Married rangers make sacrifices for forest

(China Daily)| Updated : 2023-12-07

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Separated by their duties, couple remain dedicated to ensure safety of woodland

For more than 20 years Chen Xinbing and his wife Wang Meirong have worked as forest rangers deep in the mountains near Shiqiao township, Shandong province.

Their work at the State-owned Zhinyu Cave forest farm began after both graduated from secondary vocational school in the 1990s. Chen, now 48, secured a job at the farm in 1998 and Wang, 46, was employed there a year later.

Their shared duty of protecting the forest brought them together, and they were married in 2001.

However, due to a manpower shortage in the forest and the huge responsibility of safeguarding it, Chen lives in an observation tower perched on a mountain 600 meters above sea level. He is in charge of monitoring and ensuring the safety of over 530 hectares of State-owned forest, as well as forests located near 12 surrounding villages.

Wang, meanwhile, maintains the forest station at the foot of the mountain. Due to the distance between them and their varying responsibilities, they only see each other briefly about every 10 days when Chen comes down the mountain to replenish supplies.

During the fire season, they can go for up to two months at a time without seeing each other. For the past 22 years, the forest has not experienced a single fire or any other safety hazard, and both have been honored as outstanding forest rangers several times.

Every day, each of them patrols for more than three hours covering over 10 kilometers of mountain roads, often wearing out a pair of shoes every month.

Despite the tough work demands and living apart most of the time, they have made their marriage a success. The couple have two children. When they were very small, Wang would take them with her on forest patrols. But when the children reached school age, she entrusted them to her mother-in-law who lives in a nearby county, so that she can continue guarding the forest with her husband.

Locals affectionately call the couple "Niulang and Zhinyu", two lovers from Chinese mythology who could only meet once a year. Chen and Wang said that their attachment to the forest is eternal, and they will continue to shoulder their duties without complaints or regrets.


Left: Chen Xinbing and Wang Meirong water newly planted saplings in the State-owned Zhinyu Cave forest farm in Shandong province on Oct 30. Middle: Chen enjoys a meal during a break from his patrol in the forest farm on Aug 17. Right: Chen trims the branches of a tree on Aug 17. ZHAO DONGSHAN/YOU KUIKUI/FOR CHINA DAILY


Chen patrols the State-owned Zhinyu Cave forest farm in Shandong on Aug 17. ZHAO DONGSHAN/YOU KUIKUI/FOR CHINA DAILY


Chen and Wang have fun in the Shandong forest during their leisure time on Oct 30. ZHAO DONGSHAN/YOU KUIKUI/FOR CHINA DAILY


Left: Wang shaves Chen's head after his return from the observation tower to replenish supplies on Oct 30. Middle: Wang patrols the forest with her 5-year-old son on her back on May 14. Right: Wang washes clothes in a stream in the forest farm on Aug 17. ZHAO DONGSHAN/YOU KUIKUI/FOR CHINA DAILY