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Retired expert, 81, shares his knowledge online

By LIU KUN in Wuhan and WANG SONGSONG | China Daily | Updated: 2023-12-27 09:56
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Liang Zhenqing gives a livestreamed class at his home in Hefeng county, Hubei province. CHINA DAILY

With just a smartphone, a tripod, a blackboard, and a piece of chalk, 81-year-old agricultural expert Liang Zhenqing began his livestreamed classes on Douyin, a short video platform, in January. In less than a year, he has attracted more than 180,000 followers.

Liang has been retired from his job at the agricultural bureau in Hefeng county, Hubei province, for more than two decades. His free online classes cover flower cultivation techniques, along with lessons on growing various fruits, tea trees, and plants for traditional Chinese medicine.

"I had no idea where the start button was, let alone how to interact with netizens and release videos," he said of his early foray into livestreaming.

However, with the help of his grandchildren, Liang gradually mastered the technical skills required. After a month of attracting a low number of views, he suddenly saw a rise in followers.

Liang began to interact with viewers and provide practical suggestions to questions posed during the livestream.

By Dec 12, his Douyin account boasted 181,000 followers. One of the main reasons for his success is that he stayed close to farmers and rural issues after retiring in 1998.

In 2017, a fruit fly outbreak erupted in the county's Tielu township, and ruined the citrus crops. Many farmers suffered income losses. "They were going to cut down fruit trees to plant food crops," Liang said.

He made it his personal mission to help the farmers overcome the problem. He spent three years in the township teaching the farmers about insects and helping them with control measures to try to prevent another outbreak. Thanks to his efforts, the outbreak was controlled and the quality and yields of the citrus fruit improved.

Over the years, Liang has also compiled books about planting fruit and tea trees as well as plants used for herbal medicine. He has conducted more than 20 technical training sessions in all towns in the county, with over 20,000 individuals benefiting from his expertise and guidance.

The majority of Liang's online followers are young people, according to data.

Liang said that there are always some punctual fans waiting for him to start his livestream. Often, long after the livestream was scheduled to end, his family can hear him in the other room, laughing and discussing ideas. Fans sometimes remind him the session is over by telling him, "Grandpa Liang, it's time."

After class, some followers write briefings on the content of the live broadcast. Liang affectionately refers to them as his "class representatives".

Huang Yifei, a student at Hubei Minzu University's forestry and horticulture college, has been following Liang's Douyin account since the beginning.

"I am a student majoring in landscape gardening, and a loyal fan of Liang. I often keep an eye on his live broadcasts," Huang said. "Whenever I encounter a practical problem I consult him and he shares his knowledge."

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