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'Magic' man returns from cycling trip to Tibet

2009. 27 July

( Zhu Junxian just can't stop cycling.

The 75-year-old man has traveled more than 105,000 kilometers across the country on his bike. And he just returned on July 17 from his latest epic journey, a trip to the Tibet Autonomous Region.

When Shanghai Daily visited him on Friday, he was busy compiling a diary of the trip and arranging souvenirs and gifts given to him by well wishers along the way.

Though slightly hunched, Zhu is thin and very fit. The retired judge is also talkative and persuasive.

"I never feel lonely on my bicycle journeys," he said, showing some of the gifts he received, including a calligraphy work calling him "a magic old man."

"People treated me very kindly. They always arrange free accommodation for me and give me water and fruit. I made friends with some," said Zhu, who was the oldest Olympic torch bearer in Shanghai for the Beijing Games torch relay last year.

Zhu set out on the 5,000km bicycle trip to Tibet for the fifth time from the city's Expo site in April. His goal was to publicize the 2010 Shanghai World Expo.

He carried Expo banners, flags and 1.5-meter-tall Haibao models to promote the event along the way. He left Haibao models in 23 locations including Potala Palace in the regional capital Lhasa. Thousands of Tibetans visited and took pictures with the Haibao model everyday, which made him very proud.

Zhu said many people in rural areas are unaware of the World Expo and asked him whether Haibao was an animal. He would always patiently answer all their questions.

"Many Tibetern people may not have the opportunity to visit the Expo site in Shanghai. I want to help them learn more," Zhu said.

Zhu said he started cycling during the Korean War about six decades ago. After the war ended, some soldiers said they would take a train to Beijing to pay respect to Chaiman Mao Zedong. Not Zhu. He decided to cycle to Beijing from his hometown in Shanghai.

But he did not fulfill this wish until he retired in 1995. He has cycled to every province, autonomous region and municipality in China.