Xu Chaoqing, an 80 years old Chinese woman, is sitting in the house slowly peeling potatoes. From time to time she raises her head and looks at her husband working outside. Liu Guojiang catches her glance and a happy smile lights his face. If someone would witness this scene – he would never doubt – this is LOVE! Actually, the China Women Weekly included their story into the list of 10 most remarkable love stories in China.
It all started 60 years ago. A young boy from southern Chongqing, Liu Guojiang, broke his tooth. According to a local superstition, if some bride would touch the sore tooth it would soon grow again. And it was the first time when he saw her beautiful face – on the day of her wedding: he asked her to “heal” his tooth.
Ten years later, Xu Chaoqing’s husband died from illness. She left with 4 children. The family was so poor that sometimes she even didn’t have money to buy salt.
Liu Guojiang, by that time 19 years old guy, fell in love with the widow. He tried to help her in every possible way. People around began to spread gossips: it was unacceptable and shameful for a widow to have romantic relationship with a much younger single man. Hostility of neighbors made their life almost unbearable… one evening they took children, left their house and made their way to a big mountain. It became their new home.
Life wasn’t easy. For the first 8 years cave served them a shelter from wind and rains. Their ration consisted of herbs, mushrooms and roots. Crops which they tried to grow had been eaten by wild animals before they could consume them. Animals also posed threat not only to their harvest but also to them. Like cavemen in ancient times, Liu had to use fire in order to repel the beasts. Xu was deeply grateful for his care but at the same time she felt guilty. “Do you regret? Do you want to go back to the village?” – she had been asking him. But he never showed regret: “Don’t worry, our life will be better.”
Together Xu and Liu had four kids. It was obvious that they needed a bigger place for a big family with 8 children. Liu began producing clay tiles from the mud which he found about 2 kilometers away from their living place. 5 years, more than 30,000 tiles and they had their own house made of mud. In it they spent decades of quiet and happy life not being separated for even a single day.
The biggest inconvenience was the lack of road in the mountain. Possibly, Xu had bound feet or there was another reason but it was difficult for her to walk up and down the mountain. So, Liu began to build the ladder. With only hammer and iron stick he had carved more than 6,000 steps in the rock. It took half of century to finish this titanic job.
Later these steps led a group of travelers to the discovery of their dwelling. Xu and Liu became famous overnight. Simple people and journalists were coming to visit the couple – all to seek the answer for the secret of their incredible love.
However, there was no secret to reveal. “I am happy. Since the moment I made the decision in my heart, I never regretted” – said Liu. “Do I treat you well?” asked he Xu in front of multiple witnesses. “Yes, very well”, - simply answered the old woman. But her shy and happy expression made everyone around feel so touched…
In the end of 2007, at the age of 72 Liu died in the hands of his wife. Nobody could release Xu’s arms holding the body of her beloved husband… Xu was sitting besides the black coffin continuously repeating: ”You promised that you will be with me until the day I die. How will I live without you now?”
Long time ago they made a promise that both of them will be buried on the mountain near each other. Liu was buried there according to this request.
The local government decided to preserve the “ladder of love” and in its place create a museum.