Wu Xingrong is one of the oldest volunteers in Shanghai.
A retired military serviceman, the 74-year-old has devoted most of his time buying and planting saplings in public spaces in the coastal metropolis, the venue for the 2010 World Expo.
Since 2002 when Shanghai won the bid for organizing the 2010 World Expo, Wu has planted more than 20,000 Chinese roses and 10,000 camphor saplings around his neighborhood and near such landmarks as the Oriental Pearl Television Tower, People's Square, and the Formula One Race Course.
Wu Xingrong breeds Chinese rose and camphor seedlines in the courtyard of his house. (photo: China Daily)
"As a Shanghai citizen, I want to do something to make our city prettier and more attractive for guests from around the world," Wu explains. "Donating and planting trees and flowers is the best thing I can do."
Almost every morning, Wu rises early at his home in the Juyuan Xinqu Residential Complex, Jiading district.
After a simple breakfast, Wu hurries out on his bicycle to inspect the saplings he has planted.
"To take care of the increasing amount of green spaces under my namesake, I've got a full schedule. But I really enjoy what I've been doing over these years," Wu says with a smile.
Spending more than three decades in the army, Wu says he had no idea how to take care of trees and flowers. He then borrowed books from a community library and began experimenting with Chinese rose saplings at a small lot owned by his relatives in Jiading district.
"Among the first batch of 3,000 saplings, 800 turned out to be successful and have continued to grow ever since," Wu says, adding that he is somewhat of an expert in planting the Chinese rose and camphor trees.
Later on, he rented lots from farmers to house the saplings after using up all of spare space at his home.
Wu's first venture started in his neighborhood. There he has donated at least 1,000
Chinese rose saplings to a senior citizen's hospice and middle schools.
His first big project began at Century Park in Pudong district, Shanghai in the summer of 2002. He planned to plant 10,000 Chinese roses for the newly built park but only used 4,000 in the end. Then, Wu turned to other public spaces in Shanghai.
"My project will eventually reach all of the 19 districts and suburban counties in the years to come," Wu says.
(China Daily February 16, 2008)