A Young Girl ● Two White Swans ● Three Red-Crowned Cranes
"I am always afraid of gossips from others. I would rather become a dumb or blind person, or even a wooden one without material body. However, I love cranes, love the great nature. Once go into the wildness, I forget all those unhappy things. I will look for ideals, friendship, and the answer of a real life on the endless wildness."
A regular Chinese girl, Xu xiujuan, wrote these words before she died at her age of 23. She devoted her short life to the nature and her loved red-crowned cranes. Finally, she devoted her life to save a white swan.
In October, 1964, Xu Xiujuan was born in a crane-breeding family of Manchu people (one of 56 Chinese minor groups) in Qipihar city of Heilongjiang province in northeast China. The father is a well-known expert on crane protecting in Zhalong Nature Reserve, and the mother had also worked in the Reserve for ten years. Xu Xiujuan had attained good education and fallen in love with cranes since childhood.
In 1980, the high school education in Qiqihar city was suspended. Xu Xiujuan at her age of 16 went to Zhalong Reserve to breed cranes with her father, and became the first women crane trainer in China. She had learned techniques in breeding, grazing, artificially incubating in a short time, and achieved 100% survive rate of baby birds. In 1985, Xu Xiujuan had a chance to study wild animals in the Northeast China Forestry University. Considering her hardship, the university reduced half tuition for her. However, she had still lived on the cheapest food, and even had only two meals per day. In the second semester, she paid her tuition by selling blood without telling anybody, which was known in her diary after she died. She finished the two-year study in a year and a half, and got all A or plus for 17 courses.
After graduation in 1986, Xu Xiujuan went to Yancheng Nature Reserve in south China to realize her own ideal, i.e. to construct a Red-Crowned Crane Nature Reserve in which cranes would never migrate. That was really a big challenge. Yancheng Reserve is now known as the second homeland of Red-Crowned Cranes with advanced facilities and beautiful land-view, but twenty-five years ago when China was so poor, there got nothing but a waste sentry post and large marsh land with reeds and Spartina grasses everywhere, which is an ideal habitat for wild cranes. Xu Xiujuan fully displayed her training and capacity at Yancheng. One of her papers received high evaluations by experts in the third meeting about crane protection of China in December, 1986.
From Qiqihar city to Yancheng, the 2500 km distance took Xu xiujuan three days and two nights. She brought three crane eggs as priceless treasure with her. The three eggs were both precious gifts for Yancheng Reserve and all her dream in the future. If you know that some baby cranes ever died in the most advanced incubator made in the United States, you could imagine how hard it was for Xu xiujuan to hatch all artificially the three little spirits. She named the three cranes longlong, dandan and shasha. After good care of eighty-three days and nights, the three young cranes finally flew in blue sky. However, Longlong got sick because mistakenly ate a pest on August 13th. Xu xiujuan had companied him days and nights. One lightless night, she went to a small town 4 km away for medicine and fell off the seawall along the way. However, when she went back with medicine and a whole body of scars, Longlong had already gone. On the back of Longlong's picture, Xu xiujuan wrote these words: "Longlong will never have my love any more. His death made me more clear that I chose one road with lots of uphills and downhills. I will devote my youth and life to the road until death."
Xu xiujuan brought two swans from Mongolia to Yancheng Reserve In June, 1987. Their names were Liming and Muren. On September 15th, Xu xiujuan took them to the pool and left them there swimming and playing. However, two naughty birds broke the string that tethered them and flew away. Xu xiujuan searched everywhere, the beach, the reeds, the marsh, but found nothing. She had never felt that all those familiar places were that horrible at the moment. She found Muren back in the night, but no information about Liming. In the deep night when other people all fell asleep, Xu xiujuan walked into the reeds and kept shouting "Liming"... Next day, she did not eat anything from early morning to five o'clock afternoon, but still did not find Liming. She looked so tired and helpless. All of sudden, uncle Li shouted, "a swan's cry from the west". Xu xiujuan and her assistants, Wang and Duan, rushed out and leaped into the Fudui River. Another four hours later, people found Liming, but never saw Xu xiujuan coming out of the river. They kept searching and shouting "juan-zi (a nickname)" in the reeds a whole night, but "juan-zi" could not hear them any more.
More than 1000 people attended the memorial meeting on September 23rd, 1987. The total solar eclipse happened that day. The river was sobbing, cranes were moaning, swans were crying... The father, Xu tielin, did not take ashes of the daughter back to their homeland, but left her to be with all her cranes and swans at Yancheng Nature Reserve forever.
In her diary, Xu xiujuan wrote these simple words.
"Cranes are easy to be lost in spring."
"Places that cranes live are supposed to be clean."
"The reeds already burgeoned in the early half month, and Imperata cylindrica grass is also sprouting now."
"Baby cranes can fly far now..."
"It was so cold. Oh, it was snowing, snowflakes dancing across the sky. Northeastern wind was howling, and snow particles were beating against the face badly, but gradually turned into snowflakes falling on the body softly. I was thinking the difference between south and north snow as riding the bicycle fast. Snow in north China is like a white ocean, while snow in Yancheng is snow in the air, but becomes water immediately on the ground."
"Have lake surfaces of homeland started to frozen? Remember I used to throw clays onto the ice, and then melody sound happened. Cranes always listened curiously to the winter sonata..."
"I used to row a boat into the reeds. The surrounding was deadly silent. If people plunged into the water at the moment, they would melt into the beautiful nature."
"My homeland, when will I stand on your wild land again, listening to birds, seeing sunset, playing with cranes, and appreciating your beauty? At that time, I would rather be a little grass, giving a little green vigor. My homeland, please give me a small piece of land and let me manage it myself." —July 16th, 1985.