Beauty feet

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Once mocked as the 'girl who plays with stinky feet', Lu Qin has upgraded the Chinese pedicure industry into part of the intangible heritage of 'Yangzhou's Three Knives'.

Lu Qin works on a customer's foot in her pedicure salon in Beijing. Luo Wei / Xinhua

Just like Chinese acupuncture and traditional massage, pedicure has a long history in China, originating back in 3,000 BC.

These are not pedicures purely to beautify the toe nails. Using special knives, pedicurists help cure people's foot ailments, which are hard to get treatment for in hospitals. However, being a pedicurist was not a desirable job in the past, at least not for Lu Qin when she first learned her trade as a female pedicurist back in the 1980s.

"There were only male pedicurists then," 42-year-old Lu recalls. "Women had to wait along the corridors outside the men's bathhouse if they wanted their foot afflictions to be treated."

Now a famous pedicurist countrywide, Lu's hands have served the feet of many political figures, business tycoons and entertainment celebrities, such as the late media mogul and philanthropist Run Run Shaw, popular star Andy Lau and former Hong Kong chief executive Donald Tsang.

Lu grew up in a military family and spent her childhood in the Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region. In 1988, at the age of 17, she moved to Yangzhou, Jiangsu province.

Pedicure is so popular in Yangzhou that there is even a phrase "Yangzhou's Three Knives" referring to the kitchen knife which makes the Huaiyang cuisine, the haircutting knife which was once praised by Emperor Qian Long in the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911), and the pedicure knife which helps relieve sores on feet.

"Yangzhou is my father's hometown, and he spoke a lot about 'Yangzhou's Three Knives' when we were in Xinjiang," says Lu. "I was curious about the pedicure knife because there are kitchen knives and haircutting knives in Xinjiang, but I had no idea about the pedicure knife."

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