UW-Sichuan Retreat to the
Wolong Nature Reserve
12:23AM        September 1, 2004        Location: Roberts Lab        Music: "Games Without Frontiers" by Peter Gabriel
The trip to Wolong was a most unforgettable experience (aside
from getting sick). Along the way, we teamed up with Chinese
students who are planning to come to the UW next year and
study. Based on our personal interests, we selected from 5 topics
on which we were required to gather data and complete a
project based on our findings as we traveled from urban
Chengdu to the rural regions of Wolong. Naturally, I teamed up
with the vegetation group to survey the gradient from urban to
rural and also the change in vegetation as we increased in
Wangcong Temple in Pi Xian
Our first stop was a temple garden in Pi Xian called Wangcong
Ci. The gardens had some classical features with the moon gate,
pagodas, and Tai Ho rocks centered among several vignettes in
each garden room, but the most fascinating aspect of this
landscape was the vivid scenery created by the naturalistic
planting style that seem to carry on forever yet it was somehow
carefully constrained to give a sense of subtle security as you
wandered the garden. The temple and island pagodas surrounded
by lotus were a stunning views and focal points enhanced by the
scent of incense and the wonderful fragrance of Gardenias and
Osmanthus that permeated the soothing warm air. I felt that this
was my starting ground as I define my project on Public Gardens
of Sichuan.
Dujiangyan & Yulei Shan
Our next most significant stop was Dujiangyan, a famous irrigation project, where
we stopped at a "tourist temple" to have lunch. OOOOhhh my gosh, did I tell you
about our lunches?? Good grief, IT WAS THE SAME FOR THE NEXT FOUR
DAYS and consisted of 2 sticks of "vienna sausage in a tube", a package of
crackers interestingly called "Shine My Tree", a Chinese twinkie with orange foam
inside, a 100 or 1000 year old egg (no matter how old, it was too old!), a package
of pickled vegetables, an apple, and a cheap TANG wannabe to drink aside from
bottled watered. Again, THE SAME LUNCH FOR THE NEXT FOUR DAYS!
Hey, it was food, I know...but...oh man..even Professors from both Sichuan
University and U-Dub were getting sick of it. Other than this, we had a lot of
interesting food during our retreat.
So after lunch, we walked and hiked up Yulei Shan. This is
where the plant craze began: As we walked up..boom boom
Epimedium, Athyrium, Arisaema, Phoebe, more
Epimedium, and, of course, Iris japonicum was the dominant
herb on this mountain. It was amazing! We busted out the
measuring tape to do a plot to survey the vegetation. We
counted the number of tree species and took their DBH
(diameter at breast height), counted the number of shrub species,
and selected one dominant herb (I. tectorum). Finding the
diversity of other plants I saw, I immediately wanted to collect,
but I knew I didn't have permission and the plant species I
wanted to get were either not fully ripened (
Arisaema) or
completely passed fruiting (
Epimedium and Iris). I wasn't
bummed, we had 4 more days of "data collecting" left.

Ok everyone, I'll leave it at that for now. It's 1:30AM,
mosquitoes are biting and it's another busy day tomorrow:
getting our registration through, apply for our resident cards,
ID's, etc. and some more errands prior to dinner with Dan
tomorrow night.

10:07 PM        September 2, 2004        Location: Roberts Lab        Music: "Joyride"  by Roxette
Ok, last time I left you guys, we were at Yulei Shan and I was ranting on about my excitement over the diversity of plants on one hillside as we
conducted our plot survey.

So we finished our survery, gathered our data and rushed down the mountain
so we could reach our next destination. I HATED being so rushed from place
to place. As other students suffered and complained about how pointless this
all was, I was trying to soak it all in.

"Dude, Riz, cool it man...we gotta keep going yo!"

I was ALWAYS the last one back when the group reconvened before boarding the bus. I bet I pissed a few people off, but I kept a smile on my
face, apologized for delaying the group, and just went on with the trip. Dr. Steve Harrell, professor of Anthropology, has been a great encourager
throughout my explorations when I'd stray from my vegetation group if I'd encounter a interesting plant. Even though I'm still a bit intimidated by this
man who speaks like 7 different languages and works with all the honor students....I feel like the only intelligent thing I can talk to him about is plants.
He thinks of me as this botany genius who can ID the specimens an earlier group collect in Yangjuan ( a rural village where many students are doing
their research). I can do my best, but I don't have the keying experience to get them right down to species.
Longchi Town and The Zipingpu Dam
So yeah, on to Longchi Town and the Zipingpu Dam. This was an interesting site to visit because we had a chance to interract
with people whom are among a few at are being forced to find new places to live as the town is quickly disappearing due to to
the dam's construction and their quaint little town is expected to be flooded by 2006. The people live such quiet, peaceful lives, it
was a shame to see their land disappear, but the mindset seemed to be that the Dam will provide a better water supply for
irrigating farms, neighboring cities, and, of course, generate power to areas in need of it. A true turning point in the economy of
Sichuan. Sad to see small towns sacrificed for all this though. PLANTS! oh yes..... found patches of
Clerodendron bungei
where various butterflies and beautiful flying insects could also be found. The mountain side was lush with broadleaf evergreens
and stands of stunning species of Bamboo. The views were amazing.
Wolong Nature Reserve
Speaking of amazing views, our venture to the Wolong Reserve was certainly one that will
stay with me forever. The 2 hour drive up to 2300 meters was a botanical feast for the
Acer, Clerodendron, Rhododendrons, Buddleia, Hydrangea, Magnolia, Betula,
Anemone, Rosa
...I could go on and on. Plants I've studied over the past few years just
flash before my eyes. The lush green forests with raging white waters spilling over rocks
winding around to disappear only to reappear again as we turned to hold our breaths to
experience the next spectacular view. As I dozed off to take a short nap prior to our arrival
to our hotel, a deep and meaningful thought came across my mind seeing this splendor
before me: This whole trip was being paid for Sichuan University. It hit me that I was one of
a select few students that was selected to get to experience what I see before me. I looked
back at my horticultural career over the past 10 years (yeah, since I was 12..hahha) and the
work I've put into pursuing this, all the sacrifices I've made, all the time I've
devoted....basically, I looked out into the province and told myself, "look at where you are
and how you got here". I couldn't hold back tears. You just have one of those flashbacks of
all the experiences you've had, the wonderful people you've met, and I couldn't help but be
constantly reminded through all this of everyone who made all this possible.
Beimingpu enroute to Balang Shan
I don't think I've ever experienced such a high altitude when our charter
bus climbed further and further up to the foothills of the Tibetan Plateau
with winding roads with no barriers on the edge; one missed turn and
our vehicle would tumble over the edge over a steep cliff. You could
sense everyone just hold their breathe which actually made things worse
as the air seemed to get thinner and Steve said that should anyone
experience any severe headaches or general discomfort, we would stop
the bus and a car that was following us would take us back down in
elevation. Luckily, everyone seemed to survive the ordeal as we
gradually headed west from Wolong up to a spectacular valley where
we continued our vegetation survey.
Boy, what a treat to see some high elevation plants. Again,
like Yulei Shan, it was like a candy store for me seeing things
I've only read about or seen in books. We stopped by this
hillside to do another plot sample and I encountered several
familiar genera such as Rosa, Triostemon, and a real favorite
of mine, Lilium. It's been such a dream of mine to see Lilium
in the wild and there it was, such simple single flower atop a
wiry stem almost lost in a sea of herbs and grasses.
Oh, and guess what???  I found a Corydalis flexuosa type when we
reached our highest level of 4500meters. It was sooooo cold, I had on just
about everything I brought with me and what was amazing were the locals
who inhabited the area. Their way of life seemed so primitive, but as
people, they were warm and friendly and didn't seem to mind the mix of
Han Chinese and foreigners that explored their land. There was a field
where I found this
Corydalis that felt like it was all a dream. The mist of
the cold mountain air and the rugged terrain inundated with a
species and when you looked at the short distance of an adjacent mountain
side, you can see heards of yaks being herded along by their owners. In
this same view, you can see jewel like blues that seem to sparkle in the
landscape and upon closer inspection, you see this charmingly delicate
As I snapped these photos, I was being urged to head back to the bus, but as I hurried to take my last photos, I began to feel
dizzy and disoriented as if I was about to faint. I immediately sat down to try and recover, noticed a stunning blue Meconopis and
Gentian, but my excitement almost got the best of me as I was short of breathe. I told a classmate to tell them that I needed some
time to recover and, while I eventually "came to"....it was definitely a frightening experience I won't soon forget.
Wolong Panda Research Center
At the end of this tremendous trip, I came down with something that required
frequent visits to a squatter. Without going though the groddy details of what I
had, I tried to tough it out as we took some time to visit what Wolong is known
for, it's PANDAS!! This endangered iconic animal can be found in a research
center where they're on display living in man-made natural landscapes that mimic
their surrounding natural habitats. For a fee of 200RMB, some of us had the
fortune of getting to hold a Panda in our lap and for a large sum of 500RMB,
one could actually go into their habitats and play with them with all proceeds
going towards the research facilities.
Photographs and Site Contents Copyright © Rizaniño H. Reyes. All rights reserved