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Sirens of the Aquarium

2013-06-03 10:09 Global Times     Web Editor: Sun Tian comment

Donghu Sea World in Wuhan, the capital of Hubei Province, sees a group of young girls act as "mermaids," presenting fancy shows for the delight of the audience.

The mermaid show is the most popular of the various offerings Donghu puts on, and attracts lots of tourists, especially during weekends and holidays. As the rainbow-clad mermaids perform acrobatics, children gather at the glass to get closer as they scream with delight.

Taping the show is a must for many tourists, and a wall of screens capturing the event can be seen in the stands.

Li Qingqing, 19, is one of the mermaids. Originally working as a tour guide, she became fascinated and signed up last March.

This proved a daunting effort for Li as she couldn't even swim in the beginning. She had to learn various strokes, dives and acrobatics while meters under the surface, as well as how to deal with marine animals.

"The naughtiest creatures are the turtles. They love us, and they try to hug us as they are performing. They're not very gentle and our bodies get covered in bruises from their affections," said Li, pointing to several on her body.

The situation is the same for other mermaids. Li's colleague, 30-year-old Wang Liqin, has many scars on her feet from where she was bitten by fish.

As they are planning to have a baby, Wang's husband doesn't want her to continue the job as he feels it's not good for her health to be immersed in water so often. But without telling her husband, Wang continues to work as a mermaid in her spare time.

"We care about our job, and we are emotionally invested in everything here," she said.

Mermaid girls have various ways to protect themselves such as showers every half an hour to wash off the sea salt.

Being mermaid as a job is only suitable for younger girls, and Li is concerned that she would have no skills to make a living later. As such, she is studying how to be a dolphin trainer and a fashion buyer simultaneously, maximizing her future options.

Though exhausted, the mermaids continue to do this for the pleasure of the crowds, performing up to 20 times a day, rarely changing out of their wet clothes, and even missing a meal or two.

Despite her husband's misgivings, Wang showed off her passion at a wedding with a video about the mermaid show being displayed, with Li wistfully wanting the same thing. "When I get married, I'll play a video in which I am the mermaid. I may also get married under the sea," she said.

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