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An unlikely man of letters

By Wang Qian and Yang Jun | China Daily| Updated: 2020-11-19 Print

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Cai Wei teaches three courses-ancient-Chinese writing, paleography and calligraphy-at Anshun University in Guizhou province. The former street peddler made national headlines in 2009, when he was accepted into a PhD program of Fudan University in Shanghai for his expertise in ancient Chinese literature. [Photo by Wang Jingshuo/China Daily]

Winning recognition

The internet also helped Cai get closer to experts and enabled more people to recognize his talent.

His online name is Baoxiao, which means devotion to ancient Chinese writing.

China Youth Daily quoted Dong Shan, a professor at the Peking University's School of Archaeology and Museology, as saying that Cai is intimately familiar with ancient classics and can always spot mistakes.

When his wife fell ill in 2007, Cai borrowed 50,000 yuan from relatives. To make ends meet, he had to work as a roadside peddler by day and a tricycle courier by night.

It was the first time he felt life was too harsh.

"It was a really difficult period, but my interest in literature didn't cease," he recalls.

When he mentioned his situation to Dong, he helped Cai to join a research project on ancient texts at Fudan University in 2008.

His outstanding performance impressed his teammates.

Qiu and professors Li Jiahao and Wu Zhenwu recommended that he apply for a PhD program at Fudan University.

After thorough discussion, he was accepted in April 2009.

In 2000, Fudan University announced changes to its admissions policy to give professors more leeway in selecting their PhD candidates. Previously, only those with at least a master's degree could apply.

At age 38, Cai began his studies for a doctorate in ancient Chinese language at Fudan University under Qiu's supervision.

He completed the degree six years later.

Cai then sent dozens of job-application letters and finally got an offer from Anshun University.

Although he's a media star, Cai says he just wants to live a quiet life and devote himself to the study of the ancient Chinese language and literature.

"It has been a long and plodding journey on my own. Being famous can bring no good," Cai says, smiling.

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Cai Wei teaches three courses-ancient-Chinese writing, paleography and calligraphy-at Anshun University in Guizhou province. The former street peddler made national headlines in 2009, when he was accepted into a PhD program of Fudan University in Shanghai for his expertise in ancient Chinese literature. [Photo by Wang Jingshuo/China Daily]

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