• Chris McMillan

How a Blind Man Mastered this Impossible Violin Piece

Radii China

13th December

How a Blind Man Mastered this Impossible Violin Piece

Zhang Zheyuan has no memory of vision. Nonetheless, he has achieved mastery over his violin. His story will inspire you to live with fearless conviction

By Adan Kohnhorst

27-year-old Zhang Zheyuan is prolific. As a violinist, he’s toured with elite performance troupes, traveled the world, and played in Olympic ceremonies. And he’s done it all in darkness.

Zheyuan was born with congenital blindness in southwest China’s Yunnan province. He attended a special school for the disabled, learning side by side with other blind children, in a program designed to equip them with the kind of barebones skills they’d need to survive and make a living, if they were to eventually emerge on their own into the world. And that is an “if” — there’s a tacit understanding that many of the program’s students will never achieve true independence.

For China’s blind, the default path is massage. Some age-old idea posits that, sans vision, one’s sense of touch becomes hyper-developed, allowing blind masseurs to navigate through tensions and knots in the muscles like some kind of bootleg therapeutic Daredevil (having experienced a blind massage, I feel a twang of harsh honesty to recall that it was generally unremarkable). It’s unclear whether the tradition remains alive primarily out of a genuine belief in its tenets, or out of a public willingness to accept it as a sort of de facto, self-sustaining social support system.

Around the time when other children were setting off down the one-way road of massage education, Zheyuan was studying violin. As a productive hobby, of course, not a future career.


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