Having written his way through a lifetime of suffering, at the age of 70, the Chinese author finds peace of mind in a plain daily routine.
Zhou Daxin, the 70-year-old author, can still vividly remember his childhood love of writing.
"My teacher used to read my writing out to the entire class, and have it transcribed then put up on the wall as a showcase."
Due to poverty, however, he had no choice but to forfeit his childhood dream of becoming a writer and joined the military at 18.
It was only after the most turbulent times in China that he started writing again, telling stories about the military life he was familiar with. Later, when writing about his hometown, he encountered the most success.
A man of amiable and unassuming disposition, he harbored ambitions in literature. "The Twentieth Act," the book published in 2009 that he deems the most important in his writing career, took him 10 years to complete.
"It was never God's will to grant me happiness," he wrote in the preface to a collection of his work. "The only gift he bestowed on me, barring a lifetime of suffering, was to allow me to write."
He lost his son in 2008. Three years in grieving, he noted the pain down with his pen, little by little, carving out an imaginary conversation with his deceased child.
I asked him if writing helped to alleviate his pain.
"Honestly, the help was very limited."
The book was recently adapted into a film by a Japanese director with a Chinese cast. He complimented the film, but has decided against watching it ever again. "It hurts too much."
He wrestles with his loss, partly, in trying to believe there is another world where his son rests his soul.
"You youngsters probably haven't met any catastrophes," Zhou told me, "but life may have its share waiting for you somewhere."
Zhou has no presence on social media, and still believes in the old saying "Good wine needs no bush." At 70, he divides his time between writing and leisure, and maintains a regular routine. He takes three walks each day, practices calligraphy and watch films in his home theater.
Last year, he donated most of his books and built a library in his hometown.
Now there are roughly 25,000 books in the library, he told us, "I'll try and increase the amount to 30,000 – one-thousandth of the number of books in the National Library."
Reporters: Wei Tianyao, Xiang Jiaqi
Video editors: Yang Sili, Wei Tianyao
Writer: Wei Tianyao
Voiceover: Yang Di
Cover image designer: Li Wenyi
Chief editor: Chen Ran
Project producers: Liu Yuqi, Wang Xuejing
Supervisor: Zhang Shilei