Mum's fundraising for ill son draws sympathy in China

Wu Xiue posed for a picture dressed as Pigsy from the novel Journey to the West Image copyright Pear Tree
Image caption A passer-by asks, "do you want money?" after Wu Xiue posed for a picture dressed as Pigsy from the novel Journey to the West

In Chinese culture the fictional character Pigsy - a half-man, half-pig monster - is normally associated with comedy and slapstick.

But a mother from Suzhou has given Pigsy, or Zhu Bajie, from the classic novel Journey to the West, a new meaning for millions on social media.

Wu Xiue, who is 58, dresses as Pigsy and poses for pictures with strangers to raise funds for medical treatment for her mentally ill husband and son.

A video of her in character in a park circulated in China on the popular platform Miaopai, and reached more than eight million people since Thursday.

Journey to the West, also known in English translation as Monkey, is a widely-studied 16th Century novel with numerous TV adaptations.

Image copyright Pear Tree
Image caption Wu Xiue describes the difficulties she faces caring for her mentally ill son: "I've carried him for so many years."

Wu told local media that she cannot afford the required medical care for her family. Workers in Suzhou earn 5,514 yuan ($833; £620) a month on average, according to the National Bureau of Statistics of China.

"On Saturdays and Sundays I can earn 200 yuan ($30; £22.50). There are times when I can't even make more than a few cents. My son is in hospital and my medical insurance is some 3,000, 4,000 yuan ($453-$604; £337-£449.50) a month. I'm tired and in pain. I just want to use every breath to make my son better," she said.

Her son has schizophrenia and has been unwell since he was 11 years old.

"When his condition was mild I brought him to work with me," she continued. "I did a small bit of business, and either didn't earn money or was tricked by people. His attacks have just become more and more serious, and I have taken him to 11 different hospitals. I have carried him for so many years, over 10 years and I feel like I can't help him."

She added that she dresses as Pigsy to make her son "optimistic about his disease".

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A woman who sells fruit in the same park told local media: "Her situation at home is very troubling. Her husband can't do anything to help her, as he is also mentally ill. Her son's mental illness makes him violent - she had no choice but to institutionalise him. She's earning her two cents so she can keep him in hospital."

Wu's story has received thousands of comments from sympathetic and shocked viewers on the social media platform Weibo.

"This lady should quickly set up a crowdfunding account. I hope that society can help her," one user wrote.

Another, whose comment received 300 likes, posted: "I would like to donate money. I watched this and started crying. This woman is already quite old, but I hope her child can have a speedy recovery".

"There are too many poor people in this country," added a third user.

A fourth comment read: "This is a mother's love - you can't put into words how great it is."