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Located in Chengde City, Hebei Province, Saihanba sits 450 kilometers to the north of Beijing. The place is covered with snow seven months a year. It used to be a freezing, barren desert plagued by sandstorms. However, it has been turned into the world's largest plantation that covers an area of nearly 75,000 hectares. Thus, it is called a "green miracle."
Chen Yanxian was one of the first batch of workers in Saihanba forest farm. Inspired by the story of Liang Jun, the first female tractor driver after the founding of the People's Republic of China, 19-year-old Chen and her five roommates decided to ditch the college entrance examination and take part in the construction of Saihanba.

中国河北省承德市境内的赛罕坝,位于北京以北450公里处,这是一个全年有七个月时间被白雪覆盖的地方。这块曾经寒冷、贫瘠的荒漠,饱受沙尘暴的摧残。然而,今天的塞罕坝已经是世界上最大的人工森林,占地面积近7.5万公顷。它因此也被称为“绿色奇迹”。
陈艳贤是赛罕坝机械化林场第一批林务员之一。被中华人民共和国成立后第一位女拖拉机手梁军的故事所激励,19岁的陈艳贤和她的5名室友决定放弃高考,参加塞罕坝的建设。



At the founding of the People's Republic of China, Hunshandak (Otindag) Sandy Land was a major source of sandstorms in Northern China.
The tale of "The Six Women in Bashang" is well known in this region.

新中国成立初期,浑善达克沙地曾经是威胁华北地区沙尘暴的重要来源。在这里,就流传着这样一个“六女上坝”的故事。



We were 19 years old in 1964. Liang Jun's story deeply moved us at that time, because she was the first female tractor driver in China. The six girls in our dorm all had the same goal : we wanted to be like Liang Jun, driving on our country's land with tractors, and devote ourselves to the development of our country. That's what we dreamed of.

(以下基本为六女之一的陈艳贤老奶奶的口述:)“1964年那年我们19岁。当时在那个环境下梁军的事迹非常感动我们,因为她是中国的第一位女拖拉机手。所以我们宿舍的六个姐妹,当时也有这样的理想,就是说能像梁军那样开着拖拉机驰骋在祖国的原野上,为祖国的建设贡献力量,就是我们向往的。”



Therefore, we got in a truck to take part in a massive afforestation project: the forest farm. As we were driving from Chengde City to the Bashang region, it became more and more desolate. The road was full of dirt and sand was everywhere. The trucks could easily get stuck. So it took 2 days to get to the forest farm. When we got off the truck in the Bashang region, we could see nothing but desert. Grassy marshland surrounded us and there was not a single tree. We looked at each other since none of us expected this.

“就这样坐上了林场派的解放牌卡车,从承德一直到坝上,固沙造林。当时给我们的印象真是,越走越荒凉,路就是一条土路,到处都是沙窝子,汽车走着走着就陷在那儿了。我们走了两天两夜才到达林场。到了坝上以后,我们一下汽车,展现在我们面前的,真是一片沙漠。四周围都是草甸子,什么树都没有。大家互相看着说,这个地方是咱们没有想到的。”



People doubted that this environment could ever be suitable for trees. But then they saw a single pine tree standing far away. The minister of forestry Liu Kun said, trees could definitely grow there. We built the forest farm starting from this tree.

“有很多人当时就怀疑说,这种环境根本不适合造树。后来他们考察的时候,老远看着有一棵松树,独一棵在那,林业部长刘坤就说,这坝上肯定能够造林!就是以这棵树为起点,林场才建起来的。”



We lived in a thatched house when we first arrived. The thatched house was covered by grass and built using mud. Windows and doors could not be shut completely and creaked when the wind blew. The wind in winter blew the snow into the house. You could not see anyone when you got out. But we still needed to fell the dead trees in the mountains. The men carried the saws and us women carried the hemp ropes, which were all very primitive tools. The dead trees they fell were tied up by hemp ropes and dragged down the mountain. It was like dragging a small hill. Sweat froze instantly, and rustled down as we were walking.

“我们刚到那儿,分到一个茅草房里头,那个茅草房上边都是草盖着,四边都是泥堆起来的,窗户和门都是呼扇呼扇的根本就关不严,一刮风门就哗哗的,雪都刮到屋里头了。一到冬天刮着白毛风,你出去以后根本对面都看不见人。我们要上山清理残废木,男同志要扛着大锯,我们女同志就扛着那个麻绳子,都是非常原始的工具。然后他们伐下来的残木,用麻绳捆好从山上拖到山下,那就像托小山似的。汗马上就结成冰,一走都哗哗响。”



What left the deepest impression on me was the hail that year. Due to a sudden temperature drop, rain turned into ice as it fell onto trees. We heard the trees cracking. All the small trees had been damaged. Hundreds of thousands of acres of trees were destroyed in one night. We all cried when we went up the mountain on the next day, because it took tremendous efforts to plant those trees.

“其实,对我们印象最深的,就是那年的雨凇灾害。突然的降温,雨水到了树上就结成了冰瘤子,就听着树咔咔的响,然后就把整个的小树就给压断了。几十万亩啊,整个都毁于一旦。第二天我们上山的时候啊,真的全都哭了,因为这是我们的心血嘛。”



Apart from hail, the trees were wiped out by pest plagues. We were all deeply shocked. At that time, whether it was drought or pests, humans were unable to control it. But we still tried to overcome those hardships. We kept planting, even though trees had been damaged. We kept planting, even though trees died. All we wanted to do was to grow trees on the land of Saihanba.

“不单是这种灾害,树发生虫灾以后,一宿之间就给你吃得溜光溜光的,我们都非常震惊。其实在那个年代呢,旱灾也好虫灾也好,这些灾害都不是我们人能控制的,但是我们还要靠人力去战胜它。树毁了我们接着栽,树死了我们还是要栽,就是要在塞罕坝这片土地上,要把这树栽起来,栽活。”



Our generation basically started our families in the Bashang region. As the first generation of forest rangers retired, the second and third generation took over the job and continued work on the forest farm.

“我们那一代人基本上都在坝上组织家庭了。第一代务林人退休以后,二代三代也接替了我们老一辈的工作,继续在建设这个林场”



"How old are the larger trees?" "Forty years old." "This one is about 40 years old. Those are the first batch of trees that have been planted here."

(陈奶奶和林场“后辈”的对话:)
“这粗的得多少年了?”“四十年”“四十多年呐,那就是最早栽的树”



A part of the forest was built using machines in the past, so we called it mechanized forest farm. But the trees were mainly planted by humans. Fire patrol in the past consisted of inspecting the forest with a telescope. Now, it is more modern. It uses far-infrared ray and the Beidou Navigation Satellite System. The headquarters can directly receive messages from the fire inspection building.

“当年就是因为有一部分是用机械造林,所以当时起名就叫了机械化林场。但是主要还是人工造林比较多。过去防火就是用望远镜,巡查各地的林子。现在就真是用上现代化了,远红外线啊、北斗星啊,全用上了。从望火楼上直接总厂厂部就可以收到它的信息。”



When I first arrived, it was about minus 40 degrees Celsius in winter, and sandstorms arrived in spring. Ever since the forest was built, the frost-free season extended and sandstorms disappeared. The water here is clear and the sky is blue. Therefore, more and more people come to visit Saihanba and fell in love with this land.

“刚来到这的时候,冬天都在零下四十多度,然后到春天又刮沙尘暴。但是林子起来以后,无霜期也长了,沙尘暴也没有了。这里水清天蓝了,所以到塞罕坝参观的人越来越多,也逐渐爱上了这一片土地。”



You can see, an asphalt road is connecting the factory and the forest farm now, and it only takes an hour to get from one point to the other. As time developed, the forest farm gradually merged with society. Retired workers like us want to visit Bashang again. We want to walk around and recall the happiness of when we built the forest farm from scratch.

“现在你看,从厂部到围场都是柏油路,交通非常方便,林场厂部到围场才一个多小时就到了。所以说现在随着时代发展,林场也在逐渐地和社会融洽到一起。像我们退休以后到了坝下,其实是很想回到坝上的,多看一看走一走,感受我们当年把林子造起来的那种心情。”



In the past 60 years, the three generations represented by "The Six Women" built the world's biggest human-made forest, covering 1.12 million acres. It effectively prevents the southern invasion by the Hunshandak Sandy Land, and reduced 70 percent of sandstorms in Beijing. It purifies 137 million cubic meters of water every year, fixates 747,000 tons of carbon, releases 545,000 tons of oxygen, and generates over 12 billion yuan every year.

近60年间,以“六女”为代表的三代人,造起了112万亩的世界最大人工林,有效阻滞了浑善达克沙地南侵,减少北京风沙天气七成多,每年净化水质1.37亿立方米,固碳74.7万吨,释放氧气54.5万吨。每年提供的生态服务价值超过120亿元。