And Finally

The hit man

Human punchbag challenges Mike Tyson


Pillows at the ready in Shanghai

University entrance exams approaching? Boss driving you crazy? Furious at your wife? If so, you might want to get in touch with Xie Shuiping, a man marketing himself as a human punchbag.

Xie, a 48 year-old from Hunan, started offering his unusual stress relief service 10 years ago when the construction company he was working for failed to pay his wages.

Away from home and short of cash, Xie decided to capitalise on the strong abs he had developed through years of manual labour and qigong (an activity that the Chinese believe strengthens the body by channelling spiritual energies).

First in supermarkets and now in nightclubs, Xie challenges people to punch him in the belly, offering free drinks to anyone who can knock him backwards.

So far, the only person who has got him to stumble is Jiang Hang, China’s top heavyweight boxer. But even he had to concede that Xie’s abs were “made of iron”.

Working at nightclubs and bars has its drawbacks. The money is good and drunk men probably pack less of a punch than sober ones, but sometimes Xie’s clients break the rules by hitting him in the chest or breaking bottles over his head.

But Xie takes it all in his stride.“If you are upset by your boss or your wife, don’t blame them. Vent your anger on me. Let society be harmonious,” the UK’s Daily Telegraph reports him as saying.

Xie has also grabbed headlines internationally by challenging Mike Tyson to knock him over.

Xie isn’t the only one to offer stress relief solutions.

There has been a boom in companies that allow clients to unleash their rage in controlled environments. On Taobao you can find people who, for a price, can be called up and verbally abused over the telephone.

There are also “smashing” shops – which are aimed at frustrated women keen to break a few dishes (it can be a profitable business, given Chinese crockery is so cheap).

But perhaps the best-known de-stressing event is Shanghai’s mass-pillow fight that takes place in a sports stadium each December.  Some participants have even been known to inscribe the names of hated bosses or teachers on their pillows before going into battle. While the organisers of the fight see it as way to cope with the pressures of modern life, psychologists say such pay-to-vent events are dangerous.

“This kind of expression is not healthy. No matter how popular these services are, it just means modern people are afraid of facing their problems and going to professionals. Methods such as singing or talking to people are more healthy,” Zong Chunshan, a counsellor at a youth centre, told the Beijing Evening News.

Human punch bag Xie might agree. Since embarking on his career he has become estranged from his wife and two daughters.

“They think what I do is meaningless and cheap,” he told the Guangzhou Daily.

“But I think she is also annoyed that other people can punch me but she can’t.”

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