FANG DIANYUAN

Fang was born in the Year of the Tiger 84 years ago, and needless to say, a lot has changed in China over the past eight-plus decades. In the grey winters, in the shadow of Huang Mountain in Anhui province, Fang spends his time wrapped in a blanket, bundled up to combat the penetrating cold.

方殿元

Warmth in these tiny isolated villages can be hard to find during the winter months. Coldness and bitterness, says Fang, are some of the only constants in his life. Born in 1938 during the Chinese Civil War, he survived by carrying letters for the Guomindang, running between army checkpoints with the letter held firmly to his forehead as proof he didn’t read it.

He lives in a small cluster of houses nestled in a sheltered bamboo valley. To this day, the valley is Fang’s livelihood. After the civil war, he spent most of his life as a hunter, climbing the thickly forested sides of Huangshan in search of something to eat or sell.

THE YOUNGER YEARS

When he was young, the hills in Anhui were filled with boar, cloud leopards, and bears. He recalls tracking bears in the forest, and he still has the cracked skull of a sick cloud leopard that had dragged itself into the village to catch a chicken decades ago.

THE PRESENT DAY

At 84, his hunting days are behind him. Now he helps rangers from a nearby nature reserve catch poachers and conserve the biodiversity that remains in the area, including the monkeys who ransack his garden for vegetables.

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