When Wang Daqing followed his father to Alxa in the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region 73 years ago, they just wanted to find a place to survive. However, the area became central in Wang's crusade to create a forest in the desert.
Wang and his wife Meng Xiuying, both about 80 years old, now live in an area that boasts a forest of more than 10,000 trees. The forest has survived water shortages and harsh weather conditions near the eastern rim of the Tengger Desert.
As sturdy as their trees, Wang and his wife keep watch over this oasis from the Haosiburdu Township of Alxa Left Banner.
Born into a farming family in Minqin County of neighboring Gansu Province, Wang lived in poverty. In search of a better life, Wang followed his father, traversing the Tengger Desert in 12 days, to Alxa when he was eight years old.
In the ensuing years, Wang did odd jobs and made handicrafts. In 1960, Wang settled down in Bayanbur village of Haosiburdu township shortly after the village was established.
At that time, the major task for villagers was to plant trees and reclaim farmland from the desert. "Everybody responded to the government's call to turn the motherland greener," Wang said.
In 1983, hectares of trees they planted over the years were distributed to individuals under China's policy of household contract responsibility. The trees were soon cut down and Bayanbur village was reduced to barren land once again.
Wang was distraught, but did not give up his dream of turning the barren land back to forest.
Using an artesian well abandoned by the former production brigade, Wang began planting trees in an area of more than 3 hectares he had fenced off. He set a target to plant at least 0.06 hectares of trees each year.
It is immensely difficult for a tree to survive in the Tengger Desert as its average annual rainfall is about 100 millimeters.
Many people doubted Wang's efforts and some advised him to stop. He didn't listen. He persuaded his wife to look after the family's sheep to devote himself wholeheartedly to tree planting.
As water flowed very slowly from the well, Wang worked around the clock for days to irrigate the trees.
Wang felt content when he saw the green land grow day by day.
This year, Wang transferred the ownership of the trees to the state. Wang said he and his wife will look after the trees until they die.
(Xinhua News Agency March 14, 2006)