Wang Fuman is just one of many countryside children growing up in single-parent families.
Over the weekend, Wang Fuman spent three days in Beijing living his dreams. The 8-year-old, known online as "Snowflake Boy", met his idols-the Beijing SWAT team-and took a class at China's top police academy.
On Monday night, he returned to reality in his impoverished village in Yunnan province, where he lives with his father, older sister and grandmother. His mother walked out over two years ago.
When the now-famous image of Wang with his head covered in icicles went viral this month, it attracted national and even international attention to the plight of children living in poverty. The frosty hairdo was the result of Wang walking more than 4 kilometers to reach school in subzero temperatures.
The story also illustrated a deeper trend, which is the sheer number of children in poor rural areas who are growing up without mothers, a situation educators and experts warn can often have long-lasting effects on a child's mental health and life prospects.
Wang and his family arrived in the capital on Friday on a trip arranged by chinapeace.gov.cn, a website affiliated with the Commission for Political and Legal Affairs of the Communist Party of China Central Committee. The boy, who dreams of becoming a police officer one day, was given a tour of the SWAT team's headquarters and the People's Public Security University of China.
The giant city must have seemed on a different planet from his village, Zhuanshanbao, which is home to 540 families, almost half of whom live below the poverty line of 2,952 yuan ($463) in annual earnings.
Fu Heng, principal of Zhuanshanbao Lihuimiaopu Primary School, where Wang is one of 140 students, said at least eight of the children never see their mothers.
Observations by China Daily reporters who have covered stories in impoverished areas nationwide suggest the problem is not an isolated one.
Li Yifei, a professor at Beijing Normal University's Faculty of Education who has conducted extensive studies of children in rural China, said now villagers are free to travel more widely than ever before in search of employment opportunities, the incidence of broken families has soared.
The problem is often exacerbated because many migrant worker parents who experience city life are unwilling to return to their rundown villages or their spouses, he added.cheap-silicone-wristbands