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The splendid life of a 102-year-old man

(People's Daily Online)

13:05, February 21, 2013

At 75, he became a backpacker and travelled in Europe; at 93, he worked as a volunteer in the hospital; at 98, he got a master's degree. When he was 100 years old, his calligraphy works was collected by the British Library. A few months ago, he published an autobiography and thus became a best-selling author. He grew almost "against the clock"! His name is Zhao Muhe, who was born in 1911 and is 102 years old now. He went to Taiwan from the mainland alone when he was 40 and retired from Kaohsiung Normal University at the age of 66. But by the time he took off the working clothes, the splendor of his life had just begun.


While some young people shout out "carry a package and travel the outside world" but never take a step away from home, Zhao went to the travel agency to apply for passport and visa and embarked on a trip to Europe alone when he was 75. Back then, he only recognized a few letters besides the words "YES" and "NO" and hardly knew any English at all. Neither did he have a lot of money deposits. His only wealth was time.

"If you want to travel abroad and have fun, and you make long time preparation for it, waiting till you know the language, and waiting till you have money … then you won't be able to realize your dream in lifetime," said Zhao.

He desired "freedom" and still wanted to see the outside world even when he was already looked upon as an "old guy" by others. Without following any tour group, he spent five months alone in Europe to admire the Eiffel Tower, visit the former residence of Shakespeare, and sing on the Rhine River.

The now 102-year-old Zhao still retains the details vividly when he recalls the experience as a backpacker when he was "young". In 2011, Zhao again went to the United Kingdom, bringing his calligraphy works which was considered a unique skill in Taiwan, and gave the works to the British Library as a gift. There he spent his 100th birthday.


Zhao believes that learning is a big secret to maintain a youthful mind. "Keep the brain at work and the whole person is alive." Zhao used to study until two o'clock in the morning just like those young people who tried desperately to enter college. His "teeth all fell out" for the sake of examination. With all white hair and a set of dentures in the mouth, Zhao was admitted to the Department of Culture and Arts of the Open University in Taiwan. Four years later, Zhao Muhe graduated! At 91 years old he proved that learning has nothing to do with age.

Nonetheless, time still shows its ruthlessness. Zhao's back is now bent. He can no longer hear clearly on the telephone and would shout loudly into the handset. Despite this, he does not abstain from talking about death and has already written down his wills. He still arranges food, drink, and daily life on his own. Back when he was 93 years old, he went to the hospital to volunteer to take care of a lot of patients much younger than he. Seeing Zhao working in the patient's room and riding a bicycle to the hospital, the nurses tried to persuade the old man who was even older than their great-grandfathers not to come again when they Zhao replied childlike: "Would it be better if I come here by bus?"

The years continue press people to grow old, but old age does wear down Zhao's enthusiasm in pursuing his goals for life. At the age of 96, he prepared for three months before being admitted to the Institute of Philosophy of Nanhua University and became the oldest master in the school.

In 2013, Zhao's brand new calendar is still filled with schedules. At the very least, the yard of the dormitory building where he has lived for decades awaits his cleaning every day. Zhao loves wearing a yellow shirt while sweeping the floor with a broom. Behind him, the ivy climbs around the wall from which the bricks has begun to fall off, circle after circle, always so green.

Read the Chinese version: 102岁的青春模范.

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