Zhang Binggui was a model worker.Photos: Wang Zi/GT
In late September along the tony Wangfujing Dajie, a memorial hall was opened for Zhang Binggui (1918-87), China's "national labor model" throughout the 1960s and 1980s.
Zhang was originally an ordinary employee at the candy counter in a shopping mall when he was declared China's "national labor model" as part of the vogue for honoring hardworking laborers.
Zhang was particularly noted for his warm service and proficient skill at working with customers. He could count out prices and change in his head, and he could even weigh accurate amounts of candy with his hands without using scales. For his achievements he was honored in life and now in memoriam.
Although the memorial hall is just a corridor about 10 square meters, it displays photos and items connected with Zhang and his career, like the uniform he wore and the canvas suitcase that he used when traveling to demonstrate his working style at other counters around the country.
There are also books and cartoons written in honor of him and his dedication to service.
Some other things that might be familiar to all people born in Zhang's era are the faded food coupons that are exhibited here. In the old days when materials were limited, a person might have money but still needed the coupons to buy things such as candies.
Here I met 50-year-old Mr Zhao who used to be an old colleague of Zhang in the 1970s. "Although he was later designated the member of the People's Congress and the national labor model, he just acted like an very ordinary person serving customers in front of his counter for all his life," he said. "However busy his work was what I saw was only his constant hospitality to every customer that came to him."
Zhao noted the yellow Chinese tunic suit, which was just like the one he worn in the 1980s, and a plastic torch. "This light is for honoring and commemorating his warm spirit like a fire," Zhao pointed out. "Every time a new branch store opened, a ceremony would be held with this meaningful torch indicating his spirit would be passed on forever."
At the entrance of the hall is the old candy counter with real candies and balances and scales that Zhang used in his day. 55-year-old Mrs Li remembered seeing him use them. "I used to buy candies from him, but most of the time I just squeezed in the crowded visitors who all came to see his proficient selling show," she admitted.
Li said that Zhang was a man of wisdom and experience and he could almost tell what kinds of candy you might like based on your age and looks. "There were other places where you could buy candies, but many came to him just to catch a glimpse of his gratified service," Li said.
Zhang Binggui Memorial Hall
Address: Wangfujing Department Store, No.255, Wangfujing Dajie, Dongcheng district
Hours: 10:00 am to 10:00 pm