Across China: Marine park "mermaid" makes waves in China
BEIJING, Feb. 27 (Xinhua) -- In a crowded marine park, Xiao Xia flexes her giant blue tail and swims among a shoal of colorful fish in a transparent tank.
Amazed parents and children use their smart phones to record every move of this beautiful "mermaid" in Linfen City, in north China's Shanxi Province.
Xiao Xia, 24, performs as a mermaid in the aquarium. She usually changes into the mermaid costume 5 minutes before the performance because the water is so cold.
Xiao Xia recently caused a stir online, after her story was shared by Pear Video on microblogging site Sina Weibo. As of 3 p.m. Tuesday, the video had received more than 1,000 comments and been watched almost 4 million times.
"I have been performing here for three years now," said one of Xiao Xia's fellow performers.
Xiao Xia and her peers performed three times a day during this year's Spring Festival holiday. For each performance, she receives 10 yuan (1.6 U.S. dollars) in addition to her salary.
"I really like this job," she said, adding that the most difficult thing is the low tempertures of the water.
"After work, I have to constantly keep my waist and belly warm, or I will feel really bad," she said.
Many netizens have said the job is too tough for women and that Xiao Xia should change her job.
"I wish her the best," said one Weibo user.
"She is a beautiful girl, and I hope her body will not be harmed doing this job," read another Weibo comment.
Like Xiao Xia, Qu Jinyu, in the central province of Henan, is also a mermaid performer in a local marine park.
"I have always loved swimming since I was a little girl, and I always wanted to be a mermaid described in legends," Qu, 20, said in another viral Weibo video.
For each performance, Qu wears lead bars on her "tail" because this is the only way can she dive into the sea water.
"I do six performances a day," she said. "I do feel tired sometimes because the sea water has strong buoyancy, and I have to try every movement very hard."
Qu said her family were supportive of her job, but cautioned her against the coral in the water.
The number of aquariums in China has grown rapidly in recent years. The China Aquarium Development Forum last November said that there were nearly 200 aquariums across the country.
"China currently has 21 aquariums with an investment of more than 100 million yuan," said Zhang Xianfeng of the Chinese Academy of Sciences.
To attract more visitors, some aquariums in China have added the mermaid performances.
Earlier this week, staff at an aquarium in Jingzhou City in central China's Hubei Province said that they were looking for animal keepers and mermaid performers for the aquarium, to be launched in October.
"The mermaid performers need to have diving licenses," an employee said. "It would be the best if the performers had experience of performing in water, or if the performers were retired sports people."
Monthly salaries range from 3,000 yuan to 8,000 yuan, the employee said.