Tuesday, September 24

Forest Park leaves a lasting impression

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The entrance of the park.

“WE will never cover 860 acres of forest park in a month, not even using a buggy,” exclaimed a friend from Sibu as we walked slowly towards the entrance of the Fuzhou National Forest Park.

Trees in the park are properly labelled.

We only had a short time between our research to visit the famous park, also known as Fuzhou Botanical Garden, in Fujian Province.

But my cousins from the Lau Clan and their friends recently had an awesome tour of this superb nature reserve. It was all part of getting to know Fuzhou City better, at the same time, renewing bonds with relatives, apart from some field studies.

The Fuzhou National Forest Park covers a huge area of more than 800ha.

“In the old days, it was just a small park for people to walk around in, but it was a good beginning. In 1960, it was called Fuzhou Arboretum, to conserve some of the rare trees which might otherwise have disappeared from Fujian,” the tour guide explained.

She said it was already a very lofty ambition in those days when the world was just waking up to conservation of fast disappearing species.

Indeed, the initial keepers of the Arboretum did a wonderful job and by 1990, it was renamed Fuzhou National Forest Park, she added.

The National Forest Park is located at Chiqiao Village, Xindian Town, to the north of the metropolitan Fuzhou City, and is next to the Fuzhou Zoo. It has been developed to what it is today with financial support from the national government and it started spearheading the greening of the nation towards the end of the 20th century.

Early Spring mini peach blossoms.

The efforts to improve the green environment of the nation resulted in the establishment of nine magnificent national forest parks in China and the Fuzhou National Forest Park is one of them. It is something the People’s Republic of China (PRC) can be very proud of.

A local friend commented, “Once our motherland and government do something, we’ll go all out to do it well and become a leader in that field.”

The park covers an area of 860ha and is surrounded on three sides by green hills and one side by clear water, making it one of the biggest in China.

The tour guide enlightened, “It’s also the first National Forestry Park in Fujian Province and considered extremely scenic. Primarily a reserve, it showcases the local tree species of Fujian.

Young families are frequent visitors to the park.

“So since you’re from overseas and descendants of Fujian forefathers, you will know many of these trees here were common to your grandparents who lived in Mingqing, Kutien, and the interior of Fujian. Some of the trees have also been saved from the coastal areas of Fujian.

“Today, we are proud we have 2,500 or more domestic and foreign precious trees from 36 countries. I think you might recognise a camphor tree here or a gingko tree there. A camphor chest costs around US$1,000 today.”

He said the forefathers of the Foochows were particularly fond of the Fujian camphor tree (Cinnamomum camphora), a member of the laurel family (Lauraceae) – and Fujian is one of the areas with the largest number of camphor trees in the world.

“We are proud to know Marco Polo first mentioned the camphor tree during his visit to China in the 13th Century. Camphor wood chests have always been popular among the Foochows,” he added.

As trade routes spread, so did the camphor tree. Today, it flourishes not only in China and Japan and other Asian areas but also in Argentina, Australia, California, the Canary Islands, Egypt, Europe and Florida.

Comprehensive park

The park is noted for scientific research, tourism and the everyday enjoyment of local tourists.

According to the tour guide, it’s a very comprehensive park which enjoys a mild winter and cool summer.

It has a micro climate providing a special and natural green lung for the surrounding areas. Many locals come in the thousands every day to enjoy the healthy cool summer clime.

Some locals also claim they live longer if they come to the park every day – that’s why people dance or spend hours relaxing here, especially the senior citizens.

The Lau Clan members from Sibu at the Bamboo Garden.

Buggy rides are available to take the elderly along many of the routes to see the different spots. During our rides, we saw bridal groups taking photographs (even at unusual times), old people walking, and young families enjoying themselves.

Precious rare plants

This forest park collects and exhibits a variety of trees in the Fujian Province and also introduces many precious species from other areas and countries.

Amazingly, it has more than 2,500 tree species from all over the country – for example, kapok trees (also famous in Sarawak), Lombardy poplar from further up north, hoop pine from the tropical areas of China, camphor trees, Chinese pine, and gingko.

There are also many rare plants such as Chinese dove tree and the golden camellia specially planted here. The list goes on.

As suggested by the tour guide, our group visited several excursion areas – the Arbor Garden, the Bamboo Garden, the human landscape area, and the World of Birds.

Women dance in the park.

My friend, Mee Chung Ting, was most interested in the plants and the flowers, fascinated and mesmerised as she was, by the pretty blooms greeting us everywhere. It was also a good photography outing for most of us.

King of Banyan tree

Beautiful lakeside scenery opposite the King of the Banyan tree.

We saw many different palms and especially the King of Banyan tree, planted during the Song Dynasty (970–1279) when Fuzhou City started to grow many of the trees.

King of the Banyan tree viewed from a distance.

Today, the Banyan tree is the largest species in Fuzhou – shooting 20 metres skyward with a coronal of over 1,300 sq metres. Breathtakingly scenic, it’s a favourite photo-taking spot for tourists.

Bamboo Garden

This is the garden in China with the most Bambusoideae plants, totalling 226 species. Other species include the world’s five scenery trees – umbrella pine, hoop pine, deodar, golden larch, and coastal redwoods, the last of which is hailed as a ‘Mr Friendly’, sent to former Chinese Prime Minister Zhou Enlai by former US President Richard Nixon.

There are also the three ‘drink’ plants – coffee tree, cocoa tree, and tea plants – and the four street trees of the world, the Chinese 10 flowers (including 74 species of camellia), and many national flowers of other countries such as Strelizia reginae and Sakura.

Human landscape area

In this area, there are a Buddhist temple (the Zhengxin Temple), an ancient path, built in the Song Dynasty, and a provincial protected tomb of Liu Bingxin, a Jinshi (successful candidate in the highest imperial exam) and the elder son-in-law of the national hero Lin Zexu of Qing Dynasty (1636-1911).

Longtan scenic zone

Located in the northern most part of the Park, Longtan Scenic Zone typically features south sub-tropical rainforest. With high ecotourism value, it is a mysterious area with brooks and waterfalls, bizarre peaks and rocks, stone inscriptions, jungles, and springs.

Forest Museum

It is the first museum in China situated in a forest. Covering an area of 2,040 sq metres and opened to the public in 2001, it is a museum which exhibits the formation and development of law of forest and the relationship between forests and human beings by means of entities, samples, charts, models, and multimedia.

A pond teeming with thousands of different coloured koi.

Over 10,000 exhibits from 15 kinds of display fall into four main parts – animal specimens, herbariums, forest ecological landscapes, and forestry achievements.

It is a museum assembling great values of science, art, appreciation and participation, showing the diverse ecologic types, rich forest resources and substantial achievements of forestry in Fujian Province.

World of birds

This is the only bird ecological tourist attraction in Fujian Province. Occupying an area of 16,667 sq metres, it is a zone with the most bird species and the richest bird shows in China.

About 5,000 birds from 150 species are found here, including over 20 national and over 10 worldwide rare and precious species. It’s an amazing aviary with a great reputation.

It was not possible for us to complete touring the park as we are not used to walking fast like the mainland Chinese.

The park is obviously a favourite place for many Foochows. During our visit, many women from the clan were seen passing the time here, dancing under the guidance of a leader. They were a happy lot, all looking so young, so graceful, and fit.

Children enjoyed themselves as their parents admired the trees around them. It is definitely a beautiful park for all people.