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Livestreamer embraces life despite long-term physical challenges

Updated: 2022-09-14

Xiang Chenxi livestreams at her home in Wuxi, Jiangsu province, in June. [Photo/Xinhua]

NANJING-Dressed like a princess, Xiang Chenxi sets up her lights and camera and begins livestreaming.

She greets her fans in a sweet, gentle voice just like any other livestreamer, but unlike others, Xiang is a wheelchair user and has a breathing tube implanted in her throat.

"Hi, there! This is fairy Chenxi who loves handicrafts and life," says the 30-year-old, her bright smile beaming. Behind her are shelves of clay figurines that she made. Xiang teaches people how to make such figurines through her livestreams.

The young woman from Wuxi, Jiangsu province was diagnosed at the age of 8 with a rare neurodegenerative disease similar to amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, after it was noticed that she often stumbled while walking.

As Xiang grew older, she started to experience declining mobility. Her muscles, including those that regulate her breathing, gradually became weaker.

"When I was a child, walking up and down the stairs was particularly hard for me and I couldn't do any physical exercise. I couldn't even walk while holding a glass of water," Xiang said, adding that the feeling of powerlessness devoured her bit by bit, and in 2018 she lost the ability to walk.

"But I didn't feel sorry for myself all the time. Perhaps, I'm just a little fairy who has come down from heaven to the earthly world to endure some difficulties," Xiang added cheerily.

She has never let the adversity she faces hold her back.

Over the past 10 years, she has published several novels online and worked as a customer service assistant at an e-commerce platform.

She saved up some money and bought herself an electric wheelchair, and with the improved accessibility, she can leave the house more often on her own and enjoy the scenery of nature, which has boosted her zest for life.

In 2016, inspired by a hearing-impaired girl who livestreamed glimpses of her life, Xiang decided to share her own story online of how she confronts her own challenges to encourage those severely ill to persevere.

It was at that time she began to make clay figurines while interacting with her audience. Many viewers praised her artisanship and expressed their willingness to buy figurines and learn the skill for themselves.

"I hope I can share my craft with them, especially others with disabilities," Xiang said, noting that she now has more than 500,000 followers on short video platforms.

In March 2019, Xiang launched the "Chenxi Clay Academy", offering online figurine-making courses that have attracted more than 500 students so far, including dozens with developmental disabilities.

A year later, however, Xiang's condition deteriorated to the point where she was on the verge of death owing to pulmonary arterial hypertension. She even recorded a video expressing her final wish to donate her body.

The courageous woman miraculously survived after two weeks of treatment, but she has to live on ventilator support for the rest of her life.

"Regardless of how difficult life may be, we must maintain strong willpower," Xiang said. "I am fortunate to have so many friends online who have provided me with a great deal of support."

"Your figurines illustrate your amazing life, which makes me believe in the existence of miracles," commented one netizen on her works.

A mysterious male fan once placed a bid of 1,600 yuan ($230) for Xiang's figurine during an online auction, which drew Xiang's attention. As their interactions increased, the two youngsters took a shine to each other.

They got engaged in August this year, and Xiang intends to seek active medical treatment from experts in Beijing.

"Life is beautiful, and as long as you live, there are infinite possibilities for you," she said.

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