Beijing, Mr. Jin Xueshi’s Living Room

 

Name: Jin Xueshi

Age: 63

Chinese zodiac sign: Ox

 

Education: After I graduated from middle school I started to work in a village because of the Cultural Revolution; a lot of young people had to help grow crops in poor regions at that time.

 

Profession: I grew crops on the fields for 20 years. Then I started to work in a factory and became the director. Now I’m retired and devoting all my energy to painting.

 

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

I love painting. I have been interested in painting since my early school days, but because of the Cultural Revolution I couldn’t realize my dream. Now I am learning how to paint by myself.

I get up around 4 or 5 a.m. and practice for 6 to 7 hours every day. I have a strong self-discipline and I am always trying to improve my skills. I have been through lots of things in my life, good and bad, and now I only care about achieving my personal goals and please myself. No matter whether I will become famous and rich (as a painter), or not.

 

Almost all of my paintings and drawings are copies from artworks made by others and my favorite subjects are the leaders of my country. It is because of their wise leadership that we can live the wonderful life we live today.

 

Although the Cultural Revolution had a big impact on my life and ended my study in school, I have no negative thoughts towards the government at all. We have to regard the history dialectically. Making mistakes is inevitable during the development of a country, and we wouldn’t even have started the development of our country without Chairman Mao.

 

Name three of your daily routine activities:

Taking a walk, painting, and doing some housework.


 

What is your favorite food?

I prefer food with light flavor, such as fruits and vegetables, not too oily or too salty; and I love drinking tea.

 

How much money do you spend on food per day?

There are six people in my family: my wife, my son, my daughter-in-law, my two grandchildren and me. We spend around 60-70 RMB/day.

 

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

Beijing, I was born and raised in this village (He Gezhuang). Three years ago we built a second floor on the house and that’s where we live right now. The rooms on the ground floor are rented out to tenants.

 

What is your most precious childhood memory?

The most precious childhood memory to me is studying. When I was young, I got full scores for every course, and helped my teacher making test sheets. I used to be the leader of the Student Council and the militia commander, my role was always a leader among all the students. They called me “secretary”, which means the helper of teachers. It was amazing.

 

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

I think spirit is of the biggest importance to everyone. One must achieve a goal, and get rid of emptiness. I have never done anything shameful so far. Maybe it’s because of the traditional education at my time. Call it old fashion, but I don’t see anything bad about it. And that’s also what I taught my child. My family is extremely harmonious. My son is a decent guy and he also asks his children to be decent. Also of importance: I believe that one should be practical.

 

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

I have no strong desire for material stuff. I think one should be practical and be peaceful inside.

 

 

 

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

I’m extremely happy now. Painting with my bare hands, presenting the essence of society, as well as everything I love, is the best thing that ever happened to me.

 

In a broader context; I’m pretty satisfied with the current society. I thank the government for giving farmers such a good treatment and appreciate their efforts on improving laws and in cultural matters. News is pretty much the only thing I watch on TV. I can watch speeches of our leaders for hours, crying for the words. One should always be on the same side with one’s country. ”If there is any aggression, I would fight for my country without a thought”.

 

What do you expect will the future bring for you?

I believe that I can make some achievements in the future, maybe having my own exhibition, or traveling and learning from the world. All people in my family lived a long life, so I still have time. If my house is about to be demolished someday, I will go traveling with the money I get from the demolishment team. I’ll go to the Le Louvre Museum and learn from those masterpieces. I may also visit some museums in Russia.

 

What is your religion?

I have no religion.

 

 

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

 

 

 

Beijing, Li Qiang’s Studio

 

Name: Li Qiang. “Qiang” is not the name my parents gave me. I wanted a name that is unique and I changed it when I was studying at university. I had it officially registered as my new name.  Qiāng, spoken in the 1st tone in Mandarin and in the 4th tone in my dialect, means gun and I associate the pronunciation with a strong smell of gun powder; very intense. These days the name comes in handy on the Internet; there is nobody else with this name (in Chinese characters).

 

Age:48

Chinese zodiac sign: Horse

 

Education: I graduated from the Jiangsu Academy of Education, Nanjing. I would say the general education environment in the whole country, not only in Nanjing, is not very good. In my college, for instance, and in many other colleges, the teachers point out to the students that they are trained to be qualified teachers of arts rather than splendid artists. Even in those top universities of art studies like the Central Academy of Fine Arts, students are not trained to be fine artists.

 

Profession: Independent Artist

 

 

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

I enjoy reading and thinking, discovering something meaningful, and experiencing something special.

My life is based around my studio. I am not very fond of social activities. In my studio, I spend a lot of time reading. As early as in the 1980s, I was already reading books about the most up to date thoughts on arts and culture from the West. These books include books on philosophy, religion and other areas. I have always been keeping the habit of thinking and following trends of thoughts. Currently I am reading the book “The Crowd”, written by a well-known French social psychologist (La psychologie des foules, Gustave Le Bon, 1895).

 

Name three of your daily routine activities:

Cooking, cleaning, and constantly changing the environment in my studio

 

What is your favorite food?

Seafood

 

How much money do you spend on food per day?

Around 30 RMB

 

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

My hometown is Donghai county in Jiangsu Province. Yes, I do miss it. I miss my son.

There were at least several thousand of people in my village. I have four brothers and I’m the third child of the family. But none of my brothers does something that has anything to do with art. They do business or work in a court. Every year when I visited home for the Chinese New Year I found that even though I have brothers, we really had nothing to say to each other. It was the same when I was in the village. No one from the locals understood what I was doing. In 2006 a professor of anthropology from New York University came to make a documentary about me. Her name is Angela. She spent three years, from 2006 to 2008, shooting my life. She said it was really strange that I became an artist out of this village, with nobody from my family, or from where I lived, understanding me.

 

What is your most precious childhood memory?

 

To go outside to see the “ghost fire” in the evening (ghost fire is a phenomenon caused by chemical reactions, for instance on cemeteries where methane gas from decomposing bodies can create a lightning glow).

Ghost fire was actually not what we liked most to play with in childhood, but it is the most impressive thing that we remember from our childhood. We saw something glowing from afar, from some remote and desolate place, which was not necessarily ghost fire. But when we were small it was easy for us to have inexplicable fear for the glowing from the back of the house or just from darkness. The adults, especially our parents, always frightened us with stories about where in the village people died and where in the village horrible things used to happen. We kept these stories in mind, so whenever we passed by those places we felt terribly scared. You know the tassels of the corn, right? I used to be scared by those when I was small. My mom told me that when I was about two or three, I started crying at seeing those tassels because I believed those were beards.

 

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

Love, Faith, and “to be alive”

Love means my love for my family, for my friends, for my life, for myself, and for life itself. I think love is the most basic. Faith is also very crucial in one’s life. Here I’m not referring to religious beliefs, not the God nor the Buddha. Instead I am referring to an ideal, something that is loftier than life, a pursuit of higher values including the invisible values. The third one is “to live”. Actually it should be placed at the top. Life is the most important, everything else – states, democracy, all kinds of “–isms”, fame as well as money – becomes valuable only on the basis of life, or else it is all empty.

 

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

The biggest power that God endows us is the power to become ourselves.

 

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

Somewhat happy

 

What do you expect will the future bring for you?

I feel that I am in a very comfortable position at the moment, so I hope my future would be an extension of my current status. I believe my art creation in the coming four or five years would be more unrestrained. I will try to break through all the boundaries that I created for myself before – like I can do this or I cannot do that. I will try to make something bette r, something which is closer to my inner world

For me, my art creation has to come from my inner world. It is only in this way that I can make my work my own and distinguish it from artworks of other artists. My works are not limited; I do everything – performing art, print, sculpture and documentary. I can’t say what else I will be doing in the future; it’s hard to predict.

 

What is your religion?

I don’t have religious beliefs. I believe in freedom.

 

 

 

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

 

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

 

Beijing, Mr. Guo Haibo’s Taekwondo School

 

Name: Guo HaiBo

Age: 24

Chinese zodiac sign: Rabbit

Education: I graduated from Beijing Sport University and majored in Taekwondo. I started learning Taekwondo when I was 10 years old, in grade 4 of the primary school.

 

Profession: I’m now a full-time trainer at the Botao Taekwondo Gymnasium, teaching classes for kids under 7, comprehensive classes for students over 7 and actual combat classes for people aiming at competitions. After my graduation, I went to Hangzhou first, and then I went to Shaanxi to lead a team. When I returned to Beijing, I began my teaching career. I’ve been a trainer for 2 to 3 years. There’re about 10 classes to teach a week.

Besides teaching students Taekwondo skills, I need to let them understand the Taekwondo spirit. Almost every Taekwondo gymnasium has 12 Chinese characters printed on the wall – propriety, a sense of shame, endurance, self-control and perseverance. “Tae” means attacking with the feet; “kwon” means defense; “do” refers to the Taekwondo spirit. For example, teachers and students must salute each other at the beginning and end of the class.

 

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

I like playing football and watching movies. My favorite football player is Henry of the France national team.

 

Name three of your daily routine activities:

If I have spare time after work, I play football at the playground in our community or at the nearby school every day. I’m a left forward. Surfing the Internet is another daily activity. Apart from that, nothing else really.

 

What is your favorite food?

I’m not particular about food. My favorite is beef.

As a sportsman, I can’t eat high fat food, like fried potato slices. I often eat high protein food like beef. I intentionally lose weight before matches to meet the standard. I won’t eat anything and run with clothes especially designed for losing weight.

 

How much money do you spend on food per day?

50 to 60 RMB per day.

 

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

My hometown is Datong in Shanxi Province. I came to Beijing to learn Taekwondo when I was 13 years old. I don’t miss my hometown so much because I left it when I was very young. Now I’ve got used to Beijing. Sometimes, I would miss my parents. I miss my friends and grandparents in Datong most. By the way, I’m still single.

 

What is your most precious childhood memory?

The most impressive memories are not pleasant ones, such as the time I lost Taekwondo games. I planned to become a football player before, but I didn’t get admitted to a professional football team.

I chose to practice Taekwondo because Taekwondo was an Olympic sport at that time, whereas karate and other martial arts were not. I wanted to take part in more matches, so I chose Taekwondo. 80 percent of the Taekwondo skills are to attack and defend with legs and feet, while karate has more movements with arms and hands.

I’m a black belt, which marks the highest level of competence. My best achievements were 2 championships of the Shanxi province. I used to participate in the men’s 46kg category, but now I fight in the 64kg category.

Many Taekwondo matches are for specific ages. I’ll participate in whatever game I am allowed to. This year, there’re no games for my age, only some for primary and high school students.

 

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

Sports including Taekwondo and football come first. My friends rank second and then my family.

 

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

Nothing special. I just want to lead a normal life and build my own family.

 

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

I think I’m somewhat happy. Living in Beijing puts quite a lot of pressure on me, like the housing problem. But I have a stable job now and I enjoy living a normal life. Therefore, I’m somewhat happy.

 

What do you expect will the future bring for you?

I wish I can earn adequate money and go abroad to watch football games. Then I hope to buy a house of my own.

In fact, I want to be an athlete instead of a trainer. But because of injuries, I retired from top level competitions. I hope I can have my own professional Taekwondo team in the future and lead my team to take part in matches. However, first I need the buy a house in Beijing and earn enough money.

 

What is your religion?

I don’t have one.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

Beijing, Mr. Yang’s Bird Shop

 

Name: Yang Jian

Age: 45 (born in 1965)

Chi nese zodiac sign: Snake

Education: Junior High school

 

Profession: Owner of a bird shop. I had a store near ShiLiHe (an area in Beijing) before. When I heard about the plans to preserve traditional Chinese culture in GaoBeidian, including the tradition of keeping birds, I moved my store here. It gives me the opportunity to both teach and learn from others about old traditions.

 

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

Drinking alcohol and reading about birds on the Internet (BBS/Forums). The Internet allows me to keep up to date with all news related to birds.

 

Name three of your daily routine activities:

My life is simple. I just go to my bird shop in the morning and go back home in the evening. Now it is low season (this interview took place in the winter) and I don’t have to come here every day. I just have to feed the birds every two days.

 

What is your favorite food?

Instant boiled mutton in the winter and noodles with soybean paste in the summer. Both are traditional Beijing dishes.

 

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

It´s hard to say how much per day, or even per month. Let´s change the question into “how much I earn every year”, which is easier for me to answer.

The bird market has peak and off peak seasons. Due to the weather both summer and winter are not comfortable for outdoor activities and during these seasons not many customers come to the bird market. They only come to buy food for their birds. Also, in these seasons there is no bird migration and it is difficult to get a new variety in birds.

 

Spring and autumn are the seasons that are good for business; especially during the May holidays and the National Day holiday. Overall in a year, when I exclude all family expenses, I can save between 40,000 and 50,000 RMB.

 

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

My hometown is Beijing.

 

What is your most precious childhood memory?

I was born in a traditional Beijing family. Since the Qing dynasty, Beijing people started playing with birds as a hobby. My grandfather and father where keeping birds.

I know how to deal with birds since I was a young child. In the beginning, I just found it very interesting and it became my hobby. Later I decided to make a living with it.

 

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

Treat my family well and give them a better life. As a Beijing citizen, I don’t need to worry about a house; every Beijinger has a house. That’s the only difference between a Beijing local citizen and other people. As a husband or father, I will love my wife and children and don’t do bad things to them. It is my responsibility to earn more money to make their life easier.

 

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

Treat oneself well! People have to do things that they like and live the life real. It seems contradictory to my last answer, but it’s not. I am not selfish. One has to treat oneself well and then you can treat others well.

 

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

I would say I am happy, though life is not easy. People may encounter many bad things in life. I choose to keep the good things with me, forget the bad things and feel content and satisfied. It’s great to sit together like today; drinking alcohol and eating hot pot with good friends.

 

What do you expect will the future bring for you?

I would like to open a new shop selling bird related accessories, such as bird cages and bird food.

 

What is your religion?

I have no religion. I just believe that you shouldn’t feel hungry after dinner.

 

 

 

 

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

 

Beijing, Mr. Zhang’s Kitchen

 

Name: Zhang Cheng

Age: 30

Chinese zodiac sign: Monkey

Education: I took a college entrance exam and was recruited by a cooking school in Chengdu, Sichuan (the school required a college entrance exam certificate). I learned how to cook western food at this school.

 

Profession: I’m a sous-chef at Maison Boulud and I’m a cook for almost 10 years. I started my study at the cooking school in 2000 and graduated in 2003. After my graduation, I came to Beijing. I first worked in a hotel and then in a Spanish restaurant. The chef of the Spanish restaurant recommended me to my current employer. I’ve been working at Maison Boulud since its opening 3 years ago. My work hours are from 10 am to 10 pm. There’re some holidays, but they are not on fixed dates. It depends on the situation in the restaurant.

I choose to become a cook because I like working with my hands, but I didn’t like cooking when I was very young.

 

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

I enjoy playing billiards.

 

Name three of your daily routine activities:

In my spare time, I’ll go shopping, listen to music and surf the internet. When working, I can only stay in the kitchen. When I take a rest, I’ll go out with my friends.

 

What is your favorite food?

Though my job is cooking western food, I prefer to eat Chinese food. I like Sichuan cuisine and pita bread soaked in lamb soup (Yangrou Paomo, a famous Sha’anxi dish) is my favorite. However, I love the dishes cooked by my mother best. She cooks very well.

 

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

This job provides us with meals. In summer, the weather is very hot and we often go for a drink after a day’s work. At home, it takes around 200 RMB a day to cook for my families. The cost depends on what kind of food and dishes I cook.

 

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

Xi’an is my hometown. I miss my home so much, especially the family. I have a very large family, including my grandpa, father, mother, elder brother, elder sister and younger sister. I’m the third child.

Thanks to the convenient transportation links, it’s much faster to go back home now. If I miss home, I can ask one or two days of leave and go back home. The long holiday is always during the Spring Festival.

My home is in the countryside and we always have many visitors during the Spring Festival. I often cook the locally favored dishes to treat them. When I’m at home, I’ll do all the cooking. My parents can enjoy a rest. I cook, while my elder brother serves the dishes to the guests and my younger sister helps around.

I don’t have a girlfriend right now. I’m too busy and seldom have time.

 

What is your most precious childhood memory?

We had a hard time when I was young. My father went to the market and sold vegetables. He always brought me with him. My father is a farmer who grows vegetables.

 

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

In recent years, my chef in the restaurant is most important to me. We both are Libra and his birthday is just one day earlier than mine. His birthday is on October 13th and mine is on October 14th. We go to the Made in China Restaurant (Chang’an Yihao) and celebrate our birthdays there, ordering traditional Chinese food. In the evening, we once again go for dinner with our friends and celebrate together.

 

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

My values in life are to work happily and treat people honestly and sincerely. I don’t know about other people’s ideas on this, but I truly follow these values both at work or in my private life. They are the result of my family education.

My family is very harmonious and happy. Everyone is considerate and cares for others.

 

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

I think I’m happy. My work goes well and my family supports me. At the beginning of my career as a cook, they were not that supportive. They wanted me to become a teacher, but I made to my own choice.

 

What do you expect will the future bring for you?

I hope to open a restaurant of my own. Not high-end like Maison Boulud, but in the mid-range. I’m not sure yet what kind of restaurant I’m going to have and what kind of cuisine to serve. Running a restaurant is quite different from being a cook. I have to position it in the right place.

 

What is your religion?

I believe in Catholicism. All my family members are Catholics. When I take a rest, usually once every two weeks, I’ll visit a church nearby.

 

 

 

 

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


Beijing, Mr. Zhang Wei’s Atelier

 

Name: Zhang Wei

Age: 52

Chinese zodiac sign: Dog

Education: I graduated from high school and then began my work as an artist.

 

Profession: I make and paint traditional Chinese sculptures, like tiger baby dolls (Hutou Wawa) and the Rabbit God (Tu’er Ye). I also like Peking opera and painting facial masks. I started doing this in the 1980s. Before that I made pseudo-antique porcelain. I like making things with my hands and produce art since I was a child, especially making the traditional craftworks.

These days I sell part of my work through the Gift of Hope organization; a company that is founded and managed by disabled artists and that sells the work of disabled artist to foreign clients.

 

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

Nothing special, I just like reading books. Actually, making painted sculptures is my biggest hobby. I can sit here for a whole day and keep working. Usually, I get up and sit on this chair until midnight. I haven’t been downstairs for a week.

I can paint around 30 tiger baby dolls a day by myself and together with my wife we can paint 50 to 60 dolls. However, painting is just one step of my work. Before that, I have to make models of clay, which takes a lot of time.

I sell finished painted sculptures to middlemen at a wholesale price of 7 or 8 RMB. But the retail price depends on where the shop is and what kind of shop it is. I won’t sell them at a very high price. The middlemen and retailers will mark up the prices and sell for at least 5 times higher than the wholesale price.

These days I sell part of my work through the Gift of Hope organization. They give me a price that is up to 5 times higher than the normal wholesale price.

I also like reading news. Historical and traditional things can interest me, because my work has something to do with that.

 

Name three of your daily routine activities:

I make painted sculptures, read news on the internet and sometimes pay attention to the stock market. Making painted sculptures is the only thing my wife and I do, nothing else.

 

What is your favorite food?

Anything will do. Fried food, if I have to name one.

 

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

I’m not sure of the expense per day, but we spend around 2,000 RMB on food per month.

 

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

I’m an authentic Beijinger. In 1971, I moved to this building from a bungalow not far away from here. When I was a child, there was a city wall standing around this area. But it was torn down during the Cultural Revolution.

This apartment was given to us as a compensation for the demolished bungalow. In those days, the compensation was in the form of a house, they did not give money. In the beginning more than ten people lived in this house, including my aunts and uncles. Now, only my wife, my son and I live here.

 

What is your most precious childhood memory?

There’s nothing special in my childhood memory. As children we just played around.

 

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

Family is most important to me. It makes no difference to me what kind of food to eat. We can buy almost any food we want nowadays. A harmonious family relationship is the most valuable.

My son is 17 and studies in the Guangqumen High School. He’ll take the college entrance examinations next year. He doesn’t have special ideas for the future now. My son is self-conscious and independent. He studies well and is one of the class leaders. We parents don’t always tell him what to do, because we want him to be independent both in study and in life.

 

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

Nothing special. I just think that people shouldn’t complain too much and put all faults on others. We have to adapt to the society and the environment. Complaining is of no use and won’t benefit you at all. Living happily in the world is good enough.

 

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

I think I’m happy. There’s some inconvenience because of my physical condition, but I cannot do anything about that. However, my family is quite harmonious. That’s enough and that’s all I ask for.

 

What do you expect will the future bring for you?

Just to live. Leading a normal life is good enough for me. If I have some spare time, or when I retire, I want to make my own work. Not painting for work’s sake but just following my own interests. But currently I’m too busy with work and I don’t have time and energy to do other things.

 

What is your religion?

No religion.

 

 

 

 

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

Beijing, Ms. Nie QiuXiang’s Room

 

 

Name: Nie QiuXiang

Age: 27

Chinese zodiac sign: Pig

Education: I studied trade and economics at the Southwest University of Science and Technology. I chose this major because I like economics. I think I am business savvy.

 

Profession: I’m a copywriter in an advertisement company, mainly for real estate projects. Advertising has two sides; a creative side and a commercial side, which may conflict with each other sometimes. I’m most interested in the creative side. But I cannot always have it my way, the client decides.

 

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

I have a tent at home, which I bought last year for traveling to Inner Mongolia, But when I arrived it was raining all the time and I could not set-up my tent in the mud. The tent has never been used outside and now I use it at home.

 

I often set up the tent in my room and lie down quietly inside. It helps me to find inspiration for ideas and I also use it when I don’t want to talk to other people. I’ll mount a little flashlight to the tent’s frame. I turn off the light in the room and turn on the flashlight. The faint light calms me down. Apart from finding inspiration for creative ideas, I also like to spend time in the tent thinking of what I should do in the future.

In my spare time, I like sleeping. What I enjoy most at home is to relax myself in every possible way and do what I like.

Now, I’m into photography. I got interested when I worked with some photographers in 2009 for a magazine. Then I bought myself a camera. My favorite subject is architecture, both modern places and places that are full of history.

Traveling is another favorite activity. I traveled for almost 12 months last year. Every month I went to a different place, sometimes for work and sometimes for pleasure.

 

Name three of your daily routine activities:

I once changed the layout of my room more than 10 times in a week. I’ll change the position of things and furniture when I can’t think of ideas and feel bored. Several days ago, I got a project about coastal housing. I needed to write something but failed. I changed the room layout again and then I got my inspiration. My leader praised me for my work and said I could become a full-time partner in the company.

I often travel around Beijing by bus. My boyfriend is studying abroad and I have few friends here, so I’m alone. I get on a bus and go to places without any purpose.

Cooking also gives me great pleasure. I like to cook for others, but these days no one comes to eat with me. I’m all alone and sometimes feel pathetic. I’ve got some very close friends, but one of them went to France, one moved to postgraduate school and one fell in love.

Sometimes, I’ll go traveling with people I get to know through the internet.

 

What is your favorite food?

Oh, too many. I like all kinds of Sichuan food. What I like to eat and cook most are diced chicken with chili and pepper, and “Coca-Cola chicken wings”.

 

How much money do you spend on food per day?

Less than 10 RMB. I eat breakfast at home and bring my lunch to the company. As for supper, I often buy some noodles and cook them myself. Those noodles cost me only half a Yuan.

 

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

My hometown is Guangyuan, Sichuan, where the famous Jianmenguan pass is located (the well-known Chinese poet Li Bai wrote a poem about the complicated and dangerous landscape of this place). Both my parents work outside of my hometown, my mother in Beijing and my father in Xiamen. My mother and I often get together in Beijing.

I miss home most when eating. I’m not a person who often gets homesick, because I’ve been independent since I was very young. I go back to my hometown once a year.

 

What is your most precious childhood memory?

In spring, I climbed almond trees and slept on a branch. Sometimes, I climbed trees for picking fruits.

I was more like an adult when I was a kid, but now I have become more like a kid. I was the type of child all adults like. I studied well, and I was polite and docile. Now I am more rebellious and not that obedient. People don’t understand me. They all think the proper thing to do is to find a stable job. In Chinese tradition, a woman should not travel a lot outside her hometown.

 

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

Advertising comes first. In the beginning, I hated advertising and thought it was deceptive. Later, after seeing my work on billboards, on TV, in newspapers and in magazines, I experienced a feeling of achievement.

Friends, travelling and writing are also as important to me.

 

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

I think people should follow their ideals. No matter how difficult it is, I’ll stick to it and try my best to make it come true. I`m not telling you about my ideal, it is a secret.

Every year I’ll summarize my life with a little project. With a little book, a set of postcards with photos and poems, or with a compilation of advertising works.

 

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

I think I’m happy, at least for now. I enjoy the present state of my life very much.

 

What do you expect will the future bring for you?

I want to create my own brand. It’s not a company, but something conceptual, which integrates life, work and ideals. I’ve a clear plan about it and I know exactly what I’m going to do with it. Currently I’m working on that.

 

What is your religion?

I don’t have a religion. I believe in myself.

 

 

 

 

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

Beijing, Mr. Bao’s Workplace

 

 

Name: Bao LinDi

Age: 48

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.

 

 

 

 

 

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

 

Beijing, Cao Yuan’s Practice Room

 

 

One of Cao Yuan’s favorite recordings of her zither music: (copyright: 曹原 Cao Yuan)

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

 

Name: Cao Yuan

Age: 20

Chinese zodiac sign: Goat

Education: Sophomore at the Central Conservatory of Music (note: during high school, Cao Yuan received the WenHua Award from the government, it is the most prestigious music award for young musicians in China)

 

Profession: Studying Guzheng (Chinese zither)

 

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

At home, I will do something which can please and delight myself, surf the internet, watch movies and enjoy delicious foods. What I enjoy most is to concentrate wholeheartedly on work (study) at hand.

Before I came to the Conservatory of Music in Beijing, I studied at a subsidiary school of the Nanjing University of Arts.  They were not only teaching me music, but also drawing and many other forms of art. I learned to appreciate painters like Gauguin and Dali. As a hobby I like to make drawings myself these days.

 

Name three of your daily routine activities:

The first thing is to attend class. After class, I like to go for a walk. It keeps both my body and mind in shape and I may come across something interesting. At night, I like to chat with the other 5 girls that I share the room with in our dormitory.

 

What is your favorite food?

Soup, spicy food and I also like noodles.

 

How much money do you spend on food per day?

20-50 RMB per day this term

 

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

My hometown is Nanjing in Jiangsu province. What I miss most is the fog-like drizzle and the rocks with green lichen. But I don’t miss home very much when I’m in Beijing. Nor do I miss Beijing when I’m at home.

 

What is your most precious childhood memory?

When I was small, everyone called me by my pet name “Maomao”, but few people continued to use that name after I went to school. Now friends call me “Yuantuan”, or my full name “Cao Yuan”. I had a good time at the kindergarten because my mother was one of the teachers and the other teachers gave me special attention.

 

I started to learn zither when I was 6 years old. My mother gave me a paper with pictures of different musical instruments and I had to choose one of them. I did not realize that I was making the choice for myself.

 

Most of the zither players are girls, but my first teacher was male. There were only two boys in that class, the others were girls. For 10 years he was teaching me how to play the zither. I have very good memories of him. Unfortunately he died later of lung cancer.

 

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

Love, holiday and people appearing in my life are most important to me.

All kinds of people appear in my life. The relationship between people is often quite extraordinary and amazing. The butterfly effect and the chaos theory can be used to explain the mutual influence among people.

A holiday changes my state of mind and after that I can plan and do many things.

 

Love is the most important; love for the family and for other people. My mother was 29 years old when I was born and my father was even 4 years older. Those days, in their generation, it was quite late to have a baby at that age. They love and cherish me very much because I am the only child. Sometimes they gave me too much love, to the extent that I was spoiled. Being the only child and spoiled can make you self-centered and less concerned about others. I’m trying to change that and show more concern for other people.

 

 

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

I think I will be able to give a better answer to this question a few years later. But in my opinion, a person should follow the virtue of “truth, good and beauty” for a lifetime.

 

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

Happy

 

What do you expect will the future bring for you?

I want to experience as much as possible, and never regret what I’ve done.

I’m a bit worried about the future. Most conservatory students will stay in Beijing, because the cultural environment is good and has more opportunities. The reality however is that not everybody can be a Lang Lang (a famous pianist). Graduates don’t want to do simple and low-level jobs as they have paid too much for their education. As a result the competition for good jobs is fierce and many students are not able to find jobs after graduation.

 

After my graduation I will continue to study (i.e. master’s degree) and perhaps stay in my school to work. I will continue to do performances, like I’m doing now: television performances, performances for business people, etc. But I also like to do other things next to my zither study. This year I will participate in a musical performance; not as an actor but as a scout for actors. I hope that my life will not be limited to music or the zither, maybe I can be involved in making movies or some other art form in the future.

 

 

What is your religion?

My belief is to follow my own outlook on the world, life and values. I’ll enrich my social experience, strengthen myself, go through trials and tribulations, and finally direct my own way of life. Then, I won’t stop my pace and will keep on seeking a higher level of life. My faith is to obtain a higher level of life.

 

 

 

Note: CaoYuan will be performing in Taiwan during the summer, playing modern Chinese classical music like recorded in this video: http://www.56.com/u92/v_NTIwNjIyODk.html

 

 

 

 

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

 

 

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