Remembering the man who proposed Tree-planting Day in China
By Zhang Hao

On April 5th, 1916, China embraced its very first Tree-planting Day thanks to the idea proposed by Han An and two other foresters. They believed making it a national holiday helps instill the awareness to protect forests in the mind of the general public.

The proposal never came out. When Han An returned from a trip to Japan, he was saddened by the sighting of bare land and hills along the Yangtze River in comparison with Japan. The country seems to have nowhere without green. He knew it was time to use his knowledge of forestry and change the desert looking of China.

A train runs through a forest in Heilongjiang Province in China. /VCG Photo

A train runs through a forest in Heilongjiang Province in China. /VCG Photo

Han became the first in China to earn a Master Degree in Forestry in 1911. After another year study of agriculture in America, he created another "first" in his life as the first government official with a relevant science background in China back then.

In 1931, he was assigned to Harbin, the capital city of Heilongjiang in northeast China as the director of forestry bureau of Heilongjiang, Jilin and Liaoning province. There, he vigorously lashed out local government's policy to release license of logging in the forest in exchange for money. Not a single license was issued during his charge given he understood what disaster it would have happened if this uncontrollable and poorly planned logging continued. Eventually, his voice was heard and suggestion accepted by the central government, the logging license was banned. 

On top of his strong attitude to oppose any policy that may cause endless troubles to the environmental sustainability, Han An also invested great effort to encourage planting more trees on barren mountains, recovering the lost forest area used for railway constructions. 

When people were busy in strengthening the dams and diverting the floods ravaged Hebei and Shandong Province in 1917, Han has pushed the solution a step further-to build more forests along railways and dams so that the flood would be curbed from the source. This idea still prevails today to prevent flood disasters. 

Han died of brain disease in 1961.

(Cover image via VCG Photo.)