‘Auntie Goose Legs’: Everyone is their own hero
Published: Mar 17, 2024 09:17 PM

"Auntie Goose Legs"speaks at a forum hosted by Peking University. Photo: Courtesy of Peking University

Viral sensation "Auntie Goose Legs," a Beijing food vendor, was recently invited to a forum on women entrepreneurship at Peking University, one of China's top universities. Again, her unassuming yet inspiring words plucked at the heartstrings of many. 

In her 50s, Chen Xiufeng, from Lianyungang city in East China's Jiangsu Province, along with her husband, Liang Decai, have been trying to make a living as street vendors in the country's capital for more than two decades.  

Among their many attempts to make it in the city, they have cooked at construction sites, sold fruit on the street and ran a barbecue restaurant. It was only in the past few years that the pair began to sell homemade goose legs. Their secret family recipe has won them a steady stream of customers over the years, mostly college students, as they usually operated near campuses such as Peking University and Renmin University of China. They took orders in advance and even delivered goose legs to campuses by scooter.   

Last winter, Chen rose to internet fame after she moved her business to Tsinghua University. Old customers from Peking University and Renmin University of China began half jokingly calling for Tsinghua University to give back their beloved "Auntie Goose Legs." A "competition" among China's top universities for "Auntie Goose Legs" soon unfolded. 
Related topics quickly topped the trending chart on social media, making her a focal point of online discussions, while their homemade goose legs became hard to get. At one point, they sold out their entire stock of 200 goose legs within 20 minutes.

The rustic couple was overwhelmed by this sudden attention. Some came to her with live streaming, while others asked to sign a contract with her to make her a social media influencer. 

On November 29, with help from her son, Chen set up a social media account and posted a video, explaining that the couple needed to take a break from their business, because there was too much pressure. 

Chen's eyes welled up for a moment as she said she was just an ordinary person and only wanted to do business wholeheartedly without trouble or attention. Probably warmed by the encouraging comments from netizens, Chen posted another video the next day, expressing gratitude to the students and announcing their return to business.  

On the International Women's Day, Chen was invited as a guest speaker to a women entrepreneurship forum hosted by Peking University. The title of her session was "Everyone is Their Own Hero."  

At the forum, the word Chen uttered most was "gratitude." She expressed her gratitude to the students for taking care of her business over the years and for having the opportunity to take the stage and introduce the story of an ordinary street vendor like her to a wider audience.  

When asked by the host if she felt she was "entrepreneurial," Chen humbly shook her head, stating that her efforts were merely ordinary means to make a living. Peking University commented in an article posted on the university's social media account on Friday, asking why "Auntie Goose Legs" shouldn't count as an entrepreneur as entrepreneurship is not only a macro concept, but one that can also represent an attitude toward life.  

In Chen's closing speech at the forum, she left the students with an emotional message. "I hope everyone can choose a comfortable pace... Life is a long journey, not something you can cross in one step. You, the youngsters, are full of vitality; everyone is their own hero."

Chen's experience broadens the idea of entrepreneurship in China, showing that it's not only about big companies but also about everyday people like her who serve their communities. 

With her time-tested persistence and wholehearted dedication to her small business, she wasn't distracted by the sudden fame bought by social media. She insisted on being a "simple" and "ordinary" street vendor. 

Her journey reflects the spirit of small business in China, the traditional Chinese values of hard work and humbleness, and the deep sense of community within the country.

The author is a reporter with the Global Times.