This past Sunday marked China's annual National Day for Helping the Disabled. To celebrate the occasion, Xie Renci's story recently went viral, inspiring millions of netizens in China with her unpretentious personality and proud display of her artificial leg.
On May 12, the 20-year-old law student in central China's Chongqing Municipality discovered a question on Zhihu, a Chinese Q&A service similar to Quora: "What is going to happen if I walk on the street wearing a mini skirt and let others see my artificial legs?"
Having lost her leg at the age of four, but feeling perfectly comfortable showing off her artificial right leg, Xie volunteered to answer the girl's question.
"As a disabled girl, I very much understand your confusion, self-doubt and anxiety. I'm currently wearing a mini skirt and an artificial limb, so I want to answer your question and talk about my experience of being exposed to curious eyes," she started.
In a long answer of over 5,000 words and accompanied with dozens of selfies, Xie looked back to her childhood, recalling with utmost honesty and humor about her experience of being labeled disabled, her angry teenage years, how she learned to accept her new body image and how she fell in love with her Mr. Right.
Xie grew up in a turbulent family in southwest China's Guizhou Province. Before she was born, her father went to prison, and her mother was left alone raising a baby in a poor household.
Her mother named her Renci, which translates to "Mercy." Despite the mother's love and hope behind the auspicious name, life didn't show much mercy to the family.
At the age of four, a traffic accident turned Xie's world upside down and took away her right leg and her mother's left leg.
Barely surviving the accident, the mother and the daughter, both now handicapped, were confronted with endless challenges. The girl was refused repeatedly from entering school while the mother had to take on multiple jobs to support the family.
At one moment, the mother almost gave up, but Xie soothed the parent. "I'll study really hard and make it into Harvard, so let me continue school," she said. The two broke down into tears and made up their mind to keep their head up no matter how life treats them.
Even though Xie didn't go to Harvard, she was admitted into one of the top law schools in China. During her studies, she developed a deep understanding of the challenging situations confronting disabled people in China and was encouraged by her professor to raise others' awareness to help the disadvantaged group.
It was also at college when she was introduced to an MIT engineering student she addressed as Mr. Gao. Gao is also disabled, and bravely show his artificial arm to the outside world.
The two found a lot in common and soon fell in love. Gao later made an unvarnished artificial leg as a special present to his girlfriend, and the confident and beloved girl decided to show her limb without hiding it.
Wrapping up her story, which was viewed over 4.5 million times on Zhihu, Xie explained the rationale behind her long, detailed answer. "I'm not trying to justify anything or present myself as a role model. All I'm doing is telling people out there, disabled or not, that there is always another way of living your life."
On Weibo, China's equivalent of twitter, many netizens showed love and support for Xie and the disabled group.
"Hi Mercy. When everyone is saying how gloomy and unfair the world is, you stand up against the world positively. Your confidence is so beautiful." @decaijianbeizhengronghe commented.