On a narrow avenue in Dongmen, in downtown Shenzhen, a disabled woman is often seen attentively writing Chinese calligraphy at her stand. Her works are so brilliant passersby applaud them and many are sold immediately.
However, the woman writes not by hand, but with her mouth, her feet or even the left part of her right arm. To be more specific, the brush is tied by a rubber band around her right arm. Many years ago, she lost her whole left arm and her right hand in an accident.
The woman, who is called He Xuemei, was born in a poverty-stricken family in the western part of Guangdong Province. Up to the age of seven she didn't go to school because her parents were unable to afford it.
But her father soon changed his mind and sent her to school. He found that she had a special talent for Chinese calligraphy. She was so fascinated by writing that while other girls were playing games, she devoted herself to writing on the ground with a wooden stick.
Unfortunately, He had to finish her studies during high school. She soon went to work at a local privately owned fireworks factory, where an explosion subsequently completely changed her life. She lost her left arm and her right hand in the accident.
Times were hard for He. However, she didn't give up and tried to make a go of it.
She started to learn to manage her own daily life without her left arm and right hand. And through arduous practice, she managed it. But the problem of how to earn a living often tortured her.
One day, her father took her to a bookstore. He pointed to some Chinese calligraphy hanging on the wall and said to her: "You wouldn't have to worry about your future if only you could write brilliant calligraphy like that."
Her father's careless words inspired He's confidence about life: Yes, one could not rely on others for a lifetime. So she tried to learn calligraphy that she had always loved so much.
Since then, He Xuemei devoted most of her time to practicing calligraphy, trying to write it with her mouth, toes or even the left part of her right arm.
In 1993, she wrote a spring couplet and hung it on the door of her home. The calligraphy was so beautiful that it immediately made a great stir in her neighborhood. That Spring Festival, He wrote couplets and sold them to neighbors. At last, she earned 1,000 yuan!
He Xuemei got married in 1994 and then in 2001, she made a bold decision - to come to Shenzhen to build her career, together with her husband. Last Spring Festival, He returned to her hometown and built a house. Even though it only cost 30,000 yuan, this feat made her somebody in the eyes of her neighbors.
(www.southcn.com April 23, 2002)