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. Guo Jia

 

 

Mr. Guo Jia is a tenant. The room he is renting is at the same time the entrance to the pigeonry of his landlord. On request of the landlord he feeds the pigeons.

 

Mr. Guo works as a cook in a Cantonese restaurant. He is not particularly fond of pigeons.

 

 

 

Beijing street fashion, Mr. Liu Ming

Mr. Liu Ming is a retired worker. He used to operate a computer numerical control (CNC) machine. His favorite activities are walking with his bird and Tai Chi at the nearby square in front of the Bird’s Nest (Olympic Stadium).

 

 

 

 

 

Mr. Liu bought his clothes in a normal department store and he spent 200 to 300 RMB altogether.

Beijing, Mr. Guo Jun

 

 

Mr. Guo Jun runs a business in his 7 square meters shop. In the corner is a small photo studio equipped with two lights, softboxes to diffuse the light and three choices of colored background: red, blue and white. Mr. Guo does not consider himself as a real photographer.

 

He only makes photos for passports and other documents. His other lines of business are laundry services and selling ice cream. He also does the printing of photos. The portrait of Chairman Mao was printed by himself.

 

Mr. Guo loves tropical fishes. In his tanks there are many tropical fishes and in one tank lives an alligator turtle; alone because the turtle likes to eat meat and fish. His hobby with fishes is attracting many visitors to the store.

 

 

 

 

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

 

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