The youngest among them is more than 200 years old. But to Lin Keyu, 42, they are all his precious "children": the sweet-scented osmanthus, the camellia, the yew podocarpus and the bignoniad.
Lin is a gardener living on the upper reaches of the 6,300-kilometre-long Yangtze River, China's longest, on which the world's largest hydropower project is being built.
"Plants in this area have their own characters. Like other cultural relics, they are a living heritage and deserve our protection," he said.
Lin is trying to transplant some ancient and rare trees elsewhere, as their original location will be submerged once the main body of the Three Gorges Project is completed by the year 2009. A 600-kilometre-long reservoir will then be formed upstream.
The Chinese Government is expected to spend more than 1 billion yuan (US$120 million) in saving the cultural treasures along the section to be inundated.
An idea came into Lin's mind one day when he was standing by the Yangtze River last year: Why not build a nursery garden for these ancient trees and boost eco-tourism in the Chongqing Municipality in Southwest China?
Lin raised 300,000 yuan (US$36,100) to start a horticultural company. He undertook some gardening and design work while looking for the endangered ancient trees.
The local government supported his plan by offering him 5.3 hectares of land under favourable conditions.
"We hope there will be more individuals and social groups getting involved in this rescue action," said a local official.
Having studied in a horticultural school in Chongqing four years ago, Lin knew that different trees require different methods of transplanting so that the roots do not rot. The trunks also must be wrapped with straw to avoid too much water evaporation after they are dug up.
"The key point in transplanting is to dig out the trees at a suitable time following certain rules," said Lin.
Lin is still doing the transplanting on a trial basis. So far, more than 230 ancient or rare trees have been transplanted to his garden.
(Xinhua News Agency 08/06/2001)