[TMTpost’s new column Photo Gallery aims to record individuals and entrepreneurs in the Internet industry: whether young ambitious entrepreneurs who have just found their place in the world of business, star investors who walk through different venues, programmers who spend hours of time writing codes in front of the computer screen, or Internet operators, geeks, even delivery guys…It is their collective efforts and devotion that constitute the Internet world we live in right now, so their moments are worth recording, and remembering. Photos don’t lie, but they don’ tell the whole truth; photos are free, but they are also full of traps. Therefore we present the images we see, and let you have your own understanding of these individuals.]
In Zheng’s perspective, he isn’t really entering an entrepreneurial journey. During his childhood, Zheng developed strong interest in airplanes. When he was a teenager, he even started to make his own plane models and opened his model store. Naturally, he began to teach about plane models after he entered his mid-life. Zheng literally built his life around airplanes, whether as a personal hobby or a professional career path. In Taiwan, his career has encountered many ups and downs for the fact that he has earned himself plenty of awards and appraisals but also gone through those days during which he almost went broke.
After 3 years of market research in Beijing, this 62-year-old man from Taiwan, decided to bring his project 35 years in the making to this capital city of China. Zheng believed that in Beijing he could once again achieve his own value, and he told TMTpost his very own stories.
It was January 20th, 2016. Zheng Fude was telling his stories in Beijing. Zheng’s father was from Shaoxing, who later went to Taiwan just like many others through the course of history. When he was still a kid, Zheng’s families lived near the airport. During his childhood, the happiest thing for Zheng eveday was to see airplanes coming and going at the airport. Although he wasn’t born into a well-off family, it didn't stop Zheng from loving airplane models, a rather pretty expensive hobby. In his youth, he tried to save money in any way he could in order to buy the airplanes he liked so much. 35 years ago, Zheng turned 27 and became a father. In order to improve the financial situation of his family, he borrowed some money and opened a model store in his garage. “First I was selling car models, but later I learned to make plane models,” Zheng Fude said. “At that time, we didn’t have much access to information like we do now. So I couldn’t find any place to learn to make models. I had to buy materials and learn to do it myself through constant failures. That’s how I accumulated experience slowly.”
There are many plane models in Zheng’s store in Taiwan, which are made throughout 35 years of his career. On the shelf sat a 6:1 in proportion Mirage jet model. Mirage jets can reach a velocity of 200 km per hour. In his peak time, Zheng even opened a branch next to Taipei’s landmark, Taipei 101. However, due to the mass production of airplane models by OEMs and economy’s influence, Zheng had to close down his stores and even nearly went broke. During that difficult time, Zheng took all his handmade models back to Taoyuan. “It could take my dad one month to six months to finish making a model,” Zheng’s daughter Zheng Ailing said. “He didn’t really care about the cost and he’s never like a real businessman. Sometimes if the customers really like the models and didn't have enough money, he would just give them away anyway.” After returning to Taoyuan, Zheng Fude was really upset. His daughter then came back from overseas to help him overcome the hardship.
January 19th 2016, Zheng Fude was teaching a parent-children airplane model making course at an early education center in Beijing. Zheng Ailing’s profession was early education. When his father met its lowest point of his life, she encouraged him to teach local kids plane model making in Taoyuan. “We did it for free for a month and then when we started to charge them for tuition fee we realized that these kids’ families were quite poor,” Ailing and Fude were not sure if they should continue to teach plane model courses at that time. Though upset as he was, Zheng Fude persuaded Ailing to continue their business: “Everyone of us has our own suffering and hardship. And since we have met each other, we should take our responsibilities and keep teaching them.” Subsequently, they started to teach these kids for free. The kids gave Zheng Fude a nickname, Dr. Blue, for whenever they had questions about staff related to the sky, they could always ask Fude. And later after several visits to Beijing, Zheng Fude decided to bring his courses and his airplane models 35 years in the making to this capital city of China. Zheng believed that in Beijing he could once again achieve his own value.
After a few years of teaching, Fude and Ailing came up with a course plan through exploration. 3 years ago, Zheng Ailing went to Beijing to work, in which city she found more opportunities for plane model courses. “The market in Taiwan is saturated and too stable. Why don’t we just bring what we have to mainland and try it there?” Ailing told her father.
Zheng Fude’s courses start with the basics, paper plane making. On the cardboards, there are components needed to make a plane. And kids will need to cut them out and piece them together according to the instruction and make a plane that could actually fly. Currently Zheng is having trial classes in Beijing. “Kids in Beijing are quite different from kids in Taiwan, so do the parents.” Zheng commented. “We need observation and patience.”
Fude’s wife and daughter are the helpers in his class. His daughter has experience in early education while his wife helps out things that she could do. Fude and his wife have been married for three decades. And no matter what difficulties have occurred in their life, his wife has always stood by him.
Zheng Fude took some of his small models from Taiwan to Beijing to show his students. His courses start with cardboard planes, to Balsa wood planes, frame planes, and remote control planes. “Patience is the most essential thing when making a plane model,” Zheng said. “The final product doesn't really matter. What matters is kids have the opportunity to enhance their creativity.” In one of his classes in 2015 in Beijing, more than 400 showed up and it gave Zheng Fude great confidence.
In class, Zheng Fude is very strict. And whenever students have some questions, he would not just provide them with solutions, but rather give them the chance to solve the problem themselves. “I know what they have done wrong, but I would not just point it out,” Zheng Fude stated. “They have to solve the problems on their own, and it will boost their confidence. And confident kids will be less selfish, meaning they are more likely to share.” In his opinion, nowadays people are overly reliant on computers and tend to worship the power of 3D printing technology, and therefore it’s harder to feel the joy and the sense of achievement brought by just doing it with our own hands. “If people don’t have to use their hands to do anything, then the world would be just terrifyingly boring,” Zheng Fude commented. It’s just like kids getting a toy that they don’t really understand how it was made and have never tried to make by themselves. Something is just missing here.
In a class of him, Zheng Fude showed the kids how planes make turns. After three decades of ups and downs, he will often time insert a bit of his life philosophies in his teaching content. For example, when he talks about how planes take off, he would told the kids that planes go toward where the wind blows, just like people in trouble would have to face their own hardships.
It was January 20th. Wukesongzhuozhan Shopping Mall, Beijing. The store Zheng Fude rented was under decoration. He named this store Maker, which would be open to public in late February. Fude has been gradually moving his works from Taiwan to Beijing, which will be part of his displaying models in the store. “This is more than just a store. I want to make something out of that. Models are not toys. They are educational,” Fude said. “That's why I believe plane model courses do matter in terms of education.” Zheng Fude has this habit: He will try to teach the customers that have bought his models how to fly them. Although many customers wouldn’t understand, Fude continues to do so out of a sense of responsibility of his passion and profession on plane models. H even promises his customers that if they have learned how to fly the models properly and they still fall, he would pay them back the money.
Besides the store at the shopping mall, Zheng Fude also plans to rent an office both for working and living. Introduced by his friend from Taiwan, Fude found a spot near Qianmen. It’s a property owned by a company from Taiwan and from that building Zheng Fude can actually see the Tiananmen Square. On January 24th 2016, Zheng Fude visited the potential office there once again. He’s quite satisfied with it since there happens to be a children cram school downstairs. “Now I am even more confident about my model store and courses in Beijing,” Zheng Fude finally said after the visit.
TMTpost Photo Gallery
Special column of TMTpost
Aiming to record individuals and entrepreneurs in the Internet industry
Photos don’t lie, but they don’ tell the whole truth
Photos are free, but also full of traps
This is an Internet age, and we want you to discover stories with us online
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[The article is published and edited with authorization from the author @fliesslaughterhouse, please note source and hyperlink when reproduce.]
Translated by Garrett Lee (Senior Translator at PAGE TO PAGE), working for TMTpost.