There is a gigantic ginkgo tree at the Anbul Temple in the valley of Tonghung-ri, Kumya County.
On April 8, 2003, on the road of his Songun-based leadership, Kim Jong Il visited the old temple and saw the ginkgo tree.
The temple, dating back to 516 in the period of Koguryo, had consisted of seven buildings centred on the main building Kungnakbo Shrine. After being burnt down in an accidental fire, it was rebuilt in 1393 and 1843.
Looking round the temple, he pointed out several issues such as sustaining the ancient features of its painting, and underlined the need to observe the principle of fidelity to historical facts in the preservation of cultural relics.
Then he saw the ginkgo tree spreading out branches over the temple.
The custodian explained to him:
“I dare say that this Kumya ginkgo tree is the biggest in the world, 41m high, 15m round at the chest’s height, and 18.2m round and 4.6m across at the roots.”
He continued that according to an old record, the tree had been transplanted there in 516 when the temple had been constructed and, counting from the year, it was more than 1 500 years old. It is written in a book on the history of Tonghung-ri that the tree is 2 000 years old, he added.
So what is the real age of the tree, 1 500 or 2 000?
Inwardly, the custodian wanted the visitor to settle the controversial issue on this occasion.
Kim Jong Il was reading his mind and said with a laugh that he seemed to be asking him to settle the issue but he was not in a position to do so.
He advised, “You should invite experts in the concerning sector to come here and confirm the real age of the Kumya ginkgo tree.”
The custodian scratched the back of his head in embarrassment. Kim Jong Il noted that he had seen an old zelkova tree but it was the first time to see such a big ginkgo tree. You said that you wanted to show me this rare tree, and if I had not come today, I would not have seen this novelty, he added.
He asked the custodian about the annual harvest from the tree. The latter answered 300kg. He commented that it was a great amount.
An official reminded him that during the Fatherland Liberation War President Kim Il Sung had dispatched the then Vice-premier of the Cabinet Hong Myong Hui to take measures to protect the tree against the enemy’s heavy bombing.
His face suddenly turned solemn as he was yearning for the President who had valued the treasures of the country.
After a long while, he left the yard of the temple and approached a wooden bridge over a brook. He halted at a short distance from the bridge and turned back. He admired the immense size of the ginkgo tree, noting that it looked more impressive there.
The custodian said, “The tree is so gigantic that it can be seen from four or eight kilometres away. When the tree has green leaves, one cannot see the sky under it.”
Kim Jong Il agreed that it was really a giant and it might be seen from far away.
Then he asked why the information board said that the tree was 1 500 years old though the history book indicated 2 000 years.
The custodian answered that it was written so according to the above-said record.
An official with a long experience of foreign trips said that in his opinion the ginkgo tree was the largest in the world.
Nodding his head affirmatively, Kim Jong Il said, “If it is written in a history book that this tree is 2 000 years old, I think the information board should say so.”
He continued that the tree looked as old as indicated in the book.
That day he told officials that a health resort for the local farmers should be laid out near the temple so that they could have a good rest enjoying the fine scenery.
Before taking leave, he said with emphasis, “It is important to take good care of the Anbul Temple and the Kumya ginkgo tree with a long history.”
Later it was scientifically proved that the ginkgo tree was 2 120 years old.