Editor’s Note: This article is produced in collaboration with the Chongqing Institute of Foreign Studies.
With the prevalence of hair salons, this old craft is losing its place among young people. However, in places where they pay no heed, the older generation of itinerant barber lives on shaving.
Normally there are few people around the street barbershop, and even the barber himself/herself does not stay around all day long. Often seen are elderly people either squatting or sitting in small groups next to the humble barbershop, smoking, and chatting, while waiting for customers with leisure. Such a scene is rarely seen nowadays.
As the saying goes, the loads carried by itinerant barbers on their shoulder poles are hot at one end and cold at the other. One end of the load is a sorghum pole with a small bucket, which connects a furnace at the bottom, a water jug in the middle, and a basin and a looking-glass at the top; on the other end is a stool with a small drawer serving as a simple toolbox, with main tools ranging from the razor, leather razor strop, to scissors, comb, and whetstone, etc. It is with this set of tools that generations of itinerant barbers have established their roots over the course of history.
That’s the way it was decades ago. Things are different now.
Handed down from generation to generation, shaving skills have been gradually improved, and tools are constantly updated. You could tell the difference when you walk into today's barbershop.
The transition from "peddling in the village" to "doing business in a shop" is not entirely induced by social development. As the older generation of itinerant barbers ages, they by and by lose the ability to carry heavy burdens from streets to streets; whereas the new generation of barbers prefers to open a barbershop on a fixed site. In such a case, only the older generation still sticks to the old-fashioned business model.
Located in back streets and quiet alleys, the street barbershop also acts as a gathering place for the elderly to reunite with their neighbors, relatives, and friends. On the one hand, the old people have more confidence in the skills of their decade-long friend; on the other hand, they can take the opportunity to catch up with old friends and relive the youth they once shared.
I guess for those itinerant barbers now, it is not so much about earning a living out of shaving as it is about maintaining relationships and the long-existed human society.
Chinese script: Siqi Yang
Tutored by: Xi Jing
Translation: Jing Wu
Tutored by: Ya Li and Li Cao
Voice-over: Xin Wang
Tutored by: Shushu Gui