How a desert branched out to become Beijing's guardian

By ZHAO XU and LEI LEI | China Daily | 2017-08-04 08:56

How a desert branched out to become Beijing's guardian

The view across the park at sunrise. [Photo by Zou Hong/China Daily]

A family affair

Their story is familiar to Yin because she and her husband, Yang Maolin, met in Saihanba and married 42 years ago. They have two daughters and a son, who all work in the forest. One of their grandsons joined in 2012 after graduating from the same vocational school as his grandmother.

"Both of us came in 1962," Yin said, looking at her 75-year-old husband sitting beside her.

"Back then, we planted 2,000 conifer trees on every half-hectare, and in the years that followed we thinned out those that were not very healthy or had not grown straight. Now, we have 450 trees on each hectare-that provides enough room for every tree that has battled the hostility of Saihanba to become a monument of its own," she said.

At one end of the conifer forest stands a white bust, with a name and dates inscribed on the pedestal: "Wang Shanghai, 1921.4-1989.12."

"In 1964, he was our captain, the big uncle who never complained and who made us believe that this was going to work. He died of a cerebral hemorrhage in 1989, and was buried here," Yin said.

"Many old comrades have now gone, including some my own age. Deep in my heart, I mourn them almost every single day. But luckily, my husband is still here, and he has a promise to keep," she said. "When we got married in 1965, he promised that one day he would take me for a walk in the forest. He still hasn't."

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