Video Credit: AsiaWire/Liu Shuang
A teenager dubbed ‘China’s Thumbelina’ because she is 25 inches tall and weighs just 12 pounds is changing her and her family’s fortunes as a popular live streamer.
Liu Shuang, aged 16, was diagnosed with achondroplasia – a form of dwarfism – shortly after birth and has hardly grown at all despite nearly reaching adulthood.
She is unable to go to school and spends most of her time at home in order to avoid the dangers of the outside world, which, according to her mum Zheng Shuying, include the painful pecks of their neighbours’ chickens.
Pictures Credit: AsiaWire
From the comfort of her house in Lindian County in north-eastern China’s Heilongjiang Province, Liu Shuang has instead taken on the persona of burgeoning internet celebrity.
Her mum maintains and appears in most of her short videos on Chinese live-streaming platform Kuaishou – known in English-speaking markets as ‘Kwai’ – where she has over half a million followers.
Her diminutive stature has led to comparisons with Thumbelina, the tiny girl from the fairy tales of Danish author Hans Christian Andersen.
After being dubbed Thumbelina in reports and online, Liu Shuang has even started using the nickname herself.
Liu Shuang’s regular appearances on Kwai mean that she is able to earn some 2,000 RMB (227 GBP) for her family every month – a decent figure in a province where residents of the capital Harbin earn on average just over 4,500 RMB (512 GBP) in the same period.
Her mum says the live streaming has completely changed her daughter’s life.
“She has become a lot happier,” Zheng said.
She added: “She can’t go out into the real world, but she can introduce herself to people through live streaming.
“Since we started live streaming, my daughter has received endless supplies of clothes, shoes and food – all sent by kind people.”
Liu Hongmin, her dad, recalled: “When she was born, she weighed less than 2 pounds.
“The doctor told us to give up on her. He said she’d never survive. And even if she could survive, she’d be like a child with cerebral palsy.”
Liu Hongmin does not regret his decision and says his daughter is “quite intelligent”.
Liu Shuang continues to attract tens of thousands of viewers every day.