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Ex-migrant worker has passion for poetry

By ZOU SHUO/MA JINGNA | China Daily | Updated: 2023-04-01 07:08

For more than 30 years, Zhu Yanjun had been a migrant worker in different cities like many other people from rural areas, but what made him different was his strong passion for reading poetry and books.

Zhu made the headlines when he was runner-up in the annual Chinese Poetry Competition hosted by China Central Television in early February.

Although he only had a middle school education, his passion for reading was inspired by his Chinese language teacher in middle school, who has published many articles in magazines.

"I also wanted to publish stories, so I started to read, and borrowed books from friends and classmates."

Born in a village in Jingning county, Gansu province, Zhu had never left his hometown in his youth. Some of his friends who dropped out of middle school to work in cities told him about their exciting lives there, so he did not go to high school and instead became a migrant worker.

"I do not regret the decision of not continuing studying. Back then, I just wanted to see the bigger world," he said. "There is no absolute right choice in the world. We just work hard to make our choices right."

Zhu worked at different construction sites in more than 10 cities, yet no matter where he was, he went to local bookstores and took a notebook with him in order to write down paragraphs from the books and recite them.

He started to read poems from the Tang Dynasty (618-907) and poems written by Chairman Mao Zedong and liked them because he found them rhythmic and easy to remember, he said.

Over the years, he has read thousands of poems and can recite more than 1,000 of them.

"There is an old Chinese saying: Reading 10,000 books is not as good as traveling 10,000 miles," Zhu said. "However, for me, although I have been to many different cities, it is not for travel, but to make a living, so I expand my horizons by reading books and poems, through which I get to know the history, traditions and landscapes of different places."

He said there are books everywhere in his home, so he can read whenever he wants.

"One can get inspired to have a rich spiritual world and powerful mind from reading. Whenever I face any difficulty, I think of Chairman Mao's quotation: 'Nothing in the world is difficult for one who sets his mind to it'," he said.

He never complains about hard work and never negotiates his salary with his employers, yet his pay is always higher than other workers because he always works the hardest.

"As long as you treat your work like you are the employer yourself, your employer will treat you like one of their own. Perhaps there are stingy employers, but I have never met any," he said.

Zhu's passion for reading has also influenced his children. To make sure his children receive the best care and good education, Zhu and his wife did not leave them to be looked after by their grandparents, but took their children with them wherever they went.

"I was very strict with their study, and they were told since childhood that they should finish their homework and read extensively before they play," he said.

Getting a good education is very important for them, because knowledge is very useful for them to make a living, said Zhu.

His older daughter Zhu Ling is a postgraduate student at Fudan University in Shanghai and his son Zhu Baoxing is an undergraduate student at Xidian University in Shaanxi province.

Zhu Yanjun said he does not want his children to work part-time while in college. Their most important task is to study and the family can provide them with enough financial support, he said.

Due to his good performance at the poetry competition, the local human resources and social security bureau in Jingning county decided to hire him to work at the local cultural center.

Zhu started to work there on March 10. Although his salary is not as much as what he made as a migrant worker, he does not need to leave his hometown anymore.

"Money does not concern me much. One can live a decent life even without lots of money," he said.

Contact the writers at zoushuo@chinadaily.com.cn

ZOU SHUO in Beijing

MA JINGNA in Lanzhou

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