Do you remember when you met Chairman Mao? Yes, absolutely. I travelled by train from my hometown to Beijing to see Chairman Mao because of my outstanding performance as a little Red Guard. The comrades in Beijing realised I was from Hunan province, which was also where Chairman Mao came from, so they arranged for me to stay in the best place - China's elite Tsinghua University. It was a long way from Tsinghua to Tiananmen Square so I had to get up at 1am and walk there. The square was crowded with many Red Guards and I was not tall enough to see Chairman Mao, so I sat on people's shoulders to get a better view. Why were you chosen as a Red Guard representative? During that time, everyone had to do something to demonstrate their loyalty to Chairman Mao and some of them jumped up and fought rightists. They harassed and beat people but I didn't do that. I was crazy about learning calligraphy then but I was too poor to buy brushes and paper. I found that copying dazibao - big character posters - was a good way to practise and avoid being seen as not enthusiastic about learning advanced thoughts. They supplied me with ink and paper for free and I practised non-stop, day and night. Finally, they thought I was a really diligent child and sent me to Beijing as a Red Guard in the fifth batch that Chairman Mao received. Why are you so interested in calligraphy? My parents could not recognise a single Chinese character but they taught me that the style of handwriting reflected some kind of aspect of the writer. I was born into a really poor family and I used tree branches as my pen and a layer of sand as my paper. Since I could not afford to buy any calligraphy textbooks and nobody gave me any guidance, I went to Xian alone on a coal train one day because Xian is famous for its historical sites with calligraphy etched in stone. I had no money to pay for the trip so I hid in a pile of coal. I worked as an education official in Yueyang in the northern part of Hunan for more than 20 years and published dozens of books focusing on quality education in China. Calligraphy was my hobby and I practised it every day. I was particularly fond of writing the Chinese character 'dragon' because the dragon is a great creature in traditional Chinese culture.In 1993, Yueyang held the first international dragon boat competition on Duan Wu Jie (the dragon boat festival), and I displayed 100 works based on the Chinese character for 'dragon'. Each one was in a different style but I was not satisfied with them and I spent almost 13 years improving them. I just finished my 100-dragon work last year. If you put them side by side on a single scroll, it would stretch 70 metres. What do you do with them? I published them in a book last year and a Shenzhen collector was willing to pay a really high price for them, but I didn't sell them because he wanted me to stop creating similar works. Why did you resign your posts in Yueyang and move to Beijing? Yueyang is my beloved hometown and I was once the chief of the city's education TV station. Yueyang is also a place that broke my heart and crushed my spirit. I had no choice but to leave the place and try to forget all the unhappiness. I fell into a trap devised by some malicious people who wanted to put me into jail when I was the TV station's chief. I did nothing wrong and in the end they had no evidence to charge me. Some friends said the only thing I did wrong was that I didn't bribe them. I was deeply hurt by the low moral standard of those people. How do you survive in Beijing? My life in Beijing is really hard and I am on a tight budget. I only just make a living by selling my work. People come to my apartment to buy one or two pieces of my art, but that's far from enough to realise my goal. What's your goal? I want to build a calligraphy school in Beijing to teach children how to improve their handwriting because I am sad to see so many children lose interest in this traditional Chinese art. It seems a mission impossible so far because I have no money.