Anyone who wants to get to know China a little better should come across Pai Liu, a curly-haired Chinese man who tells anecdotes of his daily life in perfect Italian (or rather with a slight Roman accent).
Pai has an appearance that communicates cheerfulness and a tone of voice that captures. He has chosen a very original name for his promotional activities: Studio Tiramisù. A name that is a tribute to a dessert that he likes a lot and that is now quite common in big cities like Beijing or Shanghai. A name that immediately evokes the sweetness of Italy together with the ice cream stalls.
Pai is a Pekingese DOC, one whose family has lived in Beijing for generations and is proud of his city. And so we realized that even in China there is that subtle elitist distinction of those who have deep roots in the place where they live.Kind of like here in Rome when we say that you can only call someone who has lived in Rome for at least 7 generations a Roman Doc.
Yet his strange curly hair, very unusual for a Chinese, had always distinguished him and since elementary school his friends thought he was a foreigner.
Personally, it was the first time I had met an Asian with hair so curly that it formed natural ringlets. And maybe that's why you can't forget him after meeting him even only on the web.
His perfect knowledge of our language surprised and then it was natural to try to understand his relationship with Italy
'I approached Italy thanks to the C series soccer. It was 2013 and back then I could watch 2 free matches on television. My idol was Roberto Baggio (and therefore Inter) and I was trying to understand everything he said so in my second year of high school I chose to study the Italian language’.
In 2015, he even interviewed Marcello Lippi who won the Chinese Serie A and Asian Champions League for 5 consecutive championships. For those who don't know, for two years Lippi was the Technical Commissioner of the Chinese national soccer team.
Then, thanks to Roman friends, he also met Graziano Pellè and Stefano El Shaarawy (a player of AS Roma). And maybe that's why his accent has Roman inflections. Let's say that Pai is a man who loves capitals: Beijing and Roma.
According to him, the two cities have a lot in common and the inhabitants of both are known for 'eating their words'. And they are also a bit cynical, a character that perhaps comes with proximity to the places of administrative power, where the country's government resides.
And while we are chatting amiably, a cat crosses the room and approaches Pai purring. A beautiful cat that made Pai even more sympathetic and brought us closer to the everyday life of a Beijing Chinese who seems more and more ‘Italian'.
This pandemic still physically divides China and Italy, but if Pai could come to Rome today, the first thing he would do would be to eat a 'carbonara' in Trastevere and a 'matriciana' in Testaccio.
A glimpse of normality to which we all dream of returning and in the meantime we will continue to follow Pai on social channels and get closer to daily life in China.
I didn't ask him which is his Chinese soccer team and who is the best player in the Chinese league... see you next time! In Rome! In the meantime, let's enjoy his comments from the Beijing Winter Olympics (link1,link2),, even though he has chosen to play a not-so-stressful sport...curling. We will be waiting for him on a soccer field in Rome.