Chinese Students Descend a Half-Mile Cliff to Get to School 

It's time to tell your grandpa to stop complaining about walking uphill both ways to school. Last week, the state-run Beijing News ran a series of shots by photographer Chen Jie that showed 15 school kids in the country’s mountainous Sichuan province traveling to class. To get there, the students have to leave their tiny rural village of Atuleer, and climb over 2500 feet down a sheer, half-mile cliff using a chain of 17 bamboo ladders secured to the rock, CNN reports.

The trip is so arduous that the schoolchildren, ages 6 to 15, board at the school and only return home once every two weeks. As for the so-called “sky ladders," they're nearly as old as the rural village. "We replace a ladder with a new one when we find one of them is rotten," Chen Jigu, a resident of the Atuleer village, told China Daily.

These preventative measures aren’t always enough. Aluteer’s chief, Api Jiti, told Beijing News that seven or eight villagers have died after falling from the ladders, and that plenty more have been injured.

According to the Associated Press, following the circulation of Chen Jie's pictures, local government officials are now taking steps to ensure the province’s residents a safer journey. Last Friday, they issued a news release stating Atuleer’s residents will be provided with a new set of steel stairs until they think of a more permanent solution.

Not only are the sky ladders unsafe for kids, they've also been detrimental to Atuleer’s 400-some residents, who are members of China’s Yi minority group and earn less $1 a day as farmers. According to the statement from the Liangshan prefectural government, traders knew that the villagers couldn't carry unsold goods back up the cliff. This knowledge was used to exploit the farmers for lower prices.

“The most important issue at hand is to solve the transport issue," county Communist Party Secretary General Jikejingsong reportedly said in the news release. “That will allow us to make larger-scale plans about opening up the economy and looking for opportunities in tourism.”

Officials are also considering building a road to the village, the Global Times reports. However, the proposed project might end up being too expensive. Experts want the villagers to relocate, but also acknowledge that they face the risk of losing their livelihoods if they move.

While China has large cities filled with stunning architecture, high-speed trains, and countless other technological innovations, millions of people live below the poverty line—particularly farmers, herders, and members of marginalized minority groups in rural inland areas.

According to The Guardian, president Xi Jinping aims to dramatically reduce the country’s poverty rates by 2020. “Although China has made remarkable achievements seen across the world, China remains the world’s biggest developing country,” Xi said at a conference last fall. Xi says the government plans to provide financial support to China’s estimated 70 million rural residents. Experts say that the plan doesn’t take China’s “new urban poor” into account and that officials need to come up with a better solution to address the nation’s income gap.

Watch a video of the children's cliff journey above, courtesy of ABC News.

[h/t CNN]

Banner image courtesy of iStock

China Launches Crowdfunding Campaign to Restore the Great Wall

The Great Wall of China has been standing proudly for thousands of years—but now, it needs your help. CNN reports that the wall has fallen into disrepair and the China Foundation for Cultural Heritage Conservation has launched an online crowdfunding campaign to raise money for restorations.

Stretching 13,000 miles across northern China, the Great Wall was built in stages starting from the third century BCE and reaching completion in the 16th century. To some degree, though, it’s always been under construction. For centuries, individuals and organizations have periodically repaired and rebuilt damaged sections. However, the crowdfunding campaign marks the first time the internet has gotten involved in the preservation of the ancient icon. The China Foundation for Cultural Heritage Conservation is trying to raise $1.6 million (11 million yuan) to restore the wall, and has so far raised $45,000 (or 300,000 yuan).

Fundraising coordinator Dong Yaohui tells the BBC that, although the Chinese government provides some funds for wall repairs, it’s not enough to fix all of the damage: "By pooling the contribution of every single individual, however small it is, we will be able to form a great wall to protect the Great Wall," he said.

[h/t CNN]

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YouTube // Deep Look
These Glowing Worms Mimic Shining Stars
YouTube // Deep Look
YouTube // Deep Look

The glow worms of New Zealand's Waitomo caves produce light, mimicking the starry night sky. Using sticky goop, they catch moths and other flying creatures unfortunate enough to flutter into the "starry" cavern. Beautiful and icky in equal parts, this Deep Look video takes you inside the cave, and up close with these worms. Enjoy:

There's also a nice write-up with animated GIFs if you're not in the mood for video. Want more glow worms? Check out this beautiful timelapse in a similar cave, or our list of 19 Places You Won't Believe Exist topped by—you guessed it—New Zealand's Glowworm Caves!


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