Culture

Viral video shows Chinese people from age 0 to 100

Jul 18, 2019

This is proof that Asian don’t raisin.

A video of a hundred Chinese people staring into a camera and stating their age from 0 to 100 is going viral—and some of them don’t look a day over 90.

The video was shot in the southwestern city of Chengdu by Dutch filmmaker Jeroen Wolf. It’s the latest in his long-running series documenting how people age in different countries. So far, he’s done similar videos in the United States, Morocco, Senegal, Spain, and his native Netherlands.

But Wolf had always wanted to go to China—“a big country with a lot of people,” he says—so he asked around for leads.

An acquaintance in Amsterdam suggested going to Chengdu because it was “a nice, laid-back provincial city.”

“People are not uptight.”

“People are not uptight,” he recalls her saying. “They’ll just think it’s a fun project, so I went with that.”

Wolf spent two weeks in Chengdu hanging out in parks, visiting retirement homes, and contacting local friends to find people of each age.

Whereas other countries would have involved extensive trips to senior centers for folks over 60, in China, he found the most success in public parks, where retirees tended to congregate and dance together.

(Read more: Why Chinese grandmas love dancing in public)

“They were still sweating from dancing,” Wolf recalls. “You could ask them and they were all elated. ‘Sure, I’ll do it! And I’ll ask my husband, he’s sitting somewhere else.’ People were just relaxed and having fun, and not afraid to show themselves.”

The concept of Wolf’s video is simple, but the result is a delightful portrait of multiple Chinese generations and their life experiences as expressed through their faces.

Of note, one can also hear the generational differences in the way they say their age. The local accent is stronger among older folks who grew up with fewer educational opportunities and thus speak with a heavier accent.

Age is but a number

Wolf started the project on a whim seven years ago to test out a camera he had just bought.

He was photographing people in Amsterdam when the idea came to have them state their age into the camera.

“I like getting close up to people because you really get a story from every face.”

“I like getting close up to people because you really get a story from every face,” Wolf says.

Jeroen Wolf started the project on a whim seven years ago
Jeroen Wolf started the project on a whim seven years ago / Photo: Courtesy of the artist

But he started to expand the project to other countries when he saw how much the first video resonated with people around the world.

In such an ambitious endeavor, one would assume that the most difficult person to find would be a 100-year-old. But that’s not always the case.

“People don’t usually know the 99-year-olds because they’re only a year away from 100.”

“In my experience, 100 is usually easier to find because everyone remembers that person,” Wolf says. “People don’t usually know the 99-year-olds because they’re only a year away from 100.”

But in China, the 100-year-old did turn out to be the hardest to find. After days of searching, he eventually located someone in a retirement home. For Wolf, it was like striking gold.

“You get a little weary and anxious after you've been shooting for 10 days, and you still don’t have a 100-year-old pinned down,” he says. “I was starting to wonder whether I needed to extend my stay.”

(Read more: Life inside the village where people are living super long)

Wolf’s video series is a passion project in every sense of the word. He self-funds his travels and receives requests from people all over the world to visit their countries.

For him, it’s become an opportunity to learn about new cultures and meet new people.

“It’s a very simple idea which appeals to everyone in the world, but at the same time, there’s a lot of different levels to it,” Wolf says. “That’s why it’s so nice.”

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