Trees Breath­ing with the City

Beijing (English) - - FEATURE -

Trees can be seen as sto­ry­tellers nar­rat­ing Bei­jing’s his­tory as an an­cient cap­i­tal. This year, the Bei­jing Gar­den­ing and Green­ing Bureau launched a pro­gramme to choose the “Top 10 Tree Kings in Bei­jing.” Rep­re­sen­ta­tives from the ori­en­tal ar­borvi­tae, Chi­nese ju­niper, Chi­nese pine, white bark pine, Chi­nese scholar tree, gingko, elm, ju­jube tree, mag­no­lia and cherry ap­ple tree species are the can­di­dates. Each an­cient and fa­mous tree in Bei­jing stands proudly for the com­pe­ti­tion.

Two de­scen­dents of an­cient lilacs that orig­i­nally grew at the Ji­etai Tem­ple dur­ing the Qing Dy­nasty (1644–1911) were planted at Yuan­mingyuan, adding orig­i­nal colours and fra­grances to the gar­den and evok­ing mem­o­ries of past dy­nas­ties.

A grow­ing num­ber of fam­i­lies are will­ing to adopt trees as “fam­ily mem­bers.” This is an­other im­por­tant form of adop­tion. Peo­ple and trees in­habit dif­fer­ent spaces but breathe un­der the same sky and have a re­la­tion­ship re­gard­ing their oxy­gen and car­bon diox­ide in­take and out­take.

Top 10 Tree Kings

Among the 40,000 an­cient and fa­mous trees in Bei­jing from 65 dif­fer­ent species, which will stand out as the “Tree Kings”?

From Au­gust 17 to Septem­ber 8, 30 can­di­date trees will be listed on of­fi­cial web­sites and Weibo and Wechat (Chi­nese so­cial me­dia plat­forms) ac­counts and can be voted on by the pub­lic. Ten trees will stand out as the fi­nal win­ners. The re­sult will be listed on the web­sites, and the win­ners will be hon­oured with cer­tifi­cates from the bureau.

The pro­gramme be­gan this spring. It will choose can­di­dates from the ten above-men­tioned species. One tree will be cho­sen from each species.

The 10 species were not nec­es­sar­ily

cho­sen from ex­ist­ing lists. Ac­cord­ing to an of­fi­cial from the bureau, many of the 65 species from the species-se­lec­tion round are very small in num­ber. For ex­am­ple, there is only one Cu­dra­nia tri­cus­p­i­data and only a few Catalpa speciosa trees in Bei­jing. The 10 can­di­date species are large in num­ber and well-known, which makes the pro­gramme more pop­u­lar.

A “Tree King” can­di­date has to meet the fol­low­ing con­di­tions. First, it must have been reg­is­tered with, filed and marked by mu­nic­i­pal and district ad­min­is­tra­tive de­part­ments for an­cient and fa­mous trees. Its trunk should bear a spe­cial red or green plate. Red plates are for Class A trees, in­di­cat­ing an age of more than 300 years. Green plates are for Class B trees, sig­ni­fy­ing that a tree is 100–300 years old. Sec­ond, a can­di­date should have rich his­tor­i­cal and cul­tural sig­nif­i­cance, as well as pop­u­lar­ity. A “Tree King” has to be a whole tree grow­ing in a nat­u­ral en­vi­ron­ment. Other re­quire­ments in­clude favourable: girth, height, crown spread and other growth in­di­ca­tors; cul­tural rich­ness; the de­gree of rar­ity; pro­tec­tion value; shape; and age.

Can­di­dates are rec­om­mended by gar­den­ing and green­ing de­part­ments from each district, with each in­sti­tu­tion rec­om­mend­ing no more than 10 trees. Cit­i­zens can also rec­om­mend el­i­gi­ble trees to gar­den­ing and green­ing de­part­ments in their dis­tricts. “Tree King” ap­pli­ca­tions in­volve list­ing growth in­di­ca­tors, the growth process, changes, sto­ries, le­gends and his­tor­i­cal records. Pic­tures of the trees in dif­fer­ent sea­sons and from dif­fer­ent an­gles have to be pro­vided also.

After the ap­pli­ca­tion round, a spe­cial ex­pert com­mit­tee ap­praises the can­di­dates. The ap­praisal fol­lows both quan­ti­ta­tive and qual­i­ta­tive ap­proaches. Quan­ti­ta­tive ap­praisal in­volves height, crown, girth and other tan­gi­ble in­di­ca­tors. Qual­i­ta­tive ap­praisal is re­lated to his­tor­i­cal and cul­tural con­tent, pro­tec­tion value, shape and age. The top three can­di­dates of each species with the high­est scores be­come short­listed for pub­lic votes. All pre­vi­ous stages are now com­plete and voting is cur­rently un­der­way.

The pur­pose of the pro­gramme is to pro­mote the pro­tec­tion of an­cient and fa­mous trees, carry for­ward rel­e­vant cul­ture, ad­vance eco­log­i­cal con­ser­va­tion and en­hance pub­lic aware­ness.

An­cient Lilacs Re­turn­ing Home

It is not a jour­ney but a “home­com­ing.”

This spring, two de­scen­dents of an­cient lilacs that orig­i­nally grew at the Ji­etai Tem­ple dur­ing the Qing Dy­nasty were trans­planted to Yuan­mingyuan. The blos­som­ing lilacs add in­ter­est­ing and en­chant­ing de­tail to Yuan­mingyuan.

Records show that many lilac trees had been planted at Yuan­mingyuan. Em­peror Qian­long (reign: 1736–1795) loved lilacs so much that he wrote many po­ems prais­ing these flow­ers. An­cient lilacs at the Ji­etai Tem­ple came from Yuan­mingyuan. When Em­peror Qian­long vis­ited the Ji­etai Tem­ple for the first time, he wanted to add some colour to the fo­liage in the area. He com­mis­sioned 20 lilacs from Yuan­mingyuan to be trans­planted to the tem­ple.

The Ji­etai Tem­ple now abounds with lilacs, among which more than 20 are more than 200 years old. Only two lilacs are this old at the Palace Museum’s im­pe­rial gar­den.

The two lilacs that were trans­planted this year are more than 30 years old. They have a girth of around 10 cen­time­tres and a height of about 2.5 me­tres (m). They were good can­di­dates to be trans­planted. More lilacs will be trans­planted to Yuan­mingyuan and form spe­cial scenery for visi­tors.

Build­ing a Green City

The De­ci­sion on Na­tional Vol­un­teer Tree Plant­ing was is­sued by the Stand­ing Com­mit­tee of the Na­tional Peo­ple’s Congress in 1981. Peo­ple have shown strong par­tic­i­pa­tion in the ef­fort ever since. Saplings planted many years ago have grown into tow­er­ing trees, pro­vid­ing cool­ing shade in Bei­jing’s sub­urbs. As of 2017, peo­ple have par­tic­i­pated 96,888,000 times and planted 203,000,000 trees. This has made for a pleas­ant at­mos­phere in Bei­jing.

In 2018, Bei­jing plans to plant 1,000,000 trees and nur­ture 11,000,000 saplings. The city’s dis­tricts have es­tab­lished 20 re­cep­tion ar­eas for vol­un­teer tree plant­ing, with a goal of af­forest­ing more than 107 hectares (ha) of land. The 20 re­cep­tion ar­eas are lo­cated in 12 dis­tricts and at two tree farms and each fea­ture a tree plot.

As waste­land suit­able for tree plant­ing dwin­dles, more tree-re­lated pro­grammes are be­ing ex­plored to meet peo­ple’s en­thu­si­asm. Since 2010, the Cap­i­tal Green­ing Of­fice has of­fered 18 af­foresta­tion pro­grammes, such as adopt­ing forests and green­belts, con­serv­ing green­belts, pur­chas­ing car­bon sinks and ear­mark­ing money for af­foresta­tion. Plant­ing new trees and con­serv­ing old ones are both im­por­tant tasks. Adopt­ing an an­cient tree is sim­i­lar to plant­ing 50 trees, be­cause few will make it that age.

Tree plant­ing has to be done at spe­cific times, but cit­i­zens can adopt forests and green­belts at any time of the year. They can also adopt lawns, ar­bours, flow­er­ing shrubs, fruit trees and even rare, an­cient trees. Peo­ple who have ex­pe­ri­ence with gar­den­ing and hor­ti­cul­ture can man­age trees and green­belts them­selves. Oth­er­wise, they can do­nate the adop­tion fees and en­trust them to gar­den­ing and green­ing de­part­ments. Adop­tion costs vary based on the con­tent and growth con­di­tions of the ar­eas. An­cient trees have the high­est cost.

This year, Bei­jing has es­tab­lished 32 re­cep­tion ar­eas for adopt­ing forests, 27 for adopt­ing an­cient and rare trees, and 31 for green­belts. Nearly 700,000 trees, 745 an­cient trees and 2,170,000 square me­tres (sq.m) of green­belt area are avail­able for adop­tion. There are also 22 re­cep­tion ar­eas for group cul­ti­va­tion, of­fer­ing 1,067 ha of land. Cit­i­zens can en­gage in vol­un­teer wa­ter­ing, white­wash­ing, weed­ing and waste re­moval. Some lo­ca­tions that of­fer these pro­grammes all year round in­clude: Bei­jing Gongqing For­est Farm, Li­uhezhuang For­est Farm, Jingxi For­est Farm and Badal­ing For­est Farm.

This year, on­line book­ing ser­vice is pro­vided for the first time, mak­ing the pro­gramme more ci­ti­zen-friendly. The “Bei­jing Ci­ti­zen Vol­un­teer Tree Plant­ing Web­site” is cur­rently be­ing de­bugged.

Tra­di­tional build­ings nes­tled in trees

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