03.27.14

Lookin’ good on the job. It’s all about the fashion.

Posted in Barbershop at 9:05 am by Benjamin Ross

There is nothing exotic about hairstyling in China. 土 (redneck), 没文化 (uncultured), 社会地位很底 (low class). These are common words and expressions used by both those inside and outside of the industry to describe the work and those who choose this career path.

But another I’m hearing more and more of when I ask about the profession is 时尚 (fashionable). Hairstyling is not the most lucrative career for those coming out of junior high school without any job experience. One of the students I spoke with was recently working in a cell phone factory in Shanghai, where he could make 3000-4000 RMB per month, far more than a hairstylist could expect to earn until at least 3 or 4 years into their career. Even higher salaries can be made in construction work, a job which is easily obtained as China continues on its infrastructural push to modernity. But when I ask why students have chosen hairstyling as opposed to other manual labor, this sense of “fashionability” is a common refrain. This sense of fashion is reflected by the clothing students wear to school. Tailored suit jackets, leather shoes, chic glasses and accessories. This is partly due to the demands of the industry.

“As hairstylists, we are expected to be fashionable. It’s part of the service we provide.”

“A hairstyle has to match clothing. You can’t look at the two independently. If we are going to sport these fashionable hairdos, we need the clothes to match them.”

But on the other hand, it is also the fashionability of the industry which draws youngsters to it. “I’m into fashion. I’m into clothes. I like to look good, so this job works for me.”

This connection between hairstyling and fashion may all seem obvious, but it wasn’t the case 7 years ago, not in Fuzhou at least. And glancing back through the photos from those days, there is little in the way of clothing which would separate hairstylists from any other rural migrants in their late teens or early 20’s. Does this heightened sense of fashion reflect the heightened sense of competition within the industry? Or is it a product of higher disposable incomes that rural youth have access to thesedays? Or possibly influences from abroad which have returned to Fuzhou? Regardless, I am going to need to a better job dressing the part next time I come down to Fuzhou.


 

03.24.14

Deviance in the Barbershop: on NOT smoking on the Job

Posted in Barbershop at 5:08 pm by Benjamin Ross

In common parlance, the word “deviance” has connotations of immorality and criminality. For sociologists, deviance has a wider definition: behavior that violates social norms. In the Chinese context, this could include not supporting your parents in old age, or sticking your chopsticks upward in your ricebowl (major faux pas). One form of deviance which I am dealing with regularly among hairstylists is my general disinclination to smoke cigarettes. Smoking (among men) in barbershops is so commonplace that not to do so is not only awkward, but a potential sign of disrespect and violation of social norms. In short, deviance.

Smoking in China is a communal activity. When one smokes, they will often pull out their pack, and offer a cigarette to all other males within the vicinity. To not accept a cigarette is awkward…not terrible, but potentially interpreted as a sign of disrespect. Once the cigarette is accepted, the offering party will usually light it for the other. It is then a sign of respect for the receiving party to put his hand over the others’ as his cigarette is being lit. It’s a simple ritual which permeates all strata of Chinese bro-mance, regardless of income level or social class. Generally speaking, women are assumed not to smoke, and thus excluded from the ritual.

Imported smokes serve as props for the exchange of valuable social capital.

Smoking is especially well-tailored to the hairstyling industry, where the rhythm of the workday provides constant stoppages in action, allowing for constant smoke breaks throughout the 12 hour shift. Smoking becomes just another way to pass the time between customers. And because of this, and the communal nature of smoking, it is almost impossible to work in this industry without developing a tobacco addiction. Of the hundreds of male hairstylists, students, and teachers I’ve been in touch with over the years, I know of only one who does not smoke, a 23 year old teacher from Hunan who doesn’t speak much, and is an outlier in just about every other facet as well. For women in the industry, it is the opposite. Among students in the school, some as young as 16, I have yet to encounter a male who does not smoke. Other than Sister Xie (the middle-aged shareholder of the school who smokes 130mm slims at a rate which outpaces most barbers) I have yet to encounter a single female smoker in the industry.

As a guest at the barber school, Li Wen Zhong (the headmaster) is constantly introducing me to visiting dignitaries of the Fuzhou hairstyling industry who drop by for quick business talks. As we sit in his office, drink tea and eat watermelon seeds, the inevitable cigarette ritual ensues. Often as a sign of respect to Li Wen Zhong or as a precursor to a business deal, the cigarettes offered by visitors are either imported, or an expensive Chinese brand. For me not to accept one myself would be a major party foul.

Thus far, I am trying to limit my cigarette consumption to a maximum of 3 per day. I’m often able to use my master status as “foreigner” to absolve some of the awkwardness. Since me being a foreigner is in itself deviant to some degree, it is more expected that I will violate social norms than would be the case for a Chinese person. This is a double edged sword however. Since I am not Chinese, and therefore a “guest” whenever I am in the country, I am offered cigarettes more frequently than the average person.

Fortunately, people who know me around the school are starting to catch on to my reluctance to smoke. However, the constant flux of new students and visitors means the offers will never stop. Li Wen Zhong, who I am in most constant contact with, has stopped offering me a cigarette whenever he smokes, and now usually just offers me one in the morning when we meet in his office to chat and have tea.

As a researcher though, all this smoke and mirrors does put me in a bit of a pickle. When living in the US, I do not smoke. Smoking in America is an individual activity. People who smoke buy their own and smoke their own, and with packs costing upwards of $10 in some cities, sharing the wealth can be expensive. But in China, and especially in the hairstyling industry, not smoking can be a signal of opting out of an important relationship building activity. There are indeed situations in which my entrée into their community would be thwarted to some extent by refusing to smoke. And for members of the community itself, not smoking would be an almost unheard of state of affairs. It is in fact, deviant NOT to smoke. I’d love to know what it’s like to be a non-smoking male hairstylist in China, but as of now I have yet to find anybody who can tell me what it’s like.


 

03.21.14

Slumber Party, at Barber School

Posted in Barbershop at 6:34 pm by Benjamin Ross

Growing up in the Midwest and attending the fine public schools of Shawnee Mission, KS, I never had the experience of a sleep away boarding school as a teenager. And I didn’t really expect to have it either. That is until Sister Xie, one the owners of the hairstyling school, a peppy businesswoman in her 50’s, discovered I had spent my first night in a local hotel, and insisted I move into the school. “The conditions aren’t great, but you can stay here for free. It will be better for your research too. When you come to Fuzhou, you stay with us! We’ll take care of you. Otherwise we aren’t friends anymore!” she told me with only a slight hint of sarcasm.

Since many of the students are not from Fuzhou, providing accommodations is a necessary component of the barber school experience. Since my main reason for being in Fuzhou was to spend time at the school, living “on campus” has given me extra unexpected access to my field site. The “dorm” is located in a hallway just above the school, with about 7 or 8 rooms for students. Each room has 3 bunk beds, accommodating up to 6 students. Students pay 10 RMB (just under $2 USD) per night for lodging. The bathrooms are communal, and located on the first floor of the building. The school employees an “Ayi” (auntie) who sleeps at the school and does chores round the clock. She is responsible for collecting boarding money from students, acting as the front desk’s night watchman, and keeping the school in a constant state of hyper-sanitation throughout the week. Ayi provides a washbasin, and a few hangers for each students which they can use to manually wash and dry their clothes. There is no lock on the door, but students have access to small lockers which they can use to secure any valuables they may bring.

It’s a slow season for the school, so on many nights I have my room to myself. However, for 4 nights, I did share it with 5 teenagers who were in an intensive weeklong hair dying clinic. Most of them had been in the industry for only a few months, and were undergoing training in order to expand their repertoire of skills, which translates to better monthly take-home pay. Sharing a room with a group of rural Fujian teenagers has both its perks and drawbacks. The perks include the obvious entrée it gave me into the lives of the stylists, plus a lot of streetfood and unsolicited cigarettes (cough, cough). The drawbacks were a constant orchestra of cell phone noises and music throughout the evening, as well as the fear of sudden inferno, which comes with sharing a bunk with a roommate who has no qualms about smoking in bed. (I had to pre-think my route in case the entire room were to go up in flames.)

It’s no Shangri-La, and it ain’t New England Boarding school…but hey, it’s clean, and comfortable (enough).


 

The Barbershop is like a Street Gang…Sort of.

Posted in Barbershop at 3:31 pm by Benjamin Ross

I spent last night out at the KTV with my old buddy Xiao Zhang. Xiao Zhang was a barber at the Red Sun, where I worked in 2007, and one of the few who is still in the industry. He currently runs his own barbershop near the Fuzhou train station. Xiao Zhang and I have kept in touch over the years, and whenever I come to town we meet up. Last night it was his idea that we all go out for a night of drunken’ singing. His wife, who is the business manager of his barbershop, came along too.

In total, there were six of us out at the KTV, me, Xiao Zhang, his wife, and 3 other employees. One of the barbers was a guy named A Wei. A Wei had been working for my old boss Li Wen Zhong when I visited last June, but over the past year had jumped ship to Xiao Zhang’s barbershop. During my last visit, A Wei had come along with all the various dining and drinking events in which Li Wen Zhong had invited out to. I have spent the last week in daily contact with Li Wen Zhong, but had yet to see A Wei once. But in the two times I have gone out with Xiao Zhang, he has come along right beside, along with the other barbers from Xiao Zhang’s shop.

There are few jobs in the West which compare with a Chinese barbershop in terms of the constant proximity to one’s employees. Work days are long, 11-12 hours, with 3 or 4 days off per month. And during this time, employees are confined to the same small space with all of your colleagues. In Xiao Zhang’s case, this also includes his wife. There are no part time workers. Everybody is full-time, and constantly in one another’s presence. This is why it strikes me as interesting how much off-the-clock socializing is done with co-workers.

The barbershop is the location of an important social unit which transcends the job in ways I’m still trying to make sense of. Like a posse, or a street gang (minus the criminal activity), or a college fraternity, members stick together, even outside of institutionally sanctioned activity. They work together, eat together, drink together, and in many cases sleep in the same company dormitory. This leaves very little time to socialize with anybody outside of the barbershop peer group. A Wei’s movement to Xiao Zhang’s crew seemed to me as a defection of sorts. Not only does he work for Xiao Zhang now, but this is his new locus of socialization outside of work as well.

So what to make of the Chinese barbershop gang? In some ways it’s similar to the old Chinese danwei system, in which all workers belong to a work unit, members of which lived together, ate together, went to school together, and lived the utopian socialist dream of the 1960’s. Ironically though, based on their rural origins, barbershop workers nor their parents, were likely never part of this system. On the other hand, it reminds me of William Foote Whyte’s street gangs of Boston in the early 20th Century. However, rather than being childhood friends, barbershop employees are brought together by the vicissitudes of the market economy. And as shown by A Wei, these tight bonds can quickly disintegrate with a change in employment. For my other co-workers from the Red Sun in 2007, they have lost contact for the most part.

But something important is happening here. It’s a social unit which doesn’t have an analog (I can think of) in the West, but probably abounds within the Chinese service industry. When I worked at the Red Sun in 2007, my co-workers became some of my closest friends I made in the entire 3.5 years I spent in Fujian. I can think of no other “work friends” with whom I have made such close friendships in such a short time. And yet, these friendships can be so fleeting as employment changes. Well, at least we will always have KTV reunions.


 

03.19.14

Chinese Hairstyling and Homosexuality? It’s less gay than you probably think.

Posted in Barbershop at 8:37 am by Benjamin Ross

For the past week, I’ve been living in a Chinese Hairstyling Academy. The students here are overwhelmingly male, impeccably dressed, and sport modern hairdos with exotic perms and colorations. At night, they sleep 6 guys to a room, and during the day, they sit in class, mastering the technique and theory behind hairstyling and design. I know what many of you are thinking….I must be the only straight guy for miles.

Throughout my longitudinal study of the Chinese hairstyling industry, I’ve had frequent inquiries, from Western friends, about the prevalence and connotations of homosexuality in the industry. And from all indications, my hunch is that it’s miniscule.

Generally speaking, Chinese small town folk are not affront to accepting or discussing the idea of homosexuality. In a society in which children are your social security, homosexuality (or more specifically a failure to procreate) represents a potential breakdown of the system, especially with most families having only one child. Unlike in the West, Chinese traditional opposition to homosexuality is not rooted in any form of biblical prohibition. But rather, it’s seen as deviant in the sense that it uproots the ancient social order which has underbellied civilization for thousands of years.

This is not to say that there are no gay men in China, nor does one not encounter what we would consider “flamboyant” Chinese men. They just don’t tend to gravitate towards the hairstyling industry. In the West, upscale hairstyling provides a safe haven of sorts for gay men. It’s an industry in which homosexuality among men is presumed to be the default, and it plays on our stereotypes of gay men’s heightened sense of fashion. This is not the case in China, or if it is, I have been oblivious to it. No doubt there are gay men (and women) in the industry, but my best estimate is that the proportion is no higher than the national average, and likely lower.

As Westerners, we tend to associate hairstyling with homosexuality. The thinking goes, “Those guys are way too fashionable, they know too much about hair and style, they must be gay.” In China however, it’s the opposite. Fashionable Chinese male hairstylists are often assumed to be philandering womanizers, who use their looks and fashion as a means to pick up on female customers–a stereotype which has little corroboration from my fieldwork. The barbershop itself is often a locus for hyper-masculine one-upmanship, with occasional boasting of outings with prostitutes, and gay jokes. In short, the hair salon does not provide any form of safe haven for homosexuality in China. For those who are gay, my guess is that this had no influence on their decision to enter the hairstyling industry. In all likelihood any gay workers in the industry would most likely remain in the closet, to both colleagues and clients, if not to themselves.


 

03.18.14

The Mobility and Internationalization of Chinese Hairstyling

Posted in Barbershop at 8:27 am by Benjamin Ross

When you’re getting a haircut in a large Chinese city, it’s a rare event for your stylist to be of local extraction.  With better educational and occupational opportunities available to urbanites, few choose hairstyling as a career path.  But for rural Chinese, who lack the opportunities of urbanites, hairstyling offers an opportunity for employment and a life in the big city, and the lifestyle advantages it offers them due to the (still somewhat) centrally planned economy.

In rural Fujian, career trajectories usually follow 1 of 3 paths.  For those who do well in junior high school and are able to advance to senior high and college, a big city career with its benefits and stability is within reach.  For those who do not, the primary option is undocumented migration to a Western country or Japan, where employment is found primarily in either Chinese restaurants or factory labor.  Going abroad has become so commonplace among the rural Fujian population that UChicago anthropologist Julie Chu has coined the term “emplacement” (as opposed to displacement), for those who are stuck, left behind in their home villages.

Work in the hairstyling industry falls into a residual third category:  Those who didn’t do well enough in school to get a “legitimate” job, but who also do not posses the financial and social capital necessary to finance a trip abroad (which can cost upwards of $60,000 USD).  Rather than migrate abroad, rural villagers in this category typically move to a nearby larger city, often where they have a friend or relative, and search for a suitable job.  This path describes the majority of the students at the barber school where I’m staying.

One of the more interesting career paths I’m noticing is that of “international students.”  These students aren’t international, per se.  They are all Chinese, and from Fujian.  But they have spent many years overseas, and return to China to train for a career in hairstyling.  Thus far, I have met students returning from Spain, England, Italy, and Canada.  The common theme is that they originally worked in “less desirable” industries such as Chinese restaurants and factories, and are now looking for a change of pace.  They describe hairstyling as a “clean” industry, and one which allows for more expression of creativity, especially compared to the monotony of factory piecework or cooking sesame chicken.  Since the training is both faster and cheaper in China, a return home presents a practical alternative to training abroad.

But in addition to the cost and speed of training in China, the return home has another instrumental dimension to it.  Most of these aspiring international barbers plan to work the Chinese circuit of their respective countries.  Throughout much of the world, hairstyling is an ethnically-segregated industry, not so much out of discrimination and prejudice, but rather as a result of culturally divergent tastes and fashions.  Said one student who had lived in a small town in England for over 10 years, “There is a small population of Chinese in my town, yet not a single Chinese hairstylist.  My plan is to open a salon, and then cater to all of the local Chinese clients.”

For others, the aim was a job in a Chinatown.  From my own experiences abroad, I am well aware of the tribulations of milking a decent haircut out from between the throngs of a language barrier.  Wherever there are ethnic concentrations of folks who do not speak the local language, there will be ethnic barbershops to fill this niche.

 

 


 

03.17.14

Gender and Illusions of Promiscuity in the Chinese Barbershop

Posted in Barbershop at 4:13 pm by Benjamin Ross

When I tell people, Chinese or American, that I am researching barbershops, a common response is a laugh or smirk, and something like “Oh, barbershops, I bet you know what goes on in there right?” Actually yes: haircuts, dyes, perms, WeChatting, video games, an assortment of other form of miscellaneous time killing…and that’s about it.

Throughout East Asia, there is a long history of blurred lines between the service and entertainment industries, and the sex industry. This has been the subject of numerous ethnographies in the social sciences such as Rhacel Parrenas study of Philippino hostesses in Japan and Tiantian Zheng’s study of KTV girls in Dalian.

However, despite what popular (anachronistic) opinion might suggest, the legitimate hairstyling industry in China is separate from the sex industry. Much of this confusion is historical. Decades ago, Chinese barbershops used to be gateways to prostitution. As a legacy of this, many Chinese brothels still bare the characters 美容美发 (skin care/hairstyling), with available women seated in barber chairs awaiting their clientele. To even the most casual observer, it is obvious that no hairstyling whatsoever happens on premises.

Proper Chinese barbershops thesedays however, are completely divorced from the sex industry. Nonetheless, the stereotype persists, and I’ve heard it cited by many as the reason there are so few women working in the hairstyling industry today. Similar stereotypes have also emerge surrounding men working as hairstylists. One student tells me:

“One of the reason I was hesitant about the industry is that people think we are all promiscuous. We’re always chatting up girls who come into our barbershops, but this isn’t because we’re trying to take them home. It’s just part of the service. If we aren’t friendly and chatty, we will lose customers to other stylists who are.”

Most of my observations corroborate this account. The majority of my male informants are either single or involved in long-term monogamous relationships. If not for any other reason, the 12 hour workdays for hairstylists hardly allow enough time to see their partners, let alone any extracurricular philandering.

Advertisement for a room-service prostitute in a Fuzhou hotel. Solicitations for services such as these are never found in Chinese barbershops.

Another student at the school tells me:

“People always see us hairstylists chatting up women, and they think we’re getting a lot of action. In reality, it’s the opposite. It’s tough for us in the industry to find girlfriends. We have this reputation of philandering, and some women won’t date a guy if they discover he’s in the industry.”

That so little sexual activity, both paid and unpaid, is connected with an industry commonly assumed to be part and parcel of the sex trade, comes as a surprise to many.
Those same people who are surprised when I tell them no sex happens in the barbershop, are often surprised when I reveal how regularly I am solicited prostitutes at Chinese hotels. In fact, you never have to look far in China to find solicitations for sexual services. In barbershops however, all that’s for sale is services pertaining to hair.


 

The Professionalization of the Chinese Hairstyling Industry

Posted in Barbershop at 11:07 am by Benjamin Ross

To enter the Chinese hairstyling industry requires no qualifications.  Most people who pick up the trade do so between the ages of 16-20, either after directly finishing junior high school (初中), or after sampling a variety of other low-skilled jobs.  For years, the traditional method of training had been apprenticeship (学徒).  An industry neophyte would take a job at low salary, and with responsibilities which included sweeping hair and cleaning bathrooms, in exchange for the hope they would receive on-the-job training from their more experienced colleagues.  These were the “little brothers” and “little sisters,” the job I worked in 2007.

When I returned to Fuzhou in 2013, one of the more striking observations was that this model of training had been disappearing.  One reason for this was the labor current shortage induced by both the One Child Policy and the expanding job opportunities for China’s rural and urban poor.  But in addition to these economic factors, the hairstyling industry has begun to experience the beginnings of professionalization through formal training.

7 years ago at The Red Sun, my colleagues scoffed at the idea of hairstyling school.  None of them had received any formal training outside of apprenticeship, yet had still managed to climb the ladder of the industry.  It wasn’t that training schools didn’t exist.  They did.  Nor was the training bad.  It wasn’t.  They just weren’t necessary.  However thesedays formal training is becoming a necessary component of success and vertical mobility within the industry.

Li Wen Zhong’s training school offers a wide variety of both long-term and short-term training programs.  There are short, 5-day intensive courses on specialized skills such as hair dying and perming.  And there are comprehensive 3-month courses which provide all the hairstyling training one would have received in 2 years as a little brother or sister under the apprenticeship system.

Why is barber school the en vogue thing in 2014?  One reason is economic.  A decade ago, most budding hairstylist left their small towns and villages empty handed.  An apprenticeship job in the big city would provide both a living wage, as well as a means to receive free occupational training.  Thesedays, as China’s economy has improved (particularly that of rural Fujian), increasingly more parents can afford to front the costs of vocational education for their children.  The comprehensive 60-day hairstyling course at the training school costs 2980 RMB ($484 USD), plus living expenses in Fuzhou.  However, it is also the case that competition is driving barbershops to invest in human resources and innovate in order to remain competitive.  Students in the 5-day intensive courses are primarily those who are already working in the industry.  A common refrain I hear from them is that, “This is a skilled labor industry.  Everything depends on your skill.”  In order to move up, one must constantly hone their craft.  In many cases, local barbershops have partnerships with the training school, so that they may send their employees in for regular upmanship of their craft.

Interestingly, this seeming professionalization of the industry still has not led to any notable form of certification or credentialization.  One student tells me, “This is China.  Anybody can get a certificate for anything.  It doesn’t mean jack.  In this industry, it’s all about what you can actually do.”  And from all I’ve observed, this does indeed appear to be the case.  Hairstyling in China is an industry in which success and skill are highly correlated.  How professionalization interplays with this relationship is a line of inquiry I’m going to try to dig deeper into in my time at the training school.


 

03.16.14

The Hairstylist and the Hipster??

Posted in Barbershop at 8:22 pm by Benjamin Ross

“This job sucks.”
“It’s meaningless.”
“I’m only doing it because I failed in school, and had no other choice.”

These were the comments I heard when I would ask my colleagues about their jobs at the Red Sun in 2007.

“Hairstyling is fun.  It’s creative.”
“This is a clean industry.  You don’t dirty like you would doing construction work.”
“Hairstyling is fashionable.  I’m into fashion, and this job works well for me.”

These are the comments I am hearing at the hairstyling training school in 2014.

Granted my sample size is small, and regionally constrained, but there has been a marked shift in the attitudes of this generation of hairstylists, compared with those 6 or 7 years ago.  When I worked at the Red Sun in 2007, every single one of my colleagues, (with the exception of Li Wen Zhong whom I never asked directly) categorically despised their occupation.  And of the 15 of them, only 2 are still working in the industry.  It’s too early to estimate how long the new trainees I’m interacting with will stay in the industry.  But one thing is becoming apparent.  Hairstyling is starting to become a desirable (or at very least less despicable) avocation.  It’s also being viewed as creative, fashionable, and artistic, adjectives I rarely, if ever heard to describe the industry several years back.

There’s a lot that could be causing this.  One is that more opportunities for youngsters has meant that hairstyling is becoming more of a career of choice than simply a last resort.  It also could be that as the industry is maturing and expanding, newbies are seeing more potential for upward job movement.  But particularly interesting is this connection to fashion, which I am repeatedly hearing from both students and teachers in the school.  Once considered a lowly, despicable, dirty job now becoming, is hairstyling in China now becoming….hip?


 

Barbershop 2014

Posted in Barbershop at 3:36 am by Benjamin Ross

It’s been a while since I’ve posted.  Blogging is like exercise.  Once you build momentum, it’s easy to keep going. When you’ve been stagnant for a long period, it’s tough to pick up the slack and remotivate yourself.  So let’s cut to the chase:  I’m in the 4th year of a PhD program in Sociology, and I’m planning to formulate a dissertation on the hairstyling industry in China.  I’ve maintained contact with many of my old colleagues from 2007 at The Red Sun (which no longer exists), and have told them of my plan to write a dissertation on their trade.  For the most part, they are stoked to potentially be a part of a book which will “propel me to fame and make a million dollars.”  I’m thinking more realistically that it may get me an academic job and sell a few hundred copies.  Like last year, I’m back in China for 4 months working as a TA for the University of Chicago’s Study Abroad Program in Beijing, but I’ll be using as much time as possible for the beginnings of the resurrection of the barbershop project.

So…what exactly do you want to know about the hairstyling industry?  What is your research question?  This is the obvious followup to anyone familiar with the social sciences.  And this is part of the reason I’m resurrecting the blog.  China’s economic development and urbanization over the past 3 decades has radically changed the opportunities and work trajectories for rural and semi-rural residents.  This changing employment market has been covered extensively by sociologists and anthropologists such as Tiantian Zheng, Li Zhang, and Amy Hanser.  The Chinese hairstyling industry on the other hand, has received scant attention (as far as I know) from researchers.  Yet it is prevalent all over the country, has been evolving along with changes in the economy, and provides a major avenue to work opportunities for (mostly) men who do not finish high school.

To address this, I’ve been using an approach that researchers call “grounded theory.”  In short, it’s the idea that you jump into your research before you’ve formulated your research question.  My former boss at the Red Sun, Li Wen Zhong (who insists I use his real name), is currently running a hairstyling school in Fuzhou.  He has graciously invited me to visit the school for a few weeks before my responsibilities begin in Beijing.  So this is where I’ll be, for the next couple weeks, interacting with students and teachers of the trade, and formulating ideas for a dissertation project…and of course chipping away at that first million dollars.

china china china mandarin mandarin mandarin beijing beijing beijing shanghai shanghai shanghai chinese chinese chinese China Chinese Mandarin Taiwan Beijing Shanghai Taipei Lhasa Tibet Asia China travel Chinese lessons Mandarin lessons learn Chinese Hong Kong Xi'an Great Wall China tours