Portfolio: Jason Lee
Sunday 25 March 2012
Wang Gengxiang was five when he fell into a pile of burning straw in a courtyard at his home village of Mijiazhuang on the outskirts of Fenyang, Shanxi province, in north China. Most of the skin on his head was burnt off, meaning he has to wear a full surgical mask to prevent infection of the scarring.
The mask is itchy and makes it difficult to breathe, but doctors are unable to continue his skin-graft surgery until his damaged windpipe is strong enough. Even then it will cost almost £100,000 to complete the procedure – money his family may never be able to afford. Furthermore, since his trachea was hurt by the smoke, he has more saliva than most people – hence his chewing on a towel, to manage the excess.
Yet Wang, now six and known as the Masked Boy, is anything but disconsolate. Although not allowed to attend classes at his local kindergarten – both for his own safety and concerns about how his presence might affect other children, according to his father – he cut a cheerful figure when Reuters photojournalist Jason Lee visited him last September.
"I was surprised to see that Wang lives a happy and relaxing life," wrote Lee in his blog about the project. "It took me seven hours by train and then by car to reach his village [from Beijing]. He and his father were waiting for me. The boy waved at me as I approached. It didn't take much time for us to get along. His fearless and caring heart comforted me. In fact, he even offered to carry my suitcase when we first met.
"I went to the village because I wanted to help him," added the 35-year-old. And help he has, not only by donating money, but also by documenting, and thus drawing attention to, Wang's daily life. Already many on Weibo – China's Twitter – have offered assistance.
'Reuters: Our World Now 5' is published on 2 April by Thames & Hudson, priced £10. For more: reuters.com/ourworldnow
Oscars 2015 Mexican filmmaker uses speech to urge 'respect' for immigrants
Oscars 2015 Bringing you all the news from the 87th Academy Awards
TV ReviewThe intrigue deepens as we delve further but don't expect any answers just yet
Razzies 2015 Golden Raspberry Awards 'honours' Cameron Diaz and Kirk Cameron
Film Hollywood's new leading lady talks about her Ramsay Street days
Oscar voter speaks outfilm
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Forget 'The Dress': Here are five of the biggest news stories you might have missed
- 2 The black and blue dress: Makers considering a white and gold version
- 3 PornHub turns masturbation into energy in bid to save the planet
- 4 The remarkable archaeological underwater discovery that could open up a new chapter in the study of European and British prehistory
- 5 Saudi Muslim cleric claims the Earth is 'stationary' and the sun rotates around it
Eddie Redmayne in The Danish Girl: First look at Oscar winner as transgender artist
Catwoman comes out as bisexual
Fifty Shades of Grey movie shows first sex scene 'after 40 minutes'
Justin Kelly interview: On James Franco playing a gay man who renounces his homosexuality
Grace Dent on TV: Mary Portas: Secret Shopper delves into a grim cornucopia of retail wrongness
New theory could prove how life began and disprove God
Half of Ukip voters say they are prejudiced against people of other races
This is what it's like to be dead, according to a guy who died for a bit
'Cash for access' scandal: Sir Malcolm Rifkind says 'unrealistic' for MPs to live on £67,000 salary
'Jihadi John': CAGE representative storms off Sky News accusing Kay Burley of Islamophobia
Ukip would cut billions from Scottish budget to fund English tax cuts