doctors in 2013 that he “would end up in a wheelchair” if he continued making physically demanding action films.
He said at the time: “I’m just a regular guy. I’m not Wong Fei-hung. I’m not Huo Yuanjia [kung fu heroes he has portrayed on film]. I’m just like you.”
The star of the breakout Chinese classic Once Upon a Time in China said he was also suffering from leg and spinal problems and that he was unable to stand straight for too long, his poor health the result of decades of demanding film roles, stunts and injuries.
He has been making films since he burst onto the scene as a former national martial arts champion while in his teens in the late 1970s.
Li suffered his first major injury at 18 when he tore his knee that required seven-and-a-half hours of surgery. He also sustained a serious back injury at 23.
Internet users were shocked by his recent appearance in Tibet after the photo made the rounds on social media, drawing many comments, mostly of concern for his well-being.
“He was so active before and now he looks like an old man”, said one Chinese internet user.
“His kung fu is real and his films were great. Pity he’s suffering from this illness”, said another.
“I couldn’t even recognize him”, added another.
One social networker said ageing was a natural process and affects everybody but Li had aged far too, much having lived a tough life as an action movie star.
Recently Li had produced and appeared in a short film starring Jack Ma, founder of the Alibaba Group and an avowed martial arts fan. Alibaba also owns Inkstone.
Li is also in talks to portray the Emperor of Chinese emperor in Disney’s upcoming live-action remake of Mulan.