Once a poor farmer, Xie Shuipeng now makes a handsome living by offering people the chance to punch him in the stomach
Xie Shuipeng, a trim 48-year-old with a broad smile, has a dream that one day Mike Tyson will punch him.
After ten years working the nightclub circuit, Mr Xie has won fame as China’s number one human punchbag, able to withstand a blow of any strength.
He advertises his services to anyone frustrated with life. “If you are upset by your boss or your wife, don’t blame them! Vent your anger on me! Let society be harmonious,” his flier states.
On neon-lit stages, Mr Xie offers free drinks to anyone who can hit him so hard he steps backwards across a yellow line on the ground.
“I tell them only to punch me in the belly, but sometimes they insist on punching me in the chest or even hitting me over the head with a glass bottle,” he said
Mr Xie, however, has smilingly endured it all. Thousands have tried their luck, but only one person has ever made him wobble: Jiang Hang, China’s top heavyweight in the WBO rankings.
Mr Xie challenged the boxer last June and staggered back slightly after being hit for the third time. “I hit him as hard as I could, he really does have an iron stomach,” said Mr Jiang afterwards. “I could feel my internal organs shaking, but it did not hurt,” remarked Mr Xie.
Now he has his eye on a bigger challenge: the former heavyweight champion of the world.
“I think Tyson may be able to knock me down. But my stomach will bounce his fist back and there is no way he can hurt me. If he is worried, we can sign an agreement beforehand that he won’t be responsible for any injury,” he said.
Mr Xie said he draws his strength from the ancient Chinese tradition of qigong and that he was inspired by his grandfather. “He was a street vendor selling Chinese herbs. To attract customers, he would turn a stool upside down and stand on its legs, offering two silver dollars to anyone who could knock him off. He also offered to let customers try to bite the flesh off his arm. No one ever managed to do either.”
Bored of life as a farmer, and then as a construction worker, he turned professional punchbag in 2004. Since then he has toured China, being attacked across the country, from Chairman Mao’s birthplace of Shaoshan to Bruce Lee’s hometown of Foshan. He earns roughly 20,000 yuan to 30,000 yuan (£2,000 to £3,000) a month, he said.
His wife, however, is less impressed with her husband’s invulnerability. “She was furious when I turned pro,” he said. “She said I had no dignity. It is not an admirable job.” Currently the couple are living apart and considering divorce.