For the past three decades, two generations of Yang Jiashou's family have lived far from urban areas. Yang, his son, Yang Zilu, and their relatives have helped protect the forests on the mountains in Southwest China's Yunnan Province. Yang Jiashou and Yang Zilu have shouldered the responsibilities of reporting forest fires and preventing deforestation. With their family members, they remain determined to safeguard the mountains and forests in Yunnan.
Ganxiantang Watchtower was built in 1993, on a mountain in the border area of western Chengjiang and Jinning District of Kunming, in Yunnan Province. Yang Jiashou and Yang Zilu have lived in the watchtower. The watchtower is an important observation site for safeguarding tremendous areas of forests in the west of Chengjiang. While standing on the top of the watchtower, one can notice, timely, if there is a fire anywhere on 2,100 mu (140 hectares) of the forest region.
During the early years after Ganxian tang Watchtower was built, workers lived in a mere 40-square-meter space, on the ground floor. There was no electricity or running water. The nearest residential community was more than 10 kilometers away. The road to the top of the mountain was difficult to walk. It was almost impossible to transport supplies to the watchtower during bad weather. Due in part to the extremely hard living conditions, it was not easy to find people willing to work in the watchtower. Yang Jiashou was an exception.
During the 1990s, Yang Jiashou carried a sickle and a bag, and he moved into Ganxiantang Watchtower with his wife. At that time, mostly seedlings were growing near the watchtower. When the couple patrolled the area around the watchtower, they also planted some trees on wasteland and/or on the hills. They also helped with pest control, to protect the trees. Yang Jiashou worked deep in the mountain for 15 years. Countless seedlings grew up. The mountain, covered by forest, has become a "green treasure" cherished by Yang Jiashou — from the bottom of his heart.
If the couple needed supplies (goods for daily use), they would walk to their house, located 10-plus kilometers away, and they would carry the supplies back to the watchtower. Before the watchtower had electricity, they burned rosin for light during the evening. Before they had running water, they fetched water from the foot of the mountain, three kilometers from the watchtower. Over the years, Yang Jiashou has fallen many times while patrolling the forests. As he grew older, he realized it was time for his son to help protect the mountains and forests.
During the spring of 2009, Yang Jiashou asked Yang Zilu to accept a special task: Work at Ganxiantang, and help safeguard the mountains and forests. Yang Zilu was familiar with life on the mountain, and so he accepted the task, without hesitation. Yang Zilu's wife, Lu Yunlian, supported her husband's decision to relocate to Ganxiantang Watchtower. "If my husband decides to work in the mountain, I will accompany him. I can cook while he patrols the mountain, and I will wait for him to return to this watchtower. We can eat together, so we won't feel lonely," Lu says.
Yang Zilu begins patrolling the mountain at 10 a.m., after he finishes breakfast. After 5 p.m., he normally returns to the watchtower. While he works, Lu stays at the watchtower and monitors for fires. They also promote fire safety and forest protection among the local residents.
Yang Zilu's daughter, Yang Huiming, has witnessed her parents' hard work since she was a primary school student. When her father was patrolling the mountain, her mother stayed home to look after her. Yang Huiming learned to take care of herself, so her mother could devote some time to helping Yang Zilu with his work. Yang Huiming was able to live independently when she was in middle school. Thanks to their daughter's understanding, Yang Zilu and Lu were able to better concentrate on their forest-protection work.
"I received the task of working in the watchtower from my father. My wife fully understands me and supports me, so I can continue this task," Yang Zilu says. Adds Lu: "We do not earn a high income from this job. But I believe our life will be better."
Nowadays, Yang Zilu and Lu use their spare time to breed bees, grow carrots, potatoes, corn and other crops, and raise livestock and poultry. All of those activities have helped them increase their income.
Yang Huiming has graduated from college. She sometimes visits her parents, and helps them with their work.
As he stands on the top of the watchtower and looks through a telescope at the vigorously growing pine trees, which were planted by his parents, Yang Zilu smiles happily. He has adhered to his parents' aspiration of working at Ganxiantang to help safeguard the forests, which will benefit future generations. Given the selfless dedication and hard work of many people, like the Yangs, the forests in Chengjiang are becoming more and more beautiful. In May last year, Yang Zilu's family was named a National Most Beautiful Family.
Photos Supplied by Yunnan Women's Federation
(Source: The Department of Family and Children's Affairs of the All-China Women's Federation/Women of China English Monthly May 2023 issue)
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