2011 Jun 17 "Don't Call Me Frog Man" -- Sanlitun Artist in His Own Words
What man in his 70s would go to Sanlitun Bar Street every night and only go home after 1am? That could only be Xiao Bao, who has been crafting frogs from palm leaves and cheerfully selling them in Sanlitun for the past decade and a half. We couldn’t get him to sit down for a chat at night, since that’s when he makes a living, so we caught up with him on a bright afternoon.
You’re known as the Frog Man, but you don’t just make frogs. What else do you make?
Look, here’s a grasshopper, a dragonfly. Dragons, phoenixes, turtles, cranes, chickens – I can make them all.
How do you feel about toads?
Toads are frogs, frogs are toads. They are the same animal – the ones in the water are frogs, the ones walking on land are toads.
Do you eat frogs? How about dragonflies?
Frogs … I’ve never eaten that thing. People from the south eat them. Dragonflies? I’ve never seen people eating that.
Do you mind being called the Frog Man? Is there another name you’d prefer?
What? Frog Man? I’ve never heard anybody calling me that – that’s impolite. They call me “old artist” or “craftsman.” I actually have an artist certification from the China Federation of Literary and Art Circles.
Please imitate the sound of a frog.
Sound of a frog? I’ve never done that. Ehm … eng-ah, eng-ah…
Have you ever witnessed any bar fights?
Yeah, loads. The youngsters fight a lot. Foreigners fight foreigners, Chinese fight Chinese, Chinese fight foreigners. There were lots of fights a few years ago – now it’s much better.
What would you do if another Frog Man appeared on your turf?
About five or six years ago, another guy came to sell crafts too, but he left after two nights. He couldn’t sell much.
After the interview, the “old artist” stood up, shook my hand and arranged his crafts tidily. Before he walked away, he said: “I will try to sell one or two now, and then dinner will be sorted.”
Photos: Michelle Dai