In 2020, a short video on Douyin, China’s version of TikTok, of an elderly man clad in rags and struggling to communicate his desire to buy noodles brought the man, Zheng Zulong, and the noodle store owner Guose Li, instant fame. Misfortune, on the other hand, always seems to find its way to the already downtrodden. Zheng died in a drunk driving accident in January of this year, breaking the hearts of many people online. “May he no longer live a wandering life in heaven,” a person commented. Before the accident, Zheng had been a regular customer at Li’s store for more than 10 years, dating back to when Li’s father ran it out of a wet market in Wenzhou, Zhejiang province, in eastern China. Zheng was left mentally disabled in an accident when he was a small child. He never married, and his only family is a nephew with whom he has never been close. According to Li, Zheng used to buy the noodles using a few crumpled bills he found on the road or in the rubbish. However, since the wet market was demolished and rebuilt five years ago, he ran out of money at times. He still went to Li’s store regularly. Instead of paying with real money, he handed Li fake, hand-painted bills. “My wife laughed when she saw the hand-drawn bills mixed in with the real ones the first time he took them out because they looked like a child’s hand painting,” Li told the South China Morning Post . China’s censors increasingly resemble morality police from 1950s America No matter if the notes were real or hand-drawn, Li and his wife always accepted the bills and gave Zheng a day’s supply of noodles. Li understood that the man just wanted some food. “I gave him free noodles earlier, but he rejected the offer; he had his rules, so I was happy to sell him the noodles this way,” Li said. Zheng, according to Li, was aware that the money was fake, so he would smile every time Li took the bills as if they were real. Li had completely won Zheng’s trust as a result of their regular interactions. “Before we moved our store to this wet market, I heard he was always finding food from the waste pile, despite people occasionally offering him food,” Li said. “He just ate what we offered him after we got here.” When Douyin became popular, Li began posting videos of Zheng visiting his business to buy noodles. As a result of the videos, some people began to notice Zheng and send him gifts. “Even though only a few people did it, we are still passing on the power of love,” Li said. Zheng was hit by a drunk driver and died on his way to the wet market on January 7. Li’s video series titled “the elderly man with difficulties comes to buy noodles” ended after 138 episodes. “My heart felt empty when I heard the news,” Li said. “I’m never going to see him again.” Li has saved many of Zheng’s hand-painted bills over the years. On the day of Zheng’s funeral, he took a handful of them out and burnt them as a send-off to Zheng, as is customary in China. Li said he’ll keep the rest to teach his six-year-old son to be a good and upright person.