"Shaving the head and then the face, trimming the nose hair, and then wiping all over it with a towel..." The simple, slow but careful steps give rise to a scene of a barber in service of his patrons coming up in one of the two non-fiction films starred by Jing Kui, a century-old barber in reality, who has witnessed those old stories of Beijing's transformation with times and contributed his career to the city's development.
He is Jing Kui, an old barber and a mere nobody compared to the shining stars on screen, who has been living in one of the compact courtyard dwellings in one of the thousands of "Hutongs" in Beijing and completed his ordinary and peaceful life journey as a traditional craftsmanship inheritor at the age of 101 on the morning of Nov 4, 2014.
The "living fossil of new Beijing" bade farewells to the world
As a film remark goes, "He is a 'living fossil' of the new Beijing and the soul and body of the old one." Apprenticed to a barber as a teenager and retiring at the age of 95, Jing Kui cut hair for countless people including the celebrities from the Peking Opera masters --- Shang Xiaoyun, Fu Tanying, etc. to the common people and neighbors living in Hutongs over his eight decades of career. "Making no difference between the rich and the poor, he used the same skill to all."
"In his eighty-four years of barbering career, his razors went through all sorts of styles from the big braids of the leftovers of the Qing Dynasty, ‘half brush’, flat top, back head, part, bold, etc.; dozens of types of currencies like the copper cashes, silver dollars, gold yuan notes, customs gold vouchers, RMB, etc. went through his hands," people said. "However, what he never changed was his dedication to his work and his chillaxed altitude towards life."
2014年10月31日上午，靖奎在北京中医医院去世，享年101岁。女儿们说，靖奎走得很平静，“十分钟前还好好的呢，没受罪。” 靖奎十几岁时从顺义到北京城里学习剃头手艺， 直到95岁左右才因身体状况“退休”，一生顾客无数。
The respected master in the eyes of his apprentices
After Jing's death, his last apprentice Zhang Delu in Beijing and the one in Henan Province --- Jiang Ziwen came back to visit his dwelling.
In his forties, Jiang owns three barbershops and has been working as a barber for more than 30 years. He has just opened his third barber’s in Beijing and told us that "What I do is to serve the middle to elder-aged men with the traditional skill."
"I have visited the dear master many times and he refused my request to learn from him as always. Perhaps, he thought he could not pass things on to me due to his aged condition. But finally he changed his mind...it may be my genuine faith that moved him or his own desire to pass on the skill," Jiang said.
Now the two apprentices both provide free services to the elderly. "This is a part of what we learn from our dear master. All those over the age of 60 coming to us will have haircut for free. For those having difficulty in getting about, we will go to their homes to do haircuts," Jiang said
"He always told to us not to work overloaded to make money. He cared little about it,". Having cut hair for many celebrities and become famed at a young age, the nonagenarian charged little from his customers. In fact, the traditional skill requires more time and energy. But "slow work yields fine products. It provides people with a comfortable feeling that the modern technique can not."
"Our dear master was dedicated to his work. He has been cutting hair for over 80 years. Its our responsibility to carry forward his skill and workmanship," Zhang said.
Remember the barber master via his two films
"Eight decades of career as a barber as well as the changing times and people coming and going have been burned on the razors of the elder." as a film remark goes.
The first film about Jing Kui is a documentary shot by director Shi Runjiu when Jing was 87 and the film was awarded the “Academic Award of Chinese TV Documentary”.
At the age of 93, Jing starred and portrayed himself in film The Barber, which won multiple prizes in several film fests. It’s unimaginable for a 93 year-old to recite and finish all the lines of 50 scenes. But he made it with his professionalism and dedication. We respect him for his work ethic. Now we can only see his spirit and outlook through the movies.
This is Jing Kui, an obscure craftsman leading an ordinary life in one of the thousands of Beijing Hutongs who was a witness to the changing times and also a part of it.