Before 2002, Chen Zhou was invisible to most people. He could’ve been any of the street singers who wandered China’s bustling streets. Today, however, he is a well-known and highly respected speaker who draws huge crowds at stadiums, schools and hospitals. Although Chen is without legs, he scaled China’s renowned Five Sacred Mountains in 2012. Since then, he’s given many speeches around the country, as his inspiring story continues to touch people worldwide.
Chen Zhou uses 2 six-pound wooden boxes as legs, shoes, or carrying bags. “If necessary, they can be used for self-defense, too,” he jokes. The first thing he does each morning is to find his glasses and his two hollow wooden boxes. He has worn through dozens of these small wooden boxes since he was 13, when he lost his legs in a tragic accident.
Using these small battered boxes, Chen has managed to walk all over China. Since climbing China’s Five Sacred Mountains in 2012, he has given more than 200 speeches throughout the country. When we interviewed him, at Hebei Province, Baoding, he was in the middle of a four month non-stop tour, speaking at one city per day.
When we arrived at the Baoding lecture hall, each of the 1300 seats was full and nearly 300 people stood to hear the 32-year-old speak. After the audience watched an introductory film about his life, he swung his arms forward enthusiastically as if to say, “let’s go” and with a broad smile, climbed atop a lecture table to share his humble story. The audience burst into applause.
“My Life Could’ve Ended Anywhere”
After Chen’s remarkable ascent of the Five Sacred Mountains in 2012, he found himself on a popular TV talk show called “Great Orator.” Its famous host, Yue Jia, kneeled down and hugged Chen, a gesture that made national headlines. This was not only a moment of recognition for Chen, but it also marked his first professional speech.
Although Chen’s talk was not particularly exciting—he’d had no formal education or public speaking experience at the time—he remained relatively calm. He was also a natural at interacting with his audience. Chen reflected, “I’m still thinking about that speech. What makes a good speech? I just wanted to share my story.”
Born in 1983, his parents divorced when he was a small boy. His grandparents ...
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by Yiheng Liu
This story is part of a series of articles published as an exclusive editorial exchange between China Press for People with Disabilities & Spring Breeze and ABILITY Magazine.