'China's Forrest Gump'
Updated: 2012-09-05 08:13
By Liu Qing (China Daily)
Many people dream of obtaining a Peking University degree. Gan Xiangwei did it his way. Liu Qing reports.
Since high school, Gan Xiangwei has harbored a dream of entering the gates of the prestigious and beautiful Peking University. "At that time, I thought to myself that even if I couldn't get a place as an undergraduate, I want to have a chance to step into the campus one day, to walk in the grounds and see for myself the beautiful site," says the 29-year-old.
And enter he did. He became a security guard at the university in 2007 and a year later, he was admitted to its Chinese language department, after passing the Adult College Entrance Examination. He graduated this summer.
While most people leave the university with a degree, Gan left with more. He penned his thoughts and experiences during his five years on the campus, known as Yanyuan Garden, in a 120,000-word book, Attending Peking University on His Feet, which was published in June.
Gan Xiangwei graduates from Peking University, after taking the road less traveled. Photo provided to China Daily
As a security guard at Peking University, Gan Xiangwei spends his spare time reading books. Photo provided to China Daily
The book tells about his struggle in pursuing his path to success, which Gan hopes will motivate his readers. He also hopes to convey his never-say-die attitude to his readers.
He has been dubbed by some of his readers as the "Forrest Gump of China", not only because their surnames sound alike (Gan and Gump) but also for their perseverance.
There isn't a more appropriate cover for the book, which has the picture of a security guard looking into the horizon, with the west gate of Peking University as background. Zhou Qifeng, the president of Peking University, wrote the book's preface, adding credence to the publication.
Born and bred in rural Guangshui in Hubei province, Gan says he started aspiring to enter the world-renowned ivory tower after reading a book about it. The book described the beautiful scenery around Weiming Lake and stories of respectable scholars in Yanyuan Garden.
Gan's journey to Peking University was not a walk in the park. Educated at a rural school in Hubei province, Gan graduated with a law degree from a local college.
He moved to Guangdong province after graduation to work as a legal advisor but his dream of going to Peking University remained. Following the prompting of his heart, Gan gave up his monthly pay of 3,000 yuan ($478) for a job as a security guard at Peking University, which only paid 700 yuan a month.
"The job as a security guard may be inferior, but to pursue my dream, I did something that others won't do and by taking that route, I took a chance and finally succeeded," Gan says, adding that he values the spiritual fulfillment he gained in Yanyuan Garden more than fame and wealth.
His affection for Weiming Lake remains till this day - for the interview for this story, Gan chose to meet at the lake area. With his new book in one hand, Gan showed up in a T-shirt, blending into the crowd. But many of those who walked past him recognized him as the security guard who published a book.
Gan, probably already used to the attention, did not react with much emotion. But his excitement showed when asked about his feelings on being labeled "a grassroots legend" by some media.
"Maybe it's incredible for some people that I can succeed and achieve what I want on my own under my circumstances," Gan says, smiling shyly. "But it's too much flattery to say I'm a legend. I worked very hard to get what I want."
He explains that he chose the title for his book, Attending Peking University on His Feet, after careful consideration. He finally came up with the title to reflect his previous job as a security guard who stood on his feet for hours.
He is grateful to his professors and course mates for their encouragement and support, without whom he would not have published his writings.
"They are talented and versatile, and I appreciate them," Gan says, adding that the experience at Peking University has changed him into a self-confident person.
He is now completing his second book, which focuses on the secret of success for ordinary people.
"The most crucial determinant is still perseverance," Gan stresses. According to him, only hard work can make a giant out of an ordinary person. He says it is also important to understand oneself and make full use of the social resources available.
"It's impossible for people to choose their starting points such as their families and social class, but their future is certainly in their own hands," Gan says.
Living the adage that time waits for no one, he says young people should try to realize their dreams as early as possible because life is "too short and fragile".
Gan has started his new career as a teacher in Beijing Jianhua Experimental School. He says he plans to devote himself to education, to cultivate top talents with innovative minds, as a way of giving back to the society.
Contact the writer at firstname.lastname@example.org.