BEIJING, March 5 (Xinhua) -- "Lei Feng" is more than a name. For over 40 years, it was seen as a Chinese symbol of altruism, for people to commemorate and learn.
Thursday marks the 46th "Lei Feng's Day", and activities were reported from across China.
In the Xinyuan primary school of Jinan, capital of the eastern Shandong Province, more than 1,100 students from 25 classes in six grades kept their "Lei Feng Diary", and the tradition has been kept for 12 years.
The 12-year-old Yang Hengyuan donated money to her classmate who was diagnosed with leukaemia.
"Difficulties are not formidable, so long as we join hands and help each other," she wrote.
Sixth-grader Guo Jiyu said, "learning from Lei Feng is not solely limited to one day, but every day."
In the northwestern Gansu Province, 18-year-old Zhang Kai was among the 50 firefighting volunteers listening attentively to the instructions given by firefighters, while a policeman showed them how to get dressed in the red firefighting uniform, put on masks and jump over obstacles.
A student from the Gansu Agricultural University, he said, "I want to become one of the inheritors of the Lei Feng spirit."
In the Maolangxiang community of Hangzhou, capital city of the eastern Zhejiang Province, ten cancer patients set up a hotline for consultations concerning the disease.
Head of the volunteer team was Yuan Min, 82, who was diagnosed with stomach cancer 17 years ago.
"I want to share with other cancer patients our experiences to curb the disease, dispel their fear and encourage them to live longer," he said.
ICON OF A TIME
With his original name Lei Zhengxing, the former soldier from the People's Liberation Army was born on December 18, 1940 in a farmer's family of Wangcheng, central China's Hunan Province.
He was killed in 1962 when he was directing a truck as it backed up. A pole struck him on the head
Lei had a diary, which was published after his death and became one of the bestsellers at that time. The soldier was characterized by millions as a selfless person who devoted his entire life helping others, until the unfortunate pole incident.
In 1963, Chairman Mao Zedong launched a campaign, calling on people to learn from him.
In Fushun of the northeastern Liaoning Province, where Lei served in the army, a memorial was established
According to Zhang Shufen, the curator, the 100,000-square meter memorial with more than 500 mementos and photos from the soldier, was visited by some 57 million people since its start on August 15, 1965, including more than 20,000 from some 60 foreign countries and regions.
A 194-page book recording the words left by visitors is published on Thursday.
"The 879 messages were selected from 18,906 left by the visitors," said Zhang Shufen, "some of which were by old people while some were from primary school kids."
A student from the Changchun Institute of Technology said, "Lei Feng is a star of the Chinese people who needs no media hype. He is the memory of the elderly, the idol of the middle-aged, and the wish of the young. He should become a fashion of the time."
Li Yin from the Beijing Normal University noted that "Lei Feng made us reflect on ourselves, and our era."
Foreigners left words on the book as well.
An American association for orphan adoption said, "In fact we do need such generous and noble people in our age to take care of the elderly, the orphans and whoever needs our care."
"It is a pity that Lei couldn't see today's China," a foreigner who identified himself with Chinese name Qi Maike wrote.
SPIRIT IN CHANGE
Seen as an icon of a time, Lei Feng became controversial as some people argued that he was "outdated".
A story carried by the Urumqi Evening Post from the far northwestern Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region said that many students only had a vague idea of Lei Feng.
Reporter of the story said he asked 20 primary students in Urumqi, half of whom didn't know that March 5 was "Lei Feng's Day". Only 20 percent could tell stories of Lei, while more than half didn't know his deeds.
"In Lei's age, people were simple," said Yang Cunyi, a Shanghai citizen in his 80s.
"All they knew then was to follow Chairman Mao and the Communist Party," he said.
While An Liqing, a volunteer who went to western China after graduation, said the "Lei Feng Spirit" needed to be updated.
"It should be interpreted as 'love'," she said, adding that volunteer work was a show of the spirit itself.
A graduate from the Inner Mongolia Agricultural University in 2006, she became a teacher in a local county teaching farmers science and technology.
Currently, about 40,000 volunteers are working in the western parts of China, in a bid to help develop the impoverished areas amid China's drive to "develop the west".
"In the past, the Lei Feng spirit was imposed because of its political meaning," said Li Guosheng, director of the volunteer center of the Gansu province.
"But now, with great social development, people need something more down-to-earth, like the volunteer services," he said.
While Zhang Kai, the student learning firefighting skills, said, "each helpful move could be seen as an embodiment of the Lei Feng spirit."
"Learning from him should be a self-conscious behavior for everyone," he said.