After an earthquake toppled school buildings in southwest China's Yunnan Province on Friday, a rural teacher used his bare hands to dig seven students from the rubble, fearing tools might hurt the children.
The heroic deed won Zhu Yinquan, 34, instant fame on the Internet and netizens named him "the most handsome teacher in China."
Of the seven students he pulled out, three were dead and the other four were injured.
Zhu is the only teacher at a village school of 22 children.
As a temporary rural teacher, he is not on the official payroll and therefore is paid only 500 yuan (US$79) a month.
In China, salaries for public school teachers are covered by local treasuries. In underdeveloped western regions, however, many rural schools have to recruit temporary teachers - people who are educated but are not professionally trained to be teachers.
These teachers, hired just on a temporary basis and often lacking proper labor contracts, are not on the government's payroll. The schools try to pay their wages, but typically offer meager amounts held in arrears, as countryside schools are almost always in deficit.
China had 448,000 temporary teachers in 2006. The figure was lowered to 310,000 by 2010, amid Ministry of Education's efforts to dismiss "unqualified" teachers in order to improve the quality of schools.
Most rural teachers are mentors, babysitters, cooks and nurses in one. When the villagers are determined to send teenagers to earn their own money, these teachers often spend long hours persuading them to keep the children at school.
Teachers voluntarily buy school books, stationery and meals for the children to relieve their parents' burden.
Some teachers put their own lives at risk to save the children.
In May, a 29-year-old middle school teacher in northeast China's Heilongjiang Province was run over and lost both of her legs after pushing two students out of the way of an oncoming bus.
Zhang Lili was also a temporary teacher and paid about 1,000 yuan a month, less than half the average her colleagues earned.
The heroic deed of Zhu Yinquan reminded many of Tan Qianqiu, a teacher in southwest China's Sichuan Province who sheltered four students with his arms when a devastating earthquake jolted their school in May 2008. When rescuers arrived, they found Tan had died, but the students all survived.