Street Janitor? Calligrapher!
A street janitor is practicing calligraphy by the road he cleans every day. Believe it or not, his home is full of calligraphy elements. The front and back of the door, the ceiling, walls, desk, etc,. Visiting him was the best part of my Xi’an trip. I have to share his story with you.
When I was on my way to the Shan-xi History Museum, I noticed a man in his orange working uniform, sitting on an abandoned sofa by the road, writing something carefully, with a broom and a dust pan next to him. I walked pass him very slowly wanting to see what he was writing. What I found next truly amazed me. He was writing Kiang Jin Jiu(a poem by the famous poet Libai from the Tang Dynasty) with excellent handwriting. I couldn’t help looking back, wanting to see more. Then he shared his wonderful life story related to his calligraphy dream.
At the age of 55 Mr. Li was working (cleaning the road) in front of a park. He saw a man writing Xingshu on the floor with a mop surrounded by a group of people. He went over in his orange coat and stopped his work. He had never seen such a beautiful way of writing. Practicing calligraphy became part of his life from that day on.
Mr. Li went to visit that master every day by helping clean the floor, bringing water to the master, etc., because he wanted to learn calligraphy. He stands out in the crowd very easily with his orange coat. The master was moved by him. He gave Mr. Li a broom, pointed at the floor. Mr. Li did accordingly. Then the master said seven words(see the picture I posted), gave him three books, and disappeared after that day. Mr. Li figured out the seven words six years later. He never found that master ever since that day. Mr. Li doesn’t even know the master’s name.
Mr. Li is a Great person with a very interesting life story. He lives in a community alley near Xi’an train station. His wife said the neighbors call him Sha Laotou. He started to know that he could send his work to the press at the fourth year of calligraphy practicing. He even won a prize of 5,000 RMB. That number equals to almost 5 months of his salary. He could rent a home with real walls with the money but he did not. He used the money to buy brushes, ink, papers, and desks to teach the neighbors’ kids calligraphy for free. The children did not continue for a long time. On the journey of calligraphy, he was misunderstood by many, laughed at lots of times, but he never gives up his dream.
He told me that there was a day when he was cleaning the street, watching the cars, houses, birds, trees, and people; everything is related to calligraphy in some way. He still cleans the Xi Qi road every day and practices calligraphy every day when he is done with work.
When you go to Xi’an, and want to visit him. Please say hi to him for me.