The first time when I heard the name "Xueling spruce" I was captivated. In Chinese, its elements translate at "Snow Peak Cloud Fir" which has a very romantic ring to it.
The Xueling spruce grows mainly in the snow peaks on the northern and southern slopes of the Tianshan Mountains,the western part of the Kunlun Range and mountain areas of the Junggar Basin, its range extending 1,800 kilometers east to west. Along with the western Tianshan, it also goes into Kyrgyzstan. It is the most important mountain evergreen conifer forest in the arid region of Central Asia.
The Xueling spruce grows in the mountains between l,500 and 2,800 meters above sea level. The trees are tall between 20 and 30 meters when mature-up t0 60 or 70 meters in the most favorable environments. Recently,among growth ring samples, researchers of the Institute of Desert Meteorology found a Xueling spruce with annular rings dating back 651 years. This is the oldest tree ever found in Xinjiang and is well worthy of its name¡°King of Xinjiang Spruces."
Several years ago, when searching for three Hong Kong climbers missing in the Bogda Peak disaster, we went deep into the Tianshan Mountains. Scanning widely, we found the Xueling spruce standing closely in lines and rows,following the rise and fall of the hills, one after another, like countless green piano keys playing the music of tinkling streams. The tall spruces were kept company by roses, honeysuckle and other bushes.
I felt it very plainly that every tree was exerting its utmost to grow upward. Here there is sunlight and sky, while a poor fallen tree gradually decomposes down below, becoming the soil for a young spruce.The sapling, absorbing both its nutrients and ambition,gets taller every day. That is its child, completing the parent's unfinished business.
There came a sudden downpour. We rushed for shelter under the Xueling spruce. Stroking the rough trunk and looking up, we discovered that its branches reached out in an orderly and regular way from the ramrod straight trunk. The branches and foliage stretch upward rather than outward,forming long and narrow crowns.
The soil beneath US was not as deep as I had expected. It was just some leaf mould and thin earth. The trees had rooted themselves deep into the cold, hardy rock. The roots changed direction following the grain of mountain rocks,filling every tiny gap in the rock, groping for water down in the unknown darkness.The girth of a century-old Xueling spruce takes four or five people with outstretched arms to encircle. I know that the root of a tree steadily anchored on a rock cliff should be several times larger than the visible crown. The received wisdom that the height of a tree determines how far down its roots go does not apply here. In places we know and places we don't know, its roots move silently, binding the mountains like cords. Is there any power that can shake a tree if that tree has merged with the mountain as an organic whole? The Xueling spruce of today is the result of the complex work it put in yesterday.
In this pure symphony of snow peaks, glaciers and mountain lakes, the powerful chorus from rows of orderly Xueling spruces, in this jade blue song... the world falls Silent.