Even the youngest among them are over 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 bignonia.
Lin is a gardener living on the upper reaches of the 6,300-km-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 living heritage and deserve our protection," he said.
Lin is trying to transplant some ancient and rare trees elsewhere from their original location which will be submerged once the main body of the Three Gorges Project is completed by the year 2009. A 600-km-long reservoir will then be formed upstream.
The Chinese government is expected to spend over one billion yuan (US$ 120 million) in saving the cultural heritage 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 designing work while looking for the endangered ancient trees.
The local government supported his plan by offering him 13 acres of land under favorable 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 need to be wrapped with straw to avoid too much water evaporation after they are transplanted.
"The key point for transplanting is to dig out the trees at a suitable time following certain rules," said Lin, a veteran who has served in the army for more than 20 years.
Lin is still doing the transplanting on a trial base. So far, more than 230 ancient or rare trees have been transplanted in his garden.
What makes him feel proud is that he succeeded in transplanting a 1,500-year-old tree in his nursery garden.
The tree, 2.5 meters high with a diameter of 1.5 meters, weighs 1.8 tons. Lin had to ask 48 laborers to move this heavy plant to a country road nine kilometers away before it took a truck driver 13 days to transport it to the nursery garden.
Lin plans to do two more transplanting experiments this fall and next spring before he can start a massive transplanting program.
"I must be very cautious," he said, "if the transplant fails, I would then be wasting resources and committing a crime."
In Lin's eyes, a botanic museum of ancient and rare plants is taking shape in the nursery garden.
"It is our responsibility to pass on the gifts from nature to our offspring," he said.
( People’s Daily 07/29/2001)