How China's 'Ice Boy' has seen his life transform a year after going viral on Twitter

Wang Fuman in the picture that changed his life
Wang Fuman in the picture that changed his life Photo credit: Twitter

Last year, photographs of an eight-year-old Chinese boy arriving to school with frozen hair, eyelashes and swollen hands after walking 4.5km ignited a discussion about child poverty in China. 

A year on from the social media storm, Wang Fuman's life is drastically different.

When the photographs were posted to Twitter in 2018 by his teacher, his struggle and his determination for education caused him to go viral, with social media users calling him "Ice Boy".

Now, his family has moved from their shared mud hut into a two-storey home, and Fuman's walk to school is just ten minutes along a paved road, reports BBC.

His father Wang Gangkui told People's Daily that "Life is much better. Compared with mud walls, and the muddy road, we are much better sheltered from the wind and rain".

After he went viral, Fuman was offered a place at a private school, where he could board at the school and not have to walk through ice. However, the principal of the school, identified by South China Morning Post by his surname Yang, asked the following week for Fuman to return to his original school

Fuman inside his home in rural China
Fuman inside his home in rural China Photo credit: South China Morning Post/Screenshot

Yang said that he had wanted to do some good by offering Fuman a place, but was not prepared for the amount of media attention the boy was receiving.

"I found out that Fuman had been identified by the Ministry of Education as a key figure to be helped in the Government's poverty alleviation efforts... During these days of having him in my school we received numerous requests from various levels of Government departments to inspect us. Many media outlets also insisted on interviewing us. It was impossible for me to reject many of these requests."

Fuman's father was asked to take him back to his original school. Luckily, his viral fame followed him.

According to BBC, Fuman's school has improved - increased investment means the building now has heating, and a dormitory has been built so that students who live far away from school have housing on the campus, meaning that fewer student will have to go through what he did.

The school's deputy principal, Fu Heng, holds Fuman in a high regard, saying that he is "a top student and gets along well with his classmates".

The deputy also spoke of Fuman's fame, saying "All the attention has made the pupils feel the wonder of the world and their ideas have changed a great deal. The seeds of dreams that one day they will be able to walk away from the mountains have been planted, and they are very hopeful for the future."

China's version of Twitter, Weibo, has exploded with the hash tag "IceBoyaYearOn". 

Many see the story as one of success.

"The power of the web really should not be underestimated" posted one user. 

Another noted that the "The changes to Wang and his family are gratifying. This is the credit of public opinion and the joint effort of the local government and innumerable caring people".

Chinese President Xi Jinping said in his New Year address that rural poverty has been a focus over the past year. The focus on alleviating poverty has been successful, but he says that the work is not over.

"125 million poor counties and 10 million poverty stricken rural residents were lifted out of poverty. To achieve our task of lifting another 10 million-plus rural resident out of poverty as planned, we shall remain focused and work hard on this".