His good looks and bohemian dress sense have won him an army of fans. But Brother Sharp is no catwalk model. He is, in fact, a homeless man in the city of Ningbo in Zhejiang province.
Brother Sharp became an internet sensation after an amateur photographer posted a set of photos of the homeless man online. Some called him the “most handsome underdog of this century,” others the “Beggar Prince,” or the “Handsome Vagabond,” but most often “Brother Sharp”.
In their posts, netizens blogged about the glint in Brother Sharp’s eye and his “cool dude” attitude. Some say his looks are reminiscent of popular Asian actors like Takeshi Kaneshiro and Ken Watanabe.
“Brother Sharp is much better looking than the many so-called teen idols who are on television these days,” commented one netizen.
“Those sad eyes and that sad expression, the sad moustache, and that messy hair, all of it has deeply captivated me,” wrote another.
Hong Kong’s Apple Daily juxtaposed Brother Sharp’s picture with that of a model in this season’s Dolce & Gabbana collection. It claimed his sartorial style is similar to Japanese designer Yohji Yamamoto’s earlier vagabond-inspired collections.
But critics say Brother Sharp’s story also sheds light on homelessness in China. There has been a growing divide between rich and poor, and a rise in homelessness – in spite of the fact that begging is technically illegal.
Luo Pingfei, CPPCC member (see page 13 for more on the CPPCC) and vice minister of civil affairs, is now calling for the government to increase financial support and improve social security services to members of this vulnerable group, like Brother Sharp.
Meanwhile, Brother Sharp’s story has taken an interesting turn. His photograph was seen by a family member. After confirming that it was indeed their long-lost sibling, Brother Sharp’s family arrived in Ningbo last weekend and took him home, says CCTV.
As it turns out, Brother Sharp, whose real name is Cheng Guorong, came from Poyang county in Jiangxi (see WiC33 ‘A paradise (but no jobs)’). He left home to find work in 2000 and then lost contact with his family. Unfortunately, his wife died in a traffic accident last year, leaving him two young sons. But Brother Sharp’s family haven’t told him. They worry that in his fragile state, it will upset him too much.
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