Chinese live up to Prince Charles' 'waxworks' jibe

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Celebrity-mad Chinese can now shoot hoops with the basketball legend Yao Ming, have breakfast at Tiffany's with Audrey Hepburn and even get married to Prince William, with veil and bouquet laid on, at mainland China's first Madame Tussauds waxworks.

But Prince Charles' sniffy comment referring to China's leadership as "appalling old waxworks", which he reportedly made during the Hong Kong handover in 1997, means there is no room for William's dad at the Shanghai museum.

On the 10th floor of a plush shopping mall on Shanghai's main shopping street, Nanjing Road, this Madame Tussauds is the sixth branch. The museum is showing 75 exhibits initially, with more on the way, and there is lots of space for people to take photos with their favourite idols.

And some of the more popular exhibits have suffered a lot of wear and tear in the opening few days, such as the Hong Kong actor and singer Andy Lau.

"It was a bit messy since visitors got so excited," an employee said. "They want to be close to their icons. As a result Andy Lau's face was scratched a lot and his white shirt became black." Another employee, Sun Junpu, said: "We have to do repair work every day; almost every statue has fingernail scratches left by passionate visitors."

But the accent is on China itself. Action star Jackie Chan has pride of place, near sprinter Liu Xiang, as is Olympic diving champ Guo Jingjing, who had to hold her diving pose for two hours while her waxwork was being measured. Tom Cruise is also there, looking slightly mournful, perhaps because his film, Mission Impossible 3, has been delayed indefinitely in China amid censor fears about displays of dirty underwear.

Tickets cost £6.50 a go, pricey for China, but that has not deterred 3,500 visitors a day since it opened this month. Celebrity culture has taken over the media in China and in the absence of free reporting on politics and other social issues, it is fast becoming an obsession. But reports of hysterical visitors and broken (wax) arms and legs are exaggerated.

A popular pose is to shoot hoops with Yao Ming, China's basketball star who is the tallest player in America's National Basketball Association at 7ft 6in. Modellers had to use a ladder to measure him. He looks considerably bigger than the legendary Michael Jordan, who stands by admiringly.

Bradgelina get a great showing in the entrance hall, though Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie are not looking at each other. The England captain David Beckham and his wife, Victoria are also there, and aspiring vocalists can sing along with the popular Hong Kong band Twins.

Before the opening, there was a fuss about the decision not to include the Prince of Wales. He caused a stir last November when published extracts of his handover diary showed him snubbing the Chinese leadership. But Princess Diana is given a big showing

Another big draw is Audrey Hepburn, who sitting holding a cigarette in the classic pose from "Breakfast at Tiffany's". She was chosen after Chinese voted for her in a survey. The seat opposite her is empty so visitors can be be photographed with her.

With temperatures hotting up in Shanghai, attention has turned to making sure the waxworks do not melt in the summer heat, which can reach 40C. The museum has spare limbs, just in case.

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