23 heartwarming stories from China that will make you smile
China may sometimes get a bad rap, but there is no shortage of positive stories from the country about everyday heroes, Good Samaritans and people bettering themselves to put a smile on your face.
Here are some examples from 2017.
1. Man struggling to pay medical bills finds a saviour on social media
Social media came to the rescue of a Chinese man with kidney failure who was struggling to cover the cost of his treatment.
Ma Gang, 31, needs dialysis three times a week, and to pay for it, he sells handicrafts on the street outside the hospital he is treated at and via a small online store on WeChat.
His web business took off after a passer-by was moved to write about him on microblogging service Weibo: “After seeing so many people that have houses and cars trying to get sympathy by acting poor, I found him honourable and respectful.”
In the 10 days after the post went viral, Ma received more than 4,000 orders, worth about 300,000 yuan (US$44,400).
2. Man risks life to save boy, 4, dangling by his neck from window grilles
A daring neighbour risked his life to rescue a four-year-old boy in eastern China whose head became stuck between window grilles.
The man, Li Jinbin, was awoken by his father and told that a boy had slipped through window grilles outside a second-floor flat in a building across from theirs. “I immediately grabbed my cotton quilt and rushed downstairs in case he might fall down.”
But when Li saw that the boy was beginning to slip through the grille, and fearing the child might choke, he climbed from a nearby window and carefully manoeuvred himself to the sill beneath the child, and lifted him up with his arms.
3. Train driver who loses leg saving elderly woman ‘frozen’ on tracks says he has ‘no regrets’
Locomotive engineer Xu Qiankai lost his leg rescuing an elderly woman - but he says he would do it again if it meant saving someone’s life.
The 29-year-old was moving a train to a service depot at Rongchang station in southwest China when he looked up and saw the woman on the track in front of him.
When he blasted his horn to warn her, she froze - so he leapt from his cab, ran towards her and pushed her to safety, but couldn’t prevent the wheels from running over his right leg.
Despite the serious injury, he said: “I lost a leg, but [saved] a life... If life repeated itself, I would do it again.”
4. Inflatable turtle rescues 13 people trapped by flood
The residents of a small community in central China owe their lives – or at least their dry clothes – to a giant inflatable turtle. Oh, and a group of quick-witted police officers.
After heavy rains lashed a low-lying neighbourhood in the city of Liuyang, Hunan province, 13 people found themselves trapped in their homes.
Knowing they had to act fast, police were forced to improvise. They found the answer in a local toy shop, in the form of a bright green inflatable turtle.
“Sorry for our vessel being ... too cute,” police later said. “But, most importantly, the people are all safe.”
5. Love of martial arts leads to marital bliss for French woman and her Chinese beau
They met when he was performing a wushu routine at a Chinese culture exhibition in Paris.
This is the love story of a French woman and her Chinese husband, and how their love of martial arts has led to marital bliss.
It’s not just Sun Renzhi’s physical prowess that has impressed his bride Pauline - she also loves his sense of humour, confidence, ambition and the respect he shows her, even though he always forgets to buy her flowers on Valentine’s Day.
For his part, Sun said he finds his wife’s “independence” her most attractive trait - “French girls never ask their partners to carry their handbags for them, which I really appreciate.”
6. Morbidly obese couple loses 200kg between them so they can start a family
Wanting to start a family, a morbidly obese couple went on a health kick to lose weight - they’ve lost a combined 200kg, and they’re not done yet.
Doctors had told Deng Yang and Lin Yue - not their real names - that it would be dangerous for Lin to become pregnant at her size. They weighed a combined 400kg then.
Determined to have a child, they started exercising together, encouraging each other along the way, and changed their diets to eat less meat and more fruit and vegetables.
Now doctors say Lin can conceive naturally, and she was overjoyed to be given the all-clear.
7. Passers-by lift car to free man trapped after crash
A group of passers-by rushed to the aid of a man trapped under a car in a road accident in southwest China, lifting the vehicle and freeing him.
The car struck an elderly woman then ran over the man in Yibin in Sichuan province.
A crowd quickly gathered and more than a dozen people began working together, pushing the car to free the man’s body.
One of the rescuers said: “Life is precious. The priority is to save lives.”
8. Identical twin sisters, praised for their brains and beauty, tick Harvard off their to-do list
Identical Chinese twin sisters who gained internet fame for being both intelligent and beautiful graduated from Harvard University’s graduate school in May 2017.
Nanjing-born Sun Yutong and Sun Yumeng graduated from Harvard Graduate School of Education in May with masters’ degrees – and live-streamed the experience to their internet fans.
More than 170,000 internet users watched Yumeng’s 26-minute clip posted online that showed her walking along the road with her sister and fellow graduates, wearing black and red robes.
9. Student embarks on epic 52-nation road trip before college ... and Dad’s coming, too
A father in eastern China is sending his daughter off to college with an adventure - a nine-month road trip all the way to the United States.
Huang Haitao is embarking on the journey with his daughter Xinyi, driving across 52 countries in time for her first day at Seattle University.
They will face numerous hurdles along the way, including navigating language barriers and foreign roads.
But both are full of hope for the journey, with Xinyi saying: “The world is so large. At the same time we are seeing the world, we should also use our own efforts to help the world understand China, giving this trip more meaning.”
10. Dad uses his noodle to raise money for autistic son
A father in eastern China has been making hundreds of bowls of noodles a day - all to raise money to help treat his autistic son.
With the help of local volunteers, Chen Lecai, 31, opened a noodle shop in Changzhou, Jiangsu province, in May 2017 to pay for his two-year-old son’s treatment.
Since his son’s diagnosis, he has been fired three times for taking too much leave to keep his son company in hospital.
But after the city of Changzhou offered him free space to make noodles, and word of mouth on social media spread the news, the noodle shop has become a hit with the local community.
11. Quick team work saves driver trapped in overturned van in less than a minute
Dozens of Chinese pedestrians joined hands to free a trapped driver in a traffic accident in southern China in May 2017.
Huang Hanhua had become trapped in his minivan after it hit an oncoming vehicle and overturned in Huizhou, Guangdong province.
Surveillance footage showed a male passer-by rushing to the van and kicking the windshield, as the driver of the other vehicle involved in the collision tried to save Huang from the passenger’s seat.
But their efforts seemed fruitless - until more than 20 people, including senior citizens, quickly gathered and started pushing the van upright.
12. Mother who refused to give up disabled son nurtures him all the way to Harvard
Zou Hongyan ignored doctors - and even her husband - to devote her life to helping her son overcome adversity and make the most of his abilities.
Her hardship paid off after her son Ding Ding was admitted to the elite Harvard University in the United States.
Ding nearly suffocated during a birth complication in 1988, leaving him with cerebral palsy. But even though doctors suggested giving him up, his mother raised him, working several jobs and taking him to rehabilitation sessions, insisting that he overcome his disabilities as much as possible.
“I didn’t want him to feel ashamed about this physical problems,” she said. “Because he had inferior abilities in many areas, I was quite strict on him to work hard to catch up where he had difficulties.”
13. Commuters pitch in to free woman trapped between subway carriage and platform
A crowd pitched in to help an elderly passenger who got stuck between a subway carriage and the platform in Guangzhou in May 2017.
The 72-year-old woman’s leg became trapped in the gap between platform and carriage.
But with help from metro staff, her fellow passengers and some lubricant, the woman was pulled out with only minor injuries.
Pictures posted on social media showed passengers forcing the door open, while other reached down to help the woman.
14. Two doctors rush to help sick woman on plane - and get a happy surprise
Two former classmates from southern China had an unlikely reunion after more than 40 years while helping a passenger who fell ill on a flight in April 2017.
The two men, Tan Jiaju and Zhang Minzhou, were both on a flight from Hefei to Guangzhou when a woman began having trouble breathing.
Crew members asked over the intercom if any doctors were on board and the men - both medical graduates from Sun Yat-sen University in 1976 - offered to assist.
They successfully treated the woman, then caught up after the flight. “This really is an unbelievable coincidence,” Zhang said.
15. Road sweeper wins over US$1 million in lottery with help of sceptical son
Asked for a lottery number, he chose one at random - and that helped his mother, a road sweeper, win more than 8.6 million yuan (US$1.25 million).
He gave in to the request because he did not want to disappoint his mother ahead of the Lunar New Year holiday, even though he had for years opposed his mother’s habit.
The mother said she would save the money for her son and continue her job as a road sweeper.
16. Teenager’s touching act of honesty led to big reward
Chen Yifan, a high school pupil from Xinmi in northern Henan province, accidentally damaged a luxury car. But instead of running away, he left the owner a note of apology, along with all the money he had on him as compensation.
“Dear uncle, I’m sorry for my mistake and I also feel quite sad about it,” Chen began his letter.
When the car’s owner found the note and the cash, he was deeply touched. Not only did he pay the repair bill himself, but also sent 10,000 yuan in cash to Chen, specifying that the money was to help him in his studies.
17. Traffic police raise goat born during road accident
A baby goat that survived after its mother was killed in a road accident found an unlikely new family - traffic police in China’s Jiangxi province.
Officers who attended to the scene of the accident took the baby animal back to the station and fed it milk. Within hours, the little one was on its feet.
18. Homeless man reunited with family after decade on streets
A decade after he left them for a life on the streets, a homeless Chinese man was reunited with his family.
Wang Rong was found loitering in a park in Dongguan, southern Guangdong province, by voluntary workers. While he could not recall his exact home address, he managed to locate his home village using a computer system that connects villages across the nation.
His mother Zhang Huanying immediately took the 15-hour train ride to meet her son.
While he was unable to recognise her face upon meeting, feeling a scar on her hand triggered childhood memories, making him realise that she was his mother.
19. Chinese doctor comes to aid of penniless Russian travellers who broke into his hospital
A young Russian couple who ran out of money while backpacking in China broke into a hospital in a small town where they planned to spend the night.
However, they were discovered by staff - and ended up being helped by a doctor, who paid the cost of a room for them at a nearby hotel.
The couple, who were not believed to have faced any charges over the break-in, expressed their appreciation for the doctor’s kindness by asking to pose for a photograph with him.
20. Retired teacher’s extended family members raise 10,000 yuan for needy students
A retired teacher in China set up a social media fund-raising scheme to help impoverished students at the school where he once worked.
That has seen up to 230 members of his extended family donate more than 10,000 yuan (US$1,480) over the past three years.
Yang Zhenhai, the widely respected patriarch of the Yang family, urged relatives using the WeChat messaging app to help him sponsor needy students and reward excellent teachers.
The scheme has attracted donations from 95 different families from four different generations of people who share the surname.
21. ‘You can’t hurry love’, police tell drunk man pressured by parents to find Lunar New Year bride
Chinese railway police turned into counsellors after a tearful 27-year-old man got himself drunk because of the pressure from his parents to find a wife.
Things grew too much for the man, surnamed Li, after he heard his parents had arranged a series of dates with potential brides once he arrived home for the Lunar New Year holiday.
An emotional Li approached the security gate at Dongguan East railway station, where he was told: “Don’t be so stressed. You can’t force a marriage to come.”
He boarded the train home that night after being comforted and given hot water to drink by the policemen.
22. Good Samaritan helps pay cost of street cleaner’s lost wages three hours after appeal
An elderly street cleaner in eastern China who lost three months’ wages from his pocket had the money returned to him - or did he?
The 70-year-old man had the 3,360 yuan (US$500) in an envelope in his shirt pocket, but found it missing when he returned home.
After an appeal on social media by the owner of a food stall where the cleaner takes breaks, an anonymous man drove up and handed over an envelope with 3,360 yuan in it.
After he left, the cleaner realised the words on the new envelope were not written with the same pen used on the missing envelope - the man had given the cleaner his own money, along with some contributed by social media users.
23. Family cares for faithful old nanny for 42 years
A 98-year-old woman from southwest China has been taken care of for the past 42 years by the family she once worked for as a nanny and maid.
Fu Tianhu has lived with her former employers in Neijiang in Sichuan province since 1974. She had gone to work for Ji Hua’s family in 1958, leaving in 1972 to care for her sick husband.
After her husband’s death a year later, she was left alone with no income. Ji then suggested to her parents that their former nanny live with them.
Fu has become regarded as part of the family, and not just a former employee. She said the family has treated her well: “Without them, it would have been impossible for me to be alive at this age of 98.”