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China's 'rocky romance' causes social media stir

Images captured by passers-by of "Lingling" painting an image of her crush on the side of a rock was shared widely on social media in China. Photo: Weibo

Some people bestow their loved ones with flowers or chocolates. Others express their feelings through poetic words on cards and letters.

But one Chinese woman has caught the eye of social media by painting a huge portrait of her crush on the side of a cliff. The unusual expression of admiration has inspired a passionate online debate.

The female rock climber, who is in her thirties, told local media that she doesn't want her real identity to be revealed. So she has been given the pseudonym 'Lingling' (a generic name for a woman). She told Chinese radio station FM93 that her mural, which was painted on a rock at Xianju National Park, in Zhejiang province in eastern China, was created during several weekends over a two month period.

She said she would begin painting at 3am in the morning, and go on for several hours.

Lingling identified the subject of the image, and the object of her affection, as "33Liuyun".

The portrait, which is around seven metres tall, achieved fame when it was spotted by another rock climber who shared a photo on social media. The image soon went viral. Some netizens on Weibo called it "rock painting of love", saying that it shouldn't be allowed to remain. However, others on the social media site said that Lingling should be prosecuted, as she had vandalised the natural scenery.

It took local authorities days to identify the location of the specific rock where the image had been painted. They eventually found it 200 metres above ground on Fanzheng Rock.

But who is the man on the rock? Lingling told FM93 that it may be a case of unrequited love.

"I have strong feeling for him but he hasn't responded my affection," she told the radio station, "I asked him to take me to climb Fanzheng Rock but every weekend he was always busy either with mountain rescue or training."

She added that 33Liuyun is a well-respected rock climber, known to the local climber community. Lingling added that she had picked Fanzheng Rock deliberately as, according to the rock climbing community, 33Liuyun had climbed the rock with his bare hands in 2012.

"I want to keep my love on the top of rock for ever and worship him up there," she said.

This wasn't the only time she had drawn a picture in public of 33Liuyun. She added that she also drew an image of him on a toilet door. An image of that has also been located by cyber sleuths and shared on Weibo.

But so far, these expressions of love, haven't ended in a happily ever after for Lingling.

Social media users have been divided on what they feel about this particular, albeit one-sided, romance. Some said they were touched and felt sympathy for Lingling.

Weibo user Gewaijie wrote "I really admire you, a persistent talented woman!"
Another user Jianpanxia suggested that the painting "might become an ancient monument a few hundred years later."

Others, like user hbchendl, also contended that it wasn't environmental vandalism: " This is a beautiful painting, not a random graffiti. Keep it. It is not only a picture but also a beautiful youth story—a distressed girl's heart."

A hashtag that translates as "painting a man's portrait on cliff" has been shared thousands of times on Weibo. Several polls have been carried out by different media organisations, asking users if the painting should be removed from the cliff or not. One poll from a Wechat survey suggested that 83% of people want to keep this artwork. However, another poll by Weibo suggested that 75% people wanted the artwork to be erased.

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