For Wenwen, China's youngest backpacker, the world is her kindergarten

Wenwen has been on adventures across China with her parents, Pan Tufeng and Yuan Duan, soon after she learnt to walk.
Wenwen has been on adventures across China with her parents, Pan Tufeng and Yuan Duan, soon after she learnt to walk. PHOTO: FACEBOOK/ CGTN
Wenwen has been on adventures across China with her parents, Pan Tufeng and Yuan Duan, soon after she learnt to walk.
Wenwen has been on adventures across China with her parents, Pan Tufeng and Yuan Duan, soon after she learnt to walk. PHOTO: FACEBOOK/ CGTN

She is going on six, has hiked through the Himalayas and may be going on a desert trek this year. Meet Wenwen, China's youngest backpacker.

Wenwen has been on adventures across China with her parents, Pan Tufeng and Yuan Duan, soon after she learnt to walk. She has never attended kindergarten.

At one year and three months, Wenwen started travelling with her parents, and they have now covered many parts of China, including Yunnan, Guizhou, Sichuan, Tibet and Guangdong.

She became an Internet star after photos of the spunky girl carrying her 5kg backpack went viral last year.

This month, the Pan family, who is from Shangrao in Jiangxi, is going to Laos to hike through untouched forests. In September, they plan to visit the Lop Nur desert in north-west China's Xinjiang province.

Wenwen's older brother, Boru, has taken 50 days off from school to go on the trip. He is in his second year of primary school.

His results have not suffered and he even scored 99 marks in a maths examination, Mr Pan said.

"They have been to the mountains, the seaside. They have not been to the desert. We want to let them see the desert... and know how precious water is," he told Sina.com in an interview published on Sunday (April 7).

He will get a car to back them up this time, he said, adding "I won't joke with my children's lives".

Now a seasoned traveller, Wenwen has grown since they started hiking, her father said.

"Her body is stronger. When she faces difficulties, she doesn't cry. She volunteers to do housework and when she sees rubbish on the road, she picks it up and throws it in a bin," said Mr Pan.

In an interview in the China Daily last year, Wenwen's parents said they walk for 15km to 30km a day, for about eight months a year.

During the hikes, Wenwen's meals consist of edible wild herbs and she sleeps in a tent, just like her parents do.

Wenwen's parents say they plan to keep hiking with their daughter until she starts primary school.

"I wish my child can be independent and tough, and she can adjust herself from setbacks after those hiking practice," Mr Pan said.

"I'm quite strict... When we were hiking, she cried because of blisters on the feet but she has to keep walking. I care for her but I want to train her (to face pressure). There will be bigger challenges in her future."

When Wenwen was a year old, she could not handle the long walks and sometimes needed to rest in her parents' arms. At four, she could catch up with them on her own.

Wenwen's grandma said she was initially against the tough training regimen, but that she could now see Wenwen was physically stronger and well-adapted.

Wenwen's story has attracted widespread attention online. Some think it is an innovative and better way to educate children.

A woman surnamed Fang said she agrees with the Pans' way of bringing up their children, to some extent, adding she fears her city-born child lacks gratitude and persistence.

"My child even complains it's exhausting to take the subway when I can't drive," Ms Fang said.

But others say excess physical training can hurt children, and Wenwen may be too young to remember her travels when she grows up.

Mr Pan says: "I feel that they can absorb the beautiful scenery, and the hardship on the journey will train their ability to adapt."