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Martial arts superstar Jet Li unrecognizable due to illness

Fans of martial arts superstar Jet Li are in shock after recent photos revealed the extent of his hyperthyroidism and spinal problems.

The Hollywood icon, who starred in Lethal Weapon 4Romeo Must Die and more recently Expendables 2, and is known for his Kung Fu skills, 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.

In 2017, the 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.

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.

Hyperthyroidism causes changes in a person’s metabolism and heart rate and is usually treated through medication.


Li says his strong belief in Buddhism as well as meditation and scripture reading help stabilise his condition.

The action star also said a few years ago that he was unable to perform stressful physical activities due to his condition.

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.

During several interviews with local news channels he said that he was unable to stand straight for too long, his poor health the result of decades of demanding film roles, stunts and injuries.

In 2013, the Chinese action star discussed his diagnosis during the taping of a talent show he was judging in China.

During the taping, Li appeared to have a fuller face and heavier frame. He said his weight has fluctuated, but he’s taking it all in stride.


Li joked about his weight gain and said, “I’m fat. I don’t have the time to lose it. It’s a fact!”

He explained that exercise is not advised with the medication he’s taking.

He said that he’s tackling his illness head-on. “I’m just a regular guy. I’m not Wong Fei Hung, I’m not Huo Yuan Jia (Kung Fu heroes he portrays on film). I’m not a hero. I’m just like you.”

A martial arts champion at a young age, Li turned to acting and began showing off his Kung Fu skills on big screens in the 1980s.

He catapulted to fame in the ’90s with the Once Upon a Time in China films, where he portrayed martial arts master Wong Fei Hung.

Li confessed there are times he’s unsure if he’ll be able to carry on with work, but he’s determined. “I’m in pain, but I’m not suffering. I’m happy,” he said.