China’s Natural Wonders: The Huyang Tree (胡杨树)

When you think of China, what do you envision? The Great Wall? Or perhaps, the Forbidden Palace? Although there is a great variety of manmade marvels in China, today we will be focusing on one of the natural wonders of China: the Huyang tree.

The Huyang tree, also known as the Populus euphratica, is the only tree species known to be able to survive the extreme conditions of the desert. Its nickname—“desert hero” or “hero tree”—fittingly describes its amazing ability to endure severe cold, wind, drought, sandstorms, and salinity. Many centuries ago, the Huyang tree was found in much of western China and other areas in Central Asia; however, currently, 90% of Huyang trees are all located in China, and the great majority of these are found in the Tarim Basin in southern Xinjiang.

Why did I choose to write about the Huyang tree instead of the other natural phenomena in China? Well, at this time of the year, the foliage of the Huyang trees turn a mesmerizing gold color, with the first two weeks of October being the prime time to appreciate the bright colors that stand out against tree branches of unusual shapes and sizes. Not only has the wonder of autumn Huyang leaves impressed the massive number of tourists that visit Huyang forests each year, it has also caught the eye of famous Chinese directors: Director Zhang Yimou’s 2002 movie “Hero” and Director Wong Kar-wai’s 2008 film “Ashes of Time” both feature a magnificent backdrop of Huyang trees.

“Hero” directed by Zhang Yimou

Chinese sayings have arisen to describe the vitality of the Huyang tree, which has been heralded as an “immortal” plant. Local folks have used the following to describe what the Huyang tree means to them: “Live for a thousand years until death. Stand for another thousand years until fallen. Exist for another thousand years until rotten.” To them, the Huyang tree is a symbol of perseverance and endurance.

I hope you enjoyed learning about this amazing species of trees. If you find yourself in western China during the fall, make sure to spend some time appreciating the natural beauty of the Huyang forest. Until next time! 🙂



There are 4 comments

  1. 茱蒂


  2. Juliann L

    This article was so informative and interesting. I liked how you described Huyang trees nicely and added photos. Writing about how the residents near the tree felt about them strengthened its importance to people. It’s great how the Huyang trees can withstand any conditions, so its beauty can always be admired. Great article!

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