Name: Bao LinDi
Chinese zodiac sign: Dragon
Education： After studying a term at junior high school, I dropped out. At the age of 13 I started learning the pedicure skills (Xiujiao), mainly practicing how to use Xiujiao knives and how to use force with the wrist.
Profession： I’m a pedicurist, treating foot problems like nail infections and callus. I was born in a family of pedicurists with a history of 170 years. I’m the 4th generation in my family that mastered the skills. Yangzhou (Jiangsu province) is the hometown of pedicure (Xiujiao). The well-known “Yangzhou’s Three Knives” includes the Xiujiao knife. In my generation, I’m the only one in this business.
When you are at home, what is your favorite activity? What do you enjoy the most?
I like playing Chinese chess and mahjong. I also practice calligraphy and collect modern Chinese paintings.
Name three of your daily routine activities:
Pedicure, to some degree, is a lonely work. What I do most is to treat people’s foot problems. The store opens at 9:00am and closes at 10:00pm. I run this business all by myself, because I have to consider the cost. There’re 7 or 8 customers per day, not too many. It takes about 10 to 20 minutes to treat a patient. My average income is 10,000 RMB a month, but the rent is very high, almost 6,000 RMB.
There’re many causes for foot problems, such as work, types of feet, leg injury and intense exercise. Onychomycosis is caused by fungal infection of nails. Some patients feel very scared and nervous about their foot problems. When treating their feet, I’ll try to distract their attention, so they can get through the treatment even without noticing the pain.
I’ll also make some drugs and medicine with herbs. The medicine advertised on TV can only address symptoms but cannot eradicate the problem.
What is your favorite food?
At my age, I prefer to eat vegetables.
How much money do you spend on food per day?
I spend no more than 20 RMB a day including cigarettes, because I’m alone. A packet of cigarettes costs 10 RMB and I don’t smoke that much a day.
Where is your hometown? (if not Beijing: do you miss your hometown? if so, what do you miss most?)
I can’t go home. I got divorced and I’m all alone now.
I came to Beijing because I want to transfer my pedicure (Xiujiao) skills to other people. I want to get the government’s attention for this old skill. Xiujiao should be recognized as an intangible cultural heritage of China. It is almost too late because the authentic traditional Xiujiao skill is hard to find.
A year ago, I came to Beijing all alone and only bringing this skill with me. I went to Shanghai before I came here. Together with a partner I planned to do some training programs and open a chain store. But my partner passed away in an accident. Then I went to Huai’an, the hometown of former premier Zhou Enlai, but I again failed. After that, I returned to Yangzhou. Beijing is the last stop of my journey. It would be best if I can realize my dream here. But if I can’t, I won’t complain because I’ve tried my best. The Xiujiao skill is a heritage worth keeping for the society, not for myself.
Even if I can’t make my living in Beijing, I wouldn’t go back to Yangzhou. In fact, Xiujiao can secure me a good life. A pedicurist can earn 200,000 RMB a year in Yangzhou. My students with good skills can earn between 200,000 RMB and 300,000 RMB.
What is your most precious childhood memory?
Most of my childhood memory is about learning Xiujiao skill. At first, I was not willing to learn it. We have a rule in learning the skill: one should start learning before or at the age of 13, if you start later you are not considered a real Xiujiao master. I began learning the skill when I was just 13 years old. In the second half of that year, my father fell ill, so my career as a pedicurist began very early.
I became the number one pedicurist when I was 18. I started a small store, no more than 6 square meters. It belonged to a state owned bathhouse. It was I who proposed to run this business. We recruited four students. They were all female, for the first time in Xiujiao history. Two of them are quite successful now. One is a NPC (National People’s Congress) member, and the other is a member of the CPPCC (Chinese People’s Political Consultative Committee).
What are the three most important things in life for you?
My son is most important and he is everything to me. He will take the college entrance examination this year. He didn’t learn the Xiujiao skills, because he was studying in school at the age of 13.
Of course, the Xiujiao skills mean a lot to me as well.
What are, according to you, the values that one needs to live up to in life?
I will find the biggest value for the rest of my life in popularizing the Xiujiao skills and to make sure that they will be passed on from generation to generation.
Would you say you are a) happy b) somewhat happy c) somewhat unhappy d) unhappy
I think I’m more happy now that I do everything myself, because I’m free. I used to be a boss and earned more than one million RMB per year. But now, I’m not that interested in money.
I devote all my passion to teaching others my skills. My biggest disadvantage is my lack of (general) knowledge, because I quit high school so early.
What do you expect will the future bring for you?
When I become 55 or 60 years old, my eyes, legs and hands may not function well and I may not have enough energy anymore. By then it will be impossible to realize my dream. The time to realize my dream is limited.
In the first place, I must run this store well. I want to get the attention of the government. Maybe I’ll write to them, hoping they’ll send some experts to certify the Xiujiao skills.
Beijing has a large number of migrant workers, which is a rich resource (he is referring to the migrant workers without a “legal” status who are not entitled to receive free education for their children). Some of the migrant workers bring their children with them when they move to Beijing. I want to recruit some 13-year-old children and give them training.
Xiujiao is a unique Chinese skill, which dates back to more than 2000 years ago. No matter in Southeast Asia or other places around the world, as long as people wear shoes and walk with their feet, they will encounter foot problems. That’s a big potential market.
What is your religion?
I have no religion.
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