Tang Zhenya is good friends with the fishermen on the lake.
One of Tang Zhenya's biggest problems is that the fishermen move from place to place. The lake is so huge that it's often difficult to track them down. Tang recalls that in 2003 one letter, addressed to someone called Du Zhongxiang from Changshan village, gave him particular problems. It was an important message, containing the offer of a college place – which for a rural youth meant the prospect of a well-paid job and an escape from rural drudgery. Changshan Village is spread over six locations around five kilometers from each other. But having visited all of them Tang found no one named Du Zhongxiang. Eventually he was told Du Zhongxiang lived in a remote tidal area. Although the weather was turning bad he set off nevertheless. But when he reached the middle of the lake, a gust of wind capsized his boat and he was forced to abandon it and swim the rest of the way. By the time he reached his destination, he was totally exhausted. Tang said he would have drowned if Du's home had been five meters further.
When they read the letter offering their son a college place, Du's parents burst into tears. But Tang Zhenya just told them he knew how much the news meant to them, and that it was his duty to deliver letters on time.
For local fishermen, Tang Zhenya is more than a mailman. Three years ago, Xintan Village set up a library offering books on fish breeding. About 80 percent of the books are delivered by Tang Zhenya in his boat. "As a mailman, it's my job to deliver anything, including knowledge," he said. "I won't stop as long as there are still people living on the lake."