Cheng Xinggui threw himself into a torrential river, accused by an official of lying about his teaching experience.
"I have evidence. Someone will prove it!" he was heard yelling before he died on July 17, aged 58.
His name was posthumously added to a list of underpaid rural teachers entitled to receive government compensation. Cheng had been a teacher for 25 years and six months from 1977 to 2003 at village schools on the outskirts of Zhaotong City in southwest China's Yunnan Province, a fact he had tried desperately to prove in his last days.
According to a Ministry of Education document issued in 2011, Cheng was theoretically entitled to receive 21,165 yuan (3,458 U.S. dollars) in compensation, calculated at 830 yuan for each month of service, but could not collect enough evidence to prove he had been teaching for that long, principally his monthly pay slips.
Cheng put his old papers together, but eight years of pay slips were missing: a loss of 6,640 yuan, three times his family's monthly income.
He tore pieces off his lecture notes from those eight years that had the official seal of the local education authority, hoping to use them as evidence, then hiked 20 km across craggy mountains to the village school where he taught, only to be told the papers were useless.
Cheng called his wife, complaining he had never been humiliated so badly. "He sounded tired and desperate," Hu Tongcai told reporters.
That was July 10, ten days before the official deadline for Cheng to produce enough evidence to apply for his compensation.
The next day, he visited an old colleague and former school principal, 82-year-old Zhu Yinghuai, hoping Zhu would help.
It was Zhu who persuaded Cheng to take a teaching job at the school in 1977, when education began to revive and there was a surge of students but a severe shortage of teachers.
Zhu suffers from cerebrovascular diseases and lives in retirement in the county seat of Yanjin. He was unable to travel with Cheng to the countryside school for a face-to-face interview which authorities said was essential.
When Cheng went home in despair on July 13, he was no more his old self. "He was out of his senses and gabbled all the time," said his wife.
In a fit of temper, he beat his wife and daughter, which had never happened before.
Four days later, at midnight, he ran out of his home amid torrential rain, crying "I have evidence".
His body was found, nearly 18 hours later, in a river 5 km from home.