Dandong Strawberry, Seeking the Root of a Century-old Industry
五月 30,2023

Located at 40 degrees north latitude, Donggang is internationally recognized as the best geographical belt for cultivating strawberries for its unique geographical environment, temperate temperature, moist climate due to the rivers or sea nearby and clean water source. In addition, the large diurnal temperature variation and sufficient sunshine ensure the sweetness of strawberries. Despite the fact that strawberries can be grown in most areas of China, strawberries of Donggang are still well received in the market for their unique geographical environment, excellent water quality and advanced cultivation techniques. Its advantaged natural conditions are conducive to the growth and development of strawberries. Its climatic conditions are beyond comparison and irreplaceable by those of other areas.

Dandong Strawberry is, more precisely speaking, Donggang (County-level City) Strawberry – Yiquan (Town) Strawberry – Majiagang (Township) Strawberry – Xiajia Village Strawberry. This is the historical trajectory of the century-old brand of Donggang Strawberry. There lies the very root of Donggang Strawberry – sanjianfang (“three rooms” in Chinese, which used to be the house of Li), located at the Xiajiawan Ecological Resort in the Xiajia Village, Yiquan Town, Donggang.

As long as you reach Xiajia Village and inquire about the location of sanjianfang, the villagers will point to the tall erect board, which reads “the birthplace of strawberries in China”. That was once the residential land of Li Wanchun, the founding father of Donggang Strawberry.

Li Wanchun was born in a moderately rich family in Xiajia Village. His father, Li Qingting, was relatively openminded. According to the memories and recollections of the local elderly people, he earned a good reputation for lending a helping hand to the poor from time to time and sending his six children, Li Wanchun included, to school to receive education.

Li Wanchun stood out from the siblings in terms of academic performance. He got admitted to a college specializing in forestry after graduating from senior high school. He was sent to Japan for further study in 1922 owing to his excellent academic performance. Full of patriotism, he worked diligently and aimed to serve the country heart and soul. He was determined to introduce advanced agricultural technology he had learned abroad to his hometown and China.

During his study abroad, he noticed a kind of fruit called strawberry, which had a sweet taste and tender pulp. The pulp was so tender that it seemed to melt immediately in the mouth. Hence, he was greatly intrigued and carried out indepth research on this kind of fruit, including its soil conditions, cultivation, propagation, and other factors.

As his two-year study abroad was approaching the end, he was pondering an idea. Although the strawberry industry in Japan had thrived, strawberries were rarely known back in his hometown and China. Based on his knowledge of the soil and climatic conditions in his hometown and his acquired expertise, he thought that it was completely feasible to grow and cultivate strawberries in his hometown.

Therefore, before departing for China, he packed seven chicken-heart-shaped strawberry seedlings in his lunch box. When traveling on the sea, he sprayed tap water on the medical gauze from time to time to keep it moist enough. It was used to wrap the seedlings that had to be conserved in a moist environment. Otherwise, the roots would run the risk of drying up due to moisture deficiency, which would jeopardize all the previous efforts.

Finally, upon setting foot on his hometown, Li Wanchun burst into tears of joy. Holding the lunch box containing seven living strawberry seedlings, he reflected upon the arduous journey and could not help sighing deeply. “It is no mean feat,” sighed he with emotion. It was also a sigh of relief.

Li Qingting, the father of Li Wanchun, recognized the preciousness of the seven strawberry seedlings after hearing about the twists and turns of the sea journey. Therefore, he worked with his son, cleared out an open space in the garden behind sanjianfang, and grew the seven strawberry seedlings, which proved to be of historical significance later.

In the following years, the seven strawberry seedlings propagated and multiplied. Then they were given away to the local villagers by Li Qingting and Li Wanchun. Since then, the strawberries, introduced from Japan, have taken root in the land of Xiajia Village. Strawberries, wet with crystalline dew, have been blossoming and yielding fruit in this foreign land. The chicken-heart-shaped strawberries from Japan enjoyed great popularity among the local villagers for their moderately sour and sweet flavor. Later, they spread across the Majiagang Township at that time. They then thrived across Donggou County (the present-day Donggang County-level City) year by year.

The century-old strawberry industry started with the seven chicken-heart-shaped seedlings planted by Li Wanchun in the sanjianfang of Xiajia Village and was upgraded by the introduction of the Japanese Red Face Strawberries in 1999. Now, Donggang’s strawberry industry has become the pillar industry of Donggang’s economy, covering a cultivation area of over 200, 000 mu (a unit of area, 0.0667 hectares) and yielding annually 600,000 tons of strawberries. The strawberries have become not only the pillar industry of Donggang’s economy, but also a notable symbol of the Donggang and the pride of Donggang people. The strawberries that came from sanjianfang have transformed into Majiagang strawberries, into Donggang strawberries, and then into Dandong strawberries. Dandong Strawberry has now become an internationally renowned strawberry brand. In recent years, it has been listed as customers’ favorite Chinese Agro-product Regional Public Brand. Xiajia Village, where sanjianfang is located, has become the first strawberry village in China, Yiquan Town the first strawberry town in China and Donggang the first strawberry county in China.

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