Down memory lane
By Xu Lin| (China Daily )| Updated : 2020-08-27Print Print
Attire is important and used imaginatively. With a cone-shaped bamboo-woven hat, the father is transformed into a peddler riding on a bicycle and hawking on the streets in the local dialect. He pretends to sell popsicles stored in an insulated foam thermo-box perched precariously on the back of an old bike.
"Most of my videos are based on my own childhood experience. I also talk with the elderly and read internet users' comments about my videos to get inspiration," he says.
He is on an old motorbike in his courtyard home in Jining, Shandong province, beside an old bike refitted to sell popsicles. [Photo provided to China Daily]
In the 1950s, the central government set up a program to show films in rural areas. Wang recalls that, when he was a child, a projectionist would erect a large square cloth as the screen and show a film outdoors in the village free of charge. Villagers would bring their stools out when they heard, from a loudspeaker, that the film was about to start. The sense of excitement was palpable.
"It was my favorite entertainment. Our village began to bustle at night. People were everywhere (when the film was showing), and some were even sitting on top of a nearby wall (for better viewing)," he says.
To revive these vivid memories in a short video, he visited an elderly projectionist and invited him to show a movie outdoors with his vintage projector. Wang also invited over a dozen villagers to participate as the audience.
"For me, it's a 'big production' as I need more 'extras'," he says. Another "big production" is about farmers transporting their grain in handcarts and using it to pay agricultural tax. This practice was abolished in 2006.
About 30 people were in the video, but over a hundred, who were working the land nearby, came to watch out of curiosity.
In the past, it was not uncommon for rural dwellers to exchange daily necessities with each other, rather than paying for something with money.
Wang and his son with their black-and-white TV set. [Photo provided to China Daily]
In August 2019, his video about villagers exchanging sesame seeds for sesame oil from a peddler won a best performance award in a short video film festival hosted by videosharing platform Douyin. Director Ning Hao and director-actor Xu Zheng presented the award to him and his son onstage.
"The award made me think that all my hard work is worthwhile. It's a great honor and encouraged me to produce more short videos," he says.
"As the bread winner, I was putting all my energy into it and I didn't have a regular job. My family is still in debt due to my previous business. At that time, they wanted me to give up filming videos as they thought it was a waste of time."
Once he came back to his hometown, a village in Shandong, an 8-year-old recognized him. The boy was a fan and gave him snacks as gifts. "I want to pass on positive energy via my videos, especially when I find out that some of my fans are kids," he says.
He made a short video to introduce some toys and physical exercises that were once popular in his childhood. He says now, even in the rural areas, kids play with smartphones, and he wishes that children would do sport after class.
Wang acts as a watermelon peddler that visits many villages to trade with people. [Photo provided to China Daily]
He doesn't shoot videos about how he used to bathe in a river, because he's worried that children might imitate it and that it may lead to accidents.
His son, Wang Zixuan, says: "Filming with my father makes me understand the simple happiness of rural life. I'm also glad to learn to play with some toys that I've never seen before."
Wang Cunjin didn't finish junior middle school and became a laborer. He then served in the army for two years. In 2006, the ex-serviceman worked in a factory in the city as a security guard for four years and became an electrician.
In 2010, he opened an online store on Taobao, the country's biggest e-commerce platform, and learned how to take and retouch photos of his goods.
Now, for him, being an influencer has become a full-time job and he wants to attract more fans with good-quality work.
"I'm glad that my videos have received public recognition. I've also made friends across the country. Some fans will send me old items for my videos and give me ideas for new films," he says.
China Internet Network Information Center reported that up to March 2020, the number of internet users in rural areas of China was 255 million, accounting for 28.2 percent of the national total.
A corner of his home with a collection of old items. [Photo provided to China Daily]