One lesson Liu Yunshan learned more than 30 years ago remains as he is elevated to the top leadership of the Communist Party of China (CPC).
"Get down to the earth," Liu, 65, often tells his colleagues. "Only in this way can we become people of confidence and intelligence."
He follows the same principle while his pragmatic approach impresses people, whether he worked as a journalist for Xinhua News Agency or supervised cultural and ideological work, whether he lived in the border areas in northern China's Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region or stays in Beijing, the Chinese capital.
Along with Xi Jinping, Li Keqiang, Zhang Dejiang, Yu Zhengsheng, Wang Qishan and Zhang Gaoli, Liu was elected on Nov. 15 into the seven-seat Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the 18th CPC Central Committee.
Since the new CPC leadership made their debut in mid November, Liu and other top leaders have been busy attending a series of symposiums soliciting public opinions on addressing China's problems.
"Now our Party has a good line to follow and solid goals to attain. But what really matters is how we turn those ideas into action by improving the way we work, the manner we study and the style we write," Liu said at a symposium with entrepreneurs, professors, officials and representatives from communities in Beijing in early December.
ORIGIN OF POWER
Born into a peasant's family in July 1947, Liu spent most of his childhood and early adulthood in Inner Mongolia, where he learned from farmers and herdsmen and later wrote first-hand stories about them.
After he graduated from a local teachers' college in 1968, Liu taught at a rural school and participated in farm work before becoming a Xinhua journalist based in Inner Mongolia from 1975 to 1982.
He wrote many stories on agriculture and animal husbandry as well as covered many of the most vivid scenes in the countryside, including his exquisite writing about what he saw and heard during an overnight stay at a budget motel 31 years ago.
The fluent and detailed way of writing Liu showed in his story was followed by many journalists and is still considered a model for concise journalistic writing.
As a journalist, Liu traveled extensively around major farming and pastoral areas in Inner Mongolia, visiting rural households and writing stories of human interest.
Keen to notice the changes of the time, he has over the years maintained his interest in ordinary people.
The stories Liu told about ordinary people earned him a reputation among the press and he was soon picked by higher authorities amid the Party's call to select and promote younger cadres at the beginning of the reform and opening up.
He started his political career while being transferred in 1982 to the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Regional Committee of the Communist Youth League of China.
At 38, Liu made a name for himself in China's political circles after he was elected in 1985 as one of the youngest alternate members of the 12th CPC Central Committee.
Before his promotion to head of the Publicity Department of the CPC Central Committee in 2002, Liu tempered himself in different posts successively as head of the Publicity Department of the CPC Inner Mongolia Autonomous Regional Committee, Party chief of Chifeng City and deputy Party chief of Inner Mongolia.
He was elected a member of the Political Bureau and the Secretariat of the CPC Central Committee in 2002.
Liu's passion for ordinary people and communities has stayed with him over the years despite his transition in roles from a journalist to a senior official.
He preferred to investigate the ideological work in rural areas on his own, by train, by bus, or even hitchhiking by tractor to the homes and tents of farmers and herdsmen when he was in charge of publicity of Inner Mongolia in 1986.
"You only get words from the heart when you stay with the people," Liu once explained. "To me, it's a happy thing to hear the truth from the people."
He went deep down to the grassroots every year after he assumed posts at the central level, leaving his footprint in every province, autonomous region and municipality over the years.
To him, what he sees and experiences by himself is more convincing than what he is told.
He dislikes official jargons, empty talks or ostentation in media.
"Journalists should always be on the road, go for the scenes and to communities," Liu has said, urging the press to write short and newsworthy stories and express people's voice.
To turn things around, the Publicity Department of the CPC Central Committee launched a nationwide campaign in 2011, encouraging journalists to go to factories, farms, schools and local communities to cover grassroots stories and improve their style of work and writing.
"We should write stories about ordinary people and speak out for them," he once said. "Journalists should bear in mind the questions: 'For whom do I work? On whom can I depend and who am I? ' Only by handling such issues properly can we seek the origin of our power and obtain support from the people with the broadest and most reliable mass base."
He has his own answer to the question of "Who am I?"
"Some people tend to lose their heads about who they really are after they are in power, have some money or fame," Liu said. "They can't put themselves in a right position in their relations with the people."
"In fact, however powerful or wealthy one person becomes, he should always be a student and a servant," he said.
At his helm, the Publicity Department of the CPC Central Committee is devoted to building ideology, culture and theory, since publicity has always been an important part of the work for the CPC in governing China.
As deputy head of the Publicity and Ideological Work Leading Group of the CPC Central Committee, Liu mobilized more than 3,000 scholars and researchers in 2004 to work on an eight-year project on better adapting Marxism to China's real conditions. Some latest ideological research results were used in designing disciplinary layout of social sciences and compiling textbooks.
He encourages the Party and government departments to appropriately treat, use and manage media and create conditions for media to sniff out wrongdoing or corruption.
Minutes after the 8.0-magnitude earthquake rocked southwest China's Sichuan and neighboring Gansu and Shaanxi provinces on May 12, 2008, Liu asked the China Central Television to live broadcast the catastrophe without interruption to inform the nation of the relief work.
Seeing the timely reports, the Chinese people showed an outpouring of love and donated billions of yuan to help survivors from the quake that left 87,000 people dead or missing.
The Publicity Department of the CPC Central Committee later reassured Chinese media to swiftly, accurately, openly and transparently report on major social events of public concern under the effective management and proper guidance of higher authorities.
Such a media atmosphere led to the exposure of several food and drug safety scandals in the past several years, including farms adding cancer-causing clenbuterol to pig feed to produce lean meat, restaurants serving food cooked with recycled oil known as "gutter oil," infant formula tainted with melamine, and chromium-contaminated capsules.
Moreover, the country's media are under profound changes brought by the rise of the Internet, which Liu depicted as "revolutionary."
Like 500 million other Chinese Internet users, Liu surfs the Internet every day to keep himself updated on the latest news and understand what heated topics the media and the public are discussing online.
"China should never reject any advanced things," Liu has said. "We support the free, orderly and secure flow of information on the Internet."
Trailblazing a path to make China a cultural power is a challenge facing Liu, who in 2010 set forth his thinking on self-consciousness, self-confidence and self-improvement of the Chinese culture, which was commented by some Internet users as a "strategic vision."
He took another bold step to plan the reform of the cultural system to boost China's soft power, a move some saw as difficult as that in the early stages of the reform and opening up in the 1980s.
The reform of the cultural system drove tens of thousands of public cultural institutions and millions of cultural workers to the market, but benefited more people, particularly those living in rural places.
Liu said repeatedly that the development of the cultural sector must be geared to the needs of the people, particularly the masses at the grassroots levels.
Over the past decade, a comprehensive system has been established in the country to provide flourishing cultural creation and production and entertainment to the public.
As a result, every village in China now has access to TV and radio programs, while an increasing number of bookstores have been opened in remote villages, and mobile cinemas been offered to villagers who rarely had chance to see movies.
Liu hardly takes holidays or vacations, as his schedule is always full of work arrangement.
Reading is his favorite hobby after work and he often writes essays in his spare time.
He is well connected with artists and celebrities from the press and the cultural sector.
Liu is married to Li Sufang, who has retired. They have two sons.