Trees and Books

Beijing (English) - - FEATURE -

Trees ex­isted in the world for a long time be­fore hu­mans came into ex­is­tence. Peo­ple have a deep at­tach­ment to trees, which un­der­pin their very sur­vival. Books are writ­ten about trees from var­i­ous an­gles and in dif­fer­ent forms.

For more than a decade, two old men walked around Bei­jing to re­live old sto­ries about trees.

A girl liv­ing in Ky­oto stud­ied trees and learned more ev­ery day. She wrote down her thoughts and feel­ings about trees and her ex­pe­ri­ences.

A keen ob­server and a pho­tog­ra­pher worked to­gether to record var­i­ous fea­tures that dif­fer­ent trees have, train­ing read­ers to view trees with sharper eyes.

A sci-tech reporter used mod­ern sci­en­tific means to of­fer knowl­edge about trees.

An­cient and Fa­mous Trees in Bei­jing Event­ful Old Trees

Where are the re­mote an­ces­tors of old trees in Bei­jing? Why are pagoda trees and cy­presses the most com­mon trees in the cap­i­tal? Are there lin­den trees in Bei­jing? How did “liv­ing plant fos­sil” metase­quoias take root in Bei­jing? These fa­mous, rare trees are re­lated to relics, record past sto­ries and en­shrine the mem­o­ries of an­cient peo­ple. The book An­cient and Fa­mous Trees in Bei­jing con­sists of 70 ar­ti­cles in two parts. Start­ing with a back­ground cov­er­ing com­mon trees in Bei­jing, the first part in­tro­duces fa­mous Chi­nese scholar trees, fa­mous cy­presses, fa­mous pine trees, ginkgo trees, crabap­ple trees, per­sim­mon trees and other trees in Bei­jing, as well as old ju­jube trees in court­yards, an­cient and rare trees in the For­bid­den City, an­cient mag­no­lias at tem­ples, friend­ship-themed forests and com­mem­o­ra­tive trees.

The sec­ond part de­scribes the re­la­tion­ship be­tween trees, peo­ple and land, in­clud­ing an­cient ginkgo trees that wit­nessed the his­tory of Nesto­ri­an­ism, an­cient trees that heard the sigh of Cao Xue­qin (1715–1763, a nov­el­ist and poet), the Chi­nese wis­te­ria and crab ap­ple trees in the for­mer res­i­dence of Ji Xiaolan, the al­bizia tree in the for­mer res­i­dence of Liang Sicheng (1901-1972, a Chi­nese ar­chi­tect and scholar) and the per­sim­mon trees of Lao She.

The authors of this book are Mo Rong and Hu Hong­tao. They have made painstak­ing ef­forts since the late 1980s to look for an­cient and fa­mous trees in Bei­jing and looked up doc­u­ments about them. Their hard work crys­tallised into ar­ti­cles of more than 200,000 words, ex­ist­ing as valu­able ma­te­ri­als high­light­ing the cul­tural value of these trees and an­cient Bei­jing.

Compiled by the Bei­jing Gar­den­ing and Green­ing Bureau, the book was pub­lished by Bei­jing Yan­shan Press in 2014. The No­tice for the Pro­tec­tion and Man­age­ment Meth­ods of An­cient and Fa­mous Trees in Cities is­sued by the Min­istry of Hous­ing and Ur­banRu­ral De­vel­op­ment is in­cluded in its ap­pen­dices, along with other reg­u­la­tions re­lated to an­cient and fa­mous trees, mak­ing the book more rel­e­vant.

The Drop­ping of Pine Nuts En­coun­ters in Trav­el­ling

The Drop­ping of Pine Nuts is not a pop­u­lar science book. The po­etic name comes from a poem writ­ten by a Ming Dy­nasty­era poet. De­spite a sub­ti­tle that in­cludes the word “Ky­oto,” not all of the pieces are about Ky­oto. The book records the per­sonal ex­pe­ri­ences of the author when she lived in Chongqing, Bei­jing, Ky­oto and her home­town. Topics in­clude buy­ing books and read­ing, plant­ing flow­ers and clothes. The book is the crys­talli­sa­tion of her

read­ing, trav­el­ling, learn­ing and think­ing.

With sharp eyes, this sen­si­tive girl can al­ways un­der­stand and ar­tic­u­late the fine char­ac­ter of var­i­ous trees.

When read­ing the book, one will learn that Yukawa Hideki ( 1907– 1981, a Ja­panese physi­cist and pro­fes­sor) of­ten walked in moun­tains thick with pine trees, cy­presses, oaks, cedars and cam­phor trees, where well- fed birds fly in the sky. The author also vis­ited the tun­nel men­tioned in The Danc­ing Girl of Izu, where she saw a wind­ing mountain path, tow­er­ing cedars and valu­able dry wine. At Nashinoki shrine, she found a kat­sura tree with ten­der, heart- shaped leaves, which she dubbed the “Tree of Love.” The scene evoked mem­o­ries of her home­town, where per­sim­mon trees on a mountain slope bear red fruit. In the spring, the Nashinoki shrine is graced by blos­som­ing cher­ries, with snow- like fallen petals pil­ing up on the mountain. She also found flow­er­ing gar­de­nia trees seem­ing to scrape eaves, send­ing forth a sweet fra­grance. In Chongqing, she walked a long way to ar­rive at a lake­side, lis­ten­ing to her friend play­ing shakuhachi for the last time un­der moon­light.

These ar­ti­cles have been pub­lished in Peo­ple's Literature and other mag­a­zines and were compiled be­fore the pub­li­ca­tion of the book. With no sin­gle ar­ti­cle be­ing ded­i­cated to trees, one can still feel their spirit and the po­etic feel­ings in­spired by them.

See­ing Trees Dis­cov­er­ing Se­crets

Del­i­cate red maple flow­ers, sprout­ing tulip po­plar leaves and beech branches all open a new world of shapes and de­tails when they are ob­served at close range.

Nancy Ross Hugo has spent time with trees for decades and con­tin­ues to learn more about them and record her find­ings. As a gar­den writer, the ed­u­ca­tion di­rec­tor of Lewis Gin­ter Botan­i­cal Gar­den and con­trib­u­tor to sev­eral publi­ca­tions, Hugo wrote this book out of her pas­sion for words and out­door life. In ad­di­tion to mak­ing reg­u­lar ob­ser­va­tions of trees and writ­ing about her find­ings, she has come up with strate­gies to im­prove her find­ings and of­fered de­tailed de­scrip­tions of more than 10 com­mon trees, such as the but­ton­wood, black wal­nut, gingko, red maple, ev­er­green mag­no­lia and Amer­i­can white oak trees. She vividly por­trays the trees, the var­i­ous parts of their lives and their fluc­tu­a­tions over the course of the four sea­sons. One can feel the power and beauty of na­ture when read­ing this book and feel en­cour­aged to find nat­u­ral mir­a­cles that are all around, with a new per­spec­tive.

Lav­ish photos taken by Robert Llewellyn com­pli­ment Hugo’s writ­ing and en­hance the book. His pic­tures re­veal sub­tle and oth­er­wise over­looked de­tails, mak­ing leaves, flow­ers, cones, fruit, buds, leaf scars, bark and twigs more com­pelling. Llewellyn used com­pos­ites of 8–45 pic­tures of an ob­ject shot with dif­fer­ent fo­cal points. The re­sults are as­ton­ish­ingly sharp. Some rarely seen de­tails have also been cap­tured, such as the male flow­ers of tow­er­ing trees.

Llewellyn has worked in tree and land­scape pho­tog­ra­phy for more than 40 years. Pic­tures in this book come from a four-year-long tree shoot­ing pro­gramme, billed as a “hymn to the na­tive trees of Vir­ginia.”

The Se­cret Life of Trees Sym­bol of Warmth and Wis­dom

Dif­fer­ing from other science books, which may be less in­ter­est­ing, The Se­cret Life of Trees of­fers log­i­cal in­for­ma­tion, deep think­ing, po­etic writ­ing and com­pelling sto­ries about na­ture. The writer’s in­tense love of na­ture makes the book both in­for­ma­tive and po­etic.

The book traces the evo­lu­tion of trees us­ing Dar­win’s (1809–1882, an English nat­u­ral­ist, ge­ol­o­gist and bi­ol­o­gist) the­ory of evo­lu­tion­ary and ex­plains the re­mote his­tory and present dis­tri­bu­tion of trees with the aid of Wigner’s (1880–1930, a Ger­man ge­ol­o­gist) the­ory of con­ti­nen­tal drift. The book is en­joy­able to both schol­ars and laypeo­ple.

Colin Tudge (a Bri­tish science writer born in 1943) is the one and only science writer who has won the an­nual As­so­ci­a­tion of Bri­tish Science Writ­ers Award for three con­sec­u­tive years. He be­gan plant­ing saplings in his yard at age 11. He had be­come a su­perb cac­tus grower by the time he turned 18. These ac­tiv­i­ties are part of his life-long love of trees.

In The Se­cret Life of Trees, Tudge ex­plains how trees evolved, the de­vel­op­ment of their species, their growth and dis­tri­bu­tion, their char­ac­ter­is­tics and abil­i­ties to sur­vive in var­i­ous places, and how they com­pete and co­op­er­ate with sur­round­ing life­forms. The last chap­ter ex­plains the best ways for peo­ple to use trees and what trees do for peo­ple. Other books may pri­ori­tise hu­man needs and abil­i­ties. This book is not only thor­ough and in­ter­est­ing but also gives due re­spect to na­ture.

The Drop­ping of Pine Nuts

An­cient and Fa­mous Trees in Bei­jing

The Se­cret Life of Trees

See­ing Trees

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