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After being admitted to CAFA from a security guard

After being admitted to CAFA from a security guard

After being admitted to CAFA from a security guard
After being admitted to CAFA from a security guard

In 2017, after 9 years of part-time work and study, 28-year-old Li Cheng was admitted to CAFA as a security guard.

Li Cheng is a post-80s generation, and in the simple concept of many Chinese of the same age, entering a university is the key valve to change fate and class, which is also the belief that inspires Li Cheng to struggle.

After successfully being admitted to CAFA from a security guard, Li Cheng was reported by the media as an "inspirational security brother" and became an inspirational model in mainstream publicity. To this day, in the popular version of the story on the Internet, the success story of the Fish Leaping Dragon Gate is still the main tone, and few people continue to ask what happened to Li Cheng after being admitted to CAFA.

Today, Li Cheng has not yet crossed the hierarchy. In 2021, he graduated from CAFA after painting a graduation work in which "the teacher wants to walk around when he sees it". After losing his last job as an art teacher, Li Cheng renamed himself "CAFA Wandering Brother" and wandered on the road in a modified electric car.

When he was admitted to CAFA, Li Cheng said some inspirational quotes in a media interview, "If you have a dream, your hard work will come true." "I'm desperate, I'm afraid of whom!" he said he still wanted to continue his studies, "study for a doctorate, become a teacher at a university", and "be the pride of this era".

After entering the school gate, Li Cheng saw the other side of the theory of "changing his life by taking the exam": the social promise of "hard work can succeed" seems to be fulfilled only before the college entrance examination.

Approaching graduation, Li Cheng challenged himself to draw his own electric car on the TV show "Golden 100 Seconds". Before putting pen to paper, he shouted out the slogan of the program with great ambition, but created an episode because of the hard-to-change local sound.

"It's gold, it will always be spent!" the audience laughed. A slip of the tongue changed the meaning of this motivational quote. In the end, there was a gap between Li Cheng's painting and the audience's expectations, and the challenge was terminated early due to too many negative votes. One host thinks that if he is given some time, Li Cheng can draw well, but another host bluntly said that the result is destined not to change when he puts pen to paper, "The audience can see it when he puts pen to paper." ”

This show laid two foreshadowings for Li Cheng's life. Soon after, he ran out of money and went into debt. The gap between himself and his classmates that he saw when he entered the school was not able to make up for it through personal efforts.

After waking up from a dream, he realized that the noise of gongs and drums he heard when he was titled on the gold list did not mean the beginning of a leap in life. Has the era of taking the entrance examination to change his life passed? Today, Li Cheng is still groping. He rarely paints anymore, returning to the world to which he belongs, photographing people in similar situations during his travels, and hoping to seize the opportunity again through the Internet to change his fate.

After being admitted to CAFA from a security guard

Going to university is my belief

Recently, I changed the name of my travel self-media account from "Chengyuan Travel" to "CAFA Wandering Brother". Only then did fans know that I had studied at a university in Beijing. In 2017, after 9 years of part-time work and study, I concentrated on preparing for the exam for 3 months, and finally was admitted to the Central Academy of Fine Arts with the 8th place in the country. Since I worked as a security guard at CAFA, many media came to interview me, and the TV station also invited me to appear on variety shows. Since then, I have the name of "Inspirational Security Guard".

After being admitted to CAFA from a security guard

Figure | A photo of Li Cheng when he was working as a security guard at CAFA

In 2021, I graduated from CAFA and went south to Shenzhen, where I went bankrupt and owed debts after a failed business. Now I'm wandering outside, driving my own modified old man Le battery car, doing travel self-media, and making a living by live broadcasts.

When I was admitted to CAFA, I was 28 years old. Many people have already graduated with a master's degree at this age, and I have just been admitted to my bachelor's degree. In 2016, I went to Tongshenghu Experimental High School in Hunan Province to sign up for a repeat study, and sitting in the classroom, my classmates were more than ten years younger than me, and my classmates thought I was a parent.

I wanted to be a painter when I was very young. When I was 4 years old, my grandmother and I spent the New Year at my uncle's house. Lying on the balcony of my uncle's house, I saw cars coming and going, and suddenly wanted to draw these. The wide streets, the cars coming and going, some parked on the side of the road, some running on the road, I drew them all. Grandma said I drew lifelikely.

In those days, my uncle also taught me to write, and after writing on paper, I drew a painting on the door by the way, which was Xu Beihong's horse. At that time, I was not in kindergarten, and I could draw an object by looking at it. My mother is a seamstress, and she is also very good at drawing, and when she found out that I was interested, she taught me to draw watermelons, apples, and bananas.

I am a native of Hengyang, Hunan Province, and I was born in a mud house in the countryside. Before the new house was built at the age of 12, the place where I painted was the wall of the old house - where the dirt wall of the house was against the ground, there was a small section of cement painted, which was smooth and suitable for painting. My mother used to teach me how to draw on the wall with charcoal.

The first time I learned about CAFA was when I was about to graduate from elementary school. The math teacher told the students that his neighbor was teaching painting in a class, so I went to meet him. It was a junior high school art teacher in his 30s who recruited three students during the summer vacation and taught us in his dormitory. Teachers charge cheap tuition, but teach everything. I learned drawing, color, calligraphy, calligraphy, calligraphy, photography, and even antiques there. The first thing I saw was a silver dollar he had found in his dormitory. The teacher taught us everything he knew.

One day, the teacher told us a story. He has a classmate who has been admitted to CAFA for 5 or 6 years, but still hasn't been admitted. The family didn't let him continue to take the exam, but he had to take the exam, and finally he didn't hesitate to cut off the relationship with his family and run away from home.

I was very shocked, thinking that this "CAFA" is too awesome and amazing, and it can make a person crazy to this extent. That day, I said in my heart that I had to be admitted to CAFA.

After being admitted to CAFA from a security guard

Figure | Li Cheng's work when he was studying painting

In 2005, I was admitted to Hengshan No. 4 Middle School, a key high school in the city, through my art expertise, and continued to study painting. When he was a freshman in high school, his brother Yang Kai's collection of works was circulated among his classmates. He was two levels above me and came from a wealthy family. Senior brother went to Beijing to study. When he returned, he made a photo album of his paintings, which included an autobiography of him:

"Ten years have passed in the eighteenth spring and autumn of my life. "At that time, as soon as I read the first sentence, I thought it was well written and copied it. I still remember some of the following paragraphs: "When I came to Beijing and got off the train, I didn't go anywhere at the first stop, didn't buy food or find accommodation, and went straight to the Central Academy of Fine Arts on Huajiadi South Street. I squatted at the door of the Central Academy of Fine Arts with a large pile of luggage, looking at the gray building, I didn't even dare to open my eyes, I felt that the people in and out of it seemed to exude a wisp of fairy energy. Each of them has a kind of confidence in their eyes, unlike us candidates, whose eyes are full of anticipation and confusion. I was beaten with a pin. ”

He wrote CAFA so vividly that I was deeply infected. That was the second time I heard of "CAFA". This description strengthened my belief, and I thought: in this life, we have to take the CAFA exam, and we don't consider other options.

After being admitted to CAFA from a security guard

It's my privilege to be a security guard

In 2008, two months before the Olympics, I failed the college entrance examination. In the next two years, I didn't get into CAFA. In 2010, after failing three consecutive exams, I felt that I was not strong enough, and I was not as rich as my brother and his family, so I did not have the opportunity to study in Beijing. That year, my brother was admitted to a junior college, and I began to realize that if I continued to take the exam, I would have to spend my family's money, which would increase the burden on my parents.

So, I entered Shenzhen Foxconn and became an assembly line worker. I knew that it would cost a lot of money to study in Beijing, so I originally planned to work for 10 years and save enough money to prepare for the college entrance examination.

At that time, I was almost in the factory for the rest of my life. In the factory, everyone is equal, and no one looks down on anyone. There are also abundant entertainment activities, such as writing and drawing, which are taught for free. The factory has a free swimming pool, a library, a cheap supermarket, and a canteen that can be eaten for 5 yuan. After working for a long time, I also have the opportunity to be allocated to welfare housing for free, and I can live in my own family.

But I still feel different from my co-workers. I was not willing to do simple work in the factory, always looking for opportunities, thinking that sooner or later I would have to go back to university.

After working at Foxconn for a year, I was fired from the factory because I took too much leave. When I was dismissed, the factory paid me a monthly salary and two months of compensation. All of a sudden, I got 6,000 yuan, and I was very happy, and I was really rich.

After leaving the factory, through the introduction of my classmates, I went to Hunan to become an art training class teacher, with a monthly salary of 1,500 yuan, which was about the same as when I was in the factory. In the thirtieth year of the Chinese New Year's Eve in 2011, I did not go home for the New Year, my parents worked outside all the year round, and there was no one in our family during the New Year.

On Chinese New Year's Eve this year, I bought a train ticket with the bonus given to me by the principal, and wanted to go to Beijing and visit Yangmei.

This is my first time going to Beijing. As I read in my brother's autobiography when I was in high school, I took a 14-hour train ride to the Central Academy of Fine Arts when I arrived in Beijing. I entered through the north gate and stood still in front of the No. 1 school building, feeling terrified and trembling, as if I had arrived in a place of great mystery.

See, this is the Central Academy of Fine Arts of my dreams. I took out a pen and paper and drew a big unicorn beast in front of the building as a souvenir.

After being admitted to CAFA from a security guard

Figure | When he went to CAFA for the first time, Li Cheng painted sculptures from the school

I didn't have money to spend the night in Beijing, so I bought a train ticket for the night and went back to Hunan. The next year, I changed jobs, went to Shanxi for two months, and then prepared to leave due to a change in work.

In June 2012, when I was returning to Hunan from Shanxi, I happened to change trains in Beijing. At five o'clock in the afternoon, I once again appeared at the gate of CAFA with my luggage on my back. I said to the security guard at the gate that I would go in and visit and come out, I had too much luggage and wanted to put it there for a while. Unexpectedly, he suddenly asked me: Do you want to find a job? They lack security guards.

Maybe he saw that I was carrying so much luggage and my clothes were dirty, and he was a part-time worker.

I thought to myself, working in Hunan is also a part-time job, and I am also working in Beijing, even if I am a security guard in CAFA, it is an honor.

I immediately agreed to him. For me, this is great news, I will be a staff member of CAFA in the future, and maybe I will have the opportunity to go in and listen to the lectures.

I joined the company in June 2012 and worked until the end of the year without skipping classes. In that six months, I went to many classrooms in the school and saw a note posted on the door, "Idlers are not allowed to enter". I felt that I was the "idler" and didn't have the courage to go in and skip the class.

At that time, as a security guard, I didn't have the guts to even try. Later, when I was admitted to CAFA, I learned that many outsiders in public classrooms can also enter.

I'm not tall, only 1.63 meters. On campus, I often felt small. The students around me were very tall, maybe it was a psychological effect, I always felt that I was not from the same world as them, I was far away from them, too far away.

So, I bought some books for myself and copied and drew every day. In the first few months, I was not at the booth, standing at work, so I took a small notebook and put it in my pocket to draw, and then I drew in the duty room. From time to time, students see my copying. Some people said that I was good at drawing and encouraged me to take the exam. I still don't have the courage and feel like I still need to learn.

After being admitted to CAFA from a security guard

Figure | In 2012, Li Cheng was in the duty room of CAFA

When I started school, many students asked me to help with their luggage and parcel delivery, and I tried to ask them, "Can I learn how to draw with you?" No one answered me. Some people say, I can't draw either, I'm a design major. Most people are not willing to take the initiative to talk to the security guards, and most of them don't say a word.

Until August, at 12 midnight, I went to patrol the building on the night shift and met Li Dawei, a graduate student studying oil painting. He needed help at the time, and when he saw me, he came up to me and asked, "Brother Security, can you help me carry a drawing board?"

I knew in an instant that my opportunity had come. I helped him, and he would definitely be willing to give me some favors.

After that, I asked Li Dawei what kind of major he had. He told me that he was a first-year student majoring in oil painting. "It's amazing. I praised him, and then he said that I wanted to study Chinese painting. Li Dawei agreed.

The next day, I went to see Li Dawei. He gave me a lot of analysis of the essentials of the exam, pointed out that my style needed to change, and suggested that I go to the training class next to the school. I said I didn't have any money. Li Dawei gave me a trick: "You go inside to plead for mercy, saying that you are a CAFA security guard and have no money to pay tuition, so you can help them buy vegetables and sweep the floor." ”

And so, I entered the training course. At first, I worked as a security guard while working part-time and studying in training courses. Half a year later, I quit my job and concentrated on studying in the training class, and I started to prepare for CAFA again after 3 years. In 2013, I passed the professional class and took 46 places, but I only scored 360 points in the cultural class, and I didn't pass. In the second year, my score in the major class rose to 24th, and I still did not pass the cultural class, with a score of 391. In 2014, after failing the fifth exam, I was attracted by a job as an art teacher with a monthly salary of 4,000 yuan and did not continue to sign up, and later, I found a job in Henan with a monthly salary of 8,000 yuan and temporarily put down the exam.

In 2016, seven years after I graduated from high school, I decided to give it another try. At the age of 27, I went back to high school to repeat my studies. This year, I was devoting myself to my studies, doing my homework diligently, and in the fifth month of repeating, I increased my score from 320 to 460 in admission. In the end, in 2017, I was admitted to the Chinese painting major of CAFA with the eighth place in the professional class and a score of 412 points in the cultural class (1 point above the admission line).

I achieved the greatest happiness in my life.

After being admitted to CAFA from a security guard

Gaps that are difficult to bridge

After I was admitted, I sent a message to all my relatives and friends, and my parents, who had been working abroad for many years, returned home. For a while, the whole village was talking about me. I was interviewed by dozens of media outlets, and they named me "CAFA Inspirational Security Guard".

Back on campus, I began to feel like my classmates were the same, as if we were all the same people.

There are a total of 8 students who were admitted to the major of Chinese painting, and the youngest was a 00-year student. I was in class with them, and I saw a classmate drawing a picture of flowers and birds, with lines twisting and turning, and the details intersecting densely, very detailed and clear.

When I looked at it, my eyes were glazed. I told him, "It's too complicated to draw this!" There are also people who paint a small piece of flowers and plants, which is very methodical and delicate, and I can't help but praise: You are too good. I felt as if my hands didn't have their precision, their drawings were so detailed that I was dazzled and my scalp tingled, and my drawings were blurry and messy.

In the comparison, I found that all of my classmates drew better than me. But I also know that these students have been learning Chinese painting since they were young. Some parents were art teachers, some parents knew calligraphy, and some parents were university professors – none of them came from a peasant family like me.

In addition to painting, they wear clothes, talk and behave, and they don't have the same feeling as me, all of them have a temperament, just like the senior brother wrote, "exuding fairy energy". They are better than me in everything.

When I was accepted in 2017, I scored 92 points for my sketch, the highest score of the year. This exam paper was entered into the "Central Academy of Fine Arts 2017~2021 Excellent Exam Paper". The dean wrote a comment saying that I was gifted, and it was all praise. There was only one sentence that said that my composition was compact and flawed - but he even rounded it back, saying that this may also be a deliberate arrangement by the author, a characteristic expression.

But I think it's because in the past 10 years of preparation, I've learned all the questions from previous years.

After being admitted to CAFA from a security guard

Figure | In 2017, Li Cheng's sketch exam paper was included in the book

When I went to university, I practiced hard for a while, and even recorded a video of my teacher's class to practice. But the gap can't be bridged, no matter how I practice, I'm still a little worse than other classmates. So, I started to draw less.

I didn't think I had to prove myself. I am already satisfied with being admitted to CAFA, and I also believe that with my academic qualifications, I will definitely be able to find a good job after graduation.

Before the start of my freshman year, there was already a training studio asking me to do publicity and use me as a role model. The studio gave me a position as a supervisor, set up a class, and invited my classmates to teach classes, and the studio paid for me. When I take a day of class, I have six or seven hundred yuan, two days a week, and 10,000 yuan a month during winter and summer vacations. In the four years of college, except for the year of the epidemic, I spent two of the remaining three years earning money. In the past two years, he has earned a total of more than 200,000 yuan.

But in the end, the class I ran didn't get the best results. One of the students I taught was still taking the exam from 2017 to 2023. The studio was not very profitable, and I couldn't recruit students, so my class stopped during the epidemic.

With the money I made, I bought some very expensive things: there were 6,000 yuan of albums, very precious and very good paints of several thousand yuan, and some pen, ink, paper, and inkstones. I don't want to use any of these things, but I just like them. I also bought a lot of jade, became obsessed with jadeite and jade carving, and bought my own tools to carve it. Later, I watched some short videos of self-driving tours, and I bought a van for more than 10,000 yuan, and often ran out at high speed every day, driving 1,000 kilometers and spending 1,000 yuan.

When I was about to graduate from my senior year, I appeared on CCTV's program "Golden 100 Seconds" again, challenging me to draw my motorcycle in 100 seconds. I failed the challenge, and the host said that I drew it differently than the audience expected, haha.

When I graduated, I chose to draw two butterflies and complete a painting with a creeper on campus as my graduation project. After I finished drawing, the teacher said that my drawing was so bad that I really didn't meet the graduation standards. After a few revisions, I barely graduated without much praise. Another teacher teased me, "If you take out this painting and exhibit it in an art museum, I will have to walk around the museum when I pass by." "This teacher likes to joke, and I don't feel sad when I hear it, I think it's good.

When I graduated in 2023, I found myself too busy to use those precious drawing materials. I gave all those expensive paints, pen, ink, paper, and inkstones to a classmate named Li Zhiliang, because I thought he could paint well. These things are wasted in my hands. Being a painter seems to have become a dream again.

After being admitted to CAFA from a security guard

A dream in my heart

After graduating, I went to Shenzhen to run an art class by myself, invested hundreds of thousands of yuan, and borrowed a lot of money. The training course was held for a year, but because of the epidemic, the class was not carried out, and all the money invested was lost.

I have found several jobs, including a job teaching children to paint in Shenzhen, with a monthly salary of 6,000 yuan. In August 2022, my classmates introduced me to a job as an art teacher at a private school in Luzhou, Sichuan, with a minimum of 12,000 yuan per month.

At first, I was a professional teacher. I didn't teach sketching, but I didn't teach it very well, so I was transferred to teaching work. A year later, I was fired by the new principal. I knew this was the result. Because there were several meetings where the leaders said they wanted to expel me, but the former principal kept me on bail.

In the past few years of college, I have made a lot of attempts, but I have not done well in painting, I have not learned jade carving, and I have failed in the entrepreneurship training class. It seems like these things are all short-lived. I was full of confidence at the time, but in the end it didn't work. I think these debts are mainly due to investment failures and my own blind consumption.

2017 wasn't the peak of my game, I didn't think I was at my peak, I just did the training. I think the only thing I am better than others is to concentrate on pondering, and I am thinking about it just to get into this school and a major. So I got in. But I don't really have a strong professional ability, but I know a lot about this exam.

I remember that when I was first admitted to CAFA, someone left a message on the Internet and said: Brother Baoan, when you go to university, you will find that life in all walks of life is difficult, and it is also very difficult for those who graduated from Tsinghua University and Peking University. My parents also advised me to be cautious and not to be too complacent, saying that being admitted to university is nothing, and it only counts when I earn money.

I didn't agree at the time. I think it should be easy to make money. But my uncle was much happier than my parents, and he said that there was another champion in the family. My uncle was a college student in the 60s, and he thought that if he was admitted to university, he would be the top student.

I thought that after graduating from a prestigious school, I might become famous and become a teacher. Unexpectedly, after graduation, many undergraduates are still taking the postgraduate examination, and they will take the doctoral examination after the examination, which is like the college entrance examination, which is very difficult. Now that I think about it, when I said that I wanted to take the doctoral exam and become a university professor, it was all nonsense, and it was not so simple.

But I also think that if I have enough money to take the training course for a few years, will I definitely be able to get a doctorate? If I have money, I must have time, and if I have time, I can pass the exam. But I'm not going to take it now.

Nowadays, doing travel self-media is the hardest thing, but it is free. I am 35 years old, I have no family, and I am in good health. Now my mother works as a cleaner in the city, my father walks the streets and alleys to set up stalls to sell preserved fish and bacon and other side dishes, the building and decoration of the family, and my younger brother and I go to school and my younger brother get married, all of which are the money they earn.

I can't spend any money now, and more than 80,000 yuan of work wages in my bank card are frozen, and I can only rely on live broadcast income to maintain daily expenses.

A teacher Han I knew when I was a security guard still misses me and often comes to watch my live broadcasts. I still remember when I first met Mr. Han more than ten years ago, he heard that I was a security guard who was going to take the CAFA exam, and he was very moved. He showed my support. Later, after I graduated from CAFA and left my position as an art teacher to work in the media, Mr. Han was still the person who gave me the most gifts.

I haven't painted in a long time, but I haven't given up. I've been thinking about these things all the time, traveling with a book, and sometimes watching other people's drawings live. I'm not saying that I don't like it anymore, it's just that it's become a skill for me, a quality of my own, a talent for myself — even if it's not very strong.

Some people say that the experience of going to university has worn out my art ideals, and I think I can't agree with it at this moment. Looking back on the past few years, I feel that the university has not deprived me of anything, but has given me a lot of insight. If I hadn't read CAFA in this life, how would I have had the opportunity to get in touch with those pen, ink, paper, and inkstones? How do I know how to read a Chinese painting? Even if I can't draw it now, I can still understand these paintings, and this is the harvest.

When I was learning jade carving, I once saw other people's carvings in a jade shop, and they were so good. It was a tiny earring, made in the shape of a leaf, the size of a tiny fingernail, but very delicate. The boss told me that this is a 17-year-old master carving: this little master has accepted many apprentices, and he has been learning jade carving since he was a few years old, which is a craft inherited from the family.

At that time, I immediately understood that there was no point in me continuing to learn, and I couldn't learn from others.

When I first started painting, I felt that I must become a painter in the future, and after learning about CAFA in junior high school, I decided that I must be admitted to the Central Academy of Fine Arts. If I believe in something, I must do it, no matter what it takes.

You ask me why I didn't overtake my classmates? Actually, I know I can't because I'm stupid. I just don't think I need to compare myself to others in life.

The dream is in your heart. Even if you wander, you can still draw.

After being admitted to CAFA from a security guard

Figure | Li Cheng's journey

- END -

Tell the story丨Li Cheng

Written by Fontaine

Editor|Wen Lihong