China mourns death of Yuan Longping, 'father of hybrid rice'
Updated 17:10, 23-May-2021

Messages of condolences and tributes have started pouring in following the death of Yuan Longping, China's "father of hybrid rice," on Saturday at the age of 91.

The United Nations (UN) praised Yuan as a true food hero who "saved millions of people from hunger by developing the first hybrid rice strains," the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA) tweeted on Saturday. "He passed away today at 91 but his legacy and his mission to end hunger lives on."

"Deep condolences on the passing of Mr. Yuan Longping! A man who made enormous contribution to China and the world! A man who will be remembered forever!" tweeted Zhang Jun, China's permanent representative to the UN, also the rotating president of the Security Council for the month of May.

Qu Dongyu, director-general of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, honored Yuan's life on Twitter on Saturday. "He devoted his life to the research of hybrid rice, helping billions achieve food security," Qu wrote. "You were my inspiration. May you rest in peace," Qu said.

Wilson Lee Flores, a Philippine columnist, paid tribute to Yuan on Twitter, saying he was the inspiration and mentor of Henry Lim Bon Liong, pioneer of hybrid rice in the Philippines. Thanks to Yuan's assistance and advice, "Now many #Filipino #rice farmers are benefiting w/ high yield rice seedlings," Flores wrote.

Philippine Foreign Secretary Teddy Locsin Jr. retweeted Flores' post on Sunday, saying "Such men should be honored in life and in death. Gifts to humanity."

China's Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs said in a statement that the agronomist's death is a great loss to the country's agriculture. The ministry noted that Yuan's noble spirit and character will be carried forward and vowed to firmly take the initiative in food security.

"A few words will suffice to remark on Yuan's achievements: He helped the world fend off hunger," said Hu Peisong, director-general of the China National Rice Research Institute.

Spokespersons for China's Foreign Ministry also expressed condolences and recalled Yuan's contributions in a slew of tweets.

"A super star & hero passed away today. Deepest condolences to #YuanLongping! Globally renowned agronomist & Father of hybrid rice!" Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said.

"My condolences to the family of #China's famous scientist #YuanLongping, who passed away today at the age of 91. He is the Father of #HybridRice in China. He helped pull countless people out of hunger. RIP!" wrote Zhao Lijian, another Foreign Ministry spokesperson.

Read more:

A lifelong dedication to keep people fed: The life of Yuan Longping


Yuan's lifelong dedication to reducing hunger has made him a national hero in China.

People gathered outside the hospital in Changsha City, central China's Hunan Province, where Yuan passed away, to pay their respects.

"Rest in peace, Grandpa Yuan!" people were heard shouting as the hearse left the hospital at about 4 p.m.

Le Thi Huong, a student from Vietnam at the Central South University, said she was saddened by the news of Yuan's death. "Yuan Longping's hybrid rice has also been planted on a large scale in my home country, which has also brought food security to us," she said while crying. "He is a scientist who has benefited many people in the world."

On its way to the funeral home, the hearse made a detour to the Hunan Hybrid Rice Research Center located in Changsha, as Yuan's family wished he could for the last time be near his workplace, colleagues and students.

"Yuan Longping has left us precious legacies," the research center wrote in a eulogy posted on its official website, whose homepage turned black-and-white on Saturday, adding that "his name will be engraved on the vast field and printed on the hearts of the people."

Yuan once said he had two dreams – to "enjoy the cool under the rice crops taller than men" and that hybrid rice would be grown all over the world to help solve global food scarcity.

"We will turn our grief into strength and carry on his unfinished cause," the eulogy read.

(With input from Xinhua)

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