One merry old soul on a Beijing street

Updated: 2012-10-29 09:57

(China Daily)

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One merry old soul on a Beijing street

Centenarian Wang Zhenrong sells shoe insoles on Beijing's streets. Hou Shaoqing / for China Daily

The 102-year-old Wang Zhenrong has become an unlikely Internet celebrity and boosted his business making shoe insoles on a Beijing street. His online profile was massively boosted when media reports detailed his work, provoking widespread sympathy and orders for his wares.

Related: Living with loneliness

The Beijing News reported 300 pairs of insoles sold out for the first time in five years after the media exposure, as people bought up to 30 pairs.

In 2007, Wang started to make and sell insoles for 3 yuan (48 cents) near Communication University of China. He made four or five pairs each day and sold them on a cart from about 5 pm, until 9:30 pm. His supper is typically just a cold steamed bun, without even a glass of water.

"If I drank water, I would have to find a restroom. But it's inconvenient to leave my stand," he told The Beijing News.

His most frequent customers are students who often buy more insoles than they actually need. Some take him out for hot meals and help him out.

"I sell insoles because I want to have something to do and I'm afraid of being lonely. I can also save some cash, so that I don't have to use my three children's money in the future," says Wang, who's in good health, though he has some difficulties hearing.

He lives with his family members, who are not keen on his small business but have learned to compromise. According to his family, he has sufficient retirement funds.

Students from Communication University of China opened a Sina Weibo micro blog account in March to help Wang promote his business and call on people to take care of him and other elderly people.

When student volunteers paid a visit to Wang's home on Friday, Wang wrote a note saying: "Thank you for all your concern. I'm very fine."

He and his family hope their lives won't be disrupted by his sudden fame. Recently he hasn't been going out because of the cold weather and all the attention.

"My secret to longevity is that I neither smoke nor drink, and often do something rather than being idle. I also eat a lot, but a little at a time," he told The Beijing News.

China Daily

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