BEIJING, March 5 (Xinhua) -- Saturday marks China's annual "Lei Feng Day," the day named after an ordinary soldier and now a household icon in China, celebrated for selflessly helping others and called "a role model of an era" by President Xi Jinping.
Lei Feng served in an army regiment in the northeastern city of Fushun until his untimely demise in 1962, aged just 22.
"A lot of things may not have dwelled long, but within their time, they left something that would last an eternity," Xi said in 2014, commenting on the soldier's virtues, summed up as "the Lei Feng spirit."
Attending a memorial for Lei Feng in September 2018, Xi took a close look at Lei's personal belongings and handwriting, recognizing the "everlasting" spirit of the model soldier.
In his diary compiled and published posthumously, Lei likened himself to a small yet indispensable "screw" inside a machine, and vowed to "never rust" and to serve the people wholeheartedly.
"We should learn from Lei's spirit and practice to turn lofty ideals, convictions, and moral qualities into concrete actions in ordinary life and work, and make our due contributions to carry on the Lei Feng spirit for generations," Xi said during the visit.
To this day, Lei's legacy endures. A noble and warmhearted person is often referred to as a "living Lei Feng" in China; his name also appeared in a popular online song from the noughties which became well-known nationwide with the rise of the internet.
Across the country, numerous "living Lei Fengs" have responded to the decades-old call of "learning from Lei Feng" to do good. In 2014, a volunteer group led by Guo Mingyi, a miner from the northeastern Liaoning Province, received a letter from President Xi ahead of that year's "Lei Feng Day." Among his selfless acts, Guo has supported hundreds of underprivileged students with financial aid, earning him the honor as "contemporary Lei Feng."
"It makes me so happy that you have given love and warmth to people in need, served society, helped others, shown dedication to your work, therefore sublimating your lives," Xi said in reply to a previous letter from the group about their volunteer work.
"Everyone can learn from the Lei Feng spirit, and people can show their concern and love everywhere," Xi's letter continued.
The power of belief, the breadth of compassion, the selflessness, and the spirit of forging ahead that Lei and Guo possessed "best epitomize our nation's spirit," Xi said during a group deliberation with lawmakers from Liaoning Province at the annual legislative session in March 2013.
If all Chinese people, Party members, and Party organizations learn the Lei Feng spirit and become a screw that never rusts, "we will gain uncomparable cohesiveness and professional capabilities, and we will be invincible," Xi said during his visit to Lei's memorial in 2018.