A 37-year-old fast food courier from Central China's Hunan province was crowned champion in a televised Chinese poetry knowledge contest, winning fans over with his true love for ancient poems.
Lei Haiwei beat other competitors, including a master's degree graduate from the prestigious Peking University, in the third season of the Chinese Poetry Conference on China Central Television on April 4.
"My interest in ancient poems began as early as I was six years old," Lei said after winning the competition.
Born in a village of Dongkou county, Shaoyang city, Lei inherited his father Lei Changgen's love of poems. The elder Lei put poetry on the kitchen wall for his son to read throughout childhood.
"My father hoped I would grow up to be a man who keeps the mountains, rivers, lakes and seas in mind," the courier said.
"My son showed great interest in Chinese culture when he was a child. Every time I told him the stories behind each poem, he was totally absorbed," Lei Changgen said.
In the father's small house, there is a four-story bookshelf, the top of which is filled with poetry books. "My son bought most of them. He was keen on reading poems," Lei Changgen said.
In 2001, the younger Lei graduated from a technical secondary school and found a job in Shanghai.
During his stay there, Lei was fascinated by a poem titled Xia Ke Xing, which appeared on a martial arts TV drama. The poem's author was the noted poet Li Bai, who lived in the Tang Dynasty (618-907).
This reignited Lei's love for poems.
Lei began to read books related to ancient poems at bookstores or libraries in his spare time, since the wages he earned were not high enough for him to buy many. The young man also developed a habit of reciting poems he liked, writing down them after returning home.
Though Li came to Hangzhou city in 2008 and works as a fast food courier, his love for poems hasn't faded.
On his busiest work days, the courier has to deliver more than 50 orders a day, earning up to 9,000 yuan (S$1,873) a month. Even so, he seized any available moment to recite poems. "For example, I am used to reciting poems when I wait for food at restaurants, and traffic lights on my way to deliver food. Reciting poems not only enriches my knowledge, but also makes my job less boring," the courier said.
As for his future plans, the courier said he will stick to reading and reciting poems.