April 30, 2009
--After being stored at Cornell University in New York State for nearly 70 years, part of a rare collection of more than 2,000 species of Chinese fungi (including Trametes cinnabarina,
pictured above) will soon be on its way back to its native land. On April 13 a Chinese delegation arrived at the university to begin the process of repatriating the organisms.
Cornell's fungi collection, which includes many species that were the first of their kind to be collected and identified, came from Chinese mycology graduate student S.C. Teng. In the 1920s Teng left Cornell before graduating to scour his country for fungi, collecting thousands of samples with his team.
But Teng was forced to ship 2,000 specimens back to the university in 1940 when the Japanese invaded China during World War II. Up until that point, Teng's collections had been stored in Nanjing, site of the infamous Nanjing Massacre, in which more than 300,000 people--mostly civilians--were killed and the city all but destroyed.
"The specimens are impressive in themselves, but more so due to their poignant history and the personal sacrifices made by Mr. Teng and his family to save them from destruction," Cornell president David Skorton said in a statement.
Photograph courtesy Kent Loefller, Cornell University