BEIJING, June 5 (Xinhua) -- Bus driver Wu Bin was cremated Tuesday in Hangzhou. But although his life as he knows it has ended, he will live on in the hearts of netizens who have proclaimed him to be China's "most beautiful" bus driver.
The Chinese term "zuimei," which roughly translates as "most beautiful," has been used by netizens to describe those whose selfless acts have saved the lives of others and inspired the rest of society.
The 48-year-old Wu received the accolade after saving 24 passengers on his bus on May 29, when he was transporting the passengers from the city of Wuxi to Hangzhou. He was hit by a large metal fragment that flew through his bus's windshield, mortally wounding him.
Wu managed to stop the bus, turn on the hazard lights, put on the parking break, open the door of the bus and ask passengers to evacuate before collapsing from his injuries.
He died three days later. A police investigation showed that the 3.5-kilogram metal fragment was actually a brake hub that may have broken off of a vehicle in the opposite lane.
Wu is the latest in a long line of "most beautiful people." Others include an elderly trash collector who came to the aid of a toddler hit by two cars last November in the southern city of Foshan, as well as a 29-year-old teacher from the northeastern city of Jiamusi who saved two of her students from being hit by an oncoming bus last month.
When computers and the Internet first became popular in China, many people strove to display or seek out novelty online. Sister Furong and Muzimei were two of China's earliest Internet celebrities, using their scandalous photos and sexually explicit writing, respectively, to cultivate an online following.
"People's likes and dislikes in the real world are projected in cyberspace when the two worlds integrate. Mainstream values and concerns in the real world are highlighted in the online world," said Yang Peng, an associate professor of communication studies at Fudan University in Shanghai.
Social worries about a possible national moral decline have increased in recent years amid China's breakneck economic development. The previously mentioned toddler in Foshan was ignored by multitudes of passersby before being rescued by the elderly trash collector, raising concerns about a lack of morality in China.
However, the prevalence of mobile phones and microblogging websites like Sina Weibo have created vast opportunities for community heroes like Wu Bin and others to gain widespread recognition and inspire others with their selfless acts.
Xu Hong, deputy dean of the School of Journalism and Communication at Peking University, said the online community's ability to reshape social values should not be neglected or underestimated.
"In the online community, when more netizens call for the return of healthy social values, people's pursuit of virtue in the real world will form an online trend," Xu said.