Gardening and forestry experts are saving a dying ancient pine in north China's municipality of Tianjin with a therapy of traditional Chinese medicine.
A landmark on Mount Panshan, a state-level scenic site in Jixian county, the old pine is called yingkesong, or "welcoming pine," because of its shape of opening arms.
The pine, believed to be 400 to 600 years old, became withered in 1997, and though rescuing measures were taken, it remained in danger of death.
Living leaves and branches could be seen only on a small part of the crown and only a width of less than 10 centimeters of the trunk was kept alive.
Led by Li Jinling, an expert dubbed "savior of ancient trees" from the Beijing Gardening Bureau, experts from Beijing and Tianjin are treating the pine in a more holistic, traditional Chinese method.
"We take the pine as a human body," said Chen Xiaokui, an expert with the Tianjin Gardening and Forestation Institute. "And in diagnosis, we not only took into consideration its symptoms, but also the impact its environment might have on it."
The diagnosis showed that the roots were dying as a result of the fluctuation of water under the stone bridge where the ancient pine roots, which meant the old tree could not get enough water, Chen said.
Worm-eating was another factor leaving the pine on the verge of death, according to Chen.
Inspired by the theory of qi, or vital energy, in traditional Chinese medical science, and in order to achieve a balance of air getting into and out of the plant roots, the experts decided to aerate the soil around the pine by digging grooves and holes to let in more air.
After deciding what nutrients the pine lacked by testing the leaves and the soil, Chinese medicine believed to be helpful for recuperation was poured into the soil for the roots to absorb.
The ancient tree was also wrapped with sacks soaked in Chinese medicine to ward off woodworms.
To prevent the old pine from falling apart, experts treated the decayed parts with special chemicals and cement.
Over 150 kilograms of branches and bark, which were made germ- free, were adhered to the withered parts to dress up the tree before its complete revival. The color of the added branches and bark is expected to last five to seven years.
The technology of rejuvenating ancient trees with traditional Chinese medicine has been used in other locations.
According to Chen, over 150 ancient trees in the Mencius Temple in Shandong Province have shot up new buds. In the Summer Palace, a summer resort for the imperial family of the Qing Dynasty (1644- 1911) in Beijing, the therapy has also been effective.
"We hope tourists to Mount Panshan in the future will be embraced by the open arms of an energetic and flourishing ancient pine," Chen said.
(Eastday.com August 29, 2003)