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China's Hengduan Mountains

[WTN-L World Tibet Network News. Published by The Canada Tibet Committee. Issue ID: 02/04/04; April 4, 2002.]

Government decrees protect a fragile habitat where Buddhism alone once stood guard.

National Geographic, April 2002.
By Virginia Morell
Photographs by Mark W. Moffett

http://magma.nationalgeographic.com/ngm/0204/feature6/index.html

From the valley of the flying lily we drove higher up Mount Gongga to a parking lot just below Hailuogou Glacier. Although the trail to the glacier was still under construction, visitors were already setting out on it. All were dressed as if arriving for a social occasion: the men in suits and dress shoes gleaming with polish; the women in slacks, sweater sets, and dainty sandals, their hair perfectly coiffed, their lipstick and nail polish shining. Few actually walked to the glacier; most preferred to be carried in chairs slung on two poles and hefted by two strong men. "We are seeing our country, the beauty of it," one couple told me when I asked what had brought them to Hailuogou. "And we want to walk on the glacier." A few miles up the trail the carriers unloaded their burdens, and the tourists headed tentatively onto the ice in their city shoes, laughing and slipping and then simply stopping to admire the long tongue of the glacier that drifted in and out of view under a low-lying cloud.

At the trailhead local people earned extra money by selling mushrooms, herbs, and medicinal plants they had collected in the forest. In other countries such collecting might be prohibited in a national park, but Yin shook his head at this idea. "These plants are important for people's health," he explained. "There are some that can be cultivated, but others have their power only if they are collected in the forest. It may need some regulation, but not all traditions can be changed overnight."

Get the whole story in the pages of National Geographic magazine - -April 2002 issue.


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