Oddly, Nobody Recalls Gingkos' Origins

Article excerpt

No one remembers when they were planted on the small plot of land at the southeast corner of the national church office--two gingko trees whose leaf extracts, ironically, are reported to stop memory loss.

General Secretary Jim Boyles, whose office faces one of the trees (the primate's office overlooks the other), recalls only that they had been planted by "Bishop White" when he returned from China. Why the interest in these trees? When the national office moves to its new quarters on 80 Hayden St. later this month, the trees will be cut by the developer. Archdeacon Boyles mentioned the trees' fate to a visiting delegation from China last year. The delegation promised to send two new saplings that can be planted in the new surroundings.

"Bishop White" was William Charles White, the first Anglican bishop of Honan, China and the first Canadian bishop to be consecrated for service in the mission field. He was also the man after whom the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) named its collection of rare and ancient Chinese art--the Bishop White Gallery of Chinese Temple Art.

Bishop White was "a dedicated gardener all his life," according to Lewis C. Walmsley in his book, Mission and Museum, The Life of William C. White, published by the University of Toronto Press. The book, based mostly from accounts in Bishop White's diaries, does not mention him bringing the saplings to Toronto, but he may have chosen to bring back gingko trees because of their deeper meaning in Chinese life. The gingko is normally planted in Buddhist temples and monastic gardens, where it is venerated as a holy tree. …