Profile: Herdsman who runs library for villagers in NW China

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LANZHOU, May 19 (Xinhua) -- An Weizhi, a 72-year-old shepherd from Minghua Township, Sunan Yugur Autonomous County of Zhangye City, northwest China's Gansu Province, has garnered attention for his dedication to fostering an encouraging reading culture in his community.

As an avid reader since childhood, An earned himself the nickname of "book donkey" and his passion for books has led him to amass a vast collection over the years.

Whenever An goes out to work, he always carries a book with him. His indulgence in reading led him to lose sheep while grazing, and his wife attempted to reduce his reading even by hiding his books on the roof. But An said: "Reading is like a lamp that can disperse all the haze of my life."

In 2012, as An already had over 6,000 books in his collection, a local official in Minghua suggested that he should transform his personal hobby into an endeavor to share the joy of reading with villagers.

Located on the southern edge of the Badain Jaran Desert, Minghua faces geographical challenges, with limited access to educational resources. An is considered to have the potential to bridge this gap, providing residents with a nearby space for intellectual enrichment.

Inspired by the transformative power of knowledge, An established a village book house in his doorway. With support from local authorities and after two years of preparation, the 60-square-meter facility opened its doors, offering a diverse selection of literature for readers of all ages.

Children eagerly delve into classic tales like "Water Margin," one of China's most beloved classic novels, and brain-teasing puzzles, while adults find solace in the pages of literary works.

As the village library welcomes more young readers, An has a strong sense of achievement and responsibility beyond the confines of the book house.

An not only actively engages with readers, serving as a mentor and guide, but also racks his brains to expand his collection of children's books.

Over time, many children who frequently come to read have developed a good habit of borrowing books. And to facilitate reading for everyone, An never locks the door of the book house when he goes out.

"Some children persist in reading until they go to university," An said proudly of the children he knows well.

Nowadays, the book house boasts a collection of over 16,000 volumes, serving more than 1,000 villagers from seven surrounding villages.

An's vision has not only enriched the lives of his fellow community members, but has also left an indelible mark on the cultural landscape of the town, according to He Xuefang, director of the public affairs service center of Minghua.

As the elder herdsman reflects on his reading journey, he remains steadfast in his belief that within the pages of a book lies the key to enlightenment and prosperity. "My efforts would sow the seeds of wisdom, ensuring that future generations may reap the bountiful harvest of knowledge one day," said An. Enditem

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