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Cleaner brushes up on painting in her free time

By YANG ZEKUN | CHINA DAILY | Updated: 2022-07-12 08:51

Wang Liuyun puts the finishing touches to a painting in the cleaners' staff room after work in April. [ANG WEI/FOR CHINA DAILY]

By day, 53-year-old Wang Liuyun is a cleaner in an office building in Beijing's Xicheng district. At night, though, she returns to her tiny home in a village and enters a world of paintings.

The native of Loudi, Hunan province, dropped out of high school at age 16 because her family could not pay her tuition fees.

After, she took every opportunity to learn about the outside world via the radio and newspapers. At the age of 20, she took classes to learn about agronomy, earning money by planting trees.

Her otherwise uneventful life was marred by a seven-year marriage in which domestic violence and cheating by her husband were constant factors until he was killed in a car accident in the early 2000s.

Wang worked many jobs, including salesperson, seamstress and cleaner, before meeting her second husband in Zhejiang province.

At the age of 50, she came into contact with painting through free classes she attended while working part-time jobs in Fujian province.

However, her husband was unhappy because friends and relatives in their hometown made fun of Wang's decision to leave the province and learn how to paint.

In response, he visited her and tried to persuade her to quit the classes and return home because he didn't want people to think his wife was a joke. Wang refused and insisted on finishing the classes.

"Sometimes, I'm miserable-I am a farmer, and I spent almost my entire unmarried life in the countryside, lying on the ground and thinking about things in the sky. I thought that was the saddest life possible," she said.

Last year, Wang came to Beijing and found a job as a cleaner. She is pleased that she came because she has found a sense of belonging. Her husband works as a security guard in the capital, and the two of them can earn a combined 4,600 yuan ($685) per month.

They live in a rented room in Anjialou village, Chaoyang district. Apart from a bed and basic household items, the room is filled with paintings and artistic equipment.

Every day, Wang works from 6:30 am to 7 pm. During her 90-minute lunch break, she devotes 30 minutes to eating and spends the rest of the time painting. She also finds time to paint after work.

"I do the cleaning job to feed the body, while reading and painting feed my soul," she said.

She decided to post her works on online platforms, which led to greater recognition among netizens.

She has received offers for her paintings, and she charges 300 to 800 yuan for each one, depending on how much work was involved.

When asked about her future, Wang said she will work in Beijing for several years to save enough money to see China's mountains and rivers. Tibet, Xinjiang, Sichuan, Yunnan ... she dreamed of those faraway places when she was young, and she still wants to visit them all.

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