Mushroom seller or Jack Ma? Lookalike decides to go back to his day job

Zhou Zongzhao was swamped with job offers after a photo of him went viral on social media. Two years on, he says impersonating the billionaire is not for him

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 05 July, 2018, 6:27pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 05 July, 2018, 6:27pm

A farmer who made headlines in China two years ago for his resemblance to Alibaba founder Jack Ma Yun says he has given up on working as a lookalike in the cities and returned to his village in Sichuan.

That’s according to Chengdu Business Daily, which reported on Thursday that 53-year-old Zhou Zongzhao has gone back to picking wild mushrooms in the hills of Gong county, Yibin.

Zhou shot to fame when a photo of him selling mushrooms on a roadside in the county was widely circulated on Chinese social media in June 2016.

Because he looks so much like billionaire Ma, who is the same age, he was swamped with job offers from companies wanting to take advantage of his “star power”.

Ma is the executive chairman of Hangzhou-based e-commerce giant Alibaba Group, which owns the South China Morning Post.

Keen at first to give up the mushroom harvest, Zhou took up a job looking after the car park of a local driving school. But after just one day he decided it was not for him – and the school agreed, according to the report.

His family was struggling financially, so Zhou decided to persist with finding work based on his billionaire looks that might boost their income, he told the newspaper. His wife is a migrant worker who lives away from home wherever she can find work, his daughter works in Guangdong province, while his son goes to middle school in the county. Their combined income is around 4,000 yuan (US$600) a month, Zhou said.

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An offer of a security guard job for a second-hand car dealership seemed promising. It included meals and accommodation and a monthly salary of 1,800 yuan. But after a few car thefts and some damage under his watch, Zhou was sacked.

The lookalike persevered, making appearances at clothing shops to bring in more customers, and impersonating Ma at events organised by wedding planning agencies for 300 to 500 yuan each time.

But Zhou told the newspaper that ultimately he was held back by his shyness and a lack of education, which he said was about primary school level.

“I’ve thought it through – I’m a farmer who’s most comfortable with a hoe. Asking me to imitate Ma Yun’s gestures and movement? How can I pull that off?” Zhou was quoted as saying.

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So the farmer has gone back to what he knows best, making 200 to 300 yuan per day – equivalent to an average part-time wage for the area – from the wild mushrooms he harvests, depending on the weather. He also raises pigs and chickens and grows corn at his home in Yongfu village, according to the report.

Zhou said he might be willing to try again if someone offered him a more suitable lookalike job. “But it’s also OK if no one gets in touch,” he was quoted as saying.