Across China: "Spiderwoman" tries to crawl out of poverty

Source: Xinhua| 2017-09-18 15:55:52|Editor: An
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GUIYANG, Sept. 18 (Xinhua) -- Luo Dengping crawls up a steep cliff in remote Ziyun County, southwest China's Guizhou Province, to collect herbs growing in the cracks in the rocks.

Luo, 37, is a resident of Getuhe Village, which is well-known for its steep karst mountains. Large numbers of swallows live in caves on the cliffs, and their excrement makes good fertilizer for the villages crops.

"The herbs that grow in the cracks can be used for traditional Chinese medicine," Luo said. "So I come here every day, hoping to earn money."

Luo's story was recently shown in a BBC video that went viral online. The video showed her crawling up a dangerous cliff without any safety rope.

At the age of 15, Luo, began learning to climb from her father, to help collect fertilizer for the family's crops.

"We were really poor and lived in a thatched cottage," said Luo, who never attended school. "My sister was luckier, but she dropped out after grade three because my family was too poor to support her studies."

Luo said when she first started climbing, she felt scared and had to crawl very slowly.

"Climbing the cliff without ropes is a tradition in this area," Luo said. "Some people place coffins on the cliffside, and others climb to pick herbs."

Most of the climbers are men, but as there are no boys in her family, Luo had to learn the skill.

"I think men and women are equal, if men can do it, I can do it too," she said.

In her late teens Luo became a migrant worker at a construction site in the southern metropolis of Guangzhou. In 2000, she returned to the village, married a local and had two children. While her children grew up she worked in the fields and occasionally climbed the cliffs looking for herbs to earn some extra money for her family.

In 2015, the local government decided to develop the karst mountains into tourist sites.

"Tourists then started coming in, and the government wanted us to climb the cliffs to entertain them," Luo said.

Luo agreed immediately and joined a "spiderman" team with five other villagers. She was the only woman and the youngest climber.

She climbs the 108-meter cliff once or twice a day. Years of climbing have left her hands calloused.

"It's not so bad, because the tourist area is within walking distance, so I can take care of my children," Luo said. "They also provide lunch for us, which is good."

Luo works from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. every day, with four days rest each month. Her average monthly salary is about 3,000 yuan (458 U.S. dollars) which includes a base salary and commission on the number of tickets sold to tourists each day.

Luo said she wants to make more money to help her husband, who supports the family by driving freight trucks.

"I want my children to continue going to school," she said.

China has set a target of building a moderately prosperous society by 2020, including the complete eradication of poverty. From 2013 to 2016, 55.64 million rural people were lifted out of poverty in China.