A great grassroots leader: Yang Shanzhou
Born: January, 1927
Died: October, 2010
Occupation: Grassroots government official
Political Party: Communist Party of China (Joined in 1952)
Yang Shanzhou, male, Han nationality, was born in Yaoguan town, Shidian county, Baoshan city, Yunnan province. He spent his 22-year-long retirement planting trees on the once-barren mountains and bringing relative prosperity to the local people.
He began to work in 1951, joined the Communist Party of China (CPC) in November 1952, and retired in June 1988. He served as a leading official in Shidian for several years and was promoted to the CPC Baoshan city committee in 1966 and served as a top official there for 22 years.
He once served as a member of the CPC Yunnan Provincial Committee, a deputy to the Yunnan Provincial People's Congress and a member of the standing committee of the Yunnan Provincial People's Congress.
As he retired as Party secretary of the Baoshan city committee, he gave up the chance to lead a comfortable life in the provincial capital Kunming, and chose to plant trees on the Daliang Mountain in Shidian county.
When Yang first arrived in 1988, few families in the Daliang Mountain could afford a brick house, electricity was not available and there was little water and few trees. The lack of water meant locals had a bath just twice a month and washed with a towel in a basin of water.
At that time, Yang decided to help relieve poverty, mainly through growing trees. On Mar 4, 1988, 17 locals started helping Yang to plant trees, never imagining the work would continue for the next 22 years.
Yang used his pension to provide salaries to the 17 workers, while the local government provided an additional 70 yuan for food.
Daliang Mountain is now covered by 4,800 hectares of greenery, including 3.3 hectares of orchards and 47 hectares of tea plantation.
Apart from planting trees, Yang also called on experts to give guidance to locals about farming.
Thanks to Yang, forest coverage in Shidian jumped from 17.1 percent in 1988, to 44.8 percent in 2009. He also helped provide water to 25,000 people in 11 villages. Streams from the mountain provide water for more than 2,000 hectares of sugarcane.
In September 2009, Yang handed over the Daliang Mountain Forest to the Shidian county government, worth 300 million yuan ($45.8 million), saying he was just a local government representative and he was returning the mountain to its original owner.
When Yang died of lung cancer on October 10, 2010, he left behind just 40,000 yuan ($6,111), only enough for the funerals of his wife and himself.
"Keep one half for my wife's funeral. I don't want to trouble others and that's all I have," he said in his will.