The Yangtze River Bridge in Nanjing, China, is one of the most popular suicide spots in the world, and also the place where one man has spent all his weekends and holidays over the last 13 years trying to convince people out of ending their lives. He has so far been able to save over 300 people.
Chen Si claims that he can approach and talk people out of jumping off the bridge, because he knows how they feel. Many of those who attempt to commit suicide on the Yangtze River Bridge are not actually from Nanjing, but migrant workers living far away from home. Mr. Chen was like them once, a migrant disappointed with his life, living far away from his family. But then he met an old man who offered him optimistic advice and helped him look at life in a positive way. Unfortunately, not longer after they met, the old man’s sons started arguing about their inheritance, and he got so upset that he stopped eating and eventually died. It was this tragic event that inspired Chen to help troubled souls overcome their difficulties and persuade them that life is worth living. He always believed that if he had visited the old man sooner, as he had planned to do, he might have convinced him of that as well. “What could be more important than life itself?” he asks.
So every weekend since 2003, Chen Si has been traveling 25 kilometers from his home to the Yangtze Bridge and patrolling it for hours, either on foot or on his scooter, looking for people who look like they might be thinking of jumping into the river. He pays particularly close attentions to loners staring into the muddy waters below. Chen says he has become an expert at spotting people contemplating suicide. “It is very easy to recognize,” he says. “A person walks without a soul.”