Beijing, Mr. Zhang’s Living Room


Name: Mr. Zhang

Age: 63

Chinese zodiac sign: Pig

Education: Junior High School


Profession: Antiques dealer, art collector. Mr. Zhang also repairs old furniture and knows how to carve around 3000 old Chinese wood carving designs.


When you are at home, what is your favorite activity? What do you enjoy the most?

Collecting antiques, especially furniture and textile. I enjoy studying the old Chinese culture, starting 5000 years ago.


Name three of your daily routine activities:

I have many different hobbies, such as cooking. I used to cook for the leaders of our country, including Chairman Mao himself. When I spent several years for business in Africa (Ivory Coast), I learned from Europeans how to cook Western dishes.

I like singing, especially the old Chinese songs from 50 – 60 years ago. I also learned how to sing in the old Beijing opera style. Repairing antiques is another daily activity.

Next to that I like to make poems and write them down in old style calligraphy (sentences are written top down, and from the right to the left). I have written poems for famous leaders like Hu JinTao .



What is your favorite food?

I like all kind of meat dishes and I prefer to cook myself. I am very good at cooking and I won a first place for my meat dish in a competition. I can say that my cooking, especially in the old Beijing style, is the best!


How much money does your family spend on food per day?

Between 50 and 100 yuan.


Where is your hometown? (if not Beijing: do you miss your hometown? if so, what do you miss most?)

I am from Beijing, so I am a “Lao” Beijinger. If I would not be in Beijing, I would miss my house and my antiques most.


What is your most precious childhood memory?

The old days, the “Lao” Beijing time, when everything was still natural. As a little boy I used to play with children in the neighborhood and there were no high rise buildings, no cars and there was no pollution.


But I grew up in a very difficult time […]. My family lost everything they owned. I remember that, as a child, I was walking around with a cart selling ice cream. The money I made was a necessary contribution to the family income for buying the daily necessities.

Many years later I had a similar experience. In the nineties, my father sent me to West Africa to buy land from Taiwanese owners. On the land I managed a plantation for timber. We exported the timber to Europe and China. Six years I lived and worked in Ivory Coast. After 4.5 years, the government took all my possessions, including the plantation. It took me 1.5 year of hard work and long days to make enough money to be able to buy a ticket back home.

Once I came back in China I worked very hard and made good money with antique restoration and wood carving. Bit by bit I was able to “buy back” the kind of art and antique that used to belong to our family heritage and that we lost several decades before.

Now I am about to lose everything again. The house where I live has to make way for a new building project. The government offers me 2600 RMB per square meter. With this money I can only buy a small apartment, which means that I have to get rid of my art collection. This makes me very sad.


What are the three most important things in life for you?

Freedom, my family heritage and happiness.


What are, according to you, the values that one needs to live up to in life?

To live happy. Your life has to be meaningful and you need a hobby; something you really like to do and that you are interested in. Do the thing you really like to do and always remember to do good things, not bad things. And as a man, you have to be righteous.


Would you say you are a) happy b) somewhat happy c) somewhat unhappy d) unhappy

This is a very difficult question. Happiness is a relative concept. If you are very hungry and you get some food, you will feel happy. Happiness depends on the context. Even in bad situations, there are always happy moments. If there is no happiness, there is no unhappiness; if there is no unhappiness, there is no happiness.


What do you expect will the future bring for you?

I wish I can find buyers for my antique collection and that I can find a good place to live and enjoy my life. I also hope that I can continue collecting antiques.


What is your religion?

I am a Buddhist.




Video of the 360 degree panoramic photo
(click full screen icon for best view)
the below video is on Vimeo; banned in China


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *