Photos: China’s “Angel of Nanjing” has helped hundreds back from the brink

Published on Apr 19, 2021 02:58 PM IST
  • On a grey and rainy morning, Chen Si patrols the Nanjing bridge soaring above China's Yangtze river, determined to stop the desperate from jumping into the swirling waters below. Every weekend for 18 years, Chen has volunteered to scout the three-kilometre length of the Nanjing bridge, talking to hundreds of people thinking of taking their lives and earning himself the nickname "the Angel of Nanjing". When the bridge was completed in 1968, the double-decker Nanjing Yangtze River Bridge was celebrated as a feat of Chinese engineering. It won a place in the Guinness Book of World Records as the longest dual highway and railway bridge. But now it is record-setting for a darker reason -- it is believed to be the location of the most suicides in the world, having overtaken the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco some years ago.
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Volunteer Chen Si looks out at the Yangtze river from the Nanjing bridge in Jiangsu province, China on April 2. Chen has patrolled the 3.2 km long Nanjing bridge soaring above China's Yangtze river in Nanjing for some 18 years, determined to stop the desperate from jumping into the swirling waters below.(Wang Zhao / AFP) View Photos in a new improved layout
Published on Apr 19, 2021 02:58 PM IST

Volunteer Chen Si looks out at the Yangtze river from the Nanjing bridge in Jiangsu province, China on April 2. Chen has patrolled the 3.2 km long Nanjing bridge soaring above China's Yangtze river in Nanjing for some 18 years, determined to stop the desperate from jumping into the swirling waters below.(Wang Zhao / AFP)

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Chen speaks to a woman and child after they freed goldfish into the Yangtze river in Nanjing, Jiangsu province, on April 1. Chen had his first life-changing encounter there at the age of 22 when he spotted a woman -- a young migrant worker like himself -- on the edge, 70 metres above the water, crying and contemplating jumping.(Wang Zhao / AFP) View Photos in a new improved layout
Published on Apr 19, 2021 02:58 PM IST

Chen speaks to a woman and child after they freed goldfish into the Yangtze river in Nanjing, Jiangsu province, on April 1. Chen had his first life-changing encounter there at the age of 22 when he spotted a woman -- a young migrant worker like himself -- on the edge, 70 metres above the water, crying and contemplating jumping.(Wang Zhao / AFP)

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Chen Si rides his electric bicycle across the Nanjing Bridge, in Jiangsu province, on April 2. Chen told AFP that since his first life-changing encounter on the Nanjing Bridge, he has helped 412 people step back from the brink on the bridge -- roughly one every fortnight.(Wang Zhao / AFP) View Photos in a new improved layout
Published on Apr 19, 2021 02:58 PM IST

Chen Si rides his electric bicycle across the Nanjing Bridge, in Jiangsu province, on April 2. Chen told AFP that since his first life-changing encounter on the Nanjing Bridge, he has helped 412 people step back from the brink on the bridge -- roughly one every fortnight.(Wang Zhao / AFP)

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A commuter takes a picture from the Nanjing Bridge, in Jiangsu province, on April 2. Among the people Chen has saved, one was a young man who was particularly strong and bit through his tongue as several men dragged him from the bridge's edge, while another was a man who owed millions of yuan.(Wang Zhao / AFP) View Photos in a new improved layout
Published on Apr 19, 2021 02:58 PM IST

A commuter takes a picture from the Nanjing Bridge, in Jiangsu province, on April 2. Among the people Chen has saved, one was a young man who was particularly strong and bit through his tongue as several men dragged him from the bridge's edge, while another was a man who owed millions of yuan.(Wang Zhao / AFP)

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An aerial view of the Ninjiang Bridge over the Yangtze river in Jiangsu province, on April 1. When it was completed in 1968, the double-decker bridge was celebrated as a feat of Chinese engineering. It won a place in the Guinness Book of World Records as the longest dual highway and railway bridge. More recently, it is believed to be the location of the most suicides in the world, having overtaken the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco some years ago.(Wang Zhao / AFP) View Photos in a new improved layout
Published on Apr 19, 2021 02:58 PM IST

An aerial view of the Ninjiang Bridge over the Yangtze river in Jiangsu province, on April 1. When it was completed in 1968, the double-decker bridge was celebrated as a feat of Chinese engineering. It won a place in the Guinness Book of World Records as the longest dual highway and railway bridge. More recently, it is believed to be the location of the most suicides in the world, having overtaken the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco some years ago.(Wang Zhao / AFP)

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Chen Si speaks during an interview with AFP at his office in Nanjing, Jiangsu province, on April 1. Growing up in poverty in rural Jiangsu province helped Chen understand people's desperation, describing himself as "a farmer from the village (with) a foothold in the city".(Wang Zhao / AFP) View Photos in a new improved layout
Published on Apr 19, 2021 02:58 PM IST

Chen Si speaks during an interview with AFP at his office in Nanjing, Jiangsu province, on April 1. Growing up in poverty in rural Jiangsu province helped Chen understand people's desperation, describing himself as "a farmer from the village (with) a foothold in the city".(Wang Zhao / AFP)

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Bedrooms for those being helped by Chen Si, at his office in Nanjing, Jiangsu province, on April 1. Based out of a small office, with the motto "Cry when you need to cry" painted on the wall, Chen converted two rooms into dorms for desperate people without a place to sleep.(Wang Zhao / AFP) View Photos in a new improved layout
Published on Apr 19, 2021 02:58 PM IST

Bedrooms for those being helped by Chen Si, at his office in Nanjing, Jiangsu province, on April 1. Based out of a small office, with the motto "Cry when you need to cry" painted on the wall, Chen converted two rooms into dorms for desperate people without a place to sleep.(Wang Zhao / AFP)

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Chen looks out from the riverside of the Yangtze river, with the Nanjing Bridge in the background, in Jiangsu province, on April 1. The father-of-one said voluntary work has come at a cost to his personal life. "I didn't do this alone. It was time that I borrowed from my wife and my child," he told AFP, adding his wife had taken the brunt of childcare.(Wang Zhao / AFP) View Photos in a new improved layout
Published on Apr 19, 2021 02:58 PM IST

Chen looks out from the riverside of the Yangtze river, with the Nanjing Bridge in the background, in Jiangsu province, on April 1. The father-of-one said voluntary work has come at a cost to his personal life. "I didn't do this alone. It was time that I borrowed from my wife and my child," he told AFP, adding his wife had taken the brunt of childcare.(Wang Zhao / AFP)

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A flower placed on the Nanjing Bridge, in Jiangsu province, on April 2. "In the past, I didn't have the ability to protect myself, and the people I wasn't able to save returned to haunt my dreams." Now, when someone jumps, he turns away.(Wang Zhao / AFP) View Photos in a new improved layout
Published on Apr 19, 2021 02:58 PM IST

A flower placed on the Nanjing Bridge, in Jiangsu province, on April 2. "In the past, I didn't have the ability to protect myself, and the people I wasn't able to save returned to haunt my dreams." Now, when someone jumps, he turns away.(Wang Zhao / AFP)

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