China’s “father of homeless children” dies at 63; supported his kids by trash-picking and selling blood

November 16, 2010Jing Gao3 Comments, , , , , , , ,


Zheng Chengzhen, “Father of childless children,”  died of asthma Sunday at the age of 63. The memorial service will be held tomorrow noon. The man was known for being altruistic while leading a very hard life.

Zheng Chengzhen was from Jinan, Shandong Province in eastern China.

Zheng Chengzhen has a meal with his nine kids.

Tears well up in Zheng's eyes on some kids' departure.

The 20-square-meter room is packed with three double-deck beds.

His kids form a baseball team.

His kid takes him to hospital for intraveous drip after he is ill with asthma.

Ever since 1987, Zheng Chengzhen rode a tricycle every night around Jinan Train Station looking for homeless children who often seek shelter there, and brought them home. For the past 20 years, he altogether brought 400 children home. His 20-square-meter (210-square-foot) tiny home at one time accommodated as many as 13 children.

In order to “lead children down the right path,” he quietly dedicated himself to offering children  a place of warmth. Zheng, called by children “Grandpa”, had no job or fixed income. Even this house is a donation by others. However, this did not stop his passion for adopting homeless children.

When his kids came of school age, coordinated by the local administrative office, they were offered free admission. Those who were older were sent to polytechnics after Zheng persistently contacted those schools hoping that they would gain a foothold in the society in the future. Most children did not disappoint him and have become excellent students. With financial support of a professional baseball club based in the city of Jinan, three kids he adopted made their way to the baseball team and did very well in many games. After hearing about his story, many baseball clubs from Korea and Japan which visited Jinan for games or cultural exchange insisted on calling at the special family.

Owing to the media coverage, Zheng Chengzhen became famous. Many people came specially  to send orphans to him, including some journalists who came across orphans while covering stories. He never refused any one of them. More and more children came to his home. Seeing a increasingly bustling family, he was very happy.

To feed these children was not an easy task, especially Zheng Chengzhen, who did not have a job. He had to move out of his sister’s home because of these kids, and lost two hard-earned jobs. With more children he brought home, his life became more difficult.  But he tried every means possible to eke out a living for the family. Sometimes what he earned from picking up trash was not enough to for him and his kids, he sold his blood.

For these children, Zheng Chengzhen, who had been single for the greater part of his life, gave up on marriage. Zheng admitted that he was afraid his children would be compromised after he got a wife. “If I had to look for a wife, she must support my cause to begin with and not quarrel with me over kids.” Zheng never felt kids were his burden. “I must protect them,” He said that if one day he failed to bring home children wandering on the street, “I cannot sleep.”

Zheng had a relapse of asthma on June 27 and was admitted to hospital. Sunday, his health worsened. Because of severe pulmonary heart disease and lung failure, he passed away at 3:40 a.m.

Not long ago, he got the key to the low-rent apartment he applied for.

It remains unclear where the nine kids he left behind will go.

Netizens’ comments


Donation here and philanthropy there…Why a loving grandpa had to support the family by selling his blood?? Where was donation and philanthropy?!


My China,
Where are you cornering your poor people into?

The thoroughfares you built are wider and wider, the edifices you construct are taller and taller, the privileged are richer and richer.

Majestic facades reek of liquor whereas dead body lied on the street (Chinese idiom). Then I saw your red flag billowing in the sky.

Now I remember you said it was reddened by fighters’ blood.

Will Smith:

We had an old man named Bai Fangli years ago. Now we had Zheng Chengzhen. They are both greatest people, genuinely ordinary yet extraordinary people. Their righteousness can shake heaven and earth. We should learn from the two great men, especially we younger generations.


On China’s vast land, some people are so rich that grease exudes out of them; some are so poor that they don’t know where their next meal comes from. Finally we had one great man from the 1.4 billion people, and he didn’t get credit until he died??? What were those guys (referring to the government) doing earlier?


Those who are really needy do not have money. Those who truly want help do not get any. The relief and aid from department of civil affairs went to well-connected rich people. They are fighting over food with panhandlers. What a shame!


As a civil servant, I don’t want to make critical remarks. But why a job supposed to be done by department of civil affairs with public funds was instead done by an old man???


I have no intention to read any other news story after this one about Grandpa Zheng. Many celebs with heavy makeup pale (in comparison). He had a shining beautiful heart.

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