Writer’s note: The Indians have a legend that trees hold up the sky; if the forest disappears, the sky will fall, and nature and humans will be destroyed together. In China, the expression “the unity of man and nature” has continued for thousands of years, which is essentially a philosophy of sustainable development where people and nature live in harmony. After more than half a century of management, the Saihanba plantation has been built into the world’s largest human-made plantation, which is a successful example of the construction of ecological civilization. The rebuilt Saihanba forest is a successful demonstration of successful human combat to desertification. The Saihanba is now known as “the Green Lung of North China.”
The forest of Saihanba belongs to China and the world; the plantation, rebuilt by Saihanba foresters through 60 years of continuous efforts, has been praised as “the source of the river, the hometown of clouds, the world of flowers, the sea of forests and the paradise for leisure.” The spirit of Saihanba foresters: working hard, advancing against difficulties, forging ahead, and boldly innovating, which is the precious spiritual wealth of our current society. The vast and beautiful forest of Saihanba is a vivid case of human exploration of green development, economic and environmental protection concurrently, and an important driver of the concept of sustainable development and the theory of sustainability.
The following story is folklore describing the origin of Saihanba, whose original author is unknown. Based on the folklore, I made some modifications, hoping to improve readability and fun.
Long ago, the area around Saihanba was still a vast sea, which is said to be called “Saihanhai.” On the seashore lived a family of fishermen, a hard-working couple, and an 8-year-old boy named Dakui. Although the family was not rich, they live a happy and carefree life.
One day, Dakui went to the beach as usual. Dakui was singing while collecting shells. Sometimes the birds were singing along with him, and they were like a chorus; at times, the fast-running deer accompanied them, and they all played a beautiful movement together. Just as Dakui sang and jumped at sunset while going home for dinner, he was stunned by the sight in front of him; he saw a dying little goldfish curled up in the empty fishnet.
He saw this poor little goldfish flickering in the sun, wearing a silver armor. At that moment, the little goldfish looked weakly at Dakui, flapping its tail and falling in a coma again.
The kind-hearted Dakui felt so pitiful for the little goldfish. He quickly took some sand and built a dam by the sea for the little goldfish, and temporarily built a warm and comfortable home for it. In this way, in the following days, whether there was wind, rain, thunder or lightning, Dakui would bring delicious fish and shrimp to the little goldfish after dinner every day, looking carefully after it.
Three months passed, and the little goldfish got better every day. Whenever Dakui came to deliver food, he would always play with the goldfish for a while. They established a close friendship.
One day, the little goldfish nodded at Dakui three times, looked at him with grateful eyes, and suddenly opened his mouth and said to him: “My savior, my name is Xing’an, I’m leaving now, you saved my life, but I can’t repay your kindness right now. When you have a catastrophe, just say “little white dragon-Xing’an” towards the sea three times, and I will rescue you.” The little goldfish nodded three times again, jumped into the sea, a spray of water appeared and disappeared in a fraction of a second.
The stars changed their positions, time flew like a shuttle, and 55 years passed. Dakui became an experienced and respected old fisherman, but he is also on the verge of retirement. He now has seven adult sons and a beautiful young daughter. She is 16 years old and has a beautiful name, Xuemei. The family lives by the sea, and like its ancestors, lives a carefree and happy life.
But in recent years, due to the increasing number of migrants, there are more and more people fishing at the beach, so successful beach fishing is getting harder and harder, and the family’s livelihood is in trouble. Seeing less and less fish on the beach, Dakui and the children decided to go fishing in the far sea. They built a brand-new fishing boat. Dakui’s wife was a skilled craftswoman in weaving fishing nets, so she weaved a beautiful one. On a calm day, the old fisherman took his sons to the sea. Although her mother objected, Xuemei had begged her father for many days and said she wanted to see what the blue sea truly looked like. Dakui finally decided to take her to the far sea with him.
They arrived at the endless sea. Strangely, for three days, various kinds of fish fluttered into the net like demons, and Dakui’s cabin could not fit any more fish.
On the fourth day, Dakui and Xuemei sang a joyful fisherman’s song, and together with their sons, they sailed back at full speed. At that moment, the sky suddenly darkened. In an instant, the sea seemed to be in a state of chaos with rolling clouds, lightning and thunder, wind and rain, and white waves. In the darkness, a huge wave overturned the boat. The seven sons were strong to survive, holding the side of the boat tightly, barely saving their lives, but Xuemei and her father vanished in the turbulent sea.
When the tribulation came to a head, life was suspended, and Dakui tried his best to reach the surface of the water. In despair, Dakui’s reminded suddenly what the little goldfish said to him decades ago. With tears in his eyes, he used the last weak breath to shout “little white dragon-Xing’an” towards the sea. Then, another huge wave came, and Dakui was swallowed by the waves again.
At that moment, a deafening loud noise was heard, and a white-water column rose from the turbulent sea. A column of water stood on the sky, and the turbulent seawater was brought back down to the sea like a downpour, turning over the river and the sea, breathtakingly. This white column of water circled three times in the sky and suddenly turned into a white dragon that disappeared and rushed straight down to where Dakui disappeared.
The white dragon was the goldfish that was saved by Dakui in his childhood. It turned out that the father of the little white dragon was the dragon king of the Bohai Sea. Just half a century ago, the little white dragon was ordered by his father to guard the “Saihanhai.” At that time, the little white dragon was young and playful. One day, the little white dragon was tired of staying in the Dragon Palace. He wanted to see what the world outside the sea looked like and turned into a little goldfish that swam to the beach. The more he played, the happier he was, but he forgot he had to return to the Dragon Palace within four hours, otherwise, he would lose his “original power” and lose his life.
After the little white dragon was saved, he never forgot his promise to his savior. On that day, the white dragon suddenly heard Dakui shouting his name. Knowing that Dakui was in great trouble, he rushed to rescue him.
The white dragon dived into the sea, held up Dakui, and quickly dragged the boat and his sons to the shore. Then, the white dragon quickly dived into the deep sea, but he could not find Xuemei after all the hard effort.
Dakui died. The white dragon snuggled beside him, watching his savior and wept bitterly for three days and three nights. The white dragon is a true dragon, and the source of his life comes from a gem in his mouth. If Dakui is to be brought back to life, he can only swallow the dragon’s gem, but the dragon’s life will also end, and the dragon’s sea will disappear.
The grace of a meal is unforgettable forever, not to mention the grace of saving lives. The white dragon lifted his head, and affectionately looked East. He spitted out the gem in the mouth and put it into Dakui’s mouth. Dakui’s pale face suddenly flushed, and he woke up.
Suddenly, with the blast of the sky and the earth, the vast seas of water converged into a torrent and rushed into the distant Bohai Sea. The flesh and bone of the white dragon expanded rapidly and instantly turned into a tall and straight mountain: the scales and shell of the white dragon fell like fallen leaves and turned into an endless forest.
Because the white dragon missed his father, his head stretched toward Changbai Mountain on the east coast of the Bohai Sea, and the tail flung towards the distant Qilian Mountain. Since the white dragon was called “Xing’an,” people called these boundless forests formed from the white dragon’s body the “thousand kilometer-pine forest.”
In order to eulogize the beautiful qualities of the white dragon’s knowledge on how to reciprocate gratitude, the mountain raised from “Saihanhai” was called “Beautiful highlands,” which is nowadays known as “Saihanba.”
Before his death, Dakui entrusted his sons to be helpful and kind. Dakui’s sons lived up to his expectations and became a well-known local doctor, a teacher, a lawyer, a government official, a mathematician, an artist, and a musician, and were deeply loved and respected by residents.
The story of Dakui and the white dragon moved God. The place where Xuemei disappeared was transformed into the “Taifeng Lake” by Jade Emperor; the place where the seven sons of Dakui were buried was transformed into the “Seven-star Lake.”
The cycle of the sun and the moon alternates, and things changed as time went by, 10,000 years have passed. Dakui’s children and grandchildren are spread worldwide. They have different occupations and various backgrounds, but all of them are “Sons of the forest” and have a common feeling, that is, the love of the forest and nature.
Since entering the Anthropocene, Saihanba has been degraded into a forestless desert due to wars, wildfires, deforestation and over-exploitation.
Imperceptibly and unknowably, 369 workers from different areas of the world took the lead and created 1.12 million mu of forests and planted 480 million trees through more than half a century of perseverance and hard work. If these trees are lined up together, they will circle the earth 12 times, creating the miracle of the “Desert that turns into forests,” transforming Saihanba into veritable “Beautiful highlands” again.