67-year-old bicycle repairer pursues his 'poem' dream
CGTN
05:13
CGTN

CGTN

In 2017, an earthy bicycle repairer appeared on the stage of the TV show "Chinese Poetry Congress." His name is Wang Haijun.

Wang Haijun in a TV show aired by CCTV-10 in 2017. /CCTV Screenshot

Wang Haijun in a TV show aired by CCTV-10 in 2017. /CCTV Screenshot

Wang, 67, was born in Inner Mongolia, and he loved reading since he was little.

However, when he was in the fourth grade, Wang had to drop out of school because his father wanted him to herd sheep to make a little bit extra.

CGTN Photo

CGTN Photo

"My father didn't care much about education," recalled Wang. "I was very reluctant. I went for the herd with my backpack and tears in my eyes." Being angry of his father, Wang deliberately slacked off at work for two months.

However, he had to accept the reality. "Going back to school was not an option," he continued, "and slacking off only put more burden on my father's shoulder. He just wanted to earn the bread for the family." 

Wang Haijun. /CGTN Photo

Wang Haijun. /CGTN Photo

From then on, Wang only reads after a day's work. "Romance of the Three Kingdoms" and "Three Hundred Tang Poems" were his favorite books. "There weren't any bookstores around, so I borrowed them from others. I read them so much that the pages began to tear off."

"At night I need to burn the oil lamps. The oil was rare and can only be bought with tickets. The family members were a bit upset, but they didn't stop me." Besides, Wang was no different from other workers. "Reading never held my work back. I just felt a bit lack of sleep."

 Reading in the candle light. /CGTN Photo

 Reading in the candle light. /CGTN Photo

About 30 years from now, Wang and his wife moved to Shijiazhuang, capital of Hebei Province with their kids. He set up a stall and repair bicycles for more family income.

CGTN Photo

CGTN Photo

He has his principles while repairing bicycles.

"I'm paid, so I must do the job well. That's the first thing." It's a simple logic Wang gets as a peasant. "I don't want to repair the same thing twice, so I try my best every time." Also, he doesn't charge anything for small favors like inflating the tires and lending tools, as long as people don't take the tools away.

His service has won the trust of his costumer. Some people even leave their bicycles at his stall without worrying.

CGTN Photo

CGTN Photo

CGTN Photo

CGTN Photo

The job is not busy, so Wang has time to read. Once, he heard in a radio program that a disabled girl wrote some excellent poems. Encouraged by the story, Wang began to write his own poems on the back of the package paper of the tires with a pencil left by his grandson. At night, when all of the family are asleep, he writes with a torch in the dark. He even got a small blackboard from the recyclers and put verses on it. He hangs the chalkboard in his stall and asks the passers-by to help him improve his poems. If anybody's advice is adopted, he will buy him or her a bottle of beer. 

Asking for advice. /CGTN Photo

Asking for advice. /CGTN Photo

"I only write about things I see," Wang grinned. "I'm not good enough to write imposing verses like 'The endless river eastward flows, with its huge waves are gone all those gallant heroes of bygone years'."

"Hares leave footprints on the snow, over the cold grassland the wind blows. I pick poudrette with toes sticking out from my socks, while mother waits to warm up the hall." This one is based on his childhood experience.

"The dawn and the twilight witness my skills, the fragrant reputation resounds in half the city." This poem describes the reputation he earns as a bicycle repairer.

CGTN Photo

CGTN Photo

During his "break". /CGTN Photo

During his "break". /CGTN Photo

There's a small plaza beside his stall where the locals dance, play basketball and hang around with their kids. Everything can be in Wang's poems.

In 2017, when Wang was invited to "Chinese Poetry Congress," he thought "it was a fraud," because he never imagined that people would recognize the verses written by a bicycle repairer. "But it turned out to be a great experience, reading my poems on the stage in front of so many people," he said.

After the show, many people came to his stall to discuss poetry with him. "It feels like a dream come true. Poetry belongs to everyone. Even a bicycle repairer like me can still dream about such a poetic life."

Poems written by Wang Haijun. /by CGTN

Poems written by Wang Haijun. /by CGTN

The story is one in The 1.3 Billion series exploring the diverse lives that make up China. 

The story is one in The 1.3 Billion series exploring the diverse lives that make up China.