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Buff bodyguards seen as new status symbol by Chinese elite

Jason Lee / Reuters

Students holding replica 95 semi-automatic rifles practice protecting their employers at a training field on the outskirts of Beijing. Former soldier Chen Yongqing has big ambitions for his bodyguard training school Tianjiao, which he says is China's first professional academy to train personal security guards.

Jason Lee / Reuters

Bodyguard Han, who was hired from Tianjiao, checks his earphone as his employer Zhang prepares to leave home on the outskirts of Beijing.

Jason Lee / Reuters

Chen Yongqing, the owner of Tianjiao, gestures during a group dinner with his students.

Former soldier Chen Yongqing has big ambitions for his bodyguard training school, charging 500,000 yuan ($82,400) a year for each protector, as China's rich and famous look to bolster their safety and sense of importance.

Chen's company Tianjiao, which he says is China's first professional academy to train former soldiers and others as bodyguards, is doing so well that he is considering a stock market listing.

"When we started our business, most of our clients were celebrities," Chen, 30, told Reuters. "Most of our clients now are rich entrepreneurs. It's all related to their business because I think bodyguards are also a status symbol." Read the full story.

-- Reuters

Jason Lee / Reuters

Instructors kick a trainee because he wanted to give up during high-intensity training in a camp on the outskirts of Beijing.

Jason Lee / Reuters

Trainees point replica pistols as they take part in a training session.

Jason Lee / Reuters

A student crawls on the ground during a training session.

Jason Lee / Reuters

Students practice protecting their employers during an attack.

Jason Lee / Reuters

Students lie together for warmth as they sleep during a break in-between high-intensity training sessions.

Jason Lee / Reuters

Bodyguard Han, who was hired from Tianjiao, helps his employers to prepare dinner.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Photos taken Dec. 1 - Dec. 15, 2013 and made available to NBC News today.

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