Old man who touched China's heart dies at 93
Bai Fangli carried passengers on his tricycle through the streets of Tianjin all his life. He was illiterate, but he cared deeply about education.
So much so that over 18 years he donated about 350,000 yuan (US$42,300) that he earned from riding to help about 300 poor students get through school.
Bai, chosen by China Central Television (CCTV) in 2004 as one of the 20 candidates for the "10 people who touched China's heart" selection, died on Friday. He was 93.
Bai was sent in May to the hospital, where he was found to have lung cancer. He had been in a deep coma for about 20 days before he passed away.
"We respected him so much because he was so dedicated to education and his deed was altruistic," Liu Weizhen, a staff member with the student affairs department of Tianjin's renowned Nankai University, told China Daily.
Bai had donated about 35,000 yuan (US$4,230) to Nankai, according to Liu.
The first time Bai donated to schools was in 1986, when he was ready to go back to his hometown in Hebei Province and live the rest of his life. After learning that some poor children in his village had to drop out of school, however, he donated 5,000 yuan (US$610) to the school and went back to Tianjin to carry passengers in his tricycle once again.
Most of his income was donated to local schools and universities. The old man lived in a shabby house in the outskirts of Tianjin and ate humble food, according to local media.
He opened a little store near Tianjin's railway station in 1995 to make more money.
Bai's entire mission wasn't something his family supported.
"We didn't like what he was doing at the very beginning because he did little for the family, and he was also very tough on himself," Bai's daughter Bai Jinfeng was quoted by local media as saying.
"But gradually we came to understand him as we saw the students he aided were so poor and so helpless.
"I think he really enjoyed contributing to others."
Bai's words and deeds are still remembered by many whom he had helped.
"It was 1996 when he first came to our university to donate money," said Liu, the Nankai employee.
"We understood every penny was made out of his sweat, and we really didn't want to take money from a man in his 80s. But he just insisted and pledged to bring more money."
After hearing that Bai was seriously ill, Nankai students folded 99 paper cranes early this month to pray for him.
"His face is covered by wrinkles, but I can see innocence in his eyes," a student wrote on an Internet university bulletin board. "His smile touched me, and I hope I can see the smile again someday."
(China Daily 09/24/2005 page1)