Chinese food courier shows he’s a whizz, by winning first prize in a poetry quiz

Delivery driver, 36, with a lifelong passion for verse beats off challenge from literary magazine editor to win popular game show

PUBLISHED : Monday, 09 April, 2018, 7:51pm
UPDATED : Monday, 09 April, 2018, 8:20pm

A food courier in eastern China wowed viewers and judges alike with his unrivalled knowledge of poets and poetry last week to take first prize in a popular verse-themed television quiz show.

Lei Haiwei, who works in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province, said he was as surprised as anyone when he emerged victorious in the latest series of Chinese Poetry Competition, aired by state broadcaster CCTV, The Beijing News reported.

“I didn’t expect to win at all,” the 37-year-old was quoted as saying. “I heard that 100,000 people signed up for the contest, so you are lucky to get among the top 100.”

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But Lei’s win had nothing to do with luck. Despite not coming from an academic or literary background, he is a voracious consumer of all things poetic.

Whenever he has a break during his working day, or even if he is waiting at a traffic light, he recites verse to himself, the report said.

Lei said that although he came from a relatively poor family in central China’s Hunan province, and never had money for books, he always had a love for poetry. His favourite pastime after school was to visit his local bookshop, where he would sit and try to memorise all the works he could find.

He was quoted as saying that after all that “revision” he could now recite about 800 poems from memory.

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His encyclopaedic knowledge was exactly what steered him to glory in the television show. And he needed to be on top form, as his final opponent was a man called Peng Min, who not only has a master’s degree in literature from Peking University – one of China’s top schools – but is also the editor of a poetry magazine, the report said.

Not that Lei was fazed by his adversary’s credentials. He said he knew he was up against it from the outset.

“Many of the participants had impressive degrees and experiences,” he said.

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But none of them could match Lei in the contest, which tested the competitors on such things as their ability to name poems, link works to their authors and recite lines.

Unfortunately for Lei, there was no prize for winning the competition, but that is unlikely to dim his passion for poetry. And for his many customers, they can rest assured that even if their food is not on time, it will always be on rhyme.