A 90-year-old woman went back to her hometown in Jinhua, East China's Zhejiang province, on Friday and paid off her last debt of 70,000 yuan ($10,822) to her nephew.
"You have lent me money for so many years. Now I have the money to pay you back," she said. "I'm so happy this year."
In the past 10 years, Chen Jinying, nicknamed "granny integrity" for striving to pay off her debt, has returned a total of 20.77 million yuan to her borrowers, local media reported.
Chen used to be a doctor of traditional Chinese medicine in Lishui, Zhejiang. She found there was a gap in the market of down coats for elderly people in the 1980s. After she retired, she launched her own company to make down coats for elderly people.
Her business went well in the first few years. At the peak of her business, her factory covered a space of 1,000 square meters, the annual output value surpassed 10 million yuan and she had more than 100 workers.
She was active in public welfare, donating 570,000 yuan and down coats worth several hundred thousand yuan. The wall of her office was covered with certificates of merit.
In 2005, she invested 16 million yuan to build a new factory. But in 2011, the company encountered poor sales, resulting in difficulty in capital flow. She was forced to sell her factories for 9 million yuan and had more than 2 million yuan in debt.
In 2012, she rent a factory to produce down coats, hoping the sales could turn better and pay her debt with what she earned. But the stock piled up and she even didn't have the money to pay her workers, so she halted production in 2016.
She sold two apartments in downtown, but she still owed money to banks and private lending institutions.
Some people suggested her to apply for bankruptcy to avoid paying the debt, but she refused to do so. "I will try my best to pay off the debt, otherwise I won't feel at ease."
To sell the down coats, she peddled in parks and downtown areas, even in cold winter days. Unable to rent a store, she later transformed her 80-square-meters apartment into a store. She used the bedroom as a warehouse and hung down coats in the balcony for customers to pick.
The prices were set lower than the production cost. A down coat vest was tagged for 30 yuan.
Her story began spreading from mouth to mouth and was reported by the media. A reporter asked her: "Do you feel worried with so much debt?" She replied with a smile, "Worry doesn't help. I have to keep myself healthy so I have the ability to pay off the money."
People were moved by her perseverance and integrity and came to help in various ways.
In 2017, local volunteers came to her house to sort inventory. Local e-commerce store Beishanlang put the down coats in its online store for netizens to buy. Livestreaming hosts came to her house to help with the sale. Several hundred sellers on e-commerce platform Taobao donated the prime position of their online store for one day to promote her down coats.
In January 2018, she paid off bank loans of 550,000 yuan. Several days later, she donated down coats to 140 elders in a nursing home. "People cared for me and I want to pass on the care," she said.
In her more than 30 years' time in business, she counted her stock and sale every day. "I won't leave my debt to my offspring. I can deal with it by myself," she said.