From the People’s Daily app.
This is Story in the Story.
Wu Yongning was one of China’s most well-known “rooftoppers” when he fell to his death from a 62-story building in Changsha while competing in a “selfie” contest that offered $19,000 in prize money. Since then, debates have emerged over the pros and cons of such extreme activities.
After two Russians illegally scaled the Shanghai Tower in 2014 while it was still under construction and made international headlines afterwards, “rooftopping” quickly became a buzzword.
The media attention was enough to inspire international adrenalin junkies to flock to the city in hopes of ascending Shanghai's sprawling skyline.
Today, rooftopping has emerged as the latest trend among China’s hip, young thrill-seekers.
While the rooftopping demographic is growing, most of them are still foreigners while their Chinese counterparts remain a relatively small in numbers.
Today’s Story in the Story will look at China’s younger generation searches for physical and mental gratification from non-traditional forms of exercise, others have argued, especially parents, if the risks are worth the rewards.
The feet of Russian rooftopper Vitaly Raskalov dangle from the top of a skyscraper in Shanghai. (Photo: GT)
Baal.Kiy, a 21-year-old rooftopper in Shanghai, has scaled over 30 skyscrapers. He uses a pseudonym due to the illegal nature of the extreme sport.
He first started climbing less-challenging structures such as cranes, bridges, and chimneys.
"To me, the fun of rooftopping isn't necessarily about the height, it is more about the view hidden above the structure," Baal.Kiy said.
The daredevil demographic remains largely misunderstood by Chinese society.
Rooftopping in China originally attracted photographers, who climbed to the top of skyscrapers to capture unique shots.
Now, this group includes people who simply wish to challenge themselves. There are no statistics about the number of rooftoppers in China, but if social media is any indication, their numbers are growing by the day.
Extreme sports began developing rapidly in China around 1999, with parkour, rock climbing and rafting becoming popular among Chinese youth. Wingsuit flying, a sport reportedly with a 30-percent death rate, has also been trending in China recently. The more people who died while pursuing such gravity defying sports, the more popular the sports became.
Baal.Kiy runs along the edge of a rooftop of a high-rise building in Shanghai. (Photo: GT)
"Ninety-nine percent of the people in Shanghai never look up, they’re always looking down, at their phones," said Russian rooftopper “Chernobro.” He has been living in Shanghai for six years.
Luo Le, an expert in sports sociology at Beijing Sport University said, “More and more young Chinese play extreme sports, which shows that the living standards have increased, and people have time and money to pursue spiritual enjoyment.”
Many rooftoppers are from well-off families and choose the sport simply because they enjoy it.
According to Luo, old-school sports like table tennis fail to satisfy millennials.
"Just imagine, 10 years ago in this country, people thought running enthusiasts were weird," Luo laughed.
"As I understand, it is exactly because I cherish life. I cherish [life] so I play extreme sports," Baal.Kiy said, shrugging off criticism that rooftoppers do not cherish life.
For him, rooftopping is better than staying in an office for a lifetime or hanging out at KTVs.
"Young people are changing, and society is progressing. In the end, it will be our world," he said.
(Produced by Nancy Yan Xu, Lance Crayon, Brian Lowe, Elaine Yue Lin, and Grace Xinyi Song. Music by: bensound.com. Text from Global Times.)