After retiring, former government official Yang Shanzhou spent 22 years planting trees and bringing relative prosperity to a small town in Yunnan province.
File photo shows Yang Shanzhou looking at a tree. [Photo/Xinhua]
Yang, 60, first arrived in his hometown in 1988 and Life began to improve soon after as he retired as Party secretary of Baoshan municipal committee.
At that time, few families could afford a brick house, electricity was not available and there was little water and few trees on Daliangshan Mountain. The lack of water meant locals had a bath just twice a month and washed with a towel in a basin of water.
Yang decided to help relieve poverty, mainly through growing trees. On Mar 4, 1988, 17 locals started helping Yang to plant trees, never imagining the work would continue for the next 22 years.
Yang used his pension to provide salaries to 17 workers, while the local government provided an additional 70 yuan for food.
Daliangshan Mountain is now covered by 4,800 hectares of greenery, including 3.3 hectares of orchards and 47 hectares of tea plantation.
Apart from planting trees, Yang also called on experts to give guidance to locals about farming.
Thanks to Yang, forest coverage in Shidian jumped from 17.1 percent in 1988, to 44.8 percent in 2009. He also helped provide water to 25,000 people in 11 villages. Streams from the mountain provide water for more than 2,000 hectares of sugarcane.
In September 2009, Yang handed over Daliangshan forest to Shidian county government, worth 300 million yuan ($45.8 million), saying he was just a local government representative and he was returning the mountain to its original owner.
When Yang died of lung cancer on Oct 10, 2010, he left behind just 40,000 yuan ($6,111), only enough for the funerals of his wife and himself.
"Keep one half for my wife's funeral. I don't want to trouble others and that's all I have," he said in his will.
Yang Shanzhou works in his office in Daliangshan Mountain in this file photo. The photo was taken in 1996. [Photo/Xinhua]