Have you heard about the man in Taiwan who planted 300,000 native trees over the past 30 years with a lifelong goal of 500,000?
Also known as “the tree king,” 60-year-old Lai Bei-yuan is a former transportation company CEO from Taichung who handed over the family business to his wife and started planting trees 30 years ago. People usually called him Lai san which means Uncle Lai.
Having spent over NT$2 billion ($63.6 million) on the project, Lai san put all of his energy and money towards revegetating Taiwan. His portfolio comprises native species such as beech, black pine, deodar cedar, ground hemlock, stout camphor, Taiwan hinoki, red false cypresses, Taiwan incense cedar, and Taiwan short-leaf pine.
He has since acquired 10 plots in the Dasyueshan National Forest Recreation Area, turning over 200 hectares into mountainous tree havens, restoring their greenery and vitality. Now we can see crested serpent eagles soaring in the sky, wagtails alighting on branches, and millions of fireflies lighting up the woods at night.
Lai san’s tree game began 30 years ago when he accidentally signed a contract and bought a garbage hill. Despite being seen as a fool, he determined on reforesting the mountains and he has never regretted.
“To the sacred trees, great dynasties passed by just like a moving cloud. They have been standing here peacefully for several hundred years compared with only several decades for us humans. So what is there to be reckless about?” Lai told TYBS.
“When I first started, I made it a mission to preserve Taiwan’s endemic trees in their natural habitat,” Lai added. He insists on his “Three-No’s Policy”—no cutting, no selling, no inheriting—wanting to leave his lifetime vocation to all the generations to come. So the once deforested land he filled with trees will not become his family’s exclusive property.
“This is my legacy to the world. My gift will be a great expanse of nature for the people of Taiwan,” Lai said at the launch of his autobiography in Taipei City.
“Only when one narrows his selfishness will his scope of mind be broadened,” he told TYBS , explaining why he was willing to dedicate his life to a cause that might not seem worthwhile to most people nowadays.
Yes, my life is wasted—wasted on these wonderful things.