The most famous tree in China is in danger due to too many tourists visiting the site
On one of the world’s most beautiful mountains hosts one of China’s most famous trees.
A specimen of rugged, flat-crowned evergreen that may be 1,000 years old, the Greeting Pine — or Yingkesong in Mandarin — overlooks a dramatic landscape of granite peaks and mist-shrouded valleys of Huangshan, reports NBC.
The tree is so well-known, it even has a bodyguard — Hu Xiaochun, the 19th Guardian of the Pine.
“My main job is to protect and monitor the Greeting Pine every day,” Hu told NBC News.
When he's on duty, every two hours, every day of the year, Hu has to inspect the tree and log details about its condition and the local environment. He also guards the tree from squirrels and monkeys that could damage its branches, and he’s there to support it through snowstorms and typhoons.
While protecting the Greeting Pine from animals and monitoring for disease takes patience — and a high-tech motion-detection and surveillance system — Hu’s biggest challenge isn’t a vigorous animal looking for a new home. It’s getting people to leave the tree in peace.
Tourists love the Greeting Pine. They love it so much, they may be loving it to death.
“Human sweat damages the bark, and we are trying to ensure that it keeps growing naturally," Hu said.
Although Hu is supported by a team of 20 — including specialized arborists — the primary responsibility for the tree’s health falls on his shoulders.
As income levels rise, ever-increasing numbers of Chinese are starting to travel domestically. Tens of millions of tourists now flock to China’s national parks every year.
More than 3.3 million people travelled to Huangshan in Anhui Province in 2016, according to the local tourism bureau. And almost all of these visitors invariably pause for a portrait or a selfie in front of the Greeting Pine.
But the tree is in good hands. Hu Xiaochun said: “I can only protect it, and guard its life,” he said. “What I am doing here is a unique job. Guarding the pine is like guarding my family.”