Elderly model reveals naked truth of loneliness

Updated 2018-01-30 10:29:01 China Daily

Wang Suzhong, a man in his 80s who works as a nude model, shows a painting given as a present by a student. (WANG XIAO/FOR CHINA DAILY)

At 8:30 am, Wang Suzhong arrives at Chengdu Normal University, removes his clothes, sits in front of a group of students and allows them to sketch his body.

Wang, 88, lives alone in Chengdu, Sichuan province. He began working as a model in 2012, when he lived on a monthly pension of about 700 yuan (0).

"I can make 70 yuan a day with my clothes on, and 100 yuan naked," he said in a viral video. "This is art, and I am not ashamed."

Wang recently caused a stir online, after his story was shared by Pear Video on microblogging site Sina Weibo. As of 11 am Friday, the video had received around 10,000 comments and 90,000 likes.

Figure modeling is still considered a "disgraceful job" by many Chinese, and conservative attitudes prevail as the "naked models" are required to remove their clothes in front of total strangers.

Models usually pose for students in art schools, especially those studying painting, drawing and sculpture, but the number of figure models is quite limited, partly due to traditional views about the job and the relatively low income it earns.

Wang said he sits in class for eight hours a day, but it is better than sitting alone at home watching TV.

"The students talk to me, and the teachers really care about me," he said. "They tell me to drink more water and get more rest."

Wang said that over the years he has worked as a model, his children have not once visited him.

"They think my job makes them lose face and they are angry about it," he said.

However, Wang said he continues to pose for art, despite strong objections from his children.

"I do not steal, I do not rob and I do not cheat," Wang says. "There is nothing wrong with this job."

The story also fueled a heated discussion about the situation of China's "empty nesters"-parents whose children have grown up and left home.

"I respect the old man for pursuing his dreams," Sina Weibo user Zhanbushimiya commented.

"What are his children thinking? Shouldn't they support him when he is so old?" said another comment.

China has an aging population. Those aged over 60 made up 16.7 percent of the population at the end of 2016. But by 2030, they are expected to account for about 25 percent.

The number of empty nesters is rapidly growing and the situation is being intensified by young people leaving their rural hometowns to seek opportunities in urban areas. In big cities, the problem is no less serious, particularly among families with well-educated children as their offspring often go abroad.

According to a 2015 report released by the National Health and Family Planning Commission, in a country where adult children traditionally continue to live with their elderly parents after marriage, empty nesters now account for about 50 percent of those aged over 60, with 10 percent living alone.

Zhai Zhenwu from Renmin University of China said that while the government should provide more comprehensive care for seniors, it is also necessary to encourage young people to maintain closer communication with their parents.

"Seniors need more emotional support from their children," said Du Peng, also from Renmin University.

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