- Language Tips
Alone and sleeping near a bridge, Feng Haoxiang felt a blanket placed around his shoulders.
It was a snowy winter night and the 25-year-old woke up still dazed from drink and despondent as a tramp in his 60s gave away his only blanket.
The tramp took care of Feng for the night, sitting next to him wearing just a cotton jacket.
When the 31-year-old Feng Haoxiang (left) was diagnosed with stomach cancer, he decided to use his last days to help his adopted father. [Gao Erqiang / China Daily]
For Feng, the warm floral-patterned quilt that "stunk of sweat and soil" kept him from freezing to death - and gave him a new definition of family.
"At home, my parents saw me as a disgrace. I quit school, was addicted to computer games and was in prison for street fights," continued Feng, a junior school dropout who left home in Shaoxing at the age of 16 for the nearby city of Hangzhou with only the jingle of cash in his pockets.
"I was not a good son to my own parents," he said.
So through what seemed an act of redemption, Feng decided to take the tramp home.
"I can't explain why I took him in, but since then, for the first time in my life, I have felt like acting like a son," said Feng.
The two have lived together like father and son since that day in 2006.
"To have someone standing at the door and waiting for you every day after work, it is more than soothing and sweet," Feng said.
For Cao Genxin, the former tramp, it has also been "a gift" to have Feng as a son.
A former worker at a State-owned factory, Cao left his hometown in Ningbo to "try his luck" at the age of 40 but ended up in prison for working as a lookout for a group of thieves.
Then, on the way home after being released, his luggage - with the certificate showing that he had been set free - was stolen. Not wanting to disgrace his family, Cao started his life as a vagrant by collecting and selling recycled bottles in Hangzhou.
"A roof and a son, it's the kind of life I have never imagined before," said Cao, neatly dressed in black sportswear identical to Feng's and talking in a strong accent that only Feng can perfectly understand.
It was not until Feng was diagnosed with stomach cancer last October that the lives of father and son changed again.
"I can no longer work, and the unsuccessful operation to remove the tumor has cost me all of my savings. Even my dad has stealthily gone back to the streets to collect used bottles. We are penniless," said Feng.
He denied the possibility of asking for help from his real parents - who did not even pay him a visit during his operation, while Cao didn't close his eyes for three days while taking care of his sick son.
Now living in a room no larger than an office cubicle for which they pay 500 yuan ($79) a month in rent, Feng and Cao have been sharing one bed in this barely-furnished, windowless room full of the smell of soap.
But Feng, with an inch-long scar on the right side of his belly, has been busily piecing back together his dad's identity.
"In case something bad happens to me, Cao could still be well looked after," Feng said. "I'm lucky to get a second chance to act as a son, and I want to do it well this time."
"My dad has taught me one thing: what defines real kinship is not a surname or blood, but devotion and care."
Contact the writers at firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com