• During the last 18 years, Liu Jianguang has already reached 31 regions and provinces in China to promote Lei Feng's philosophy.

During the last 18 years, Liu Jianguang has already reached 31 regions and provinces in China to promote Lei Feng's philosophy. (Photo : CFP)

It will be hard not to notice this minivan, owned by ex-soldier Liu Jianguang and covered with red flags, flags of the Communist Party of China (CPC) and posters of the late Lei Feng, bellowing in loudspeaker promotions of the ideals of hard work and simple living.

Lei's Ideals

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Lei was a soldier of the Chinese army, and was regarded as a modest and selfless person and a devotee to Mao Zedong, the CPC and the Chinese people. In one of President Xi Jinping's speeches, the deceased soldier's ideals--faith in communism, selflessness, striving for excellence and love for all--were promoted as a "national backbone."

Liu's Early Engagement to Lei's Philosophy

It was in 1971, nine years after Lei's death, when there was a buzzing national campaign to follow his example, that Liu Jianguang, the owner of the minivan and fanatic of Lei, joined the People's Liberation Army (PLA) and offered himself passionately to the campaign.

According to The Beijing News Source report which appeared in the Global Times, he served by helping locals in building bridges, giving free haircuts to his co-soldiers and chopping woods for retired workers.

Liu's deeds caught attention, and he was featured by Xinhua News in 1973. He was rewarded with a second class merit, became a model for his troop and was even invited to speak at a conference in 1974. But days before this speaking engagement, he made remarks which was seen as self-adoration by his troop's commissar.

Liu received much criticisms and left the troop, but later regretted his decision which he now attributes to his youth and naivety.

After his demobilization from the army, he was sent by the government as a volunteer to Tibet where he supplied groceries to a meteorological service center.

Road Life

In 1999, Liu quit from his service in Tibet and decided to go around China to promote the philosophy of Lei.

During the last 18 years, he has already reached 31 regions and provinces in China. And though his family does not approve of what he does, Liu finds satisfaction in his journey, saying that through it he feels one with his idol.

Aside from his campaign, he also collects impressions of official local Party committee seals which he asks from the Party's office in each village he visits. Targeting to collect all 10,000 seals by 2021 which is the 100th anniversary of CPC, he has over 2,000 in hand.

Liu makes money by shoe polishing, and the earnings from which he uses to teach persons with disabilities shoe polishing techniques--an endeavor which he thinks promotes the Lei spirit and helps the underprivileged.

The 60-year-old, who was given a small apartment in 2014 as a compensation for relocating his village and was urged by his family to return home and stay, just donated this house to someone else, telling the local government that he could not finish his goal by 2021 if he stayed.

Liu lives in his minivan and is always on the risk of bankruptcy. He usually feeds on leftover vegetables from markets which he cooks in his vehicle-turned-home. His vehicle is actually now legally forbidden to hit the road because of its old condition but when enforcers see the posters of socialism stickered to it, they just let him go.

Others' Opinion

Some villagers see him as someone stuck in the past. Some of them notice more the curious van and man rather than the cultural icon he is trying to promote. His own family sees him as a person who helps but actually needs help himself.

But for Liu, to not follow Lei and to break from his mission is to break himself down.