Beijing (CNN) Some kids will do anything to get out of school. Others risk their lives to get there.
In the mountains of southwest China’s Sichuan province, children descend an 800-meter (half-mile) cliff on unsteady vine ladders to reach school. The two-hour trip is so demanding, they only return home twice a month.
Atule’er, a village of no more than 400 people, drew wide attention after the state-run Beijing News published a series of striking photos this week of 15 schoolchildren as young as 6 climbing the vine ladders –or “sky ladders,” as locals call them.
Photographer Chen Jie first heard about the village from friends, and when he learned the children would be coming home on May 14, he joined the climb, camera in hand, to capture the journey up 17 sky ladders along the rocky cliff face.
“It was dangerous enough climbing up. I can’t imagine what it would be like climbing down,” Chen told CNN.