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Gere Visits Buddhist Temple in S. Korea

Hollywood star Richard Gere -- a Buddhist and a longtime campaigner for the rights of Tibetans -- on Tuesday visited a Buddhist temple during a visit to South Korea.

Gere will later this week also attend an opening ceremony for an exhibition of photographs entitled "Pilgrim" which he took in Tibet and at other sites devoted to the religion.

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Serbia's Icon-Painting Nuns Combine Religion and Art

On the wooded slopes of southwestern Serbia's Golija mountain, a dozen nuns at the Gradac monastery have devoted their lives to God but have not turned their backs on their lifelong passion: painting.

Twenty years ago Jasna Topolski, already a famous artist who had graduated from the Academy of Fine Arts in Belgrade, arrived at this 13th-century monastery. Today, she is Efimija, the mother superior.

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Split Vietnam Church Hopes to Reunite Soon'

A Christian religious leader in Vietnam on Monday expressed hope for reunification of a million-strong church that remains divided between north and south four decades after the end of the Vietnam War.

The Evangelical Church of Vietnam (ECVN) operates as two separate entities, with a northern church and one in the south, a split that persists long after the 1975 communist victory reunited the two halves of the country.

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In China, Professional Mourners Spice up Funerals

Hu Xinglian kneels before the corpse of Liang Zhicai and, with one hand on his metal coffin, lets out a piercing wail. But Hu is not at all grief-stricken -- she is a professional mourner.

In parts of China, where rural pre-burial rituals are still observed, mourners known as "kusangren" are hired to guarantee that a funeral is a spectacle in grief. And the 53-year-old Hu is up to the task.

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Sofia's Main Soviet Army Monument Gets Pop Art Facelift

Can Superman handle a Soviet machine-gun flanked by Santa Claus with binoculars and rifle, while McDonald's clown mascot Ronald drinks beer behind their backs?

All is possible in a witty pop art facelift of a symbolic Soviet army monument in central Sofia Saturday.

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French Artist Cancels China Show over Ai Detention

French sculptor Daniel Buren has decided to cancel an exhibition scheduled for mid-July in Beijing in "solidarity" with detained artist Ai Weiwei, he told Agence France Presse.

Buren, perhaps best known for his striped columns in the historic state-owned Palais Royal gardens near the Louvre in Paris, was to have shown a vast exhibit at the Ullens Center for Contemporary Art from July 15.

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Chinese Copy of Austrian Village Stirs Emotions

It's a scenic jewel, a hamlet of hill-hugging chalets, elegant church spires and ancient inns all reflected in the deep still waters of an Alpine lake. Hallstatt's beauty has earned it a listing as a UNESCO World Heritage site but some villagers are less happy about a more recent distinction: plans to copy their hamlet in China.

After taking photos and collecting other data on the village while mingling with the tourists, a Chinese firm has started to rebuild much of Hallstatt in faraway Guangdong province, a project that residents here see with mixed emotions.

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Indian State Plans World's Tallest Statue

The Indian state of Gujarat has invited global tenders to help build the world's tallest statue -- a 182-meter memorial to an independence hero that will cost $300 million.

The towering 597-feet figure, which would reach almost halfway up New York's Empire State Building, will bear the likeness of Vallabhbhai Patel, the freedom fighter who guided India's integration into a united, independent nation.

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Artists Occupy Historic Rome Theater, Protesting Closure

Around 100 people have occupied a historic Italian theater where Luigi Pirandello's "Six Characters in Search of an Author" was first performed to protest plans to convert the landmark into a restaurant.

The Valle, which opened in the 18th century and was the site of Pirandello's famous opening in 1921, is Rome's oldest active theatre.

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Bulgaria Brings Home Smuggled Antiquities from Canada

Bulgaria has repatriated 21,000 smuggled coins, jewelry and other rare antiquities from Canada through diplomatic mail to save money, Culture Minister Vezhdi Rashidov said Thursday.

The seizure and return of the illegally imported cultural objects, which cover more than 2,600 years of Bulgarian history and are worth 707,000 Euros ($1 million), was the largest ever in Canada.

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