Graduate-turned-butcher shares experience with alma mater

PHOTO: Graduate-turned-butcher shares experience with alma mater

CHINA - It was the first time in 24 years that Lu Buxuan was speaking at his alma mater, Peking University, and the scene was emotional.

His career choice of selling pork for a living after graduation in 1989 - at a time when college education was accessible only to a few in the society - has brought him to public attention for the past decade.

In April, Lu was invited to return to the university. This time as a speaker, providing advice to his juniors.

"I am very excited to stand here," Lu says. "I understand that only the elites of our society can stand here and give a speech to the students."

"I, on the other hand," he choked, and his face turned red, "brought shame to my alma mater."

Lu graduated from Peking University in 1989, majoring in Chinese language and literature, and was assigned to a factory job in his hometown in Shaanxi province.

"It was definitely not the job I liked. But most students were assigned jobs at that time."

Lu says his tough and stubborn personality made his career in the State-owned factory increasingly harder.

"I didn't talk much," says 47-year-old Lu. "And because I was too quiet and did not cultivate good relationships with people around me, I was ostracized."

Lu quit his low-paying factory job in 1999 and was planning to start a small business of his own. Setting up a stall in a food market was one of the easiest options.

"In our county, we don't normally sell pork in a wet market. Instead, we usually sell pork in a shop, which looks cleaner and better," he recalls. "And learning about pork is not very difficult."

Lu came under the media spotlight in 2003 when a television crew in Xi'an accidentally discovered that Lu, who has a degree from Peking University, sold pork in a local market for a living.

"Thanks to the media exposure and help from people from all walks of life, I've received attractive job offers from individuals and companies. Many contacted me after my story was publicized," Lu says.

Today, Lu works at the local government office in Xi'an, as a documentary writer.

He is quite happy with his current job and life, which he describes as "stable, respectable and comfortable".

Each month, he is assigned a certain amount of writing task, and he works independently.

Years of pork selling have equipped Lu with valuable experience in the industry. He has been sharing his experience as a guest teacher in a private vocational school in Guangdong province, teaching the students how to sell pork.

He met the owner of the private school - Chen Sheng, also a Peking University graduate - a few years ago.

"Chen contacted me when he was on a trip to Xi'an in 2006," Lu recalls. "He told me about his plans to start a school, but I hesitated for a very long time before I decided to join him."

Lu joined Chen as a guest teacher in 2011. Six months after he was invited to the teaching post, Lu published a book of 100,000 words on how to sell pork wisely and successfully.

"This is something that I am really good at," Lu says.

His pork business went particularly well during the SARS epidemic in 2003 when every one was extremely cautious about food sanitation, because Lu is known for his high quality pork.

Even though Lu has had a few media interviews since 2003, he admits that he does not like public speaking.

But he could not reject the invitation of Xu Zhihong, former president of Peking University, to speak at his alma mater.

Xu specially visited Lu when he was on a business trip to Xi'an earlier this year, and invited Lu back to the campus as the university was launching a series of lectures on career planning and entrepreneurship.

Xu wanted Peking University's students to understand how to face setbacks and hardships after they graduated, just like Lu.

Ten years ago when Lu's story was first highlighted by the media, Xu was often asked: "Why is a Peking University student selling pork?"

"Why shouldn't our graduates sell pork?" was Xu's first reaction. "It should not be so surprising, as I see it," he was quoted as saying.

A few days before Lu returned to the campus to present his speech, Peking University conducted a survey involving 240 students in the university to find out about their opinions about pork selling as a career.

Results show that 90 per cent of students are willing to be butchers. More than 50 per cent of the students surveyed consider selling pork as no different from any other careers, and may even have a promising future.

Lu was very satisfied when he learned about the survey results.

"The society is becoming more tolerant, more diverse," he says.