CHENGDU, Jan. 26 (Xinhua) -- At the end of a single access path just a meter wide with a dizzying drop on one side lies a forgotten world -- a settlement for some of China's leprosy sufferers established in 1963.
The creators planned its isolation so well that after more than four decades the original inhabitants of Abuluoha village and their children have never ventured back to the outside world despite being free of the disease for many years.
But for Lin Qiang, a 53-year-old education official in Sichuan Province, they might have remained forgotten and unnoticed for decades more.
People nearby know of Abuluoha, but few dare to go there because the inhabitants are either leprosy patients or the children of leprosy patients.
The disease is infectious and chronic, characterized by ulcers of the skin, bone, and internal organs, leading to a loss of sensation, paralysis, gangrene and deformation.
The local Yi ethnic minority, horrified by the severe pain and suffering caused by leprosy, used to drive out the victims, forcing them to live in remote mountains. In some cases, they burned or buried them alive or drowned them.
In 1963, the local government built a medical camp in a valley in Butuo County of Liangshan Yi Autonomous Prefecture, where they gathered all the leprosy sufferers from nearby villages.
That was Abuluoha, and the villagers were prisoners of the outside world's fear despite the fact they had all been cured. They scratched subsistence from the land around the settlement.
When Lin first visited in 2005, Abuluoha had no communication with the outside world.
Lin, an education division director in charge of sports, healthcare and art, first heard of the "leprosy village" during a work trip to Butuo County in 2003.
He became curious, but local people turned down repeated requests to guide him there.
A year later, Lin returned, but still no one dared to lead him.
His persistence was rewarded in 2005 when one man finally agreed.