After Yan Yue and Wang Chaoliang made a deal, Zheng Xinhe arrived in Fengcheng the next morning.
He was holding the information passed on to him by Wang Chaoliang and was staring at the data all the way. His mood was like a roller coaster: apprehension, doubt, hope and all kinds of complicated emotions making him unable to calm down.
As the most famous bamboo researcher in China, Zheng Xinhe dedicated half of his life to bamboo research. Zheng Xinhe was born in a small, remote village in Shuchuan. Behind the village there was a mixed forest of bamboo and other tree species. At that time, villagers were willing to go to the forest to cut a few stalks of bamboo to build a fence or a pigsty. Zheng Xinhe wondered why people were cutting bamboo instead of trees. The people in the village couldn’t explain; they just acted on experience. He was told by his family that it would take more than ten years for a tree to grow this high, while it would only take a few months for a bamboo to grow to the same height. It was cheaper to cut down the bamboo, as both trees and bamboo could be used anyway.
Zheng Xinhe became interested in bamboo since then, and as the first university student in his village, he chose to study bamboo at the Forestry University of Zhongjing. Zheng Xinhe had achieved a lot of research results over the years. The more he researched, the more he found that bamboo was simply a treasure. Bamboo could be used for food, clothing, housing, transportation and other purposes. This was especially true in recent years when the ecological damage had been so severe that many woods had been cut down, making bamboo forests, which were fast growing and highly reproductive, the best alternative to woods, consolidating soil and water and absorbing carbon dioxide. People were increasingly aware of the usefulness of bamboo, but this was not enough. Zheng Xinhe had bigger ambitions.
He shifted his gaze to the information in his hand and squeezed it hard. He had a vague feeling that this information would probably fulfil his hopes and completely change the industrial landscape of the entire country.
With this fiery thought in mind, Zheng Xinhe met with Lu Lingxi. He already knew from Wang Chaoliang that Lu Lingxi wasn’t very old, but he could never have imagined that the other party would be so young and even look like a minor. Without waiting for Zheng Xinhe to hide the astonishment on his face, Wang Chaoliang smiled and introduced them, “Xiao Xi, this is the friend I was telling you about, just call him Uncle Zheng.”
“Uncle Zheng.” Lu Lingxi was very polite.
Zheng Xinhe in front of him looked to be in his early fifties, not very tall, with a slightly chubby figure. Perhaps due to overuse of his brain, there were just a few hairs left on his head, forming a Mediterranean hairstyle (a type of baldness where the hair is gone in the middle of the head but remains on the outside).
Hearing Lu Lingxi’s voice, Zheng Xinhe came back to his senses. He suppressed the astonishment on his face and smiled self-deprecatingly, “The younger generation is fearless. Seeing Xiao Xi I realise I’m really old.” Although it was the first time they had met, Zheng Xinhe naturally called him “Xiao Xi”, following Wang Chaoliang’s example, thus narrowing the distance between them.
He had a kind and funny attitude, and Lu Lingxi had a good impression of him. Wang Chaoliang also introduced Yan Yue, who was beside Lu Lingxi, and Zheng Xinhe felt that Yan Yue’s type was more familiar to him. He knew Yan Yue would be harder to deal with than Lu Lingxi, who had little social experience.
After a simple greeting, they quickly started chatting about bamboo. Lu Lingxi knew a lot about flowers and plants, but when it came to bamboo, it couldn’t be said that he didn’t know anything at all, but he just had a general idea. Zheng Xinhe saw that Lu Lingxi was interested in this topic and took the initiative to talk about it. He was an expert in this field and talked about bamboo in a very clear manner. From the deliciousness of bamboo shoots to bamboo for making paper, and the recent rise of bamboo bicycles abroad, he finally got to the main point. He hoped to make use of the properties of bamboo and turn it into a new industrial material that could be used to replace the existence of steel.
Speaking of this, Zheng Xinhe, fearing that Lu Lingxi and Yan Yue wouldn’t believe him, deliberately mentioned a technology that was now developed, using high pressure to bond multiple pieces of bamboo together, increasing the density of the bamboo’s internal structure by a hundred times and bringing its strength up to the performance standards of construction materials.
The inventor of this technology was none other than Zheng Xinhe, who said with a slight hint of excitement, “I have been seeking to improve this technology, but because of the limitations of the raw materials, the improvements were not obvious. Now with this bamboo that you have discovered, this technology will soon be able to be promoted and applied in practice.”
Lu Lingxi was infected by his tone and his emotions surged. He believed that Zheng Xinhe’s enthusiasm in talking about all this wasn’t a lie; from the bottom of his heart Zheng Xinhe regarded it as his lifetime work.
Zheng Xinhe was even happier to see Lu Lingxi listening attentively, and excitedly continued to speak, “I want bamboo to replace not just steel for construction, but in many other aspects as well. Of course, we may not be able to replace all the steel with bamboo in a short time, but as long as we are willing to take the first step and change people’s habits little by little, we will eventually change the industrial landscape of the whole of China in the long run.”
At this time, Zheng Xinhe didn’t look as calm as he had when he first appeared in front of them, and there was a fanatical aura all over him. Lu Lingxi saw the shadow of Wang Chaoliang in him, and Wang Chaoliang shook his head with a wry smile, “Occupational disease, can’t help it.”
Because of Zheng Xinhe’s frankness, they quickly became familiar with each other. After personally following Lu Lingxi to the plant nursery to see the bamboo, Zheng Xinhe formally brought up the matter of cooperation with Lu Lingxi. He hoped that Lu Lingxi would provide the raw materials and he would provide the technology to jointly develop the new material he named Zhugang (bamboo steel).
“How about it?”
Zheng Xinhe said and looked at Yan Yue. When it came to cooperation negotiations, Lu Lingxi didn’t intervene and left it all to Yan Yue. Yan Yue didn’t reply immediately, but pondered for a moment and asked Zheng Xinhe tactfully if he had found a suitable investor.
Zheng Xinhe smiled, “I’ve been in this business for a long time and I know a few people, so don’t worry about the investment, Mr. Yan.”
He thought that Yan Yue was worried about not finding a suitable investment company and was very confident about it. However, Yan Yue shook his head, “That’s not what I meant. I hope we will invest ourselves.”
Zheng Xinhe was taken aback for a moment and subconsciously looked at Wang Chaoliang, asking about the economic situation of Tiny Garden with his eyes.
Yan Yue guessed his concerns and smiled gently, “If Director Zheng is worried about funding, you can rest assured about that.”
Zheng Xinhe gave Yan Yue a deep look, “This investment is not a small amount.”
“I know.” Yan Yue said lightly, “In fact, the Fengcheng authorities have a technology support project right now, and I think we’re a good fit. With the support of the government, the promotion of Zhugang will also be smoother.”
Hearing that Yan Yue could get on board with the authorities, Zheng Xinhe agreed to Yan Yue’s proposal after only a slight consideration. If they could really work with the government, it could also save a lot of trouble.
After the two of them reached an agreement, the matter was settled. The government side of the cooperation was taken up by Yan Yue, and Lu Lingxi began to reproduce the evolved moso bamboo. This point was more related to Zheng Xinhe than to Lu Lingxi.
Generally speaking, bamboo propagation is based on traditional asexual propagation such as planting shoots, planting stalks and planting joints, but Lu Lingxi only had one evolved bamboo plant at hand, so he didn’t know when he would be able to turn it into a forest through traditional methods. As he was accompanied by Zheng Xinhe, an expert, Lu Lingxi deliberately vacated the laboratory at the Qiu Tian plant nursery to carry out bamboo tissue culture seedling breeding. According to Zheng Xinhe, through tissue culture seedlings, one bud could propagate at least 10,000 seedlings a year. This method of propagation was fast, had a high multiplication factor and was of good quality, allowing a large number of plants identical to the parental good plant to be obtained in a short period of time for the construction of an artificial bamboo forest.
After Zheng Xinhe had carried out the group breeding of seedlings, he asked Lu Lingxi where he intended to create the bamboo forest. He said that the origin of moso bamboo was mostly in the Shuchuan area, and although the bamboo found by Lu Lingxi was a mutated moso bamboo, the growing environment wouldn’t be too different, so it would be better for them to create the bamboo forest in Shuchuan. But Lu Lingxi was reluctant to leave Fengcheng and wanted to create the bamboo forest directly in the suburbs of Fengcheng. When he said this, Zheng Xinhe straight away thought he was fooling around.
“Moso bamboo has higher soil requirements than normal bamboo species, and requires sufficient water and humidity conditions but does not tolerate stagnant water. How can this area of Fengcheng be suitable for cultivating a bamboo forest?”
“The few bamboo plants transplanted in the plant nursery are growing well now, the soil in Fengcheng may not be unsuitable for the growth of moso bamboo.” Lu Lingxi said seriously. He knew Zheng Xinhe was a bamboo expert, but he was very confident in the purified soil. Besides, if the bamboo forest was really created in Shuchuan, it would be too far away from Fengcheng for many things to be convenient.
Because of Lu Lingxi’s insistence, Zheng Xinhe had to follow him on a few trips to the outskirts of Fengcheng to personally measure the soil composition in the vicinity to make sure that the soil was suitable for the growth of moso bamboo. The results of the measurements surprised Zheng Xinhe; not only because the soil was suitable for the growth of moso bamboo, but also because it was rare that the soil was free of any pollution, unlike other soils he had seen that had too many heavy metals and chemicals deposited in them.
“This area…” Zheng Xinhe looked around in confusion; in his mind Fengcheng had always been a heavily polluted area, how could there be such clean soil? He was puzzled by this phenomenon and hesitantly looked at Lu Lingxi several times, but on second thought, thinking of Lu Lingxi’s age, he didn’t think Lu Lingxi would know this and suppressed his doubts without saying anything.
“Is it okay for Uncle Zheng?” Lu Lingxi looked at Zheng Xinhe staring at the soil composition test results for a long time and couldn’t help but ask.
Zheng Xinhe held back his disbelief and nodded.
After making sure that the soil nearby was suitable, Lu Lingxi and Yan Yue made a trip back to Lingshui Village. The two looked at the two small hills to the north of Lingshui Village. As it was for a bamboo forest, the valley, foothills and hillsides could all be used and there was no need to take up the village’s arable land. Moreover, the hills were cheaper to rent than the fields used for farming. Lu Lingxi had already looked at them and the two hills were included in the purification area of the willow ecological community, which was just right for planting the bamboo forest.
When he said this to Uncle Li, Uncle Li immediately became worried. “It’s good that Xiao Xi wants to plant bamboo, but can we do it here? It would be bad if they don’t grow and you lose money.”
“It can grow.” Lu Lingxi affirmed, “I’ve checked it.”
Uncle Li breathed a sigh of relief and took the two to Li Dayong, the village head. When Li Dayong heard that they wanted to rent the hills to grow bamboo, he first was taken aback for a long time, and the first thing he said in response was, “Can it grow here? Don’t lose money if it can’t grow.” After knowing them for more than half a year, Li Dayong regarded Yan Yue and Lu Lingxi as his own village people. The first thing he thought about wasn’t that renting the hills would generate income for the village, but what if they lost money?
Knowing that Li Dayong meant well, Yan Yue took the initiative to explain, “It’s fine, I’ve asked an expert from Zhongjing to look at it, and bamboos can be planted on the land around here.”
As soon as he heard that the experts had looked at it, Li Dayong immediately relaxed. This was how people in the village were; they had a kind of blind faith towards the experts from Zhongjing.
After the two had completed the formalities, Yan Yue entrusted Uncle Li to find some honest and hard-working people in the village. The bamboo forest needed manpower to maintain and guard it, and relying on just Uncle Li and others was definitely not enough.
“Okay, leave this to me.” Uncle Li agreed immediately. The money paid for the work in Tiny Garden wasn’t bad, and many people in the village wanted to come, so recruiting people wasn’t a difficult task.