Carved mel­ons prove a hit for ru­ral fruit seller

China Daily (USA) - - CHINA - By QI XIN in Zhengzhou and CHEN LIANG in Bei­jing Con­tact the writers at qixin@chi­nadaily.com.cn

In the sum­mer, wa­ter­melon ped­dlers can be spot­ted along many of North China’s coun­try roads, but few sell their fruit in the same way as a teacher in Pingding­shan city’s Ji­ax­ian county, He­nan prov­ince.

Gu Xin­liang carves Chi­nese char­ac­ters into the rind of his home­grown watermelons be­fore sell­ing them to passers-by. His novel idea has helped the 56-year-old teacher from Heimiao village sell 3,000 kg of watermelons in 13 days.

“I want peo­ple to be happy while en­joy­ing my watermelons in the sum­mer,” said Gu, as three buy­ers watched him carve the char­ac­ter for “fu” (“hap­pi­ness”) into a wa­ter­melon us­ing only his thumb­nails.

Gu, a Chi­nese-lan­guage teacher at a pri­mary school in the county, gets up at 6 am ev­ery sum­mer morn­ing to har­vest watermelons, load them onto a truck and sell them by the side of the road near his home.

He hit upon the idea of carv­ing his watermelons on July 20, when trade was poor and he needed kill some time. He never ex­pected his cre­ations to at­tract so many cus­tomers — the mel­ons on his truck were al­most sold out when he went home at 9 pm that day.

“The rind of a big wa­ter­melon looks like a black­board in a class­room to me, on which I can ex­press my thoughts,” he said.

Gu prefers to carve tra­di­tional Chi­nese “bless­ing words” into his watermelons.

The most com­mon char­ac­ter she uses are the ones for “fu” (“hap­pi­ness”), “shou” (“longevity”) and “long” (“dragon”) and he al­ways carves us­ing his thumb­nails.

At first, he would spend nearly 20 min­utes carv­ing a char­ac­ter, but sev­eral days later it took him less than 10 min­utes and he could carve about a dozen watermelons in one day.

In ad­di­tion to the 3,000 kg of watermelons he sold, Gu also sold out of an­other 1,000 kg of muskmel­ons, which fetch two or three times the price.

A man, sur­named Wang, said he stopped to see the carved watermelons, and liked them so much that he de­cided to buy one to take it home. “Many buy­ers have asked me to carve bless­ing char­ac­ters they choose them­selves,” Gu said.

“They have also sug­gested that I use tools like knives be­cause my nails were get­ting hurt by the fre­quent carv­ing, but knives are too sharp for watermelons — I like to carve us­ing the strength ofmy own nails.”

Gu doesn’t charge any more for his carved watermelons than he would for an or­di­nary one.

“It is just a joy to see peo­ple’s smiles when they take the watermelons away,” he said, adding that many peo­ple tip him for his art­work.

Cal­lig­ra­phy has been a pas­sion for Gu for many years. In the past, he would of­fer to write cou­plets for vil­lagers dur­ing the Spring Festival, he said. “I have three grand­chil­dren,” he said. “By next sum­mer, I will have a fourth and I feel happy. I want to share this hap­pi­ness with the peo­ple who pass by.”

LI KONGXUN / FOR CHINA DAILY

Gu Xin­liang shows watermelons he carved with his thumb­nails on a coun­try road near his home in Ji­ax­ian county, He­nan prov­ince.

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