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Home >> Business
UPDATED: 09:32, July 02, 2006
China's maiden altiplano train run receives cheers
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The first pair of passenger trains running on the world's most elevated rail line, Qinghai- Tibet Railway, are cheered by passengers, local herdsmen, experts and business people.

They expected social development, economy and trade of the Tibet Autonomous Region will be promoted after the rail route across the "roof of the world" linked Tibet with other parts of China.

"The train makes pilgrims of Buddhism believers easier. I hope I'll have time to pay a pilgrim to Ta'er Monastery in Qinghai," said Cering, a lama from the Johkang Monastery in Lhasa, who was on the train "Tibet 2" which left the Tibetan capital Saturday morning for Lanzhou of northwestern Gansu Province.

Ta'er Monastery is one of the largest monasteries of the Yellow Sect of Tibetan Buddhism in memory of Tzongkaba (1357-1419), founder of the Yellow Sect.

Lhunzhub, who was also from the Johkang Monastery, said the train is "clean and nice", but kept wiping sweat off his forehead. "I'm excited," he said. "This is my first train trip."

Purbu Toinzhub, a villager living near the Lhasa Railway Station, terminal of the Qinghai-Tibet Railway, lived on farming before the construction of the railway started five years ago.

Now, the railway has turned Purbu into a businessman, who bought a truck and has earned 20,000 yuan (about 2,500 US dollars) from the transportation business for railway construction.

"The railroad will bring more cash to us villagers. It also provides us an access to the outside world," Purbu added.

Tubdain Damqoi, a Tibet herdsman boarding on the train at the Lhasa station, called his family via mobile phone to convey his excitement.

Tubdain lives in Nagqu Township, a stop along the Qinghai- Tibet Railway. "It is my first time to take a tour by train," the herdsman said in Tibetan clothes.

"Before the railway's operation, the farmost place I've ever been to is Golmud in Qinghai and a come-and-go trip by riding horse or motorcycle took me a dozen of days," he recalled.

"It became so easy to go there by train now," he said, adding that he will take all his five children to visit or work in big cities such as Xining, or even Beijing.

Along with the maiden run of the landmark Qinghai-Tibet railway, not only national pride is on the rise, but also infrastructure convenience for Sino-South Asian trade boom is largely improved.

The newly launched railway will promote the integration of Tibet with the interior of China and help pave the way for trade between the country and India, Nepal and other south Asian nations, according to Wei Houkai, director of the research center for development of western regions under the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.

"The railway will shorten Tibet's distance to the world," he said.

Ratna Kumar Tuladhar, a 45-year-old businessman from Nepal, sells silver ware, statues of Buddha and Thangka, traditional Himalayan-style arts work, at Bakor Street in Lhasa, capital city of Tibet.

After the Qinghai-Tibet railway opened to traffic, he would take the train to purchase cheap and fine electronic gadgets in the hinterland of China for future sale in Nepal, Tuladhar said.

"I will employ some sales deputies for my arts and crafts commodities in the Chinese inland. Now I don't need to make a detour by marine route to get to China for my export business. The new railroad allow me much easier access to the Chinese hinterland, " he added.

Avinash Datta, who works for Mahindra company, one of the top 10 biggest enterprises in India, said that he felt exciting when hearing the completion of the railway.

He said that the railway will help improve Tibet's agricultural production and create a bigger market for investors from India.

Before the construction of the Qinghai-Tibet railway, Tibet was linked with the rest of China by several highways and air routes.

The railway will shorten the travel time, and at the same time, it means much lowered cost of transport.

Statistics show that the autonomous region's foreign trade stood at only 200 million U.S. dollars last year. Upon the booming border trade, the total foreign trade volume will increase by several billion U.S. dollars annually.

"Qinghai-Tibet railway imply that it is a long-term trend for China and India to surmount various difficulties to expand economic cooperation through utilization of geographic advantages, " said Prof. Liu Jiangyong with the research institute of international affairs under the prestigious Tsinghua University.

But experts say the railway means more than an economic boom in the region.

Refuting international concerns over a "cultural genocide" by an influx of the Han people, China's largest ethnic group, An Caidan, a Beijing-based expert on Tibetan studies, said the newly opened railway has in fact made room for the development of Tibetan culture.

"The Tibetans enjoy the right to seek development," he said. " The railway will lead Tibet to prosperity and present Tibetan culture to the world."

Huang Fukai, head of a Tibetan culture preservation society, believed the railway will change the locals' way of life. "They will keep to their traditional diet but will tuck into Western food and put on jeans, too."

But such changes, he said, are the irreversible trend of development of the human civilization, said Huang.

Some Tibetologists also cheered for an extended "living space" the "engineering marvel" will bring to the splendid, unique Tibetan culture.

"The influx of tourists will not only bring revenue into the region but will also lead to more cultural exchanges between Tibet and other parts of China," said research fellow An Caidan with China Tibetology Research Center (CTRC), the country's largest academic institution for Tibetan studies.

The development of the traffic network in Tibet means more opportunities for cultural exchanges between different ethnic groups in China, making it possible for Tibetan culture to be better inherited and enriched, said Dazhag, curator of the Museum of Tibet Autonomous Region.

Tibetan culture's full bloom between the seventh and ninth centuries was partly a result of extensive cultural exchanges between the ethnic group and others, An said.

According to the expert, the traditional Tibetan calendar combined calendar systems of India and other ethnic groups of China, its forging technologies absorbed Nepalese technics, and its medicine took in traditional Chinese medical science.

Ye Xingsheng, a CTRC research fellow who lived in Tibet for 42 years, said he is satisfied that the central and regional governments have invested heavily in cultural relics protection in Tibet and placed environmental protection on the top of its agenda in building the Qinghai-Tibet Railway.

He called for more efforts to protect Tibetan culture as "it is hard to have traditions again when you lose them."

Source: Xinhua

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