‘We can’t walk but we can sing’: how three Chinese sisters with brittle bone disease created a living for themselves

They might have endured a lifetime of pain and hardship, but these three women from Chongqing know just how to make their 260,000 fans smile with their live-streamed videos

PUBLISHED : Monday, 01 October, 2018, 11:33am
UPDATED : Monday, 01 October, 2018, 10:43pm

They cannot walk and have never been to school but three sisters in a rural part of southwest China have become internet stars by telling the world about their lives on a popular live-streaming platform.

Over the past five months, Peng Yan, 31, Peng Jiangqiu, 28, and Peng Jiangdan, 25 – who have brittle bone disease – spend up to six hours a day on Kuaishou.com telling stories and singing songs for their 260,000 followers, the Chongqing Evening News reported on Saturday.

The women, from Yunyang county in Chongqing, said that before they discovered live-streaming they spent most of their days lying in bed or watching television.

In each case, the disease is so severe that they were never able to go to school. But they did manage to learn to read from the captions on television programmes, the report said.

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Despite their hardships, the introduction on the sisters’ channel is upbeat.

“Although we are disabled and haven’t gone to school, our souls are healthy,” it says.

“We like singing and good things. We have a warm family. We love our parents and our younger sister. We also love making friends.”

The women are cared for and carried around by their 57-year-old father, Peng Boxiang, a former construction worker who was forced to retire 16 years ago after having an accident on site.

Their 54-year-old mother, Jiang Tinglan, worked as a babysitter in a town many kilometres away and could only return home once a month, the report said.

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Neither of their parents, nor a younger sister who is at university, has brittle bone disease, which affects about one in 15,000 people in China.

For the older siblings, the pain of a fresh fracture – they each suffer an average of one or two a month – can be intense, but they remain sanguine abut their situation.

It the fractures are not too serious, “we just endure the pain”, they were quoted as saying. “After a month or two, the pain just goes away.”

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The family used to survive on the mother’s wages plus government disability allowances of about 2,000 yuan (US$290) a month for the three sisters combined.

But now, thanks to the success of their live-stream, the women also earn about 100 yuan a day by selling local snacks online and receive 20-30 yuan a day in the form of donations and gifts from their devoted fans.