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The mountain queen

Updated: 2012-12-05 10:08
By Xu Wei ( China Daily)

The mountain queen

Zhang Jiao has lived in the mountains of Beijing's Yanqing county since 1994 and has devoted her life to reforesting the once-barren alpines. Provided to China Daily

A millionaire has given up her fortune and 17 years of her life to restore a barren alpine range. Xu Wei reports.

Related: Restoring fertility

Zhang Jiao became known as the "mountain queen" because of her determination to protect the flora and fauna in her kingdom - an afforested range of alpines in Beijing's Yanqing county.

She has restored several thousand hectares of barren mountains to lushness.

This deed has come with a high price, though.

The former millionaire is in debt. And her work in the mountains has taken a toll on her health.

The 36-year-old Beijinger leased the mountains in 1994 and spent the following years restoring it.

She was still a teenager and knew nothing about agriculture when she undertook this task.

"It's perhaps true that success can belong to the foolish," she says.

Zhang was born to a wealthy traditional Chinese medical doctor. But everything changed when her father abandoned the family for another woman when she was 11. He took the family fortune with him.

She quit school at age 11 and a few years later joined the "gold rushers" - produce resellers, all of whom were much older than her.

"The lack of information among places made it easy to earn money then," she recalls.

"You could buy in one place and resell at a much higher price elsewhere."

However, she spent less time working than traveling and mountaineering.

She spent three months during her first visit to Yanqing in 1994.

She hired several hunters who were in their 60s to guide her and tell her what the hills used to be like.

"Their tours sparked my interest," she says.

"They told me it was getting harder to gather firewood because the trees were disappearing. They also said hunting had been easy decades ago, when there were many animals, ranging from roe deer to rabbits."

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