She and her late husband Li Zin, who died 17 years ago, kept four of the children and passed the others onto friends and family to start new lives.
Her youngest son Zhang Qilin – now aged just seven – was found in a dustbin by Lou when she was 82.
‘Even though I was already getting old I could not simply ignore the baby and leave him to die in the trash. He looked so sweet and so needy. I had to take him home with me,’ she said.
‘I took him back to our home, which is a very small modest house in the countryside and nursed him to health. He is now a thriving little boy, who is happy and healthy.
‘My older children all help look after Zhang Qilin, he is very special to all of us. I named him after the Chinese word for rare and precious.
‘The whole thing started when I found the first baby, a little girl back in 1972 when I was out collecting rubbish. She was just lying amongst the junk on the street, abandoned. She would have died had we not rescued her and taken her in.
‘Watching her grow and become stronger gave us such happiness and I realised I had a real love of caring for children.
‘I realised if we had strength enough to collect garbage how could we not recycle something as important as human lives,’ she explained.
‘These children need love and care. They are all precious human lives. I do not understand how people can leave such a vulnerable baby on the streets.
Lou, who has one biological daughter, Zhang Caiying and now aged 49, devoted her life to looking after the abandoned babies.Word of her kind-hearted gestures has now spread in China, where thousands of babies are abandoned on the streets by their poverty stricken parents.
One fan explained: ‘She is shaming to governments, schools and people who stand by and do nothing. She has no money or power but she saved children from death or worse.’
‘In the local community she is well known and well respected for her work with the abandoned babies. She does her best. She is a local hero. But unfortunately there are far too many abandoned babies in China who have no hope of survival.
Only last week there was news of a baby lucky to be alive after having its throat cut and then put in a plastic bag and thrown in a dustbin at Anshan city, in northeast China’s Liaoning province.
The baby – a girl – was thought to be a victim of the country’s one child policy where parents restricted to only having a single child prefer boys and girls are unwanted and often discarded.
Infanticide of ‘guilt children’ is still a problem in rural areas but it is rare in cities, where children are usually abandoned but not killed.The baby’s fate has horrified China. The tot was spotted when a passerby went to throw some rubbish in the bin the and saw what he thought was a dead baby in the bag.
He told police that the child was purple and had not moved until he examined the bag more closely.
A resident who witnessed the girl being taken to hospital said: ‘She was still breathing and had a heartbeat. Blood from the wound stained the whole body.’
Doctors said that if the baby had been left in the bag a few minutes longer she would have died of suffocation and it had already been affected by the lack of oxygen hence the purple colour.
They said that the baby had been born premature and was probably between 32 and 34 weeks old and weighing just 1.4 kg.
A medic said that if the cut had been just a millimetre deep in the baby would have died.