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Realizing he was going blind, Wang Hailong took a new look at his life.
The accountant had tried various medicines to battle congenital retinal degeneration for as long as he could remember.
"It's like the world is behind a thick fog to me," said the 39-year-old.
He had studied hard to become an accountant with a State-owned plant, but half a dozen years later he resigned, as he couldn't see his computer screen and notebook clearly.
Wang Hailong, 39, is a widely respected blind massage therapist in the Beijing Massage Hospital. Liu Zhihua / China Daily
"Even if an object is within half a meter, I only have a vague impression of it."
His field of vision had shrunk to 10 degrees.
"Living on others' compassion was too hard," Wang recalled. "I quit when I felt useless."
Instead, he chose to learn massage.
"At least it seemed like a skill to live on," said Wang, who was born in Yueyang, Hunan province.
In September 1998, after a series of exams on Chinese, mathematics, physics, chemistry, anatomy and basic massage skills, Wang was admitted into the School of Acupuncture and Massage at the Special Education College of Changchun University.
It took him a while to adjust to the new environment.
Most of his classmates were blind and much younger, while less educated.
They were very sensitive, self-contained and egocentric, Wang recalled.
"The five years in university were a big turning point in my life," he said.
"For many years I had been struggling only for myself, and there I became a big brother and helped others."
He read tomes in the library using a magnifying glass, learned wholeheartedly from teachers, and practiced his skills at every opportunity.
"I was not satisfied with just making a living," Wang said.
"I wanted to be useful to society and realize my value, and I found massage was the key."
He is now one of the massage therapists most in demand at the Beijing Massage Hospital, the best of its kind in the country.
"Wang is one of our best therapists. He has a good reputation among patients," said Yang Yang, deputy director of the medical massage department of the hospital.
But Wang isn't satisfied with just being good.
After more than two years of experiments, he has proved that massage, which is able to boost blood circulation and cell function to speed up metabolism, is also effective in treating chronic diseases, such as fatty liver, in addition to its traditional application in treating sprains, bone injuries and menstrual disorders.
"He always wants to be a better man, although he is already quite outstanding compared with others," said Gao Huishu, his wife and university colleague.
"That's what attracts me."