Saihanba
Champions of the Earth
On Dec 5, 2017, Saihanba Afforestation Community was awarded UN's highest environmental honor, the Champions of the Earth Award. 
Covering 92,000 hectares, Saihanba is China's largest forest. Its northern boundary borders the southern edge of Inner Mongolia autonomous region.


Saihanba means "beautiful highland". Around the 10th century, the rulers of the Liao Dynasty (916-1125), an empire founded by horseback people in North China, declared it a royal hunting ground.
The forests and grasslands dotted with plateau lakes flourished during the mid-17th century.  
Emperor Kangxi of the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) was so fond of Saihanba that he made hunting there a royal ceremony. 
He once killed 318 rabbits in a single day.
In 1860, a shortage of funds put the breaks on royal hunting tours, prompting the reigning emperor to open the land to the public.
Logging and wild fires gradually wiped out the forest and grassland.
 
By the 1950s, the beauty of Saihanba had vanished. 
 
The "the tree of honor" in the photo inspired Chinese scientists to recreate a national forest in Saihanba. In February 1962, the plans were drawn up.
More than 120 forestry graduates joined 242 locals in Saihanba to begin working on rebuilding a green haven.
Over the next 55 years they overcame countless difficulties and setbacks to continue planting trees.
By 1982, the area under cultivation was estimated to be 63,000 hectares. The area is now 68,000 hectares.
 
This small cottage was home to first generation tree-planters. They lived on pickles, dried buns and melted snow.
 
Technicians check the growth of larch cones.  

Their children are continuing their work and have introduced new species of trees.
Zhang Sheng, 81, moved to Saihanba to work in 1962 and raised his family in the region.
 
Eight of his relatives followed his footsteps to work in forestry.
A forest ranger shows his journal of daily patrol.

Many children of the original tree-planters are continuing their work, planting more trees and protecting the forest.
Firefighters patrol the forest. In the past 55 years, no forest fires have broken out.
Fire watchers Liu Jun and his wife, Qi Shuyan, have been keeping an eye on the Saihanba National Forest for 12 years.

Suffering from loneliness and hard living conditions, fire watchers are stationed at nine fire watch towers called Wang Hai Lou.
Today, the tree of honor is surrounded by beautiful grassland and flowers, rather than desert.

Chinese people have created a wonder in Saihanba in the past half-century.
Saihanba, a green wonder
Qixing Lake in Saihanba
Saihanba in morning mist
Happy children in Saihanba
Have fun in Saihanba
Saihanba, a good place to shoot photos
By bus: From the Liuliqiao Bus Station in Beijing, take a bus to Weichang county in Chengde in Hebei province. Take a bus or taxi to the Saihanba National Forest Park once you are in Weichang.
How to get there...
By train: Take Train K1189/K4125/K978 from Beijing Railway Station and get off at Siheyong, a 7-11 hour trip. From Siheyong, take a bus to Weichang. Take a bus or taxi to Saihanba once you are in Weichang.
Editor: Li Hongrui
Design: Li Hongrui, Liu Fang 
Copyedit: Rosemary Bolger, Gu Xin
Executive producer: Feng Minghui
Photo by Zhao Xu, Zou Hong
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