A tree so revered it needs a bodyguard

Unless you’ve visited China or are fascinated by its storied history, chances are you’ve never heard of Huangshan, a mountain range in eastern China.

Huangshan, which means “Yellow Mountain,” has become a tourist destination for its majestic scenery, rousing sunsets, soaring granite peaks and the ability to literally stand in the clouds.

Artists and poets from around the world have found inspiration from this place of tranquility—formed approximately 100 million years ago.

Well-known for the stone steps cut into the side of the mountain—it’s estimated there may be some 60,000 steps throughout the area—they lead to one of China’s most revered trees.

At the very top of the mountain you’ll find a rugged, flat-crowned evergreen tree, which is believed to be 1,000 years old. The Greeting Pine overlooks a dramatic landscape comprised of peaks and valleys which form Huangshan.

What’s most interesting is that this tree is so popular for tourists and residents alike that it actually has its own bodyguard. His name is Hu Xiaochun and he’s the 19th guardian of the pine.

“My main job is to protect and monitor the Greeting Pine everyday,” Hu told NBC News.

Protecting and caring for this tree is a serious business. Hu is on duty every two hours, every day of the year, inspecting the tree and detailing its condition and the environment surrounding it in a log book. He also guards against small animals like squirrels and monkeys, who could cause great damage to the branches, and natural snowstorms and typhoons.

Interestingly enough, while continually monitoring for disease and animals can be frustrating, his biggest challenge now comes from the people visiting Huangshan.

“Human sweat damages the bark, and we are trying to ensure that it keeps growing naturally,” Hu said.

While Hu is supported by a team of 20, which includes specialized arborists similar to those at SavATree, the tree’s primary responsibility is his—a responsibility he doesn’t take lightly.

“I can only protect it, and guard its life,” he said. “What I am doing here is a unique job. Guarding the pine is like guarding my family.”