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Horse-Riding Tibetans Expect to Mount Train on "Roof of the World"

[WTN-L World Tibet Network News. Published by The Canada Tibet Committee. Issue ID: 2004/10/09; October 10, 2004.]

[Xinhua is the official news agency of PRC]

LHASA, Oct. 10 (Xinhuanet) -- Having lived on horseback for generations, locals in northern Tibet have acquainted themselves with motorcycles and automobiles. Now they are preparing for another newcomer -- a railway at the "roof of the world."

More than 1,000 people in traditional costumes convened Sunday at Nagqu Railway Station, a major transit hub at the Qinghai-TibetRailway, to get their fresh glimpses of the railway, which paved its way into Nagqu county on Saturday.

This means more than 300,000 Tibetans in Nagqu area in northernTibet could have more options to travel to other places.

"About half a century ago, we had only horses to travel, and later we had our cars. This is the first time I've ever seen railway and a train, as gigantic a thing as I've seen in my life,"said Cangba from Mendi Township in Nagqu county, who had brought his son, daughter-in-law and granddaughter to participate the celebration.

With an average altitude of 4,500 meters, Nagqu area, meaning "black river" in Tibetan, is hemmed in by the towering Tanggula Range, Gangdise Range and Nyainqentanglha Range. The sacred mountains are regarded as "insurmountable even by eagles" in the eyes of locals.

The area boasts some 34 million hectares of pastureland and more than 7.7 million heads of livestock. With a population of 387,000, it is well known as a leading pasturing area, and 80 percent of the locals subsist on livestock farming.

Though the horseback nation still cherishes its faithful transport helpers horses and yaks, the area now has approximately 7,600 automobiles of various kinds.

"Many of my fellow village folks have bought motorcycles, shouldering more labor from the horses. However, horses are still Tibetans' friends and close companions and they could win honors for masters in traditional horse races," said Basang, a herdsman in the county.

Zhaxi Toinzhub, together with many other herders, arrived at the station from Amdo county about 130 km away. He brought for therailway two traditional auspicious things: a vessel with five kinds of grains and a piece of Hada, or an auspicious white silk scarf. Both the goods were referred to as symbols of respect and blessing by Tibetans.

He tied the Hada to the railway. "When the railway reaches Lhasa, I hope it will help me sell more homemade yak meat and yogurt to Lhasa and inland," he said.

The Qinghai-Tibet Railway will wind through Nagqu area for 510 km, connecting 11 townships and 11 freight or passenger stations.

More than 140 km of rail route has been laid down in Tibet Autonomous Region, sources with the construction project said.

The Qinghai-Tibet Railway, which entered Tibet at Amdo county last June, is expected to stretch for 443 km before reaching Lhasa,capital of the Tibet Autonomous Region.

China began building the project in 2001 with an investment of 26.21 billion yuan (some 3.16 billion US dollars). The country hopes the railway between Golmud city of Qinghai province and Lhasa will serve as a bridge connecting the autonomous region isolated by geography.

The Chinese government expects the project to speed up Tibet's social and economic growth and serve the strategy of developing the less-developed western regions, helping local residents improve their livelihoods.

The 1,142-km Qinghai-Tibet Railway project is scheduled to be completed in 2007.

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