Nanjing, A Birthday Present

 

On the Baotaqiao East Street near the Yangtze River, stands a man holding a big framed oil painting, which is about 1.2 meter in length and 1 meter in width. The painting portrays one of his female friends, who celebrates her birthday today.

 

He spent almost 3,000 RMB for the painting. It is made by a graduate student from the Tianjin Academy of Fine Arts. He tells that it is hard to have this student paint a portrait for you, for he is already famous and has his own studio.

 

“The girl in the painting is approaching, so why not take a photo of us together?” he suggests. He points to the opposite side of the road. We note that she looks much younger than the woman in the painting. He does not answer us but yells immediately to the girl: “Hey, they say that you are beautiful!”

 

When asked whether he often prepares such precious birthday presents for his friends, he grins and says: “I have few such female friends.”

 

 

Beijing, Mr. Wang and Mr. Niu

 

Niu Qingbin and Wang Dianhui are sitting on the street, drinking and chatting. They are both native Beijingers and speak with a heavy Beijing accent.

 

When they hear I’m from the Netherlands, the subject immediately changes to football. They watched the friendly match against Germany last night (from 3:30 to 5:30 am). They claim that everyone in Beijing is interested in football.

 

Niu Qingbin is 50 years old. He used to be a worker in a brewery and he could drink a lot.

 

Wang Dianhui is 58 and will retire from his job at the Beijing Heating Group in 2 years. He is looking forward to having time for climbing mountains and for travelling.

 

Mr. Wang is proud of his son, who is 30 years old. His son is an attorney and so is his wife. Mr. Wang says he was not successful himself, but it does not matter; “it is the next generation who lives up to our expectations”.

 

Before we leave, Mr. Wang states that it is important for a person to be down-to-earth and do something practical for fellow citizens.

 

Then they both say, in an earnest manner, that they hope that the photographer will learn more about lives in Beijing and that they wish he will show the various aspects of Beijing to the foreign world, because only introducing the real Beijing to the whole world will eventually help the society.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Beijing, FaTou Amusement Park

 

Mr. Hong is the manager of an amusement park in FaTou, Beijing.

He works in this amusement park for almost two years and worked in several others for the past 10 years.

 

Did you get a special kind of education for this work?

“Yes of course. All careers related to machines require technical skills. I studied machine maintenance.”

 

Can you tell a bit about the safety regulations in the park?

“Every single child entering this park must be accompanied by an adult or a guardian. Apart from that; we don’t have those huge and dangerous machines; everything here is for kids under 12 years old. So it is safe here and nothing too dangerous can happen.”

 

So the park is more focused on a child’s fantasy than on the thrill?

“You’re right. We don’t have those big and dangerous machines here.”

 

 

On a busy day when there are a lot of kids, what does your day look like?

“At weekends and during holidays it can be quite busy. It is my job to maintain a friendly atmosphere in the park. I would walk around to see if there is anything wrong. This job involves managing the workers and taking care of the safety of all the machines.”

 

What is the most popular place for the kids?

“The kids like the merry-go-round best, and during the summer they like playing with or in the water.”

 

When you were a kid, were you also very fond of amusement parks?

“When I was a kid we didn’t have such fancy amusement parks. I just played at home.”

 

Do you like the fact that you’re here with the same kind of music all day or can it become annoying?

“I don’t feel annoyed by the music. I kind of like it, because I like working in this industry.”

 

What gives you the most satisfaction in your work?

“I find the condition of the air is quite good here.”

 

Is it because of the trees?

“(…) and there is a lot to see. Maybe it is not enough, but the trees are good for one’s health. Every job can do harm to one’s health. Just imagine it. I used to trade building materials and it was not good for my health.”

 

How many people do you have to manage?

“About 3 to 6 people.”

 

So it’s a nice, small working environment?

“Yes. And my job is not tiring.”

 

Are you friends with your colleagues?

“I’m still their boss.”

 

What are your working hours in a week?

“From 8am to 6pm. We work every day of the week, without a break.”

 

Any break in the winter?

“No break in the winter. Holidays are the busiest time in this park.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

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, Pool billiard

 

 

In China the pool game is known for its “elegant “and “gentleman like” movements. The game became popular around 20 years ago.

Today, the pool game has become the most popular sport with the largest number of participants in China.  According to statistics, there are more than 50 million people who play pool, 25 million people who play pool on a regular basis and almost 1 million who play pool every day. By these numbers the pool game is even more popular than table tennis, the national Chinese sport.

 

In the early 80s, pool was still considered as “representing a decadent bourgeois life”. Quietly enthusiasm for pool was growing. First it was labeled as a “noble sport” and ordinary people had no chance to play it. Along with China’s reform and the increase of living standards, pool started growing at an amazing speed. These days you will find pool tables, surrounded by players and spectators, everywhere, both in the cities and in the countryside.

 

In 1986 the China Pool Game Association was founded. Pool became a competitive sport and it was included in the annual national sports competition program. The spread of the game was accelerated by Gan LianFan, also known as the “China Pool King”. Mr. Gan, originally a road worker, created the brand “Star” and sold pool tables for prices as low as 350 Yuan.

 

In the first decade of this century, pool got another boost with the popularity of professional pool player Ding Junhui. Many people started realizing that one’s fate can be changed in trying to become a professional player.

 

Apart from the many pool tables in the open air where people from the neighborhood gather to play, one can find many pool and snooker venues these days. Shanghai has more than 400 of such venues; each venue with on average 15 tables. Beijing has around 600 pool venues and in smaller cities in the south, like Donguan City in the Guangdong province where the game started to become popular first, 300 pool rooms in a city is no exception.

 

On the photos of this post we see men, who work at a nearby vegetable market, playing pool. Two of them share the family name Li, while the surname of the youngest is Xu. They pay 1 RMB per game to the owner of the table.

 

Note: The ad, visible in the background of some photos, has written in blue characters: “Poker game, MahJiang, teaching unique skill”

 

 

 

Beijing, Cleaning ladies

 

 

Two photos of cleaning ladies. The first is enjoying a moment of rest in the late afternoon sun at a high end residitial building. I think the photo underlines a sense of dignity. The other photo, quite the opposite, shows a cleaning lady in the dark and it almost looks like if she is about the be downtrodden by the shoe in the advertisement of a high end brand.

 

 

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