A Passion For Nature - Where all Creatures Take Joy

Xiong grows a variety of nuts, fruits and vegetables. (The Authority Tengchong Management Division for the Gaoligongshan Nature Reserve in Yunnan)

Text by Li Ziyue (Programme Officer, Yunnan Office, PCD)
References and acknowledgments:

  • Xiong Depin's oral account
  • The daily general reports and records from Zhou Yingzai, Tengchong Division Staff and Wang Tiancan, Jie Tou Management Station from the Authority of the Gaoligongshan Nature Reserve, Yunnan
  • Activity Record of the 'Farming is Fun, Farming is Happiness' programme organised by PCD in Tengchong County of Yunnan Province


Editor's Note:

Xiong Depin is a 54-year-old farmer from Jietou Township of Tengchong County, Yunnan Province. After finishing primary school he started farming at home with his family. He was married and had a child when he was 30 years old. His son died in an accident and later his wife died of a broken heart. Since he believes that he must have committed great sins in his previous lives, and has witnessed the decimation of his muntjac-hunting neighbour's family, he has vowed not to harm any creatures anymore. He remains a vegetarian.

He has been a farmer all his life, and he enjoys it, because he has a passion for nature and loves all kinds of lives. He respects and thanks the land for nurturing humans, and out of this respect he engages himself passionately in ecological agriculture, enthusiastically sharing all he knows. He has been very successful in urging other villagers to join him in his course. The following article is about his attitude and philosophy towards farming.

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Old Xiong is preparing the soil for the black pears in his orchard. (The Authority of Tengchong Management Division for the Gaoligongshan Nature Reserve in Yunnan)
Xiong observes some insects on a peach tree. (Chang Ji Jian , Jie Tao Management Station Master, Tengchong Management Division for the Gaoligongshan Nature Reserve,Yunnan)
Xiong grows a variety of nuts, fruits and vegetables. (The Authority of Tengchong Management Division for the Gaoligongshan Nature Reserve in Yunnan)
Chestnuts as the companion plant in the persimmon garden. (Cheng Jie Jing, Jie Tao Management Station Master, Tengchong Division, the Authority of Baoshan Prefecture for the Gaoligongshan Nature Reserve,Yunnan,)

Xiong teaching farmers ecological planting techniques in his orchard. (Chang Ji Jian , Jie Tao Management Station Master, Tengchong Management Division for the Gaoligongshan Nature Reserve in Yunnan)

Xiong uses the persimmons from his orchard to make traditional persimmon cakes. (The Authority of Tengchong Management Division for the Gaoligongshan Nature Reserve in Yunnan)

The passion for nature is the passion for life; to respect life is to respect our own selves

Old Xiong is a person who is passionate about nature, and lives a life that is simple, harmonious and happy. He reckons there is a oneness among all things on earth, and likes to say to people, "All creatures in nature are living beings like me. The passion for nature is the passion for life. To respect life is to respect our own selves." This sensitivity is deeply ingrained in his daily activities: he practices ecological agriculture, he is a vegetarian, and he brews eco-enzymes from his own garbage using fruit peel, leaves and red sugar. This enzyme is a gift with which he waters his fruit trees, keeping them healthy and pest-free. Likewise, he bathes himself with the enzyme, to maintain his strength and disease-resistance. He treats the fruit trees the same as his own body.

Thanking, blessing and caring for our lifeblood – the soil

Xiong believes all living things are interdependent on each other. All are part of nature, and their survival depends on the soil, their lifeblood. Sadly, when humans are squeezing the land for food, they are not thankful. Rather, they are antagonistic. People time and again poison the land with pesticides, a practice that can bring no good for them. "Whatever the land doesn't want, do not force onto it," says Xiong. He reckons that because the land is indispensable for our food production and livelihood, we should all respect it, respect lives and be grateful to heaven and earth.

In the year 1992, Xiong started breeding local varieties of black pears and persimmons. Despite all the hurdles and obstacles, he persevered. In 2005, he started an orchard on his land using ecological farming techniques. He tries to make his own fertiliser, compost and eco-enzyme (from garbage). He also prunes and grafts the trees. He has his own weeding method, digging out only some and then filling the holes, while leaving the rest to grow and to become green manure when wilted. He also tries to do nothing drastic in managing the orchard, such as excessive soil turning or large scale cutting of branches, but only performs tiny actions to help the fruit trees. Happy and contented, he makes little adjustments – leaf compost, worms for chickens, leaving wildflowers for bees and butterflies, and reaping benefits while harming nothing in the soil. He feels that he is breathing in and out with the soil. When the soil is breathing heavily, he can feel a stream of vapour pass through his body in synchrony with his own breath.

In order to breathe healthily, we must not pollute our land, but keep it clean, so that the soil is full of life, and all living things full of vigour. According to Xiong, we should all "Thank, bless and care for our lifeblood – the soil" together.

In this orchard, all live happily together

Xiong said, “Ten years after planting this orchard, all creatures in here, including poultry, wild chickens, honeybees, hornets, bumblebees, butterflies, frogs, toads, snakes, dragonflies, mountain sparrows, wild pigeons, crows, magpies and partridges, live happily together. These small creatures sometimes fight each other for food; sometimes they sing; sometimes they laugh; sometimes, I feel that they are helping each other. They like my orchard, and I like them very much, too. It is bustling in here. I respect them and won't harm them. Bees and butterflies pollinate the orchard, birds and chickens de-worm, and the toads, please don't undermine them, even snakes avoid their pungent smells. Together with frogs, they are the orchard's best caretakers at night. Apart from keeping the pests down, they roam at leisure in the orchard. From July to March, I sleep at night in the orchard. Whenever I run into these patrolling caretakers, I am always grateful and my heart will be at peace and happy. They are my spirit's delight and my spiritual sustenance."

Only when sharing with others will happiness come through

Xiong's perseverance flows from his awakening and respect for life. Before 2010, he was more or less on his own when paying respect to other living beings as part of his personal awakening. But when PCD joined hands with the Tengchong Management Subdivision of the Gaoligongshan Nature Reserve of Yunnan Province to start a community based biodiversity conservation project[Note], and built platforms for research and sharing, old Xiong became an active participant. He performs different roles for different platforms, and has realised that "The more you share with others, there will be more that you can share; sharing brings forth happiness." When the 'Farming is Fun, Farming is Happiness' programme was organised in Tengchong, he also shared his story about his respect for life.

Xiong is dedicated to promoting ecological agriculture in his village. He addresses the matter in ways that are close to people's daily experiences, and makes it a delightful process. When he talks to parents, he goes straight up to their plots, and expounds his major principles (on the meaning of life, the value of farming, and so forth) while helping to resolve problems of the orchard he is visiting. When sharing with young people and students, he invites them to his own orchard, and takes them to where the fruits are ripe. As they are tasting the fruits grown according to ecological principles, he talks about the joy he found while growing them. He also discusses how to make traditional food, as well as principles of being a good person and how to conduct business. He starts from ethics and conscience that are needed whether it is for humans or for nature. The relationship between nature and humans is an ethical one, and labouring is a process that brings an individual intimately close to nature while educating oneself.

Under Xiong's ideological and technical guidance, eight households with more than 280 mu (1 mu = approximately 0.07 hectare) of land in his home village have switched to ecological farming. Xiong has also extended ecological agriculture from his orchard to fields and vegetable farms. He hopes that in his lifetime he can pass on his attitude towards land and his technical know-how about traditional ecological farming and food processing techniques to more people, so that, while giving back a piece of clean land to nature, people can also enjoy the happiness that ecological farming brings as they show their affection for the land.

One of the aims of this project is to dig out the traditional healthy attitudes this community has towards people and nature, then support the community and its villagers to revive those traditions, so as to stimulate the villagers to take initiatives to protect biodiversity. Secondly, it is to discover the agricultural values within the community's traditions, then to share and discuss them. After motivating the villagers to contemplate these values, it is hoped that the villagers will seek to protect the place's biodiversity as they live and work the land.