With "Chinese Valentine's Day" in the air, here comes the story of "The Most Handsome Trash-digger." The story, widely reproduced on Chinese websites, seems to have been first published in the Chengdu Shangbao. Our rough translation is below:
"The most handsome trash-digger seems as cool as a movie star; by scavenging, he's been able to travel to over 10 cities"
With an elegant way of speaking, standing around 1.8 meters tall, a figure resembling that of movie star Tong Chun-Chung (汤镇宗) ...
Recently, the area around Moziqiao at Shenxianshu has been haunted by a young trash-picker, attracting a lot of double-takes from passersby. After his photo appeared on online discussion forums, netizens bestowed upon him an unparalleled nickname: "The Most Handsome Scavenger of All Time."
After some minor setbacks, this reporter finally tracked down this handsome "post-80s" master of the bin. By this time, he had already traveled to more than 10 cities all over the country, just by scavenging recyclables out of the trash. He deftly collects bottles and scraps and when he amasses some money he'll go off to another city for more travels.
Posted online, his photo calls for close scrutiny
"This person is often around Shenxiansu, with an air of refinement, big eyes, hair in tight curls, quite handsome...," "From the back he looks like Tony Leung, from the side he looks like Hu Jun, from the front he looks like Tong Chun-Chung." On August 20, a post titled "The Most Handsome Trash-Picker of All Time" appeared on the Tianya Chengdu forums. The poster, "Qing Qian," related that on the street he had seen a handsome trash digger and used his mobile phone to take two photos of the scavenger. The post immediately caused a stir among netizens: "He's even wearing gloves, how professional!" "Hello! Handsome!" and even that classic line from Stephen Chow's movie was used by netizens to describe his appearance: "A man man like you, just like fireflies in the dark, as bright as that, as numerous as that, you with your eyes so sullen, with the air of one breath you betray yourself."
One moment, the netizens were discussing the authenticity of the post; the next, they were commenting on the identity of the trash-digger. Some believed this "handsome brother" is really living life, others believe it's completely disgusting, but most said that if this person is really a scavenger depending on his own two hands to make money, he can't be faulted. "Labor is honorable, just because one is handsome he cannot scavenge?!"
His life: walking and scavenging is OK"
Right around the same time the "Most Handsome Trash-Picker of All Time" post exploded, coincidentally a woman in the city had announced to this reporter that she too had spotted a "handsome and elegant trash digger" on the street. The morning before yesterday, with the woman leading the way to Mozi Qiao, this reporter finally spotted this handsome trash picker. Height, about 1.8 meters, wearing a khaki fisherman's hat, grey short-sleeved shirt, and a pair of ankle-length trousers he cut himself. At this moment, his hands covered in white gloves, he was picking empty bottles out of a trash bin. Occasionally, when a piece of trash would fall outside the bin, he would bend over and return it to the bin. The brim of his hat was angled low, at the moment he straightened back up his face was revealed and the reporter couldn't help but exclaim, "He really looks like Tong Chun-Chung!"
As far as the reporter's visit, the young man seemed completely caught off guard, his clean face instantly turning red. He said, my family name is Liu, I'm from Ningxia, and I was born in 1984. When he heard that netizens had dubbed him "The Most Handsome Trash Digger of All Time," he said with a smile, "People have told me I'm good-looking, but I'm just a trash digger, how embarrassing!" Liu said he depends on his own two hands to make a living, he does what he wants to do, it's a lot better than depending on his family.
Li said his mother has passed away and his father and younger brother tend to the family farm. After finishing middle school, he started venturing from home. At that time his dream was "to see and walk in every place in the country." Two years before, he arrived in the famous "land of abundance" Chengdu, sat in teahouses, strolled on Chunxi Lu, and fully enjoyed the slow-paced lifestyle. But he's still never told his relatives that he's digging through rubbish bins. "Actually, I could look for work, but I quite like this kind of wandering lifestyle, I don't think it's so difficult!"
Every day, Liu spends most of his time walking the streets, from 8 in the morning until 10 at night, from Yihuan Lu to the south of the city, learning which bottles and recyclable scraps to pick out of the trash bins along the side of the road, eating the cheapest food he can find for his three meals. Picking up bottles, Liu wears headphones so he can listen to news and music on the radio, and sometimes he goes to watch the Xinhua broadcasts on the big screen on Zongfu Lu's Shudu Tower.
His path, traveling by scavenging
The market price of an old crumpled bottle is about the same everywhere, usually not more than 2 kuai. Yet by picking up these crumpled bottles one by one, Liu has already been to more than 10 of the country's cities, including Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, and Shenzhen. Accompanying him on his travels are some of his most treasured possessions: a train or bus ticket from each city he's been to. The next destination Liu has set his eye on is the Qinghai-Tibetan plateau; to get there, he plans to save up 10,000 kuai in Chengdu, bottle by bottle. When he's saved enough to buy some simple equipment to prepare for his trip, he'll set off, "I'm not far from my goal."
Liu's biggest dream is to go to Hong Kong to see the nightlife. "A few years ago, when I was picking up bottles in Shenzhen, I went to the port of Luohu just to gaze across the bay at Hong Kong. Looking at it only made me yearn for it; I hope to get there one day when I've saved enough money." Liu said if he starts to dread this kind of lifestyle, he'll stop, and try out the lifestyle of the rest of the post-80s generation.
Those who know him said with some envy that the fact that he's so good-looking might have to do with the fact that people sometimes stop Liu on the street to offer him some money, but this upright young man always declines. In the eyes of the other scavengers, Liu is not the same, he just likes this kind of lifestyle. They said, Liu is very concerned with his personal hygiene and spends some time every day to wash his hair and clean his fingernails. "Although his face he's a rubbish picker, he doesn't litter."
Results of Chengdu QQ's online poll (as of August 26, 2009)
Do you approve of this kind of traveling and scavenging lifestyle?
I approve. Unrestrained freedom (24.55%)
I disagree. What a waste of ability and social resources (2.53%)
I understand, after all, everyone has his/her own way of living (66.79%)
What a lot of fuss about nothing (6.14%)
The story is attributed to reporter Li Tianxiao and trainee Wei Hui.
Image: Chengdu QQ